Preach The Foolish Gospel
I have a tendency to intellectualize things and want to make a compelling argument.
But far be it from me when God has chosen foolishness for me to make it reasonable and render it of no effect!
“For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”
—1 Corinthians 1:21
I was not called to win debates.
I was called to preach the gospel.
“And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
—1 Corinthians 2:4-5
Jesus said His sheep know His voice and they follow Him.
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”
So, my aim is simply to speak with His voice by His Spirit to gather His Sheep to Him that He leads to good pasture in God.
If the preaching of His Anointed Word does not cause them to hear, nothing will.
If the foolishness of the gospel does not save them, nothing will.
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
—1 Corinthians 1:18
The foolishness of the gospel is the God ordained means by which He chooses. It is His dividing rod. I must be careful not to modify it or corrupt it to make it suitable lest it is no longer the gospel.
I must trust God.
I must do it His way.
If I don’t, those who are “saved” by my “ministry” are not saved at all, rather they are deceived again by the deceitfully wicked heart of man.
Preach the foolish gospel.
Here it is:
God alone is good.
We sinned and thereby died, becoming instruments of death, killing and being killed, languishing in darkness, hopelessly separated from God and condemned to the same destruction of every evil thing by a good and Holy God.
But, God demonstrating His exceeding goodness and love provided a Way, while we were His enemies, that we can be with Him. Jesus is the Way.
God came Himself, to do what only He could do, taking the form of man by sending His Son to live a sinless life so that He might be the perfect sacrifice -a sacrifice infinitely greater than sheep, goats and bulls, a sacrifice sufficient for the sins of the whole world for all time. Because, without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.
But, God through Jesus, who having the riches of God, paid the debt and took the penalty we owe -death. God made Him who knew no sin become sin that we might become the righteousness of God.
God through Jesus provides a way of salvation from the death we are dying now and the death to come.
But, God not only had Jesus to die for us. Jesus being God laid down His life and took it up again. He was raised from the dead as the firstborn of a new creation which we become part of as a new creature when we believe.
And, this is the good news: we can be with God.
Our sin is great but God’s love is greater and God has provided a Way to be with Him for all who will accept it. Jesus is the Way.
We accept it by believing God, that Jesus is God who came in the flesh, that He is the Word, that He alone makes the truth of who God is known to us, that He died for our sin and that He was raised from the dead.
Acceptance is indicated by repenting of our sin: denouncing the world -the kingdom of darkness, forsaking it with joy in exchange for the kingdom of light, seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness above all, confessing Jesus as King and Master and giving our lives to Him who in turn reconciles us to God.
When we believe God, not only does He account Jesus’ payment on the cross to our account so that our current, past and future debt is forever paid, He gives us new life, making us righteous and acceptable in the Beloved, making us instruments of life rather than death through the same Power that raised Jesus from the dead -the Holy Spirit, and by Him makes available to us all of the riches of God, including a bodily resurrection on the Last Day so we can be with God forever.
God has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes.
God has done this, not we ourselves, so it will not fail.
God did it for Himself, not for us, so His reason will never change.
God didn’t do it because we earned it, deserve it, or because of anything desirable in us, quite the contrary.
God did it because He’s just that good.
And, the good news is that we can be with God.
Accept what God’s done.
Believe in Him who God sent: Jesus.
And, be saved.
#gospel #preaching #perfectourlove
52 Weeks Of Gratefulness #21 – A Quiz (About Fasting)
In week 21 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for a quiz.
I was at Rosey Baby’s for lunch and as I was leaving I passed a table where Monica Banks was having lunch with a colleague.
She was aware that I had recently accepted my call to the ministry and she motioned for me to come to her table.
Now Mrs. Banks was constantly investing in people, looking to develop leaders in the community and trying to help them get to the next level.
She asked me a question, “What does it mean to fast?”
She was quizzing me, because, being a seasoned woman of faith and also a minister, she knew the answer better than I did.
I gave her an answer that may have been technically correct but I could sense from my delivery and from her response that it was from my head but not from my heart. It was something I thought, not something I knew.
She responded, “Thank you, Reverend. Hug Melissa and those babies for me.”
That was almost two decades ago, and since that moment I’ve been pondering her question in my heart.
Providential factors: life, seeking, surviving a crisis of faith, and reading the following passage at just the right time brought her question full circle.
“And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.
So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.”
All that God does is to make Himself known. There is not only no higher good, there is no good beside that.
It is during a fast where the cloak of our sufficiency is removed and we are confronted with the depth of our earthly dependencies to the point of idolatry. We are confronted with our reaction to withdrawal from them and the true condition of our heart from which our reactions spring.
God’s objective toward us is to perfect us so that He can shine through us, like He does through Jesus, His only begotten Son.
**We can either do it with Him** and cooperate by willingly putting things down and exercise ourselves to godliness through disciplines such as fasting, **or it can happen to us** through a “forced fast” like the one experienced in this passage by the Children of Israel as they are tried and trained in the wilderness.
Either way, we’re going to be made to learn, if we’re His. And, it’s for our good.
“If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.”
We can either seek out opportunities to confront those things that get between us and God, that block His love to and through us, or find ourselves thrust into situations that cause us to confront them, or both.
He desires to make us stronger, to conform us to the image of Christ, until like Jesus we are steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.
It is a work that He will complete without fail.
“being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”
God wants to grow us to the point where, when the enemy attacks us at our weakest point, tempting us, our Strength is so overwhelming we can respond, “Man shall not live by bread alone [our earthly dependencies or whatever Satan’s offering], but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
But [Jesus] answered [Satan’s temptation] and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ”
Fasting is a spiritual discipline of forsaking natural satisfaction in pursuit of spiritual sustenance.
Without the **pursuit** of God, fasting is just dieting.
But, a real fast is much more.
Fasting is more than abstaining, it’s availing ourselves of the sustenance only God can provide, through seeking His revelation, obedience to what He reveals, while putting aside our earthly comforts and dependencies to rely on Him alone.
“In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, eat.’
But He said to them, ‘I have food to eat of which you do not know.’
Therefore the disciples said to one another, ‘Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?’
Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.'”
Fasting is strength conditioning, where at the point of our weakness, His strength is made perfect. It is preparation for the trials that are sure to come.
I’m so thankful to my dear sister in Christ, Monica Banks, for her quiz that prepares me for the test.
#52WoG #fasting #spiritualwarfare
What To Do When I’m Not Feeling It
Anyone who has been married for any significant amount of time can tell you that there are days when you’re “not feeling it”.
It’s the whole reason faithfulness is a thing.
If I were “feeling it” all the time, there would be no need for faithfulness.
On those days that I’m not feeling it, I **feel** like doing something that makes me feel better, that satisfies my craving, that soothes my pain, that fills what I’m lacking…
But, I **choose** to be faithful: to continually advance that which I have committed to.
Touch, Taste, Smell, Hearing, Sight
But, the just live by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)
I must choose to be faithful.
52 Weeks of Gratefulness #20 – A Tomato And Salt
“Here,” my grandmother said as she cupped my left hand and took a tomato from the sill and put it in my right hand.
Then she sprinkled salt from a shaker in my cupped hand. She asked, “Want some pepper?” I shook my head, “No.”
“Bite your tomato and dip it in the salt”, she coached.
It tasted like their home on the farm smelled, of the earth, pure and sweet.
I went outside, sat on the stoop and ate my newfound treat in awe.
In week 20 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for a tomato and salt.
Something so simple is so profound.
It was like I could taste the entire farm: the sunshine and the rain, the dirt and the breeze, the sweat and the love that cultivated it.
My grandfather Percy Brown and my grandmother Sarah Brown built a home blanketed in love.
When you were there, it was at every turn and around every corner. Even the animals seemed to recognize it.
I have so many wonderful memories on that farm in Canton, Mississippi. There was great peace and so much love.
I have such a rich heritage.
I remember it every time I bite into a tomato.
Image copyright 2008 Daniel E. Johnson – crossroadone.com
My New Found Freedom In Slavery To Christ
I am beginning to experience a wonderful new found freedom as a slave of Christ.
I have been in the bondage of worry, thinking that I have to take care of things, I have to make ends meet, I have to make a way, I have to do this, I have to do that to hold everything together, which is true if I’m building my own house.
But, Christ provides for His house.
When I forsake all as following Christ demands, abandoning my own ambitions for my own house and instead serve Him and His house, when His purposes are my pursuit **first** (πρῶτον – “chiefly” or “above all” as in Matthew 6:33, which means everything that follows is subordinate, whatever is 2nd, 3rd, 4th will not violate what is 1st), I find that I can have complete confidence that He will provide everything I need, including the grace needed to glorify God in hard times (2 Corinthians 12:8-9, Philippians 4:11-13).
Because, God’s glory is the goal and He will have it (John 12:28).
If I am truly in His house, the glory of the Father is my goal as is my Master’s, Christ.
His glory **is** increasingly becoming the singular goal of my life, and in this new stage of my walk with Christ, I am consistently seeing His perfect provision even though I serve imperfectly!
He is so faithful.
But it started with dying, beginning with dying to my own identity and my own ambition. You can’t serve two masters.
To enjoy this freedom and the peace that comes with it, I have to forsake all.
And, please do not confuse this as me saying I don’t have to work. A heart that loves compels action to prosper what it loves. I work and in many cases the job I do every day does not change, but what does change is who my work is in service to.
I am not saying I do not have to work.
What I am saying is, I don’t have to worry.
Christ provides for His house.
He will provide everything I need, including the grace needed to glorify God in hard times.
I only need to love Him and do what love does.
This is so freeing.
And, it results in better work too.
The challenge is not allowing myself to be seduced back into the clutches of my old master.
Please pray for me.
See: Matthew 6:24-33
The False Doctrine Of ‘I Earned It’
We feel justified living in luxury while people around us languish because “I earned it”.
We have made it a doctrine and enshrined it in our self-made American Judeo-Christian religion.
But, Jesus does not share our American ideals of capitalism.
If we belong to Christ we do not “work for money” or ourselves. We serve the Lord, so we regard money and prosperity differently.
The goal of gaining more is not to eat more.
The goal of gaining more is so that everybody eats.
Consider Matthew 20:10-15:
“But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius.
“And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, “saying,
‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’
“But he answered one of them and said,‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?
‘Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.
‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’
— Matthew 20:10-15
Note that the landowner didn’t just go find workers, he sought people who didn’t have work.
This is in keeping with the point that Jesus is making about the Kingdom of Heaven: we all were without means of earning a living (eternal life) but I choose you and gave you that opportunity, and My heart was that everybody could live (good eye) while your heart was to have more than others (evil eye).
Being born again includes being given a new heart that looks at everything, including money with new eyes.
It is errant to save up treasure for yourself. See Luke 12:19-21
Because I’ve worked for it does not mean I can do with it whatever I please. I am the Lord’s.
Our approach to money and the power He’s given us to get wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18) should be seen as resources made available to take care of our Lord’s house and our fellow servants. See Matthew 25:44-51
Repent, with me.
This is an excerpt from one of three areas (identity, treasure, purpose) where the Lord is challenging lies I’ve embraced that hinder my receiving the “true riches”, and where He’s imparting to me the “things that make for my peace”.
#trueriches #money #thethingsthatmakeformypeace
52 Weeks of Gratefulness #19 – The Victory That Christ Provides
I was overwhelmed.
I found strength in the presence of Christ’s people who were gathered in His name.
So, in Week 19 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for the victory that Christ provides.
I’ll repeat this nugget from Alan Hawkins again:
“Victory is in the Lord’s communion.”
When faced with challenges, sometimes all we need is to get in formation -we need to run to the Lord’s communion, that is, the fellowship with others in Christ, especially over a meal.
Sometimes, we don’t even have to share our problems or solve that of others.
There’s a transmission happening just being in the midst of Christ’s people who are being attentive to His Spirit.
“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.”
—2 Corinthians 2:14
But the greater the intimacy, the greater the power.
“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
— Matthew 18:20
So, there’s even more strength to be had if we do share our problems with those we discern love God, love us and have His Spirit.
“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
— James 5:16
Are you a believer that’s struggling? Burdened? Overwhelmed?
“Victory is in the Lord’s communion.”
Victory In The Lord’s Communion
Something that’s still rippling through my heart is a word imparted by Alan Hawkins that I heard at New Horizons,
“The way of escape is the Lord’s communion.” 1 Corinthians 10:1-21
This coincides with something else burning on my heart: we NEED each other.
It is not enough to have weapons or to even know how to use them, I need HELP!
I need my fellow soldiers because the war we fight is multifaceted and I wasn’t given all the gifts.
I was intentionally given a subset of the gifts; 1. for specialization and 2. so I’d have to depend on my fellow beloved to avert pride -one of the deadliest of Satan’s weapons!
To go into this war alone is unwise.
“A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment.”
— Proverbs 18:1
It doesn’t take many but it definitely takes more than me.
“Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight;
your enemies shall fall by the sword before you.”
— Leviticus 26:8
There are many challenges on this battlefield that different members of the body are especially equipped to handle. Despite personality differences or how I might feel about them, I cannot afford to be separated from these resources.
Did you know that disruption of logistics is a common military tactic?
The way to victory is the Lord’s communion!
But we’ve been disrupted!
Our primary objective as believers today should overcoming the divisions that have cut us off from each other.
We should be laying aside anything that separates us and fight toward each other!
Victory is in the Lord’s communion!
When we are together in Christ, then we can bind the strong man and plunder his goods, taking back from Satan all that he’s taken in deceit. (Mark 3:24-27)
Wake up church! We can win: our marriages, families, communities and the redemption of all things!
God has given us victory in the Lord’s communion.
We need each other.
The Discipline Of Looking For Life In Others
It’s easy to focus on what’s wrong or where I believe a person is falling short and completely overlook the areas where they’re growing and making an effort.
To ignore or deny where a person is trying is discouraging and destructive.
I realize how I’ve been guilty of this and I repent.
Very often, we kill the grape vine we’re given because we’re looking for an apple tree (and it might not even be the season for whatever we’re looking for).
I must learn to work patiently with the Holy Spirit within His appointed seasons, to sow what I want (Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31) and faithfully attend to what I get, to nurture and cultivate what is rather than railing against what isn’t.
God has placed me in a garden. I have been entrusted with many fields. The goal is that there would be life in those fields and to help them be fruitful.
I must remember that the goal is not to get what I want, but to seek what God wants -fruit: to be co-laborers with God in conforming each person, all the fields He’s given me the great privilege of working with Him in, to the glorious image of Christ.
So, a good question to ask in my frustration about what I’m not seeing is, where else are they trying, where else are they budding, what is needful for Christ to be further formed in them?
Then I can turn that budding seed toward the Son, nurture it, and lean into what God is doing -in them and me.
“[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.” –1 Corinthians 13:7-8
Feeling Overwhelmed? Don’t Break Down, Break It Down
Such as simple thing, but I often get stuck here.
This simple concept is the difference between me procrastinating or getting things done.
Part of getting things done, is breaking it down into tasks that can be done in reasonable and readily available blocks of time.
And, when possible, don’t worry about all the things to be done but the *next* thing to be done.
Projects do not belong on to-do lists. Only doable tasks belong there.
The key is to get started, then the momentum of progress will carry you.
This reminder to break things down helps me overcome feelings of being overwhelmed.
#goals #planning #projectmanagement #thriveday