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Archive for December, 2016

Matt. 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.

What exactly does it mean to hunger and thirst after righteousness?  We know how we feel physically when we have been deprived of food or drink for periods of time, but how does that translate to hungering and thirsting after righteousness?  How will we know that we have tasted righteousness?  Even more basic, what is righteousness?  Indeed, these are difficult questions that we cannot avoid.  We must not only meditate upon them, but it is of necessity that we take action upon them.
Fortunately, Paul provided an answer for at least one of those questions.  In his letter to the church at Rome, Paul wrote:
Rom. 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
The kingdom of God IS righteousness.  Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness; blessed are they who hunger and thirst after the kingdom of God.  Blessed are they whose spirits yearn to be citizens of the kingdom of God.  Blessed are they who are famished, who are weak from being deprived of the Holy Spirit.  Truly, God will fill them with His Spirit that they may never hunger again.  

As we approach the end of the calendar year 2016, the question is asked “what can we expect in 2017?”  Before we take a moment to look ahead, let’s take a moment to see what occurred in 2015 and 2016.  In these two years, we were able to read Paul’s letter to the church in Rome and the letter to the Hebrews from a kingdom perspective.  And, in 2016, we have been studying the kingdom of God in a more detailed way through the book “The Kingdom of God” by John Bright.  This teaching has been a blessing to those who have devoted their time to reading and studying this book.
So what will we do with the foundations that have been established?  We will finish the study on the book “The Kingdom of God,” which occurs on Wednesdays, and we will begin a very important teaching on Significance and Adoption.  Beginning Sunday, January 8, we will study Kingdom Economics, which will be followed by a review of the book A Glimpse of the Kingdom.  After the review, we will begin an in-depth study on the apostle Paul.  Understanding the apostle Paul is crucial to a kingdom understanding of his letters.  And don’t forget, Peter stated that Paul’s writings were hard to understand.  This series will help you unravel the complexities of God’s servant to the Gentiles, and enable you to read Paul’s letters from a kingdom perspective.
We pray that you are enjoying this season, and we look forward to sharing more with you in 2017!

Luke 10:25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Notice the characters the Lord Jesus used in His parable.  He used a priest, whose job it was to minister to the people, a Levite, who as a people were set apart to care for the tabernacle and the temple, in addition to aiding the priests, and a Samaritan, a people who were despised by the Jews.  How ironic that the two men, whose responsibility it was to care for others, not only passed by the wounded man, but intentionally avoided him by crossing over to the other side of the road.  The Samaritan, however, a man who the Jews would have no part of, purposed in his heart to exhibit compassion toward the man.  The Samaritan didn’t simply “feel sorry” for the man; the Samaritan didn’t say “I will pray for you;” the Samaritan bandaged the man’s wounds, brought him to an inn and took care of him.  In other words, the Samaritan truly ministered to a man he did not know.  The Samaritan purposed in his heart to treat the wounded man as the Samaritan would want to be treated.  In short, the Lord Jesus showed the lawyer how the definition of neighbor had nothing to do with physical proximity, tribal origin or even nationality.  Being neighborly is now a matter of the heart; it is a matter of spirit.  Your neighbor is not the person who lives next door, or down the street, or even in the same city.  Your neighbor now becomes any human being.  We must now renew our minds to the truth that our neighbor is anyone we meet, and we must be prepared at all times to love our neighbors as ourselves.  

Matt. 7:12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

The Lord Jesus, the very Messiah God promised, uttered these words.  In short, He was saying that loving your neighbor as yourself equates to treating people the way you would want to be treated.  Notice, however, that Christ added no qualifications or stipulations to this Royal Law.  He did not say “treat others the way you would want to be treated only if they treat you that way.”  Neither did Christ say that you should expect others to treat you that way.  In fact, Christ said quite the opposite:
Luke 6:27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
Now, this command of loving your neighbor as yourself takes on a whole new meaning.  Now, we are expected to treat people the way we would want to be treated even if they treat us wrongly first. Kingdom citizens do not retaliate in anger or violence; rather, we retaliate in love.
But what else is the Christ telling us in this passage?  He is telling us that if we obey His command of treating people the way we want to be treated, then we have done nothing less than the equivalent of obeying all of the Law of Moses and the Prophets.  Think about the depth of that statement for a moment.  By practicing this one instruction – that is, treating people the way we would want to be treated – we have met the standard of keeping all of the Law of Moses and the Prophets.  What makes this statement even more profound is that it applies to all who submit to the Lord Jesus.  This means that even if I wasn’t raised as one who was Jewish, by obeying this universal command of Christ I have met the equivalent of fulfilling all that God commanded of Israel in the Law and the Prophets.  Tomorrow, we will continue examining this Royal Law in the story of the Good Samaritan.

James 2:If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.

We are going to take some time to examine this principle in detail.  Before we can begin to understand the depth of this royal law, we need to first understand what royal means.  The Greek word for royal is basilikos, which has four different Biblical uses: 1) of or belonging to a king, kingly, royal, or regal; 2) subject to a king; 3) befitting or worthy of a king, royal; and 4) metaphorically principal or chief.  First, we see that this instruction pertains to a kingdom, but what kingdom?  Clearly, this is no earthly kingdom.  This royal law can be found only in the kingdom of God – a kingdom, as the Lord Jesus said, that is not of this world.  This means that we will know any true citizen of the kingdom of God by his submission to this royal law.
Next, we have to understand the concept of the word law.  Most people would interpret the word law as used in this passage as one instruction.  Paul, however, gives us a greater understanding of the depth of this instruction:
Rom. 13:The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Paul is affirming a profound truth.  The instruction “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” is not simply one command, such as obeying the speed limit on a city street.  If I obey the speed limit on a city street, then I have followed one code of all of the codified law in that city.  What Paul is saying, however, is that if I love my neighbor as myself, then I am observing all of the law.  It would be the equivalent of saying that if I obey the speed limit in that city, then I have obeyed all of the other aspects of the codified law of that city.  Put another way, it would be the equivalent of saying that if I am obeying the speed limit while I am driving, then I cannot be cited for littering (even if I do litter) because while I am obeying the speed limit, the city recognizes that I am obeying all of the codes in their law.
What Paul is telling us, the church – those that not only recognize Jesus as Lord, but also obey Him as Lord – is that if we love our neighbor as ourselves, then by obeying that command, we are seen by God as obeying all of the instructions in the law of Moses.  We will study this profound truth in more detail tomorrow.

1 Cor. 12:18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

This is an extremely hard truth to accept.  It is easy to read, to recite, to even commit to memory; but oh, how hard it is to actually submit to God’s will in this matter!  God not only sets me in the spiritual body of Christ, but it also manifests itself in the earth by God placing me where he desires me to accomplish his will.
If you ask most saints why they are connected to the congregation they are connected to, most likely you will receive a litany of responses: this is the church they were raised in, this church has good teaching, this church provides child care, this church has powerful praise and worship, the times are convenient, etc.  If, however, you ask those same saints if God set them there, if they are honest with themselves, they will become silent.  Indeed, some may respond in amazement that you dared to ask the question, but most saints have never really given thought to where God desires to place them.  Then, what happens when there is a leadership change?  How do people respond when church hurt occurs?  Situations like these become the catalyst for “vagabond Christians.”  What is a vagabond?  A vagabond is a wanderer, one who has no place to dwell.  In the body of Christ, we have far too many vagabond Christians today.  These are saints that are not set where God has placed them.  They truly do not know where God has placed them in the spiritual body, and they do not know where God has set them in the earth.  In this country, the United States of America, we have freedom of choice, and we have extended that liberty to our faith.  In this land of opportunity we live in, our mode of operation is to find a job, then go to the place where the job is, find a place to live, then find a congregation.  But what if we have reversed the order?  What if God desires to set us in a locality, and it is in that locality that God has our provision?  What if we were to make the city and congregation the priority?  What if we were to actually submit to God’s will by seeking first the kingdom of God?
Are you in the place that it pleased God to set you?  Be bold and ask him.  If you ask him, he will respond.  Remember, if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  Remember, you are valued in the body of Christ, and you have a function here on this earth.  You have a place, and you have a purpose.  Seek that purpose and place with passion!

1 Cor. 12:21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it,25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Is there any part of your body that you don’t need?  Is there any part of your body that you thought you were better off without?  Most people would say they need every part of their bodies, and that they would be worse off if they were missing any part of their bodies.  Paul likened the church to a human body.  Human bodies are organisms, not organizations.  Paul is implying that the church is an organism, not an organization.  Organizations can add and remove as they see fit.  Organisms need every part they have.  What’s more, since God creates organisms, he arranges them as it suits him, not us.  In the kingdom of God and the body of Christ, we don’t pick and choose who we work with.  We work with those who God has arranged us to be with.  You may not understand why God has that seemingly annoying person around you. Perhaps God is using that person’s annoying behavior to teach you patience.  You may be bothered by that person that appears to be always in need.  Perhaps God is using that person’s lack to teach you generosity.

Have you ever had a dislocated bone in your body?  When a bone dislocates, it is very painful.  It is painful because it is out of place; it is not where it was intended to be.  This also occurs in the body of Christ when people are out of place, whether by their own choice or because of someone else’s influence.  And when one part of the body hurts, then the whole body hurts.  Tomorrow, we will continue with this topic by discussing vagabond Christians.

Hello all! I am truly excited to be back from our interdependence retreat, which was truly a success!  The retreat invigorated me, and it awakened me spiritually.  It was exciting to see three different groups come together to assemble as one.  I was able to see a glimpse of the true church in action.
The exercise I facilitated, which was teams of three putting together a puzzle, really impacted me in a way I didn’t expect.  Each person on the team had a handicap; that is, they were limited in the use of their faculties.  In particular, each team had a member that could only hear and speak.  As the teams were preparing themselves, I remember hearing one person say “this person can’t help.”  I was asked by another person if the instructions were correct.  I assured them the instructions were correct.  After the exercise was completed, the first people I requested feedback from were the team members who could only hear and speak.  I asked them how they felt during the exercise.  Most of the responses were useless or helpless.  I then addressed the entire group, and asked “how many people are sitting in churches every week with that exact same feeling?”  How many people are feeling helpless or useless in the body of Christ?  How many are not being approached because others feel that they cannot add anything to the church?”  Finally, I asked this question: “What part of your body did God created that is useless, or that serves no purpose?”  Every part of your body is important, just as you are important to the body of Christ.  You matter.  There is a treasure chest of great value inside of each of you, which in too many cases has yet to be opened.  During the retreat, I asked the participants if I told them there was a treasure chest that contained $10 million outside in a field, and I gave them a shovel and told them if they can find the treasure chest, they can keep the money inside, how many of them would turn that field upside down to find that treasure?  Almost everyone raised their hands.  “Now,” I said, “think about the treasure that lies within you and others in the body of Christ.  How many people are willing to work to dig up the graces that God has placed inside of you?”  It’s time to grab your gloves and your shovels, and prepare to dig up the treasure that lies not only within you, but also within other saints in the body of Christ.