Divisions

Today in 1 Corinthians 1:9-13, we see one of my favorite passions of Paul.  Paul is huge on the unity of the church.  Listen to what he says here, and then we’ll talk about what is happening:

9 God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 10 Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. 12 What I mean is that each of you says, ‘I belong to Paul,’ or ‘I belong to Apollos,’ or ‘I belong to Cephas,’ or ‘I belong to Christ.’ 13 Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

Divisions.jpgThis is the way it worked in Paul’s time. Preachers in churches weren’t sent by the conference nor were they called by the local church.  There were wandering itinerant preachers that came to the town and to the church, stayed for a while, and then moved on to the next town and church.  And they would have been followed by another preacher in much the same way.

So the same church, over a period of time, would have had several preachers come through and teach.  And that’s what has happened here in Corinth.  There have been several preachers come through, and the loyalty that the members of the church have towards their “favorite” preacher is one of the many things that is dividing the church.

That is why Paul reminds them, none of the preachers that they know has divided for their sins. They were not baptized in the name of any of these preachers.  They were called into salvation by God, not by any human.  Now God may have used that human, but that person was not the cause of their salvation.

God is the one calling us into salvation and God is the one that is saving us.

Not any human.

I think for us today, this is an important reminder.  We all have our preferences and our favorites.  We all have things that impactful to us.  We have a preacher that really speaks to us.  Or a style of worship that truly touches our heart or a hymn that really impacts us.  Or a denomination (or local church) whose theology and structure that we like.  And these things are all wonderful.  I am the same way.

But the danger is this.  When we allow these things to divide us as believers.  Just because you or I have something or someone that is the way that we prefer it, doesn’t mean that someone that has a different favorite preacher or style of worship is not our brother or sister in Christ.

Because we aren’t saved by preachers or styles of worship or denominations or anything such as that.  We are saved by Jesus.

So, if you are believer, then you are family.  We can’t allow these things to divide us.  We are one.  And the world needs us to be one.

Let us love each other, even when we disagree over these things.  Because the love that God has placed in our hearts must be bigger than any of this!

As followers of Christ, let us love!

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Day Thirty-Three with Mark: Mark 8:14-21

Today we look at Mark 8:14-21:

The Yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod
14 Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out—beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” 16 They said to one another, “It is because we have no bread.” 17 And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” They said to him, “Twelve.” 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” And they said to him, “Seven.” 21 Then he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

Computer-CodeWhat do you see?  Friday in Mark we talked about seeing miracles everywhere when we believe.  Today, we see Jesus talk about something very similar.  Today He’s talking about sight.  But it’s not necessarily the sight of miracles.  It’s the deeper truth that can be found.

And I think today this is especially true with scripture.  I subscribe what Wesley called a simple reading of scripture.  You need to understand context, you need to understand the bigger picture with scripture, but for most of scripture, it simply means what it says.

But, there are times, lots of times, many times, where there is a deeper truth right there in plain sight.  Sometimes there is something right in front of us that we may or may not be able to see.  Look at today’s text. The Disciples are talking about bread and Jesus basically says, guys, you are missing the point.

Do you not see the deeper meaning and deeper truth here.  He recalls the feeding of the 5000 and the 4000. And then He asks how many baskets were left over.  For the 5000, there were 12.  For the 4000 there were 7.  And then He says, do you not understand?

What should they have understood?  What may we be missing?

Twelve and seven are very important numbers in scripture.  Twelve in particular is important in two main places.  There are 12 tribes of Israel (the 12 sons of Jacob).  And there are 12 Apostles.  The Old Covenant and the New Covenant.  So this number is seen many times in scripture (a lot in Revelation) to mean everyone or a completeness.  This number is many ways a number that is almost a code word for “all.”

Everyone that would have seen Him feed 5000 and then see 12 baskets left over would have understood that 12 was a big deal.  He has come, preaching to the Jews first, so that they would complete their calling from Genesis 12 to be a light to the world.  As God’s people, their mission would be the point others to who God is and be that light.  This 12 means that the

The 5000, that crowd was mostly like all Jewish.  The fact that Jesus recovered 12 baskets meant that God would call from His people a group that would finish the calling of Abraham.  And that is what happened.  How many Jewish disciples did Jesus have?

Twelve.

And where did they go?  Everywhere.

And that brings us to the seven.  Seven is another important number in scripture, and is often seen is as the “perfect” number.  Think the seven days of creation.  So it’s a word that associated with that creation account.  The 4000, that crowd would have mostly included Gentiles within it. So on a day when a crowd including Gentiles in it was feed, there were seven baskets left.  The number of creation.  A creation that was made God.  A creation that Jesus was coming to redeem.

In other words, Jesus didn’t just come to feed this crowd, He came to save them, and all (Jew or Gentile) that would believe.

That’s why He says, do you not get it?  Do you not see the bigger truth?

This is why it’s so important to read the Bible together.  Because together we can see the bigger truths that we may miss, just looking at the text.  There are deeper truths that Bible study and shared conversation can teach us.

That’s one of the many, many reasons we need each other and need the church!

Tomorrow we’ll look at Mark 8:22-26.

What questions do you have?  How does this strike you?  Shoot me an email, comment below, or connect with me through social media.

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Day Twelve with Mark: Mark 3:31-35

Today in our daily journey through Mark, we look at Mark 3:31-35:

The True Kindred of Jesus
31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Sermon-on-the-MountJesus has been ministering in his home.  And He had seen great conflict there.  Faced opposition.  Folks tried to restrain Him, keep him from teaching, really not received Him well.  And today, we see His family come to Him again, and it doesn’t really go well.

He says this is my family. Those that do my will.

Ok, a couple of things here. First, before we get too harsh and think that family doesn’t matter to Jesus, remember a couple of things.  One of the very last things Jesus did upon the cross was look to Mary and look to John the Apostle and says to her – this is your son.  And to John – this is your mother.

One of His very last acts up before His death and resurrection was to take care of His mother.  Also, notice how in the Gospels and in Acts how his mother is one of His followers.  You can’t take this one passage here and say that Jesus is saying – don’t take care of your family.  That’s not what He is saying, His life didn’t doesn’t show that, nor do His words.

Be careful building an entire theology or worldview on one verse alone.  We read scripture in relation to other scripture.  We interpret the Bible through the Bible.  You want to look at one verse through the lens of other verses.  Jesus here is not saying don’t care about your family.

Ok then, what is He saying?  This is what He is saying.  Our family is more that just biological.  As believers, as followers of Jesus, we are family. We are His family.  And we are family to each other.  If you are in Christ, tan you are as much my family as anyone that is “blood” kin to me.

As Christians, the blood relationship that matters the most is being washed in the blood of the Lamb.  If you are His, if you are His child, if you are His disciple, then you are my sister or brother.  And I am called to love you like family.

And you are called to love me like family.

Because we are.

This is Jesus family.  Not just biology.  But those that love Him and follow Him.

And this is my family.  Not just biology.  But those that love Jesus and follow Him.

Today, through Jesus, we are family. No matter what race, what denomination, what theology, what worship style, what whatever.  Today in Jesus, we are family.

What questions do you have?  How does this strike you?  Shoot me an email, comment below, or connect with me through social media.

Monday we’ll look at Mark 4:1-9.

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You (and your gifts) Matter

Last night at St. Matthew’s we had the opening kickoff for our Wednesday Night Live programming!  It was a great time, featuring the best food around Madison County, and our District Superintendent, Rev. Dr. Connie Shelton sharing with us.  Last night Connie shared with us parts of these verses found in 1 Corinthians 12: 14-21.  Listen to what they say:

14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”

thebodyofchrist1Two things stick out about the body to me.

First, you have a gift.  You do. Everyone in the body has a gift.  There is no ungifted person.  Now, your gift will not be someone else’s gift.  It will be unique to you.  It will be something that you possess.  It’s not better than someone else’s, it’s not worse that someone else’s.  It yours.  Be thankful for it.  God has given it to you for a reason.  Live into it.

You are special.  You are unique.  And you are gifted by God for something that only you can do.

And that leads us to the second thing, your gift matters to the church.  You were created not to live alone, but to live in the body of Christ.  You have a special place that God has created for you, and that the church needs for you to live into. Until you are doing that, you won’t be living into the total purpose of your gift.

You are gifted.  You really are.  And your gift is needed by the church, not just for the community that you will receive in it, but for the purpose that God for you.

You matter.  Your gifts matter.

So, what are they?

One of the things that Connie shared with us was a really good, and really easy, spiritual gift assessments.  Click here and take it for yourself.  What are you gifts?  What has God given you?  And are you using it in the church?

Your church needs you. It needs your talents, your gifts, your passion, all that you, for the building of God’s kingdom.  Plug in, serve, live!

Today, you are so gifted!  May we use those gifts for God’s glory!

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Grace upon Grace

Grace is not a one-time thing.  It’s really not.  God doesn’t just see our mistakes, forgive us one time, and then be done with us forever.  No, God constantly gives us grace.

He gives us grace to forgive us, He gives us grace to empower us, He gives us grace to lead us.  For us, and for the world, grace is not a one-time thing.  It’s over and over and over again.  I am thankful that God is always lavishing us with grace and mercy.

That’s how it works between us and God.  But, how should it work between us.  God always forgives us when we ask Him, but what about you and me? What are we to do when we keep messing up?  I mean, really, can’t they get it right?  How much grace do they get?  Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 18: 21-22:

21 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

grace_candle_logoNow, notice what Peter asks.  He says, what if another member of the church sins against me.  Two things popped out.  One is “sins against me.”  That means does something to harm that relationship.  Something that’s not good, something harmful and destructive.

Something that may leave a mark.  Something that really may just hurt.

That’s tough to deal with.  Tough to work through.  Tough to process.  It’s not easy.

What else jumped out at me?  “another member of the church.”  Someone that’s family.  As Christians, we are called to love. That’s one of our main commands and duties as believers, to love. We are called to love, because God is love. That’s our purpose and our mission.

Love the world.  Love each other.

But especially love each other.  Because we are family.

Church, we’ve got to love each other.  If we are always fussing and fighting among ourselves, then why would the world want o be part of us?  Sometimes the fights are over theology, or worship, or leadership, or a million different things.

Jesus tells us what to do.  Love.  Forgive.  Show mercy. Be graceful.

Even when “they” don’t deserve it.  Because we don’t deserve it either.  That’s why it’s grace.  It’s never earned or deserved.  It’s always, always, always given and received.

Today, you and I have received grace from our Loving God.  Today, may we show that grace to the world, and especially to each other. Because loving each other may be one of our biggest witness to world.

In a world that is angry and bitter and hurting, folks want to know that they are loved.  When we as the church live that out, I truly believe that we can change the world.

Today, may we show grace!

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We are One

Unity1In Jesus, we all are equal.  We are.  There is such an equality with Jesus.  An equality of need.  An equality of grace.  An equality of calling.  We are all equal.

We all, me, you, all of us, we stand in equal need of salvation.  None of us are perfect.  None of us can earn it, none of us will get it right. We all need grace. We all need Jesus.  We all need His mercy.

And what we find in Jesus, is we find that grace and mercy is there for all of us, no matter who we are, where we come from, any of that.  We all find that His mercy is there, waiting for us, no matter what.  No matter who we are, what we have done, any of us.

We find Jesus there.

So if we are equal in need and equal in grace, we are equal in worth.  Listen to what Paul says today in Galatians 3: 27-28:

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

In Jesus, there is not male or female.  There is not Greek or Jew.  There is not slave or free.  We are all one.

No matter what.  No matter what barriers, differences, or distinctions the world tries to place on us, in Jesus, we are one.

No matter your race.  Your views on things.  Your wealth (or lack of).  Your job.  Any of these things.  If you are in Jesus.  If you are a believer.  If you are saved through Jesus, then you are my brother or sister.

You are.  In Jesus, we are one.  Through Jesus, we are one.  Because of Jesus, we are one.

Today, I love you like family. Because through Jesus, we are.  Today, may we as the church, may we live as one. Because through Jesus, that’s just what we are.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!

52 Weeks, 52 Verses

66982I had a moment recently where I needed to know a Bible verse. I was in a moment where I really needed to be able to encourage someone, and I didn’t have my Bible with me. And I wasn’t, in that moment, able to pull up my cell phone.

I needed to be able to quote a verse. And I needed have hidden the Word in my heart so that at that moment, I could share it.

We each need that. Each of us, as believers, we need to be able to pull a verse from our heart, from our mind, at that moment.

As a pastor, that’s a gift that I want to be able to give to my church. I want them to be able to know the Bible so at the moment when they need it; they will have it.

So at Asbury, in 2015, we are doing 52 Weeks, 52 Verses. Each week of 2015, we will memorize a different Bible passage together.

Would you join us? Will you take that challenge? Will you take the time this year, to over the course of a week, memorize a different passage.

Think about all the song lyrics we know. Or sports statistics. Or movie quotes. I know a bunch of all those, cause I’m a geek. But how much more should we know and hid God’s Word in our hearts?

Will you join us? Each week this year, one of these days I’ll share our verse for the week. This week it’s Daniel 2: 20-21:

20 Daniel answered and said:
“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
21 He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;

Let’s learn this together. And let’s see what God will do with it in this year, and for all eternity!

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!

If God So Loves Us . . .

My childhood pastor (Bill Poole) was one of the most gifted pastors and teachers I’ve ever had in my life. Even though I was young when he was my pastor, so many things he said have stuck with me through the years.

One of the things that he said that I always remember is that “if” is the biggest word in the Bible. Anything that comes after “if” is huge. Just huge. “If” is one of those words that holds the Bible. “If” determines so much about life, faith, everything.

Normally “if’ is the word that hold’s God’s truth together with our action.

Listen to what we read today in 1 John 4: 10-11:

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

love-each-other2In this passage, we are reminded that God loves us. And then we are told, if God has loved us, then we ought to love one another.

That’s it. That’s what we have to do. That’s what we are called to do.

The first question in this we must ask ourselves is this. Does God love us? The answer to that, without a doubt all throughout Scripture is yes. God loves us. He adores us. He sent His son to die for us and be raised for us.

He loves us. Really. He does. Do you believe that?

That’s the first question you’ve got to answer is do you believe that?

“If” so, then we must love each other. We must. We are not given an out. We are not given a choice. We are not given an excuse. We must love each other.

Love is the language of faith. Love is our hope, our peace, our joy, our purpose. God has loved us. He has. We have to love each other.

It’s hard. Very hard. We don’t want to sometimes. But we must. Because as believers, it’s who we are.

There’s that old hymn “They Will Know We are Christians by our Love” (Jars of Clay did a cool version of it a few years ago that I really like) that really sums this up – that always comes back to that statement – they will know we are Christians by our love.

Today, that’s our calling. Even when it’s hard. Even when you don’t want. Even when you don’t want to. It’s who we are.

It’s who we are.

It’s who we are.

It’s who we are.

If God has loved us, we must love each other. Today, may each of us do that, through the grace and love of our Father.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!