Week 57 – Reading thru the whole Bible.. nearing the finish line!

LIFE PRINCIPLES — get them right and experience our Lord’s kingdom blessings along your way!

DAY ONE – 1 Corinthians 15-16

We read the account of the twelve apostles at the beginning of the New Testament. We read the story of Apostle Paul in Acts 9, and throughout Acts. Now we are reading his letters to the various assemblies of people in many cities where he preached and taught the Good News of Jesus. This Good News invaded the pagan world in as little as thirty years, starting a spiritual revolution that has lasted for over two thousand years! The news was spread first in Jerusalem, then Samaria, then everywhere, exactly as Jesus had instructed. Why would men and women devote their entire lives to travel and live for the Gospel, moving from city to city to meet with, teach, correct and assist the folks who were going about their lives in the usual manner? Because of the importance of the Good News! 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 (NIV)  Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

It’s either true or it isn’t. If Jesus died and was raised from the dead, then it is the only salvation available to any and all. If Jesus did not die in the manner presented in the Scriptures, then we may as well get in line for the high windows and end it all, for life without hope is not worth living. And hope built on a lie is not worth sacrificing all my time and energy! All of heaven and history attest to the Word of God in the Bible, demonstrating over and over that Jesus came into our world and gave His life for ours. God in heaven wants to save us; and a piece of heaven lives on in every person who gives his life to the Lord and lives that life for Him. No improvement can be made on an already perfect plan offered to us from heaven. Believe God, believe Jesus, and welcome the Holy Spirit. It is the everlasting adventure that people everywhere are seeking and not finding, until heaven comes into their soul. God’s kingdom, God’s heaven, still has open doors.

DAY TWO – 2 Corinthians 1-4

The songwriter of a  gentler, kindlier generation wrote, “Well, we’ve got trouble / Right here in River City / With a capital ‘T’ and that rhymes with ‘P’ / And that stands for pool!” The pool hall was considered to be the blight on the youth of that day. Every generation has its share of trouble of different kinds, but the cause of Jesus Christ is at once the most promising and most troubling in every generation. The Good Jesus News is the only hope our perishing world has, but it is also the greatest threat to the perishing world. The Kingdom of Heaven, God’s kingdom, functions entirely by God’s will to save as many as He can and to bring them into His growing, eternal family. The kingdom of this world, on the other hand, functions entirely by the will of man, separate from God’s will, which understandably creates conflict like no other. Before the kingdoms of this world topple completely and become the kingdom of our Lord and His Messiah, a fanatical buildup of force to halt the advance of Jesus’ kingdom will continue to come about. It has been occurring periodically ever since Jesus rose from the dead and ascended back to the heaven from which He came; but it is increasing in scope and intensity as we approach the ‘day of the Lord’ here on earth. That is why we encounter such angry protests from those who want complete freedom FROM all that God is and represents morally and spiritually. The idea that mankind is in charge and will control his own future links him to the very personification of evil, the devil himself. God’s saved people, on the other hand, weep grievous tears over the condition of our failing culture, and strive to live as Jesus lived, in submission to God our Father in heaven. And yes, that brings trouble–the trouble of suffering and conflict. But the Lord comforts us with His hopeful promises that what is yet ahead so outweighs this trouble in the glory He has prepared, that we are able to endure and to even rejoice in these times. With this joyous outlook Apostle Paul wrote,  That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NLT)

DAY THREE – 2 Corinthians 5-9

Certain LIFE PRINCIPLES appear repeatedly in scripture, such as 2 Corinthians 5:7 (NLT)  For we live by believing and not by seeing. By life principles we mean that we can build our values and goals around these principles, which will always stand the test of time and circumstances. God sees to it, for they are created in truth that has endured through the ages. This principle was first exampled in the father of our faith, Abraham: It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. 9 And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. 10 Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God. Hebrews 11:8-10 (NLT) Faith means believing without seeing. So many of our actions toward God are based in the reality of His Word and His Character, leading us to believe before we see. The Holy Spirit, our Guide, Comforter and Teacher, leads us in our life experiences before we see the results. So all the instruction, teaching, examples and requests Apostle Paul made to the Corinthian believers were based on this life principle. He asked them to live, give and love out of their faith in God and His ability to keep them in every kind of circumstance, to bless them in their generous giving, and to prove Himself through the outcomes. What a demonstration of the eternal power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to change not only individuals but a whole community of people! God bless the Corinthians for responding to the Good News!

In our world in which everything of value has been tossed into the air to see what will still be standing when it comes down, we do well to discover and adopt for ourselves those life principles that our spiritual fathers tested and lived by. It is certainly okay to test our own faith through our relationship with our Lord by proving His promises in real time. Jesus summarized these outcomes when Peter asked Him about those who had left all to follow Him:  “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, 30 will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. Mark 10:29-30 (NLT)

DAY FOUR – 2 Corinthians 10-13

The greatest anointing and authority rests upon those who are most obedient to Christ and demonstrate the character of the Kingdom of Heaven in the spirit of Christ. And so Apostle Paul wrote with deep conviction to his spiritual children, the Corinthians. So desirous was he that they give up completely their old pagan proclivities that he seemed to be wielding his authority over them. But not so, for what sounded like threats was merely the wrenching of his heart over them, born out of tears and grief. Sad that he had to defend his apostleship to them, he listed the terrible suffering he endured for the sake of the Good News and Jesus. Yet out of suffering came a powerful presence into his proclamation, one desperately needed in our western church culture. We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. 4 We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. 5 We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. 6 And after you have become fully obedient, we will punish everyone who remains disobedient. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (NLT) Paul’s letters to this assembly of believers underscore what every generation needs to know: Our world system lies within the parameters of that which is passing away and will be no more. Dare we build our future on such false hope? When did heaven begin to lose its reality in our heart? Was it when we began to lose ‘heaven on earth,’ the full expression of Jesus’ life among us? Do we recognize how much we need spiritual renewal and awakening in the Body of Christ on earth? All of the apostles labored under the conviction that Jesus would return soon. Every generation of Spirit-filled believers has experienced this same conviction; will we be the generation that loses this powerful, blessed hope?

We do well in the 21st century to renew our hope, our consecration, our determination to please our Lord Jesus Christ in our gatherings as well as in our personal life. One way we do this is to reevaluate the radical Holy Spirit movements our spiritual fathers experienced and the suffering they endured to live in the power and passion of the Spirit. Then Paul’s benediction will seem more real in our gatherings as well: May the (amazing) grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the (incredible) love of God, and the (unbroken) fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:14 (NLT)

DAY FIVE – Romans 1-4, Acts 20:1-3

This letter emanating from the heart of Apostle Paul is often cited as the ‘magnum opus’ of all his writings. It is certainly the defining message of his having been sent to preach the Good Jesus News in the pagan, Gentile world. No stronger motivation is discernible than his own words: For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. 17 This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” Romans 1:16-17 (NLT)  The only religion God ever gave to the world was the Jewish religion, founded on the faith of Abraham, the father of the Jewish race of people. Paul goes to great length to describe this entire process, demonstrating clearly that Abraham’s acceptance by God was because of his faith and trust in the Lord. In fact, the Jewish Law given by Moses hundreds of years later, which became a symbol of Jewish acceptance by God, condemned those who didn’t have the faith of Abraham, for believing and trusting is the means by which anyone is approved by the Lord. Anyone who  thinks that religious practices and protocols can save us and secure God’s approval must realize that whether we are under the Law or living solely by our conscience, breaking God’s law brings condemnation and death. But our loving God, having approved His Son Jesus Christ, and having raised Him from the dead, has made the Good News our means of being saved and given eternal life. Was, then, the Jewish Law of Moses valid or even necessary? By all means, for it was the Law that revealed the depth of our sin and our need for salvation through Jesus. Is it any wonder that, in our age of reason and technology, the Ten Commandments have been so vehemently opposed and efforts made to completely remove them from public visibility?

In our post-modern, technology-laden world, our Good Jesus News must sound totally alien to those who are reared on the university-contrived, humanistic and man-centered philosophies of life. Paul referred to the Good News as the ‘power of God’ at work. God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, awakens people to sin, condemnation and judgment. God’s Spirit reveals the greater Kingdom of Heaven and the realities of the world to come. Dare we try to influence or convince people to have faith in Jesus unless we ourselves are living a believing, consecrated life? By faith in Christ we are living out the righteousness of God in our world, and the Ten Commandments confirm God’s righteousness and justice.

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.