Week 56 – Will faith or fear be our operating system?

What we call relational dysfunction is really an absence of trusting and committed love.

DAY ONE – Acts 18:19-19:41

The apostolic impulse carries a ‘door-opening’ anointing. (By ‘anointing’ we simply mean a special grace working through the Spirit of God in someone’s life so that he is able to do special things.) When Jesus appointed apostles, He sent them out to various places that He planned to visit. Now that Jesus is in Heaven, the Holy Spirit still employs this effective strategy. People with a special anointing from the Lord still want to take on new places to preach the Good News–they are ‘door openers.’ They have the grit and determination from the Spirit of God to take on difficult–sometimes impossible–odds and to solve knotty problems as they preach the Good Jesus News. For them the answer is always “Yes, we can do this.” If it requires miracles and other supernatural manifestations, they are equipped as Paul was. In the face of opposition they simply lean forward and keep going until there are believers and followers of Jesus established in the faith. When God’s Word is established in an area and an assembly of believers is carrying on the mission, door-opening people often leave the work in others’ hands and move to another new field of endeavor. Always there is that supernatural cutting edge to their work. In Paul’s case handkerchiefs that had merely touched his body became the means of healing and deliverance from demons to many people.

If we wish to see another great spiritual awakening and outbreak in our western culture, we must by all means pray for and welcome a ‘door-opening’ move of God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, that defies opposition, bypasses obstacles, and is accompanied by supernatural phenomena. Our modern assemblies are so maintenance and ‘full-service’ oriented that the power to break the spell of cultural distractions simply isn’t there. The Holy Spirit is powerful, the Word of God is powerful, but we also need powerful and anointed people to stand up to the milieu and preach Jesus even in the face of persecution. Yes, grace, peace and love should be the context of our message, but supernatural outbursts are also needed to demonstrate that the Kingdom of Heaven is destroying the works of the devil and defeating the world kingdom and its false powers. God give us another generation of Spirit-empowered young men and women in full apostolic mode. Are the people of God ready to take on this prayer and preparation assignment?

DAY TWO – 1 Corinthians 1-4

It’s easy to confuse philosophy with knowledge. ‘Philosophy’ is a Greek compound word (philos-sophia) that means ‘love of wisdom.’ In our world of education and ideas, a great deal of what we call ‘truth’ is nothing more than philosophy, or another theory. What we know or think we know is often elevated above how we live, and Apostle Paul took great care to correct the thinking of the Corinthians, who were raised on Greek philosophies. In fact, when Paul was in Athens, the great cultural center of the world at that time, he observed that the Greeks had so many ideas about God, they actually knew practically nothing about Him! Yet many Greeks believed the Good News of Jesus and followed, and it is to them this letter is written to ask them to put away their quarreling and wrangling with each other in order to really focus on Jesus who saved them and was working with them. God’s power is more important than the person who preaches, and His Word is more important than the one delivering it. In the end, God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, is the One who knows and interprets all things spiritual to us. Don’t get hung up on who said what. God the Holy Spirit gives us all we need, but it is so that we can carry and live out the Good News to our world.

Jesus is central to the Gospel of God. He is the power of God. His victory over temptation, sin and death brought eternal life to us, and it is through Him that we receive everything so that we can overcome everything. Drop the tendency to elevate important people by trying to identify with them. They are only Christ’s servants. Thank God for each one who has blessed you, taught you, mentored you, loved you. But don’t go beyond that, or you will steal their blessing, for the greatest blessing is when we are judged by Christ when He comes and are found faithful to the task we were given. Live your life to the glory of God–humbly, sincerely and in the grace of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus comes again to judge the world, may we be found worthy of His grace and love by loving the assembly of believers around us and in serving as we are called. This is sainthood!

DAY THREE – 1 Corinthians 5-8

It’s difficult to put into human terms the revolutionary power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives. The corporate life of the new community of believers in Jerusalem was so different, that the Jews looking on described them as the people of The Way (See Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-36). It changed their social structures and attitudes tremendously, energized by the life of their Savior Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. In our scriptures today Apostle Paul confronted the pagan practices of the new Corinthian believers, practices which, if left unchecked, could compromise the entire community. These were holdovers in attitudes and behaviors from their pagan society, given completely to religious superstition and idolatry of many kinds. Sexual immorality of the worst kind had manifested, and the person was to be removed from the spiritual household until he repented. Settling disputes in front of unbelievers unqualified to judge within the believing community was questioned deeply. The sanctity and longevity of marriage was put forth in such manner that a believer would think twice before seeking dissolution or divorce. And finally, the conscience of other believers became a community priority regarding their old religious practices, such as eating meat offered to idols. Note that the COMMUNITY of believers was held in high esteem, for it represented Jesus’ Presence on earth through His eternal Kingdom. What the rest of the world saw when they observed the believing community was important. A real distinction of life and practice was observable, and Paul wanted to keep it that way. A single passage shows how dramatically a person is changed when he follows Jesus:  Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, 10 or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. 11 Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (NLT) The power of paganism is shattered when Jesus invades us by His Holy Spirit. May all its ungodliness and destructiveness be cleansed from the Community of Believers, the Lord’s assembly.

DAY FOUR – 1 Corinthians 9-11

A world upside down and a world right side up–these are the extremes between this world kingdom and the heavenly kingdom. What seems natural here may indeed be unnatural. And what seems puzzling here may indeed be the supernatural natural of the kingdom of heaven! We often fail to see how paganism dictates the core values and teachings of popular culture, obscuring what is heavenly, good and right. When Jesus came into the world, He came from heaven and brought realities of heaven with Him–peace, love, healing, life, truth and other astonishing realities that caught His world off guard. It took several years of life and ministry for Him to show convincingly that the world system’s paganism is heaven’s opposite. And it took that long for His followers to accept and understand that God’s ways in our world result in what we all long for. While we understand that the whole world system must eventually give way to heaven’s authority and priority, we at this time live and die IN FAITH that our Savior’s world is our world also; that His resurrection life is our life; and that His home is our home. Once our faith crosses that line, all that is heavenly becomes our NEW NORMAL! Paganism is soundly defeated, and Christ Jesus leads His followers from faith to faith in victory.

How agonizing it must have been for Apostle Paul to methodically and painstakingly instruct the Corinthian (formerly pagan) believers to grasp the new realities of heaven working among them! Because we live and move and sense and feel and work and play in the old pagan environment of this world, it is very challenging to adjust to a new normal that invades our life with the coming of Holy Spirit. He leads us IN CHRIST to new realities that are normal in heaven. Our old pagan ways claw at our old unregenerate nature (before Jesus) to lead us back into the old normal that otherwise seems perfectly normal. Yet it can NEVER BE NORMAL again as long as the Holy Spirit has His way with us. We will always be warned and led from within to trust the Lord and His ways. How important is it to feed continually on God’s Words and welcome Holy Spirit to instruct us and lead us in our daily living? How important is it to pray with and for one another continually to provide spiritual influence and support? And how important is it for us to see our old world for what it is and soundly reject it in favor of new heavens and new earth, which even now our Father in heaven is planning for our future? Let’s get it right this time!

DAY FIVE – 1 Corinthians 12-14

The governing law of Jesus is LOVE, so the governing law of His people gathered together is love. Not so in paganism. The governing law of paganism is FEAR, for people fear the god they supposedly worship but don’t know and understand. Since fear motivates us to self-preservation, it influences every relationship we have, even when human love is present. What we call relational dysfunction is really an absence of trusting and committed love, and a person always feels vulnerable when he doesn’t feel loved. No wonder Apostle Paul devoted an entire section to governing love, which becomes the basic function of our life together as a gathering of God’s people. Coming freshly out of paganism, the Corinthian believers struggled to honor and prefer each other when they were together, because each needed what he could not attain through his pagan culture. So even though God had blessed them with spiritual gifts given to help and support one another, they were often displayed for self-aggrandizement, so that it left everyone confused and unsatisfied. The only remedy for this malfunction of the gifts of the Holy Spirit was God’s full expression of committed love reaching through His people in relationship.

Perhaps our modern issue when we gather is not the misuse of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but their lack of use. We are trained and accustomed to listen to someone pray or give a sermon rather than to interact and lovingly use the gifts of the Spirit to love, heal and strengthen each other. Under the current rules of ‘engagement,’ so to speak, we are often passive in our relationships, so that people may come and go from our gatherings without ever addressing their needs and receiving proper care. God has certainly provided for our wholeness, but perhaps we are withholding it from one another without even realizing it. What to do? First, receive a baptism of God’s love so that you overflow with His Presence. Second, when gathering, ask the Holy Spirit who needs your love and care at this particular moment. Then work with the leaders to see that prayers, proper care and large loving doses of healing are given away to people. That will supercharge our gatherings and renew our faith.

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