Sunday, February 26, 2017

Chapter 21: Love -- Does Love Motivate You?

     If you could summarize all of Christianity into one word, I believe it would be the word LOVE. If we would just love God and love others, we would fulfill Genesis through Revelation. Paul said without love, all that we do and all that we are would be worthless.

     Not only does the Bible say we should love God and others, love also is the one word that describes God. Love motivated God to give His one and only Son. 

     Love is not a feeling. Love is not a merely a verbal profession. Love in theory or love in mind only is not Biblical love.  No one spoke more about love than the beloved disciple John in his gospel (39 times, more than the other three gospels combined) and in his letters, 1-3 John, (33 times). Even John explains that “if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 

    As you read today’s devotional, ask yourself, as I did myself, “Does love for God and love from God motivate me?” A few months ago when I wrote this, I was working on the FBC Killeen van, a task I do not enjoy. I muttered things to myself that I just now backspaced over because my attitude was bad and less than loving. Then I did something that usually brings me out of my self-made pity parties…I started singing praises to the God who loved me and sent His Son Jesus.

     I would much rather work on a van than send my son to be persecuted and die. I would much rather do anything than wear a crown of thorns or be spat upon.  And yet what motivated God to do the very thing that we so desperately needed?


The following devotional is from Zondervan to help prepare us for BELIEVE, a 30 week study on how to think, act and be like Jesus. 

We now approach ten key virtues God desires to see developed in your life. As you read, silently whisper, "This is who I want to become!" And with God's help you will.

Ready? Let's go!

What does it mean to sacrificially and unconditionally love others?

The Bible is a complex narrative. But what is the big — yet simple — idea behind all the stories and teachings contained in this ancient book? Love — love dominates God’s story.

Jesus confirmed that two commands from the Old Testament — love God and love others — as the greatest of all the commandments during an encounter recorded in the New Testament between Jesus and the religious leaders. [See Mark 12:28–34.]

Followers of God are to live lives distinctly different from those around them. They are to be forgiving and self-giving, showing love to all.

Our capacity to love begins with receiving God’s love for us. From this reservoir we pour out love toward each other. The presence of God’s Spirit in us, working through us to overcome our passion for self in favor of loving others, is confirmation that we are in fact children of God.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:10–12)

I am committed to loving God and loving others.

What difference does this make in the way I live?

For one thing, Jesus’ love in our hearts enables us to love those we could never love before.

The following story is an amazing display of God’s love and a strong example of the power of how radically a life can be changed by Christ.

Chris Carrier of Coral Gables, Florida, was ten years old when a man became so angry with Chris’s father that he abducted Chris. The kidnapper burned him with cigarettes, stabbed him numerous times with an ice pick, shot him in the head, and then dumped him out to die in the Everglades.  Miraculously, Chris survived and was found. His only lasting physical effect from the ordeal was losing sight in one eye. His attacker was never captured.

Carrier became a Christian and later served as a youth pastor at a church in Florida. One day, he received word that a man named David McAllister, a seventy-seven-year-old frail and blind ex-con living in a Miami Beach nursing home, had confessed to committing the crime all those years ago.

So Carrier headed to Miami. Did he take a gun? Did he plot revenge on the way there? After all, now the tables were turned. The old man was helpless, just as Chris had been when McAllister tortured and shot him, leaving him for dead. No. Revenge wasn’t Chris’s motive, as it had been his captor’s. Carrier was going God’s direction — toward forgiveness. And, amazingly, yes, even love.

Chris began visiting McAllister regularly and often read the Bible and prayed with him. Through these visits, Carrier eventually led McAllister to his Lord. Carrier said, “While many people can’t understand how I could forgive David McAllister, from my point of view, I couldn’t not forgive him. If I’d chosen to hate him all these years, or spent my life looking for revenge, then I wouldn’t be the man I am today, the man my wife and children love, the man God has helped me to be.”

Each day as we live out our lives, Jesus loves us unconditionally and sacrificially, and he offers ongoing forgiveness. He asks us, his followers, to offer the same in our relationships. Why? This new breed of love allows us to be involved in healthy relationships and also to be free to express God’s love to the world.

Why is it impossible to simultaneously love God and hate our neighbors? 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Key To Being Christ-Like: Being Filled With The Spirit

That circle we described yesterday works best when we are open at the top to be filled up with God. But if like a glass we are ever turned over, even slightly, we are never able to be fully filled with the fullness of God. Our vertical relationship must always be aligned underneath God’s Holy Spirit faucet, flowing through us and then out into the world. We must never turn off the inflow of God’s power through us.

You probably have heard of the Dead Sea. The reason why it is dead is because it only has an inlet from the Jordan River, but since it is at the lowest part of the earth, there is not outflow. It only receives and as a result virtually nothing lives within its waters.

A Christian who only studies the Bible, attends church, prays, but never impacts the world may be filled with God, but that filling is to have a purpose: to pour out into the world.

Read Eph. 5:18 and describe how being filled with the Spirit is similar to being drunk with wine. What are the better results of being controlled by the Spirit?

In Acts 2:1-21, it is interesting to see how the Spirit was like the wind, blowing into the believers. In what ways is the wind of God blowing in you like being filled with the Spirit? Can you, like the early disciples, be misunderstood by the world when you follow the inblowing and infilling of the Holy Spirit? What is a the parallel about the disciples being understood by unbelievers in their own “language”? Why is it so important that we share Christ in an understandable way with the world?

The main request in prayer by the disciples in Acts 4 was not for the removal of persecution. What was it for? (Hint: think about the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz. No, better yet, read the passage!)

When we pray God can fill us not only with His spirit but also with His Power and Presence to mightily face down the battle in this world (See Galatians 5). 

As we prepare for the final ten weeks of BELIEVE, recognize that thinking and acting like Christ is not enough unless we actually are becoming like Christ internally. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Know Ye Not? Your body is a Temple!

The Body, Presenting Yourself to God

Five times in one chapter (1 Cor. 6), Paul says "don't you know?" or in King James "Know ye not..." Talk about making someone feel ignorant! (see verses 3, 9, 15, 16, and 19). Not only that, but back in Chapter 3, verse 16, Paul again asked, "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?"

What we do in our bodies impacts our soul and our spirit. Paul seems to be befuddled that the Corinthians do not grasp some of these most obvious truths. I can only imagine what Paul would think about the state of Christianity today!

In BELIEVE, we have just finished ten lessons, discovering how to act like Jesus. Our behavior in Christ is who we are in the Body of Christ, culminating last week with "Sharing My Faith." It sure is easier to share our faith when we have a body of believers who live like Christ.

I used to minister at a church called Friendly Baptist Church. One person told me a story about them calling Friendly Baptist Church and the person who answered the phone wasn't too friendly. When I asked when that happened, it had apparently happened at least ten years earlier! For at least ten years, this person had told a negative story about the church because one person answered the phone in an unfriendly manner! Talk about a lasting impact and a negative one at that. 

 Avery Willis encourages us to imagine or even draw out a circle with a door at the top and a door at the bottom. At the top is God and that door should be open. At the bottom is our body or flesh with Satan waging a battle within it and that door should be closed or at least a one way gateway. In the middle of our circle is our mind (Rom. 12:2), will (Phil. 2:13) and emotions (Gal. 5:22-23) or our soul and that soul must be fed from God at the top and influencing our body at the bottom of our circle.

Our body is host to the Holy Spirit. If you have the living God inside you and are not changed, you are either stronger than God (not possible) or may not have God in you at all. Read 1 Cor. 6:19-20 and see how this impacts your thoughts about what you do in your body.

James 3:1-12 says we should be joyful when we grow. Wisdom will help us be like God and that wisdom will come out of our mouths and in our bodies. Acts 16:25-34 shows us that we need to glorify God privately and publicly. We should show Christ to strangers and even our enemies. Our message should be simple and understandable.

How is John 20:1-18 similar to our resurrection spiritually?

Our bodies are to be in obedience to Christ, and our lives are to be sacrifices to God, living to Him. Like James chapter 1, Phil. 1:19-26 shows us to rejoice and be glad, knowing that God’s answers to prayers and help from others will be used for our deliverance. We are here bodily on earth to help others and ourselves to grow more like Christ.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Not My Will But Your Will Be Done

More powerful than our mind and more powerful than our emotions is the act of our will, or in the case of the Christian, the submission of our will to the will of God.

Nowhere do we see that battle better than in Romans 7, where Paul acknowledges the war raging in his soul, “to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good, I do not find.” Although he is writing in the present tense, it is a victory that he will explain in chapter 8, and obviously he knows it in chapter 7 but is allowing the readers to journey with him into the solution.

He also alludes to this fight in Galatians 5, describing the flesh lusting against the spirit and vice versa, with the field of combat waging in his soul. Peter also speaks of doing the will of the Gentiles (that is, those who are not led by the Spirit). Paul discusses that the mind of Christ submitted to the will of God, and that gave Him and us the victory over the flesh. The will of God is stronger than the will of the flesh for those who submit to it.

It was the mind of Christ who prayed “let this cup pass from Me” but it was the will of Christ submitted to the will of God which prayed, “nevertheless not My will but Thine be done” (see Luke 22:42). Like a body builder who works out his muscles, we are to work out our salvation by allowing God “to work and to will according to His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

Suddenly, when we surrender our will to His, His pleasure becomes ours. Paul said in the next few verses that it was his pleasure even to be poured out as a drink offering for the church at Philippi (2:17).

Someone asked me the other night what JUBILEE meant. It was taken from the Levitical law, Leviticus 25, when the people celebrated their freedom, when they were released from their debts. They sounded a trumpet. We burned a note of our debt.

But when we celebrate the fact that we are spiritually set free, we do something even more powerful than burning a piece of paper or blowing a sound through a ram’s horn. We surrender to God, heart body and soul. And it is then that we find true liberty and freedom.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Letting God get the best of our emotions

The Emotions and The Will

Don’t you wish your emotions were a little more under control? The psalmist in Psalm 42 seems to have his act together and all under composure.

The writer didn’t give up on God when bad times came. He was emotionally “cast down” in his soul, but not in his relationship with God. His response was “Yet shall I praise Him.” (Ps. 42: 5, 11; 43:5). He knew that “the Lord will command His lovingkindness” (42:8). We should “pant” after God like deer pant after the water in times of distress.

I say should because many times our emotional and hardships do not drive us to yearn and thirst for God.  Avery Willis in MasterLife Book 2 talks about how to take “action” over your emotions. Granted, trying to control your emotions needs to first presume that you are in a rationale state of mind to begin with! Often times, our emotions run roughshod over our mind and even our will.

The solution? Willis lists six actions steps to deal with the emotions
Acknowledge the emotion…Don’t deny or excuse it
Confess the sin...and then consider why you have that emotion
Thank God that He will help you master your emotions and keep it from becoming sin.
Identify the biblical response to the emotion…If anger, don’t let the sun go down on it; if hatred, love your enemies, etc.
Obey the Holy Spirit’s prompting, which is almost always in contrast to the world’s response or our human reaction.
Nurture the appropriate fruit of the Spirit (see Gal.5:22-23)

 When we read about Jesus casting out the money changers from the temple (Matt. 21:12-16) or when Paul confronted Peter for his hypocrisy (Gal. 2:11-21), we may at first instinctively think that their emotions got the best of them. However, God does not want us to be emotionless Vulcans like Mr. Spock from Star Trek. God gave us emotions but he wants us to control them and not have them control us.

We will see tomorrow some verses about how the will, that is, God's Will working out in our lives, is the decision maker for our mind, emotions and the battle in our souls. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Mind; The Basis Of The Soul

 Often times our mind is like a recorder/player, playing and replaying what we have put into it. For the Christian however, Rom. 7:25 is a wonderful re-record: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ, our Lord.” Our mind is the decision maker for the soul, the part of our essence which also includes our emotions and our free-will. With our mind we can make right or wrong decisions but even then it is hard to get the victory. That is why we must put on the mind of Christ (Phil 2:4-12). Our battlefield is fought, won and lost in our soul, not in our flesh or our body. That is why BELIEVE began with ten sessions on How to Think Like Jesus.

Read the passages this week and see how the lead us to think like Christ would want us to.

Have you ever thought about how your physical senses are portals or gateways into your soul? What you see, hear, smell, taste and touch will impact what you think about, how you feel, and what you choose to do. That’s why smelling the cookies on Sunday night for deliveries often can make us think about cookies and desire to eat them!

As a result, what affects our senses will be gateways into our thoughts and that is why reading and hearing and doing the will of God is so important. 1 Cor. 2:16 says that we have the mind of Christ. Col. 3:2 says to set our mind (some versions even say our “affections”) on things above.

How is thinking Christ’s thoughts a way of gaining a victory in our actions?

Eph. 2:1-10 says that Jesus made us to live when we used to be dead in sins. We used to walk and live like the world, led by the devil and lust of the flesh and mind, all contrary to the will of God. Yet God still loved us and by His grace He raised us up with Christ’s power, even to the be “seated” in the heavenly places in the spiritual sense. Our lives are hidden in Christ with God (Col. 3:3). By His grace He saved us, and by His grace we can walk in the good works He wants us to.

Another place Paul speaks about a Christ-like mindset is in Phil. 2:5-11. Paraphrase that passage on a sheet of paper. Even though Christ was God, He did not cling to it but gave it all away to be like us. We should have that way of thinking.

Finally, we need also to think like Christ, but think His thoughts. Read Luke 4:14-21. Recall what Jesus’s mission was and ask yourself, “How does my mission compare to Christ’s mission? How should my thoughts be like His?

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Review/Preview Take a look back and then look ahead

     All this week, Feb. 19 through the 25th, I encourage you to take a breath from BELIEVE (the book not your faith) and review what we've studied. The first ten weeks, we studied theology of what we think about God, or "How to Think Like Jesus." 

    During the second ten weeks, we studied the practicality of how we put into action the things of God, or "How to Act Like Jesus." We studied last week how to tell others, and before that, we had a three week trilogy of how to give of our resources and of our time and of our giftednesses. We also saw how we need to be involved in a Biblical community, the church. That ten week series began with a focus first inwardly as we saw in week 11 how to worship, then pray, study our Bible, be single-minded on God and be totally surrendered to Him.

    This week, as you pause, reflect on how you can be a trinity within yourself. In MasterLife, Book 2, Avery Willis taught six sessions of five days a week on how our human tri-unity of Soul, Body and Spirit reflects God's Holy Trinity. We will study that human tri-unity every day here at this blogspot. 

     That is what BELIEVE is all about, our triple areas of concentration and orientation of what we believe. How to THINK, how to ACT, and (beginning next week as we enter into chapter 21 through the end of our study in chapter 30) how to BE like Jesus.

    Begin this week by meditating on 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, 

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Evangelism Conference is Today, Feb. 7th

Today is the Evangelism Conference at Taylor's Valley Baptist Church. It begins at 4:30 p.m. with Breakout sessions, a 5:30 meal ($7 for adults, free for kids) and worship with Randy Frazee and Rief Kessler at 6:30 p.m. 

    Today's devotional was originally posted on Aug. 31, the day we first distributed the BELIEVE books. 
     Today's devotional ends a trilogy of sorts about giving: giving of your time, giving of your resources, and today, giving of your faith story through evangelism. It also goes right along with Pastor Randy's message from Sunday, Aug. 28, "Lost or Found. "

     In fact, take a look at a portion of Randy Frazee's book Think, Act, Be Like Jesus (I know it is not until week 20, but take a sneak peak at it below from pages 152-153).

     The other Randy, Dr. Randy Wallace, said Sunday, "Which road are you on? If you keep going on the way you are going, where will you go?" Jesus did not say there was a traffic circle (reincarnation until you get it right), nor is there a road side stop (purgatory to pay for your own sins), nor is there a toll road (pay for the road to heaven by your good works). 

     There are only two roads, a broad road to destruction and a narrow road to eternal life. Let us share heaven's GPS -- God's Plan of Salvation-- with the world to get them in the right direction and on the right road. 

Today's devotional comes from Zondervan and is to help preview Believe, a 9 month Bible study curriculum which we will kick off with book distribution in LifeGroups this Sunday. 


How do I share my faith with those who don’t know God?

Catastrophically, the fall of humankind in the Garden of Eden shattered humanity’s connection with God — the connection he originally intended when he created people. So God unfolded a plan to provide the way for all people to come back into a relationship with him. His grand plan included the founding of a brand-new nation. Two thousand years before the arrival of Jesus, God called Abram (later renamed Abraham) to start this new nation, eventually known as Israel. People from all nations would come to know God through Abraham’s offspring. [See Genesis 12:1-2.]

In the two thousand years that followed, Israel was a living demonstration to the world of the lengths to which God would go to reestablish his relationship with his people. Then, with the ultimate sacrifice of his Son, the reconciliation with God that was formerly confined to Israel now became available to all humankind. What’s remarkable is that we can play a pivotal role in God’s restoration plan. By responding to the call to share our faith, we partner with God in his divine pursuit of broken souls.

The most powerful way to share our faith in God is through our life — being a positive example to all in how we live every day. When others see the faith, hope and love in our life, they are drawn to live the same way. After paying attention over time, they will notice our confidence in and relationship with the one true God.

In his famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus used the metaphor of “salt and light” to express the power of a life lived in faith and obedience to God. [See Matthew 5:13-16.]

Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. (Ephesians 6:19–20)

I share my faith with others to fulfill God’s purposes.

 What difference does this make in the way I live?

Can you recall the last time you shared Christ or at least told someone how important your faith is to you? When was the last time you invited someone to belief in Christ?

We must always keep in mind how much God wants to save people. The criminal on the cross said to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” — to which Jesus miraculously responded with, “Today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:42-43). This two-sentence exchange shows the deep longing in the heart of God to rescue people from sin and eternal death. We must simply join him in his work by sharing what he has done for us.

What might be the reasons Christians lose their “saltiness”? (You may find some ideas in Matthew 5:13-14.) Join the discussion today and use the hashtag #BelieveTheStory.

Monday, February 6, 2017

19. From pillow to pillar

Imagine using a rock for a pillow. In Gen. 28:11, Jacob went to bed with a stone under his head, and then dreamed his famous “ladder to heaven” dream, realizing that he was at the “door to heaven.” When he awoke, he took the same stone that had been his pillow and made it a pillar for an offering to God, saying “Surely, the Lord is in this place and I did not know it.”

What is unusual about this story is not that Jacob made a stone into an altar. He did the same thing later in Gen. 31:45. But using a rock to rest his head? Now that is weird.

Is there something in your life that is bringing a poor comfort to yourself because God wants to use it to worship Him? Specifically, look at the tithe. Jacob was the first person who specifically said he would take one-tenth of his possessions to give to God and the rock pillow was his inspiration. “This stone which I set as a pillar shall be God’s house and all that You give me, I will surely give a tenth to you,” (Gen. 28:22).

Could God use your stone pillow as a pillar for worship? Are you trying to use 100 percent of your income to make your life more comfortable and yet finding yourself restless? Are you giving enough of your time for God? Pastor Randy said yesterday that a tithe of our waking time would be ten hours a week for Him. Like Jacob, we often are unaware we are at the very gateway to God’s presence because we are exchanging what should be a pillar of devotion and making it an uncomfortable pillow!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Believe Chapter 19 Giving of My Resources

     The broad road Jesus spoke about could easily describe the American Dream. People want to get more things, and yet they find the more they acquire, the less they are satisfied. When people give to a cause that they believe in, they receive the truest satisfaction. 

     Ask yourself this, “Have I made a purchase that immediately made me dissatisfied?” Was that restaurant meal with the family really worth $50? Think about the testimonies of people who gave of their time and money to go to on mission or to help the less fortunate. Think about people who gave to help missionaries go. Or those who helped give a backpack for a needy school student. Or sacrificially gave to the general offering, so that churches can keep going.

    As you think this week about Giving of Resources, remember that “God so loved the world He gave…”

The following devotional comes from Zondervan.

How do I best use my resources to serve God and others?

Jesus said more about money than the topics of heaven and hell combined. Our attitude toward money and personal resources says so much about our lives. Giving should flow from a pure heart desiring to meet a need. It should not be a way to draw attention to ourselves. We should also strive to think beyond our earthly life and share what we’ve been given in order to build God’s kingdom.

It’s easy to give when we know we will receive something in return. Jesus challenges us to remember that true giving has no strings attached.

Paul earned his living as a tent-maker during his missionary journeys, though he was grateful for the financial support he received from some churches, such as the church at Philippi. He preached the gospel sincerely and free of charge, taking care not to be a financial burden to believers. Regardless of his circumstances, Paul learned a vital lesson: Having enough doesn’t bring contentment; contentment makes what you have enough.

Since you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you — see that you also excel in this grace of giving. (2 Corinthians 8:7)

I give my resources to fulfill God’s purposes.

What difference does this make in the way I live?

As you lay your finances before the Lord, ask, “Am I using the resources you’ve given me to accomplish your purposes?” If the answer is yes, thank God for his wisdom and provision for you, and continue to grow in giving. If the answer is no, then self-condemnation and regret are not the proper responses. The very good news is that God, who is faithful and just, will forgive you, and he is ready to help you direct your energy to the transformation of how you use your money.

So where do we start?

We go back to the heart. There’s a decision to make. Whom will we serve? Ponder again these words of Jesus: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money" (Matthew 6:24).

Do you think it's more difficult for people to give when they are wealthy or when they have limited resources? Why?