The Flesh and the Spirit

February 25, 2020

2 Corinthians 4:18  The New Testament contrasts flesh and spirit. The flesh can mean tangible things, our humanity, or the sinful nature / that which is opposed to God. The spirit / spiritual can mean simply non-material realities, our spirit, Godliness, or the Holy Spirit and His work.

 

  • Seen vs. Unseen (i.e. 2 Cor. 4:16-17) – Practical needs, the world’s values and priorities, and our sinful desires make loud demands. However, we are to set our eyes on God’s glory, the Gospel, and God’s purposes.
  • Opposed to God vs. Honoring God (i.e. Rom. 8:5-14 & Gal. 5:16-25) – There is, on one hand, that which is good and God-honoring and, on the other, that which is evil and opposed to God. Our call is to honor God, and God’s Spirit is how we do that.
  • Efforts to Honor God (i.e. Gal. 5:16, Rom. 8:5-14, John 14:16-17, Col. 1:9, 2 Cor. 10:4) – If we are born again, we will want to honor God, and the Holy Spirit helps us. Our responsibility is to cultivate dependence on Him and to live in Him so that He produces Christ-likeness in us.
  • Coming to God (i.e. John 3: 5-8 & 6:63) – In John 3, Jesus spoke of the need to be born again by the Spirit. In John 6, Jesus spoke of ongoing faith in Himself and feeding on Him in a spiritual sense.

 

We can serve the flesh or pursue the things of God. We can follow the desires of the sinful flesh or crucify it and let the Holy Spirit enliven us for Godliness. We can try to serve the Lord in our weakness and come up short or rely on His enabling. Those who are not in Christ can do the best they know in the flesh and come up short or be born again by God’s Spirit through repentance and faith in Jesus.

 



Two Great Levelers

February 25, 2020

Psalm 49:1-20  What really matters in life? How might God speak to our priorities and pursuits, and how might that adjust things. In the first four verses, the Psalmist basically says, “Listen up, no matter who you are, because I have some wisdom you need to hear.”

 

  • The First Great Leveler (vv. 5-12) – What I hear in the Psalmist’s words is, however significant or accomplished or wealthy people think they are and however untouchable they seem, there is a great leveler all face – death. You may have seen those whose main pursuit is wealth of whatever form – you may have been that person. But, what happens when death strips each of us of everything, and how does that influence our perspective?
  • The Perspective (vv. 13-20) – We are reminded there are folks with a view of self, life, others, and God that says, “I am sufficient,” and there are those who listen to that and try to feel sufficient themselves. But, the Psalmist reminds us of the peril of wealth (I believe applying to any form of wealth) without understanding.
  • The Second Great Leveler (the Cross) – If we had room here, we could explore Luke 12:5-21 and Luke 18:9-14, which caution us against putting all our emphasis on wealth and on trusting in our own “wealth” of religious goodness respectively. We could look at 1 Timothy 6:9-10, 17, as well as Jesus question as to what it profit someone to gain the whole world but forfeit his soul.

 

Among the questions of life, there are the issues of life priorities, values, and central pursuits. There is the issue of our relationship to God and the great levelers of death that strips us of all we have and achieve and the cross that invites us to God in Christ on level ground with everyone else.

 



Two Great Levelers

February 11, 2020

Psalm 49:1-20  What really matters in life? How might God speak to our priorities and pursuits, and how might that adjust things. In the first four verses, the Psalmist basically says, “Listen up, no matter who you are, because I have some wisdom you need to hear.”

  • The First Great Leveler (vv. 5-12) – What I hear in the Psalmist’s words is, however significant or accomplished or wealthy people think they are and however untouchable they seem, there is a great leveler all face – death. You may have seen those whose main pursuit is wealth of whatever form – you may have been that person. But, what happens when death strips each of us of everything, and how does that influence our perspective?
  • The Perspective (vv. 13-20) – We are reminded there are folks with a view of self, life, others, and God that says, “I am sufficient,” and there are those who listen to that and try to feel sufficient themselves. But, the Psalmist reminds us of the peril of wealth (I believe applying to any form of wealth) without understanding.
  • The Second Great Leveler (the Cross) – If we had room here, we could explore Luke 12:5-21 and Luke 18:9-14, which caution us against putting all our emphasis on wealth and on trusting in our own “wealth” of religious goodness respectively. We could look at 1 Timothy 6:9-10, 17, as well as Jesus question as to what it profit someone to gain the whole world but forfeit his soul.

Among the questions of life, there are the issues of life priorities, values, and central pursuits. There is the issue of our relationship to God and the great levelers of death that strips us of all we have and achieve and the cross that invites us to God in Christ on level ground with everyone else.

 



Even When I Am Old

February 11, 2020

Psalm 71:1-24  What is God’s purpose for your life? What challenges affect your sense of purpose and ability to carry it out? How might you draw on the Lord in the face of that situation?

  • Turning to God in Trying Times (1-4) – The Psalmist calls out to the Lord in the face of opposition that threatens to undo him. You might need the same kind of approach as challenges threaten your purpose.
  • The Context of Ongoing Walk (5-12) – Notice the Psalmist does not keep God on the shelf until trouble, but this call is from an ongoing walk, and he is committed to continue praising and worshipping the Lord. Your walk with the Lord may be short or long, but the habit of praise, worship, and right relationship prepares us for times of challenge.
  • Confidence, Commitment, and Concern (13-18) – Basically, I we hear, “Lord, in spite of difficulty, my hope in you remains, and praise of you and to you will continue and will increase. In spite of circumstances and difficulties, I will worship. Lord, I have a purpose and role – just because I am old, don’t abandon your use of me or support of me until I finish the race and  future generations know you.” May this truly be our heart!
  • Putting it in Perspective (19-20) – The Psalmist’s example calls us to be honest about life challenges, yet remain grounded in who God is and the “other side” of trials.
  • Praise on the Other Side (21-24) – We could call out today with the Psalmist for God’s guarding in our struggles and pledge our praise as He delivers us and allows us to continue serving Him.

You may be facing challenge, discouragement, or distraction that is working against praise of God and His purpose for you. May He be your strength and deliverer!

 



Who Am I?

January 21, 2020

 
Psalm 8:1-10  Does anything ever stir you to awe and wonder, and do you ever notice evidence of God’s majesty and glory? Do you ever wonder what our place is in all of this and relative to God?
  • Declaring God’s Majestic Glory (v. 1) – Remember the name is not the label but refers to all that God is, and we hear the Psalmist basically say, from everything down here to everything up there in the heavens, your glory and majesty shine forth!”
  • Observing God’s Order of Things (v. 2) – We go on to hear the Psalmist point out how different things work with God than in the world – the praise of God from those without power or position who acknowledge who He is. In fact, Jesus said that simple, trusting faith is necessary to come into the Kingdom.
  • The Question and Call (vv. 3-8) – Reflect on these verses and how the Psalmist points out humans’ smallness and place under God and yet our God-intended place of honor and responsibility. However, we have marred the image of God in us and we need Jesus to restore it. Thankfully, He has come to fulfill God’s intent and bring us into God’s purpose in restoration and redemption.
  • Simple Sweeping Declaration (v. 10) – The Psalmist has come full circle, not understanding the glory and intention of God but receiving it.

How have you seen the glory and majesty of God? Have you marveled at it, and what does it stir in you? Have you wondered about your place and the place of humanity in all this we are part of? Have you wondered about the expression of God’s glory in and through us and the call on us to show that glory? Would you ask Jesus to help us see and reflect His glory?

 



Let Fools Become Wise

January 21, 2020

 
Psalm 14:1-7  If I mention wisdom, what comes to mind? What is the mindset of the wise person? What about the fool (Biblically-speaking – We need to distinguish between the Bible’s use of “fool” and the derisive human use of the term.)?
  • The Fool’s Declaration (1) – As we hear, we find denial of God leading to corruption and vileness. Also, realize there is the denial of God from a belief standpoint, but there also is the denial of God in practical actions by those who acknowledge Him in their words.
  • Humanity’s Corruption (2-4) – God is searching for those who seek Him, but He keeps finding corrupt people whose lives have jumped the track and left the path – the path of wisdom, Godliness, and fellowship with God. In John 3:19-21, Jesus makes a similar observation about humanity’s condition. It is easy to see the corruption, and Scripture makes it plain that none of us is good enough for God. So, we either can deny Him or come to Him with that problem.
  • The Foolish and the Wise (5-6) – Notice, there is to be enough of God’s presence among the righteous that fools who deny God are faced with His reality and experience dread because of it.
  • The Lord’s Salvation (7) – The Psalmist conveys, “Those who deny God, have gotten off the path, and who are vile sure make things difficult. Oh, that the Lord would do something about all this.” Could we join in that prayer, looking forward to the Lord’s salvation, and could we pray that the fools who deny God would come into His wisdom? Because, we know that, before Christ, we also were among them, denying God, until we came to repentance.

 



Rejoice and Sing a New Song

January 07, 2020
 
   Psalm 33:1-22  Do you ever feel like shouting or singing – when and about what? Does thinking about God ever stir a song in your heart and make you want to sing and shout?
 

· The Call to Joyful Song (1-3) – We hear the Psalmist call us to sing and shout with joyful thanks and praise. You might have had times of being stirred in this way by God’s greatness, or you may need that experience.

· The Lord’s Word (4-9) – Basically, we hear the Psalmist say, “Here is why we are singing and why I am calling you to praise. God’s active Word that gets things done is right and true, and what that Word accomplishes is always faithful. Look around and see the evidence of His creative Word – and respond in reverence and fear of the Lord.

· The Lord’s Plans and People (10-12) – We get the idea that, whatever people are up to, God’s ultimate purpose will prevail, and it is a blessing to be part of His people walking in His purpose and redemption.

· The Lord’s Knowledge (13-15) – We move forward to the Lord’s ultimate vantage point and knowledge and reign, and we are called to rejoice in His knowledge – He is not distant and unaware.

· The Lord’s Saving and Sustaining Work (16-19) – There are things people trust in, but those who are God’s people hope in Him and He saves and sustains. Do you need His saving and sustaining work and would you praise Him for it?

· Rejoicing in Hope (20-22) – Basically, we hear, “Lord, of all the places we might anchor or trust, it’s you, and that results in joy. Lord, as we are grounded in you, let us walk in your unfailing love.” Would you seek the Lord in that sort of way today?

 



Defined by Devotion to the Lord

January 07, 2020

Deuteronomy 6:1-12  I hope you had a good Holiday season – a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. New Year’s is a good time to reflect and look forward. As we head into 2020, Deuteronomy 6 reminds us to allow our devotion to God to be what defines us.

  • Vv. 1-3 – Defined by devotion to God means we are in a relationship of reverence expressed in obedience and resulting in blessing. God calls us to be the kind of people, families, and church whose starting point, anchoring place, and focus is God.
  • V. 4 – Defined by devotion to God means all of life begins with God and is centered in Him.
  • V. 5 – Defined by devotion to God means responding to God with covenant love that involves all that we are, want, say, and do – the totality of our lives, homes, and church.
  • Vv. 6-9 – Defined by devotion to God relates to His commandments. The Old Covenant was one of Law but also one of love and faith. The New Covenant in Jesus is one of grace through faith, but does not exclude the fruit of righteousness that Jesus wants to grow in our lives, homes, and church.
  • Vv. 10-12 – Defined by devotion to God means we live with an awareness of God all the times, not just in the hard times.

Are we living a life of devotion to God in all areas?  Are we teaching others to live this way – in gratitude, worship, and obedience? What has defined you, your home, and our church up to now and in this past year? Would you consider devotion to God ought to be what defines us and move in that direction?

 



Another Look at Jesus – The Cross of the King

December 10, 2019

Matthew 26:1-2 & Romans 5:6-8  Jesus lived His life and conducted His ministry toward the cross. There is the shadow of a cross over the cradle of the King. Let’s walk through five scenes that help us reflect.

 

In the Triumphal Entry, we find Jesus receiving a hero’s welcome and bringing peace as the Messiah, but that peace will be on God’s terms. In the Garden, we find that, at the cross of Jesus, submission is required. That place of submission is a place of struggle, a place of meeting with God, and a place of action. Through the Trials, we find that, at the cross of Jesus, court is in session, and decision is unavoidable. We are reminded that Jesus is Messiah (who gets God’s work done), King (a spiritual one), and God. What will we do with Him? At the Cross and the Tomb, we find that, at the cross of Jesus, He pays for our sin. We find the cross is a place of participation where we all are involved. The cross is a place of pardon where we see sin’s awfulness and the work of God to deal with it. The cross is a place of     profession, where we will profess mockery, rejection, or faith. At the Empty Tomb, we find that, at the cross of Jesus, there is resurrection power for coming to new life and for living for Jesus. On the cross, sin was paid for, and at the empty tomb, new life is found.

 

The cross of Jesus stands at the center of time and eternity as the means by which God’s loving plan was made reality, and His redemption was made available. Reflect on the purpose for Jesus’ birth and the shadow cast across the cradle. There is so much more than a manger, as we celebrate Christmas.

 



Another Look at Jesus – The Birth of the King

December 10, 2019

Matthew 1:18-2:12  The point of Matthew’s Gospel is that God had made a promise, and God had a purpose for that promise – that promise was carried out through Jesus. One theme of the book is royalty, and Jesus is the King.

 

In 1:18-25, we discover He was so much more than a baby. Jesus was not simply human but also God, as indicated by the virgin birth. Jesus identified with our humanity and joined us, showing us God and God-intended humanity. We are pointed to the work of the Holy Spirit, and Word Biblical Commentary suggests this mention of the Holy Spirit points to the Christian age   characterized by His work and presence. We find in His names the presence of God with Christians and salvation from sin available in Jesus. And, Mary and Joseph’s work points us to the partnership of God with people in Jesus’ Kingdom work.

 

In 2:1-12, we find a new King of a new Kingdom can be a troubling thing. We find Herod threatened by a rival king and troubled, but we also find the people of Jerusalem troubled. Why would God’s people be troubled by God showing up? Were they worried about Herod’s response or just so caught up in the world they didn’t want to be bothered or want anyone to “rock the boat?” In the Magi, we find those who heeded the signs pointing them toward Jesus, followed God’s    leadership to Jesus, esteemed Jesus highly, and worshipped Him. May we be like them!

 

Now, the rest of Chapter 2. Herod’s attempt to destroy Jesus was horrible, but he realized the issue was not the baby but the man he would become. He grew up to be redeemer and Lord. Some Christians leave the baby in the manger. Instead, let Him be King in your life and home.