Every Body Needs Coaching (Ephesians 4-6)

Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, (12) to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, (13) until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, (14) so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. (15) Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, (16) from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Every good team needs coach. The coach is the one who puts all the players into perspective. He/ she evaluates players different skill sets, teaches the fundamentals, keeps the team in shape, and works the team through practicing the plays. Then on game day the coaches determine who plays, when they play, and what plays to run in a given situation. If coaches do there job well, the entire team does well.

The Lord has given us coaches within the body of Christ who are there to help us develop and coordinate our individual gifts for the sake of the whole body. The goal is to bring God’s people to maturity both individually and corporately. Pastors/ teachers are not there to simply educate or inform us, but to equip us for the work of ministry.

Sometimes a congregation can expect one or two individuals to do everything. They imagine that they pay the pastor(s) to do all the work. That would be like paying a coach to play the game while the rest of the team sits on the sidelines and criticizes him/her. That’s not a healthy team and it’s not healthy when a church operates that way. It’s healthy when you and I exercise our gifts in relation to one another for the glory of God. Some encourage, others serve, still others figure out administration, others teach, and others still offer hospitality, etc. and the pastor encourages and equips so that nothing is missing from the people of God. We are all well trained, well loved, well encouraged, and we mature and help others mature in the faith.

Father, thank you for the grace of one another. Thank you that Christianity isn’t an individual event, but that you have called us together and placed us with in the context of one another to form your church. I pray that we would know and exercise our gifts in relationship to one another in such a way that everyone is encouraged, strengthened, and growing in the Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Godly Sorrow (2 Corinthians 7-9)

2Corinthians 7:10 ESV For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

I went to see the doctor for a check up a few weeks ago. We had a great conversation until he told me that I was fat. To be honest, it stung a little to hear. I knew that it was true, but I didn’t like him saying it. He was encouraging me to lose weight and so he told me all the negative side effects of being fat and how it was effecting my health and could effect my health years down the road.

I was grieved coming out of the doctors office. I had a choice to make. I could either be upset that he was so blunt and choose to get angry and tell all my friends what a terrible doctor he is, or I could take his word to heart and start changing my lifestyle. So far I have been consistently choosing the second option. His harsh word that caused me grief produced a positive change and attitude in me.

This is how it should work when we are confronted about sin in our lives. We don’t need to get mad at the messenger. That doesn’t deal with the sin. We need to come to the Lord in confession and repentance. The basis for the verse above is that Paul had grieved the Corinthians by being so direct and pointing out the issues in the church that needed to be addressed. Rather than let that grief fester into bitterness at Paul, they had moved to action and it produced repentance.

We should be asking ourselves how do we handle it when someone addresses sin in our life? Certainly there is grief. No one likes to be told about their sins, even if they are true. We have a choice we can become bitter at the messenger or we can repent and turn to the LORD. Grief about sin can be godly when it produces repentance.

Father, thank you for placing people in our lives that love us enough to point out the obvious. Thank you for the grace of being confronted and warned about sin. Thank you that when we find ourselves grieved over our sin we can repent of our sin and turn to you. I pray that my heart would never allow sorrow over sin to turn to bitterness at a messenger, but that it would always produce repentance. Thank you again so much for your grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Hospitality of the Saints (1 Corinthians 16)

I love reading some of the endings of Paul’s letters because he shares personal and practical details. Near the conclusion, the Apostle Paul shares his plans to visit the Corinthian church again and plans for other teachers to visit in the mean time. There were no real hotel rooms to lodge in back then, at least not in the way we think of hotel rooms today. Families or wealthy patrons often extended hospitality for those in need of a place to stay. It was particularly customary for folks from among the churches to lodge fellow believers as they came to town.

In the case of teachers or apostles, staying in someone’s home gave them another discipleship opportunity as well as accountability. Paul could easily encourage the Church to follow him as he followed Christ because he lived among them. There were some who had hosted him and could testify to the kind of person he was in private as well as in public. Certainly he impacted lives in homes where he stayed, where ever he went.

One of the products of individualism (that is so pervasive in our culture), is that we have become more and more private. (though our information through social media/technology is more available to the world than you might think.) As we’ve become more private, we’ve become less hospitable. As we work through the global pandemic one of the areas we will need to revive is Christian hospitality to one another. Not just in opening our homes to guests as they come through town, but to one another. There is so much about the Christian life that is better caught through life experience than taught in a classroom environment.

Father, thank you for the grace of one another. I pray that even in the mist of a pandemic that you will give us opportunity and show us how to offer hospitality to one another. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Love (1 Corinthians 13-15)

1Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV 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, but have not love, I gain nothing.

What good is a brand new sports car if you don’t have a battery or any gas? You can’t drive it. It won’t go anywhere because it doesn’t have any power. It might be nice to look at and admire, but it’s fullest potential will never be unleashed without some sort of power.

Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 13 that while the gifts of the Spirit are to be sought, love is what is really needed. Love empowers and directs the use our Spiritual Gifts. We shouldn’t use spiritual gifts to pump ourselves up and inflate our egos, but we should demonstrate love in how we use the spiritual gifts that God has given. Paul works this out in 1 Corinthians 14 when he illustrates what order in a church service should look like. Love seeks to edify the whole congregation, not just itself.

1Corinthians 13:8 ESV Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

One of the thing that will we see just a taste of in this life, that will be perfected in Heaven, is the gift of love. Right now we love in a fallen and a broken world. In Heaven where all brokenness is either outlawed or mended to be whole, we will know love without bitterness. There won’t be envy, prideful boasting, back stabbing, arrogance, or selfishness. Where love remains and is perfected, the people who walk the streets of gold will genuinely want the best for one another. Between the folks there, there will only be the fullest expression of everything listed in this chapter as an attribute of love. Between God and His people, there will only be the deepest love. Love remains. Other things pass away, but one thing we know for certain is that beyond the vail of death, for those in Christ, love remains.

Father, Thank you for loving us. I pray that we earnestly seek to love you and love one another as you empower us with the Holy Spirit. May we be better at loving you and loving others every day of our lives this side of eternity. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Limiting My Freedoms for the Glory of God (1 Corinthians 10-12)

I took a bunch of student leaders on a leadership retreat one year. On our way to the place we were staying, I gave our young leaders the challenge of picking where would stop for lunch. I told them to pick a place that was best for the entire group. The vote was cast and word came back that they wanted Chick-fil-a. I told them it wasn’t best for the entire group. They came back and said Popeyes Chicken. Again, I said it wasn’t best for the group. They came back and said Churches Chicken. Again, I said it wasn’t best for the group. Finally, they were frustrated and asked why those places wouldn’t work? I asked one of the leaders why he didn’t share his allergies with the group? (He was allergic to chicken). He said he was willing to just eat fries or go without food… I shared that we were on a leadership retreat and that good leaders put the needs of others ahead of their own desires and wants. This time word came back for a place we could all eat and no one complained about not getting chicken. They realized the decision they made wasn’t to deny them chicken, but to provide a better lunch experience for their fellow leader.

1Corinthians 10:31 ESV So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

It’s easy to take this out of context and make it a verse about individuality. I did for several years. I thought all this verse meant was that in whatever I did, I should honor God and I should probably pray before each meal. However, the context that we have explored yesterday and today, reminds us that this verse doesn’t come from a context of individuality. It comes from a context of ‘how do we get along with one another when a brother or sister’s conscience is more sensitive to an issue than ours.’

We should glorify God in how we handle such trivial things as food and drink. It means that mature Christians should limit their freedoms for the sake of God’s glory. When facing a difficult decision, I used to ask myself, “How do I glorify God with this decision?” It has been helpful. That question could and should also be asked when it comes to dealing with a brother or sister who has a conscience who won’t let them participate in something that is not a sin.

Father, thank you for the liberties we have in Jesus Christ. Thank you for the opportunity to serve one another by limiting our liberties for the sake of fellowship. I pray you are glorified by our attitude of service when we love and serve one another in this way. In Jesus Name, Amen.

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An Open Letter to My Legalistic Friends

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Serve One Another In Everything(1 Corinthians 7-9)

Leaders eat last. It’s how servant leadership works. Those who are in charge and have the most freedom, use that freedom on others. When a leader eats last, it’s to make sure everyone else got what they needed and were fed.

This isn’t just a leadership rule. It’ also how we raise our kids. The older, more mature kids look out for the younger ones. The stronger ones look out after the weaker. It’s how any healthy society or community works. It’s not different for the church.

There was an issue of eating meat offered to idols in Corinth. Some folks rightly understood that pagan gods weren’t really gods and that meat was, well just meat, even if it had been offered to a false god. But some folks used to go to those same idols and offer meat. To them it was a whole way of life before the Lord got ahold of their heart. So when they saw people they respected pulling up to a temple for a false god and ordering sacrificed meat off the menu, they were incensed! How could a Christian eat that stuff?

So what were folks supposed to do? Give up meat for the sake of their brother? YES! Paul says that the strong are to SERVE the weak! In math this is called the lowest common denominator. Rather than saying, “Oh, grow up!” to the weak brother, we who are free, humble ourselves to the lower standard to our brother’s standard and we use that opportunity to share the gospel. Paul didn’t eat pork when he was with his Jewish brothers because it was offensive. He didn’t charge for the gospel in establishing a new work because he want the offering plate to be a stumbling block for people hearing the gospel.

When it came to meat sacrificed to idols, Paul indicated that it’s better for a brother who has freedom to eat steak, to not eat steak for the sake of his brother. We might put this in terms of wearing a mask during the pandemic. I don’t like wearing masks, but I’ll gladly wear a mask for the sake of my brother who asks me to wear one. The mask isn’t the most important thing. Honoring the Lord, encouraging my brother, and the unity of God’s people are far more important than if I have a mask on my face or not. I sure hope masks work in slowing the spread of the virus (I’ve had it and I never want to have it again), but the primary reason I wear one, is for the sake of others.

Father, give us wisdom in how to become all things to all people. Help us to know if there are any stumbling blocks other than Jesus in our lives. Help us to value our brothers more than we value our own freedoms. I pray for unity in the body of Christ today. In Jesus Name, Amen.

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Sexual Immorality (1 Corinthians 4-6)

This will probably be an unpopular post. To clarify a few things up front. 1. The reason we are talking about this issue is because it is addressed in the scripture. 2. The primary audience I have been writing for are those who profess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. 3. There is no expectation on my part that an unbeliever would understand or live by a Christian ethic of sexual morality. 4. My comments are intended to encourage wayward brothers and sisters to repentance.

My youngest child the other day intentionally hit me with a toy and it really hurt. I said, “ouch” and put the toy in time-out, effectively grounding her from playing with it. Several moments later she came to where I was reading and asked, “Daddy, do you still love me?”

How do you think I responded? Of course I still loved her and I told her so with my words and a great big hug! But I couldn’t endorse or permit her behavior that was hurting others. The way she was playing with the toy, she was also in real a danger hurting herself. She couldn’t see it then, but it was precisely because I loved her that I addressed her behavior.

From Today’s Reading:

1Corinthians 5:1-2 ESV It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you

Immorality was rampant in the Corinthian church. There were many who were strongly influenced by the culture they were living in. A kind of immorality that was celebrated in the culture was now being celebrated in the church. This was wrong! Indeed it was one of the very few things listed by the church council at Jerusalem that gentiles who convert to Christianity should avoid.

Acts 15:19-21 ESV Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”

Today in our culture sexual immorality (simply understood as sex outside of a marriage between a biological man and a biological woman) is being celebrated and championed in our culture. There are even some churches who are also championing the cause of sexual immorality inside the church today. I believe that Paul would lovingly, but strongly rebuke those churches and call them to repentance.

Sexual immorality is a serious sin. Paul reminds us that this category of sin is different because it involves our bodies in ways that other sins don’t. Our bodies are special because God has put the Holy Spirit inside of us. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and so we should pay special attention to glorify God with how we use our bodies. Sexual immorality at its core mocks God’s design in nature and His establishment of the institution of marriage and family.

1Corinthians 6:18-20 ESV Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Paul reminds the Corinthians that those who live sexually immoral life styles will not see the kingdom of heaven. Don’t be deceived though, while this category of sin isn’t great, there are other sins that will keep you out of heaven as well. Indeed, you really only need one sin to be a sinner and one sin will keep you out. All sin is serious.

1Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Yet, Paul doesn’t write to condemn you if you’ve sinned in these ways. He isn’t writing at this point to say that your side of Hell will be especially hot for this type of sin. He’s actually writing to let us know that God through Christ even forgives these sorts of sins when we come to Him in faith and repentance! There were many in the Corinthian church who had lived sexually immoral lifestyles before they trusted in Christ. Trusting in Jesus changed everything. Just look at the very next verse!

1Corinthians 6:11 ESV And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

I’m so grateful that there isn’t a sin in my past or yours that the Lord can’t redeem us from!

Father, Thank you for a direct but loving word on this topic. Give us grace and wisdom today. We ask that you would be glorified in our lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Sin Will Have No More Dominion Over You (Romans 4-6)

Romans 6:13-14 ESV Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

It’s great to listen in to the Dave Ramsey Radio show from time to time and hear folks call in to scream, “We are debt free!” If you listen to the show you know that Dave offers a simple plan to help folks live with in their means, pay off their debt, and live debt free. As Dave puts it, “Live like no one else today, so you can live like no one else tomorrow.” Many times folks call into the show and discuss just how big their debt is. It seems like they can’t enjoy much of life because as soon as their paycheck comes in it goes out to pay for a mortgage, car notes, student loan debts, medical bills, and their consumer credit card. People are drowning in debt. Dave often quotes the prover, “The borrower is slave to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7b).

I can imagine the joy experienced as a family calls in, or drives across the country to show up live in the studio and scream out their testimony, “We are Debt Free!” They are experiencing life where the pay check comes in and it doesn’t have to go right back out! They are free from the burdens, anxieties, and even depression all because their massive debts have been paid off.

Those in Christ have something even greater to rejoice about, we have been set free from the burden of sin! We were once slaves to sin, we had a daily obligation to sinful thoughts, actions, and lifestyles. Our sin separated us from God and kept us from being free to worship Him. Yet through the response of faith to the work of Christ on the cross we are set free from our sin! We are set free not just from the punishment our past sins have earned us, but we are free to worship and glorify God!

The apostle Paul urges us here to remember that we have been set free from sin and to present our selves to the Lord. Let the Holy Spirit work in you! I can’t imagine someone still paying the credit card company long after the debt has been paid. This powerful reminder in God’s word helps us grasp that we no longer have to do the same sort of things we did before Jesus set us free. We have the capacity, through the work of God in our lives, to forgive as we have been forgiven, to love one another as Christ loved us, to encourage and support one another, and all the various commands we find in scripture. Those commands aren’t written to people who are still slaves, but people who are free by the power of the gospel to fulfill whatever commands our Savior gives us. As a friend of mind likes to say all the time, “Where God guides, He provides.” This is especially true when it comes to living the new life in Jesus Christ.

Father, Thank you that you have set me free from slavery to sin. I confess that old habits die hard. Too often I return to broken cisterns thinking they will provide what I need. I rejoice that your word reminds me today that I don’t have to keep going back to dead, dry wells but that I have all I need in you. I’ve been set free from the sins of my past, am no longer bound in the present, and have a bright future ahead where sin will be no more. I pray that I will live fully empowered by the gospel. I rejoice at your work in my life. Conform me more and more into the image of Christ. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Our Conscience (Romans 1-3)

Romans 2:14-16 ESV For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. (15) They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them (16) on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

When I was about 10 or 11 years old, I was playing with a friend at a property that his family had just bought. We were exploring the barns and outer buildings when we came up on a box. Naturally being curious we opened the box and found out that is was full of dirty magazines. No one had ever told me not to look at dirty magazines and I was curious about what was inside of them. At that moment however there was a gut feeling that looking at those magazines would be wrong. Fortunately my friend had the same but stronger intuition and closed the box and took it to his parents.

What was at work in my heart was my conscience. I intuitively knew that looking at those magazines would have been wrong. Part of me was curious and willing to violate my conscience. This is the drama that Paul says works out even in those people who have never heard the Law. God’s law is written on their heart in such a way that they intuitively know that some things are wrong and they violate their own conscience.

Someone may not believe the scriptures and subscribe to God’s law. Yet, if they have ever violated their own conscience they can’t claim to stand before God guiltless. We are so great of sinners that not only do we fail to keep God’s law perfectly, we can’t even keep our own conscious clear.

The only real solution is Jesus. Paul reminds us that we will all stand before God and give an account for our lives. Some of us will stand under the judgement and wrath of God as we answer for what we have done. Some of us will stand under the grace and mercy of God because our sins have been forgiven through Jesus Christ and we have new life. On that day we will rejoice as God rewards us for the work he has done in our lives to change us from sinners into saints.

I don’t want anyone on that day to have to stand and face the full consequences for their sin. Not when Jesus has already paid for their sin and all they need to do is repent and trust in Him. I’m praying for opportunities to tell others about Jesus and his glorious gospel that has transformed my life.

Father, Thank you for your mercy and grace. We rejoice to know that you love us, Jesus has paid the penalty for our sins, and we can come to you in faith and receive the forgiveness of our sins. We ask for opportunities to tell others today about Jesus and how they can be forgiven of sin and have new life. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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When Adversity Becomes Opportunity (Acts 23-25)

When reading today we see a lot of shady politicians doing a little political maneuvering that ends up keeping Paul to be in prison for over two years. We might tend to think of this as a huge inconvenience for Paul. Certainly this broken system chewed through a huge part of Paul’s life. Imagine what he could have been doing had he not been detained in prison? How many churches could he have encouraged with his presence? How many more churches could he have planted?

Yet, Paul gets a personal word from the LORD that he will stand before Cesar in Rome. Paul knows where he is ultimately headed. Along the way the adversity he faces ends up being opportunities to preach and share the gospel. Some of the very men who were at the heart of Jesus’ crucifixion, heard Paul share the story of the resurrection. The regional Roman governors hear the gospel message along with their Roman guards and others who would have been present.

It seems fitting that the gospel should and would be pressed forward even more in the midst of adversity. It’s not as though Jesus never met with adversity or the early church hadn’t seen adversity before. It seems as though through the book of Act the LORD uses adversity to grow his church.

We’ve all been living through a pandemic and it has changed the way we do a lot of thing. We’ve faced a type of adversity through this virus that isn’t necessarily the fault of an individual or a corrupt system. Regardless of how the virus got here, it’s here, its real (I’ve had it), and it can and does kill some people. We wear masks, wash hands, keep our distance and do all the things they say help stop the spread. It can be easy to lose focus on the gospel and concentrate on keeping one another safe from the virus. Yet, as I shared with a few men the other day, “Keeping people safe from the virus is important and it shouldn’t be dismissed but our mission has never been safety. Our mission is to share the gospel in our community and around the world. Certainly the virus has created a challenging climate, but it hasn’t changed our calling. It may have also unlocked some doors to ministry.”

We see that with Paul in these chapters. The adversity of dealing with a corrupt political system actually put Paul in a place to share the gospel with Roman guards, governors, an ultimately Cesar himself. When I had the virus and was in the hospital it gave me opportunity to talk to several nurses about the gospel that I would have never met otherwise. It’s also given us opportunity to minister to our neighbors and through technology to share hope with those who tune in to our services online both locally and from around the state and nation.

Father, thank you that even when we face adversity we know that you are with us. Thank you that you are a God who often turns the adversity we face into opportunity to minister to others and share our faith. We ask that you give us wisdom for the days that we live in to reach our neighbors and friends with the power of the gospel. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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