Friday Is For Scripture : Mark 12:41-44

41. Sitting across from the temple treasury, He watched how the crowd dropped money into the treasury. Many rich people were putting in large sums. 42.  And a poor widow came and dropped in two tiny coins worth very little. 43.  Summoning His disciples, He said to them, “ I assure you: This poor widow has put in more than all those giving to the temple treasury. 44.  For they all gave out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she possessed—all she had to live on.”

Have you ever stopped to think about what you give to God? I’m not referring to anything monetary. I’m talking about how much of yourself you give to God. The way in which God uses what we give is entirely His choice. Your offering, gift, or sacrifice may seem simple and unimportant. God excels in taking the simple and producing great results.

For example, the widow in our passage gave a total of less than one penny. The amount was not the issue. The issue, or what touched the heart of God, was her attitude behind that amount. Her devotion to God led her to give everything she had to live on. This in turn led to a deeper trust in God that He would provide for her needs. Where is your devotion? What does your devotion look like? Has your gift or sacrifice touched the heart of God? The world we live in says you have to give more, do more, and be more in order to be accepted. God requires one thing – obedience.

I believe there are some vital things we can miss if we don’t surrender ourselves to God. I give these to you for your consideration.

1. If I am not surrendered, I will miss the opportunity for God’s blessing on my life.

2. If I am not surrendered, I will miss what it means to be a “friend” of God.

3. If I am not surrendered, I will miss the opportunity to do something meaningful in the kingdom.

Friday Is For Scripture : Jonah 1: 1-3

1. Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2. “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” 3. But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.

I would like to know what was going through Jonah’s mind when he arrived at the port that day  where  a ship  was preparing to leave. Perhaps he said, “This must be my lucky day.” Maybe he said, “I timed this just right.” He might even have said, “This ship is God’s will.” Jonah was a man on the run from God and Satan was holding the door wide open. We all have periods in our lives as Jonah did . Periods of direction and call, followed by an overwhelming fear that causes us to doubt our ability to come through for God. “Open doors” are tricky things. Jonah had  what he thought was an open door, but was clearly not of God. The life of Jonah teaches us this. If the believer desires to run from God, there will always be a ship leaving for Tarshish.

FIFS : Galatians 1:6-7

6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. (Gal 1:6-7)

The apostle Paul was a lot like the circuit-riding preachers of the early twentieth century. These preachers usually covered a certain area or a number of congregations.  They would then ride that circuit on a schedule either monthly or quarterly. We can see some of the similar travel habits in Paul’s letters. He was responsible, at least in some part, for the establishment of the churches we are familiar with in the New Testament (Galatia, Colosse, Thessalonica, Philippi, Ephesus). Paul would travel around to these churches and minister to and encourage them. He would write letters (our NT books) to encourage, teach, and address problems and issues they were facing. We see this happening in the first part of Galatians. Paul had delivered to the Galatians that the resurrection of Christ was the center of the gospel. He taught them that the death of Christ was sufficient for the forgiveness of their sin. The Galatian Christians were being led astray by false teachers known as Judaizers. Judaizers were Jewish Christians who were telling the Gentile Christians that in addition to their faith in Christ they must adhere to the Jewish Law in order to be truly saved. We see Paul’s reaction in v.6, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him”. He says that he is surprised how fast they turned from the truth of the gospel to something different. Paul spoke of a desire of some in his day to pervert the gospel. The same desire exists today.

The gospel is very simple and amazingly clear. The resurrection is the power of the gospel and grace is the vehicle that delivers it. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 says, “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures”. Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-9, “ For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” To “pervert” means to “misinterpret or distort”. Across the landscape of Christianity we can see the pure gospel that has been delivered to us being perverted regularly. Here are a few examples.

1. The gospel is perverted by suggesting that Jesus Christ is just simply one of many ways to the Father.

2. The gospel is perverted by suggesting that grace is not sufficient and human efforts (works) are needed to complete salvation.

3. The gospel is perverted by suggesting that an individual can accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior and continue living as they did before.

4. The gospel is perverted by suggesting that some are predestined to Heaven and some are predestined to Hell and there is nothing that can be done about it.

As believers who have been changed from the inside out, we have a responsibility to ensure that those who are lost receive the true gospel. They deserve the gospel, as offensive and difficult as it might be to hear, it is the only message that will release them from the bondage of their sin.

FIFS : Hosea 3:1-3

1 Then the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery, just like the love of the Lord for the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans. ” 2 So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver, and one and one-half homers of barley. 3 And I said to her, “You shall stay with me many days; you shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man—so, too, will I be toward you.”

Often you will find powerful and challenging stories of God’s dealings with His people in the more obscure and skimmed-over books of the Bible. Such is the case with the book of Hosea. It is one of those books that rarely sees the light of day. It is one of those books where there are likely few, if any, hand-written notes in the margin. It is one of those books that you need the table of contents to find. That being said, the book of Hosea contains, in my opinion, one of the clearest portraits of God’s love to be found anywhere in the Bible. It is the story of God’s man Hosea and his prostitute wife Gomer. God directs Hosea to marry this woman with knowledge of her past and, what she will do in the future. Gomer continues in her ways and finds herself the property of another man who is not her husband. In the beginning of chapter three we find Hosea, again following the voice of God, off to take back his wife. Hosea finds his wife this time on an auction block, for sale, available to anyone with enough money. Imagine the shame in Hosea’s eyes and on his face as he sees his adulterous wife for sale. Imagine the anger swelling up inside of him as he looks upon her and sees what her sins have done. Imagine the whispers and finger pointing of those present at the auction that day. Imagine God demanding this much obedience. So, Hosea pays the price and buys back his wife. Most definitely a story of crazy love.

Hosea’s relationship with Gomer is a symbol of God’s love for the nation of Israel. Time and time again they left the faithful love of God and played the harlot to other gods. However, God remained true. This story is also about us. Hosea bought his wife off the auction block. The word for “bought” in verse three is the word ‘redeem’, which literally means “to purchase with a price”. There was a time in our lives what we were in a similar position to Gomer; enslaved, imprisoned, and held hostage to the power and control of sin. The death of Jesus Christ on the cross for the sins of mankind was the ransom price that it took to free us. He has bought us back. He redeemed us. His blood was the purchase price. How do we respond? Do we seek constant communion with Him in prayer, or do we seek Him only when we can’t handle things ourselves. Do we share His wonderful love with others, or do we hope and count on someone else to do it? Do we follow his direction and guidance in our daily lives, regardless of where he leads, or do we just tell God that we know better?

FIFS : Genesis 39:2

The LORD was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.’

Knowing the position Joseph was in, this verse, on the surface, does not make a whole lot of sense. The Lord was with Josesph when he was sold by his brothers into slavery? The Lord was with Joseph and he is now in Egypt removed from his homeland, his family, and the familiar surroundings of his Hebrew faith? The Lord was with Joseph in prison for refusing to sin against God with Potiphar’s wife? Yes, to all three. This verse causes us to think, “How can that be?” or “I don’t see that at all”. All of the events that unfolded in Joseph’s life were part of a larger plan God had for him. A plan that led to the rescue of his family during a severe famine. The events that happen  in our lives, even those seemingly unexplainable ones (you know the kind), are part of a larger plan.

The Lord was with Joseph and placed him in a country where resources were plenty. The Lord was with Joseph in prison and choreographed the meeting with Pharaoh’s imprisoned officials. This meeting in turn led to Joseph finding favor with Pharaoh and becoming the superintendent over all the land of Egypt. God is constantly at work in our lives. He moves us along and orders the events that will bring His plans to pass. We may not like these events. These events may not be comfortable. These events may call for a reorder of our lives. However, they are always right. It is the uncomfortable events of life that stretch our faith. I believe the lesson we learn from Joseph is worth remembering. The lesson is this, my uncertain circumstances do not negate the certainty of God’s presence.

Friday Is For Scripture : Proverbs 1:10-16

10 My son, if sinners entice you, Do not consent. 11 If they say, “Come with us, Let us lie in wait to shed blood; Let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause; 12 Let us swallow them alive like Sheol, And whole, like those who go down to the Pit; 13 We shall find all kinds of precious possessions, We shall fill our houses with spoil; 14 Cast in your lot among us, Let us all have one purse” 15 My son, do not walk in the way with them, Keep your foot from their path; 16 For their feet run to evil, And they make haste to shed blood. [Proverbs 1:10-16]

Solomon is given credit as being the wisest man to have ever lived. When given the opportunity to possess riches or wisdom, he chose wisdom. The book of Proverbs is a glimpse into this God-given understanding of the human race. Profound, yet simple. Funny, yet accurate. Convicting, yet truthful. In the very first chapter, Solomon gives the reader what could be the best word we could ever read in v.10, “if sinners entice you, Do not consent”. Solomon goes on to describe what kinds of activity, by citing specific examples, sinners will involve themselves and others in. This reference to “sinners” speaks to those who are opposed to God and have no desire to follow or long after Him. When a person is not led by God, there natural tendency is as Solomon wrote in v.16 saying “their feet run to evil, And they make haste to shed blood.” The old adage that “misery loves company” is applicable here.

We must be careful who influences us. It is up to us to ensure that only those who are being led by God and are listening to Him are having an influence upon our lives. In a world full of voices shouting advice, suggestion, and counsel, who are you listening to? Are you as a believer being a source of sound counsel for someone else?

FIFS : 8.30.13

1. Now it happened when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates),  2.that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they thought to do me harm. 3. So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” Neh 6:1-3

Nehemiah had been given a grand vision by God to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. He had the help and support of the king and the people of Israel were excited and willing to see the work through. However, anytime there is a movement of God among His people and the they begin to capture the vision of God and work, there will be opposition of some sort. In Nehemiah’s case, Sanballat and Tobiah represented this opposition. These two men were determined to do all they could to stop, or at least hinder, God’s work. As the church moves forward and begins to carry out its mission and purpose, we can expect Sanballats and Tobiahs along the way. Nehemiah’s opposition was from the outside. Those looking in on Nehemiah and the Israelites didn’t understand  why the rebuilding of that wall was so important. People are naturally opposed to what they don’t understand, don’t believe in, or can’t see a need for. As church leaders we must ensure those outside the body, those to whom we direct ministry, have an understanding of what we are doing, what we are about, and how important the  message we share is.

When faced with opposition, Nehemiah’s response is vital to ensuring success. He said in v.3, ”So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?”  Good question. Once we have set our faces to God’s plan, we must refuse to come down off the wall. We must refuse to be sidetracked by any distraction. Our service for the Lord is, as Nehemiah stated, “a great work”.  Too much is at stake to listen to the voice of opposition.

FIFS : 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

14. For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15.and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

Have you ever stopped to think about what drives you to do the things you do? Have you ever really took a good hard look at the reasons for which you do all that you do? What is motivating you right now to do the things you do? The need for shelter motivates and drives us to find a home to live in. The need for an income motivates and drives us to find a job. The need for higher education or an advanced degree motivates and drives us to spend extra years in school beyond the normal. The need for a healthier body motivates and drives us to exercise and diet. Some motivating force drives us to do all that we do, whether good or bad.

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he talks about motivation. Paul was a driven and focused man. He tells us the reason for his drive and what motivated him. He said, “For the love of Christ compels us”. It was for the love of Christ that he kept preaching when no one seemed to be listening. It was for the love of Christ that he pushed forward after being beaten and run out of town. It was also for the love of Christ that while in prison awaiting his own death that the churches were on his mind. Paul’s motivation looks the same in the life of the believer today. The love of Christ compels the believer to tell others of a life-changing Savior. The love of Christ compels us to grant and extend forgiveness when the rest of the world simply says “get even”. The love of Christ compels us to love our fellow man beyond we see on the outside. The love of Christ also compels us to reach into the darkness of the nations and shine the light of the gospel. This love of Christ looked beyond us while we were lost, rebellious, and indifferent towards God. Jesus demonstrated what true love looks like.

Paul said, “and He died for all, that those who lives should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”. Paul makes the assertion that there has been a change in his motivation. At one time Paul was motivated by pride, hate, and religious tradition. He was living for himself. However, when the love of Christ spilled onto his life and it became personal, he quit living for himself. We were no different. At one time we lived for ourselves and did everything that we thought was right and good. The day Jesus stepped into our lives, we were under new management. Our motivating and driving force that compels, urges, prompts, and pushes us to love, witness, preach, teach, and care is the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.

FIFS : 7.26.2013

25. Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Since you are so numerous, choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first. Then call on the name of your god but don’t light the fire.” 26.  So they took the bull that he gave them, prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “Baal, answer us!” But there was no sound; no one answered. Then they did their lame dance around the altar they had made. 27. At noon Elijah mocked them. He said, “Shout loudly, for he’s a god! Maybe he’s thinking it over; maybe he has wandered away possibly to relieve himself or maybe he’s on the road. Perhaps he’s sleeping and will wake up!” 28. They shouted loudly, and cut themselves with knives and spears, according to their custom, until blood gushed out on them. 29. All afternoon, they kept on raving until the offering of the evening sacrifice, but there was no sound, no one answered, no one paid attention.” 1 Kings 18:25-29

This is perhaps one of the most familiar battles in the Old Testament. It is a battle between the pagan prophets of the evil King Ahab and God’s man Elijah. The activity and worship on both sides of this battle has everything to do with the condition of the heart on both sides of the battle. On one hand you have the prophets of Baal, the Canaanite god. They were very loud and boisterous in their worship: jumping around, loudly calling out to their god, and cutting themselves to entice a reaction. On the other hand, you have Elijah, prophet to the One True God. He uttered very few words, offered a brief prayer, and worshipped without drawing attention to himself. The fire fell on the side of the true worshipper. True worship has nothing to do with activity or what we may “do” to get God’s attention. True worship has everything to do with the condition and attitude of the individual’s heart toward God. In his book, “The Root of the Righteous”, A.W. Tozer makes this point clearly. He wrote:

“What a man is must be shown to be more important than what he does. While the moral quality of any act is imparted by the condition of the heart, there may be a world of religious activity which arises not from within, but from without and which would seem to have little or no moral content.”

FIFS : Philemon 10-13

10. I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, 11 who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me. 12. I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart, 13. whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel.

The book of Philemon is a very interesting one. In a single chapter we find a book pregnant with spiritual truth. It is a book of grace, love, forgiveness, restoration, and relationship. This book, more than any other, zeroes in on the lives of specific people and explores their relationship. Onesimus was a slave who stole from his master Philemon and fled to Rome where he come into contact with Paul. Onesimus was won to Christ under Paul’s ministry in Rome. This letter is Paul’s request for Philemon to receive Onesimus back to himself. The word Onesimus means “profitable”. Paul states that at one time, in his lost condition, Onesimus was not profitable. But now, in Christ, he is profitable. He can be, and was, useful to the kingdom. Finally, he could live up to his name.

The elements in the book of Philemon; grace, love, forgiveness, restoration, relationship mirror the elements the believer enjoys in Christ. Prior to Christ, we were unprofitable. We were not of any use to the kingdom. We were incapable in making a difference in the world for Christ. After our new birth, we become profitable. We are useful to the kingdom. We are now capable of making a difference in this sin-stained world. Philemon forgave Onesimus. Jesus has forgiven us. Onesimus was restored in the eyes of his master Philemon. Through the blood of Christ we have been restored to a right relationship with God.

What do you think our churches would look like if we stood up for other believers and affirmed the Lord’s working in their lives the way Paul did with Onesimus? What do you think our churches would look like if we were as eager and ready to forgive each other as Philemon was to forgive Onesimus? What do you think our churches would look like if we were able to be as open with each other as Paul was with Philemon?  Something to think about.