Give Attention to Reading

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1 Corinthians 16-2 Corinthians 1:Relying on the Lord who Raises the Dead

II Corinthians 1:9-10 jumped out at me today.

“Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.” (ESV)

Paul and his companions were close to death. No doubt it was because of persecution. Yet, he saw a different purpose. Being pushed to that point forced him to rely on God. He knew he could not deliver himself from death, he could only rely on God. 

How often does that happen to us and yet we can’t see the lessons God has for us. We get sick to remind us our health is not in our hands, but God’s. We lose jobs to remind us our security is not in our hands, but God’s. We lose loved ones to remind us that life is not in our hands, but Gods.

All this goes on around us reminding us to quit relying on ourselves but to rely on God instead. No matter where we are, He is there. No matter what we face, He can deliver. The longer we try to work harder to preserve ourselves, the longer we wait to truly have God’s blessings.

I’m not saying we sit on our backsides and wait for God to hand us our free lunch. It doesn’t work like that. Rather, we must seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33) and then He will add to us. Of course, God’s blessings are not merely the material and financial. Rather, He blesses us with contentment, peace and joy no matter what we face and He blesses us with a home in heaven.

Perhaps this struck me because I’m sick this week–strep throat. It has thrown major wrinkles in my plans. But maybe what I need to do is remember that God is in charge, not me.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

September 26, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, God, I Corinthians, II Corinthians, perseverance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 10-11: Whatever You Do, Glorify God

I Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (ESV). 

I have heard others and I have often just come to this verse and said, “See, everything we do has to glorify God.” While that is the final logical point of the verse, just making the statement actually misses Paul’s point in context. 

From I Corinthians 8 to this point, Paul has been discussing issues of conscience and liberty. He had been trying to wade through the issues of eating meats and especially meats offered to idols. Through those chapters we learned that knowledge puffs up and love edifies. We learned that we should take care not to offend the conscience of our brethren. Further, we even learned we should take care with our actions because of the conscience of unbelievers (cf. I Corinthians 10:28). 

Within this context, Paul is not just making the statement that everything we do should glorify God. Rather, he is saying that as we consider how to pursue our liberties and how to preserve our conscience and the conscience of others, the determining factor is which choice will glorify God. It will glorify God if I eat and give thanks to Him. However, it will not glorify God even if I give thanks, if it causes a brother or sister to stumble. It will not glorify God if it causes an outsider to believe I pay homage to an idol. I may have the liberty to eat whatever I want in the strictest sense, but I must not simply consider my hunger and my culinary tastes. I must consider whether God will be glorified by pursuing this liberty.

Finally, as Paul continued, he pointed out that glorifying God meant not giving offense to either the Jews or the Greeks. In other words, don’t pursue your Christian liberties in a way that causes Jews or Greeks to judge you as immoral or ungodly. Don’t invite a Jew into your home and set pork chops before him (especially if you are a Jewish Christian, they will view you as a traitor to God and will not listen to a thing you have to say about Jesus). Don’t eat something a Gentile gives you if he makes a point to let you know it was sacrificed to some idol. He may think you honor that idol and will not learn the idol is no god at all. Don’t give offense to the church of God. In other words, don’t cause your brothers and sisters who are not as knowledgeable to stumble. 

Then he concludes, that instead of seeking his own advantage, he is seeking the salvation of others. This actually gets us back to yesterday’s theme. What glorifies God the most? The salvation of the lost. 

Thus, the point about glorifying God whether we eat or drink or whatever we do is that we must not seek our own advantage, but serve others so they can be saved and God glorified. Yes, once we recognize that point, we get to the usual statement that this means everything we do must glorify God, but it is important to actually notice the logic that gets us there. Because only then do we actually learn what Paul wants us to do to glorify God. He wants us to be all things to all people that by all means we might save some.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

September 23, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Evangelism, Glorifying God, God, I Corinthians, Sacrifice, Serving | , , , , , | 2 Comments

1 Corinthians 4-5: I Don’t Care if You Judge Me, God is My Real Judge

Let’s face it, our society is so whiny and up in arms afraid that somebody somewhere might judge them. “How dare you judge me,” we hear people moan. “I’m afraid to share with my brothers and sisters what I’ve done because I know they’ll judge me,” we hear others claim. “I don’t like churches because they are so judgmental.”

Okay, okay, I know there is a point to be made among Christians about having compassion. I’m sure we’ll hit that one in another post. In today’s reading, I didn’t get far before a passage just smacked me. Paul said:

“But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me” (I Corinthians 4:3-4, ESV).

Paul provides the attitude we should have about others judging us. Who cares? Their judgment doesn’t matter. God is the one who is the judge. 

I find this interesting. Paul knew God was the judge. That fact however did not cause him to tell everyone else, “Don’t you dare judge me.” It caused him to say, “Judge me if you want. Your judgment isn’t the one that counts.”

Maybe we’d all be better off if we could have this attitude.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

September 18, 2008 Posted by | God, I Corinthians, Judging | , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 2-3: How Can I Know God?

I love to tell people about the time my wife and I rode a plane with Deborah Harry (lead singer of the 70’s and 80’s band Blondie). Or the time my wife rode a fair ride with Mark Slaughter (lead singer of the 80’s and 90’s band Slaughter). I also like to tell people about my friend Dan Degarmo who went to high school with Brad Paisley. I can’t wait to tell people I shook hands with Ken Starr. And one of my prized possessions is a photo with John Maxwell.

We naturally like to tell people about our connections with famous people. It is almost like a bit of their importance and fame rubs off on us just because we can establish some connection. But, of course, I don’t actually know any of these people. 

However, I can have a relationship with the most important being in existence. Of course, you know where I’m going with this. I can have a relationship with God. I can go beyond just having ridden with him on a plane or a fair ride. I can go beyond just having my picture taken with him. I can actually get to know Him. I Corinthians 2:10-13 explains how.

“For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.” (I Corinthians 2:10-13, ESV).

There is only one way to get to know God. We get to know God by getting into the word He has revealed by the Spirit. That is why what we are doing at Give Attention to Reading is so important. Only through reading, studying and meditating upon God’s word can we come face to face with God while we are still in this life. We can’t know God by watching Oprah or Dr. Phil. We can’t know God by tearing up over “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” We can’t know God by merely talking with our friends about Him. We can only get to know God when we get into the word that the Spirit has revealed about Him. 

Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God…” and the rest of the Bible proceeds to tell us His story. Yes, our story is in there too. But this is His story and if we want to know Him we have to…

…keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

September 17, 2008 Posted by | God, I Corinthians, The Bible | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mark 15-16: We Have Seen Barabbas and He is Us

I can hardly fathom how it happened. The Jewish crowd had two men in front of them. One of those men had really and truly been involved in rebellion and insurrection. One had actually killed people. The other one had preached a message of peace and submission to others. One had brought people back to life. Just days earlier these very same crowds had been proclaiming this miracle worker was the descendent of David. He had never done anything worthy of death and even Pilate realized that.

Pilate gave the crowd an option. He could release Barabbas, the insurrectionist and murderer, or he could release Jesus, the man they had praised just days earlier. The other one would be delivered for a torturous death by crucifixion. How on earth could the crowds ever be stirred up to release Barabbas and pick Jesus to be crucified? How could they look at Jesus, a man who had taught in their synagogues, who had healed their sick, cast out demons, raised the dead and in so many other ways demonstrated Himself to be the Messiah for whom they looked, and pick Him to die. Nevertheless, that was the choice they made.

I can hardly fathom how it happened. God had two men in front of Him. One of those men had really and truly been involved in rebellion and sin. He had lied, stolen, cheated, lusted, committed immorality, coveted and pursued his own arrogant path of self-service in many other ways. The wages of his sins were death. The other one only ever lived to please the Father. He submitted and obeyed. He had never done anything worthy of death and God realized that.

But, God had an option. He could free and give life to me, the sinner and rebel, or He could leave Jesus alone. The other one would be delivered to a torturous spiritual death of separation from the Father. How in heaven could God ever be stirred to set me free by picking His only begotten Son, Jesus, for death? How could God look at Jesus, a Son who had only ever faithfully served Him, and put Him on the cross and then turn His face from Him? 

The crowds made their choice because of selfish envy. God made His choice because of selfless love. I have always been intrigued by the fact that Barabbas’ name means “son of the Father.” Because of Jesus’ death, I am now a son of the Father. I do not know how the Father, Son and Spirit could have so much love to let Jesus take my place. I just know I’m glad God did.

I don’t know how Barabbas turned out. Was he changed by this experience? Or did he simply go back and plot more rebellion? I can’t answer how Barabbas responded. I can only determine how I will respond. God put Jesus on the cross where I should be. Will I just keep on sinning and rebelling, spurning the sacrifice God offered for me? Or will I strive to become like Jesus who sacrificed Himself for me?

Keep the faith and keep reading.

ELC

September 9, 2008 Posted by | Crucified with Christ, Death, God, Jesus, Love, Mark, Sacrifice, salvation | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Mark 3-4: Satan Has Plans for You; So Does God

We all know the parable of the Sower (Mark 4:3-9). He spread his seed everywhere and it fell on different kinds of soil. Granted, the point of this parable is from the perspective of the sower. We need to sow everywhere if we want any of it to fall on good ground. However, this passage helps me see the plans Satan has for us.

Plan A: Satan wants you to STAY OUT

The packed down path with its accompanying birds represents the heart the gospel does not penetrate. Satan doesn’t mind so much that we hear the word, as long as we don’t listen to it and allow it to sink in. I can’t help but think about Ezekiel 33:30-32:

As for you son of man, your people who talk together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, say to one another, each to his brother, ‘Come, and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.’ And they come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear what you say but they will not do it; for with lustful talk in their mouths they act; their heart is set on their gain. And behold, you are to them like one who sings lustful songs with a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument, for they hear what you say but they will not do it (ESV).

Satan will do what he can to keep you from accepting God’s word so you will stay out of covenant relationship with God and avoid the eternal salvation God is offering.

Plan B: Satan wants you to DROP OUT

To Satan’s chagrin, he can’t seem to steal the Word out of everyone’s heart before they believe it, accept it and act on it. He does not, however, accept defeat easily. He has a back-up plan. He capitalizes on the rocks in our heart. That is, he makes use of anything that will keep the soil of our heart from being well-suited to grow the plant. He lulls us into a sense of safety, letting us believe we do not have to work very much to be safe in the arms of Jesus. He lets us believe we have had our moment of salvation and now everything is good. 

Because of that, we do not grow in Christ. The roots of our faith do not dig deep and gain purchase that can withstand the attacks that will inevitably come. Because our faith is shallow, the moment Satan brings an attack, like the blistering heat of the sun, we are scorched and wither away. We drop out. We head back to our old ways. I can’t help but think of the Israelites, freed from Egyptian bondage. The first sign of trouble and they cried out

Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians'” (Exodus 14:11-12, ESV).

Their faith in God was shallow. Even after God’s ten plagues, they simply did not believe God would really deliver them. They were ready to turn back to Egypt.

Plan C: Satan wants you to FIZZLE OUT

Once again, to Satan’s chagrin, his repeated attacks don’t always work. Some folks believe and hang in there even in the midst of real trials and full frontal assault. Satan, however, is not done yet. He has one more plan up his sleeve. If he can’t keep us out and can’t make us drop out quickly, he will make us fizzle out. To be honest, I think this is his main plan in our time. Instead of directly attacking, he allows that sense of safety to continue to grow. Then he allows little things to creep in like weeds and thorns to choke us out. He brings in the worries of the world and the deceitfulness of riches. He lets us get so worried about paying for our kids college or planning for our retirement. He lets us get so focused on our own personal pursuits that we forget to focus on God’s will.

This makes me think of the restored Israelites following the Babylonian captivity. They immediately returned to Jerusalem and got to work. They rebuilt the altar and restored the sacrifices. They reinitiated the feasts of the Lord. They laid the foundation of the temple. But then they got sidetracked. God explained what was going on in Haggai 1:2, 4, 9:

Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord…Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?…You looked for much, and behold, it came to little, And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declared the Lord of host. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house (ESV).

Satan is actually happy for us to think we are still in the safe arms of Jesus so long as we aren’t bearing any fruit. If he can get us more focused on earthly things but still think we are being spiritual, then he has accomplished his greatest coup.

God has plans for you too!

The final soil represents what God wants for you. In this final illustration, God explains that He wants you to COME IN, STAY IN, GROW UP and BEAR FRUIT. Whether you bear as much as someone else, doesn’t matter. What matters is that you find salvation in Jesus and let Him build you up and grow you into the fruit bearing child of God He planned for you to be.

As II Peter 1:5-11 says:

for this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (ESV).

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

September 1, 2008 Posted by | Daily Bible Reading, God, Jesus, Mark, Obedience, perseverance, salvation, satan, Walking with God | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ephesians 1-2: How God Sees Sin

I always have a little trouble when I get to Ephesians 2:1-3.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lied in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (ESV)

It reminds me of the trouble I also have when I get to Romans 3:10-18.

None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.
Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.
The venom of asps is under their lips.
Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.
Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.
There is no fear of God before their eyes
 (ESV).

 The problem I have is, I hear these descriptions and think, “I just wasn’t that bad.” I mean, I have done some really bad things. But I am not a bad person. I’m actually a pretty good person over all. I have great intentions. I really do fear the Lord. I don’t want to deceive. I have dallied in the passions of the flesh on occasion, but I don’t think I was really following the prince of the power of the air or was by nature a child of wrath. 

What’s amazing about that is that I have even done some exercises where I have tried to honestly lay out my sins and how far they went and I realize I really have done some really, really bad things. But to say I was like these verses describes always makes me come up short.

Perhaps it is some kind of subconscious trick so I won’t see how much I really need to surrender to God. I don’t know. Anyway, I was reading this passage and it hit me. These passages are not saying I am a sinner because I am this bad. They are saying, I am this bad because I sin. No matter how bad my sins are on some kind of scale; no matter how I compare with other sinners (there will always be someone worse in my book); no matter what I have or haven’t done, this is how I look to God when I commit any sin. This is why I need a Savior. Even when I have committed what seems to be the most harmless of minor infractions, I have turned from God to submit to Satan and followed the course of my flesh just like everybody else has done. In that moment, I have not just become a person who made a social faux pas, I have become a rebel. 

What amazes me even more are the verses that follow in Ephesians 2:4-7:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (ESV).

Despite how I looked to God because of my sin, He still sent Jesus to die for me so my sin could be removed and I could look holy, spotless, blameless and clean to God.

Thank you, God, for your love and mercy.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

August 20, 2008 Posted by | Ephesians, forgiveness, God, Love, sin | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Acts 17-18: The God I Don’t Get

 Look at that picture for a minute. It is an artist’s conception of the Milky Way. Acts 17:24 says God made that.

Somewhere in one of the arms is our little solar system. Somewhere in that little solar system is our little planet. Somewhere on that planet is little ol’ me. God however is “bigger” than all of that.

When I think of that, the thought occurs that God made me, I didn’t make God.

What does that mean on a practical level?

God is going to surprise me. He is not going to do everything exactly the way I think He should.

I don’t know how many times I have heard from people that they just can’t believe in the God of the Bible because they don’t think God would do ______________ (fill in the blank with some shocking display of violence or some shocking display of power or some shocking display of grace or some shocking display of just not acting).

Then I remember the Milky Way. I remember God made that. I didn’t. I remember God made me, I didn’t make Him. I remember that if the God I believe in only ever acts and reacts in ways that make complete sense to me, then I am probably serving a God I have made up in my mind and not the real God who made my mind.

So, I admit it. I serve a God that I just don’t get sometimes. But He is God, so I serve Him. Maybe I’ll have questions for Him when I get to see Him face to face. Most of the time, however, I think I’ll just be so happy to be visibly in his presence that it won’t bother me that I don’t fully get Him. I’ll just be glad that He got me.

Keep the faith and keep reading.

ELC

July 28, 2008 Posted by | Acts, Faith, God | , , , , , , | 3 Comments