Wednesday, July 30, 2014

2 Corinthians 12

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12)

Thoughts: Not many would say, "When I am weak I am strong."  Not many could thank God or boast about their weaknesses.  Paul was talking about his "thorn in the flesh."  His thorn was some kind of physical ailment.  Some say he had a limp, or he stuttered, but clearly he had eye problems- maybe as a result of his blindness on the road to Damascus.  He wrote a few times that he wrote large so the readers could tell it was from his own hand.  It could be that his weaknesses were all the things he had talked about previously that surely took an overall toll on his body.  He does not spell out his weakness- it probably was obvious to the Corinthians- but really only a matter of curiosity today for us.  The point was that God sustained Paul.  Paul knew that when he had no strength of his own, God's strength kicked in.  Apart from Christ we are weak and can do nothing.  But with God all things are possible. Jesus said the last shall be first- another way of saying the weak will be made strong.  He also talked about the meek will inherit the earth.  So when you have reached the end of your strength- look for God.  He is close.  He has not forsaken you- for after your God-forsaken cross- just around the corner- within a three days walk- is a resurrection!  When someone says, "How does he do that?"  It honors Christ- for His power is seen in our inability.  When someone is amazed at what God does through us- it is not us that should get the glory (or it wouldn't be amazing).  God gets the glory.  He made us with what little strength we have- but He is the One who feeds us in the famines as He fed Elijah. He is the One who lifts us out of our mud pits as he lifted Jeremiah.  He is the One who rescues us from the sea as He rescued Jonah.  He is the One who allows us to suffer on the cross- only to raise us up from the dead.  In our weakness- He is strong- and we- tied to Him- are strong too!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

2 Corinthians 11- Paul's hardship

24Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.28Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? (2 Cor. 11)

Thoughts: Paul did not have an easy road.  What made him continue?  It was not that he was forced to by weapons.  People tried to force him to recant by weapons and whipping- both Jews and Gentiles.  He has suffered- without nourishment, shelter, and clothing- the very basics of life.  Obviously Paul had a great purpose that drove him on- that kept him from being distracted. Paul knew the power of the Gospel to change a person for the better.  His purpose was to pass that great news on.  It was not a news of comfort- sometimes just the opposite.  But the love of Christ makes us numb to the torture of the world, and pushes us out of our comfort zone and selfishness to a higher purpose. 
     Out of his love for Christ, he not only was able to push through hardship, but he had extra sympathy and love for those who accepted the message.  This is a glimpse into the hardship, love and soul of Paul.  

Prayer: Lord, let me not lose sight of you.  You endured the cross for me.  Help me to endure my crosses for you and your glory.  Thank you for saints like Paul who were willing to sacrifice so that the Gospel would be spread even to me. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

2 Corinthians 10

 17But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”b 18For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

Thoughts: If we are blessed with strength, or looks, intelligence or ability- we should give thanks to God- not to ourselves.  Apart from Him we can do nothing.  But with Him all things are possible.  

Prayer; Keep me Lord, from boasting in myself.  Help me to be proud of you, my God.  

Sunday, July 27, 2014

7/28/14- 2 Corinithians 9- Generosity

6Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work...15Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Thoughts: Paul is giving a New Testament theology of giving. It is based on the idea that God has already given the greatest gift- salvation.  God is able to bless us and provide for us.  If we give generously, God gives generously to us. If we withhold out of fear or selfishness, God withholds His blessing from us.  Yet we do not need to give in order to get or give because we feel compelled.  Giving is a blessing.  

Prayer: Help me to be a generous person God as you have been generous to me.  

Saturday, July 26, 2014

2 Corinthians 8

 9For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)

Paul was commending one church that had little but cared for another church that had nothing and was facing famine.  So no church is independent of another.  Perhaps today, when we hear of the Christians in Mosul Iraq being given the choice to a. Convert to Islam, b. be killed, or c. leave, we should have compassion on them.  Macedonia was about 1,000 miles from Jerusalem but was caring for the brothers and sisters in Christ there.  When we become Christians, we are called to not just care about ourselves, but to care for others.
     The reason for caring for others is that God cares for us when we were far away.  When we sinned against Him we drove Him far away, but He still came for us.  He left the riches of heaven to meet our need.  Jesus said the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).  Jesus gave Himself for us.  Part of being a Christian is giving- even giving for strangers or people in other lands.  It means sacrificing something for the higher cause of God. 

Prayer: Lord, thank you for your example of giving and the example of others who follow in your footsteps.  Give me the grace to give.  

Friday, July 25, 2014

2 Corinthians 7

1Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. (2 Corinthians 7)

Thoughts: Much of this chapter is about Paul's relationship with the Corinthians which is a bit rocky.  Corinth had the largest Temple to Aphrodite and the largest Temple to Apollos (the sun god) in the world.  Paul would rebuke the Corinthians when they would slip into pagan practice (if not pagan worship).  
     But Paul's basic advice to a sexually immoral culture is good advice to our culture- where sexual purity seems to be cast to the side.  It is that God has rewards and promises for those who seek to please Him- not just in the life to come- but even in this life.  But there are things that can contaminate our body and our soul.  We should guard our hearts out of respect for God and out of fear of displeasing God.  Some act as if God does not care or does not see what we do.  But God loves us- and He wants the best for us in this life and in the life to come.  If we believed that God really cares what we do, and is a personal God then doubtless it would effect our behavior. 

Prayer: Lord, keep me from polluting my body by doing wrong, and polluting the purity of my soul by going my own way.  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

2 Corinthians 6

14Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15What harmony is there between Christ and Belialb ? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
“I will live with them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.” (2 Corinthians 6)

Thoughts: This is marriage advice but also spiritual advice.  He is saying to not be married to an unbeliever as if unbelief were not important to your soul or your relationship.  This does not mean that it cannot be gotten around.  Timothy's mother was married to a Greek unbeliever and she and Timothy kept their faith.  It is just difficult.  The other thing inferred here and spelled out in other places 1 Cor. 3:16; 1 Cor 6:19 is that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, so we need to take holy care of our bodies as people care for a temple.  You don't have two gods worshiping in the same temple.  Faith is an important question- for if both believe the closer we get to God, the closer we get to each other.  But if only one believes- the closer they get to God the more distance is to the other partner.  

Prayer: Lord, help my heart and relationships be pure and honoring to you. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

2 Corinthians 5- Being Made New

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling,  
17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:a The old has gone, the new is here! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  (2 Corinthians 5)

Thoughts: God makes us new. He makes us new in this life (vs. 17), and He makes us new when our bodies (described here as our "earthly tent") dies.  There is a part of us that groans longing to get to heaven when the pain and heartaches of life are changed into peace and joy. Jesus also makes us a new creation.  We look at life differently when we really accept Christ into our hearts.  It is like putting on glasses when you cannot see well.  Suddenly you see things that were there all along- God's love, God's grace, God's presence.  God brings us to Himself- making us new.  He wants us to spread the news, so that others may be made new.
    As a boy, I can remember sleeping in the back yard in a tent with my best friend until we heard "a noise" and then we ran into the house to the safety of my parents and my bed.  God has the door open- both in this life and the next. 

Prayer: Lord, I long to be made new.  But as I wait- trying to do your will here- help me to enjoy how you are working in my life, making me a new creature. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

2 Corinthians 4

7But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Thoughts: Paul was talking about how the body is temporary but the soul lasts forever.  The body is like a clay jar holding the treasure of the soul.  The clay jar doesn't last, but the treasure does.  The body can be crushed and perplexed but the soul cannot be destroyed.  So, even if we are sick, or are being persecuted, we do not need to lose heart.  We do not need to be enamored with the temporary, but we should fix our eyes on God the eternal One. 

Prayer: Help me to fix my eyes, Lord, on what will last.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

2 Corinthians 3 (7/22/14)

4Such confidence we have through Christ before God. 5Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 6He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—...11And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
12Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 

Thoughts: Where do you get your confidence?  It is not in and of ourselves. Our confidence is not based on our looks, our strength/health, our mental capacity.  God gives all of those things- and He also gives us confidence/faith in what will last.  If we are God's side, we work, not for temporary glory, but for eternal glory which lasts.  I have seen a little chihuahua have great confidence while a huge greyhound be as she as can be.  It is not the little dog in the fight that counts- but the fight in the little dog!  Christians do not need to be ashamed, embarrassed.  They are on the winning and right side- the side of the Maker- the side of the One who loves them.  The world needs to know the message that Christians have.  It is a message that can bring hope to the hopeless, strength to the weary, and love to the broken hearted.  It is a message that there is a cosmic and eternal forgiveness that enables us to escape the mistakes, failures, and mess-ups of the past.
      A couple of small things here.  Paul says that they are his letter.  Paul's credentials rest on their character.  They tell the world the message Paul has to give.  They prove that people can be changed for the better in Christ.
      The part about the letter, the law, veiled faces and all refers to Moses' receiving the Ten Commandments (engraved on stone).  The Law/commandments of the Old Testament is seen as a lesser glory than the grace received in Christ found in the New Testament.  When Moses received the Ten Commandments- which teach us where we fail but do not teach us how to be forgiven/saved- he had a glow about him- a temporary glory.  But we work for an eternal glory.  Give yourself for the eternal glory- and you will find confidence and hope. 

Prayer: Lord, give me confidence in you.  We put no confidence in our own temporary bodies. Use me to spread your glory to be a letter to others for you. 

Moses with glowing and veiled face


Sunday, July 20, 2014

2 Corinthians 2- Forgiveness and Restoration

6The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. 7Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.

Thoughts: Paul was seeking not to grieve the Corinthians, but to love them.  So he asked the people to forgive the one that he had asked them to punish in 1 Corinthians 5.  In the end, earthly punishment ideally should have the hope of restoration.  Even someone who had the sin of pagan sexual immorality, could be forgiven and restored.  There is no sin, except rejection of God (called the blasphemy of the Holy Spririt) that cannot be forgiven.  God longs for His people to be forgiven and restored.
    This is a real-life story of the Prodigal.  God longs for His children to be restored to Him.  

Prayer: Lord, forgive me, and help me to be forgiven.  Give me grace to forgive others as you have forgiven me. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

7/19/14- 2 Corinthians 1

Paul an apostle and Timothy our brother...
To the church at Corinth.

Paul was a Jewish leader, formerly named Saul.  Timothy was his right hand man whose mother was a Jew and his father was a Greek.  Corinth was an important Greek port of the time.  Corinth had a lot of sexual immorality in it and had a huge temple everyone could see on top of the hill to the goddess of love.  STDs were everywhere in Corinth.

"Praise be to the God...of all comfort who comforts us in all our trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. "

God comforts us so we can comfort others.. The bad things we go through can help us to sympathize with others going through similar things  Paul himself had faced death many times, and felt like God was teaching him to fully rely on God.

Paul is reminding them God is not fickle, but trustworthy.  When God says "Yes" he means yes.
The Holy Spirit is a kind of seed blessing to greater blessings we will receive in heaven.

Paul ended chapter one saying that it is by faith that we stand firm.  Faith keeps us from giving into evil.

Prayer: Lord, give me sympathy for the hurting people around me.  Help me to walk by faith and not by sight- fully relying on you.

Corinth- On top of mountain was the Temple to Aphrodite, goddess of love.  

7/20/14- Focus of the Soul

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these other things will be added to you.  (Matthew 6:33)

Whom have I in heaven but you, and being with you I desire nothing beside you.  My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  (Psalm 73:25,26)

Thoughts: There is a secret place to which we may retreat.  It is the soul.  God placed it there, and God communicates there.  It is the portion of us that does not die like the body, but can be wounded, can be sold or traded for material goods or drugs or temporary pleasure.  But Jesus rhetorically asked, "What can you give in exchange for your soul?" (Mk. 8:37). There is nothing more valuable.  To guard and keep your heart and soul, it must no only have boundaries to which you will not allow it to go, but also focus and a center.  The focus of the soul should be on the Maker of the soul.  The real soul food is the Lord.  He is the One who nourishes our soul.  It is for this reason we should seek Him, and search for Him. love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.  As we truly seek God, listening for and to Him, we will not only discover our center, but also our boundaries.  The Holy One, the Light, the way truth and life does not abide with the unholy, the ways of destruction and hurt.  A soul may wander off, may become lost and distracted and unfocused.  We may even ignore our soul- but it is still there.  If the soul is fed well it becomes a strength.  Just like the body that is exercised and fed well can be a strength and the body that is fed with too much fat, sugar, and bad drugs can become a burden rather than a vehicle to help us do more in life.  The soul can provide inner strength, courage, grace, and hope that can help us in life.

Prayer: Lord, be the focus of my soul.  Be the strength of my heart.

Friday, July 18, 2014

7/19/14- Peace and Trouble

33“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Thoughts:  People are trying to find peace in this world.  It leads to the Never-satisfying itch of consumerism.  The idea of consumerism- is that it is all about my finding peace in myself.  The common way to try to find it is through buying things.  But things do not satisfy forever.  The rich must give it up.  Another step in the same direction is education . Education, we are told alleviates poverty.  But what we are finding today is that some of the wealthiest institutions are the universities fueled on the backs of the poor buying lottery tickets that fund scholarships; or fueled on the backs of student loans borrowed from the government paid back at tremendous rates.  In the end educational pride can steal our soul away or we may give away our education when dementia or death hit. Education is so highly thought of but it is another way to define consumerism and a tremendous human effort to find peace on earth.  But smart people can be smart selfish people, or smart sinful people- to the point that we believe we can judge God or judge religion as being less sophisticated and civilized as the life we design (forgetting the pride design of the Nazis or Soviets),
     Truth is our education only makes our sin that much more sophisticated.  Now we have nuclear weapons.  When we look at an Iran heading toward nuclear armament, and a North Korea already there, then we see the peace the world gives.
      Buddhism seeks above all peace- nirvana.  But it is achieved at the cost of avoiding real love- the elimination of desire.  Desire is not the same as consumerism.  Desire is a God given trait that can help us love our spouse, our children, others.  All religions seek peace.  But Jesus says in this world we will still have trouble or tribulation.  Yet, in the midst of such pessimism toward the limitations of the world is an undeterred optimism that cannot be squished.  We can be of good cheer for Christ has overcome the world.  The worst the world could offer was to put the Maker on a torture mechanism- the cross.  But He overcame the worst of the world and can help us overcome our trouble/tribulation here.
     We hear of trouble in Iran, South Sudan, Nigeria, North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, Gaza/Israel.  We should pray and work for the peace of the world.  But true peace begins with the hope of the soul, and the cheerfulness of eternity in the face of the temporary.  We can have peace not because things go our way, or we are wealthy, or we are not at war.  The peace of God goes beyond such surface things.  True peace begins with believing the Prince of Peace has overcome the world!

Prayer: Lord, give me peace not from making my selfish soul satisfied- but by changing my soul from selfishness to otherness.  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

7/18/14- Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: "May those who love you be secure. (Psalm 122:6)

Thoughts: Still today, the peace of Jerusalem is important.  It was a huge debate at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).  The Presbyterian Church reaffirmed its desire for a two state solution- that all parties should recognize that Israel has a right to exist and the Palestinians have a right to exist.  When we see the news, we should not ignore it as if it is far away and does not effect us.  We are called to pray.  It is not ineffective or speaking into the air to pray for peace.  It is not simply a wishing into a vacuum.  Rather, it is speaking to the heart of God, echoing back to Him what He has asked us to do.  

Prayer: Lord, you are the Prince of Peace.  Have mercy on us.  Bring peace to the Middle East. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

7/17/14- Truths of VBS

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. (3 John 1:4)

Thoughts: I digress from the regular blog to just rejoice in a simple but mini-miracle that is in many churches- Vacation Bible School.  I am so excited about what God is doing in our Bible School this year.  Instead of staff doing most of it (as was the case just a few years ago) parents are plugging in and running the games, the science fun (in place of just crafts), leading in the songs, cooking the food, directing the program and more.   Years ago someone told me that Vacation Bible School was one of the best evangelistic tools the Presbyterian Church has today.  It still is.  It provides a break for the parents and lots of fun for the kids but also gives them God to know and to rely on.  It is true "A little child shall lead them."  Children invite children who invite parents and grandparents and people begin to see the need to know of hope, and love, and grace.  The children are the future and the present of the church.  I have no greater joy than that my children are walking in the truth.  

Prayer: Lord, keep our children walking in the truth.  Help them to continue to walk the walk.  Help them to walk along the narrow path of truth and love.  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

7/16/14- Holiness is not Division

Be ye holy for I am holy.  (Leviticus 11:44; 19:2; 20:7; 1 Peter 1:15,16)

47“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13) 

Thoughts:  One goal in life is to please God by seeking to be holy.  The word "Holy" means "other" or "separate."  So some would say that the holiness of the Church rests in our ability to separate from sin. But this is to confuse what we are called to separate from and what makes the Church holy.  We are to be different from the world and worldliness- whether worldliness is in the church or in the culture.  We are called to be holy as individuals (each fish in the net was separated).  What makes the Church really holy are not our works or our righteousness but the Holy Spirit who enables us to be holy and righteous before God (not before men).  We say "Hate the sin but not the sinner."  Being holy is not about an institution or a group- but about our relationship with God.
     While everyone should seek to be holy no one fully gets there.  There is no one who is holy like the Lord (1 Sam. 2:2); There is no one righteous- not even one (Rom. 3:10). The angels are sometimes referred to as the holy ones.   But there is no perfect church.
     In the fourth and fifth century there was a major controversy between the Donatists and the orthodox (Catholic).  The problem was that during the Roman persecution the emperor went after the clergy and told them to pinch some incense off before his statue or die.  Some gave in.  But later they repented their recantation of the faith and tried to go back into the fold.  The Donatists believed they should never be allowed back.  Furthermore, the Donatists believed, that any baptism or wedding or communion or ordination performed by such a person was not valid.  Augustine led the orthodox church in saying that what made the rite (baptism, wedding, communion, ordination) holy was not the minister but the Holy Spirit.  What makes the Church holy is not that it believes perfectly or even practices perfectly- no one does on this side (we see through a mirror dimly 1 Cor. 13:13).  But God is gracious.  There  are many Donatists alive today who would say that the denomination affiliation is what makes one holy or not holy.
     The parables of the nets and tares in Matthew 13  remind us that God does the separating at the end of the ages.  While we should always seek holiness in this life- not by separation but by holy living and belief- different from the world- we will not achieve perfect holiness until we get to heaven.

Prayer: Holy Spirit you are the One who makes me Holy.  Help me to live in your holiness.  Help me to reflect that in the way I think, speak, and act.  Help me to grow in sanctification but to thirst for the day when I will be made holy by you.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Barnabas and Paul's Dispute

1Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.
36Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” 37Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. 41He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.(Acts 15)
Thoughts: Paul and Barnabas were the first recorded missionaries, and there is some major disagreement recorded here.  First Paul and Barnabas disagreed with those who wanted to circumcize the Gentile converts.  They took that case together to the Apostles in Jerusalem and won the case together.  Then they went to Antioch- their home church.  Barnabas (whose name means "son of encouragement") wanted to take his cousin John Mark.  Paul did not want to take John Mark because he had become fearful and deserted them.  So Paul and Barnabas split up- Barnabas going to Cyprus and Paul going to Syria. We see early on, disagreements among even strong people of faith.
     Some use this story as an example to say the church should divide at times- divide and conquer.  I have sometimes heard that it is better to divide so that more people can be reached.  Yet this was not a permanent division.  John Mark later wrote the Gospel of Mark- which scholars say is the earliest Gospel.  Later Paul is said to have asked for John Mark (2 Tim. 4:11) which shows a reconciliation.  In other words, this story is not a permanent denominational rift resulting in the Paulites and the Barnabasites.  Both served the same Lord in the same larger church, and Paul would ask "Is Christ divided?" He wrote this about those who would follow certain people- Apollos, Peter, etc.
     Differences of opinion arise.  Paul and Barnabas would have "sharp debate" (15:2). Diversity and different viewpoints is important.  But division is not the way to go.  The effort of the council in Acts 15 was to stay together and to find a way to work alongside each other.  

Prayer: Help me to work with others who think differently from me, Lord.  

Sunday, July 13, 2014

7/14/14- Standing in the Breach

18Fire blazed among their followers;
a flame consumed the wicked.
19At Horeb they made a calf
and worshiped an idol cast from metal.
20They exchanged their glorious God
for an image of a bull, which eats grass.
21They forgot the God who saved them,
who had done great things in Egypt,
22miracles in the land of Ham
and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.
23So he said he would destroy them—
had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him
to keep his wrath from destroying them. (Psalm 106:18-23)

Thoughts:  Who will be the person who stands in the breach?  Moses could have said, "God make a new Israel out of me and destroy these sinners."  But Moses stood with his people, prayed for them, taught them truth, and God forgave, straightened them and healed them.
    Who will be the missionaries to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)?  Who will not forsake them because they have offended but will stand with them, living with them, being incarnate- as Jesus did with us?  Who will care about the 1.7 million souls?  The idea of leaving in a huff out of pride of being embarrassed by decisions, or fear that this will ruin our ministry, or fear of repercussions from a COM or presbytery goes against the missionary spirit.  Missionaries were willing to "come and die" in order to reach people for Christ.  We are all called to be missionaries where God has placed us first.  We have been put here for such a time as this.  We are called to risk for the sake of the Gospels and not to retreat from the front lines when there is a breach in the lines.  

Prayer: Help me to be someone who plugs in a hole in the dam.  Help me to be someone who stands for truth against a flood of misperception and misinterpretation.   Give me the strength of Moses to stand with the people with which you have providentially placed me.