Journal Reading for May 21-1 Corinthians 5

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READ: 1 Corinthians 5, especially vv. 9-13: “But now, I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater, or a slanderer, or a drunkard, or a swindler, with such a man, do not even eat…God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked man among you.’ ”
EXAMINE: In this passage, Paul refers to an earlier letter to the Corinthian church that we do not have. Here, Paul refers to his previous admonition to be careful of keeping company with ungodly people, but he clarifies that he intended “ungodly believers,” not unsaved people. He says we have to associate with worldly people for a very practical reason: it would be impossible to do that without removing ourselves completely from the world. There is also a spiritual reason: associating with immoral people in the world is the only way we can have a positive witness with them for Christ. His admonition in verse 13 is a quote from Deuteronomy 13:5.
He then goes on to list six examples of the kinds of behavior that disqualify our close friendships with unspiritual Christians. His command here is in line with his warning in 1 Corinthians 15:33: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
APPLY: I need to be discerning in my relationships. The clear implication of both Paul’s words in Galatians 6:1 (to “restore [a fallen brother] gently, but watch yourself, or you will also be tempted”) and Jesus’ words in Matthew 18 is that we will and must challenge fellow believers regarding sinful behavior but not become close friends with them. The key here is balance.
PRAY: “Dear Father, help me to have the proper balance between rubbing shoulders with believers who need to be gently confronted on the one hand, and totally shunning them on the other. Please help me to develop relationships with lost people, finding common ground with them in order to gain credibility to share Christ with them. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

Calvin Kelly

April 28, 2011 – Kris Dekker

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Read

Romans 8:18-25 – “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Examine

Last night was one of the greatest storm event tragedies in our state’s history. The death toll continues to mount as the first stages of cleanup get underway. I can only imagine that there is little or no comfort today for all those who have lost homes, possessions, and even loved ones in the storm. I have already heard theological debates about God’s role of “cause” or “allow,” as well as His motivation for either. Paul was writing to people suffering as well, maybe in different ways and for different reasons, but suffering nonetheless. He doesn’t argue God’s implicit or complicit involvement here. He simply holds up a comparison – suffering now against the glory that awaits us when our redemption is complete.

Reading this stuff about creation groaning, under bondage, out of sync with God’s original intent, and rebelling against its human subduers brings to mind the images we watched last night on the TV both during and after the storm. You could see the fury and the anger of slaves rising up in rebellion and hear the roar of freedom’s cry. Our souls, as well, utter that same cry to God. “Set us free from this pain and suffering. Set things right, the way You, God, intended them to be and have promised they will be again.”

Today, there is little comfort for so many in all of this. But somewhere … deep down … there is hope. Hope that one day there will be no more pain, no more suffering. Of any kind. Hope that what God has promised, He will perform. So we wait. Patiently we wait.

Apply –

Do I really believe that the glory ahead that I can’t see is worth suffering the pains this life brings? I can almost assure you my life doesn’t always (if ever) reflect that.

When I encounter suffering, do I look around or look ahead and upward?

I know I have to wait. The questions is am I willing to?

Do I pray for God to make this life easier or to make the next life more glorious?

Pray – 

God, I cannot imagine how these families who have lost so much are getting through this today. I cannot fathom why you would not have spared them this. I cannot grasp any sense of purpose or greater glory for You in such destruction and pain.

I can only try to be your hands and feet. We can only try to be your “body” and respond to the need. Help us to do that, even as we join these affected by this in clinging to the hope that comes from Your promise that one day this world will be righted, that our salvation will be completed, that the final defeat of sin and death will be realized, and that You will be glorified in the completion of your redemptive work for us.

Teach me to be patient and not to be angry with You. Teach me to weigh the pain of now and the glory that awaits us. Give me a fresh sense of hope today. Amen.

Just Perfect

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READ: Romans 5:8

EXAMINE: Paul reminded us earlier that there is no one who is righteous, no one who does good (Romans 3:10–12). We all stand judged before a holy God, no matter how good we are.

But Paul does not leave us discouraged and without hope, because in Romans 5 he explains the reason for our faith, hope, and assurance of peace–the perfect timing of Christ’s death (Romans 5:6)! The good news is that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)!

APPLY: What does it mean? What is the Bible saying? Paul is not saying there are no good people out there who do good things. He is talking about our goodness before God. I think there are good people in this world. I think there are good people who are not believers. But the issue is whether there are any people who are good enough in their own goodness to please God, good enough to meet God’s standards. And the answer is a resounding no.

I need to remember Christ went to Calvary and took the full weight of my (our) sin upon himself and paid that price. The flawless, perfect Lamb of God paid my (our) price, and He presents me (us) to God, perfect in Him.

PRAY: God, thank you for your great sacrifice on my behalf! I realize that Christ was able to do for me what I could never do. Through taking on my sin and dying on the cross for me, I can now receive His righteousness and I have been made perfect in your sight! Thank you for this awesome demonstration of real love. Help me to not go a day without remembering and celebrating your love for me!

Romans 1–April 19, 2011

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READ:  Romans 1

EXAMINE:  Paul begins this chapter (vv. 2, 3) by testifying of both the full humanity (“human nature”) of Jesus, as being a descendent of David, and His divinity (“Son of God”), as one born of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s proof of the divinity of Jesus is His resurrection.  As we celebrate His glorious resurrection the week, we remember that He indeed and He alone is God, Savior, Redeemer, and Friend!

Paul’s desire for us to share Christ is evident in that he brags on the Roman Christians in v. 8 for their reputation of great faith, known around the world.  In v. 16, Paul tells us he is in agreement with their boldness (“I am not ashamed of the gospel…”).

After decrying man’s sexual depravity and perversions which are the logical consequence of excluding God from our lives, he concludes the chapter by describing those without God:  full of envy, murder, greed, lust, depravity, etc.

APPLY and PRAY:  “Lord, today, I ask that you fill me with your Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit that empowered Your Son.  Please allow me, like Paul and the Roman believers, to boldly proclaim the resurrected Christ unashamedly.  May my life steer clear of those things displeasing to you and positively reflect your Son.  In His name I pray, amen.”

Calvin Kelly

Making the Apparent Obvious

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Read

John 19:1-12  (Jesus is sentenced to death by Pilate.)

 

Examine

Pilate knew for a fact that Jesus was not guilty of any crime – certainly not anything worthy of his involvement as an official dispenser of justice. Where Pilate was a little fuzzy was with the matter of WHO Jesus was and WHERE He came from. Pilate found himself between a rock and a hard place. To carry out justice and thus release Jesus would damage him politically – his reputation and potentially his position of authority would be threatened. On the other hand, Pilate had a sense that there was something unique or different about Jesus that he couldn’t quite nail down. And Pilate didn’t want to unnecessarily bring harm to Jesus … ya know, just in case He really was who some claimed Him to be. There was a price to be paid no matter what decision Pilate made! Verse 8 says that Pilate was “more frightened than ever” (NLT). And later in verse 16, we read that Pilate finally made his choice – he feared the consequences of going against the crowd more than the consequences of handing down the death sentence to the Son of God.

 

Apply

There’s a little bit of Pilate in me. When I am confronted with Jesus – His teachings, His commands or His claims on my life – I am in the same predicament as Pilate was. Am I going to honor what I know to be true and righteous, or am I going to bend to the fear of what might become of my reputation or position? Often that fear obscures what I clearly know to be true. How I respond in those situations largely comes down to how I choose to answer the question, “Who is Jesus?” Like Pilate, I can intellectually answer that question, but when I have to integrate that concept into the mixed-up realities of life, it can get a little fuzzy. I have flashes of clarity. But flashes are brief – here one second, gone the next.  Like Pilate, who stood eye-to-eye and toe-to-toe with the Son of God and whiffed, I can pray to, sing about and read of Him – and my actions in the next moment don’t seem to indicate that I knew Who I was just in the presence of. Jesus’ words to Pilate in verse 11 provide some clarity for such moments. He said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above.” (NLT) In other words, Jesus holds all the power and authority. Whatever pressure that my friends, associates, peers and whoever else might be bringing to bear (real or imagined) pales in comparison to the power of Almighty God. Who is Jesus? My head knows the answer, but it’s a question my heart has to answer daily!

 

Pray

Lord, help me see You as the ultimate authority on all things. Help me see you “right-sized” in my world. May the fear and the pressure that life imposes dissolve when I reflect on your greatness. I pray for your patience as I learn to see you for who You are in my life. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen!

April 8, 2011 – Jeff McGukin

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Cutting + Pruning = Fruitfulness

John 15:1-2 (New International Version)

The Vine and the Branches

Read – “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

 

Examine – I’ve read this verse many times and heard it quoted just as many times, maybe more!  However, I’ve never noticed there are two different words that Jesus used in describing how we abide in Him, the words cutting and pruning. So, I’m left wondering if there is a difference.  After some investigation, I find that there is distinct difference.  You see, a gardener at work knows there are parts of the plant that need to be cut off completely (lopped, if you will), yet, there are some that merely need to be pruned.  When pruning, only the dead portions of a particular section are cut.  All of this is done, not to be harmful, but to cause the plant to be fruitful.

 

Apply – So, my Father, the gardener, has some work to do!  I ask Him to reveal the answers to these questions:

  • What are the dead parts of me that need to be cut off completely?
  • What are the props or idols in my life that are keeping me from being fruitful?
  • What is standing in the way of my hearing Him?
  • What is preventing me from be able to abide in Him?

Are there things that might be good, even ministry opportunities that are noble, decent, moral and righteous, but are not fruitful or productive?  What if I enjoy them and they are worthy of my time and talent, but only need a little pruning….not stop doing, but a small change in focus?  Am I willing to release my grasp and let Him take ownership?

According to Scripture, cutting and pruning are painful, but must be done in order to be fruitful.

 

Pray – Lord, help me see clearly the dead parts of my life.  Give me strength to not hold onto those things that need to be completely gone from my life.  Help me see where I need a small change in direction or focus in my life.  I desire to be used by you, to be fruitful, and to abide in you. I trust that you know what is best, for you are the Master Gardener.

 

 

 

Anchor Words!

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Anchor Words….
… enabling us to learn from Christ, live for Christ, and lead others to Christ!

Read: John chapter 8

Examine:
Context – Over the chapters we are reading this week (John 5-11), through the Apostle John, God provides us a descriptive portrait of who Jesus Christ claims He is. Can’t you see the portrait coming to life through these brush strokes from His word?

  • Jesus is the Healer as he tells the paralytic, “Arise, take up your pallet and walk” (John 5:8)
  • Jesus is equal to God the Father in His nature, His power and His authority as He proclaims, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” (John 5:24)
  • Jesus is the Provider by feeding 5000+, walks on water, and claims, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” (John 6:35 ) Jesus’ words offer life, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (John 6:63-64) “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'” (John 7:37-38)
  • The woman caught in adultery discovers Jesus as the compassionate forgiver“Did no one condemn you? …I do not condemn you, either; Go from now on sin no more.”
  • Jesus is the great illuminator, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” (John 8:12)
  • Jesus says, “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved” (John 10:9) and “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)
  • The disciples, Martha, and Mary witnessed Jesus power as He claimed, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26) Lazarus became the proof that Jesus’ claim was true as Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come forth” (vs. 43)

 

Jesus made these claims by His own words. I’ve learned in life that words can be easily and at times flippantly spoken; containing little to no truth, but when every outrageous claim comes true and when spoken words are fulfilled through miraculous deeds… I can and should anchor my life to His words. Jesus says His words are from our Heavenly Father…
“When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative,
but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.”
(John 8:28)
In the middle of these amazing portrait chapters, Jesus speaks to those who believe in Him that…
“If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.
So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”
(John 8:31-32, 36)

Thoughts:

  • abide’ = to remain; continue; stay; to have one’s abode, dwell, or reside… meaning I ought to make my home in God’s Word (the Bible). Do I on a daily basis?
  • truly disciples’ = apart from ‘living in God’s word” I cannot be Jesus’ disciple, for His disciples order their lives according to His word. This also seems to imply that there are some who pretend to be disciples, but because they neglect knowing and living out Scripture, they aren’t ‘truly’ disciples of Christ. How often do I neglect God’s word choosing to follow and learn from the ‘words of the world’, following the ways of the world.
  • will know the truth’ = as Francis Schaeffer coined ‘true truth’, meaning absolute truth is found only in God’s word. When searching for answers to life’s dilemmas, do I look first to the Bible for truth or do I usually turn to others sources?
  • will make you free’ = Free from what? Grip of sin (pursuing my own ways – lust of the flesh)? Yes! Power over pride (falsely thinking I am the source of truth)? Yes! Loving the things and people of the world over loving God (lust of the eyes)? Yes! Free to be the man, husband, father, grandfather, friend, and pastor God intends for me to be. YES!

Application:
–    I need to be more faithful to daily hear, read, study, memorize, meditate on God’s word and submit to the Holy Spirit to help me abide in His word.
–    I need to share with others how God’s word is at work in my life so I become accountable to live it out.
–    I need to search out Biblical commands and principles as my first stop in answering life questions, rather than allow other voices to control my thinking.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I surrender completely to Your Lordship over my life today. Please allow the power of Your word to guide, correct, transform, and protect me; enabling me to live in and live out Your word in every situation today. Help me to bring God glory in all I do today.
~Saint

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