Monday, February 27, 2012

New Series - Undivided

This Sunday we will begin a new series – “Undivided,” which will take us through 1 Corinthians. The following is a background introduction to 1 Corinthians:

Corinth, the most important city in Greece during Paul’s day, was a bustling hub of worldwide commerce, degraded culture, and idolatrous religion. There Paul founded a church (Acts 18:1–17), and two of his letters are addressed “To the church of God which is at Corinth.”

First Corinthians reveals the problems, pressures, and struggles of a church called out of a pagan society. Paul addresses a variety of problems in the life-style of the Corinthian church: factions, lawsuits, immorality, questionable practices, abuse of the Lord’s Supper and spiritual gifts. In addition to words of discipline, Paul shares words of counsel in answer to questions raised by the Corinthian believers.
The city was filled with shrines and temples, but the most prominent was the Temple of Aphrodite on top of an 1,800-foot promontory called the Acrocorinthus. Worshipers of the “goddess of love” made free use of the 1,000 Hieroduli (consecrated prostitutes). This cosmopolitan center thrived on commerce, entertainment, vice, and corruption; pleasure-seekers came there to spend money on a holiday from morality. Corinth became so notorious for its evils that the term Korinthiazomai (“to act like a Corinthian”) became a synonym for debauchery and prostitution.

The basic theme of this epistle is the application of Christian principles on an individual and social level. The cross of Christ is a message that is designed to transform the lives of believers and make them different, as people and as a corporate body, from the surrounding world. But the Corinthians were destroying their Christian testimony because of immorality and disunity. Paul wrote this letter as his corrective response to the news of problems and disorders among the Corinthians. It was designed to refute improper attitudes and conduct and to promote a spirit of unity among the brethren in their relationships and worship. Paul’s concern as their spiritual father (4:14–15) was tempered with love, and he wanted to avoid visiting them “with a rod” (4:21).
Despite the often stern tone of the letter (4:18–21; 5:2; 11:17, 22; 15:36), Paul was thankful to God for the Corinthians (1:8) and felt a deep personal affection for them (16:24). Because of this love, and for the purpose of God’s glory (10:31), Paul wanted the Corinthians to become a well-constructed dwelling place for God’s Spirit (3:12, 16) and to be “guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:8).

May God bless our journey to become Undivided in our allegiance to His Kingdom and Gospel,

- Bro. Dave

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Charge for the Centrality of Scripture

The centrality of Scripture means that the Bible is to maintain a vital prominence in our daily lives, our homes, and our church. 

2 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV)
1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:
2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,
4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Paul gives Timothy an extremely serious charge or directive on how to conduct his ministry. It centers on the matter of sound doctrine in the church.
    1. The Seriousness of the Charge (v. 1). The forcefulness and gravity of Paul’s charge comes across as he makes it in the presence of God and in view of His coming judgment and kingdom.
    2. The Execution of the Charge (v. 2). The instruction Paul gives is to preach God’s Word and to “… Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.”
    3. The Reason for the Charge (vv. 3–4). Sound doctrine is vital to the church. Paul taught, and we see even today, that many would distort Scripture to suit their own agenda or preferences.
    4. The Keeping of the Charge (v. 5). Those who minister God’s Word should be watchful, for affliction will come. We must continue to share the gospel nonetheless.
While this charge has been entrusted to Timothy and to all pastors, we all play a vital role in helping fulfill this command. We must not ignore the importance of scriptural preaching and sound doctrine. We must reject any teaching that rebels against biblical teaching and commit ourselves to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.

May God strengthen our commitment to keeping His Word central in our lives, our homes, and our church!
          - Bro. Dave

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Running the Race of Faith

I enjoyed John Auten’s sermon on Hebrews 12:1-2 on WMU Focus Sunday. I am thankful for his heart and emphasis on service and keeping our eyes on Jesus.  I pray that God will strengthen us towards greater service as we follow Christ. I have a brief devotion today from Hebrews 12:1:

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

Paul knew about the athletic contests of his day, particularly the ones that involved running. This is evident from the fact that he refers to these races periodically in his writings. In our verse about running, Paul speaks of the witnesses, weights, and work involved in the running of races to compare it to living our Christian faith.

Witnesses. “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses.” Some of the witnesses here refer back to the great characters spoken of in chapter eleven of Hebrews, the chapter that precedes our verse. The crowd at a race or other athletic contest can be a great help in inspiring and cheering you on in your performance. When we read of the lives of the great saints recorded in chapter eleven of Hebrews, it inspires us to do well in our performance just as a crowd inspires athletic performances.

Weights. “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us.” To run a good race, the runner does not carry around any unnecessary weight. That would slow him down and greatly hinder his running. From reducing the weight and fat of his body to removing the long and heavy robes that would weigh him down and entangle him when running, the runner gets ready to run. Sin is spoken of here as the great hindrance to living the Christian life.

Work. “Let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” Here is reference to the actual running. First, we are to run fervently. “Run.” We are to be fervent in our faith. Second, we are to run steadfastly. “Patience.” Runners know that during the race the whole body cries out to stop long before the race is over. To run well we must run faithfully. And third, we are to run correctly. “The race that is set before us.” We are to run the course prescribed by God. He has a calling for each of us. We must run that course, we must go the way He directs, or we do not run correctly.

May God increase our level of service as we keep our eyes on Jesus!

-          Bro. David Crowe

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Loving the Word of God

Psalm 119:25,
My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!

Psalm 119:25,
My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!

Have you ever felt something of a love/hate relationship to the Bible? At times our hearts are alive to the word of God, while at other times our hearts feel dull and almost dead. We find a similar feeling in a surprising place: Psalm 119. I say “surprising” because Psalm 119, as we learned Sunday, is a poem of love for the word of God. Help for someone who feels this way comes in the stanza devoted to the Hebrew letter daleth (Psalm 119:25–32).
The psalmist cries out in anguish that his “soul melts away for sorrow” (Psalm 119:28). His struggle, however, is not simply sorrow. The psalmist confesses that his soul “clings to the dust” (Psalm 119:25). “Dust” here is not a generic way of saying that he is struggling. It is a pointed reminder of the brokenness that comes from our sinful condition. This word for dust appears as part of God’s curse upon the human race: “till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). The psalmist, like us, finds himself struggling with the effects that flow from his own fallen, sinful state.

But the fall is not the final word. We can find hope to delight in God again, even in a fallen world. This stanza opens with the psalmist “clinging to the dust,” but it ends with the psalmist running in the way of God’s commandments because God has enlarged his heart (Psalm 119:32).
So how can we move from clinging to dust to running the race of faith?
The answer lies in the life-giving power of God’s word. The opening verse (verse 25) consists of both a confession and a prayer: “my soul clings to the dust” (confession), “give me life according to your word” (prayer).

First, overhearing the psalmist pray for God to give life to dust takes us back to Genesis 2:7. “Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”

Second, God’s breath of life shows up again in 2 Timothy 3:16 in connection with the word of God because “all Scripture is breathed-out by God.”

These connections help us see that now God breathes his breath of life into a book, not directly into us. We breathe in that breath of life when we read the Bible.

May God move us from clinging to dust to delighting in His Word! May His breath fill up our lungs to run the race of faith!

-       Bro. Dave