Next week we celebrate our saviors birth!!!

What a glorious announcement God made through Micah more than 700 years BEFORE Jesus’ birth!! Through Micah, God prophesied exactly where our Savior would be born. Mary and Joseph were both of the line of David, yet Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth as Mary was about to deliver! Was Micah’s prophesy in danger?

Oh how we so easily forget that NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE for God.

Taxes. We all hate taxes, income tax, sales tax, excise tax, luxury tax and most of all the uncompassionate, squeezing-every-penny-out-of-us tax man who cares nothing about us and whether we can feed our children – only that “he gets every penny he feels is due”.

God used taxes to bring about one more fulfillment of His glorious promises of a savior to redeem mankind. Caesar wants his taxes. A decree of Caesar causes Joseph to take his wife in her 9th month of pregnancy on a trip of approximately 70 miles. This is not something most husbands would do in a time before autos, trains and public transportation. But the tax man left him no options. So he and Mary are forced to trek to Josephs ancestral home (since he’s a descendant of David, who was born in Bethlehem, near Jerusalem). Just as they arrive (remember they are still looking for a place to stay) Mary says to Joseph, “It’s time”.

But wait, just in case someone thinks it’s all coincidence when the prophet Micah said:
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Micah 5:2 NIV

Did you know there were TWO Bethlehem’s in Israel during Jesus time? One was near Jerusalem, the other in Galilee. Of course, Joseph could not register for the tax in the Galilean Bethlehem since he was of the tribe of Judah, the line of David. It would have made life easier. God used the prophet Micah to specify that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem Ephrathah. Ephrathah means “fruitful” but more than that it distinguishes which Bethlehem the prophet spoke of.

God is a God of precision.
God is a God who validates His word so there is no doubt it is His word.

These details show us a few things:
1. God is the one who orchestrates history for His purposes
2. Nothing is impossible for God
3. ..and more than that – God trumps the tax man

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Again I refer to Jim Daly’s blog (17-Apr-13).

In Jim’s analysis of why our kids don’t stay with their religious upbringing, he mentions the concept that others treat our kids as if they are smart.

I find this very interesting.  This premise seems to assume that my zeal to train my children in what I believe to be right might actually backfire because my goal has a presumed outcome.  This “presumed outcome” almost encourages spoon feeding, as if the Christian faith is about knowledge.p

If I can teach enough information, I have made a convert.

A fallacy in thinking here is to relegate Christianity to man-made religions which are based upon learning and doing.  The Christian faith is not about indoctrination, it’s about a relationship.

If our primary approach is indoctrination, we’re not asking them to reason; we’re not asking them to consider whether our faith is reasonable.  The unspoken message is, “you can’t decide for yourself, so I’ll tell you what’s right”.

How might my kids more readily develop a relationship with their maker if my goal was to explore and reason with them, assuming they will must arrive at a choice on their own?

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As in my previous post I refer to Jim Daly’s blog (17-Apr-13).
Jim presents an idea which says that some are integrated into the church but the church is not integrated into them.  More precisely he says, “They got into the church but the church never got into them.”
Let’s get practical and talk about how this manifests itself when I have finally come to my senses that the glitter of the world is nothing more than a Hollywood movie set.  I grasp what life was and what life is.
Now somewhere in my journey I am a parent.  It is my responsibility to train, guide and prepare my children for life.  I have become keenly aware that for me life without a deeper spiritual connection (of which church is part) is empty.  My desire is to give my children that same life instruction spiritually as I give them to safely navigate crossing a busy highway.  In my eyes one is as essential as the other.
So, I bring my children to church with me.  But somehow over the years of my active involvement they never realize the life-changing (and eternal) significance of what they have. The church never got in them.
Is the solution to let them guide themselves?  In the pre-adult stage – No!  At least no more than I let them cross a 12 lane Interstate without preparing them for the task.  The consequences are far more dire as you compare a mortal life against an immortal one.
I digress from the core question because my purpose is not to consider why I should, but rather what’s wrong when it doesn’t.  How do I get the “church” (or more properly, what the church is supposed to stand for) into my children?  Individual choice will always take part, just like when they cross that highway, but how do I best equip those who will one day lead me?
As I ponder this question the answer which keeps coming to mind is that I need to live an authentic life.  A life that strives to live up to the values it proposes to believe.  A life that when it fails, does not hide failure but learns from it.  It’s not really the church under scrutiny by my kids – it’s my life.  I am the one they see behind closed doors.  When they see me fail, do I own it? do I learn from it?  do I do my best to live out what I say I believe?  how do I relate to those in the church who are as imperfect as I am?  Do I treat them as if I am better than they are?  Do I hold them up as the model of perfection in the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do paradigm?  In other words AM I THE ONE MOCKING what the church stands for?
It is very likely my kids may see a bunch of hypocrites at church but am I associated with that bunch or am I a model of what those “bunch of hypocrites” should aspire to be?  I guess if I take my kids to church expecting the “church” to get into them that’s already the warning sign that there’s a problem.  It’s my life that should get into them.
As I conclude this post it occurs to me that it comes back to who I am.  Am I who I say?  It’s not about whether I dishonor my faith in some way – it’s what I do about it when I dishonor my God that matters.  Do I live an open, transparent, and authentic life?
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In Jim Daly’s blog (17-Apr-13) he addresses the issue of the relevancy of a church culture to reach it’s audience.

In this short snippet of thought he raises an intriguing question.  In our quest to become relevant 2,000ish years later have we ditched history, tradition and theology and substituted “curb appeal”?  If so, what is left?

If our “relevancy” is nothing more than a knockoff of what the culture has to offer anyway, then why would I embrace it?

Take your favorite song – be it classic rock, country or alternative – for the sake of argument let’s say you choose Good Vibrations, now bring in some upstart band to replace the Beach Boys, what do you have left?  A knockoff.

Has the quest for relevancy made most Christians non-relevant?

More importantly, has my life become so “relevant” that I am nothing more than another “flavor” in the smorgasbord of our culture.  Am I a knockoff or is there something about me that is truly set apart from the culture?

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When it comes to listening to God, how can we know whether we’re being led by the Spirit or whether our ideas and methodology are making us as lead weight?
I’ve been considering the question, “Does God use methods, plans and procedures?”  I am convinced He does.  Take a Sunday sermon, small group lesson, or a larger event – such as a Luis Palau festival or a Billy/Franklin Graham Crusade/festival as examples.  I absolutely believe there needs to be a clear understanding of objective, purpose, and flow.  EVERYTHING in that event needs to hone in on the focal point.  In my humble opinion, anything less is just plain sloppy.
That being said, I believe equally as strongly that unless personally directed by the Holy Spirit, with a submissive spirit, it’s all for naught.
So what’s the problem?  It seems people in either of these camps can’t find peace in the other camp.  Isn’t it both?
Take a well prepared sermon.  I’ve prayed and prayed.  I’ve put 20-30 hours into preparation with a good portion of that being prayer for guidance and leading.  Not just that others will hear, but I’ve prayed that my heart will hear, that this message is from God, not me.  I’ve prayed for the Lord to remove ME from the equation.  To guide my thoughts and heart, to give me the topic that my hearers need to hear.  So here it is Sunday morning.  I am prayed up.  I have others praying for me.  The entire service is orchestrated to point to the central theme of the morning.  The worship in music, the worship in prayer and even the offering.  It all flows.  It all points to the central message God has laid on my heart.
If I am convinced God has led me in this way, would God ever mid-sermon direct me to throw away all my notes and all my planning?  Would He ever just say, “Let’s do this instead?”  AND if He did, what would my reaction be?
If I’ve prayed for God to lead me and I firmly believe He has prepared me would He not use my preparation?  Would He not direct the building program for the needed expansion wing to be added, after months of tedious labor and meetings?  Would He not direct me to follow through on plans for my succession – that He has so clearly guided me in?
All these things are good.  In the end it’s His will we should honestly desire.  BUT His ways are not our ways.  His thoughts are not our ways.  Maybe there was another point to 30 hours of sermon preparation.  Maybe He has something else in mind when He called me to spend that time and effort and then discard it.  Maybe He knows something I don’t know.
Truly submitting to God means clearly hearing His voice and responding in obedience.  If I have to stop and question Him doesn’t that in itself say that I am not in a posture of acknowledging His Lordship?
The above examples were selected for their relatability.  Not because we all have are will be there, but because we should be able to relate to the concept as it applies in our everyday effort as we try to serve God and honor Him with the greatest things we can give, our entire being.
If I am not willing to listen anytime, no matter what, I have a problem.  If I am not willing to give Him my entire energy and focus for a task I have been given, I have a problem.  The two ideas are not mutually exclusive.  I believe this intersection of ideologies is where a Christian is tested by fire.  This is where my faith is tested.
Am I willing to do what it takes to ensure my life is not lived willy-nilly?  Am I willing to do what it takes and give up all my own efforts when called – not later, now?
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Okay, here’s little personal bit in my journey.
Yesterday morning I felt as if I were on the edge.  The edge meaning feeling completely overwhelmed with life and all it’s responsibilities, and “my wanna-do’s”.  Basically picture a mountain growing up in front of you.  Getting taller by the minute.  Pretty soon the mountain is touching the clouds and the top is out of sight.  Now, the path to the top of the mountain is not a cakewalk.  As you ascend the mountain it gets steeper, narrower, more harrowing as it clings to the side of sheer drop-offs.  To rest means to lean against a scrawny tree because with this level of steepness sitting is not an option.  There is nothing to keep one from sliding down and getting up would be hazardous if one lost their balance.
That’s my word picture.  This leads to a feeling of panic.  Heart beating ever faster, hands shaking.  It’s as if the body is prepared for a snake to jump out from behind every rock and prepared to jump back in the nick of time.  Not a pleasant place to be and the body cannot sustain such high adrenalin for very long.  I’ve been there before.  I’ve been on the edge for a while but just under that threshold.
Back to yesterday.  Finally, here it is.  That e-mail comes in – the one that says here’s one more task for you.  One more simple thing.  The one that says don’t worry about me – I’m just a little straw.  Instantly I recognize it for what it is.  THE straw.
So what does one do when there are more things to do in a day, week, month and foreseeable future than you can do?  Stop.  If there’s no more time to do one more thing it’s time to take a break and spend with my God.
So…  I applied all that I’d been teaching and believe and when things are too busy and there’s no time – it’s time for a God break.
I stepped out of the office, got my earbuds and took at slow 2½ mi walk to worship music.  My “worship walk.”  That’s what I needed when the day couldn’t hold “one more thing”.  I talked with God, the music kept me on task when my mind would wander back to try to fix all my cares.  By the end of the walk I felt much more relaxed and that relaxation continued throughout the day.  Actually as the day progressed I found I was more relaxed, more at peace.  That 1 hour walk in the middle of a day that was terribly busy actually found my day more at peace and relaxed.  I got more done than I thought I could get done AND with 1 hour less to do it in.
Important lesson for me.  I don’t need God a day at a time.  I really need to seek His resources a task at a time.
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Judges 2:20-3:2

It appears the nations were not driven out as a consequence of disobedience to God.  You might say it was a removal of blessing.  As if to say, “you want to do what you will, then have the results of my blessing removed.”
Then what comes next is quite fascinating.  The peoples are left in order to test, to prove, to refine, to make Israel more than they are.  There is no doubt reading this passage and continuing through the rest of the book of Judges (and beyond) that this testing was a very painful process.
Then another interesting thing is said in this passage.  It goes on to say that part of the reason for leaving the inhabitants in the land is to provide experience for those who had not been to war.
How like my life.  Many times I see the results of the after-effect of my having my own way – sometimes weeks or years later.  Why doesn’t today’s action make all that go away?  It seems to me the “good” in this is for my further refinement.  Maybe I have learned a few lessons here and there (I hope) but I need the test to confirm and solidify the lesson.  And oft-times to show me that I am not ready yet.  Time to renew my efforts and work harder.
Additionally, I am not prepared for the battles ahead without going through this process.

Reminds me of Romans 8:28

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1 Corinthians 16:1-24
“With Regards…”
Date: 20-Feb-11
Purpose (Why am I teaching this lesson? What effect did the writer expect it to have on the recipients?)
The purpose of this lesson is to understand the active responsibility of being a believer

Theme (What central idea does this passage communicate?)
Conclusionary exhortations

Review & Homework:
A. Salutations & Reminders (v1:1-1:9)
B. Divisions within the church (v1:10-4:21)
C. …of conduct unbecoming a believer (v5:1-13) {church discipline}
D. Dealing with offenses in The Body (v6:1-11)
E. The bondage of sexual sin (v6:12-20)
 – Now For The Matters You Wrote About —
F. Marriage, Divorce & Singleness (v7:1-40)
G. Christian Liberty (v8:1-11:1)
H. Order in Worship (v11:2-14:40)
I. On Resurrection (v15:1-58)
Ü J. Conclusion (v16:1-24)
   1. A collection for the poor (v1-4)
   2. Paul’s plans to visit (v5-12)
   3. Final Exhortations (v13-24)
  • Read 1 Corinthians 16
  • Review your notes and come prepared to share how God used this study of 1 Corinthians to speak to you.

Nine months ago I embarked on leading this study in the book of 1 Corinthians.  You may not recall, but the first week I had planned to cover the first 9 verses of chapter 1.  They were all salutary verses, obligatory in a letter.  In 1½ hours we did not make it past verse 3.  The reason?

We were trying to understand why Paul, with all sincerity of heart would call those in Corinth SAINTS.  There is no doubt to any scholar that this letter was written to a bunch of misfits.  They were divisive.  They were selfish.  They were greedy, immoral, self-righteous and proud.  They brought the ways of their culture into their church.  They abused the grace of God with all forms of license.  The women flaunted their independence at God’s order.  The men had no qualms about taking their fellow believers to court to get what was due them, or practicing the immoral ways of their culture.  They were out for themselves.

Paul called them saints.

I could take the self-righteous approach and reproach them for things I would never do.  But you know what? I have committed many of the exact offenses.  I am in their class.

Positionally I am a saint.  Functionally I am a sinner.  A saint that sins.  Not pretty but the truth of my identity is clear.  My real issue in this life is to live up to my calling.  It’s not where I’m at, it’s where I am going.  Life is forward moving, not static, not backward motion.  Time only moves in one direction and it never stops.
The Text
1 Corinthians 16:1-4
A collection for the poor

1 Now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do.
2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.
3 Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem.
4 If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me.

¿: Why is Paul advising to set some aside every week?
¿: If they used this method, who was going to be credited with the giving, the individuals or the church?
Ü ¿: How would this collection aid Paul’s thesis of the letter (cf. 1 Cor 1:10)
¿: In what cases do you think it would seem advisable that Paul to go with the gift?
¿: Who was the gift intended for? Why?

God’s people” (read other xlations) = “the saints”
Read Romans 15:25-27
Ü ¿: Who was the collection for?
Ü The poor are called saints
Ü ¿: When Jews from all over the Roman empire were in Jerusalem at Pentecost who supported the thousands who came to the Lord?

On the first day of every week” – giving was part of their worship

¿: How much were they to give?
Üin keeping with his income”, “not grudgingly or from compulsion” (cf. 2 Cor. 9:7), “give and it will be given to you..” (cf. Luke 6:38), “sow bountifully…” (2 Cor 9:6)
Ü The “tithe” was an Old Testament system of taxation of support for the temple/levites – and the nation.  When you read all the taxes imposed regularly, at special times and over multi-year periods it amounted to about 23%.
Ü The Lord loves a cheerful and sacrificial giver, not one who gives of their excess OR one who gives because they are “supposed to.”

If it seems advisable for me to go
Ü Paul only wanted to go if the gift was generous, and not embarrassing?
Ü Paul only wanted to go if the funds collected were so much as to require his presence for added security?

¿: What does 1 John 3:17-18 say about our attitude toward a brother/sister in Christ?
1 Corinthians 16:5-12
Paul’s plans to visit

5 After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you—for I will be going through Macedonia.
6 Perhaps I will stay with you awhile, or even spend the winter, so that you can help  me on my journey, wherever I go.
7 I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits.
8 But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost,
9 because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.

Applicable truths present in these verses:
  • Paul made plans for the future (didn’t live life haphazardly)
  • His plans left room for God to alter them (our original understanding of the Lord’s will may not have been complete or even correct)
  • Paul didn’t want to “just make an appearance,” he wanted to spend quality/quantity time (we should not take on a ministry without being willing to thoroughly prepare and work at it)
  • Sensitivity to God’s independent call on other believers (Apollos did not feel it was God’s time after Paul’s urging)

so that you can help me” – Paul was inviting himself to their help
Ü ¿: How would this be received today?

10 If Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am.
11 No one, then, should refuse to accept him. Send him on his way in peace so that he may return to me. I am expecting him along with the brothers.

¿: What would Timothy fear? [disrespect because of age cf. 1 Tim 4:12]
If the church did not pay full attention to Paul’s authority, how much less young Timothy’s?

¿: Compared to Paul and his mighty stature, how was Timothy to be treated?

12 Now about our brother Apollos: I strongly urged him to go to you with the brothers. He was quite unwilling to go now, but he will go when he has the opportunity.

Paul wanted Apollos to go with Timothy, perhaps the maturity would be huge asset to Timothy.  Paul respected Apollos even though he himself “strongly urged” Apollos to change his mind.

An important lesson: even though someone of Paul’s stature urges us – it’s the Lord’s prompting we should follow. Give weight, but always seek God’s wisdom.
1 Corinthians 16:13-24
Final Exhortations

13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.
14 Do everything in love.

¿: What five admonitions does Paul give here?
Be on guard:
for subtleties of satan – cf. 1 Peter 5:8-9
for temptation – cf. Mark 14:38
against apathy – cf. Rev 3:1-3
for false teachers – cf. 2 Tim. 4:3-5
Stand firm:
To doctrine – cf. 1 Cor 15:1; 2 Thess. 2:15 – scripture is far more than a “commentary” on views how someone long ago lived.
Men of courage – “act like men” (NASB)
“Shall I come to you with a rod?” – 1 Cor. 4:21
Be strong:
Our strength comes from God.  Spiritual strength comes from self-sacrifice, self-denial, & self discipline – Phil. 4:13
In Love:
Love keeps our firmness from becoming hardness
Love keeps our strength from becoming domineering
Love keeps our standing firm on doctrine from becoming dogmatism

15 You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints. I urge you, brothers,
16 to submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work, and labors at it.
17 I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you.
18 For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition.
19 The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house.
20 All the brothers here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.

21 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand.
22 If anyone does not love the Lord—a curse be on him. Come, O Lord!
23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.
24 My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.

These closing words are not simply niceties.  These are God’s words recorded for a divine purpose.  “All Scripture is profitable…” (2 Tim. 3:16)

In his conclusion to this letter, Paul intermingles his exhortations with all the ways love is exemplified:
  • In his evangelism of Stephanas as the first convert in Achaia
  • In the service of ministry for the saints
    15bthat they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints (KJV)
  • In submission, not only to leaders but to all who faithfully labor in the Lord
  • In true, refreshing, renewing companionship with fellow believers
  • In recognition of God’s servants
  • In hospitable love
  • In affection

The main part of the letter would have been dictated to a scribe.  Paul finished and signed the letter himself to establish the letter’s authenticity.

a curse be on him.. Come, O Lord” – God come and remove them before they cause harm to the body.  This can be taken as an admonition to submit the Christ before He returns and the chance is lost forever.

Paul ends the letter with the blessing of Grace and Love.  He began the letter with Grace and Peace (v1:3)

Personal Application:
Homework: Pass out outline
¿: How has God used this study in the letter to the church at Corinth to speak to you?
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