Have you ever been sucked into watching an infomercial? Have you ever purchased something from an infomercial? I have a few times. I believe that my purchases have involved some sort of exercise workout or nutritional program. All guaranteed me phenomenal results. The truth is I have not experienced all the effects that these infomercials promised me. Does that shock you?
Whatever it is, we humans like guarantees. We crave guarantees because we know that we’re likely to mess it up and we want something that can still be true even with a faulty operator.
Thank GOD that His faithfulness to me is not dependent on my ability to do right. Even on my best days I still fall short.
One of God’s promises to us is that we have the mind of Christ.
Not: We will have the mind of Christ – something that is promised for the future.
Not: We can have the mind of Christ – something that is contingent upon something else.
Not: We might have the mind of Christ – something that is uncertain or not yet determined to be true.
We have the mind of Christ…NOW! It’s guaranteed! Isn’t that amazing?!?!
What are the implications of this truth for you – YOU HAVE THE MIND OF CHRIST. It’s a done deal. How will this reality change the thoughts that you think, the words that you speak, the actions that you take?
Take a bit of time today and prayerfully consider the kind of response God might be asking of you.
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at Bible GateWay here – 1 Corinthians 1-4
Because the book of Acts spends a great deal of time tracking the apostle Paul’s missionary journeys, it’s easy to overlook others who only have a few verses written about them, but they played a significant part in the spread of the Gospel. One of these is a man named Apollos.
We meet up with Apollos in Ephesus and immediately we are informed of his cultural background, his hometown, and his status in regards to his knowledge of the Scriptures. We know that he was enthusiastic about continuing his own understanding as evidenced by his time spent with Priscilla and Aquila. We read that Apollos is very enthusiastic and bold about sharing the Gospel to other Jews. And if we take a sneak peak in 1 Corinthians 3: 4-5, we see that his influence of converting believers is compared to Paul! Wow!
So what can we apply to our own lives just off of these verses at the end of Acts 18?
1 – We each need to be reading and studying Scripture regularly. If you’re reading this blog post, chances are…you do this already! Great! If digging into Scripture isn’t a consistent habit you have in place – ask yourself how you can restructure just a portion of your day to include an infusion of the Word. I know a couple of people who have found that listening to the Bible while on their way to or from work or school has made a difference. Try it out! You might like it!
2- Be willing to continually learn more about the Word of God from others who have been around a while. And if you’re one who has experience living a Christian lifestyle, make sure that you are connecting and investing in others’ spiritual walks. When Apollos met up with Priscilla and Aquila, he only knew about the baptism of John. After spending time with the couple, Apollos’ ministry became even more influential. This could be you!
3 – Acts 18:28 states that “Apollos vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate”. If you’re on any kind of social media platform, I’m sure that you’ve witnessed hotly contested debates in the last few months over a variety of issues and I am certainly not advocating for that in regards to faith-based ideas. Instead, think about it this way: Apollos was ready to give a logical response to those who asked questions. AND he was prepared to thoughtfully challenge (I’m sure in a calm and respectful manner) others’ thinking. We must also be prepared to do the same. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” If the situation ever presented itself, could you share your testimony of how and why you became a child of the Most High God? If not, spend some time thinking about what you would say…you never know when you might be asked to share your story.
Apollos, while not as prolific as the apostle Paul, had incredible influence over the spread of the Gospel of Christ. You and I can also lead consequential lives in which our love for God and His love for us is shared with others. To be effective, we must continue to study Scripture, learn from others, and be prepared to speak boldly. This is what makes us modern day disciples of Christ.
Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 18:19-19:41.
Tomorrow we will finish the week with the beginning of 1st Corinthians (chapters 1-4).
1 Thessalonians 1:3 – We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Work Produced by Faith
Faith is defined as having a firm belief, complete trust and confidence in something. As a Believer, our faith is determined by the extent of which we believe that God is who He says He is and that His son, Jesus the Messiah, was born of a woman, lived a perfect life, died on the cross for the redemption of your sins, was raised to life, is currently sitting on a throne next to his Father, waiting to return again to reign in the Kingdom. IF you and I believe all of that – then our day to day life will be a compilation of evidence of acts done in faith and by faith.
James makes the claim in the third chapter of his letter “to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” (James 1:1) that “in the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (3:17). And in verse 26 of the same chapter, James writes, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead”.
The Thessalonians didn’t just accept the gospel message, they acted on it. Jesus was both their Savior and their Lord, meaning that they were obedient to the call on their lives. They were doing the work that God had prepared in advance for them to do (Ephesians 2:10). Likewise, when we accept the gospel message for ourselves, we have to respond. Jesus tells us in the book of Luke that we must take up our cross (do the work) and follow him (9:23).
Labor Prompted by Love
Mark 12:30 says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength”. Have you ever wondered why these four domains are identified? Have you ever loved someone so much that there isn’t anything you wouldn’t do for them? You sacrifice all that you have in order to serve them, sacrifice for them, and labor for them. In the following verse, we’re told to love our neighbors as ourselves. Sacrificing ourselves for family members and close friends is one thing…serving and laboring for others beyond our closest relationships is quite another.
This is why we’re told to love with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength – because it’s not easy. Sometimes loving another is labor. It’s hard work. It’s humbling ourselves by putting our own desires off to the side in order to honor others. But it’s what we are called to do. And it is possible if we lean into the strength that is provided through our faith in Christ.
Endurance Inspired by Hope
One of my favorite types of exercise is a 20 minutes HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout. I like it because I don’t have to do it everyday, it’s quick, and efficient. And I get to rest for almost half of the time during the “down” intervals. If I were ever called upon to do something that took longer than 20 minutes, I would be gassed! I do not have the endurance for it. And I have no enthusiasm to train for it!
Walking out your faith knee deep in “works produced by faith” and “labor promoted by love” is not for the faint of heart! It’s not a one time deal. And unlike my HIIT workouts, it’s an all-day, everyday kind of commitment – for a lifetime! This requires an endurance that cannot be faked nor manufactured. The only source for the necessary fuel to keep this faith-centered life going is HOPE. A hope that has a foundation on the love God has for us. When we stay zeroed in to that – we are able to dig deep and and go the distance. As Paul says in his second letter to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. We can have a FULL life that gives us the endurance needed to do the good works.
The Christian life is not for the wimpy. In this single verse out of 1 Thessalonians, we are told that we must work, labor, and endure. I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t seem very comfy. It’s not a life of luxury and indulgence. The ONLY way that we will be able to sustain this day to day living is doing so out of Faith, Love, and Hope. May these virtues fill your heart today.
Acts 18:9-10 – One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.”
Paul’s missionary journey has led him to Thessalonica where he spent a few weeks teaching in the synagogue but was eventually run out of town, but not before some were persuaded to believe and be saved. His escape took him to the next town of Berea, where again, the Thessalonicans caught up to Paul and he had to make a sneaky escape. He landed in Athens, a place known for philosophy. And while a few people accepted the gospel that Paul preached, others sneered at his message and so he continued his journey to Corinth. Corinth had a reputation. All kinds of sexually immoral practices existed in this place and yet, this is where Paul received a vision and was told “I have many people in this city”. Isn’t it just like God to take what many would consider the least likely of people and bring them into a relationship with himself.
Let’s remember something – we are all the least likely of people. There is nothing that I have done that makes me worthy of God’s love, mercy, and grace. It’s not my cultural heritage. It’s not my level of intelligence or my financial standing. It’s not who I know or what I do. It’s only by the gift of Jesus’ atoning death on a cross that I can even be in a relationship with God.
Too many people today believe that they have to “get right with God” before they can attend church or pray or be of use for service. Too many believers avoid interacting with non-believers because they fear the Gospel message (or more likely they themselves) will be mocked, rejected or persecuted.
Sometimes God gives us opportunities to associate and fellowship with other believers so that we can build one another up. Other times, God invites us into the messy lives of non-believers so that we can show them that God loves all of us exactly where we are. And then there are other times, when God provides opportunities for us to invest in others’ messy lives long term to really show them what a life serving God is all about.
As we read about Paul’s journey, we can appreciate that Paul made himself available to God’s leading, even staying for a year and a half in a city that was full of immoral practices because it was ripe for a spiritual harvest. Wherever God has you today, “Do not be afraid, keep on speaking, do not be silent” and look for the spiritual harvest.
Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 17:1-18:17.
Galatians 5:1 – It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Growing up in the great Southwest, I have had the luxury of enjoying authentic Mexican food. I could eat chips and salsa every day, all day. When I’ve got a craving, I will even eat chips and salsa from New York City. (Click here for reference to an old TV commercial.)
Tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, burritos are all very, very good. But one main entree dish tops them all, the chimichanga. If you’re not familiar with the chimichanga, you can think of it as a deep fried burrito topped with sour cream and guacamole. Or if you’re feeling extra decadent, queso fundido sauce. My mouth is watering just thinking about it…
When I was in college, I spent a semester at Kansas State University. For the most part, I enjoyed going to school there. One of the only drawbacks was that back in 1993, there weren’t any Mexican restaurants in the area. And while I could get chips and salsa from the grocery store, and tacos from Taco Bell, there wasn’t any authentic Mexican cuisine to be found.
Then one day, I was dining at an Applebee’s. And low and behold, there on the menu was a chicken chimichanga. I almost cried. I was so excited! With great anticipation, I waited for the plate to be brought out to the table. And when the dish finally arrived, it was everything I could do to hold back the tears. Not because I was so thrilled, but because the chimichanga was covered in chili! Not Mexican red or green chili, but chili beans! I was dumbfounded. How could anyone mess up my chimichanga?!?! When I spoke with my parents later that evening (they were still living in Arizona), I let the tears fall. I was so homesick.
I tell you all of this because when I read the book of Galatians, something stands out to me. The church in Galatia had enthusiastically accepted the Gospel that the apostle Paul had preached to them. But after he had left, interlopers had begun to convince Believers that there were certain rituals that they had to practice, including circumcision, to be considered righteous. When Paul heard of this, he was so frustrated!
Here’s Bethany’s interpretation of Galatians 5:1 – Why, why, why would you go back to living under the burden of all these rules and regulations? Don’t you know that Christ died so that you wouldn’t have to be a slave to all that? Your faith has set you FREE! Now start living like it!
The same message applies to you and me. Once you realize what life can be like living under the grace of God through faith in what His son did on the cross on your behalf, why, why, why would you ever think about going back to a previous lifestyle? And yet, that’s what we encounter every single day. We’re faced with decisions on how to treat others, how we spend our time, how we invest our finances. It might be tempting to make concessions in stressful circumstances, but we must stay strong, to persevere and be firm in our faith.
When you get in the habit of living in freedom, going back to a former way of living becomes just as inconceivable as eating a chimichanga with chili beans dumped all over it. When you experience the REAL DEAL – you never want to go back.
Grace from God gives us a glimpse of His goodness.
Mercy from the Most High motivates us to move mountains.
Forgiveness from the Father fills in the fissures of the heart.
Rest within the shadow of the Rock renews our responsiveness.
Acceptance by the Almighty alters our attitudes.
Joy from Jehovah jolts our joints!
It is for Freedom that Christ has set you Free. Now start living like it!
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Galatians 4-6
Social conversations today sometimes revolve around issues and individuals with whom we can relate or identify. For example, I am a fan of the Arizona Cardinals and when there is an exciting play on the field, I tend to get loud. And when the team wins a game, I feel like there is some part of me that also wins, even though I watch the game from home while ironing clothes for the week ahead. If the team loses a game, I feel bad for the team knowing how hard they fought to bring home a victory for all those who choose to cheer them on! I might not ever get the chance to score a touchdown or take a ready position on the offensive line trying to protect a quarterback, but I still feel like I am part of the team.
When I read the words written by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians, I claim his declaration in chapter 2 verse 20 as my own. “I have been crucified with Christ” is a phrase that I believe I might have written myself if I were the one penning this epistle. When Jesus offered his life on the cross, he wasn’t doing it just for himself. He wasn’t doing it for all of the believers who were alive at the time. He allowed nails to be driven into his wrists and feet and his blood to pour out for all of us. This is something that I identify with. Jesus was willing to die for me. It’s a gift that I am willing to accept so that I do not have to pay that debt myself. I claim that Jesus is my Savior.
But Jesus is not just my Savior, he is also my Lord. “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” Because of what Jesus has done for me, the only response that I can have is to dedicate my life in service to him. The thoughts that I think, the words that I speak, the actions that I take, are all a reflection of what it means to “live by faith in the Son of God”. Make no mistake, I mess up often. But thankfully, because the grace of God is never ending, I can be made right again upon confession and repentance.
And so I ask you, with whom do you identify? Is it your family? Is it your school or workplace? Is it with a professional sports team? Is it your church? While all of those people and organizations are most likely good people and places to associate yourself, remember that the ultimate person with whom you can identify is Jesus the Messiah. He died so that you wouldn’t have to.
So what will your response to this sacrifice be? Will you align yourself with Christ? Will you choose to be on his team and play every play on the field with all of your heart? Will your thoughts, words, and actions reveal your true allegiance?
I challenge you that if you haven’t already accepted Jesus as your Savior, to do that today! And if you have already done that, remember that he is Lord of your life too. Now is the time to start living like it!
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Galatians 1-3
Tomorrow we will read the rest of Galatians, chapters 4-6.
When I started my teaching career 24 years ago, I had no idea that I would spend two and half decades in the same district. I only agreed to the original interview because I thought that it would be good practice for interviews with school districts that were better funded and closer to where I wanted to live. But through the years, I have had amazing students, super supportive principals and supervisors, and colleagues who have become my closest friends.
There have been times where I sought other jobs outside my district. The crazy thing is that I have never had an invitation to interview for those other positions. Now either I have a highly inflated self-perspective of my skills, or I don’t know how to complete and submit an application, or just maybe, God wants me to stay where I am.
So I can relate a little bit to Paul in Acts 16 when he realizes that he’s not supposed to go into Asia but rather head up to Macedonia.
Can you imagine setting out on a road trip and not really knowing for sure where you’ll end up?
It makes sense to pray and seek wisdom and discernment before making major life decisions. But this is how God wants us to live our day-to-day lives too. Yes, dreaming up plans, setting goals, and creating task lists are good things to do, but it’s also important to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Asking God to help determine the best use of your time each week, each day, is a good way to practice your listening skills and hone your sensitivity to God’s direction.
As we go about this week, pause and think about what you already have on your calendar of things to do and places to be at and people to meet up with. Does any of that need to be revised? Does something need to be removed or added? Do you have enough margin in your day-to-day that you can spontaneously respond to God’s leading?
If nothing specific comes to mind or your days and week go pretty closely as you expected, that’s okay too. What really matters is that you sought God. You took time to listen and you were willing to act on his call. That’s the kind of heart God desires.
Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 15-16
What do you do when you think God is taking too long to answer your prayer?
If you are King Saul, you tell the priest to “withdraw your hand” (1 Sam 13:19) – meaning that God is taking too much time responding to a prayer request. King Saul believed that he had some sort of advantage over the enemy and didn’t want that advantage to slip away. So he took matters into his own hands, assembled his men, and went into battle. The outcome wasn’t too good.
Have you ever prayed for something so long, that you become impatient waiting for God to give you directions and end up rushing the timeline just to pursue your own desires, wishes, or dreams? Any time we read a Bible study about an individual doing something for him/herself rather than waiting on God, it never ends well; it’s always a disaster. Why do you think that is?
After some careful self-reflection, I think that I’ve got it figured out for myself: It’s because I like being in charge – to be independent – to not have to rely on someone else’s timing. And even as I type these words, I know it’s ludicrous because my decisions are based on a very limited perspective; whereas, God has a completely different view of my life. His reasons for delaying an answer to prayer, is all about the timing that will give him the most credit.
So the next time you are tempted to move on without God’s response to your prayers, just remember that Saul ended up making some outlandish ultimatums and in so doing, ended up discrediting himself and losing God’s favor.
Stay persistent in your prayers. Do not give up. Keep waiting for an answer to your prayers. At the proper time, God will provide an answer or solution for your need. And in the meantime, always remember that God is by your side – he has not abandoned you.
Have you ever found yourself in a position totally unprepared or unqualified? When I was in college for my bachelor’s degree, I took Cellular & Molecular Biology as part of my program to become a secondary science teacher. It just so happened that this was the same course that was required for pre-med students. Somehow, I ended up getting an invitation to join a study group with these pre-med students. After 5 minutes with these people, I realized that they were a completely different caliber of student – I was so out of my depth.
There have been other times in my life when my own inexperience and inadequacies seemed to cast a blinding glare onto the responsibilities that I had to carry out. Even now, after 23 years of experience in education, there are times when I have no clue on how to handle a given situation.
This is how I relate to Saul being approached by Samuel to become king of Israel. His response is that he’s a nobody, from the smallest tribe and his clan is the least of all. How is it that he has been selected to rule over an entire nation?
But isn’t that just like God to do something like that? God seems to select those who are the most unlikely to be successful. Why does He do this? What I have learned, is that it makes me more dependent on God and less likely to take the credit.
Being part of the FUEL leadership team for many years, I have seen time and time again when a situation developed that was bigger than our resources and everything ended up working out because we depended on God. Anyone out there remember the year that we stopped going to Taylor University and started going to Manchester University? Yeah, we weren’t sure if FUEL was going to happen that year. But with a lot of prayer (and hard work by the directors) we were able to gather again because God pointed us in the direction we needed to go. God provided us with exactly the right site, to work the best conference staff, to continue to return for many years.
I recently read a phrase that I think is appropriate here: “God doesn’t call the qualified; God qualifies the called.” If you’re willing to be used by God, you will find yourself in circumstances that seem way out of your league. While you may not be so confident in your abilities, know that God is more than able to see you through. After all, it’s His reputation on the line and God never fails.
Raise your hand if you are in the habit of writing out your prayers.
I am not consistent with the practice, but whenever I do, I’m glad that I did. I’ve gone back and read some of my past prayers and I wonder who in the world wrote them. It’s like I’m a different person when I write out my prayers. As I write out my thoughts while praying, I spend much more time acknowledging God and less time on my own wants. When I write out my prayers my words are more intentional than when I speak. When I write out my prayers my ideas seem to be more in alignment with who God wants me to be compared to when I ramble on in my own mind without recording my thoughts.
As I read 1 Samuel 2, I take in the words of a woman who fully expresses who she has experienced God to be. He is her Rock, her God. God is one who knows her heart and strengthens her when she stumbles. God blesses her and sends thunder against her enemies.
I am thankful that this particular prayer was recorded for us to read. It’s an encouragement for us to persist in prayer. It reminds us of who God is and of his power and might, his peace and his love, his provision and his holiness.
If you are already in the practice of writing out your prayers, spend some extra time this week, going back and reading previous prayers. What have you learned since? How have you changed?
If you do not already write out your prayers, I encourage you to spend some time this week, recording your prayers. How do your written prayers compare to your verbal prayers? What might you gain or learn from the process?
Keeping a prayer journal is a discipline that has many benefits. Learn from Hannah and spend time praising God.