Ephesians 2 Part 1–The Gift of Salvation

Paul was clear; if one was to take a measure of their lives, their actions, attitudes, and focus–the result would be that each of us is deserving of death and separation from God. All have followed the ways of the world, desired the things of the world, believed the lies of the world and ultimately resembled the godlessness of the world.  The great news is that Jesus death and resurrection was the ultimate gift and allowed and still allows men the grace to have a relationship with God.
 
It is by grace we are saved. It is our faith, not our works that save us. Ironically, that gift does affect our works.  We want to honor God, we want to live a life worthy of the Gospel.  We desire to follow him and complete the mission He has for our lives. The most wonderful part, however, is that the desire we have to please God is not a compulsion born out of fear, but, it is instead a longing based in love and devotion.  We simply want to please God because He first loved us.  We do not retire each night checking a scorecard of achievement. Instead, we rest in the faith that we are saved by His grace and are free to follow the Lord and complete the plan set out for us, through our faith in Christ Jesus. It is still a gift, and we are still “works in progress” but, His grace is sufficient to save us and complete the work.
 
God Bless You
 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

I Corinthians 13–The Impact Love Has on our Faith and Our Ministry

Paul came to what many would call the climax of his letter to the Corinthians. It was the discussion to end all questions about Life, sacrifice and talent.  It reframed the entire discussion of faith into one single word. Love. Paul starts the discussion with what love is not–1. Love is not saying the right words or teaching the right doctrines–because to do so without love is both noisy and annoying.  2. Speaking the truth and foretelling the mystery of life is not love; to do so without love is worth nothing. 3. Personal sacrifice in deed or death is not love, because making a sacrifice without love gains one nothing.
 
Paul then addresses what love is–it is patient, it is kind, it is humble, selfless, graceful. It does not act brash, rude, boastful nor does it snicker at the sins and crimes of others. Love rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, endures all things, it is always hopeful and always positive about others.  Love is quite simply what we are all about.  
 
When operating out of love the “religious activities” naturally occur.  Amazingly, they are more beautiful, helpful and meaningful when they come from the love we have for God and for one another. As in everything else in Christianity God looks at our hearts, not our deeds.  If our heart is right, the deeds happen. But using the deeds as a way to gain approval, when done without love is a distorted mess. That is the heart of love and that is the heart of ministry.
 
God Bless You

 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.

I Corinthians 11 Part 2–Church is More Than Simply Gathering

The Corinthians never had a problem getting together, in fact, that was one of Paul’s major concerns.  The people were coming to argue and to party.  The regular meeting to take communion had become a combination tailgate party and runway to show the haves vs have nots.  Some people would come to the fellowship and not have anything while others would come and get drunk and eat bread until they were sick. Paul was furious.
First, communion is for remembering the sacrifice Christ, it was not about us. So, when folks came in and used it as a buffet and bar, clearly Christ was neither the focus nor purpose for the communion. 
In addition, If folks were coming to communion underfed and hungry, the church should have been meeting those needs in another forum–not communion.  The church body should not have had a “have’s” and “have not’s” division. It is unthinkable to have such issues in a prosperous and growing church.
 
As believers, we need to keep our focus on Christ, His sacrifice and His leadership.  Communion is an opportunity to stop, take stock and refocus upon Him.  When we come together as believers, we are blessed to share that experience of remembering His sacrifice and love for us. We must never use that time to focus on our needs or our accomplishments.
As a body, Christians must focus on how to serve Christ and the others in His church. We must be proactive in our service and humble in our demeanor–if we will, then the Church will be a family, not a meeting place. Our gathering will be a joyful time and not a time of jealousy, pride, and infighting. Help us, Lord, to gather with the desire of honoring you and not focusing on ourselves.
 
God Bless You

 In the following directives, I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent, I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. 20 So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. 22 Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter!

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

2 Samuel 23 Part 2–David’s Mighty Men

In a word, David was an amazing king. But, he would not have been as amazing, had it not been for the mighty men God gave him for support. This passage in Samuel lays out the exploits of the loyal guards of David. Of the hundreds of thousands of troops that served the king, these men rose to the top. Among the group were three that were so amazing, they were called, “The Three”. And beyond them were an additional 34 men that served David without question and risked their lives without any thought to their own safety or honor.  These men were all placed in God’s “Hall of Fame” because of their devotion to God and their king. One name that appears–Uriah the Hittite, was the man David had killed to take Bathsheba. Uriah was a man of honor!
 
None of us can do life alone.  We seek the Lord, but, he kindly puts folks in our lives to support us and carry us through the peaks and valleys we face. As we look back at the people God has given to us as our “Mighty Men”, none enter our lives to build a name for themselves. They all walk alongside and do what is necessary to be a friend simply out of love and devotion. We can never be grateful enough for the mighty men in our lives. we simply need to remember them, honor them and know that it was God that gave them to us. We remain thankful to Him for such an amazing gift. I am so grateful for the mighty men God has placed in my life. Many of you read this and know who you are. So please accept this note as a note of thanks and know I am forever grateful for you being a part of my amazing journey.
 
God Bless You

Josheb-Basshebeth,[a] a Tahkemonite,[b] was chief of the Three; he raised his spear against eight hundred men, whom he killed[c] in one encounter.

Next to him was Eleazar son of Dodai the Ahohite. As one of the three mighty warriors, he was with David when they taunted the Philistines gathered at Pas Dammim[d] for battle. Then the Israelites retreated, 10 but Eleazar stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword. The Lord brought about a great victory that day. The troops returned to Eleazar, but only to strip the dead.

11 Next to him was Shammah son of Agee the Hararite. When the Philistines banded together at a place where there was a field full of lentils, Israel’s troops fled from them. 12 But Shammah took his stand in the middle of the field. He defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the Lord brought about a great victory…

Abishai the brother of Joab son of Zeruiah was chief of the Three.[e] He raised his spear against three hundred men, whom he killed, and so he became as famous as the Three.19 Was he not held in greater honor than the Three? He became their commander, even though he was not included among them.

20 Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, performed great exploits. He struck down Moab’s two mightiest warriors. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion. 21 And he struck down a huge Egyptian. Although the Egyptian had a spear in his hand, Benaiah went against him with a club. He snatched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear. 22 Such were the exploits of Benaiah son of Jehoiada; he too was as famous as the three mighty warriors. 23 He was held in greater honor than any of the Thirty, but he was not included among the Three. And David put him in charge of his bodyguard.

24 Among the Thirty were:

Asahel the brother of Joab,

Elhanan son of Dodo from Bethlehem,

25 Shammah the Harodite,

Elika the Harodite,

26 Helez the Paltite,

Ira son of Ikkesh from Tekoa,

27 Abiezer from Anathoth,

Sibbekai[f] the Hushathite,

28 Zalmon the Ahohite,

Maharai the Netophathite,

29 Heled[g] son of Baanah the Netophathite,

Ithai son of Ribai from Gibeah in Benjamin,

30 Benaiah the Pirathonite,

Hiddai[h] from the ravines of Gaash,

31 Abi-Albon the Arbathite,

Azmaveth the Barhumite,

32 Eliahba the Shaalbonite,

the sons of Jashen,

Jonathan 33 son of[i] Shammah the Hararite,

Ahiam son of Sharar[j] the Hararite,

34 Eliphelet son of Ahasbai the Maakathite,

Eliam son of Ahithophel the Gilonite,

35 Hezro the Carmelite,

Paarai the Arbite,

36 Igal son of Nathan from Zobah,

the son of Hagri,[k]

37 Zelek the Ammonite,

Naharai the Beerothite, the armor-bearer of Joab son of Zeruiah,

38 Ira the Ithrite,

Gareb the Ithrite

39 and Uriah the Hittite.

There were thirty-seven in all

2 Samuel 9–The Power of Friendship

David never forgot his promise to Jonathan. After he settled the kingdom and established himself, he sought out any living relatives of Saul. Jonathan’s son was left.  David immediately had him brought to Jerusalem, he restored Mephibosheth with all his families Lands and wealth. He brought the young man to his table and assigned him servants for the rest of his life. He did not do any of those things because he had to, he did them simply because he promised his friend Jonathan.
 
It is great when we see such friendship and devotion.  In our lives, we are all blessed with friends and should always be ready to pour our lives into them as well.  We never know the impact our devotion to others will bring. But the investment of our lives into others can and should yield loyalty that lives long past us.  We are here to live with purpose and leave a legacy.  We should be devoted like Jonathan was to David; and, like David was to Jonathan’s son.  Father Help me to be that kind of friend.
 
God Bless You

David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”

Now there was a servant of Saul’s household named Ziba. They summoned him to appear before David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?”

“At your service,” he replied.

The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”

Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.”

“Where is he?” the king asked.

Ziba answered, “He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.”

So, King David, had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel.

When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor.

David said, “Mephibosheth!”

“At your service,” he replied.

“Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”

Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?”

Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s steward, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. 10 You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandsonmay be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.” (Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.)

I Samuel 14 Part 3–Man Made Rules

Things were going so well.  Jonathan had listened to the Lord and as he followed God, He routed the Philistine army.  His faith inspired the army and Israel enjoyed a great victory.  Saul decided to call a fast for all the men.  He imposed the fast until the evening.  Sadly, Jonathan did not hear about the fast and ate some honey.  Immediately God withdrew his blessing.  The king imposed a rule on God’s behalf, and now his son violated it.  So, as a result the Israelites had to stop the route and go home.
 
I am sure Saul meant well, but, He forgot to seek God before imposing a fast in the middle of a battle.  Had he sought the Lord, God would have said–this is not the best time, your men are expending a great amount of energy fighting–they need food.  None the less, Saul’s rule caused his son to sin and ended Israel’s victory.  Jonathan was mad, Saul was grieved and God was silenced on that day.  
 
In our lives, we have to be careful about imposing self-made rules to show God how religious we really are.  God looks at our hearts.  If we submit to Him and He molds is into His image–the Lord will lead us to actions that are necessary to become more like Him.  God does not need our help to make ourselves more religious.  We simply need to trust God to lead and follow that lead each day.  In Colossians 2:20-23 Paul says it best,”Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”
 
God Bless You

Now the Israelites were in distress that day, because Saul had bound the people under an oath, saying, “Cursed be anyone who eats food before evening comes, before I have avenged myself on my enemies!” So none of the troops tasted food.

25 The entire army entered the woods, and there was honey on the ground. 26 When they went into the woods, they saw the honey oozing out; yet no one put his hand to his mouth, because they feared the oath. 27 But Jonathan had not heard that his father had bound the people with the oath, so he reached out the end of the staff that was in his hand and dipped it into the honeycomb. He raised his hand to his mouth, and his eyes brightened.[c] 28 Then one of the soldiers told him, “Your father bound the army under a strict oath, saying, ‘Cursed be anyone who eats food today!’ That is why the men are faint.”

29 Jonathan said, “My father has made trouble for the country. See how my eyes brightened when I tasted a little of this honey. 30 How much better it would have been if the men had eaten today some of the plunder they took from their enemies. Would not the slaughter of the Philistines have been even greater?”

Numbers 27 Part 2–End of Mission

It was a heart rending moment, I am sure, for Moses when the Lord said–it is time to go. He had led the Israelites for over 40 years and now at the edge of the promised land, he had to die. There were many days that Moses wished he had simply honored God’s command–but, he knew this day would come and he met it bravely and thoughtfully.  As a great leader, his first thought was not to beg for a second chance–it was to make sure the people had a worthy leader.Joshua had been with Moses since Egypt. He had always honored Moses and God. He was one of the spies that said,”Lets do this!”  He was ready to lead the people.  So God transferred the authority of Moses to Joshua through God’s priest Eleazar. Moses laid hands on Joshua and commissioned him to lead the people into the promised land. At that, Moses had completed the mission God had given him. It was a daunting mission, and clearly it took an amazing servant to complete it.  Moses was that servant.It is the prayer of my heart to be that kind of servant. To follow the Lord’s leadership and commands.  To walk faithfully to the end of the mission.  It is often thankless, frustrating and daunting. Still, we are assured that God is with us and will lead us throughout the amazing journey.God Bless You

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go up this mountain in the Abarim Range and see the land I have given the Israelites. 13 After you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was, 14 for when the community rebelled at the waters in the Desert of Zin,both of you disobeyed my command to honor me as holy before their eyes.” (These were the waters of Meribah Kadesh, in the Desert of Zin.)

15 Moses said to the Lord, 16 “May the Lord, the God who gives breath to all living things,appoint someone over this community 17 to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”

18 So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit of leadership,[a] and lay your hand on him. 19 Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire assembly and commission him in their presence. 20 Give him some of your authority so the whole Israelite community will obey him. 21 He is to stand before Eleazar the priest, who will obtain decisions for him by inquiring of the Urim before the Lord. At his command he and the entire community of the Israelites will go out, and at his command they will come in.”

22 Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He took Joshua and had him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole assembly. 23 Then he laid his hands on him and commissioned him,as the Lord instructed through Moses