2 Corinthians 10 Part 1–Spiritual Warfare

Paul was defending his ministry. Specifically, He was defending his approach to ministry.  His letters were and are packed with power. But, as Paul was sending the messages by letter many argued he was only bold from a distance. I am sure that there were days when Paul thought, “I gave up my life and role as a Jewish leader–for this???”  But Paul made clear that we are in a spiritual war. It is a battle that requires spiritual weapons.  We use those weapons for tearing down the strongholds in our, lives so that we can follow God closely. Paul faced the battle daily, he attacked it with prayer, study and continued faith in the God that brought him across the known world to bring Christ to the Gentiles.
 
In our lives, the formula remains the same trust God, follow Him read His word, pray–and remember our battles are spiritual ones.  We can never give up, give in or simply ignore the daily battles we face.  We have to attack them with the faith that God is with us and will assist in tearing down the strongholds in our lives.  We, as His children, can fully rely upon God to carry us through the battles we face.  We simply have to trust and follow him–no matter where that takes us.
 
God Bless You

By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you—I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away! I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.

You are judging by appearances.[a] If anyone is confident that they belong to Christ, they should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as they do. So even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of it. I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters. 10 For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.” 11 Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.

I Corinthians 15 Part 2–The Ressurection

As in the Jewish community, there were factions among the church regarding the resurrection.  Paul was not going to let that faction remain.  Paul was quick to remind the Corinthians that without the resurrection, the entire idea of Christ and salvation was a useless one.  Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was a sacrifice to restore the relationship between God and men.  To simply have died and not risen would have done nothing to restore the relationship between God and men.  It would have been a beautiful act of martyrdom, but of little use for restoration of a fallen world. 
 
So Paul made clear that not only did Christ pay the ultimate price for our sin, but He beat death, rose again and lives to intercede on our behalf.  We cannot forget the sacrifice Christ made for us, but we have to cling to the resurrection as our means to be in relationship with God. We must live lives that are eternal in perspective, not lives that indicate that this life is all we have.  We look forward to the day of Christ’s return where we will be new creations in a new kingdom forgiven, restored and living eternally with our Lord!
 
God Bless You

 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope[b] in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

1 Corinthians 15 Part 1–The Gospel

One of the most simple but amazing messages ever penned. Paul laid the gospel out for the Corinthians in an orderly and relative manner. Christ died, He was buried, he rose and appeared to many people over a period of time that can be verified. Paul was helping all to remember this was so much more than a religion.  It was a relationship with a living God and a living Savior.  That relationship changed the lives of the Apostles–none were anything extraordinary–but then, upon his resurrection–these guys changed the world. Especially Paul!
 
Paul went from religious zealot to humble and grateful servant; bringing this gospel across the gentile world. It cost him his fortune, his freedom, and ultimately his life. Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand why it was worth it. This was no religious ritual, it was a life-changing relationship; put in place through the death of God’s son. Same is still true. We are blessed beyond measure, simply because of the very same gospel. He died and rose for us! we owe God everything–but all He seeks is our faith, belief, and submission to His plan. 
 
Thanks, Lord, for Your Gospel–Your gift, for Your sacrifice, and for Your desire to remain in relationship with us!
 
God Bless You

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas,[b] and then to the Twelve.After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

I Corinthians 8–Preferences and Selflessness

Paul was dealing with an issue that really had little bearing on salvation. Dietary laws.  Many Corinthians were purchasing and eating meat after it had been sacrificed to an idol. It was kind of the Aldi’s of Corinth.  For Paul, it was no big deal, but to some it was idolatry.  They brought their concern to Paul and h made it clear–Meat is meat and idols mean nothing…EXCEPT, if ones partaking of such meat causes another to fall away from the Lord.  That was significant–that changed the conversation from the meat to an attitude of selflessness.  If they participated in the practice knowing it was hurting others, then they were not honoring God and His grace; they were simply being selfish.  Paul drew the line at that point.
 
In our culture, we face these type questions daily. What movies are acceptable, what music is acceptable, how do couples behave during courtship. Smoking, drinking, gambling, dancing, and fashion all have their places in church discourse and division. Like the meat, Most of these issues are issues of preference.  Christians should not judge. When, however, the preference causes another to stumble or reject the gospel; then it is no longer about the preference, it is about the attitude of selflessness. There is no meal or movie that is more important than the eternal destiny of a friend.  We need to have Christ’s attitude of selflessness and sacrifice as it relates to our treatment of preference. If we will, God will honor it and bless us for following his lead. Help me, Lord to seek you first and foremost and allow my preferences to honor you.
 
God Bless You

 Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.[a]

So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.

I Samuel 20 Part 1–Great Friends

In the midst of Saul’s mission to kill his son-in-law, David, Jonathan, Saul’s son and heir to his throne, still was David’s best friend. Jonathan had no idea of his father’s hatred of David.  David had been loyal to the kingdom and to his father.  So when David approached Jonathan to ask the reason for Saul’s wrath, Jonathan was truly surprised and skeptical.  Saul and Jonathan were close. They shared everything. Saul was preparing the kingdom for Jonathan and would never make a move like that without letting Jonathan know…would he?
 
Saul knew Jonathan and David were dear friends. Saul did not want to tell his son of the plan. Saul knew what he was doing was wrong, and he knew Jonathan would side with David rather than with Saul–and Saul did not want to face that. What Saul did not know was that God established the covenant between Jonathan and David. No matter what Saul had in mind, God would not allow Jonathan to be a part of it.  The consequence of Saul’s rejection of God would not harm the covenant between these great friends.
 
God kindly puts great friends in our lives.  We pour our hearts and lives into those friends. Those are the folks that see us at our best and worst but love us just the same.  It is those friends we look to and draw upon when we are seeking honest feedback, heartfelt prayer, and continued life support. It is those friends to whom we are available 24/7-365. We would never question their need, we would never give up on them.  I thank my dear friends for their years of loyalty. I would be long dead if not for you. I hope that I have been a Jonathan in your lives; as you certainly been so in mine.  Friendship is a precious treasure. David knew it and so do we.  Let us never take for granted those friends God has supplied.
 
God Bless You

Then David fled from Naioth at Ramah and went to Jonathan and asked, “What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father, that he is trying to kill me?”

“Never!” Jonathan replied. “You are not going to die! Look, my father doesn’t do anything, great or small, without letting me know. Why would he hide this from me? It isn’t so!”

But David took an oath and said, “Your father knows very well that I have found favor in your eyes, and he has said to himself, ‘Jonathan must not know this or he will be grieved.’ Yet as surely as the Lord lives and as you live, there is only a step between me and death.”

Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do for you.”

So David said, “Look, tomorrow is the New Moon feast, and I am supposed to dine with the king; but let me go and hide in the field until the evening of the day after tomorrow. If your father misses me at all, tell him, ‘David earnestly asked my permission to hurry to Bethlehem,his hometown, because an annual sacrifice is being made there for his whole clan.’ If he says, ‘Very well,’ then your servant is safe. But if he loses his temper, you can be sure that he is determined to harm me. As for you, show kindness to your servant, for you have brought him into a covenant with you before the Lord. If I am guilty, then kill me yourself! Why hand me over to your father?”

“Never!” Jonathan said. “If I had the least inkling that my father was determined to harm you, wouldn’t I tell you?”

10 David asked, “Who will tell me if your father answers you harshly?”

I Samuel 3–Your Servant is Listening

The thing that made Samuel great, in a time when God had little impact on Israel, was that Samuel was ready to serve. The passage tells the story of Samuel hearing from God.  Since God had been quiet, Samuel had trouble understanding his call.  He ran to Eli, the priest.  Eli finally figured it out, and taught Samuel how to respond. Samuel obeyed, and that was the beginning of a revival in God’s chosen nation. 1st, God kept his promise as it related to Levi; and second, God began to prepare and Use Samuel to lead the people.  The Lord was with Samuel, and He did not allow any of Samuel’s words to fall to the ground–simply put, if Samuel said it, then it came true!!!
 
God wants nothing more than to bless His chosen.  If we will trust the Lord; if we will simply follow Him and do as He says–then He will honor and bless us.  Samuel was the first recorded prophet. He acted as a objective liaison between God and the priests and leaders of Israel. We are God’s chosen and like Samuel–we are to be the liaisons between Him and the chaotic Godless world in which we live.  In God’s word, we learn to hear Him. As we listen, He will reveal his truth and, like Samuel, our words will not fall to the ground.  Paul said it best in 2 Corinthians 5–As Christians, we are new creations. we are called, in vs. 20, to be His ambassadors in the world–but not of it.  If we will do that, we will enjoy an abundant, purposeful Christian life!
 
God Bless You

The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.

One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called Samuel… v8 Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.10 The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”

Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

11 And the Lord said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle. 12 At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end. 13 For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons blasphemed God,[a] and he failed to restrain them. 14 Therefore I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’”…v19 The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord. 21 The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.

Matthew 7 Part 3–The Message is to Focus

Jesus starts to wrap up the “talk for the ages.” Clearly, He has the attention of the crowd–So, now He delivers the message within the message; the core, the main thing…

The message is to focus–FOCUS! Life in this world is extremely tough, So focus.  Focus on what you need, Jesus called them to focus upon turning to and turning your  needs over to  God! You need not be afraid to ask God for what you need–He is a Dad! Dads that understand loving their kids, give them their needs and desires-neither maliciously or with an agenda! God is so much more loving, selfless and kind! Search for Him, you will find him–knock; He will open up for you! He is God.

Next, Focus upon where you are going. He wanted folks to know–His path is the narrow one! It is neither easy; nor is there a great deal of room to maneuver. God wants our hearts and our submission. It is a non-negotiable. He offers to be our Lord AND Savior not Lord or Savior. The journey leads to life, peace and purpose! So, while it may be a narrow path, it leads to an amazing life–for now and eternity.

Finally, focus on who you are following and becoming. He reminded the people that there would be false prophets–they will look good and speak better! But, their fruit will be awful. Just focus; not only on their words, but, also upon their deeds and their mission. If they are not s glorifying God, they are simply like a wolf wearing a wool  sweater! It may look good, but, it does not make them less of a wolf! In the same vein, just because someone acts religious, it does not mean they even know God! they can put on a great front, but Jesus looks at the heart! So should we! 

We must focus–on what we needwhere we are goingwhom we follow and whose we will be! Unless God is the answer to the question, the results will be empty and short lived. This–is the message! This–is the life.

God Bless You

 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

The Narrow and Wide Gates

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

True and False Prophets

15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

True and False Disciples

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’