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Fellowship

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Jesus celebrates Passover, the Lord's Supper
Image credit; LumoProject

In today’s Bible reading, Paul addresses yet, another problem in the church at Corinth: the Lord’s Supper. (1 Corinthians 11:1-26) He recalls that famous night when Jesus sat down to celebrate the Passover Meal with His Disciples. But when the Corinthians come together to remember Jesus, they are divided. He describes this division in 1 Corinthians 11:20–22.

Instead of remembering Jesus in the Lord’s Supper, some church members celebrate themselves by bringing a private meal and gorging themselves. Others bring (and drink) enough wine to get drunk. All the while others come to remember Jesus and go away hungry. Paul basically says that if you want to gorge yourselves, do it at home!

Remembering Jesus in the Lord’s Supper should be a unifying celebration, rather than a divisive act. When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper at our church, I invite all believers to participate. We don’t limit it to just our church members. We don’t limit it to just baptized believers. We don’t limit it to just Southern Baptists. We don’t limit it to just Baptists. The Lord’s Supper is one of those times when all believers should be able to lay aside our preferences and celebrate together.

However, I have heard that some churches limit who can participate in the Supper, calling it a “closed communion”. Some churches limit it to just members of that specific church. Others limit it to just baptized believers. I heard of one church that meets on a Tuesday Night to eliminate an embarrassing situation where a visitor or non-member would have to be asked to pass the trays without taking a cup or piece of bread.

The purpose of the Lord’s Supper is to remember Jesus. Didn’t He say, “As often as you do this, remember Me“? How could a church depart so far from the very purpose of the Supper? The same way that the church at Corinth! We really aren’t that far removed from the problem-ridden churches chronicled in the New Testament!

Application

The Passover Meal wasn’t just an ordinary, everyday supper. It was an annual celebration of the deliverance of God’s people from their slavery in Egypt. As Jesus celebrated the Meal, His “Remember Me” comments pointed out that everything in the Meal — which consisted of more than just bread and a cup — pointed to Jesus.

If you ever have an opportunity to take part in a Messianic Jewish Seder, you’ll see how picturesque the Passover Meal was. I highly encourage you to look into it.

This devotional was originally published August 14, 2019.

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watering can

In today’s Bible reading, Paul continues his discussion about the factions that exist in the Corinthian church. He drives home the point that yes, he planted and Apollos watered, (1 Corinthians 3:6) but only God produced the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:7)

If we could summarize chapter three in just one word, it would be growth. We should all work on growing in our faith. Of course, God gives the growth, but we must actively participate in the process. Paul lists a major hindrance to growth is envy and strife. (1 Corinthians 3:3)

In fact, because of the division in the church, Paul says he was unable to address them as mature believers. Rather, he had to address them as babies in Christ — even as unbelievers — because that’s how they were acting.

Paul concluded Chapter Two discussing the two categories of people: Lost and Saved. You’re either one or the other. However, in the past hundred years or so a harmful doctrine has been preached (yes, I’ve preached it, too) in many evangelical churches, adding a third category: the Carnal Christian, defined as a believer who has backslidden. They base the doctrine on the first few verses of Chapter Three. But that isn’t what Paul says! Paul says the Carnal Christian is a Saved person who never grew in his/her faith, not one who lapsed into sin. In fact, lapsing into sin — aka “backsliding” may be a sign that you were never saved in the first place!

Application

For Paul, the Christian life should be on an upward trajectory of growth. Instead, (to mix metaphors) it’s as if the Corinthians walked through the door of salvation and stood at the threshold, never taking steps into the foyer, much less exploring the household of faith. For a Christian to stagnate should be almost unthinkable.

Rick Warren correctly observed that everything that is healthy grows. If a Christian isn’t growing, he/she isn’t healthy. Perhaps, like me, no one said that you need to grow, much less tell you how to grow. For ten years after I was saved I attended church, had some spiritual experiences, occasionally read my Bible (only a couple of favorite books and “inspired finger” verses), and I thought that was all there was until I got to heaven. Perhaps you can relate to my experience.

I pray that these devotionals are encouraging you to pursue a growing relationship with God Who is your Creator and your Father. These devotionals should serve as a springboard to read the Bible for yourself, to dig deep in the Word, and to consider how it applies to your life. Practice the Spiritual Disciplines to grow in your faith. Use these devotionals to spur on your personal Bible reading, not to substitute for it. Feed on God’s Word. Drink its intoxicating truths. Taste and see that the Lord is good and find your refuge in Him. (Psalm 34:8) As you do, watch God give you spiritual growth.

Let me know how I can help you to stay close and stay clean in your growing walk.

This devotional was originally published August 2, 2019.

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Jesus sends our His Disciples for ministry
Image source: LumoProject

In reading through today’s Bible reading and looking back on the past four weeks of “stay at home” to flatten the curve of the coronavirus, I must say, I’m very much in a reflective mood.

As you look at what Jesus said in Matthew 10:5-15, you see a lot about what the Disciples were commissioned to do, but Jesus didn’t tell them how to go about it. One obvious point is that not once did He say anything about setting up a building as a center for ministry.

In one YouTube video I saw today, the speaker said that some church leaders (of large churches) in Canada suggested that they may not be able to return to “normal” church services until August or September. August or September!

In light of Jesus’ commissions for His Disciples in today’s reading and our recent inability to do church like we’re used to, we really need to ask some serious questions about how we are supposed to do church as we move forward.

As we begin to talk about going back to church — at least at first — we won’t be able to go back to what we’re used to. We will have to do some things differently. The mission remains, but the methods must change.

Perhaps God is giving us a chance to press the “Reset” Button. Perhaps what we’ve been doing for the past five hundred years needs to look different as we move forward. Maybe we need to stop doing some things we’ve been doing because the methods have served their purposes for a time and it’s time now to move on to more relevant things.

In some ways, we have already done this. Compared to fifty years ago, how many churches still conduct “Bible Drills” and Vacation Bible School? How many churches have an active “bus ministry”? How many churches have “Revival Services” twice a year anymore? How many churches still have a choir that wears choir robes for Sunday Morning church and present two cantatas per year? How many preachers still wear three-piece suits on Sunday Mornings? How many churches still have weekly door-to-door cold-call visitation?

Things have changed. We have already laid aside many things that may have run their course for our specific context. Note: I’m not saying that churches shouldn’t do any of these things anymore. I’m just saying that in many contexts, these methods aren’t as effective as they used to be. As a result, we have retooled our methods, as retail stores have abandoned brick-and-mortar-only approaches to selling products to customers. The market changes and our methods of delivering on our mission should also change to reflect those changes.

Just before we began to talk about merging churches, I preached about our need to do whatever it takes to reach different types of people: The lost, the traditional church-goers, and the former traditional church-goers.

Application

I have a few quick questions for our church specifically, and to other church-goers in general. When you look forward to getting back to meeting together as a church, what are you looking forward to? What do you miss? Finally, what needs to change when we go back?

On Wednesday afternoon, I attended a webinar about finishing well as a believer and church leader. Someone commented that preachers oftentimes say that they are “called into the ministry”. He followed this by saying, “No. You aren’t called into ministry. You’re called to intimacy. Ministry will flow out of intimacy.” As I reflected on this profound quote, I wondered if the intimacy he referred to was limited to (vertical) intimacy with God or if it includes (horizontal) intimacy with others.

Especially in light of today’s reading and my comments above, I believe it includes both types of intimacy. Having said that, I have to ask how much of my ministry has not been focused on vertical (with God) and horizontal (with others) intimacy (ie, the mission), but rather on the methods.

I have a lot to learn.

Nothing is more relevant to the world right now than the message of the Gospel. People are reaching out, looking for hope. Looking for answers. Record numbers of people have downloaded the YouVersion Bible App. And I have been shocked at how many people are viewing our Sunday Morning Messages on Facebook Live.

May we be true to our mission and flexible in our methods, seeking God’s leading all the time.

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hold your tongue

In today’s Bible reading, James warns his readers against being an arsonist by not controlling their tongues. He argues that although it’s very small, the tongue can create a great deal of damage. Perhaps James has Proverbs 18:21 in mind.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. Proverbs 18:21 (ESV)

James spends a great deal of time talking about the tongue. It’s a good thing. The can easily create havoc in a church setting. Perhaps it’s “sharing a prayer request”. Actually, it’s slander, gossip, or backbiting. Perhaps it’s “speaking the truth in love”. Actually, it’s demeaning or berating. Perhaps, it’s “stretching the truth” or — a preacher’s favorite — “ministerially speaking”. Actually, it’s lying. There are other ways Believers sin with our tongue, but these may be the most “innocent”. Either way, it’s not using our tongue to edify and bless.

Application

The tongue can get you in a lot of trouble. The wise person who wrote the proverb was correct. Words can heal or words can kill. You get to choose how you use your tongue.

Before you say something, before you “share” something, before you post something on Social Media ask yourself a few questions:

  • Is it true? Have you personally verified it?
  • Is it helpful? Is it encouraging?
  • Is it the right time to say it?
  • Is it said in the right tone? Is this the best way to say it?
  • Does it involve the person(s) talked about? The person you’re telling, are they part of the problem/solution? (If not, don’t share it; it’s gossip, plain and simple)
  • If it’s a corrective word, have you confirmed with someone else (in confidence) if it needs to be said? Have you confirmed with them that now is the time to share it? Do you need to bring that person along to be present when you deliver the word?

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The gospel is never bound.

When Paul was “quarantined” by prison, his ministry didn’t stop. He simply shifted his strategy, methods, and tools.

We’re doing the same thing right now at church: shifting our strategy, methods, and tools. We can’t use one of our tools (our building) right now. But Social Media, Zoom Meetings, and phone calls are still working just fine.

And like Paul, our message will never change.

Don’t lose heart. This temporary pause — this “momentary affliction” (2 Corinthians 4:17–18) — will end. We will meet together “in-person” again. In the meantime, we will continue being the church.

  • Pray for each other.
  • Pray for our church.
  • Pray for our country and its leaders. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
  • Call and text each other. Encourage each other. Pray with each other.
  • Invite your family and friends to join us for our online Bible studies.
  • Invite your family and friends to join us for our online Sunday Morning Messages.
  • Listen to and sing along with worship music.
  • Keep up with your Daily Bible Reading and Devotional readings.
  • Keep up with your monthly Scripture Memory.
  • Remember to be thankful.
  • Continue your financial support for our church. You can send your giving checks to the church or if you’re out, just drop an envelope in our locked mailbox.
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