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Category: Devotion

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.

Screenshot (3146)I am very excited about our advanced class on the Kingdom of God!  Beginning next Wednesday, August 17, 2016 at 7:00 p.m., we will conduct our class based on the book The Kingdom of God by John Bright.  The book, written in 1953, is a wonderful expository on the concept of the Kingdom of God, how it originated with the nation of Israel, how this concept endured through the centuries, and how it impacts us today.  It is essential reading for those who desire to learn more about the Bible and this Kingdom that Christ Jesus instructed us to seek first, above all else.  The class is free of charge; however, you must purchase your copy of the book.  A syllabus will be provided at the first class, which will be held at 4230 Hamilton Ave. in the Northside community of Cincinnati.  If you haven’t already confirmed your enrollment, call (513) 541-0030 today.

If you desire a greater understanding of the very Kingdom that God promised, the Kingdom that was fulfilled in Christ Jesus, then you must enroll in this class!  For those unable to physically attend, the class will also be recorded on Free Conference Call and on Periscope.  We look forward to you joining us on Wednesday, August 17 at 7:00 p.m. EST.

Peter preachingActs 2:41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

This account has become the gold standard for preaching today.  I know I have heard it exclaimed from pulpits in different congregations that the speaker desires to speak so that thousands would hear the preaching and be saved.  But should this account be used as a type of measuring rod to determine whether someone’s preaching is effective? Let’s examine this account closer to obtain a greater understanding.
One of the first questions that we must ask is who were these 3,000 souls?  If we go back a few verses, we discover who they were:
Acts 2:36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
These were the same people who had previously approved of the execution of the Lord Jesus.  Imagine what that must have felt like.  Just days before, these people were content with seeing the Lord Jesus crucified as punishment for the sin that He was charged with, which was blasphemy.  Just days before, these people did not believe that Jesus was the Christ.  Now, Peter appears before them, and in a moving speech, convinces the multitude that this same man which days before they were happy to see punished, was the fulfillment of the promise God made to Israel.  How they must have felt! How would you feel?  One day, they are adamant in their unbelief; now, they were pricked in the heart, convinced that they were wrong, that this Jesus truly is the Christ!  These 3,000 were those to who God gave the covenants of promise.  These were not Gentiles, men and women who were alien to the covenants of promise.  These people were part of the nation of Israel, the only nation of people on this earth that God declared to be holy! So, what accounts do we find of groups of Gentiles being added to the church?  Interestingly, we see no similar accounts of groups of Gentiles of any size being converted.  The Gentiles we see being converted were individuals.  If we use the accounts in the Bible as a standard, then, we see more instances of individuals being converted than we do groups.  Perhaps it is time for us to truly accept the fact that the kingdom of God will permeate through man much like yeast works its way through dough, causing the dough to rise.  We don’t see it working its way through the dough; rather, we see the effects of the yeast in the risen bread.  Don’t seek to speak to a group of 3,000; seek to speak to the one that God has put in your path.  If every saint does what God requires, then the gospel will be preached in all the world. Let obedience to the Holy Spirit be your standard.

roachesRom. 7:17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
Have you ever rented an apartment where you discovered you had unwanted roommates?  I did.  I remember in college I rented an efficiency for the first time.  My sister helped me to move in, and when she opened the cabinet beneath the sink, she exclaimed “I see you have friends living with you.”
Being quite naive at the time, I asked her what she meant.  She then showed me the dead roach.  Needless to say, my stay there was filled with insecticides, traps, and bombs.  But no matter how hard I tried to eradicate my efficiency of those creatures, they would always seem to return.
They were everywhere!
I was reminded of this experience as I read the above passage.  There is an unwanted housemate in each of us.  Paul said that in our body, which is a temple of the Lord, sin resides.  That unwanted housemate has taken up residence in our minds.  At times, it seems that when I rid my mind of one of those insects, another six or seven seem to appear!  Even when I set off a bomb to kill them all, they seem to reappear with a vengeance.   The truth is, we will be warring against this unwanted housemate for the remainder of our lives.  We must awaken each morning prepared to fight against this housemate throughout the day, for he will appear in many ways to distract us, to discourage us, to defeat us.  We must also recognize that we are not in this battle alone; indeed, we are individual members of a mighty army.  We must be sure to equip ourselves with not only the armor to protect us, but the weapons that we are to use to defeat this enemy.  This fight must be part of our daily regimen.  We must become aware of its devices.  We are now soldiers in an army that must be prepared to fight 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Every time we evict that unwanted roommate from our premises, he is searching the premises looking for a way back in.  May we endeavor to be diligent in our fight to keep our temple clean.

Empty-Tomb-Picture-07This weekend, many will be celebrating the resurrection of Christ from the dead.  They will dress in their best outfits and join many in listening  to the annual message of how the sepulcher was empty when the stone was rolled away.  They will hear an inspiring message of hope and joy while being seated in the midst of perhaps one of the most popular services of the year.  Extra chairs will be set out in order to accommodate the extra attendees for this week’s service.  When the service is concluded, many will likely stay and enjoy a fellowship meal with other members and guests, or enjoy a special meal with friends and family.  Then, they will plan on celebrating the event again next year.
Is that what the resurrection has become?  An annual event for us to celebrate once a year?  In the kingdom of God, this resurrection is something we are to be thankful for daily, with our renewed lives being the proof that we were raised with Christ from the dead.  Yes, we too were dead – dead in sins and trespasses, dead to the things of God, and dead to Christ Jesus himself.  It is when we understand that the Jesus who was crucified, dead and buried, was the one that God made Lord and Christ that we begin to see the marvel and splendor of his eternal kingdom.  This is something to be celebrated not annually, but daily.  And how much more should we rejoice and be thankful that while we were yet estranged from the promises of God, God in his mercy and loving kindness revealed the gospel to us, that we might be able to hear it and live!
We are to walk in the resurrected life daily – “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.”  This truth does not happen once.  It occurs each day that the Lord God gives us the breath of life to be living epistles of his resurrection power.  It happens every time you submit to the rule of Christ in an area of your life where you once ruled.  For the saints of God, the resurrection isn’t celebrated once a year; it is celebrated daily by living resurrected lives.

in_the_beginning“In the beginning, God created.”  These are the first five words in the book of Genesis.  Perhaps you have seen these words dozens of times.  You have probably memorized them.  And, more than likely, each time you look at those words, your frame of reference when reading those words is time.  We tend to think of the phrase “in the beginning” as a point in time when a process starts.  That is quite natural, since we exist in a temporal world where we measure time.  But the words “in the beginning” have another meaning.  It also means, in order of priority, the first, chief, principal, or choice part.  In other words, in terms of priority, the first thing we should remember is that God created.  The chief thing to remember is that God created.  In everything, we must remember God created.  In times of lack, we must remember God created provision.  In times of temptation, God created a way of escape.  Everything that God creates has eternal implications; even the best creations of man are merely temporal.  Today, focus on that which is eternal.  Today, remember in every situation you encounter, God created.

thoughts-have-power_p1622004Phil. 4:Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart]. (Amplified version)

What do you think about on a daily basis?  What preoccupies your mind?  For many people, today is the first day of a work week.  Their thought may be “oh boy, the start of another week.”  Others may be thinking about bills that have to be paid.  Perhaps you are focused on a big event, such as a wedding or a graduation.  Still others may be thinking about the controversy surrounding this year’s Presidential election.  The real questions, however, are what guides or influences your thoughts?  What do you spend most of your time thinking about? Paul sets a standard for what should be the essence of our thinking.  “But, it isn’t practical to believe that I can think about these things all the time.  I have to live in the real world.”  How can I be a light in a dark world, if my thinking is like the world?  How am I going to be different if my thinking, my acting, and my doing is the same as everyone else in the world?  Are we not called to be a peculiar people?  If we think about these things continually, eventually these thoughts will influence our actions.  This type of thinking is the result of a renewed mind.

Last week, we saw the video of the backwards bike.  The instructor informed us that it took him many hours to learn how to ride the bike, because his mind and his thinking had become rigid from being so accustomed to riding a traditional bike.  He had to unlearn how to ride the traditional bike, then train his mind to ride the backwards bike.  It is the same in the kingdom of God.  We have to unlearn how we did things in the world, and train our minds to do things the kingdom way.  Learning to think this way takes hours of work, accompanied by the actual practice of doing things according to the new way of thinking.

How do you begin?  You begin in prayer.  “Ask, and it shall be given.”  Ultimately, our thinking should have its roots in the one foundation that cannot be shaken, and that is the kingdom of God.  Like the leaven in the parable spoken by Jesus Christ, thinking about this kingdom continually will eventually permeate every area of your life.  This thinking will change the way you look at your job, your finances, your relationships, your health, and every other area of your life that you allow to be influenced by this way of thinking.  When do you begin?  Begin this new way of thinking today.

angryEph. 4:31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice; 32 and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

This year, the United States will elect a person to be President.  We are in the midst of a campaign season, and we have ringside seats as we watch the opponents trade punches with each other, hoping to knock each other out in order that one may stand alone victorious in the ring.  We have become so accustomed to this process; indeed, we have become so comfortable with this process, that we give no thought or consideration to the above exhortation.  Today, we are going to carefully examine this passage.  Consider first the phrase “put away.”  The word means to move from its place or to take off or away what is attached to anything.  Now, consider what Paul is telling us.  He is telling us that bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and evil speaking were attached to us, in our old form.  We are naturally disposed to exhibiting these character traits.  Now, however, Paul is instructing us to intentionally detach these traits from ourselves.

Remember the video of the backwards bike?  Remember how Destin took eight months to learn how to ride the backwards bike, but when he got back on a conventional bike, it took him about 20 minutes to remember how to ride the conventional bike?  Think of putting off these traits like riding that backwards bike.  It will take a great deal of time to successfully put off the above traits, but given the right situation or set of conditions, only a few minutes to remember how to attach those traits to ourselves again.

Next, let us consider the word “malice.”  The word means ill-will, desire to injure, wickedness, or depravity.  The wickedness is further described as a “wickedness that is not ashamed to break laws.”  How do we interpret that in our world today?  We call it boldness.  There is an adage that says “it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission.”  In our society, we admire people who are risk takers, those who are openly willing to break laws.  Yet, this is the very trait that Paul tells us to detach from ourselves.  We are further instructed to be kind to one another; we are admonished to be tenderhearted and forgiving toward one another.  It is in this way that we are to be light in a dark world.

Now, after reading this, your first inclination may be to reflect back to the beginning of this devotional and think “that is true!  Those candidates need to clean up their act.”  Resist that urge.  Look inward.  Ask yourself “Am I guilty of exhibiting any of these traits?”  If you are, then begin with yourself. Begin today to choose your words wisely.  Guard your heart today that malice does not creep in.  Intentionally be kind toward others today.  Will you be challenged in these areas?  Absolutely.  And this is why we must intentionally walk in our renewed minds, and not according to our old selves.