FIFS : Acts 20:22-24

22 And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there,
except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.
But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

There are times when the Christian will ask, “What is my job as a believer?” There are a multitude of possible answers for this age old question. One answer may be that we are to become students of the Bible in order to show ourselves as approved workmen unto God. While this is important, I don’t believe this is our most important job. Another answer may be that we are to sing praises of thanks to Lord for all that He has done for us. While this is important, I don’t believe this is our most important job. Still another answer could be that we are to pursue a Christ-like character. Again, while this is important, I don’t believe this is our most important job.

As Paul prepared to leave Ephesus for Rome, he addressed the Ephesian leaders and poured his heart out to them. He told them that he had no idea what was ahead of him. The only thing he knew was that the Holy Spirit was leading and the same Holy Spirit would go before him. As a believer, there is comfort here. There is comfort in knowing that when the Lord wants us to go somewhere or do something, His guidance and provision goes ahead of you.

This is what Paul knew. Even though Paul knew that prison awaited him, he set his heading and his mind toward that of Rome, believing the Lord wanted and needed him there. In Acts 20:24, Paul answers the question, “What is my job as a believer?” v.24, ‘But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.‘     Our primary job is to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. We are to tell others how great, how wonderful, and how merciful our Savior has been to us. Paul said this was more important to him than his own life. Is it more important than our own lives?

FIFS : 2 Chronicles 10:12-14

12. So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam on the third day, as the king had directed, saying, “Come back to me the third day.” 13.  Then the king answered them roughly. King Rehoboam rejected the advice of the elders, 14. and he spoke to them according to the advice of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to it; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!”

Advice is easy to come by today. Everyone is ready to tell you what you should or should not do, or instruct you how to do something. Our challenge is to determine who we should listen to. We should ask ourselves, “Does this advice match God’s Word?” or “Does the giver of this advice have my best interests in mind?”

Rehoboam became the king of Israel at the death if his father Solomon. Shortly after assuming the throne, Rehoboam was approached by Jeroboam, who was a former servant of Solomon. Jeroboam, on behalf of the people, made one request of the new king. His request was to “lighten the burden and rule less harshly than your father did and we will serve you.” Rehoboam asked counsel of two groups of people. The advice of the elders, his father’s servants, was to serve the people and they will serve you. The advice of the younger men, those Rehoboam grew up with, was to make the lives of the people more difficult. He chose the counsel of the younger.

In life, we will hear and be given conflicting advice. As believers, advice from those who are grounded in truth is a gift from God. We should not allow pride or peer pressure to get in the way of sound counsel that God has made available through the wisdom of others. Back to our story. Refusing wise counsel can have devastating results. Jeroboam came back for the king’s answer. Hearing the load and burden would be made worse under the rule of Rehoboam, Jeroboam rebelled and the nation of Israel was divided. Rehoboam remained king over Judah and Jeroboam became leader over the kingdom of Israel. Advice is good, but godly advice is best.

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 : Nehemiah 4:6

“So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work”.

Nehemiah, burdened by a love for God and his fellow countrymen, set out to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. The city of Jerusalem was the center of the Jewish faith and community. It was the place that signified both strength and protection. To see the walls of this cherished city destroyed caused Nehemiah to act. Not everyone rejoiced and not everyone enjoyed the same excitement as Nehemiah. He was constantly harassed and troubled. His troubles, at times, come from within. He found discouragement in the words and actions of his fellow Jews. He was also harassed and troubled by those outside their community. In spite of all this negativity, strife, and constant threat of physical attack, the walls were being rebuilt and the honor of God’s city restored. The reason: the people of God had resolved to finish, amid the difficulty.

As the church of God today ministers, labors, and reaches out, there are some who don’t share our zeal and passion. They see no need for the church today. Our God has given us a mind to work. We know what we are to be doing. The church is to be the hands and feet of Christ to a world that needs Him. We know where our power comes from. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a constant source of strength. We are building walls today. We are building walls of morality in the midst of an immoral society. We are building walls of faith in a faithless society. We are building walls of love around a society that may not know how to love. Despite the opposition and resistance, the NT church has been given a mind to work. The question is this: Will we do it?

FIFS : Ecclesiastes 10:10

“If the ax is dull, and one does not sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength; but wisdom brings success.”

In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon pens his thoughts about life, love, wealth, friends, health, and wisdom. He uses a series of contrasting images to set the unwise alongside the wise. One such image that is crystal clear is the one he writes of in verse ten. The image is of a person taking on the job of cutting wood, with the ax being the tool of choice. As this person continually swings the ax against the wood, over time a dulling occurs. The longer this person works without sharpening the ax, the more strength is needed to make a difference. Solomon says that “wisdom brings success”. In this case, the wise move would be to stop, sharpen the ax, and continue the job. In essence, work smarter and not harder.

 This is a thought worthy of consideration. As we serve in the ministry of the local church, we must regularly evaluate what strength we are working under. It is very easy to set out on a work for the Lord under our own strength and neglect the greater strength available to us. Our tendency is to swing, swing, swing harder, and all the while wonder why we are not making progress. With wisdom bringing success, our goal should be to do what is wise and seek what is wise.

If we think about this on the practical level it becomes clear. The person swinging the ax is you. The blade of the ax represents power. The wood to be chopped is the ministry to be completed (teaching believers, witnessing to the lost, healing of relationships, restoration of families, etc). The real issue of ministry that is God-honoring is the power by which it is done. It is possible for us to attack ministry under our own human and limited power (the dull ax blade). On the other hand, we can attack ministry with God’s divine and unlimited power (the sharp ax blade). One choice will result in frustration, stress, anger, and a desire to give up. The other choice will lead to success, fulfillment, peace, and a desire to continue. It is really is a matter of working smarter and not harder. As Solomon wrote, “wisdom brings success”. We must be wise enough in the Lord to recognize the blade dulling.

FIFS : 1 Chronicles 29:14

14 But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from You, And of Your own we have given you.

As chapter 29 opens up, we find King David encouraging the people of Israel to contribute toward the building and furnishing of the temple. The people respond in a selfless manner, giving gold and other precious stones. David stops when it is all done and offers a prayer of thanksgiving and praise to God on behalf of the gifts of the people as their worship. In his prayer, David acknowledges where the resources had come from. In essence, David says, “Everything comes from you, and we have given to you only what comes from your hand.”

Would you ask your child to go to the store to buy bread without giving them the money to buy the bread? As an employer, would you hire a staff without having the money for salaries? No. Would God ask you to go through a difficult or dark time in life without giving us the strength we need? No. Would God ask us to minister in His name as the NT church today without leaders in the church? No. We have been given the resources that we need from God for our everyday lives. In the same way parents provide for the needs of their children, our Heavenly Father is prepared to meet our need. The problem that we as believers have in this area can be summed in the following statement: “We want the resources that we do not need”.

We want the resources that come in a catalogue, from a conference, or from a book or brochure. God gives us what we need today. God has made the provision for us. He is willing to give to His people. We often mirror the Israelites who were wandering in the wilderness. God gave them manna. They were not satisfied with   enough for just one day. They tried to collect enough for two days and it spoiled. It was a lesson in trust for the Israelites, as it is for us today. The lesson in being good stewards is this: God gives willingly, but he gives you what you need for today. You do not get tomorrow’s grace today.

FIFS : John 9:26-27

26. Then they said to him again, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” 27. He answered them, “I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?”

I believe that John 9 is one of the most humorous chapters in the entire Bible. It is the story of Jesus’ healing of a man who was blind from birth. Jesus healed this man on the Sabbath and, as expected, draws a great deal of criticism from the Pharisees. In what should have been a time of joy and celebration because of received sight, turned into an interrogation and day of intimidation. The parents of the blind man were asked who had given their son his sight. They told the Pharisees to ask him. Their fear was rooted in the assurance that anyone who believed that Jesus was the Son of God would be thrown out of the local synagogue. This would have been a scarlet letter. The blind man was asked three times how he had received his sight. They asked, he answered. They asked again, he answered again. Again they asked, and this time he answered with frustration, “I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?” Were the Pharisees going to become disciples of Christ? Of course not. Does the blind man’s question have merit? Oh yes.

Something wonderful happened to the blind man. He received his sight. He was different. He was changed. The people around him could not help but notice. The man that the town had always known as “blind”, now had his sight. The difference Christ made in his life was standing out. The difference Christ has made in our life is going to stand out and draw attention. The world will notice when we stop and ask a blessing over our lunch at work. The world will notice when we treat others with dignity and respect. The world will notice when we acknowledge that our faith guides our decisions, both large and small. The world will notice that although we may be enduring a difficult storm, there is something unusually calm about our life.

How does this relate to our passage? Thanks for asking. As people see something different about you (like the town people did in the blind man), they will eventually begin to ask questions about your life (much like the Pharisees did of the blind man and who had healed him). Our changed life should solicit questions. As our friends, families, and coworkers look at our lives and ask us why we are they way we are, we have the opportunity to ask a question much like the one the blind man asked. His question was, “Do you also want to become His disciples?”  We should never be afraid to ask someone a question like this one, ‘After looking at a life that has been changed by Christ, would you like to know how to meet Him?’

FIFS : Acts 17:1-4

Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2. Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3. explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.” 4. And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.

The old saying goes, “A rolling stone gathers no moss”. Those words fit the Apostle Paul perfectly. Paul was a journeying man. He was always moving. Always listening. Always sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Always on mission.  As you read through the book of Acts you encounter such phrases as “they went from” and “when they had passed through”. The missionary teams that Paul led were active and consumed with the mission of Christ. Geography, distance, hostility, lack of comfort, and weather could not keep Paul and his companions from sharing the message that Christ was the Messiah. For Paul, the gospel was not just an event (something he did), rather it was a lifestyle (something that he lived). Verse two makes it clear that Paul sought opportunities to speak of Jesus Christ. Notice, “as his custom was”. He knew his mission and his message “explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ”.

We live in a far more mobile and connected society than did Paul. Travel is easier. Where it would have taken weeks to cover a few hundred miles can today be done in one or two days. Where Paul carried limited scrolls of the biblical text, today we have  completed Bibles in print, on our computer, and even on our phones. Where Paul would have sent letter to the churches by messenger, or carried them himself, taking weeks upon weeks for a return answer, today we can send texts and email around the world and get an answer within seconds. As mobile as we are and as connected as we are, are we using that to our advantage?

We know that is was Paul’s custom, or habit, or practice to speak for Christ wherever he found himself. Do we look for ways to share the gospel all the places we go? Do we utilize all the tools available to us? It is true as many say that the world is getting smaller. Now, we know that the earth is not shrinking. Technology and ease and convenience of travel are bringing the world together. As the world gets smaller, we find more and more people groups who have never heard the name of Jesus. It is not just overseas. There are pockets of North America that have been isolated and don’t know there is a Savior who loves them. As Paul traveled he was sensitive to people and their plight. As we travel we should “make it our custom” to be sensitive to the lostness around us.

FIFS : Galatians 1:6-7

Today is a Saturday edition of Friday is for Scripture.

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

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 travel habits in Paul’s letters. He was responsible, in at least 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 the death of Christ was sufficient for the forgiveness of their sin. The Galatian Christians were being led astray as Paul says 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.

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 : 2 Samuel 9:1-4

1 Now David said, “Is there still anyone who is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” 2 And there was a servant of the house of Saul whose name was Ziba. So when they had called him to David, the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” And he said, “At your service!” 3 Then the king said, “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, to whom I may show the kindness of God?” And Ziba said to the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan who is lame in his feet.” 4 So the king said to him, “Where is he?” And Ziba said to the king, “Indeed he is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, in Lo Debar.”

Standard practice in ancient days was for the new king to remove any family of the former king that may pose a threat to his throne. This removal often meant sending those family members away to other parts of the country, imprisonment, and even death. It would have been appropriate and in line with the customs of the day for David to have had any of Saul’s family that was still alive put to death so there would be no threat to his throne. David shared a very close relationship with Jonathan, the son of Saul who was Israel’s first king. Although Saul pursued David in order to kill him out of jealousy and anger, Jonathan and David remained close. David wanted to do something for his friend Jonathan as a result of a vow that he had made. David’s relationship with God motivated to extend kindness to someone who the world would say did not deserve it.

David’s question in v.3 serves as a modern-day challenge for God’s people. “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, to which I may show the kindness of God?” If this world today needs anything it is kind people. In our world of rudeness, inconsideration, and indifference, Godly kindness will make a significant difference. How well do we accomplish the demonstration of kindness? How well do we put others first? Kindness is listed as “fruit of spirit”  in Galatians 5:22-23 along with eight other traits that collectively characterize a Spirit-filled life. There are a few interesting things about David’s question in verse three.

First, David was intentional about showing kindness. He did not wait for the opportunity to come to him. It was important enough to him to go looking for a way to show kindness. Are we this intentional?

Second, David was not specific as to who he showed kindness to. David said “Is there not still someone”. Little did he know that Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth was still alive and that he was cripple in both feet. Kindness crosses all boundaries: physical, social, racial, and economic. Do we allow boundaries to stop our attempts at kindness?

Third, David was properly motivated. Again, David said, “the kindness of God”. I don’t believe David was trying to show off. I don’t believe he was trying to draw attention to himself. As a result the kindness God extended to him, I believe he wanted to pass that along. Kindness is contagious. God’s kindness toward us is our proper motivation. How well are you doing in returning kindness?