Discipleship Minute: Liberty!

I’ve been set free by Christ, and now…

Before you can finish the sentence, “I’ve been set free by Christ, and now…” some spiritual hall monitor is going to remind you that “Your liberty in Christ should not lead to license.”

Okay. Got it.

Is there anyone who has been in a church more than a few hours who doesn’t know that our freedom in Christ isn’t freedom to sin?

Is there any way the Holy Spirit isn’t going to convict the holy stuffing out of a believer who is using his or her freedom to excuse their sin?

Come on, man.

Why are we so afraid of our freedom in Christ?

I think I know. We’re afraid of losing control.

But I thought that was what the Christian life was all about. Losing control of life by handing it over to Jesus.

Freedom doesn’t intimidate Jesus. He loves it.

Stop being so afraid of what “might” happen if you tell people the truth that Christ sets us free that you miss seeing what “could” happen.

Like revival! Personal, local, regional, national, and worldwide.

“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery.”

–The Apostle Paul, Galatians 5:1

Discipleship Minute: Honesty

We all have two sets of books: The ones we allow others to read, and the ones God’s reading.

If you let me open the book of my choice, you’re going to read about a pretty impressive guy.

But if I let you open the book only God and I are reading, you’re going to read about a pretty impressive God.

You won’t be at all impressed with the type of people He loves.

But you will be impressed with the grace it takes for Him to love someone like me.

And then, what will you do?

If you’re religious, you’ll probably throw up your hands and say something about “cheap grace.”

If you’re honest, you’ll throw up your hands and worship the God of grace.

Honesty invites grace; hiddenness repels grace.

bible.cod:1 Samuel–God Chooses a King for His People

bible.cod: 1 Samuel

God Chooses a King for His People

“The Lord has sought out for himself a man who is loyal to him

and the Lord has appointed him to be leader over his people” (1 Samuel 13:14).

The third major unit within the seventeen Historical Books is referred to as the United Kingdom Period. . These four books—1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings 1-11, and 1 Chronicles—record the United Kingdom under three rulers, Saul, David, and Solomon. The events reported during this era cover a period of 170 years, from the birth of Samuel (1 Samuel 1:20) to the death of Solomon (1 Kings 11:43).

By the end of the chaotic period of the judges, God’s people are crying for a king. Samuel, the last judge and first great prophet in Israel, anoints the people’s choice for their first king—Saul. Though Saul’s political credentials are impressive, his indifferent heart attitude toward God causes him to lose his kingdom to the young king-elect—David. But David, whose heart is dedicated to God, must wait for his kingdom. Saul rebels against God’s will, becoming insanely jealous of the young king to be. David flees for his life and learns many lessons of faith. Finally, Saul and his sons meet death on Mount Gilboa, setting the stage for 2 Samuel and the prosperity of Israel under righteous King David.

The books of Samuel provide an account of Israel from the end of the 12th to the beginning of the 10th centuries before Christ. Picking up the story of Israel from Judges 16:31, they give a prophetically oriented history of Israel’s early monarchy. First Samuel traces the transition of leadership from judges to kings, from a theocracy to a monarchy. Samuel was the kingmaker who anointed the first two rulers. Saul quickly disobeyed God and became a tyrant. David became the first real theocratic king—he allowed God to rule through him.

God had intended to give Israel a king (see Genesis 49:10; Deuteronomy 17:14-20), but the people demanded the king of their choice instead of waiting for God’s king. True to their actions during the period of the judges when they rejected God as their King, they now demand an earthly king like the pagan nations they admired. Still, God used even their rebellious spirit to accomplish His purposes. Only God sovereignly establishes and removes kings. The Lord brought Saul down and established the Davidic dynasty because of David’s obedience, wisdom, and dependence on God. 1 Samuel demonstrates God’s sovereign control of history. National and individual strength do not rest with human leaders but with the wise and sovereign God of Israel. This book contrasts the consequences of the characters’ response to God’s grace. When individuals, families, or nations respond to God’s grace with trusting obedience, God blesses:

1 Samuel: Trust God in spite of the circumstances of life! 

First Samuel records the crucial transition from the theocracy under judges to the monarchy under the kings. The book is built around three key men: Samuel (1-7), Saul (8-31), and David (16-31).

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Discipleship Minute: Guilt–The False and the True

There’s a difference between feeling guilty and wallowing in guilt.

Feeling guilty is healthy. Guilt is a God-given emotion. When I’m mean to Judy or have an unthankful attitude toward the Lord, I feel guilty because I am. This is evidence of the Holy Spirit working in my life and encouraging me to make things right with my God and others.

Wallowing in guilt is not healthy. Forgiveness is a gift from God. When I’m clinging to the guilt I feel over something that happened years ago, something I can never change, something that is even all my fault, it freezes me. This is evidence that I’m not believing what the Word of God says about my sin–that Jesus paid my debt and that His blood continues to cleanse me from sin.

Preoccupation with God leads to confession of sin that sets us free from guilt and shame (1 John 1:9).

Preoccupation with self leads to attempts to control sin that enslaves us to guilt and shame.

How do you think the Lord Jesus would classify your guilt? False or true?

True guilt runs to the cross; false guilt denies God’s gift of grace.

Discipleship Minute: Sure Friendship

jesus1

Looking for a friend?

If you’re looking for that friendship that is totally fulfilling, you need to know that you won’t find it this side of heaven.

On the other side of that barrier is the only One who will not disappoint you, the only One who is always thinking about you and never of Himself, the only One who doesn’t need you.

His name is Jesus.

Friendship:

Since no one thinks about you much,

Unless they need you.

Relate deeply to Jesus;

Expect Him alone to meet your deepest needs.

Question: How do you sometimes put pressure on your friends to “be Jesus” for you?

Discipleship Minute: Reformation or Transformation?

You gotta turn from this, and from this, and from this, and from this…if you really want to be a Christian!

That’s what I hear too many Christian leaders saying today. “If you’re really serious about God, you’re going to turn from your sin and start living right!”

The problem with that is that it’s the same message the Pharisees were spouting to people when Jesus showed up. It’s called reformation–reforming yourself by stopping to do some of the bad things and starting to do some good things.”

The other problem is that it doesn’t work. You can reform all you want, but the more you reform the outside behavior to please religious people, the more crap you have to hide.

Christianity isn’t about reforming people so that they measure up to the human deciders of who gets into God’s heaven.

Christianity is about the transformation that occurs by turning to the only God who can rescue you and me from our sin and believing what He says about getting into His heaven: Trust in my Son; receive my life, eternal life by believing in Him, and I will transform you. I’ll make you a new person.

Christianity isn’t turning from sin and getting a new start in life. Christianity is turning to God and receiving a new life to start with–a transformed life. It’s called eternal, and it comes with the desire to grow out of your sin and the power to do it.

So, are you trying to reform yourselves to please some bigoted religious types?

Stop it, please God by believing in His Son and receiving His life.

“For without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

bible.cod: Ruth Faithfulness in an Unfaithful World

bible.cod: Ruth

Faithfulness in an Unfaithful World

“Your people will become my people, and your God will become my God.

(Ruth 1:16)

Ruth is a vignette of love, devotion and redemption set in the historical context of the darkest period in Israel’s history, the days of the judges. Part of the second major unit within the seventeen Historical Books, the Conquest or Pre-Kingdom Period, it’s a heartwarming story of compassion, devotion, and faithfulness. Ruth is a Moabite widow who leaves her homeland to live with and care for her widowed Jewish mother-in-law, Naomi, in Bethlehem. Ruth not only embraces Naomi’s people but her God.

The contrast to Judges underscores the remarkable faithfulness of Ruth and Boaz. Ruth is a woman who lives above the norm of her day. A virtuous woman (3:11), Ruth shows loyal-love to both her mother-in-law Naomi and her near-kinsman Boaz. In a time when all of Israel is forsaking God for idols, Ruth forsakes her idols for the true God:

RUTH

JUDGES

Faithful, righteous, moral, pure

Unfaithful, immoral, impure

Following and worshiping the true God

Idolatry—following and worshiping false gods

Compassion, devotion, loyalty–blessing

Debasement, disloyalty, self-centered–discipline

Love in Marriage

Lust in Life

Peace, Provision

War, Famine

Kindness, Justice

Cruelty, Injustice

Obedient faith leads to blessing

Disobedience leads to sorrow

Spiritual light

Spiritual darkness

Ruth is one of the most important “bridge” books in the Old Testament. Chronologically—Ruth advances the genealogy of King David. Historically—Ruth links ruined Israel (Judges) with restored Israel (Samuel). Doctrinally—Ruth illustrates redemption. Morally—Ruth demonstrates purity is possible even in a polluted moral environment. The theme of Ruth is God’s care for those who trust in Him. The story illustrates the truth of Hebrews 11:6: Now without faith it is impossible to please him, for the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him:

Ruth: Never underestimate what God can do with one faithful life!

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God’s Guidance: Asking and Following

“I just want to know what God wants me to do,” the man said to me.

His eyes filled with rage at my answer: “No you don’t!”

“What do you mean?” he protested. “I do too; I want to know God’s will!”

As we sat across the table in my office, I reminded him that he had asked me to help him determine God’s will in his finances three times before, over a period of about six years. Each time I brought him to the same conclusion from God’s Word: “God’s will is clear—give to His work. You cannot look past His clear teaching that connects all of His financial promises to your faith in Him. You must trust Him enough to give before you can expect His guidance and blessing concerning your money situation.”

But here we were, going around the same block, considering his same questions, and reviewing God’s same answer.

Don’t Ask If You Won’t Follow

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Paul’s Warning to Christians: Stop trying to get “it” right!

The scribe wondered at the behavior of the Jew from Tarsus. Typically an author simply signed the letter he was dictating, proving its authenticity and adding a personal greeting. But not Paul, not in this impassioned letter to his friends in Galatia.

NOTICE WHAT LARGE LETTERS I USE AS I WRITE THESE CLOSING WORDS IN MY OWN HANDWRITING! (Galatians 6:11)

The desperate heaviness of the letter compelled the apostle to keep writing. One more paragraph, all in bold capital letters. One final plea, one last opportunity to turn this fledgling church on the frontier of faith from Satan’s most effective lie about Jesus and his work on the cross.

The same lie Paul battled in Antioch of Syria. The lie even Peter seemed vulnerable to. The church at Antioch was still abuzz over Paul’s shouting match with the revered Apostle from Jerusalem.

The same lie Paul was preparing to stand against next week up in Jerusalem. The Apostles and elders had called a meeting to discuss the matter.

He stops, wipes his brow, and sums up the main lessons of his epistle in eager, disjointed, and intense sentences. The words erupted from the deepest part of his heart.

It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation (Galatians 2:16).

In my mind’s eye I picture the Apostle putting down his pen, leaning back, and handing the document to the courier.

“Make haste!” Paul’s companions who have fought against the lie with him add. “Everything depends on this message. If the lie takes hold in their hearts, it’s over.”

It’s Over

By “over” I’m not saying that a true Christian can lose his or her relationship with God. By “over” I mean failure as a victorious follower of Jesus—neutralized as a Jesus-enjoying, Jesus-representing, Jesus-focused world-changer.

The most insidious aspect of the lie is that its victims, who are trying so hard to live the Christian life but failing, are told that the reason they’re failing is that they’re not trying hard enough, need more commitment, or be more fully devoted. Before we know it, we’re in this try/fail death spiral. Try; fail. Try harder; fail more. Try even harder; fail even more.

Finally, our Christian life crash lands and we just give up. “Guess I’ll never be a ‘victorious Christian’,” we conclude. “So what’s the use?”

Does this describe you? Are you one of those worn-out-by-constantly-striving-but-still-failing believers the Holy Spirit had in mind when He inspired Paul to write Galatians?

Has your Christian life become less about enjoying Jesus and more about getting “it” right? But then, just when you begin to get “it” right and think you can start enjoying Jesus again; somebody moves “it” to a more demanding standard to live up to?

What if I were to tell you that the problem isn’t your failure to try hard enough to be a better for God because striving to be better isn’t the issue. It never was.

Now there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be better for God as the Bible defines “better”–a devoted follower of Christ. The problem is the idea that trying harder, getting more committed, or becoming more devoted is the way to get there.

That’s not Christianity; that’s religious slavery.

Christianity is not about what we’re doing for God; it’s what God has done for us.

That’s the Good News. We have been made new already, the moment we believed.

The only thing that matters is the New Creation!

Question: Are you working your Christian life harder and enjoying Jesus less?

Maybe you need a big dose of grace in this reminder that you were made new in Christ when you trusted in Him.

 

bible.cod: Joshua–Conquest and Settlement of the Promised Land

bible.cod: Joshua

Conquest and Settlement of the Promised Land

“This law scroll must not leave your lips! You must memorize it day and night so you can carefully obey all that is written in it. Then you will prosper and be successful. I repeat, be strong and brave! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic, for I, the Lord your God, am with you in all that you do” (Joshua 1:8-9). 

In the historical book that bears his name, Joshua succeeds Moses and leads the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob across the Jordan into the Promised Land. The Book of Joshua transitions the story of God’s people Israel from the Pentateuch to the rest of their history.  The author’s purpose is to give an official account of the fulfillment of God’s promises to the patriarchs. Most conservative scholars feel Joshua wrote the book (24:26). As with several other Old Testament historical books, some later editor added a few statements and updated a few names.

Joshua leads the nation on three military campaigns spanning a period of seven years in the first half of the book (1:1-13:7). His forces meet and defeat over 30 enemy armies. The second half documents the settlement of the land of Canaan (13:8-24:33). This conquest and settlement is the dramatic fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. Born a slave in Egypt, Joshua is God’s choice to lead His people.

To ensure that no Israelite would falsely conclude that the victories were due to Joshua’s abilities, Joshua’s name underscores the message of his book—the Lord is the Conqueror. Moses had changed his name from the Hoshea, “salvation” (Numbers 13:16 to Yehoshua (Numbers 13:16), “Yahweh Is Salvation.” He is also called Yeshua, a shortened form of Yehoshua. This is the Hebrew equivalent to the Greek name Iesou (Jesus)—a constant reminder that deliverance comes only through the Lord.

The theme of Joshua is victory through obedient faith (1:8). We learn the importance of believing and acting on God’s Word. Of all the historical books only Joshua does not record a massive failure by Israel or its leadership. Joshua did everything the Lord told him to do (Joshua 11:15) and the Lord blessed the nation with complete victory (Joshua 11:23).

Joshua: Victory and blessing come through trusting obedience to God’s Word!

Joshua is the most positive book of the Old Testament. The reason is clear: This is the generation that believed and applied God’s Word to their lives. To the extent that they entrusted themselves to their God and His covenantal promises, they succeeded and prospered. .

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