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Relationship

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Back in 1982, Faberge Organics Shampoo rolled out a commercial that forever stuck in my mind. The same year, as I wrapped up my Freshman year at UNC-Chapel Hill, one of the staff members for Campus Crusade for Christ “challenged” me to be a part of their discipleship movement on campus. It was a fancy way of saying that I was asked to lead a discipleship group the next year. The commercial and the Discipleship Process are very simple, straightfoward, and very similar. Every time I think of discipleship, I think of the commercial. And every time I think of the commercial, I think of discipleship.

Paul summarizes the Discipleship Process in one verse as part of today’s Bible reading. Have you ever wondered what “discipleship” is? “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” ( 2 Timothy 2:2 CSB)

It isn’t complicated. It isn’t expensive. It isn’t un-do-able. All it takes is a pair of ears and a commitment to reproduce. It’s as easy as trying a new shampoo!

In the commercial, actress Heather Locklear says she liked the shampoo so much that she told two friends. And they told two friends and so on….

Paul tells Timothy to reproduce in others what he has heard from Paul. But it isn’t just that Timothy should teach someone. He tells Timothy to teach someone who can teach others. In other words, the Discipleship Process doesn’t stop with one generation of disciples. Obviously, Timothy followed Paul’s teaching. The Process continues to this day and will continue until Jesus takes all of His disciples to live with Him in eternity.

Here’s the commercial.

Application

Are you involved in discipling other Believers?

Discipleship doesn’t require a lot of training. It doesn’t require a lot of materials. Training helps. A lot. And good materials help. A lot.

All it takes is a pair of ears and a commitment to reproduce what you’ve heard. And that commitment to reproduce is the key to extending it to future generations of disciples.

Ask your pastor to take you deeper in your walk with Jesus. And ask him to help you reproduce what you’ve heard.

This devotional was originally published on September 19, 2019.

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Honor your elders

When Paul talks about honoring the elders in today’s Bible reading, he isn’t talking about honoring your parents or honoring people who are older than you. He’s talking about honoring church elders.

Elders in the First Century church were pastors and mature men who had been called to provide spiritual and financial leadership of the church. Deacons tended to the day-to-day “pastoral care” ministries of the churches.

In most of the churches in my tribe, Baptist Churches, we don’t have elders. Pastors provide spiritual leadership and work with the deacons to administer the financial dealings of the church. Our Congregational polity means that all business decisions must be approved by the church congregation. How minutely the deacons manage the church differs from church to church.

I remember one church where every motion brought before the church in our business meetings came from the “Deacon Board”. And I remember hearing stories of staff members who had to appeal to the deacons to approve everything down to the number of servings of fruit on a Singles Retreat. Yes, seriously!

Admittedly, not all church elders are worthy of respect. But Paul isn’t talking about those people in 1 Timothy 5. He tells Timothy that good leaders who work hard at preaching and teaching should be considered worthy of double honor. Exactly what Paul means here may be a little unclear, but he explains himself when he quotes the Old Testament and talks about letting oxes eat while they work. (Deuteronomy 25:4) He summaries his thoughts with, “The worker is worthy of his wages.” (1 Timothy 5:18)

Unfortunately, not every church treats its pastor as well as I have been treated. Just this week, I talked with a pastor-friend about new opportunities before him. He hesitated whether to take the next steps with a new church because with the church-provided parsonage, he might end up with less in his pocket every month, despite the slightly higher salary. Most pastor search committees — and churches in general for that matter — are unaware of the financial downside to living in a parsonage. The IRS sees the parsonage as a taxable asset in the salary package. This means the pastor must pay income taxes on a “fair market rental value” for the parsonage. So for this friend, going to this new opportunity may not be the financial increase he and his family were hoping for. I deeply hope that churches are just unaware of situations like this, rather than being uncaring about them. Many churches have no idea just how poorly they are treating their “elders”. It’s wrong and God will hold them to account for their mistreatment of these servants.

Application

You can honor your “elders” in many ways.

How do you feel about your pastor and church ministry staff? Do you appreciate them? Do you tell them? Sometimes a reassuring or affirming word goes a long way.

Do you pray for your church staff? Have you asked them how you can pray for them?

Sometimes a gift certificate to a restaurant and an offer to keep the kids so a staff member can take his wife on a date night can go a long way.

I haven’t met anyone who goes into vocational ministry for the money. In most churches, there’s no money to be in it for anyway! But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be paid for their work. Is your church fairly compensating your church staff? When was the last time your pastor or staff received a raise or a special gift to show your appreciation? Maybe it’s time to talk with your church leaders about addressing these issues.

I hope that you and your church honor your elders. Honor them, not as unto men, but as unto God. (Colossians 3:23–24)

This devotional was originally published on September 14, 2019.

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exam

I’ve had my share of tests. I’ve done well on many. I’ve done poorly on some. In today’s Bible reading, Paul urges the Corinthians to examine themselves to see if they pass the test of faith. (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Actually, Paul asks the Corinthians two question: 1) Are you in the faith? and 2) Do you see Christ in you? Paul implies that if the answer is no, then you don’t pass the test.

Paul uses two different Greek verbs when he asks the questions. The first verb means “to try to learn the nature or character of someone or something by submitting such to thorough and extensive testing.” [1] The second verb means to “try to learn the genuineness of something by examination and testing, often through actual use.”[2]

Another way to ask the questions might be, “Examine yourself to see if you’re you a Believer” and “Test yourself as to how genuine your faith is.” In other words, Paul asks the Corinthians quantitative (yes/no?) and qualitative (how well?) elements of the tests. It isn’t enough to say, “Yes I’m a believer.” or “Yes, I adhere to certain religious beliefs.” Paul digs deeper.

Christianity is unlike every religion. Religions are based on believing certain teachings and seeking to appease a deity and/or to rid oneself of deficiencies. Some religions add an element of eternity, others do not.

But Christianity is a relationship, initiated by God, established by the sacrificial death of Jesus, and sealed by the Holy Spirit. It is completely different when seriously compared to every religion out there.

Application

I believe we need to ask these questions on a regular basis. It keeps us on our toes. It adds a present-day application of our faith test.

I mentioned to our church last Sunday that if you were married several decades ago and you have not had an ongoing and growing relationship with your spouse, something is seriously wrong!” If you claim to have been saved for several decades, but don’t have an ongoing, growing relationship with Jesus, something is seriously wrong!

Christians often rattle off that they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. But let me ask with Paul, “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” and “If so, then how personal is your personal relationship with Jesus Christ?”

[1] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 331. Print.
[2] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 331. Print.

This devotional was originally published on September 7, 2019.

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shun

What does Paul mean when he tells the Corinthians to “come out and be separate” and to not be “unequally yoked” in today’s Bible reading? (2 Corinthians 6:14, 17) Does he mean that Believers are supposed to only deal with Christian businesses? In light of recent Social Media posts, maybe this means Believers should eat at Chic fil-A instead of Popeye’s. Maybe Believers should live in communes to avoid contamination from the world. Maybe Believers should make their clothes rather than wearing “tainted” branded clothes made and advertized by companies that support liberal, godless agendas. Maybe Believers should only date and marry believers. Maybe Believers should boycott businesses that are supported by groups that support liberal, godless agendas. I remember a boycott against a cruise line or an entertainment resort because they had a “Gay Pride” week. There are Christians who have taken any or all of these applications from Paul’s instructions.

Let me just say that if Believers spend all their time trying to avoid contact with the world, we won’t be able to establish relationships and win people to Christ and disciple them in the faith… which is one of the things Jesus commanded us to do! Jesus prayed in His “High Priestly Prayer” in John 17 that God would protect Believers as they lived in the world, but not of it. (John 17:14–18)

If Jesus really wanted us to come out and be separate — completely — He would rapture Believers immediately after becoming Christians. But who would tell the lost people then?

One of my favorite Christian artists, Lauren Daigle came under fire a few months ago for appearing on the Ellen TV show and for not clearly denouncing homosexuality. Thirty-some odd years ago, Christian artist Amy Grant came under fire for singing and shooting a music video “The Next Time I Fall in Love” with Chicago’s Peter Cetera.

Let me just say that not everyone has the same platform and not everyone can reach every audience. I will never be asked to be on the Ellen TV show. Probably no one else who reads this devo will either. What many critics don’t know is that the day she appeared on Ellen, every studio audience member went home with a copy of Lauren Daigle’s CD. Daigle’s music has been featured on TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Dancing with the Stars. Some secular radio stations have played some of her music. No, Lauren Daigle’s music doesn’t preach the Gospel in the traditional sense, though it is clearly aimed at praising God.

Lauren Daigle is reaching people I never will be able to. And as she reaches out to them, maybe they’ll hear a little about Jesus that they’ll never hear me be able to tell them. We need to pray for people like Lauren Daigle. Pray she stays close to Jesus. And pray that she stays clean in her walk with Him so that when she tells people about Jesus, they will listen to a person of integrity.

There is more to preaching the Gospel than presenting a Four Spiritual Laws message with an invitation. And let me just say that a church doesn’t have to do a gospel presentation complete with an altar call every time it does an outreach event. For several years, our church has hosted a Fall “Trunk-or-Treat” Outreach around October 31. We also host an Egg Hunt Outreach during the Resurrection Day weekend. I clearly present the Gospel at the Egg Hunt, but because of the come-and-go nature of our “Trunk-or-Treat”, I don’t give a presentation for that outreach. Sometimes, we just need to make ourselves available to be friends. Even with people whose lives are very different from ours.

Application

People don’t always need to know what we’re against. Many times — most times — they need to know what we’re for. Though oftentimes, we do the exact opposite of this.

Paul’s point in saying Believers should come out and be separate is that we should be different. But I don’t think Paul was telling us to be weird.

And God hasn’t left us up to our own devices to be different. He gave His Holy Spirit to empower us to live holy lives. Not weird lives.

Perhaps Paul’s emphasis of “come out and be separate” has more to do with what (Who) we are coming out to and being separated for rather than than what we are coming out and being separated from.

This devotional was originally published on August 29, 2019.

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account reconciliation

Again, I’ll highlight what I have said before, that when you see a word or phrase repeated in close proximity in the Bible, it’s a signal of its importance. In today’s Bible reading, Paul uses reconcile five times in only three verses. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)

The word reconcile is used in accounting. You may have reconciled your checkbook to make sure that your income and expenses come into agreement. Hmmm…. come into agreement. That’s what it means to be reconciled!

One of my Greek lexicons (a fancy word for dictionary) says this about reconciliation:

to reestablish proper friendly interpersonal relations after these have been disrupted or broken (the componential features of this series of meanings involve (1) disruption of friendly relations because of (2) presumed or real provocation, (3) overt behavior designed to remove hostility, and (4) restoration of original friendly relations)—‘to reconcile, to make things right with one another, reconciliation.’[1]

The fact that God reconciles people to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18) demonstrates that the relationship was broken in the first place. And the relationship was broken by Adam and all of his descendants. Otherwise, Paul could speak of us reconciling ourselves with God.

But God is the one Who takes the initiative because we, as fallen creatures cannot. In fact, even if we could take the initiative, we would not. Yes, we are that fallen! We are that broken!

Until we can understand the gravity of our sinful condition, we can’t grasp the incredible goodness, grace, and mercy of God to reconcile us to Himself. Because God has reconciled His children to Himself through Jesus Christ, we can have peace with God and peace with each other! “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15, (CSB)

And we get to be a part of God’s ministry of reconciliation! He has made us His ambassadors to plead with our family, friends, and acquaintances, “Be reconciled to God!” What an amazing priviledge!

And what an amazing responsibility!

Application

Have you been reconciled to God? Have you recognized your infinite debt to God due to your own sin? He has done all that is necessary to restore you to Himself, if you will only accept His offer! Be reconciled to God!

If you have been reconciled to God, have you told your family, friends, and acquaintances about this glorious God Who has extended His grace to you, and to them?

Who can you tell today?

[1] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 501. Print.

This devotional was originally published August 28, 2019.

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1 2 3 42

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