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Where's Your Priority?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Scripture Reading: MALACHI 1

If we fail to recognize God properly, our spiritual lives will falter. We can take God’s blessings for granted. In the Old Testament, 100 years after God’s people returned to their homeland, Israel faced a huge problem with apathy. Their priorities were mixed up. They took God’s providential care and continual blessings for granted. It’s just an amazing thing to consider. What happened to all the nations who had previously been around them? What happened to their forefathers? Most of their ancient national enemies were long gone, having been swept away in relentless waves of Assyrian and Babylonian aggression. What had become of their grandparents and great grandparents generations? They died in exile. Yet, here this new generation was back in the homeland, having been returned by God and preserved by His providence. During Malachi’s time, the nation as a whole failed to appreciate God’s grace and blessings. Their spiritual lives were in serious jeopardy because of their misplaced priorities.

They were not the first generation to experience this problem. And, they aren’t the last. Three hundred years before Malachi’s time, Isaiah said, “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,” Isaiah 29.13. When individuals offer half hearted service, God is displeased.

In our Wednesday 1pm class today, I asked what causes apathy among modern Christians. An answer from a 98 year-old brother summed it up well: distractions. Too many are distracted with the modern amenities of this world and lose sight of their spiritual priorities. Yes, we have the best of intentions. Yes, we know we’ll get around to it, eventually.  And, before you know it…time marches on...and the spiritual is somehow left out. 

We’ve just spent the three previous months taking a hard look at the present reality of life in America during 2016. Things are bad. People are hurting. Many are struggling with self inflicted wounds of sin and have no idea where to turn. They’ve looked at fulfillment in all the wrong things. Will we have the courage to share the hope that we have in Jesus? God has blessed us with so many wonderful blessings, most especially the gift of salvation. Let’s turn our focus outward and seize the opportunities God will provide. Indeed, His word will not return void, Isaiah 55.11.

Join us every Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at Kettering Church of Christ as we explore ways to fulfill the mission to which God has called us.

Resisting the Culture of Death

Friday, February 19, 2016

Scripture Reading: PSALM 8

We first heard the term culture of death in the mid-90’s. It is, a way of thinking that goes against the basic Biblical view that says there is intrinsic value in every human life, from conception to natural death. We are living in times where the dominant cultural view asserts that humans are no different from the animals. So it shouldn’t be surprising when many act it out in real life, with no accountability to God whatsoever. You are not someone who just got lucky in the gene-pool lottery. You are a special product of God’s creative genius.

On Sunday, we’ll discuss these important things:

  1. We are the pinnacle of God’s creation.
  2. Every person shares God’s image equally.
  3. We are stewards of God’s creation.
  4. How to respond to the cultural challenges.

Before we gather this week, please take a few moments and read these passages: Genesis 1.26-28; 2.4-7; Psalm 8; Jeremiah 1.4-5; Colossians 1.16-17; James 3.19; Matthew 5.13-16.

For Your Thought and Reflection

  • Read Genesis 1-2. What makes mankind different from the rest of creation?
  • Genesis 1 declares that each person has been made in the image of God. How should this effect the way we view every other person? What are some ways you can treat other people with respect and dignity?
  • How do you think the Biblical view of our stewardship over God’s creation contrasts with the current world view?
  • What are some ways our world is devaluing human life?
  • What are some things we can do to influence others to embrace God’s perspective on human life?

The War Between Flesh and Spirit

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Scripture Reading: Romans 7.13-25

The second half of Romans 7 is certainly no stranger to disagreement in interpretation. How can we better understand Paul’s personal struggle between the flesh and spirit?

Previously, Paul has argued that salvation does not come through the law. In fact, Christians are married to Christ so that we may bear fruit for God, 7.4. I think verse 13 holds the key to understanding the rest of the chapter. In it, Paul argues that sin, not law, brings death. The law (in this context, the Law of Moses) is good. In fact, Paul describes it as holy and the commandment is holy and righteous and good, 7.12. Sin, on the other hand, is bad. It can work through what is good (law) to produce death. Everything from verse 14 to the end of the chapter should be understood as a defense of this premise.

To bolster his claim, Paul begins to describe his personal struggle. I think there are flashbacks to when he practiced the jewish religion and its demands for law-keeping. But, I also think he accurately describes the human condition, even the battle the Christian faces with temptation and sin. Note the “I” statements in 7.14-24. Paul: 

  • is fleshly, 7.14.
  • is captive to sin, 7.14.
  • is lacking in his ability to carry out God’s will, 7.15.
  • delights in the law and wants to keep it, but is unable to do what he desires, 7.18.
  • realizes the power/allure of sin can be stronger than his strongest desire to do right, 7.20.

How often does sin work through your body to get you to do what you do not want to do? Like Paul, our desire and delight may be in living God’s way, but sometimes the flesh gets its way. There is truly a war going on between our spirit and our flesh. That is why he says “wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” That is why he would later say, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” Philippians 1.21. How would dying be gain for Paul? How would it be gain for us? Answer: the absence of temptation and sin. That has to be one of the biggest attractions about heaven.

So, what do we do in the meantime? We keep resisting the flesh. When the flesh takes over, we pick ourself back up and get going along the spiritual path. We move forward in total trust. That’s how Paul could say there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, Romans 8.1.

You can learn more about Romans and practical applications from it every Tuesday at Kettering Church of Christ. Our Tuesday Bible study is at 1 pm. Join us! You’ll be glad you did.

Cutting Out the Secret Sin in Our Lives

Friday, February 12, 2016

Scripture Reading: PSALM 36.1-4

Years ago, a man came to my office in tears. His wife caught him watching porn. He had been fighting the battle since his youth. He once thought that as he got older the problem would go away. It didn’t, and for years, he suffered in silence. Who else struggles with silent sin? It doesn’t have to be a porn addiction. It could be anger, greed, envy, or pride. There is a way out. God can help us break free from secret sin.

On Sunday, we’ll discuss these important things:

  1. A clean conscience produces confidence.
  2. We must win the battle on the inside. No one can do that for us.
  3. We must guard our past, future, and present thoughts.
  4. Embrace a five-step process that leads to victory.

Before we gather this week, please take a few moments and read these passages: Job 31-32.1; 2 Corinthians 4.2; 1.12; James 1.13-15; Ezekiel 23.19; Psalm 36.1-4; Psalm 51.10; Isaiah 55.7; Colossians 3.5-8; Job 31.1; Psalm 119.11; and Philippians 3.8-11.

For Your Thought and Reflection

  • Read Job 31-32.1 and 2 Corinthians 4.2; 1.12. What can we learn from the conscience of Job and Paul? How could they stand with confidence?
  • If you don’t win the battle on the inside, can you expect to have success on the outside? Explain.
  • Have any of your past sins ever motivated you to commit sin in the present or future? How does God feel about those who plan to sin?
  • Why do you think David asked God to create a clean heart inside him?
  • Can you think of any Scriptures that might relate to this statement? “Your spiritual output is in direct proportion to the intake of spiritual truth.” List them out

Consider Your Ways!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Scripture Reading: HAGGAI 1

For seven decades, the land of God’s people stood desolate. The few physical reminders from their previous existence lay in ruins. Where once sons and daughters of God roamed, now foreigners dwelled, Ezra 3.3. When God’s people returned to Israel from Babylon in 536 BC, they must have experienced every emotion. Jubilation, exhilaration, and praise coupled with sorrow, regret, and fear. Eventually, their faith gave way to fear and they stopped rebuilding God’s temple, Ezra 4.4. Opposition by their adversaries led to sixteen years of inaction, 4.24. God patiently waited and when He could hold out no more, He sent two prophets to call his people to action.

Haggai is one of those prophets. He comes onto the scene with an abrupt and challenging message. Consider your ways, he says in Haggai 1.5. After more than a decade-and-a-half of apathy, it was time for self examination. While God’s people dwelt in comfort, God’s house sat in ruins, 1.4. There had been no demonstration of faith. There were no bold initiatives. Their vision went only as far as they could see. And, what they could see was only opposition and uncertainty. For these jews, the status quo centered around fear, not faith.

What about us? Today we face growing opposition toward Christianity. It feels as if people are becoming more resistant to our message. Most Americans seem to be satisfied with where they are religiously. We’re told people are no longer interested in doctrine. We’re told our ways are too narrow and too old for the newer generations. And so, we turn inward. We tend toward defensiveness, negativity, and cynicism. Once these attitudes have taken over, its easy to throw up our hands and say, what’s the use? So, we often allow precious time to go by, while we maintain what we have and get away from the mission God called us to, Matthew 28.19-20.

Maybe it’s time for us to consider our ways! Times of difficulty call for bold initiatives driven by faith. What will you do to get out of your comfort zone and share the gospel with someone? What will local churches do collectively to reach out into their communities with the message of grace? Will they be open to newer methods? Will they be willing to shift their paradigm in order to be effective? Times like these are not for pessimism and shrinking away from the mission. Just like God told the people in Haggai 2.4-5, we can be strong, …and…. work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts. 

Will we trust God enough to move forward by faith?

You can learn more about Haggai and practical applications from it’s 38 verses today at Kettering Church of Christ. Bible study is at 1 pm & 7.30 pm. Join us! You’ll be glad you did.

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