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Bible Studies For Life
October 27, 2019
GOD’S WILL AND THE HOLY SPIRIT
1 Corinthians 2:6-16
God’s Word contains truth. But the Holy Spirit imparts truth. The Bible, read simply as a book, remains only that: a book. When Philip approached the Ethiopian official in Acts 8, the man was reading from Isaiah 53. When Philip asked if he understood what he was reading, the man answered, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” (Acts 8:31). Thankfully, we have a guide to help us understand the mysteries of God: His Holy Spirit.
God’s wisdom is different (vv. 6-8). Paul already pointed out to the church at Corinth that his teaching and preaching lacked the “brilliance of speech” and “wisdom” they must have expected (see vv. 2, 4, and 5). What they expected from the apostle was an educated eloquence that the philosophers of the day were known for. Paul’s response? “You are hearing wisdom…but it’s God’s wisdom, not man’s.” Three distinct differences are mentioned in verse 6. First, unlike man’s wisdom, the wisdom of the gospel is for the “mature.” In other words, it makes sense to those who are spiritually attuned and progressing in their walk with Christ. Second, it’s an eternal, unchanging truth, unlike the flimsy philosophies they were used to hearing. Third, God’s truth is not like the political or military slogans that were thrown about by rulers to influence their people. Such sayings “come to nothing;” they produced no lasting results. No, God’s wisdom is different. The construction of verse 7 is difficult, but certain points are clear: God’s wisdom, though eternal, had been thus far hidden. The grace displayed in Christ’s substitutionary death was revealed in small preparatory lessons bound up in sacrifices and laws. But: “when the fullness of time had come, “God sent forth his Son” (see Gal. 4:4-5; Heb. 1:1-3). In verse 8, Paul proves his point: the religious rulers of this world never understood the nature of the gospel of grace; for if they had, they would have rejoiced at Christ’s coming, rather than crucifying Him.
God’s wisdom is divine (vv. 9-11). Verse 9 is a loosely worded quote of Isaiah 64:4. But while the words are not exact, the meaning is clearly preserved. The human eye has never been able to see what God is up to; the human ear has never been able to understand it; the human intellect has never been able to imagine it. Such is the mystery of our God! That which He has in store for His children far exceeds the limits of mere human comprehension. Does this principle apply to heaven? Certainly! But it applies to all that God does. In the immediate context of this passage, it applies to the wisdom of the Divine. Yet God has given us a glimpse of His inner workings through the Holy Spirit (v. 10). This too, demonstrates God’s wisdom. The Spirit of God is Himself God, so who better to reveal God’s mysteries? Verse 11 illustrates it in human terms. No one knows a person better than the person himself. Hence, no one knows the person of God any better than the Spirit of God.
God’s wisdom is discerned (vv. 12-16). The overarching principle of this section is simply this: only spiritual people can perceive spiritual truth. I used to get so frustrated when lost people didn’t grasp the simplest of spiritual teaching. But I eventually came to understand this concept so clearly stated in verse 14. And here Paul explains why. First, God designed it that way. Spiritual truth is aimed at believers, so that they can discern what God has “freely given” to them (v. 12). Second, God’s Holy Spirit must be present in us to impart the truth that God gives to us (see also John 14:16, 17, 26, et al.). Lost people, devoid of God’s Spirit, don’t welcome spiritual truth. In fact, they think it is foolishness. In reality, the lost couldn’t understand spiritual truth if they wanted to! Like an AM radio trying to pick up FM signals, they simply lack the equipment necessary to do so: in this case, God’s Holy Spirit. But believers do have the Holy Spirit (v. 15). As a result, we can discern the spiritual truth God gives and owe no lost man an explanation or justification.
November 3, 2019
GOD’S WILL AND THE CHURCH
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
When my brothers and I were small, my mother would often take us to the Woolworth’s in Hanover, PA one-at-a-time to buy Christmas gifts for each other. Low and behold, we were often led to the same toy bin where mom assisted us in picking out the perfect presents for the siblings. Most of the time, the items were identical. When we were older, my mother explained that she often coerced us to select the same gifts for each other to keep us from bickering about who got the best one. Looking back, I think Santa Claus must have used the same logic!
The church at Corinth was a great example of bickering brothers. What should have unified them in fellowship and purpose ultimately became that which divided them. Through his instruction, the apostle Paul slowly and methodically pulled the warring factions apart and urged them toward unity. Central to bringing them together was the Holy Spirit they all shared. It was He who indwelled them all, sealed them all, gifted them all, and empowered them all. Three activities of the unifying Spirit are presented.
The Holy Spirit affirms (vv. 1-3). After handling a variety of other church issues, Paul turned his attention to their confusion regarding spiritual gifts. The reason they needed instruction is given in verse 2: they were used to worshipping “dumb idols;” that is, gods who did not communicate back to them. But our God is a living God! He hears our prayers, is moved by our pleas, and speaks back to us through His Word and through His Holy Spirit. The evidence that you are a Christ-follower is found in the fact that the Holy Spirit communicates with you and reveals that Jesus is indeed Lord. In fact, apart from the Spirit’s influence, no one can claim Him as such. And vice-versa: no one who is truly regenerated by God’s Holy Spirit could ever curse Him. The Holy Spirit—who is actively at work in the life of the believer—won’t allow that to happen.
The Holy Spirit unites (vv. 4-6). These verses describe the oft-stated concept of “unity in diversity.” Three times the word “different” is used, and three times the word “same.” First, there are different spiritual gifts, which are explained more fully in verses 7-11. Then there are different ministries. These are demonstrations of service for the Lord carried out in His church. Third, there are different activities. The word here could be translated “energies,” and may refer to specific miraculous gifts in that day. While all of these depict different out-workings in the church, they all proceed from the same unified source. Notice the full Godhead Paul mentions: the Spirit dispenses the gifts; the Lord Jesus, as the head of the church, oversees the ministries within the church; and the power and energy flowing through the church is activated by God the Father. As one commentator put it, “There are a variety of streams, but all flow from the same fountain.”
The Holy Spirit equips (vv. 7-11). This marvelous text accomplishes several objectives at once. First, verse 7 reminds us why the gifts are given: so that each person can produce something good and useful (that is “beneficial”) for the church. Then verses 8-10 specify what gifts are given. While the list is not exhaustive, it is sufficiently rich and varied to demonstrate God’s thorough equipping of the church to carry out His ministry (for more examples, see also Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:28-30; and Eph. 4:11). Finally, Paul explains who gives the gifts: God’s one and only Holy Spirit (v. 11). While these three explanations are evident (and significant), the emphasis of the passage is not on the variety of gifts, but on the singularity of their source.
November 10, 2019
GOD’S WILL AND MY CIRCUMSTANCES
The old preacher pointed at our stained-glass windows and admired the skill of the craftsman who could take those mixed up pieces of broken colored glass and forge them together into a beautiful work of art. “That,” he said, “is what God can do. He can take the mixed up pieces of a broken life and make something beautiful out of them.” I may have only been about ten years old at the time…but I still remember those words of encouragement every time I see stained glass windows.
That’s the lesson, as well as the promise that God makes to all of us, in verse 28. But that promise lies sandwiched between two other promises: one of help, and one of triumph.
Help in our weakness (vv. 26-27). One great blessing of serving a living God is that of the continued intercession He makes on our behalf. First, Christ interceded on our behalf to save us. Later in Romans 8, Paul tells us that Christ was raised and is seated at the right hand of God where He still intercedes for us. But this ongoing intercession is not to keep us saved but rather to keep us safe. John reminds us, “My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1). The word advocate means both comforter and one who pleads a case. In this text, however, we see the Spirit’sintercession. In this case, the Spirit makes up for our inadequacies in approaching God in prayer. Paul’s explanation, “because we do not know what to pray for as we should” (v. 26), doesn’t mean we don’t understand how to pray, or that we run out of requests, but rather that in our human weakness we so often stray from praying within God’s will (see v. 27). Hence, the Holy Spirit Himself intervenes for us “with unspoken groanings;” that is, with deep supplication that we could never ourselves put into words. How does this all come together? Because God, who searches the human heart, is in tune with the Holy Spirit, who indwells that human heart. You might say they speak the same language! The result? They keep the believer rightly aligned with the will of God (v. 27).
Conformity to Christ (vv. 28-30). While we may not know how to pray, we do know that God is at work in us, to accomplish His will. So, what is God’s will for the us as believers? Ultimately, that we be conformed to the image of Christ. So essential to God is our conformity to Christ, that He predestined it! In God’s sovereign plan, He will save some. Those who are saved get that way by His effectual call and His declaration that they are justified (v. 30). The sanctification process conforms them to Christ’s image in this life, but only in part. The process is completed in Heaven, at the believer’s glorification. Simply put, if you are a follower of Christ, it was predestined that you will conform to His image; partially here, and completely there. It’s guaranteed! For that very reason, God sees to it that all things work together for good.
Assurance of victory (vv. 31-32). These verses summarize the conclusions drawn from the previous section. If God adopted us (v. 15), then granted to us His Holy Spirit (vv. 16-17), then promised to work everything out for His good purpose (v. 28), and mandated that we would be conformed to Christ’s image (v. 29), and guaranteed this by preordaining every step along the way—from calling to justifying to glorifying (v. 30); if this all is true, then “who can be against us?” The proof of God sustaining us through any and every circumstance is found in the infinite value of that which He gave for us. If He would go so far as to sacrifice His only begotten Son on our behalf, what of lesser value would He dare withhold?
November 17, 2019
GOD’S WILL AND THE GLORY OF GOD
John 11:1-4, 38-45
On the rare occasions that we visit New York City, we try to see a Broadway play. As much as I get absorbed in the music and the drama going on onstage, I can’t help but wonder what must go on behind the stage to make a show like Phantom of the Opera come to life. There must be a lot going on that we never see! And so it is with our lives here on earth. So much of our attention is focused on the stage of the physical here-and-now, that we often forget what’s going on behind the scenes, where God is at work.
In this week’s text, we return to the city of Bethany and the familiar story of the raising of Lazarus. The drama unfolds in three scenes.
The reason (vv. 1-4). Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (v. 4). It’s often difficult for us to reconcile things like sickness with God’s glory. It seems rather unfair that one should suffer so that God might be magnified, but that conclusion is hard to escape. Like the man born blind “so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:1-6), Lazarus’ sickness and subsequent death were used by God to display something much greater than what his sisters had in mind when they sent for the Lord (v. 3). The venerable commentator Matthew Henry said it well: “Let this reconcile us to the darkest dealings of Providence, that they are all for the glory of God: sickness, loss, disappointment, are so; and if God be glorified, we ought to be satisfied.” But I imagine that Mary and Martha were hardly satisfied when this illness that would “not end in death” (v. 4) most certainly did!
The raising (vv. 38-44). Much happens in the intervening verses. The discussion with His disciples (vv. 7-16) reinforced Jesus’ explanation that God was at work behind the scenes. In verse 11 He announced, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I’m on My way to wake him up.” Then in verses 14 and 15, Jesus told them bluntly, “Lazarus has died,” and added, “I’m glad for you that I wasn’t there so that you may believe.” By the time Jesus reached the house, He had bolstered the faith of Martha, by telling that her brother would rise again (v. 23), and He reassured Mary as well, by telling her “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die” (vv. 25-26). Thus, by the time Jesus stood outside the tomb, all of the background was in place: the disciples had been briefed and Martha and Mary had been prepared. The crowd was gathered for the final act. Again, Jesus reiterated that in the midst of all the suffering and sorrow, God would be glorified. And Jesus’ prayer removed any possible doubt: “Father, I thank You that You heard Me. I know that You always hear Me, but because of the crowd standing here I said this, so they may believe You sent Me” (v. 42).
The result (v. 45). The miracle itself accomplished at least three great objectives. First, as in most miracles of the Bible, the individual involved was blessed. In this case, Lazarus was raised to life. Imagine the flood of emotions he must have felt—confusion, amazement, joy, exuberance, and praise—as those grave clothes were peeled away, and the darkness of the grave gave way to light! Second, those closest to Jesus, His disciples and Mary and Martha, had their initial faith strengthened, as they witnessed the “resurrection and the life” display Himself in bold reality. Third, the miracle proved once again that God is involved the background, advancing His plan, bringing Himself the glory, even in the midst of our suffering.
Explore The Bible
November 3, 2019
The church, in every generation, is challenged to distinguish herself from its current intellectual, spiritual and moral climate. Christianity is more than a religion; it is a way of life fueled by a way of thinking which is informed by the ethics of the Kingdom of God. Wisdom is more than knowledge. It is knowledge lived out in a life that consistently reflects the character of God and adoration of the Lord. The life is an exposition of what is actually known with foolishness being reflected in ungodliness and true wisdom in the virtues of forgiveness, self-control and love. What is needed in a world flooded with debauchery and dissipation is less talking about what we know and more knowledge expressed in holiness. Paul’s words to the Ephesian Christians and the church as a whole is to walk circumspectly in this world by being filled with the Holy Spirit.
BE WISE (Ephesians 5:15-17)
The way of wisdom is a way that is cultivated, not simply by time, but through the Word of the Lord. When Paul tells the Ephesians to pay careful attention…to how you live (Ephesians 5:15) he was calling them to give intense thought to how their life reflects the gospel that had so changed them. The wisdom that Paul speaks of was Jewish in nature. For the Jews wisdom meant living in accordance to the truth and, as a result, living contrary to the ways and standards of this culture. Therefore, in each area of our lives Christians are to display with their actions an intentional repudiation of the foolishness of this world. The unwise are discerned in their way of life - a way that is characterized by rejection of the truth of the Word of God. In this context of darkness, it is imperative that the saints live decisively Christian with our minds and lives filled with and guided by the wonder and glory of the sovereign Lord. This demands that we consider every moment of the day as an act of worship because time – all of our days – belong to the Lord (Ephesians 5:16-17).
BE FILLED (Ephesians 5:18)
The call to be filled with the Holy Spirit is a teaching that is in contrast to the cultural norms of religious Ephesus. Oddly, in Ephesus, it was believed that in order to be in communion with their god one had to be drunk with wine. Therefore, drunkenness was not simply tolerated but was mandatory. Paul, knowing the temptation this might bring to some calls the Ephesian Christians to be drunk but with the Spirit. Drunkenness is the condition in which alcohol influences behavior and even speech. While drunkenness causes reckless living (Ephesians 5:18) – the living that brings harm to self, others and, spiritually speaking, our soul – to be filled with the Spirit is the call to have all of our life dictated by the Spirit of God. It is to be intoxicated with Him such that our lives reflect the values of kingdom of God and our ways are driven by glory. Therefore, we should not take Paul’s language here to imply the extraordinary, miraculous aspects of the Spirit of God. Rather, Paul is speaking in terms of the wisdom the Spirit brings to bear upon us such that our living is a reflection of the ethics, norms and values of the holiness of God as well as our distinctiveness as being lights in the world. This ability to live for the Lord, being filled with the Spirit, is intimately tied to the Word of the Lord. Therefore, being filled with the Spirit is connected with the Word dwelling richly within us (Colossians 3:16).
BE GENUINE (Ephesians 5:19-21)
To be filled with the Spirit will bring about specific actions that are reflected within our covenant community. Paul lists three fruits of the filled Christian and they all are related to how we treat and deal with one another. The first is in connection to worshipful fellowship expressed in how we speak to and encourage one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19). These three reflect what takes place in the context of worship, the mutual encouragement of one another as we gather to sing praises to our glorious and common Lord. Psalms reflect the psalter of the Old Testament sung in in adoration of the works of the Lord; hymns speak to the portions of scripture that were sung in praise of Christ’s Person and work (example, Philippians 2:5-11). Spiritual songs represent those songs, much like our current praise songs, that highlight specific theological themes. A second fruit is gratitude (Ephesians 5:20). This is to be demonstrated as a continual practice of giving thanks to the Father for Jesus Christ in all things – good or bad. A final fruit is that if mutual submission in the fear of the Lord (Ephesians 5:21), which is reflected in our humility and concern for the needs of others above our own needs (Philippians 2:3-4). This community aspect of being filled with the Spirit is an important factor to contemplate since being filled with the Spirit is always connected to our life with one another. We cannot be filled with the Spirit in private ways since His power and presence will always compel us to unity and to serve others within the local church as well as brothers and sisters in the universal church.
November 10, 2019
WALK AS A FAMILY
The family is God’s weapon to advance His kingdom and His glory (Genesis 1:28). It is a reflection of the gospel lived out in society demonstrating the designs of love, humility, submission, order, care, unity and holiness. As Christians, we must see family as the counter-culture design of God to be a picture of what the kingdom of heaven looks like on earth when it comes to bear on families. Paul’s words are challenging and yet gloriously encouraging.
WIVES (Ephesians 5:22-24)
A most controversial teaching of Paul is that of submission. It is controversial to us but in Paul’s day it was clearly understood in ways that were edifying rather than demeaning, as it is often seen today. Submission simply means to line up under. Not in the loss of person or dignity, but in the posture of serving those who are given the responsibility of leadership. That submission is not to be viewed negatively one need only to know that there is submission within the relationship of the Godhead - the Trinity (John 5:19, John 14:26, 1 Corinthians 11:3). Submission, therefore, is relationally structured on the basis of biblical order. Paul said that the husband, positionally, is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 5:22). Therefore, a wife is to submit to her husband, not because he is always worthy of it (see 1st Peter 3:1) but because he occupies the divinely given position as the head of the wife. The absence of worthiness on the husband’s part does not justify the lack of obedience on the wife’s part since her acts of submission are to be understood, primarily, as to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22). In other words, submission is not only God’s idea, but it is an act of worship to Him when wives honor their husbands in this way. This submission is to take place in every way (Ephesians 5:24) meaning in every matter. It must be remembered that the gospel is free but its demands are not easy and they are counter-culture. Thus, because a teaching is rejected by the masses does not means it is wrong. In fact, it may well mean that it is right!
HUSBANDS (Ephesians 5:25-33)
The submission of the wife to the husband is to be made easier by the husband who understand and acts accordingly to his role and responsibilities. The husband is to demonstrate an undying as well as an unconditional love for his bride (Ephesians 5:25). This means that husbands are to treat their wives in the same way Christ treated His Bride – the church: He washed her in the Word and sacrificed His life for her. He did this, not when the Bride became worthy and beautiful but while she was yet in sin and rebellion (Romans 5:8). So too, must a husband deal with the frailties and sins of his wife. What is amazingly difficult, far more than the submission of the wife to the husband, is the need for the husband to make his bride holy! The husband is called to so wield and the Word of God upon his wife so as to wash her with it and to work to present her as beautiful in holiness before the Lord (Ephesians 5:26-27). The wife’s sanctification or growth in godliness, therefore, is the singular responsibility of the husband – her true pastor- and no other man! Husbands should not push this responsibility on another person, be it pastor, small group leader, etc. He is the called head of the wife and he is the one to whom the Lord will look as it relates to the holiness of his wife. I know that submission is hard for a woman, but I cannot help but to feel that the husband’s role is highly challenging. Now, submission conveys the idea of a woman responding to her husband’s leadership by lining up under him and following him. Note the word: response. When a husband is leading and loving his wife in the ways described above I am certain that she would willingly and gladly follow such a man.
CHILDREN (Ephesians 6:1-3)
Children are to be taught the Word of God, specifically, the command about obeying their father and mother. Not because parents are tyrants demanding rank obedience but because a child’s act of worship to God is first displayed in obedience to father and mother (Ephesians 6:1). Paul’s words here are calls to a fruitful and fulfilling life (Ephesians 6:3). Obedient children would walk in the favor of the Lord and have lives that reflected such favor in a longevity of life that was spiritually prosperous. In our day, the idea of honor is all but lost. Honor within family, in Paul’s day, was resect given to the name one carried. Honor of parents did not only take place in direct dealing with them but in the ways a child lived and behaved in every sphere of life, lest the family name be smeared. At 48 years of age I am still very conscious of honoring my parents with my behavior since I know that my failures dishonor the name I have been given.
PARENTS (Ephesians 6:4)
Honor to parents is hard to give when parents display actions that seem not to warrant it. It has been written that the road to juvenile delinquency leads back to the home. While it may not always be true, it is factual that negative behavior see in children is often a reflection of the home environment from whence they come. Children are productions of parents. Now, it is true that children must honor their parents despite the behavior of parents, but it is equally true that parents cannot rightly expect honor where they have behaved in contempt. Paul reminds us, referring to the father as the head, to not stir up anger in your children. In other words, father must see their role as nurturing faith and love for God by being good examples of what they seek from their children. We should not run rough-shod our children or treat them as lesser human beings. Instead, fathers must create an environment where children are honored as image bearers of the Lord and precious gifts to be nurtured in the Word such that they become extensions of the kingdom of God are they grow.
November 17, 2019
WALK TO BATTLE
Ephesians is about the unity of the church in, through and for the glory of God in Christ. Unity was achieved by warfare on Golgotha and unity will be sustained in the continued battle of the saints against the realms of darkness. Unity within the church is a battle (Chapter 2-3), unity of life with God and holiness is a battle (Chapter 4-5), unity in marriage is a battle (Chapter 5) and unity within the family is a battle (Chapter 6). The whole of the Christian life is warfare! It is, therefore, fitting that Paul ends this letter with a battle cry along with an explanation of the weapons we have at our disposal to war successfully and to war biblically. This is the final lesson of Paul to the Ephesians and a necessary reminder to all Christians about what it will take to endure to the end for the glory of God.
AWARE (Ephesians 6:10-13)
As we seek to live for Christ faithfully, we must be aware of specific realities in order to endure to the end. We must be empowered by His strength and might (Ephesians 6:10). The greatest saint, in his or her own strength, is no challenge to the assaults of the enemy. We need the power of God in the Holy Spirit in order to stand against and withstand the tactics of the devil (Ephesians 6:12, 13). The way to this power is in the action we take of putting on the whole armor of God - dressing ourselves from head to foot with divine enablement and strength - since the weapons of our warfare are spiritual (2nd Corinthians 10:5). Again, to resist the devil we need God’s power (Holy Spirit) and God’s provision (the full armor). We must also be aware of the fact that the real nature of warfare is not between people, but the principalities and powers that wages war against all things pertaining to God and His glory (Ephesians 6:12). It is important that we are aware of this lest, in conflicts, we begin to target people while the real culprit, the devil, continues his assaults without resistance. Paul uses a phrase in the evil day (Ephesians 6:13) indicating that there is coming a day – a season – in which evil will be ramped up and intensified such that believers will need to stay continually aware. We will need to not only stand against such evil but to be able to withstand and to remain standing in the end.
PREPARED (Ephesians 6:14-17)
Believers are to remain suited and booted! The idea of putting on the full armor does not mean that believers are to walk around this way all of the time. No Roman guard stayed in his uniform all day, every day! Paul’s language conveys the idea that, being aware of the evil day and the enemy, Christians are to keep their armor close such that when defense is demanded you are ready and prepared to put it on! The belt of truth girds you, making battle easy; the breastplate of righteousness guards your heart reminding you that you are the Lord’s; feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace reminds you that you are to run into the darkness of battle with the purpose of gospel peace; the shield of faith protects you from the worries and anxieties thrown at you by the world, the flesh and the devil (Ephesians 2:3) extinguishing all the flaming arrows of the evil one; the helmet of salvation refers to the hope that we have, in Christ, that one day war will be no more and we shall rest with him for all of eternity in endless praise and peace. The final piece of armor is, like the others is defensive, but is also the only offensive weapon, the sword of the Spirit – which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). As Jesus used the Word to attack the assaults of the enemy so too must Christians be so girded and armed with the Word. What is interesting is that the word sword actually refers to something of a smaller knife. The idea is that Christians must know specific words to deal with specific assaults. We must be able to take specific scriptures, as Christ did in His temptation and, in close proximity to the enemy, strike a fatal blow.
FIELD SUPPORT (Ephesians 6:18-20)
Battling against the enemy may seem personal, but it must be waged in community. Paul, after telling the Ephesians to put on the armor, calls them to Pray at all times … and stay alert with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints (Ephesians 6:18). We cannot win without the Spirit and the Spirit will not aid us unless sought in prayer while we war. Waring and praying are to be done synonymously. Not only should we pray for ourselves, but Paul tells us to persevere in our intercession – our intense and agonizing praying - for others in the battle (Ephesians 6:18). Having called them to be alert and suited in the armor of God Paul then asks for them to pray with him, that he might be able, with boldness, confidence and spiritual success, declare the mystery of God to the known world (Ephesians 6:19-20). Let me end with a practical word for worship. When you go to church on this coming Sunday pray for your pastor. Pray for him in the way Paul asked for prayer in verses 19-20. Pray for the mystery of the gospel to be made known; pray for a boldness and confidence for you pastor to declare the honor and glories of the gospel of grace. Pray, in the spirit of warfare, knowing that what worship is in its essence, is an assault on the enemy by lifting up the glory of Christ so as to break the chains of the on the souls of men. I believe that if we begin praying like this each week, we will notice the seeming victories of the enemy over so many, crushed under the weight of God’s glory and gospel.
November 24, 2019
From the wilderness to the Promised land. What a journey, filled with all kinds of twists, turns, deaths and demonstrations of His divine glory. We know that the children of God were wandering in the wilderness as a result of their own sin. But how would they get to Canaan having been so disobedient? Would it come through a mustered up, strapping up their boots type of obedience? The answers are within the activity of God among His people. The essence of this portion of the book of Numbers is to show that the Lord Himself will lead them and get them to Canaan in His own time and in His own way. He will lead them and, in the difficult days as well as the beautiful ones, they (and we) must simply trust that He is good and gracious and powerful enough to fight our battles to get us home. Let us follow His lead at all times by focusing on the realities below.
THE PRESENCE (Number 9:15-16)
The presence of God was everything for the people of God. It was more than a mere experience or sentimentality. It was His very presence abiding, in power, protection and guidance over His people in their journey. The presence of God was promised to Abraham in Genesis 15 as the certainty of God’s promise that He would fulfill His word regarding the promised seed in the person we would come to know as Isaac (Genesis 12). In a mysterious yet powerful ceremony where God passed between the pieces He was, in this act, confirming to Abraham He and He alone would bring about the promise inspte of Abraham’s doubts. The visible expression of this assurance was the smoking fire and flaming torch (Genesis 15:17) which would later, in this text in Numbers, come to symbolize His presence with His people. This fire would come over the tent of meeting which and transform ordinary materials into the very Holy Sanctuary of God. The main point is this: God is with His people, moving and advancing them towards His chosen and purposeful ends. They can be certain that they will get to the promised land because His presence is the assurance that He is with them and will bring it about. Today, as Christians, the presence of God is something of an extraordinary reality. His presence does not merely abide with us, but by way of the Holy Spirit, His presence is within us. As J.D. Greer has stated, Jesus inside of us is better than Jesus beside us! We can have assurance of glory, not by looking to ourselves, but by trusting His powerful presence within us, sanctifying and preparing us for that very day!
THE PRACTICE (Number 9:17-22)
Being in relationship with the sovereign Lord is a wonderful reality, yet it is also taxing when one thinks about what it means to be obedient to Him. It is often nerve wrecking to follow the Lord because we are always certainly uncertainthat we should do such a thing and not do such a thing. We often times feel like moving for Him is the right thing and, at the same time we ponder whether being still is best. As the leader guide states, “Neither doing something nor waiting is always the right response” (page 16). Confusing? Yep! But here is the point: following the Lord means following His leadership and leadings, trusting singularly and exclusively His timing and provisions. The people of God did not move until He moved or the cloud lifted. If the Lord’s presence abided over the tent, they stayed put. The life that the Lord was calling them to was one of sensitivity to His presence and obedience to His command. Whatever they felt was right to do did not dictate what they did. They only did what God did and moved when the Lord moved. That was the way in which they practiced of righteousness and holiness. So too, today, is that the way the people of God should move. But we often exhibit the combination of anxiousness and impatience as well as hesitance and reluctance. How shall we then move? When the Lord prompts us to move! They had the physical presence to guide them but we now have the presence of God within us. We will only know to move or to stay when we are saturated with the Word and filled with the Spirit of wisdom, walking as His temples in holiness (1 Corinthians 6:19). For “no one knows the mind of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11).
THE PRINCIPLE (Number 9:23)
In a short, concise statement, the principle is this: Only God is in charge! Sounds simple and yet we often are pressed to press the limits of our thinking, rationale and position. The reason this principle is of great importance is due to the implication of what takes place when we live contrary to it. When the people of God take control where we have no right, authority or business, it is always prompted by idolatry and ends in even greater idolatry! The golden calf incident in Exodus 32 is an illustration of what happens when we forget the principle God is in charge. Believing they knew how best to handle the absence of Moses – thus the absence of God – the people decided to play religious and bring about spirituality where there seemed to be none. They knew better than God it seems. The result was the impending wrath of God, abated only by one who had not forgotten that the Lord was in charge. Thus, how we live, worship, gather as a people, treat others, handle our finances, spend our time, etc., are all situations in which we are prone to act as if we are in charge. But since God is in charge what we do with our lives and everything else is always to be dictated on the basis on honoring Him with it and seeking His pleasure in all that we do. The people did not move if God did not lead them to move. May the sovereign Lord continue to help us, His Bride, to remember we are under theocratic rule: The Lord is in charge!
During her 30 years as Florida Baptists’ director of communications, Barbara ventured across the state — and to Cuba and Haiti — to report on Baptist witness and, amid natural disaster, Baptist compassion.
Barbara and her husband, Dick, are currently enjoying spending time with their first grandchild, Finley, along with Finley’s parents Ashford and Chantal and Barbara and Dick’s daughter, Addie.
Keila earned a B.S. in Communications from Florida International University in Miami. She writes news and stories about Florida Baptist churches, creates and posts social content to the FBC’s social media channels, and is a Baptist Press contributor.
When she’s not working, Keila enjoys bike rides and spending time with her family.
Barbara, a member at Eau Gallie First BC, Melbourne, and a graduate of Florida State University, B.S., Speech Pathology/Audiology, taught Pre-K/VPK for many years. While living and serving in Maine, she wrote articles for the NEW ENGLAND BAPTIST, and currently writes for the Brevard Baptist Association’s newsletter, THE BRIDGE. She loves serving alongside her husband Mike (Associational Mission Strategist, Brevard Baptist Association), spending time with their three grandchildren, sewing and reading.
David Moore has been writing and editing for newspapers and magazines in Florida for more than 20 years. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Florida. A proud member of First Baptist Church of Ocala, David serves in the worship, deacon and NextGen ministries. He and his wife Beth have three children.
Jessica received her B.S. in Biblical Studies from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. She contributes to Florida Baptist Conv, Biblical Woman, Baptist Press, The Devotional for Women, and Daily Devotional Bible for Women. Her greatest joy is serving beside her husband who is the Senior Pastor of Fellowship Church.
Brandi is a writer and editor for N2 Publishing, a community magazine that honors God. She and her family attend Fishhawk Fellowship Church and are a Host Family for Safe Families for Children, Bethany Christian Services. Her background is in Healthcare Management, Policies & Procedures.