December 3, 2017

December 3, 2017

1 CORINTHIANS 15-16

Focus Verse: and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
1 Corinthians 15:17-19

 

The resurrection is the issue on which everything hangs. And Paul lays out some pretty compelling proof of that in 1 Corinthians 15. I’ve written about this a few times, but it’s worth repeating again – if Jesus Christ rose from the dead, you MUST obey everything He said. If He didn’t rise, then you shouldn’t listen to anything He said.

 

There is some confusion here that we can walk halfway between these two points. Believe that He didn’t rise from the dead, but was still a good person to look to for moral teachings. This is horribly uneducated though. Jesus said He was going to rise from the dead. He said He was the Son of God and death couldn’t keep Him down. If a man says these things and then dies, He can’t be a moral teacher. He can be a liar or a lunatic, but not a person whose example we should follow.

 

You could say that His God-claims were embellished by His disciples, but then where do you draw the line on what was embellished and what was His? Maybe you take the stance of Thomas Jefferson and cut out all of the miracles in your Bible to make it more suitable…to what? YOUR taste? So you’ve tailor fitted the Bible in YOUR image…that sounds like a pretty solid moral teaching (are you picking up on the sarcasm?).

 

But if God rose from the dead, if His disciples saw Him, if He appeared to over five hundred eyewitnesses, then you have to get off the fence when it comes to giving your life to Him. Here is a man who has conquered sin and death and you’re ok giving Him one day of the week out of seven…and only if you haven’t been out late the night before and are just too tired to get up? Do you see how ridiculous that sounds?

 

Here is the only man in the history of the world who has PROVEN that He is stronger than death…the mortal nemesis of the human race…and has claimed to have a way for you to beat it too! Here is a man who is telling you that He has won the victory for you FOREVER and made a way for you to become like Him if you will just walk with Him. And you’re going to try to dictate terms of this relationship?

 

This would be like someone offering you the most incredible vacation home in the world. Go ahead, let your mind wander. The ideal spot for you to get away. They are giving it to you, fully stocked and furnished, for an entire month, FREE OF CHARGE. But you come back to the table and start dictating terms to this gift. “Well, I want it in June, not July. And I only want the green M&Ms put out on the tables. None of the other colors.” Are you kidding me!?! No one in their right mind would try to pull this crap with such an incredible gift.

 

Yet we do it in a million other unspoken ways to Jesus’ free gift of eternal life…a gift FAR greater than any vacation home and eternal, so it can’t be taken away.

 

So ask yourself this question: did Jesus rise from the dead?

 

And follow it with this one: are you living like it?

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December 2, 2017

December 2, 2017

1 CORINTHIANS 12-14

Focus Verse: And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
1 Corinthians 12:26

 

Notice what there isn’t room for here just as much as you notice what the focus verse is saying. In the body of Christ, there’s no room for jealousy. In the body of Christ there’s no room for boasting in our accomplishments, attendance, or any other statistic…in face, in the body of Christ there isn’t room for statistics at all. Do you know why? Because IN the body of Christ we should be too busy maintaining relationships to be counting heads. We should be so busy caring for those who are hurting and rejoicing with those who are being honored that we don’t have time to look around and count to see how many Holy Spirit baptisms we’ve had.

 

I’m not saying that those things don’t matter at all and don’t have some role to play in church administration. I’m just saying that I don’t see very many Bible passages that lead me to believe that Jesus cares a whole lot about church administration. Does He care about it? Yes, He absolutely does. But is it a top ten priority to Him? I don’t believe so.

 

I think He would much rather us turn our attention on what it means to care for those who are hurting. Let’s keep rolling with the body imagery that Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 12. If you toe is broken, your body rushes a ton of energy to help it heal faster. I actually just read a study that said that in women who are pregnant, their body will actually care for itself (fight off sickness, heal broken bones, etc) BEFORE it will care for the baby. Does the church do the same? Or are we so busy taking care of the baby that we fail to see that our legs and arms are falling off from disease and disunity?

 

The body of Christ is going to suffer until we get this right. When someone in our body is hurting (and notice that I am NOT using the word congregation or denomination…I’m doing that super intentionally), we MUST suffer with them. We must rush to their aid and help them get healthy again. If we can’t get our body healthy, why would anyone want to come be a part of it.

 

Now…let’s not do the foolish thing of throwing the baby out with the bath water. Does this mean that we completely ignore unbelievers until every church in the world is as healthy as it can be? Not at all! But it does mean that we start doing a better job of seeing where we can minister WITHIN the body as well as outside of the body. Missions work isn’t just outside the four walls of the church. Missions can happen with people who have been sitting in the pews of your church for years.

 

Ministry responds to need. It’s been awhile since I’ve written about that, but this is a good reminder. Where is the need in the body of Christ near you? How are you responding to that need?

 

And let’s not just focus on the negative! We need people to celebrate our victories with us just as much as we need someone to be there for us when we are hurting.

 

So come on body of Christ! Let’s respond to some need today!

December 1, 2017

December 1, 2017

1 CORINTHIANS 9-11

Focus Verse: All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.
1 Corinthians 10:23-24

 

In Christ, we are now free from the Law. Isn’t that great news! BUT not all things are profitable for us to do and not all things will edify or encourage or build up the body of Christ. So while we no longer have a legal obligation under the law, since we are now in Christ, we do have to consider how we are to be profitable and edifying in Christ.

 

Now here’s where this verse can get twisted. In our social media driven world, we LOVE to take things out of context. But context is absolutely key in verses like these. I have seen far too many people twist this verse to ask the question, “What is profitable and edifying for me?” And that’s not what Paul is teaching here. Do you think it’s coincidental that Paul follows this verse by saying, “Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.”? You are missing the entire ballpark if you take this verse out of context.

 

It doesn’t matter what is profitable to you or what is edifying to you. Jesus didn’t die for you to build yourself up.

 

Tread carefully here. JESUS can edify you. Other’s in the body of Christ can and should be edifying you. But you cannot edify yourself. Nowhere in Scripture will you find this. “Well, David encouraged himself!” some might say. David encouraged himself IN THE LORD. Meaning that the Lord was the One encouraging him.

 

This isn’t a self-depreciating teaching though. This doesn’t mean you’re garbage and you should stop taking care of yourself. By all means, take care of yourself, but take care of others first. Think of others first. In fact, try not to think of yourself at all! That’s what true humility is.

 

Even when Jesus would steal away to spend time with His Father, I have to believe that He let His Father encourage Him; that He let His Father build Him up. We don’t ever see Jesus giving Himself pep-talks or throwing Himself parties. In fact, we very rarely see Jesus thinking about Himself at all. One of the rare times is His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane when He pleads for the Father to make a way for Him that doesn’t involve the cross. Yet even then, He sets Himself to back and serves His Father in obedience.

 

We must do the same. Again, this goes against every fiber of our natural being. You cannot do this on your own. But since Jesus showed us how, and gave us the Holy Spirit to empower us to follow His example, we can stop thinking of ourselves. We can put others first and serve their needs above our own. We can walk in the Spirit and let Him show us how we are to be profitable to others and edifying to others.

 

And here’s the craziest part: in putting others first and not thinking of yourself at all, you will find that you are being built up more than you ever have! GOD IS SO GOOD! When we finally stop thinking about how to please ourselves and turn our attention to others, He builds us up to the skies, more that you could EVER build yourself up in an entire lifetime!

 

That’s just the mystery God’s Kingdom. But you’ll only discover this if you give it a try.

 

Can I dare you to try it today?

November 30, 2017

November 30, 2017

1 CORINTHIANS 5-8

Focus Verse: But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away.
1 Corinthians 7:29-31

 

First Corinthians 7! Pauls famous dis of the institution of marriage. If you’re unfamiliar with this chapter, take a slow stroll through the verses of this masterpiece. Leafing through the verses you will find such gems as, “it is good for a man not to touch a woman.”, “Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am” (which would be unmarried), “But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you.”, and the list goes on.

 

So what woman burned Paul so badly? This has every indication of a man scorned by a former lover…the stuff of daytime television legend! “Not so fast!” As College Football’s Lee Corso would say. I think if we really dig into what Paul is saying here, instead of attempting to put a cynical spin on it, we’ll see something quite remarkably different.

 

I don’t believe that 1 Corinthians 7 is meant to be disrespectful toward marriage at all. I DO think that 1 Corinthians 7 is doing something that might serve some of us well to do as well, and that is put marriage in it’s proper place in our culture.

 

You have to understand how absolutely culturally revolting this message would have been in Paul’s day. In a culture where family was quite literally everything, this would have been an absolute shock to their culture. To claim that someone who was unmarried should stay that way! Unthinkable! And on top of that, to claim that someone who remained unmarried could potentially be happy! Unheard of!

 

But that’s exactly what Paul is saying. I think that the focus verse for today unlocks a lot of doors when considering Paul’s stance on marriage. Let’s ask the question: does Paul legitimately expect Christians to not weep? Does he expect them to not rejoice? Is Paul teaching here that Christians should not make any purchases before Jesus comes back? Can you sense the ridiculousness in all of this?

 

But that’s where these verses unlock the entirety of chapter 7. Paul is not saying that marriage is an awful institution. God made marriage. For Paul to call it awful and not worth would be to insult the creation of God…something that Paul knew full well would get him in hot water with Jews and Christians alike. Paul knew better than that. So he isn’t telling us that marriage is for suckers, he’s warning us not to put our treasure in institutions that will pass away when Jesus comes back.

 

Paul is telling a culture that said, “If you don’t get married and have a family, you aren’t worth anything.” that they have an intrinsic value that cannot be taken away from them. Paul is telling people who are convinced that this season of mourning is never going to end that there is a hope that will never die. Paul is telling people who rejoice in the victories and pleasures of life that they “ain’t seen nothin’ yet”. Paul is telling those who would attempt to buy their way to happiness that there is a happiness that has already been purchased for you and is freely given from a Savior who loves you.

 

Paul isn’t saying that any of these things are wrong, in and of themselves, what Paul is doing is setting our priorities. He’s not saying that we should love any of these things less – he’s just saying that we should love God more. That we should find our contentment in what God has called us to; the way He has called us to live.

 

Feel free to replace marriage with whatever it is that you are hanging your hat on to give you value in this life. Fact of the matter is, you already have value – with or without that thing. You have value because the Son of God said, that even though you were lost in sin, you were worth Him giving up His life. He paid the ultimate price for you.

 

The question now becomes, will you let Him ascribe that value to you? Or do you want to keep trying to make your own?

November 29, 2017

November 29, 2017

1 CORINTHIANS 1-4

Focus Verse: Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17

 

The idea of holiness is not a very popular concept anymore. In an effort to be “seeker friendly”, the church has blurred the lines between holiness and corrupt to the point where it really doesn’t appear to matter much what you do. I think this passage would lead us to think twice about this though.

 

Now I want to be careful. We can hop back to Romans real quick and Paul’s teaching to the church in Rome that no food, in itself, is unclean in Romans 14. There are going to be some things that certain people don’t struggle with as a sin issue that other’s will have trouble with. Don’t mistake this for some perverted teaching that there are some sins that are permissible. The Bible is very clear that there are some things that are always wrong. We get into some grey areas on things the Bible is silent on though. With these we have to use our best judgment and let the Holy Spirit guide us into the truth.

 

I don’t want today’s devotional to cast judgment on anyone else. I am not doing that, because also in today’s reading we read this from Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:5, “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” I am writing this more as a “check yo self, before you wreck yo self” kind of thing.

 

We have to be so very careful, because of what Paul talks about in the focus verses for today, that we don’t destroy the temple of God. Again, I know that this isn’t a very popular message in most circles today, but YOU are God’s temple! Let’s dig deep here and allow the Spirit to make us a little uncomfortable. Are you treating yourself like God’s holy temple?

 

There used to be a popular children’s Sunday school song that said, “Oh be careful little eyes what you see. Oh be careful little eyes what you see. For the Father up above is looking down in love. So be careful little eyes what you see.” It continued with “be careful little ears what you hear”, “be careful little feet where you go”, and “be careful little mouth what you say” and there very well could be more that I’m missing. I’m afraid that we’ve lost the importance of this children’s song though.

 

As always, I’ll step up to the line first here. There are things that I watch on television that I would never even think of bringing into God’s temple. There is music that I listen to (especially when I go for a run) that I know full well isn’t making me any holier. And maybe I’m being a big fat killjoy, but after reading this from Scripture, I can’t, in good conscience, go on watching and listening to these thigns.

 

Now maybe you can, and if you can, that is totally fine. That’s between you and God. It does not make me better than you, it does not make me worse than you. It just makes us different…and that’s ok..

 

Today, I just want to challenge you to take a moment to ask God what HE wants in His temple. Ask the Holy Spirit to tell you what things you’re allowing to hang around that are destroying His temple inside of you. We are called to be holy as He is holy. Not holy as Jeremy Alan Metzger is holy, not holy as your favorite actor or actress in Hollywood is holy, but holy as God is holy. In what ways is He calling you to be holy like Him?

November 28, 2017

November 28, 2017

ROMANS 14-16

Focus Verse: Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.”
Romans 15:2-3

 

We were all made in God’s image. One often overlooked aspect of being made in God’s image is that we were made to be in community. Just as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have been in community since the beginning of time, we, being made into that image, are made to be together.

 

This also means that we have been made to operate just as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit operate. Some in the early church used the Greek word “perichoresis” to describe the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This word is also the name of the traditional dance done at Greek weddings, in which a group of individuals dance in a circle. This has led some to refer to the relationship of the Trinity as a “divine dance” or “the dance of the Trinity”.

 

I personally like the sound of “the Dance of the Trinity”, so I’m going to roll with that. This Dance of the Trinity is what is described here in Romans 15, but is introduced on our level. Jesus talks about this Dance in the Gospel of John as He nears His crucifixion (check out John 13:31-32, 14:13, 15:8, 16:14 and 17:10 for a few examples). The Father, Son and Holy Spirit, all throughout Scripture, are constantly deferring glory and giving it to the other. The Son gives all glory to the Father, the Holy Spirit gives all glory to the Son, the Father gives all glory to the Spirit, and round and round it goes.

 

And we are invited into that Dance. It’s not about us anymore. Just like Jesus’ life wasn’t about Him, it was about His Father’s will, just like the Holy Spirit’s work isn’t about Him, it’s about directing all attention to Jesus. Our life is no longer about receiving glory for ourselves, but giving glory to God, to Jesus and to the Holy Spirit.

 

“Ok,” you say, “I can see that. But what does any of this have to do with this passage in Romans?”

 

I’m so glad you asked (Don’t you love how, as a writer, I can just cram these questions down your throat?)! How do we bring glory to God? A few verses later, in Romans 15:7, Paul tells us this, “Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.” Jesus tells us in John 13 that others will know we are His disciples by how we love. So how do we bring glory to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? It is based entirely on how we love one another. And how should we love one another? In the exact same way that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit love one another (You can tell I’ve been reading a lot of Paul’s writing with all the rhetorical questions, can’t you?).

 

We need to operate in the manner in which God created us; in His image. This means that no decision we make is for our own good first and foremost. Instead, every decision we make should be for the benefit of others first. In a Gospel-centered marriage, every decision I make is to benefit my wife. This is what Paul is talking about in Ephesians 5. Every decision my wife makes, even in her submission to me as the husband, should be to benefit me. With my children, if I am raising them up in the Gospel, I am parenting them with their best interest in mind. This means I make no decision as a parent based on what’s convenient for me. In my relationships at work, in my relationship with my friends, in my relationships with the people that I don’t particularly like – ALL OF THEM must be run like this. It’s not about me, but about everyone else. This is how I bring the greatest glory to my Father.

 

Now I am certain that even reading that last paragraph has caused some of you to get a little bristly. I get a little bristly reading it and I just wrote it! Because here is the deal, all of that anti-self-centered thinking runs completely contrary to our worldly way of thinking. And breaking the pattern of our worldly mind is super difficult to do. So difficult in fact, that I would venture to say that you can’t do it. But there is really, really good news when you can’t do it – there’s someone who did!

 

And the mic…drops.

 

You can’t, but Jesus did and will through the Holy Spirit in you. Will you join the Dance today? Stop thinking of yourself and put others first. Join the Dance of the Trinity and bring glory to Him today by loving others.

November 27, 2017

November 27, 2017

ROMANS 11-13

Focus Verse: Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
Romans 12:1

 

True worship is a life lived as a sacrifice to God. Not parts of a life, not moments in life, but an entire life given over to the will of God. Worship is, “Not my will, but Yours be done.”

 

Now, if I may, I’m going to throw on my English teacher hat for a moment. Before I took a position in full time ministry, I taught High School English, so I’m going to dust off one of my lessons on the written essay and give it a Gospel flare today.

 

Let’s look at Romans 12 as an essay from Paul. That makes Romans 12:1 Paul’s thesis statement (ok, technically I skipped over the “attention grabber”, but for the sake of brevity, let’s keep this simple. If Romans 12:1 is the thesis statement, then everything that follows must tie in with this statement. The thesis statement of an essay tells you what the entire essay is going to be about.

 

Some of you are checking out right now. “I hate English class and I hate all of you! I’m never come back to school again! NEVER!” (hope some of you caught the Billy Madison reference) But this holds something pretty cool if we view it in this light. If Romans 12:1 is laying out the thesis of what the rest of Romans 12 is going to be about, then that means if we want to give God all of our worship, then we need to do everything that the rest of Romans 12 talks about. So you see – everything you learned in English class wasn’t stupid and pointless!

 

But this brings a whole other problem to the table now. When worship used to be just singing three or four songs at the beginning of a church service, that was a pretty easy sacrifice to give to God (depending on how easy or difficult it is for you to get to church on time). But now you want me to do all of this! There is no one on this planet who can worship God if all of this is required.

 

And you’re right. There was one person on this planet: His name was Jesus. He’s sitting at the right hand of the Father now, and because He is sitting there, we now have the Holy Spirit to help us carry out this act of worship in our lives. But you can’t do it on your own.

 

Have you ever heard that before? You can’t, but Jesus did and will through the Holy Spirit in you.