Community Greetings

Photo credit: lightstock.com I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea. Welcome her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honor among God’s people. Help her in whatever she needs, for she has been helpful to many, and especially to me.

Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus. In fact, they once risked their lives for me. I am thankful to them, and so are all the Gentile churches. Also give my greetings to the church that meets in their home.

Greet my dear friend Epenetus. He was the first person from the province of Asia to become a follower of Christ. Give my greetings to Mary, who has worked so hard for your benefit. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews, who were in prison with me. They are highly respected among the apostles and became followers of Christ before I did. Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.

Greet Apelles, a good man whom Christ approves. And give my greetings to the believers from the household of Aristobulus. Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew. Greet the Lord’s people from the household of Narcissus. Give my greetings to Tryphena and Tryphosa, the Lord’s workers, and to dear Persis, who has worked so hard for the Lord. Greet Rufus, whom the Lord picked out to be his very own; and also his dear mother, who has been a mother to me.

Give my greetings to Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers and sisters who meet with them. Give my greetings to Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and to Olympas and all the believers who meet with them. Greet each other with a sacred kiss. All the churches of Christ send you their greetings. (‭Romans‬ ‭16:‭1-16‬ (NLT)


I expect most people either skip over or skim through the end of epistles with all the greetings. But if the Word of God is inspired and able to equip us for God's service (2 Tim 3:16-17), then we need to take a closer look at these greetings. What can we learn from them?

Long, long ago, in a world without mobile phones and the world-wide-web, people wrote letters and talked to each other face to face. This might be hard to imagine for some people, but it's true!

These greetings were more than courteous gestures, they were testimonies and acknowledgements. Sometimes there were warnings or exhortations, but mostly they were words of encouragement. All of them remind us of the nature of the early church.

One singular element of the early church that is still sought today was their sense of community. They had a bond of fellowship through their common relationship with Jesus, their Lord and Savior.

The church was a large, spread out community that had this one common bond—Jesus. It was like extended family. Paul knew what they knew—people are the most important element of community.

People united by their relationship with Jesus were the heartbeat of the church. Not its leaders, nor its organizational infrastructure, but their relationship with one another through Jesus. ©Word-Strong_2016

The Commitment of Community

Photo credit: lightstock.com In fact, my visit to you has been delayed so long because I have been preaching in these places. But now I have finished my work in these regions, and after all these long years of waiting, I am eager to visit you.

I am planning to go to Spain, and when I do, I will stop off in Rome. And after I have enjoyed your fellowship for a little while, you can provide for my journey.

But before I come, I must go to Jerusalem to take a gift to the believers there. For you see, the believers in Macedonia and Achaia have eagerly taken up an offering for the poor among the believers in Jerusalem.

They were glad to do this because they feel they owe a real debt to them. Since the Gentiles received the spiritual blessings of the Good News from the believers in Jerusalem, they feel the least they can do in return is to help them financially.

As soon as I have delivered this money and completed this good deed of theirs, I will come to see you on my way to Spain. And I am sure that when I come, Christ will richly bless our time together.

Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to join in my struggle by praying to God for me. Do this because of your love for me, given to you by the Holy Spirit.

Pray that I will be rescued from those in Judea who refuse to obey God. Pray also that the believers there will be willing to accept the donation I am taking to Jerusalem.

Then, by the will of God, I will be able to come to you with a joyful heart, and we will be an encouragement to each other. And now may God, who gives us his peace, be with you all. Amen. (‭Romans‬ ‭15:‭22-33‬ (NLT)


Why do you go to church, if you go at all? What do you like best? What do you not like so much?

When I pastored in Southern California, many new-to-town visitors wanted to know what our church had to offer them. Today, this shopping for a good church is more prevalent than ever.

I often hear people say they want community, especially when it comes to church. Ok, but community—genuine community—requires commitment, a mutual commitment.

Paul speaks of bringing a gift to the church in Jerusalem, donated by other believers. He also expects the believers in Rome to provide for his travel.

Real church community, as seen in the early church (Acts 2:44-47), requires a commitment on everyone's part.

So when you're looking for a church, consider what you're willing to give rather than what you might get. ©Word-Strong_2016

(Ab)Normal Christianity

Photo credit: unsplash_RBenad Moving to Indonesia I thought I would learn how to live a normal Christian life, an ordinary Christian life. A lifestyle that instinctively turns to God for guidance. 

A mind-set where, above all, my heart was set on Christ in all things. This would be my default.

I thought my time in Indonesia would reprogram my brain so my natural instincts were for God, a pretty noble desire if I do say so myself.

A noble desire

Now, I am not so sure it's how things work. Of course, I think it is good, possible, and appropriate to place God above all else in our hearts and minds, and have our actions follow suit.

However, I am not convinced that Lordship and obedience are as natural or instinctive as I hoped, and I don’t think that is a bad thing.

If, indeed, there is no greater love than a man laying down his life for a friend (John 15:13), then love requires sacrifice, a non-instinctive sacrifice.

We are self-preserving creatures. To lay down our lives, to give up control, hand over the reigns, to love, all these actions are in direct opposition to our instinct of self-preservation.

If our worship is offering ourselves as living sacrifices (Rom 12:1) and loving Jesus is obeying him (John 14:15) despite what our flesh (selfish nature), our society, our instincts are leaning towards.

Maybe Christian living is never normal

Maybe Christian living is denying what is normal, despite emotions, desires, instincts, or conventional wisdom.

I see this in the example set by our Lord Jesus Christ. He pleads with God to take the "cup" of the cross away from Him (Mark 14:36). Everything in Him, including His instincts, scream for another way. 

Instead, He refuses to give in. He is obedient to the Father, not his instincts as a man.

Christ's amazing love

How much more do we feel Christ’s amazing love because of his obedience instead of giving into an alternate route?

When everything in Him said no, He said yes—yes to the Father. He said yes for us! What an amazing sacrifice!

I also believe the reciprocal is true. When we are obedient to the Lord through the Holy Spirit, though everything in us is saying no and looking for an alternative, I believe the Father receives a little bit of that same love his Son poured out on the cross 2000 years ago when we deny our self.

Maybe we should view our battle against the flesh, our instincts and our desire, more as a platform to show our gratefulness to our Saviour and to love Him in a fraction of the way he loved us.

Maybe I was defining the term normal Christian life more as an easy Christian life. Maybe such a life does not exist, because it is contradictory to our nature.

To oppose our selfish nature, our instincts, and have victory in the Holy Spirit is our way of loving God just as Christ loved us. Obviously, on a much different scale, yet, what a privilege it is to return a fraction of that amazing love.

Not by our own strength

By no means do I believe we are to oppose our flesh (selfish nature) by our own strength, that would be ridiculous!

How are we to oppose the flesh with our own strength, which is by nature selfish? It is counterproductive. Rather, our greatest weapon is surrender. Surrender to the Spirit.

Therein lies the battle. The Spirit defeating our selfish nature is the easy part. The Spirit of God conquered death—by knockout in the first round. It wasn’t even close. God beats anything and everything else, every time. He is the heavyweight champion.

The battle is surrendering our spirit and our will to Him. Yielding ourselves to God. Nothing about this is normal.

Anything but normal

Normal is popping on a pair of overalls every time I face an obstacle and going to work. If I am too weak, I go to the gym, not smart enough, I head to school. But I will overcome. Me.

Victory in Christ is completely opposite. Victory in Christ is admitting defeat in the natural, surrendering, then saying "I am incapable on my own, but with Christ the victory is mine." It is counterintuitive to our instincts, it is contrary to conventional wisdom, but it is Lordship in motion.

Surrendering our self to Jesus recognizes who our King of Kings really is and allows Him to take His rightful place in our life. This is worship and victory all rolled up into one package.

Now, I am not trying to obtain a normal instinctive Christian walk, I am allowing Christ in me to oppose the norm. Now what I see as normal Christianity is anything but normal.


This is a guest post by Cole H who is a missionary with YWAM in Indonesia.

New Territory

Photo credit: lightstock.com I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness. You know these things so well you can teach each other all about them. Even so, I have been bold enough to write about some of these points, knowing that all you need is this reminder.

For by God’s grace, I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles. I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit.

So I have reason to be enthusiastic about all Christ Jesus has done through me in my service to God.

Yet I dare not boast about anything except what Christ has done through me, bringing the Gentiles to God by my message and by the way I worked among them. They were convinced by the power of miraculous signs and wonders and by the power of God’s Spirit. 

In this way, I have fully presented the Good News of Christ from Jerusalem all the way to Illyricum.

My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else. I have been following the plan spoken of in the Scriptures, where it says,

“Those who have never been told about him will see, and those who have never heard of him will understand.” (‭Romans‬ ‭15:‭14-21 (NLT)


The letter to the Romans was written to people who were believers, people who knew and understood the truth of the gospel. Many of them could teach and share the gospel with others.

Here the apostle Paul reveals his heart for those who've not heard the gospel. Those who don't know of Jesus or of God's redemptive love for them. This is Paul's ambition.

His ambition is not for a bigger and better church. It's to reach out to those who've never heard the redemption message in the gospel and are not engaged with those who do know it. His focus is to reach nonbelievers.

Today, as in times past, much of the growth of one church is at the cost of another. Believers in one church body transfer to another one that seems better for whatever reason.

And yet, over 40% of the world's population are unreached by the message of God's redemptive love—over 3 billion people are unreached. Some of these unreached or unengaged peoples have immigrated to North America.

Now, more and more young people, born and raised in America, are part of a new, growing group of unreached and unengaged people.

It's time to stake out new territory. This means each believer is responsible to reach out to others, and church leaders need to equip their people to do this.

Let's reach out to the unreached and unengaged, especially in our own neighborhoods, and help support missionaries who go to other nations to reach the unreached. ©Word-Strong_2016

No Longer Required

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Religion is viewed by many to be restrictive. It certainly can be. "Religion is just a bunch of do's and don'ts," people will say.

But God desires something beyond an attempt to keep a list of rights and wrongs.

Scripture

For the choir director: A psalm of David.

I waited patiently for the lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.

He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the lord.

Oh, the joys of those who trust the lord, who have no confidence in the proud or in those who worship idols.

O  lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them. [vss 1-5]

You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings. Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand— you don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings.

Then I said, “Look, I have come. As is written about me in the Scriptures: I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your instructions are written on my heart.”

 I have told all your people about your justice. I have not been afraid to speak out, as you, O  lord, well know.

I have not kept the good news of your justice hidden in my heart; I have talked about your faithfulness and saving power. I have told everyone in the great assembly of your unfailing love and faithfulness. [vss 6-10]

Lord, don’t hold back your tender mercies from me. Let your unfailing love and faithfulness always protect me.

For troubles surround me—too many to count! My sins pile up so high I can’t see my way out. They outnumber the hairs on my head. I have lost all courage.

Please, lord, rescue me! Come quickly, lord, and help me.

May those who try to destroy me be humiliated and put to shame. May those who take delight in my trouble be turned back in disgrace. Let them be horrified by their shame, for they said, “Aha! We’ve got him now!”

But may all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness in you. May those who love your salvation repeatedly shout, “The lord is great!”

As for me, since I am poor and needy, let the Lord keep me in his thoughts. You are my helper and my savior. O my God, do not delay. [vss 11-17]

(Psalm 40:1-17 NLT) [Context– Psalm 40]

Key phrase— Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord

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Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

How does this psalm begin? What does the psalmist (David) rejoice about? What does he say about the Lord?

What does the Lord not take delight in or require? What does bring joy and why is this what God desires?

What specific things has David told people about the Lord?

What are David's two requests and why does he make them? What blessing is given near the ending?

Reflection...

This psalm has many different literary elements (see Psalms Study Guide). It begins with a testimony of God's rescue and declarations of God's greatness. It ends with requests for God's help and a blessing.

In the middle is a declaration by David that is prophetic. He speaks to the heart of what God desires, but in the voice of Jesus the Messiah, as noted in Hebrews 10:5-7 (also see Luke 24:44).

God isn't interested in sacrifices and offerings, though required by the Law of Moses, He desires trust and obedience from the heart.

Jesus came as the ultimate atoning sacrifice for humanity's rebellion towards God. His coming was foretold centuries before He came, but the nation of Israel did not accept it.

He will come a second time and those who've experienced His mercy and faithfulness are to proclaim the freedom found in Jesus to others until He returns.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

Do you feel burdened and restricted by things you should or shouldn't do? If so, why?

Have you experienced the freedom of God's mercy and grace in your life?

If so, in what specific ways have you experienced the Lord's mercy and faithfulness in your life?

Has the Lord put a "new song" in your heart? Do you share what God's done in your life with others?


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

Responsibility of Revelation

Photo credit: lightstock.com Let me explain. Christ became a servant for the Jewish people to reveal God’s truth. As a result, he fulfilled God’s promise to the ancestors of the Jewish people. 

People who are not Jewish praise God for his mercy as well. This is what the Scriptures say,

“That is why I will give thanks to you among the nations and I will sing praises to your name.”

And Scripture says again, “You nations, be happy together with his people!”

And again, “Praise the Lord, all you nations! Praise him, all you people of the world!”

Again, Isaiah says, “There will be a root from Jesse. He will rise to rule the nations, and he will give the nations hope.”

May God, the source of hope, fill you with joy and peace through your faith in him. Then you will overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (‭Romans‬ ‭15:‭8-13 (GW)


Israel was chosen by God to be His people—His nation. Not because they were special, but for a special purpose.

God wanted a people who lived differently than the majority of people in the world. People who served a living God instead of caught up in superstitions and idolatry. He wanted them to be His light of revelation to other nations, but they failed to do this.

This is the responsibility of the church—the global community of believers who personally follow Jesus, regardless of their nationality or ethnicity.

We—the global community of believers—are to bring the light of redemptive grace and hope found in Jesus to a world lost in spiritual darkness and ignorance.

God's Spirit dwelling in believers is the source of our hope, joy, and peace. He is the source of light a world in darkness needs. So, let Him shine through you! ©Word-Strong_2016


Here's an older song taken from this psalm— I waited

GMO-Free Community (part 2)

Photo credit: unsplash_JSheldon

My parents are gardeners. Growing up I ate fresh vegetables and fruit. I vividly remember the juicy taste of tomatoes and strawberries.

Yet, I remember the outward appearance of these naturally grown fruits was always different.

Organic community is both consistent and diverse.

What is the seed of organic community?

In the previous post I said organic community must have a raw and organic beginning, similar to how organic fruit or vegetables start with non-GMO seed. God is the original seed of community.

In his book Created for Community, Stanley Grenz states,

God’s triune nature means that God is social or relational— God is the “social Trinity.” And for this reason, we can say that God is “community.” God is the community of the Father, Son, and Spirit, who enjoy perfect and eternal fellowship.

From the very beginning God reveals that his way of life is not singular but plural. “Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image'” (Genesis 1:26).

God is the consistency and we are the diversity of community.

The organic community of the early church

Looking at the birth of the early church, we see evidence of organic community.

In the book of Acts, the followers of Jesus came together with expectation. Imagine the emotions in the room!

Jesus left them with no formula but a simple command to wait for the promise of the Father,

“which you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:4).

Many times we desire a formula on how to create community. We want to be told how to muster up results. Organic community is the opposite of that.

There are no formulas because the organic seed is God who is a relational being.

Diversity is the basis for organic community

God loves diversity. Organic community reflects the diverse and creative nature of God.

When the Holy Spirit encounters the disciples in the upper room, the result is not identical tongues (languages). The result isn’t a call for uniformity.

The result is a diversity of tongues (languages) calling together a diverse crowd of people. In Acts 2:9-11, the author mentions sixteen different regional locations.

Diversity was welcomed in the early church.

What shall we do?

Throw out your formulaic approach to community.

I've been training my mind to think differently about community. I avoid saying I want to create community, and replace that with, I want to nurture and foster community.

Embrace a relational view of community.

God is a relational being working within humanity. He is the creator of community because he is community. Community will always look different from the outside but will feel the same on the inside.

I encourage you to simply ask God what He is creating around you.

Are there dear relationships in your life? Invest your time and effort there.

God resides within people, we (believers) are His temple (1 Cor 3:16).

Look for God in His people, and you will find yourself in community!


This is a guest post by Sergei Kutrovski whom I've worked with the past few years teaching and training others in discipleship and Inductive Bible Study. You can see more of his posts at — http://kutrovski.wordpress.com/

A Whisper in the Wind

Photo credit: lightstock.com

No one wants to suffer. But suffering is a reality of life on earth, and suffering comes in many forms.

When suffering comes we all ask why—Why must this be? How long will it last?

It may be of no immediate comfort, but know this—suffering has a way of grabbing us, of getting our full attention.

Scripture

For the choir director; for Jeduthun; a psalm by David.

I said, “I will watch my ways so that I do not sin with my tongue. I will bridle my mouth while wicked people are in my presence.”

I remained totally speechless. I kept silent, although it did me no good. While I was deep in thought, my pain grew worse.

My heart burned like a fire flaring up within me. Then I spoke with my tongue:

“Teach me, O Lord, about the end of my life. Teach me about the number of days I have left so that I may know how temporary my life is. Indeed, you have made the length of my days ⌊only⌋ a few inches. My life span is nothing compared to yours. Certainly, everyone alive is like a whisper in the wind. Selah [vss 1-5]

Each person who walks around is like a shadow. They are busy for no reason. They accumulate riches without knowing who will get them.”

And now, Lord, what am I waiting for? My hope is in you!

Rescue me from all my rebellious acts. Do not disgrace me in front of godless fools. I remained speechless. I did not open my mouth because you are the one who has done this.

Remove the sickness you laid upon me. My life is over because you struck me with your hand.

With stern warnings you discipline people for their crimes. Like a moth you eat away at what is dear to them. Certainly, everyone is like a whisper in the wind. Selah [vss 6-11]

Listen to my prayer, O Lord. Open your ear to my cry for help. Do not be deaf to my tears, for I am a foreign resident with you, a stranger like all my ancestors.

Look away from me so that I may smile again before I go away and am no more. [vss 12-13]

(Psalm 39:1-13 GW) [Context– Psalm 39]

Key phrase— Certainly, everyone alive is like a whisper in the wind

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Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

How does the psalmist begin to describe his situation?

What does he say after the pain grows worse? What does he ask God to teach him?

How is a typical life described? How is this description applied to people and their daily lives?

What is the request at the end of this prayerful psalm? What does he hope for?

Reflection...

Determining the purpose of suffering, whatever kind it is, isn't simple. C.S. Lewis' famous quote gives some insight—

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

This psalm helps us see it from a different view. Life on this earth is temporary. But life and hope in God are eternal.

No one wants to die, but every one of us will die. Even people who take their own life don't want to die, they've just given up hope.

We all need a living hope beyond the whisper of life on earth. Hope is better than cynicism, fatalism, or nihilism.

It's easy to get caught up in everyday tasks and pursuits, but there's no final, satisfying destination. Yet, when we see how short and fragile life is it humbles us. At least, it ought to humble us.

Real hope is grounded in a relationship of trust in God, the Creator of life. David knew this from experience, even in the darkest of times.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

Do you ever feel life is futile, almost purposeless?

When you struggle with pain, physical or emotional, how do you cope with it?

How do you view life in general? Have you come to realize how life is precious yet fragile?

Do you take time each day to appreciate the life God gave you?


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

Real Harmony

Photo credit: lightstock.com So those of us who have a strong ⌊faith⌋ must be patient with the weaknesses of those whose ⌊faith⌋ is not so strong. We must not think only of ourselves. We should all be concerned about our neighbor and the good things that will build his faith.

Christ did not think only of himself. Rather, as Scripture says, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”

Everything written long ago was written to teach us so that we would have confidence through the endurance and encouragement which the Scriptures give us.

May God, who gives you this endurance and encouragement, allow you to live in harmony with each other by following the example of Christ Jesus. Then, having the same goal, you will praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, accept each other in the same way that Christ accepted you. He did this to bring glory to God.  (‭Romans‬ ‭15:‭1-7‬ (GW)


It's easy to overanalyze things. Action item lists are popular and success formulas are sought by many. A lot of time is invested to figure out what makes one thing successful where another one fails.

In doing this, we tend to overlook what's obvious and simple. The realm of spiritual truth is no different. The secret to unity among believers doesn't require psychological tests or deep theological treatises.

First, we need to be patient with others who don't measure up spiritually to our expectations (verses 1-3), and learn from the example of faithful believers before us (verse 4).

But the most important thing is to follow the example of Jesus together (verse 5). We need to accept one another as Jesus accepted us (verse 7).

Think about it. That may seem a tall order, but the simple focus is Jesus—His gracious, humble example.

The key to real harmony among followers of Jesus is treating one another with the gracious humility we see in Jesus. ©Word-Strong_2016

GMO-Free Community (part 1)

Photo credit: unsplash.com_JChillingsworth In the last few years you have probably noticed the buzz around "organic community." Yet, are we all on the same page with the definition of that phrase?

What do I mean by "organic community"?

Here are a few of my thoughts on what it means.

Organic Gardening

When we read through the scriptures we find many examples of how physical gardening reveals spiritual truth.

The Psalms compare a man to a tree planted by water. Jesus often used gardening when He spoke in parables. It is very natural for us to see spiritual truth in physical things or circumstances.

To have an organic garden you must start with organic seed. The seed needs to be free of all human tampering.

To spare you from information overload, some seed is genetically modified by scientists. We often see packages of food with labels stating that it is GMO-free.

GMO or GMO-free?

Genetically modified organisms (GMO) do have an advantage. They are protected from attack from outside threats like bugs, weather, and even help food last longer.

Yet, GMO seed produces food that may be dangerous to our health. Many times we a utopian type of community. We must understand that organic seed is bigger than us.

Organic seed has a beginning with a Creator. It has an origin we can't take credit for, but it's planted in a garden we are called to nurture. To keep an organic garden growing and living, effort and intentionality must be put forth.

If the garden isn't tended, the garden dies. Everything organic has risk and reward. To have organic community we must realize the bigger than us source, and be very intentional in our nurturing.

Organic community

Organic community is a body of diverse, yet committed people.

Diversity within a group of people requires intentionality. Humans tend to come together based on similarities. That's normal. That's why we having sayings like, "Birds of a feather flock together."

The danger of being in a community based on similarities of interests, hobbies, nationalities, or race, is it tends to turn into more of a social club than community.

To experience the fullness of community we must risk and expect a level of discomfort due to difference. From that, we will reap the fruits of fullness, ability to love on a deeper level, and have a bigger picture of life.

Do you want organic community?

I am glad to see and hear the buzz about organic community. May all this buzz and desire turn into intentionality to tend the organic garden of community.

Forget about formulas and methods. Focus on the Seed which is Christ Himself.

What do you see Jesus doing?

What is he blessing?

What is he building?

What is he loving?

Now go out and plug into that.


This is a guest post by Sergei Kutrovski whom I've worked with the past few years teaching and training others in discipleship and Inductive Bible Study. You can see more of his posts at — http://kutrovski.wordpress.com/

A Worthy Life

Photo credit: unsplash.com_ABurden How does a person live a worthy life? Ask a dozen people and you'll get a dozen different answers.

Nowadays, in what could be called the i-Culture, a major focus is on self-improvement, self-advancement, or simply, self-gratification.

But does all that focus on self lead to a worthy life?

The wrong focus

The focus on self in our present culture is at complete odds with the call of Jesus to follow Him (Luke 9:23). This needs to be kept in mind reading this exhortation from the apostle Paul.

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel (Philippians 1:27 NKJV)

Obviously, a focus on self is a far cry from what the apostle Paul had in mind. But what does Paul mean by, “let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ”? A natural inclination is to focus on behavior, which is the general meaning of the word conduct.

Sadly, the Christian life is too often morphed into an effort of behavior modification, sometimes referred to as a works-based righteousness.

[bctt tweet="The Christian life is too often morphed into an effort of behavior modification" username="tkbeyond"]

This moralistic approach to Christianity becomes a substitute for living in a manner “worthy of the gospel,” and is not what Jesus expects of His followers.

Out of focus

Our behavior doesn't need to be modified, it needs to be radically changed but from the inside out. How? We need to have a Kingdom of God view of life rather than a moralistic human view.

Jesus calls us to deny our self, not modify ourselves. We're called to die to self, not dress it up.

[bctt tweet="Jesus calls us to deny our self, not modify ourselves" username="tkbeyond"]

Jesus calls us to exchange our old life for a new life in relationship with Him. He calls us to be alive on the inside, but dead to the worldly self on the outside. But this relationship with Jesus is not an individualized pursuit.

The right focus

Paul's focus in this text is on the community of believers called the church, which is confirmed in Philippians 2:1-5. This requires commitment to a community of believers, as well as a personal commitment to Jesus.

This type of commitment was never to be optional. It was expected.

[bctt tweet="Commitment to a community of believers was never to be optional, it was expected" username="tkbeyond"]

We need each other in the Body of Christ if we want to live a life worthy of the gospel. Fellowship with other like-minded believers will help us live a consistent godly life.

When we worship and serve together, we're focused on Jesus, not ourselves.

Some questions to consider and final thoughts

Are you trying to be a good Christian person, or living by faith and following Jesus as He intends all believers to do?

How do you view spiritual maturity? Is it based on moral goodness, or spiritual soundness in agreement with God's Word?

If you want to live a life worthy of the Lord, choose to be connected with other like-minded, spiritually mature believers. Not just for a week, but on a continuous basis. This will require self-denial and dying to self, but it will be more than worth the investment.


This is an edited version of a guest post on Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale's Daily Devo blog here— A Worthy Life

Next week I'll return to the study in Psalms—but a change is coming so stay tuned!

If this is a help and blessing to you, please share it with others via social media or email. Thanks for reading!

Food Is Not the Problem

Photo credit: lightstock.com So let’s stop criticizing each other. Instead, you should decide never to do anything that would make other Christians have doubts or lose their faith.

The Lord Jesus has given me the knowledge and conviction that no food is unacceptable in and of itself. But it is unacceptable to a person who thinks it is. So if what you eat hurts another Christian, you are no longer living by love. Don’t destroy anyone by what you eat. Christ died for that person. Don’t allow anyone to say that what you consider good is evil.

God’s kingdom does not consist of what a person eats or drinks. Rather, God’s kingdom consists of God’s approval and peace, as well as the joy that the Holy Spirit gives.  The person who serves Christ with this in mind is pleasing to God and respected by people.

So let’s pursue those things which bring peace and which are good for each other. Don’t ruin God’s work because of what you eat. All food is acceptable, but it’s wrong for a person to eat something if it causes someone else to have doubts. The right thing to do is to avoid eating meat, drinking wine, or doing anything else that causes another Christian to have doubts.

So whatever you believe about these things, keep it between yourself and God. The person who does what he knows is right shouldn’t feel guilty. He is blessed. But if a person has doubts and still eats, he is condemned because he didn’t act in faith. Anything that is not done in faith is sin. (‭Romans‬ ‭14:13-23‬ GW)


Are you a vegan, or are you into a paleo diet? Are you concerned about what you eat? Do you try to eat organic, non-GMO, local sourced, gluten-free, wild caught, free range food?

We Americans are especially focused on the quality and cost of food. Fast-food restaurants are even adopting "healthier options." This may be good, but more important concerns ought to occupy followers of Jesus.

As Jesus said, it's not what goes into a body that defiles a person, but what comes out of the heart (Matt 15:11). Paul reminds us that the Kingdom of God isn't about what we eat or drink, but our relationship with the Lord and one another.

We have freedom to eat or drink whatever we choose, but not at the cost of others and their consciences. As said nowadays, "it's not about you." Nor is it about the food.

We need to live with a clear conscience before the Lord and without intentionally hurting the conscience of others. When we have doubts about all this, we're not living in the freedom of true faith. ©Word-Strong_2016

5 Ways to Overcome It All

  Photo credit: unsplash.com_JThomas

When the world around us seems out of control, it's easy to become discouraged, angry, depressed, and even fearful.

When evil, injustice, scandals, unrest, and tragedies dominate the news, cynicism is easy to cultivate. Why? We get bitter and our hearts harden when we lose hope in what's right and true and good.

But there are ways to overcome it all.

Don't be overcome

If we don't want to be overcome by the snarling darkness of this world, we need to develop attitudes and actions to contend with it.

One thing is certain—as followers of Jesus, we don't need to be overcome with worry or secretly admire those who seem to get away with everything.

In a previous post, I looked at the first nine verses of Psalm 37 and pointed out five ways to overcome what we cannot control. (Psalm 37:1-9). This is a follow-up post to see how these five ways can help us to overcome it all.

5 Ways to overcome what we can't control (from Psalm 37)

1– Trust in the Lord and do good (verse 3)– the opposite of fretting and envy

The initial way to not be overcome with worry and envy is to trust. Any form of trust is a risk of sorts, but the risk is reduced by the trustworthiness of whoever (or wherever) we're putting our trust.

The Lord is trustworthy beyond what we can comprehend, so it boils down to our own willingness to trust Him. Trusting in the Lord isn't a choice between one thing or another, it's based on relationship.

It's a confidence that God is greater than whatever threatens to overwhelm us. This is expanded on further in the psalm (Psalm 37:10-15; 18-22). It's a confidence that God will honor our trust in Him (Heb 11:6).

[bctt tweet="Our confidence in God needs to be greater than whatever threatens to overwhelm us" username="tkbeyond"]

2– Delight yourself in the Lord (verse 4)– having right priorities

As a young believer, I remember hearing the verse, Delight yourself in the Lord, and He'll give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4), as if it was a guarantee the Lord would give you whatever your heart desired. But there's more to it than that.

It's tied to trusting in the Lord (#1 above). The focus needs to be on delighting in the Lord, not what we want or desire. When our highest priority is the Lord Himself, our priorities are in right order and he will honor that.

[bctt tweet="When God transforms our hearts, the desires of our heart will change" username="tkbeyond"]

When this is true it transforms our heart and what we desire—our selfish nature is no longer the basis for the desires of our heart. This brings contentment into our relationship with the Lord. This is seen in other verses of this psalm (Psalm 27:16-19; 23-26).

3– Commit your way to the Lord– the Lord's promised care

Many believers have the sense that once they've given their heart to Jesus no further commitment is needed. In one way this is true. Once a decision is made to follow Jesus, just as with a marriage vow, a person doesn't need to do it over and over again.

But it's not a one and done type of commitment. In the gospel of Luke, Jesus speaks of the need to affirm this commitment daily (Luke 9:23). How can it be both?

The battle of not going with the cultural flow of the world around us is constant. It doesn't go away once we make a decision to follow Jesus. It requires a continuing surrender of our will and ways to the Lord.

I learned this as a young believer and Proverbs 3:5-6 became an anchor of truth for me when I dealt with worry, frustration, and envy of others.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

[bctt tweet="Trust in the Lord with all your heart—In all your ways acknowledge him" username="tkbeyond"]

4– Be still and wait (verse 7)– the power of disconnecting

This may seem like a passive action or no action at all, but it's a powerful way to connect with God. This is especially true in our digital age where people wander around in their own world with headsets and headphones or chasing imaginary creatures on their smartphone.

If we want to connect with God, we need to be willing to disconnect from the world around us, including people. This is nothing new and the idea of being present or mindful has once again become vogue in American culture.

[bctt tweet="To connect with God, we need to be willing to disconnect from the world around us" username="tkbeyond"]

The question for many is how? How can we digitally, emotionally, and physically unplug for a while? You'll need to find your own way to do this.

One way I do this is to get up early in the morning (while it's still dark) for a less-distracted time with God. Another thing that helps me is riding my bike on the beach, or fully engaging in worship.

As I said, you'll have to sort out how you can do this, and it requires some discipline and commitment.

5– Refrain...forsake...fret not (verse 8)– breaking the cycle

A friend of mine showed me an illustration and explanation of the Cycle of Rage that's relevant here. A choice needs to be made to break out of the cycle of reacting with anger or fretting when things seem out of control (Psalm 37:8).

This is a choice to not be controlled by our circumstances or feelings. How? This brings us full circle to the beginning of our ways to overcome it all.

When you begin to roll down the hill of cynicism and despair, it's time to put the brakes on!

[bctt tweet="If you're rolling down the hill of cynicism and despair, put the brakes on!" username="tkbeyond"]

Choosing God's kingdom over this world's dominion

What's described in these five ways to overcome is not a list of disciplines to apply, but a way of life in the Kingdom of God. This is seen in the repetition about inheriting the land (Psalm 37:9, 11, 22, 29, 34). For the Jews, this spoke of God's kingdom on earth.

But the kingdom of God is not restricted to a dominion upon earth, it encompasses all those who trust in the Lord in a personal way. Jesus refers to this in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:5), and Paul speaks of this in his letter to the church in Rome (Romans 4:13; 14:17).

The world around us may continue to darken, but it doesn't have to run over us like a truck.

[bctt tweet="The world around us may continue to darken, but it doesn't have to control our life" username="tkbeyond"]

Our life may not go as we expect, but when we choose to trust in the Lord, committing our ways to Him, we have the assurance of inheriting a better life than we could make for ourselves as co-heirs with Jesus (Gal 3:29; Eph 3:6).

What will you choose today?

The Desires of the Heart

Photo credit: lightstock.com

We all want life to make sense and to have purpose. Yet, many things that take place in the world and impact our life bewilder us.

We have no control over most of what goes on around us. The more out of control life seems the more we want to get things under control.

But we can't control others, nor can we set everything in order around us. And yet, we have options.

Scripture

Of David

Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. [vss 1-4]

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. [vss 5-9]

(Psalm 37:1-9 NIV) [Context– Psalm 37]

Key phrase— Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart 

[bctt tweet="Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart" username="tkbeyond"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What are we not to worry about and who should we not envy? Why is this so?

What are we to do? What are the specific things we're encouraged to do?

What are the results we can expect when we do these things?

What is the final thing we're encouraged to do? How do you think we are to do this?

Reflection...

When life around us seems overwhelming, we tend to do one of two things. We try to take actions to bring things into order, or we withdraw to hide from it all.

The first thing often leads to frustration, while the second brings a sense of hopelessness.

Looking to the Lord for what we can't control helps us gain perspective on it all. Setting our mind and heart to trust the Lord this way brings internal peace and order.

But how can we do this when we're overwhelmed? It's not something we do once and it's finished. It involves a commitment and consistency to continue doing what we know in our heart to be right and true and good.

The psalmist gives ways to do this, which are expanded on in the rest of the psalm. Each one results in some type of blessing from the Lord.

Here are those five ways to overcome what we cannot control—

  1. Trust in the Lord and do good (verse 3)
  2. Take delight in the Lord (verse 4)
  3. Commit your way to the Lord (verse 5)
  4. Be still before the Lord (verse 7)
  5. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath (verse 8)

In my next post, I'll unpack these five things a bit more, so check back!

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

Are there times when you're frustrated and angry about the state of things in your life or the world around you?

When do you feel most overwhelmed? What seems to trigger this, or precede this sense of being overwhelmed?

How do you handle angry feelings, worry, frustration, or fears? Are you able to bring these feelings to the Lord in prayer?

How often do you try to settle your heart and mind by trusting your concerns with the Lord? 


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

Tolerance and Intolerance

Photo credit: lightstock.com Welcome people who are weak in faith, but don’t get into an argument over differences of opinion. Some people believe that they can eat all kinds of food. Other people with weak faith believe that they can eat only vegetables.

People who eat all foods should not despise people who eat only vegetables. In the same way, the vegetarians should not criticize people who eat all foods, because God has accepted those people.

Who are you to criticize someone else’s servant? The Lord will determine whether his servant has been successful. The servant will be successful because the Lord makes him successful.

One person decides that one day is holier than another. Another person decides that all days are the same. Every person must make his own decision. When people observe a special day, they observe it to honor the Lord.

When people eat all kinds of foods, they honor the Lord as they eat, since they give thanks to God. Vegetarians also honor the Lord when they eat, and they, too, give thanks to God.

It’s clear that we don’t live to honor ourselves, and we don’t die to honor ourselves. If we live, we honor the Lord, and if we die, we honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this reason Christ died and came back to life so that he would be the Lord of both the living and the dead.

Why do you criticize or despise other Christians? Everyone will stand in front of God to be judged. Scripture says, “As certainly as I live, says the Lord, everyone will worship me, and everyone will praise God.”

All of us will have to give an account of ourselves to God. (‭Romans‬ ‭14:1-12‬ (GW)


Jesus said His followers are to be known for their love for one another (John 13:35). Sadly, Christians have a reputation for being self-righteous and judgmental, not to mention hypocritical.

Why? Because of disputes about beliefs and practice, and other petty disagreements. This tends to create an "us versus them" mentality towards believers and nonbelievers.

As Paul points out, this has gone on for years. Intolerance towards others is nothing new. Christian believers get outraged by the intolerance of non-believers towards us, but we don't realize the log in our own eyes (Matt 7:1-5).

How we live out our faith shouldn't be focused on what we do or don't do, but how the Lord shines out through our lives towards others.

We are to be examples of the cross—the Lord Jesus' redemptive death and resurrection—by walking the way of the cross (Matt 16:24).

One day, sooner than expected, we will be held accountable for how we live. Everyone. That Day will reveal how we've honored the Lord with our daily lives now. ©Word-Strong_2016

Justice Is Driven Back

unsplash-starrynight_man_light_JSewell If you love the truth and value honesty, lies and injustice should prompt anger to rise up in your heart.

But if you value deception when it's expedient to your cause, whatever it might be, your heart will swell up with pride.

When truth is mocked and integrity of character is set aside, judgment is not far behind. But what, if anything, can you do about it?

Nothing new

Deception is nothing new. It's as old as...well, humanity. The first humans on earth started the ball rolling, but had some help disseminating deception.

In the Garden of Eden, he came as a clever serpent (Gen 3:1), he tempted Jesus in the wilderness (Matt 4:1-11), and Jesus called him the father of lies (John 8:44).

Deception, injustice, and evil will continue to be with us until the Lord returns and settles things His way. But how are we who trust in the Lord to deal with blatant deception and injustice?

[bctt tweet="How should we deal with blatant deception and injustice?" username="tkbeyond"]

It's a challenge to live our daily lives, raise a family, and live a life of integrity when deception and injustice seem to prevail. How do we respond when leaders prove to be untrustworthy?

After the justifiable anger rises up and before it boils over, we need to consider how to respond in both wise and practical ways.

The dilemma

Moral and ethical darkness are not new in the world. Corruption, injustice, and oppression by governments is common throughout history.

This doesn't mean we just tolerate it or dismiss it. The gravitational pull created by the black hole of corrupt and oppressive leaders suck life and hope out of people's lives. Both the innocent and the righteous are impacted.

When Israel was plunged into moral and spiritual darkness by their own unfaithfulness, God rebuked them—

Justice is driven back; godliness stands far off. Indeed, honesty stumbles in the city square and morality is not even able to enter.

Honesty has disappeared; the one who tries to avoid evil is robbed.

The Lord watches and is displeased, for there is no justice. (Isaiah 59:14-15)

The inevitable question comes, "Why doesn't God do something about it? Doesn't He care?!"

God does care! He has intervened over the centuries and personally intervened when He came as the Word of God in human form (John 1:1, 14).

[bctt tweet="God cared & intervened to help His people many times, even in person through His Son" username="tkbeyond"]

A resolution

What are we to do? Is there something we can do? There is.

He sees that there’s no one to help. He’s astounded that there’s no one to intercede. [italics mine]
So with his own power he wins a victory. His righteousness supports him. (Isaiah 59:16)

The prophet declares that God is astonished no one is interceding on behalf of Israel in their moral and spiritual darkness.

The dictionary describes an intercessor as someone who steps in on behalf of another to plead for them. Who was God expecting to intercede? The spiritual leaders of Israel.

Prayer is not a last resort, but our first and best action.

[bctt tweet=" Prayer is not a last resort, but our first and best action" username="tkbeyond"]

Intercessory prayer may seem passive, even weak, but it's far from that. Jesus is often shown praying before significant events throughout the gospel narratives. Intercession was vital and key to the church's survival and growth in the book of Acts.

Standing in the gap

God's concern for an intercessor is echoed by the prophet Ezekiel—

So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. (Ezek 22:30 NKJV)

Where are the intercessors now? Nations all over the world are in turmoil and need intercessors—people who will "stand in the gap" and plead for their nation and people.

[bctt tweet="Where are the intercessors who will stand in the gap for their nation?" username="tkbeyond"]

Intercession requires commitment and consistent faithfulness when others give up in the face of adversity, and when it seems nothing is changing for the good.

Standing firm

When God saw no one who interceded for the nation, He stepped up to do so—

He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak. (Isaiah 59:17)

The figurative phrases in this text are similar to what the apostle Paul said to believers facing the oppressive Roman Empire—

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Eph 6:13)

The larger context of this verse describes this armor of God in detail, with the list concluding with prayer, intercessory prayer (Eph 6:10-18).

This is what we can do, and how we are to respond when deception, evil, and darkness seem to prevail. Even if you're not a recognized leader, you can lead as an intercessor.

[bctt tweet="If you want to stand firm in hard times, prayer is vital, including intercessory prayer" username="tkbeyond"]

Doers, not just hearers

Jesus said those who hear His words and put them into practice will stand firm, like a house built on a rock (Matt 7:24-27).

No human leader can solve the world's woes. Clamoring for justice won't bring resolve. Putting hope in such things is like building a house on the sand. When storms come—and they will—these hopes will crumble.

When the world tumbles with turmoil and what once seemed secure is shaken, we need a solid foundation to stand firm in the midst of it all.

Knowing the truth isn't enough. Each believer needs to be a doer, not just a hearer of truth (John 13:17; James 1:22).

[bctt tweet="Knowing the truth isn't enough—we need to be doers, not just hearers of truth" username="tkbeyond"]

We need to engage in a wise and practical way. God's choice and direction is intercession, not mere protest, and certainly not empty rhetoric.

We need to live out the truth day-to-day, even when others around us abandon it.

We need to appeal to the One who alone is able and who will bring true justice and righteousness.


How will you respond when truth is mocked and integrity is shunned?


If this post is of value and encouragement to you—please share it with others... thanks!

Mercy and Faithfulness

Photo credit: lightstock.com

It use to be that you could easily tell the good guys from the bad ones. In older western movies, the good guys wore white hats.

But the public image is not always the private reality. Nowadays, image and branding have become an important industry. Much emphasis is put on projecting the right public persona.

No matter how a person appears on the outside, the heart of a person reveals their true self. God is far more concerned with the heart of a person than their image. If we're wise, we ought to be as well.

Scripture

For the choir director; by David, the Lord’s servant.

There is an inspired truth about the wicked person who has rebellion in the depths of his heart: He is not terrified of God.

He flatters himself and does not hate or ⌊even⌋ recognize his guilt. The words from his mouth are ⌊nothing but⌋ trouble and deception.

He has stopped doing what is wise and good. He invents trouble while lying on his bed and chooses to go the wrong direction. He does not reject evil. [vss 1-4]

O Lord, your mercy reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God, your judgments like the deep ocean. You save people and animals, O Lord.

Your mercy is so precious, O God, that Adam’s descendants take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They are refreshed with the rich foods in your house, and you make them drink from the river of your pleasure. 

Indeed, the fountain of life is with you. In your light we see light. [vss 5-9]

Continue to show your mercy to those who know you and your righteousness to those whose motives are decent.

Do not let the feet of arrogant people step on me or the hands of wicked people push me away.  Look at the troublemakers who have fallen. They have been pushed down and are unable to stand up again. [vss 10-12]

(Psalm 36:1-12 GW) [Context– Psalm 36]

Key phrase— O Lord, your mercy reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies

[bctt tweet="O Lord, your mercy reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies" username="tkbeyond"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

How is the "wicked person" characterized? What does this person do and not do?

How do all these descriptions reveal the core problem of someone who is wicked?

How is the Lord described in contrast to the wicked? How do the images used make these descriptions more vivid and memorable?

What are the benefits for those who are not in rebellion, but trust in the Lord?

Reflection...

Most people have difficulty with faith in God, because He's not readily visible. We want to see Him to believe in Him. One of Jesus' followers, Thomas, was of the same mindset (John 20:25).

Yet, many things are accepted and believed in that aren't visible, such as thoughts or gravity. Thoughts are made known through words, and we all experience the effects and impact of the earth's gravity.

Faith in God is similar. We know about God through the words and experiences of others, but also the intelligent design of the natural world (creation).

In a similar way, a person's heart is revealed by their words and actions. This is true for each of us and in relation to one another.

When we find ourselves filled with pride and deception without a sense of guilt, it's time to change the direction of our life. This often requires God helping us change our heart to make wiser choices.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

What is your typical response to flattery (of any kind), deception, and wrong-doing?

How do you handle guilt? Do you learn from it or ignore it?

Are you aware of and appreciate God's great mercy and faithfulness?

Do you have a healthy respect for God's power and righteousness?


Here's a link to a favorite song of ours taken from Psalm 36– Your Love Oh Lord (but skip the ad ;-)


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

Nothing Harmful

Photo credit: lightstock.com Pay your debts as they come due. However, one debt you can never finish paying is the debt of love that you owe each other. The one who loves another person has fulfilled Moses’ Teachings.

The commandments, “Never commit adultery; never murder; never steal; never have wrong desires,” and every other commandment are summed up in this statement: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

Love never does anything that is harmful to a neighbor. Therefore, love fulfills Moses’ Teachings.

You know the times ⌊in which we are living⌋. It’s time for you to wake up. Our salvation is nearer now than when we first became believers. The night is almost over, and the day is near. So we should get rid of the things that belong to the dark and take up the weapons that belong to the light.

We should live decently, as people who live in the light of day. Wild parties, drunkenness, sexual immorality, promiscuity, rivalry, and jealousy cannot be part of our lives.

Instead, live like the Lord Jesus Christ did, and forget about satisfying the desires of your corrupt nature. (‭Romans‬ ‭13:8-14‬ (GW)


Many people hold the idea of doing no harm to others as a guiding principle. It's a good principle to live by. Along with this principle, many believe each person needs to define their own belief in God.

But a self-made, self-serving belief is exactly that—based on self, not God, the Creator of all humanity.

The true test of doing no harm is measuring our life against the summation of God's Law—love your neighbor as yourself. As it says—Love never does anything that is harmful to a neighbor.

The selfish nature is wired to one over-riding drive—to please itself and satisfy its desires.

When we give in to this drive, and we all do, we send out a ripple effect that touches others. The idea that "I'm only harming myself," just isn't true.

It is wishful thinking that we can live unto ourselves and do no harm. This is only possible when we trust in the Lord Jesus alone to do a transforming work within us. ©Word-Strong_2016

[bctt tweet="Love never does anything that is harmful to a neighbor" username="tkbeyond"]

Passion and Reason

Photo credit: unsplash.com_SRingler Preachers are often portrayed in unflattering ways in movies. Often as some caricature that doesn't resemble the typical pastor of a church. To be sure, plenty of charlatans have filled TV screens and paced across stages.

Let's face it, a typical church pastor appears average and boring compared to the exaggerated portrayals of preachers in films. It's easy to poke fun at these emotional and bigger than life caricatures.

Most churches have pastors who are overworked and underpaid. I know many that are and remember my early years as a pastor. The charlatans and caricatures are the exception, not the rule.

Persuasion and instruction

Preaching is persuasive by nature.

A much better example of a preacher is the famous Billy Graham, or Luis Palau, or Greg Laurie who's known for his Harvest Crusades.

These men can teach from the Bible, but they are best known as preachers—men with a gift for evangelism with persuasion.

Teaching is instructional and appeals to the reasoning mind.

Pastor Chuck Smith, founder of the Calvary Chapel movement, was an excellent teacher. He was a prime example for many other fine teachers associated with Calvary Chapel.

Most pastors are called on to do both—teach and preach.

Paul our example

This is the example given by the apostle Paul throughout Acts. Most of us learn to flow from one role to another without consciously doing so. At least, that's my observation over the years.

And he [Paul] went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. Acts 19:8 (NKJV)

I see the role of a pastor being a lot like parenting.

As much as parents need to instruct their children, we need to become more persuasive than instructional at times—“Get in there and clean up that room right now!”

But how does this relate to those who aren't pastors?

2 Different conversations

We are all called to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15). Most of the time this takes place in one-on-one encounters between us and someone we want to see come into God's kingdom.

Not long ago, I met up with two young men for coffee and conversation. As I shared my thoughts as a pastor, I noticed two men at a table next to us.

One had a Bible in hand as he spoke to the other man with passion. I could see their discussion get pointed, while the one with the Bible both exhorted and pleaded with his friend.

Two groups of friends, two different approaches to conversation.

Sometimes there's a need for persuasion and passion, but most of the time we just need to share what God has made known to us—about Him and His kingdom.

Some questions and an encouragement

How recently have you spoken to someone about the kingdom of God, or shared the gospel message?

Are you more of a persuader or someone who likes to reason things out?

Find someone to share God's message of redemption with this week, and share what God's revealed to you recently with a friend.


This is a guest post originally posted on Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale's Daily Devo blog. Here's the link– Passion and Reason

Taste and See

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Personal experience is powerful. It speaks louder than suppositions and theory. Everyone may be entitled to their opinion, but it doesn't make it true or right. Experience has a way of exposing half-truths and falsehoods.

At one point in history, leading scientists and thinkers believed the world was flat. If a person were to sail a ship towards the horizon, they thought the ship would fall off the edge of the world.

These leaders were proven wrong by the experience of the early explorers, who sailed beyond the horizon and lived to tell about it.

Scripture

By David when he pretended to be insane in the presence of Abimelech; Abimelech threw him out, so David left.

I will thank the Lord at all times. My mouth will always praise him. My soul will boast about the Lord. Those who are oppressed will hear it and rejoice. Praise the Lord’s greatness with me. Let us highly honor his name together.

I went to the Lord for help. He answered me and rescued me from all my fears. All who look to him will be radiant. Their faces will never be covered with shame. Here is a poor man who called out. The Lord heard him and saved him from all his troubles. [vss 1-6]

The Messenger of the Lord camps around those who fear him, and he rescues them. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the person who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you holy people who belong to him. Those who fear him are never in need. Young lions go hungry and may starve, but those who seek the Lord’s help have all the good things they need.

Come, children, listen to me. I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Which of you wants a full life? Who would like to live long enough to enjoy good things? Keep your tongue from saying evil things and your lips from speaking deceitful things. Turn away from evil, and do good. Seek peace, and pursue it! [vss 7-14]

The Lord’s eyes are on righteous people. His ears hear their cry for help. The Lord confronts those who do evil in order to wipe out all memory of them from the earth. ⌊Righteous people⌋ cry out. The Lord hears and rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is near to those whose hearts are humble. He saves those whose spirits are crushed.

The righteous person has many troubles, but the Lord rescues him from all of them. The Lord guards all of his bones. Not one of them is broken. Evil will kill wicked people, and those who hate righteous people will be condemned. The Lord protects the souls of his servants. All who take refuge in him will never be condemned. [vss 15-22]

(Psalm 34:1-22 GW) [Context– Psalm 34]

Key phrase— Taste and see that the Lord is good—Blessed is the person who takes refuge in him

[bctt tweet="Taste and see that the Lord is good—Blessed is the person who takes refuge in him" username="tkbeyond"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

Why is King David thankful to the Lord? How does he express this gratitude?

What is David's encouragement about the Messenger of the Lord? What are his exhortations concerning the fear of the Lord?

How does the Lord relate to those who are righteous and humble? How does He deal with those who are evil?

What are the promises and assurances given throughout this psalm for those who trust God?

Reflection...

The fear of the Lord is often misunderstood. At times it's minimized as respect, but it's more than that. Some people view it as something negative.

This psalm gives some good insight into the fear of the Lord. It's based on experiential relationship with God, a relationship built on trust.

It includes gratitude and awareness of God's goodness and faithfulness. It motivates a person to walk in the light of God's truth, so we honor Him and become a reflection of His nature.

Does the fear of the Lord involve respect? Yes, but it's a recognition and acceptance of who God is and of His power and might and holiness.

Great blessing comes with fearing the Lord in a right way, but there's a great cost for those who choose not to humble themselves before God.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

When you face troubles in life—Do you cry out to God with a thankful heart or only questions?

Have you learned the difference between an anxious fear and the fear of the Lord?

Have you experienced the blessings in life that the fear of the Lord brings?

In what ways have you experienced God's goodness when you've looked to Him as your refuge?


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