Bible Study

07/29/15 Daily Devotion – It’s all about Jesus Christ!


For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. (1 Cor. 10:1-4 NIV84)

When Paul was Saul and breathing murderous threats upon the Christian Church, he was knocked off a horse and blinded for three days by Jesus. When the bright light from heaven knocked him off his horse, the Lord said to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Paul asked, “Who are you?” and the Lord said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” For three days God gave Saul the opportunity to ponder the fact that, although he thought he knew what the will of God was, he was actually ignorant of it. For three days Saul was forced to rethink his entire theological perspective. Gradually he began to see that his perspective of the Messiah was wrong. He went all the way back to Moses, and for the first time he understood that it was all about Christ. Even the wilderness experience of the Israelites who were freed from Egypt had as its backdrop the Messiah (Christ). In our verses Paul states that the Messiah was in the pillar of cloud and fire that guided the Israelites throughout their wilderness journey. It was Christ who provided the manna to eat and miraculously brought water from a rock for them to drink. By the end of the third day, Paul was convinced by the truth of God’s Word that it was all about the Messiah. It was all about Jesus. Saul now knew that Jesus was the Messiah.

As 21st-century Christians, we must never forget that it always has been, is and always will be about Jesus Christ. He is the Alpha and the Omega! He is the beginning and the end of our Christian faith. It’s all about Him. We need to focus less upon ourselves. Too much focus is being placed on the believer today. We focus on our holiness, giving, sacrifice, obedience. The focus needs to remain on the one who has redeemed and saved us. It’s all about Jesus!

Peace!

Pastor Tom


07/28/15 Daily Devotion – “If one part suffers…”


If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. . (1 Corinthians 12:26 NIV84)

I think there are two ways to look at this verse. The first is to view it with our local congregation in focus. The second is to view it with the global church in focus. Let’s look at the second view first. We Christians are so often trained to defend our denominational position against fellow Christians that we fail to work together in the one area we have in common–that being the Great Commission. We seem to be really good at using our spiritual armor against one another but fail to use it side by side against the enemy of the Church. In this respect, I feel that there are parts of the body that are suffering. And as Paul says, if one part suffers, every part suffers. Listen, I am not suggesting dissolving all the denominations. I am smart enough to know that the differences are significant, and Christians need to stay true to what they believe the Word of God teaches. I am all for some healthy debates over our doctrinal differences, but let’s reunite around the Great Commission. We need to gather together to reach the world around us. The Christian Church is growing like crazy in South America and Africa. The Christian Churches in those areas are united to reach the lost. Thousands a day are coming to faith and being won for the kingdom of God. We as a global church should be rejoicing for such growth in our day. We should do what we can to support the growth of the kingdom in those parts of the world through donation of money, time, and talents.

In our second view of this verse, we can apply its meaning to our local congregations. We need to look at our congregations for those parts of the ministry that are suffering and tend to their needs. Some churches need to put healing energy toward its Sunday schools and day schools. Others need to look at their body of elders and leaders and ask whether they have the right people in the right positions, and also, look to see if these men and women are getting the support they should get from the pastor and congregation. The point is that we need to address, not ignore, the hurting parts of our local ministries. Also, we need to celebrate and offer praise together for the successes that ministries within our congregations are having.

Let’s commit ourselves to the proper spiritual health of our local and global church.

Peace!

Pastor Tom


07/27/15 Daily Devotion – Let’s avoid self-disqualification!


“Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Cor. 9:26&27 NIV84)

I crack a fearful smile when I think about the fact that when I was a 20-something pastor I would hear these words from the Apostle Paul, “…so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” and I would say to myself, “No way!” But today, at age 55, I hear these words from Paul and I shudder inside. As a pastor I know I have preached and taught in such a way that I was bringing others to faith but was not sure whether at the same time I had a proper faith. I guess what I am saying is, just because you’ve become a Christian doesn’t mean you’re always a Christian. People can, and do, fall out of faith. Sometimes those very people are still within the church. Jesus Himself said, “Many will say to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ but I will say to them, ‘I don’t know you!'” Athletes disqualify themselves from their sport by breaking the rules, by playing by their own self-defined rules. The same is true for the qualification, and disqualification, in spiritual matters. Paul can speak to this topic because he knows it first-hand. There was a time in his life when he thought he was serving God but he was actually fighting against Him.

Disqualification comes when we begin to create a Christianity for ourselves that is of our own making. We begin to rest upon our knowledge and reason, rather than the grace and mercy of our God. Whether we are a new Christian or have been one for decades, whether we are a layperson in the pew or the pastor behind the pulpit, we must work to make sure that our faith is confidently rooted in Jesus and not ourselves. We need to cling to God’s truths and not our interpretation of those truths. We need to know that there is an enemy out there who will do everything he can to pull us away from the truth. We need to stay true to God’s Word. We need to stay in a Christian community that feeds our spiritual life. We need to discipline ourselves to hear the voice of Jesus (our Good Shepherd) over the voices of this world and even the voices within our own mind.

Let’s make sure that in the end we have fought the fight and run the race marked out for us by Jesus Christ.

Peace!

Pastor Tom


07/26/15 Daily Devotion – Live with a kingdom-of-heaven purpose!


“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24 NIV84)

We’ve certainly heard a lot of philosophizing in our society today about “living with a purpose.” The question always becomes, what purpose? Many self-help books have been written about discovering your purpose and fulfilling your life’s purpose. Even in Christian circles we have been pushed to have purpose-driven lives and churches. In the midst of all that thought and discussion, Paul’s words in our text today are important to consider. Paul tells us to remember that everybody is running. The question is, what are they running for and toward? In a race, only one gets the prize — the one who understands where the finish line is and who has trained hard to get there. The rest run in vain.

No matter what our occupation/vocation might be, we all run the same race and have the same purpose. We are called to live as members of the kingdom of God. We are to see heaven as our finish line. We are called to be intimately connected to God’s kingdom through word and prayer so we might be certain that our training and running are not in vain. Our lives must be directly connected to God’s kingdom so that our daily lives are seasoned with God’s calling on our lives.

Today, and always, may we live with a kingdom-of-heaven purpose.

Peace!

Pastor Tom


07/25/15 Daily Devotion – An apologetic strategy!


“I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22 NIV84)

Lately I have been putting a lot of thought into evangelism strategies that I think might work for the 21st century. Today’s verse addresses exactly what I have been thinking. Decades ago, most people in the western world shared enough similar principles in their worldviews that one could directly begin a spiritual conversation around those shared principles as bridges to the Gospel. An example would be that most Americans shared enough similar moral values that they could speak of right and wrong, guilt and shame, and they could relate. But that is not true today. We no longer share similar worldviews, values or morals. We have very little common ground from which to begin a discussion and eventually bridge to the Gospel. We cannot just keep slinging spiritual truths at a society that has no frame of reference to consider or evaluate them. So what do we do?

Paul’s word for us today is that we need to “become all things to all men.” We need to begin where they are. We need to know enough about their worldview that we can reveal its weak points and create doubts about its stability. If we can reveal the flaws of someone’s worldview, we succeed in two things. First, we show that we care enough to know where the other person is coming from. Second, once their foundation is in question, they will be willing to consider other views that may be more consistent with truth and reality. The key for 21st-century evangelism is to apologetically defend the faith only after you have begun where the other person is. We need to step onto their island and discuss reality as it is understood there, and then begin to build a bridge to God’s island of truth.

Let’s begin with their truth and gradually move toward ours.

Peace!

Pastor Tom


07/23/15 Daily Devotion – It’s about more than knowledge!


“We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God.” (1 Cor. 8:1-3 NIV84)

Jesus claimed that the religious leaders and Pharisees knew and taught a lot of true doctrine but their hearts were still far from the Father. James, the brother of Jesus, in his letter states, “The demons believe and shudder.” Knowledge and reason are required to understand the doctrines of the Christian faith, but they are not enough to provide one’s salvation and eternal life. Twice in our verses for today, Paul mentions the word love. He contrasts love with knowledge and reason and declares that love is supreme. Love is how the Father reveals Himself to us. He loves this sinful world we live in so much that He sent His Son into the world to die for our sins. Jesus also declared that love is how we reveal that we are members of His kingdom. Jesus said that it would be our love that would tell the world that we are His disciples.

There is one more thing I would like to state. When we use “love” in a sentence, a relationship is assumed. If I said, “I love my wife, children, grandchildren,” you would rightly assume I had a relationship with them in which I expressed that love. The same is true with God. He desires to have a relationship with us. He wants you and me to know Him and to know that we are known by Him. Jesus desires more than that you know Him with your head. He wants you to love Him with your heart.

Peace!

Pastor Tom


07/22/15 Daily Devotion – We need to be other-oriented!


“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.” (1 Cor. 8:9-12 NIV84)

Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden was to allow their orientation to turn inward. They were created to love God with their whole heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love each other as themselves. They were created other-oriented because they were created in the image of God, and God is other-oriented.  His love is always oriented toward us. He loves us unilaterally and unconditionally. But in the garden of Eden love’s orientation turned inward. For Adam and Eve, what was important to them on that day was themselves. Their orientation turned inward. They saw that the forbidden fruit looked good to eat and would make them wise, so they ate. And they lost everything. From that point on man would, in his self-oriented state,  hide from God and accuse Him and everyone around him for the wrongs in his life.

But we have been redeemed and have been born anew. We are new creatures in Christ. Our old self-oriented nature has been crucified with Christ. We have been born of the Spirit of God. We are new creatures. We have the capacity to daily die to the old man and rise to the new. We once again have the ability to be other-oriented. Paul is telling us in our verses for today that we must be other-oriented even in the area of our Christian freedom. We must always focus on those around us, and not just on what we are free to do. Paul is telling us that it would be better for us to sacrifice our freedom for the sake of another than to let our freedom offend and confuse the heart and conscience of another Christian.

In general, let’s be more other-oriented as we live out our Christian lives here on Earth.

Peace!

Pastor Tom


07/21/15 Daily Devotion – It’s not about the stuff we have!


“…those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.” (1 Cor. 7:31 NIV84)

Jesus says in the Gospels, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits (loses) his own soul?” Quite a rhetorical question I would say. If one really thought that at the end of the day, or your life, that these were the only two options, I think most would choose to have their souls. With our verse for today Paul wrote in a similar vein, but he added a very important point. Paul made clear that at the end of the day — at the end of our life — if  we chose the things of this life, we would lose because it’s all passing away. Ultimately, it becomes a choice between that which is (your soul) and nothing. No matter how hard we work to hold on to the things of this world, it will end. It will all end. The language of the committal service is right: “We brought nothing into this world and it is certain that we can take nothing out.”

It never has been, is not, and will never be about the stuff we have. God simply gives us the stuff we have as earthly provision for life. He requires that we, as wise stewards, use our earthly stuff to bring glory to His name and to further His kingdom. The only thing He calls us to hold on to is Him. As branches connected to the Vine, we need to cling to Him and to Him only. Jesus clarifies this again when He says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, then all these things will be added to you.”

Let’s keep ourselves from becoming engrossed over the stuff we have by remembering always that it will all pass away.

Peace!

Pastor Tom


07/20/15 Daily Devotion – Remain Free!


“You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” (1Cor. 7:23 NIV84)

But I thought any human being who was bought was a slave! If we are “bought with a price,” how can we not be slaves to whomever purchased us? But Jesus, who bought us with His own precious blood, tells us, “if the Son has set you free, you are free indeed.” You are absolutely free through the redemptive price Jesus paid on the cross. You are no longer a slave to sin but have been set free to live as God has created you to live. You and I can, as born again Christians, live ever-transforming lives. This being the case, in our verse for today Paul says that we (as free beings) should not return to slavery to men by tying our lives to their principles and teachings.

Always remember this! False teachings will always bind the consciences of mankind. Teachers will rise up telling us that we must do this, or do that, in order to live faithful lives for God. It’s all a lie. Our enemy (Satan) does not want us living in the freedom of God’s grace. He does not want us to taste the sweetness of what true freedom offers. Jesus called him a thief, and it would be just like him to rob us of the greatest gift one could have — freedom. We need to remain free! But how do we do it? I have two suggestions: First, listen to Jesus! Second, only listen to men and women who sound like Jesus!

May we remain free!

Peace!

Pastor Tom


07/19/15 Daily Devotion – What really counts?!


“Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts.” (1 Cor. 7:19 NIV84)

Have you ever heard Christians state the date of their conversion or baptism or confirmation? In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with that. These are important moments in a Christian’s life. They have direct roots in the Scriptures and reflect our obedient response to God’s Word. In our verse for today, Paul was talking about circumcision. Circumcision in the Old Testament was like our New Testament baptism. In Paul’s day, believers were being pressured to follow the Old Testament practices as additional acts of obedience to God. I love Paul’s response. He said, “Keeping God’s commands is what counts.” But isn’t circumcision one of God’s commands? Paul was saying more than the fact that baptism replaces circumcision. He was addressing the need for us to measure our Christianity by events as opposed to daily obedience to God’s Word.

God’s first desire for us is that we live in daily obedience to His Word. Periodic moments are just that — periodic. God wants us to be in constant communion/fellowship/relationship with Him. What really counts is that we are continuously living in, and for, the kingdom of God. God doesn’t want us focusing on Christian moments, but on Christian living. So, as always, what really matters is God’s Word. God wants our focus to be on His Word and let the moments come and go as they will.

May we today, and every day, focus on what really matters!

Peace!

Pastor Tom