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Our DAILY GOSPEL DEVOTIONAL is the story of Jesus from Incarnation to Ascension. This is a chronology and harmony of the gospel accounts in which the ongoing narrative and doctrinal context are carefully considered. In one year we reflect on every passage of every gospel.
May God bless you as we follow the disciples on the journey through the earthly life of Jesus Christ.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Enough is Enough

that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.
(2 Timothy 3:17 – NET)

Timothy could have said, “Okay I have had hands laid on me, I have been commissioned as an Apostle and I have been taught and commended (Philippians 2:19-22) by the great Apostle Paul, it is time to move on to more of God”. But Paul says, in essence, “No way, buster, continue in what you have already been taught, and teach other men to be faithful to it, and warn others not to stray away into novelty and myth and false doctrine, wanting to be some great teacher when all they are doing is showing their ignorance and leading people into perdition”. Timothy could have told Paul, “Oh Paul you are holding me back”. If Timothy was not allowed to move on what makes you think you are? Your pride, that’s what.

Some say, “Pastor, you are holding us back”. I say, “From what?” You want your pastor to “let you loose”, but to do what? You need your self important, unbiblical, un-submissive thing you call spirituality to be reigned in, that’s what, and that’s why you rebel and you want more, because you aren’t submitted to the Word of God as enough, when it declares that it is (2 Timothy 3:16-17). You might think I don’t let the Spirit move, but I am sure that the Spirit moves when the Word of God is preached, and you ought to be plenty excited about that!

Paul tells Timothy that the scripture is all he needs, and he tells Timothy that the way he had taught it is good enough for him, and not to try and be innovative about it and add new stuff. It is enough for us and enough till Christ comes back for us!

Well, people will try and explain away the idea. They will say that even though Paul said that the scriptures are enough, that 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is only referring to the OT, but that isn’t true. Even if it were, the OT has plenty for us today, and it proves you don’t need to go to some other place in some other city to get something more, when most of those types can’t even quote the 10 commandments anyway!

Now again, as far as 2 Timothy 3:16-17 being only about the OT, it isn’t true, because most of the scriptures were already complete. Peter brings the Old and New Testaments together by saying that words of the Apostles were also authoritative (2 Peter 3:2), specifically referring to Paul’s writings as scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16). Also 1 Timothy 5:18 quotes Luke 10:7, so the gospels are included. Everything needed for faith and practice, life and liberty in Christ, we have all we need in the scriptures (2 Peter 1:3-4). As a companion and disciple of the Apostle Paul, Timothy would have had access to these writings (2 Timothy 4:13).

“I just need a little excitement”, no what you need is a little more boredom, to settle down, and to settle in, into the Word of God, rooted and established. You need establishment, not excitement, so then you can learn what you can be truly excited about. You aren’t established, and that is why you get excited about the wrong things. You don’t discern spiritual frauds and fads, you are like some child whom every movie he or she sees is the greatest one ever, they were moved, but it is easy to move them. They only know the moment and movement but not meditation. They are not a deep thinker, which is why something shallow can deeply move them. That is fine for a child, but we are supposed to be growing up in Christ.

When people don’t get rooted and grounded in scripture, when they do not have their foundation for faith and practice established, they will use the Bible like a magic book, or an encyclopedia. They will become hard of hearing and ignorant of the truth, all the while thinking that they believe the Bible, but they will incorporate compromise into their understanding by seeing the scriptures through the lens of their life, instead of seeing their life through the lens of scripture. They twist the scriptures to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16-18). It is time to get rooted, grounded, established, it is time to grow up; enough is enough.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

From Bad to Worse

while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
(2 Timothy 3:13 – ESV)

The situation in the church today was the same back in the New Testament era. It was obviously a problem where Timothy was ministering in Ephesus and also a concern Paul had to tell Titus because people constantly wanted to stray from the scriptures and into a foreign spirituality not taught by Paul, not taught by the scriptures, not in line with the Word of God.

Realize what is being taught in the Pastoral Epistles. Look at 1 Timothy 1:3-4, 4:7, 6:3-5, 11, 20 / 2 Timothy 2:16,23, 3:5, 7-8 / Titus 1:14, 3:9 – Don’t concern yourself with myths and matters that are only intellectual speculation, others are wandering off but rebuke them don’t join in their idleness, it isn’t getting them anywhere but into trouble. Guard the Word and avoid empty chatter and speculation, this is what Paul tells us. Here is the big point: spiritually speaking, if the apostles didn’t teach it you don’t need it, and you definitely don’t want it (1 Corinthians 4:6 / Galatians 1:8-9 / 1 John 4:5-6).

Sometimes when we try and look like we are deep we only prove that we are shallow. Most of the time when we are wanting to go deeper it is just deception, it gets us away from the main things and the plain things and we sail off into the vain things and then relationships become strained things. These types are always learning some new thing but never actually getting around to obeying the truth, it is always about the new thing they have heard or learned and trying to teach others. They are depraved of mind, and deprived of truth.

People are starving for something more because they have turned from the truth. They aren’t renewed in their minds because they haven’t submitted their minds, they haven’t submitted to the truth and they won’t submit to those who bring it to them. Oh they may know a little Bible, but only so as to find what they want to hear, to do, to see, to have. They use the Bible like a magic book or an encyclopedia, and they aren’t actually submitted to it, not as the rule for faith and practice, that is why they run to practice these unbiblical things, even using the Bible to do so. They are being deceived and are deceiving others, going from bad to worse.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Move of God?

and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
(2 Timothy 4:4 – ESV)

People get so hungry for a “move of God” when they aren’t satisfied with what they have got, and I am not talking about quantity, but quality. It isn’t that God hasn’t moved enough in their lives; it is that they have not submitted enough to His revealed will. They want new secrets but they won’t even obey the overt instructions. Spiritually speaking, they have wandered into wonderland and are on the vanguard of vanity, the cutting edge of charismania.

The Spirit is already moving. He is moving you to repent of sin, to worship Christ despite your circumstances, to feel His power even when your emotions are at a low flow. He is moving you to witness to that person when they are resisting even looking at you. He is moving when you are preaching about His righteousness and the saving work of Christ, no matter what ever else is going on, the light is coming into the darkness and that means He is moving, period. You want to see Him perform in the miraculous, well He wants to see you perform in the mundane.

What we need to hunger for is to hunger for righteousness, not revival. Now I do mean to say we need revival but not a renewal of excitement, but of commitment. If God does decide to show up and grant people repentance and we start witnessing again and sticking with the Word of God and prayer and holy living, then good, and until then we need to keep at it, not look for something more than that. I could look for something more and think it is God moving in my life, I could be looking for a bigger city, for a bigger church, for a bigger paycheck, for a bigger ministry or whatever, but what I want is a bigger heart for more of Jesus to be seen in my life, to me, through me, and in everything I do, to glorify Him. That is something more.

People say they just want to see God move, but what they mean is that they want to see God move in the way that they would like. They want Him to move to get them healed, or get them excited or to justify them before their unbelieving friends so that they can be seen as normal.

You want to see God move, well then you start moving, moving into a more sanctified life, moving on to more witnessing, moving into more church attendance, more fellowship, more giving, more bible reading, more bible study, more prayer, don’t worry He will be there moving in you to do all that, the question is, do you have faith that this is true? Is the fruit of the Spirit growing in your life? That is definitely the sign of the Spirit on the move. If He is moving in your life then you won’t have to move where you think He is, you’ll already be there.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

60 Seconds (11)

HOW TO FIRE YOUR PASTOR

Someone has cataloged the qualifications of a pastor as follows:

“The strength of an ox,

The tenacity of a bulldog,

The daring of a lion,

The patience of a donkey,

The industry of a beaver,

The versatility of a chameleon,

The vision of an eagle,

The meekness of a lamb,

The hide of a rhinoceros,

The disposition of an angel,

The resignation of a leper,

The loyalty of an apostle,

The heroism of a martyr,

The discernment of a prophet,

The tenderness of a shepherd,

The fervency of an evangelist,

The devotion of a mother,

And the willingness to live on the income of a canary.”

Sir Isaac Newton stated, “The Christian ministry is the worst of all trades, but the best of all professions.” Every pastor strives to keep “the fire” of his calling alive. Here are some tips to aid him (or her) in doing so.

Pray for your pastor diligently. D. L. Moody was in the midst of a most successful ministry when two saintly ladies kept praying that he might have a renewed commission – and he did!

Be a part of the construction crew, and not the wrecking crew. Speak well of him. Judgmental criticism can melt the heart of any pastor. Remember, more pastors have died from broken hearts than from a swelled head.

Be faithful, loyal, and supportive in attendance and finances, and to the vision God has given to your church.

Take care of him and his family financially. Not only does he have the financial burden of the church to be concerned about, but his personal finances as well. So, give him an increase, even if it means taking a step of faith to do so. Paul declared your pastor is to “be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.” “Double honor” means “well paid” (1 Timothy 5:17).

Honor and respect his wife and family.

Love him with a sincere love, and let him be human. Every pastor has clay feet.

Encourage him with deeds and words of kindness concerning his preaching/teaching, leadership, example, etc.

D. L. Moody reminded us, “The best way to revive the church is to build a fire in the pulpit.”

Dave Arnold, Pastor, Gulf Coast Worship Center, New Port Richey, Florida

www.davidarnoldonline.org


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Feel Good Faith

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it
(2 Timothy 3:14 – ESV)

When it comes to spirituality, something more than the Bible will give you something less than Jesus Christ. Don’t settle, and don’t look for something more.

Now I am not talking about acquiring life skills, learning, and the discovery of our natural world. It is right and good to gain knowledge, skills, and to develop our understanding of things. It is right to make progress in politics, in human rights, it is right to try and stop poverty, and war, and to fly to the moon and beyond. It is good for technology to help in our studies and for our societal issues. However, when seeking God and spiritual growth, accept nothing less than the Holy Spirit revealing Jesus Christ as found in the Word. If something claiming to be spiritually good for Christians doesn’t line up with what the scriptures teach, it is in the line heading for hell. If something about spirituality isn’t found in accord with the Bible, it isn’t what you need. If you don’t see it in the Bible, don’t look for it now. Don’t fall for counterfeit Christianity and superstition just because you yearn to see the supernatural. If you learn to discern what the Bible teaches, you’ll put yourself further from deception’s reaches.

People often are deceived because they can become so desperate that they begin looking for someone to confirm what they want to hear. Most often what they want to hear is that there is some solution, some fix, something they can do to receive relief, blessing, or fulfillment of some felt or real need, right now, or soon enough. They don’t want to wait, but they have to because they are on the wrong track. When it doesn’t work they are told that they are the problem, and the cycle starts all over again. The wind up never getting what it is they want, but they spend all their energy trying to get it, and running to and fro to meetings, seeking to be at the place where “the Spirit is moving”, or looking for “prophetic” teachers, and “apostles” or elites who are selling something or promising something, or who are all hyped up and talking of the “anointing”, the “glory” or whatever the lingo is this time. Their desperation leads to deception.

Somebody tells them if they just try and reinvigorate or fulfill this Old Testament type it will bring blessing, and they think it is deep stuff. If they just let loose and let themselves shake, rattle, and roll they will dance into dominion over their defeat. If they will just sow seed into this or that “good soil” they will reap their heavenly harvest a little early. They get flattered with words like warriors, intercessors; it is always something new, something novel, something more.

It would seem that most people would wake up and smell the coffee of confusion they have been brewing and stewing in, that they would see the treadmill of frustration they are on, and begin to call out these charlatans for what they are, snake oil salesmen, as in serpent in the garden of Eden type. Alas, many people always want something more than hope in heaven, more than the Word, more than Christ. They lose all sense of discernment, and are willing to accept anything and everything that has any semblance of spirituality in it, as long as it promises a hope of relief. They aren’t looking to know God; they are looking to feel good.


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Minimum Wage

So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'"
(Luke 17:10 – ESV)

Do you have to be baptized, do you have to take Communion, do you have to give money to the church, do you have to go to church every week, do you have to read your Bible every day, how often do you have to pray, and on and on and on. How many times have you heard these or similar questions? How many times have you wondered about them yourself?

Well, we need to think about these things, not because we need the answer, but because the questions themselves reveal a wrong mindset. It is a worldly one that is reflected in the way the world thinks, you know, do just enough to make the boss happy, just enough to earn that diploma or degree, or take just the minimum amount of pills to get well, etc., etc. They just want to be done with it and get on with their lives. The kingdom of God isn’t like that, however.

Considering these things and other questions like them, ask yourself why. Why do you want to do it? Cause you have to, or because you want to be recognized? If you want to do any of these things so that you can be blessed or keep from making God mad, then I say don’t do it. That’s right I’m talking to you, don’t do it. Now if you want to do these things, not to be blessed but so that you may bless God, please avail yourself of every opportunity.

If some were to tell the truth, if they didn’t feel like they had to do it they wouldn’t do it at all, and that is the real reason for the questions. For others, it is just a fear thing, they want to make sure, but when they feel like they have made sure then they feel like they can live any way they want, they’ve done what they’ve “had” to do. It is sort of like the lawyer who asked Jesus who was his neighbor. He didn’t do that so he could find out whom he needed to love, but to find out whom he didn’t have to love. He wasn’t looking to include people, but to exclude them.

When we have this same attitude we are looking, not to include God in our lives, but to exclude Him. We may add Him to our lives in increasing ways, but only in activity not in real devotion. The minimum requirement mentality can do these things divorced from the heart. If they feel things aren’t going the way they want, to get God off their back they just add another thing to the list. They could fill up every box on this imaginary list and still God not have their heart. He wants us to want Him not to simply dispatch our duty. You could do all your duty and still Jesus says that all it means is that you are an unprofitable servant. Your faith has to go further than that. God doesn’t want us working on a minimum requirement resume.

We ought to be finding new ways to walk the extra mile, not looking for any way to get out of going the first mile. If that is the way you feel about serving God, why would you want to be in heaven? Oh, I see, you just want to find a way out of hell. Sounds to me like you already know what that is like. You have a habit of turning blessings into burdens.

One of the benefits of Christ paying the price of redemption for us is that we might be able to bless Him. When you in turn pay the price to bless Him, you are the one who gets blessed. We should see these things, things like obeying Him by being baptized, or taking Communion, living a moral, godly life, praying, reading our Bible, and yes, giving, as gifts we can enjoy giving to God, not as burdens we must bear lest we be lost. Besides, we are earning wages in heaven for such things, let alone the fact that they please God. Christ gave us many such blessings, different ways to be able to be like Him. Don’t look for a list of minimum requirements. Don’t settle for minimum wage.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Holy Ground

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.
(Hebrews 12:28-29 – ESV)

If we are holy we declare that He is holy not that we are holy, and we do what He wants us to do, not use our supposed holiness to do what we want to do. He declares the holy; we acknowledge it by taking off our shoes, walking circumspectly, carefully. The fear of the Lord, reverential awe, does not simply mean being afraid of God. That will drive us away from Him. It isn’t the same as feeling sentimental about God. That is only a projection of our own feelings, and makes God into a grandpa in the sky type of thing. That leads to presumption, not faith. But when we are in awe of God we are aware of His power and goodness and we are compelled to worship. Awe is more than some singular emotion, and reverence is more than a singular facet, but reverential awe will result in our response to it in worship (Genesis 28:17).

God is working in our lives, capturing us, redeeming each part of us for His kingdom work on this earth, making us into holy ground that we might make where we travel into holy ground, redeeming the time, renewing our mind, revealing the Lord, making our workplace holy work, our family time holy time, our recreation giving glory to the Lord, anywhere and everywhere we are. As we become holy we bring holiness to the situation. As the world continues down this path of despair we see happening so fast we will stand out like burning bushes in the midst of this generation as we declare that we have seen God and that He is holy and that He is still redeeming people today, and that we are standing on holy ground.

Don’t give up ground to the devil (Ephesians 4:27) make it holy ground. Don’t profane the places you walk; remember you are supposed to be walking with God. If we reverence God in all we do He will start showing up in all we do. If we will repent from profaning the name of God by treating those things He calls holy as common, if we will hallow Him in our hearts and treat the things of God as holy and not common then He can restore all those wasted years by granting us abundant fruit in the time to come (Joel 2:16-27). Let us live our lives on holy ground.


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Holy Temples

Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?
(Hebrews 10:29 – NKJV)

When God declares something holy He is declaring that His presence is there and that a work is being done. Too often we say we want to see God work in our lives but we fail to realize God is still doing His redemptive work in the earth. The ground where God works is holy and we dare not treat it as common. If we repent of that He can restore what we have wasted. The biblical stories about holy ground are about what we call redemptive history but you and I also have a personal redemptive history. God is buying back time, setting more of you free in practical ways, leading more of you to conquer the sin in your life and lead others to the Lord. It is time to repent of commonplace Christianity. It is time to stand on holy ground.

To treat as common means to treat as unholy, to profane something holy as if it were not that big of a deal. This is someone who hasn’t “taken off his shoes”; he treats the blood, the things of God as common. Where God is working to change your life we had best not treat this as a common thing. God is trying to set us apart to be more than a common, or we could say carnal, Christian, as if they actually exist, which is debatable. Indeed Christians shouldn’t be common but be portraits of grace, testimonies of changed lives and changing lives that give God glory. The things of God are not profane; they are graced in the supernatural.

Ephesians 4 speaks about telling the truth in love, and believing lies. When we see these things we start to immediately think of our own personal holiness. But if you keep that exhortation firmly planted in the context of Ephesians 3, it’s clear that Paul has more than one person in mind here. He’s talking to a group of people, not just individuals. Cultivating a holy unity based on truth is our responsibility as church members.

Some people may make individual witness to Christ but they are not contributing to the corporate witness of Christ. God calls out a people, not just individuals, but individuals to reflect a group witness. Church is one way we magnify God’s name in this world.

It is the entire church that has been gifted by the Spirit, and so Paul calls the entire church to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3). Individuals are holy temples (1 Corinthians 6:17-20), but the church is also holy ground, and those whom treat it as common, those who destroy God’s temple God will destroy (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Monday, August 18, 2008

60 Seconds (10)

FEAR

G. K. Chesterton, the British author, once said, “If I could preach only one sermon, it would be a sermon against fear.” One doctor observed that, “Fear is the most devastating enemy of human personality.” Scientist estimate that 50 million Americans suffer from one type of phobia or another. They have classified more than 500 fears that can send victims into a cold sweat, start hearts racing, or make them faint.

This is not “the fear of the Lord,” which is a phrase of Old Testament piety meaning “reverential trust with hatred of evil,” but a fear that is intimidating and a terror. The Apostle John put it this way, “Fear has torment,” 1 John 4:18. The word for “torment” he used means, “to punish as in our prison system.” Psalm 73:19 tells us that fear can become so intense at times it is described as consuming. Ann Landers, the syndicated advice columnist, was at one time receiving ten thousand letters a month from people with all kinds of problems. When asked if there was one common denominator among all her correspondents, she said that the number one subject of her letters was fear. Fear of nearly everything imaginable, until the problem became so great that many had a fear of life itself.

God admonishes and promises in Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Max Lucado wrote, “Are you aware that the most repeated command from the lips of Jesus was, ‘Fear not’? Are you aware that the command from heaven not to be afraid appears in every book of the Bible?” God told Abraham, “Do not be afraid.” God told Isaac, “Do not be afraid.” God told Jacob, “Do not be afraid.” God told Moses on three different occasions, “Do not be afraid.” Three times He told Joshua, “Do not be afraid.” On ten occasions Jesus told His disciples, “Do not be afraid.” Twice God told Paul, “Do not be afraid.” And the list goes on and on.

Henry Durbanville wrote about the gifted fourth-century preacher John Chrysostom: “Exiled from the position which he held as the greatest preacher of his age, this noble man refused to be intimidated. ‘What can I fear?’ he asks. ‘Will it be death? But you know that Christ is my life, and that I shall gain by death. Will it be exile? But the earth and all its fullness are the Lord’s. Will it be loss of wealth? But we brought nothing into this world and can carry nothing out. Thus all the terrors of the world are contemptible in my eyes, and I smile at all its good things. Poverty I do not fear, riches I do not sigh for, and from death I do not shrink’.”

Someone stated, “Fear not tomorrow – God is already there!” While John was exiled on the island called Patmos, Christ declared to him, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last,” Revelation 1:17. In effect He was saying, “I was here before there was anything to fear and I will be here after all things you fear have passed away.” Remember, He is the Alpha and Omega – and all the alphabet between! FEAR NOT.

Dave Arnold, Pastor, Gulf Coast Worship Center, New Port Richey, Florida

http://www.davidarnoldonline.org/

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Friday, August 15, 2008

All Washed Up

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.
(John 13:14-15 – ESV)

When Christ was presenting and performing the idea of washing one another’s feet, He was not saying we are to do this to everyone, everywhere, all the time. Obviously that is impossible and is evasive of His point. It is not about the physical washing of people’s feet, but about humility and service to one another.

However, this foot washing idea goes further than that. It is more than general humility and service, it is to surrender to a group of people whom you give yourself to in extraordinary service, beyond normal Christian charity. This is not simply to everyone at all times, although we are to be a humble servant to all. Again that would be evasive of the point by making this only a general principle when Jesus really means this for a specific group.

The action of Christ here is indicative of a humble serving spirit, but it is more specific than just that. This is Jesus telling us that we are to be about the giving of ourselves to a specific set of individuals. You give yourself to all of Christ’s body, but you wash the feet of those whom you are in intimate fellowship with. Of course this means that to be able to do that you have to have intimate fellowship with a group of believers.

This was not only about submission and service, but also about surrender. You can humbly serve the whole body and specially as you encounter them, but washing feet as seen by Jesus here is about getting dirty, and removing the dirt from the worn and weary feet of those you are in the trenches with. That isn’t everybody; that is about your local set of people whom you get muddy with on a regular basis, as Jesus did with His disciples. You give yourself to a group of people and those people are whose feet you wash.

A proof of this is found in Paul’s first letter to Timothy. This was what Paul was instructing Timothy about in 1 Timothy 5:9-10. The true widow, who Paul described in detail, and who had humbled herself and served the local congregation of saints, was to be considered for being on the church’s benevolence list or given a paying job of some kind to help support her as she supported those in the church. If she had shown care for others they were to take care of her. This shows us the application of the “washing of feet” means to a local fellowship, not just a general principle only. Although we are to be humble to all and serve all, this is not just about humility and service in general, but in specific terms to specific people sets.

To truly wash the saints feet, you must be a part of a local body of believers to whom you give yourself. If you don’t have a set of saints you are submitted to you are upsetting the biblical balance in your life. Church is God’s idea: giving yourself to a group of others is what Jesus is commanding us to do here in this text. The disciples had been arguing for some time about who among them was greatest, and Jesus here shows them that if they will not serve the group but want to stand out, or think that they can, that they are sorely mistaken. If you think that you are some super saint and that you don’t have to be a vital part of a local church, if you haven’t surrendered your role as the final arbiter in your life, your discipleship is all dried up. You’ve thrown in the towel against the church instead of girding yourself with it.



“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Destroying Doctrine

…We tear down arguments and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up…
(2 Corinthians 10:4-5 – NET)

People get upset when we trample down their pet ideas that have “worked” so long for them. They should be upset, for their foundation is crumbling, and their flesh is falling. They will have to do the work of reworking their understandings of faith and the Christian life and it is hard work, and people don’t want to do it. Oh, the spiritual man does, but our flesh does not, and if we are believing in a false doctrine or teaching it is our flesh that likes it. Our old man of the flesh doesn’t want to change, and it is perfectly happy with doctrinal error that makes us conform to our little world of unchristian ideas dressed as spiritual piety but that are not really biblical at all.

Neutering pet proof texts, smashing down idol ideas, and carving up the sacred cows of charismania, this is part of a pastor’s job. This task is not limited to the fringes of charismania, however. There are many who are not even charismatics, and who might adhere to a perfectly orthodox understanding in their statement of faith, but who nevertheless in practice adhere to these doctrines we aim to destroy.

By the way, this is what 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 is talking about, not so much singular thoughts as it is systems of thought, even within the Christian community, fads and frauds based on faulty and flawed understandings of scripture. We are trying to destroy destructive doctrine. We are not tying to destroy your faith in the Word of God; we are trying to destroy your faith in yourself.

This isn't being "mean", this is doing what God has commanded us to do. Really read the following verses again and let them sink in.

2 Corinthians 10:3-7 – For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. Look at what is before your eyes. If anyone is confident that he is Christ's, let him remind himself that just as he is Christ's, so also are we.

I think we spend most of our lives trying to please our flesh, and sometimes even if that means we are helping others, because sometimes we are helping others so we may feel good about ourselves instead of out of obedience to God’s Word. When we think this way, and who hasn’t at times, and when we are trying to decide on differing models of doctrine, it would make sense to just find the one that sounds like it does everything the others do, but also pleases my flesh to a degree, although we may not realize that. We sometimes try and justify aberrant practices by that, “it is helping people” standard, but it is the standard our flesh is comfortable with, the most supposed help with the least amount of confrontation, not just confrontation with the parties being “helped” but with ourselves having to change our way of “helping people”.

Instead, if we find our flesh happy about our doctrinal choices, we should run as fast as we can seeking the Word of God to show us what it has to say about the choice we just made. And we have to "know" when it is our flesh speaking to us, or if we are walking after the Spirit, and so we have to "know" the Word of God, and so we have to keep learning and living the Word of God continually, even if it means part of us is destroyed in the process.


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Discerning Demons

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,
(Philippians 1:9 – ESV)

Generally speaking, no one wants to do things the wrong way. As Christians we want to do what is right and do it in the right way. The problem can be pragmatism, however, when we want to do what works thinking that this automatically makes it the right way, and so therefore the right thing to do. Conversely, we can have all our doctrinal ducks lined up in a row and still not apply them to our lives properly, and nothing works at all.

The key is to be found where the flaw is. Is the teaching based upon a flaw in application or a flaw in the foundation?

In learning to discern these things, we can fall off the righteous road and into one of either two ditches to the side. The first is where we are too careless in our acceptance of things that claim the name of God, but are fundamentally flawed. We look at the beautiful building and all the people it has helped, but we don’t realize it is just a house of cards.

Now the other side of the ditch is where we are too critical about things that claim the name of God, and look for cracks by picking with our axe. Many seem to think grinding their axe is the same thing as wielding the sword of the Spirit. We use it to cut down others but we are really just committing spiritual suicide.

I don’t want to demonize people or programs but I do want to discern what is truly biblical and what is not, and to develop a truly biblical model and method to all that I do. I don’t want to just swallow everything that looks good and think I can eat the meat and spit out the bones, but I also don’t want to fall into the other side of the ditch, inflating and exaggerating every little problem and making it to be part of some conspiracy theory.

I believe that there are many people who are wrapped up in heretical teachings that are nonetheless truly saved. This would also be true of other movements that have some troubling theology, though not all errors can be reconciled. What we want is to be discerning, but we never want to turn ourselves into the “only discerning remnant” that has all truth by isolating the mind from rational thought and logical, biblical analysis of facts and texts.

We want to truly understand other positions and not simply make characterizations and mischaracterizations about them because this is intellectually lazy and biblically dishonest. We don’t need paranoia and feelings as if we are some persecuted remnant to turn us into some “us four and no more” type of cult. It is not about “us” and “them” but about what the text truly teaches, and we should be ever learning and discerning to that end.

No, we will never find any comprehensive teaching with absolutely no error, but yes, when we find teachings and discipleship models that are fundamentally flawed, we should go to other resources instead. There can be differing opinions on secondary issues, and different ideas about the implementation of biblical knowledge into our lives. I don’t want to discredit someone or something just because it isn’t done my way. However, it does discredit someone if they will not endeavor to do it the biblical way.

The biblical way is having an overflowing love, guided by knowledge and discernment.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Familiar Ground?

Then he said, "Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground."
And the commander of the LORD's army said to Joshua, "Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so.
(Exodus 3:5 / Joshua 5:15 – ESV)

Both of these scenarios were transformational encounters, we could say, but they were for corporate movement. God calls us as individuals for our corporate mission as well as our personal holiness. We see that we are not holy and not worthy to lead but God cleanses us and equips us to do what He wants us to do. God is still in that business today. That is why we have holy ground moments, because God is not trying to give us a thrill, but to lead us on.

God was near, in a special way for a special purpose. We may not ever have a burning bush or mountaintop moment, but God will still expose us to His burning light that He might change us and we might change our world – Ephesians 5:13-15 – God was revealing something about Himself and about us – we must know our true state. He doesn’t deliver us from bondage without us first understanding our own weakness to deliver ourselves. God was speaking to them then and He speaks to us now by His written and preached word. This ground is also holy.

When God is working something is changing and we have to start to change to get it. Moses and Joshua had to take off their shoes. This is not a ritual to be performed in approaching God. Rather the shoes represent protection for the sensitive flesh. Holy ground is where no flesh shall glory in the presence of God (1 Corinthians 1:29). It is also the place where sins are exposed, for God sees our hearts. It is taking away self-sufficiency, which is blasphemy before the Lord. The bible talks about the beautiful feet of those whose are wearing the gospel of peace as their shoes.

We must continue to set ourselves apart for God’s work as He is working in us (Leviticus 20:7-8 / Philippians 2:12-13). We can become too familiar with God – consider Moses and the rock (Numbers 20:10-12). Even if God has called us, failure to sanctify ourselves in His sight will lead to consequences. If we fail to take off our shoes when we know He wants to do a work in us, we will fail to see Him work, and we will become bitter against God and others as we become envious of what we see elsewhere when we could have seen that in ourselves if we would continue to sanctify Him in out hearts (Hebrews 12:14-15). Moses did sanctify himself to deliver the people out of Egypt but it took years. Don’t give up on God, continue to sanctify Him in you heart and He will deliver you.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Friday, August 08, 2008

Passion and Pride

…I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked… and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God… from the midst of the stones of fire.
(Ezekiel 28:14, 16)

Burning hot encounters with majestic splendor do not guarantee a continued walk on holy ground with God. Satan walked among the stones of fire but he burned with his own passions. Do we do that with the things of God? We encounter Him but all it does is to stir our pride and enflame our passion for our own agenda. There is a way to corrupt your own wisdom, to warp your spiritual perspective and it begins by becoming convinced that you are more than you really are, or by wanting to be something you are not called to be.

You don’t need a burning bush encounter in order to obey what you know His Word already tells you to do. To treat everything else that isn’t some radical experience as common is to treat everyday life with Jesus as common. Just because you have had some experience doesn’t necessarily make you special. It might make you responsible to use that gift, but all the children of God are loved equally. This doesn’t mean we don’t have particular roles to play, it means we need to be careful lest our gifts spoil us, and be careful of looking at experiences or gifts that make us bitter toward God and jealous of other people. We should be careful of being bedazzled because we may end up bedeviled.


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

An Uncommon Honor

So the honor is for you who believe…
(1 Peter 2:7 – ESV)

What makes something holy ground? When God declares it, when He is working in that place. God has declared believers as holy ground (Romans 8:29 / 1 Corinthians 6:17-20). 1 Peter 1:18-19 – We had better consider ourselves as holy ground or we treat the blood of Christ as less than precious. 1 Thessalonians 4:7-8 – if we disregard holiness we disregard God. We need to become holy ground in our lives as individuals, in our families, and in our churches, and also see to it that our communities know where they can go to be set apart.

Where God is acting we cannot treat as common. Common grace is different from saving and sanctifying grace. Going to church, studying the Bible, praying, fellowshipping with other true believers, fasting, worshipping through song, hearing the Word preached, and living the Christian life with increasing submission and sanctification, these things might appear to be common things. However, they only seem like common things to unbelievers, to believers they are valuable and precious, they are special, they are not common. Only saved or about to be saved people can get any true benefit from them, they are holy things.

1 Peter 2:4-10 – This is special not common, but our common heritage as Christians. Look at the words Peter uses to describe the things of God. We dare not treat these things God calls chosen, precious, holy, acceptable, honor, royal, his own possession, excellent, and marvelous, we dare not treat these things as common. If God Himself thinks they are special, we commit a horrible sin to call them common by treating them as routine and not special. Our salvation, our spiritual sacrifices, and our being built together as living stones that proclaim the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, these things are valuable and precious to God.

Every Sunday is a special time. Just because we get to do it every Sunday doesn’t mean we should treat it as run of the mill. It is God in His abundant grace that gives us the opportunity to meet with Him in the context of meeting with other believers to worship Him. It is a glorious, wondrous, marvelous, precious thing, not some take it or leave it thing. That would be profaning it. That would be treating it as common. Perhaps that is all it is to you, common, but if you are truly growing as a Christian you will have a growing appreciation for just how special this all truly is. Worshipping and working together is an opportunity you don’t get when you are by yourself. It isn’t common and if you think it is that is why you don’t get much out of it because you denigrate its importance. Don’t dishonor God when He has so honored you. Don’t treat as common what God has made clean (Acts 10:15).

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Taste Test?

… but test everything; hold fast what is good…
(1 Thessalonians 5:21 – ESV)

We need to expose a way of thinking that is a major problem for people who think they are discerning, but aren't, at least not in the right way. They will be and have been caught up in nonsense. It is not that I or we haven't, but we are supposed to grow in discernment skills, not always just try things, and whatever seems good, or opens up, we think that this must be God. The pragmatic yardstick is no true measure of spiritual godliness or God’s will. Just because something seems to work or it fits some criteria you are looking for doesn’t mean it is right, you need to truly know what to look for. This applies not only to spiritual matters.

Discernment isn’t simply applying a “trial and error” approach to everything. What happens when you try too much poison? Discernment is trying by testing, not simply tasting. You learn what you are looking for before you take it in. You stack the thing up, not pack it all in and see what tastes good, thinking you can spit out the rest. That is the problem, we haven’t learned to test and so we swallow things and we don’t know what is good or bad. They say, “eat the cherry, spit out the pit”, or “eat the meat, spit out the bones” but they don’t know the difference, they are proving that by all the things they swallow, that is the point in the first place! It is obvious they don’t discern the difference, which is why we have to keep telling them.

The problem is people are looking for the wrong things and that is why their testing is all fouled up. Their testing methodology always remains the same, their feelings, their impressions, their carnal understanding, and their limited knowledge of scripture that they cling to as some kind of a formula for blessing when they ought to be growing. They are using the Bible like a magic book, a ritualistic resource, an encyclopedia or how-to manual, or some “self-help on steroids” guide. They are not actually committed to the Word of God as the authority. They are not growing in their skilled, properly understood use of it, and they keep looking for their “fix” somewhere else.

They are not fully digesting the Word of God, and so they are not learning to be exercising their powers of discernment. People are thinking they have some crunchy cuisine but they are actually choking on the bones. Others seem to turn off their spiritual sense of smell and just dig in. Don’t just “close your nose”; if something smells foul, don’t eat it.

Look at Hebrews 5:11-14 – we cannot handle the meat because we are not even skilled with the milk! Reason of use (Hebrews 5:14 – KJV) doesn’t mean tasting it means you learn how to be testing. Those that have become mature have their perceptions trained by practice. Romans 12:2… that by testing you may discern what is the will of God…1 John 4:1…test the spirits to see whether they are from God… You cannot just put things to the “taste test” if you don’t know what you are looking for.

Many people say, “Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater”, but that is the point; many don’t know the difference. They may they think they do but they obviously want to keep some of the bathwater otherwise they wouldn’t be listening to someone whom they have to keep draining off. It is always the dirty stuff that people want to have anyway, otherwise they would not have to deal with it, and they wouldn’t be in it or be there. All some people are trying to do is to placate me with some smokescreen, but I don’t smoke.

“But people have been helped by it”. Yes, it is quite easy to experience some emotional catharsis without the biblical transformation. Tell me, are you now reading your Bible more, or just looking at your new book more than the old one? There are some nice things in other religions, too. Should we encourage people to read their materials because they might help someone feel better? What is going to be you “fix” next time? When are you going to stop swallowing poison and get on a truly biblical diet?

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Quiet Place?

"Be still, and know that I am God...”
(Psalm 46:10 – ESV)

We don’t need to go to some quiet place, empty our minds, and wait for God to speak. We need to find our quiet place, when we open our Bible, and hear Him talk. This Psalm, like many others, is not about the sound of silence but of the voice of the Lord, the mighty power from the mouth of God (Psalm 29)! He is not asking us to do something; He is telling us that He is going to do something.

Who is God talking to in this verse? What does stillness mean, and what does it mean that we will know God? Does it mean we will know God through it, in other words that we will know God by practicing stillness? How will we know God through it? Does this verse imply that we will know God through voices in our head, or spirit? Or does this verse mean we will know God is still in control through our tempests if we will stop striving to save ourselves in our own ways against the storms and instead look to the Lord, and then we will realize His ways?

This Psalm teaches us, not that we must be still to hear Him, but that God’s creation and God’s enemies will be still when THEY hear Him! God will protect His children from ultimate calamity and catastrophe. When the environment is unstable and the atmosphere is unsettling our God is our refuge. In this Psalm God is giving comfort to His people but in this particular verse He is declaring something about those things that cause trouble in our lives. God is telling us that He will silence all the storms with His own voice.

When the turbulence mounts, when the turmoil boils over, whatever your troubles in life are, you can look to the Lord. Whatever is causing you unrest, God is the place to find rest. Whatever is causing you to turn away, the key is to be still and remember, reflect upon the fact that God is in control. Look at the verses prior to this one within this Psalm, and realize God is Almighty. No matter how hard the once steady ground beneath you now shakes, or how many strong mountains are crumbling down around you, no matter how high the waves are, and how hot the battles become, no earthquake, volcano, hurricane, or war can stop God from being in charge.

It isn’t simply that we become still and hear God some other way, but that if we are still we can reflect on who He has revealed Himself to be already. It is not that when you make time you make God speak, but when you will be still and listen to what He says in the scripture, then you will hear Him more clearly through life’s turmoil and trials. In this life there will always be turbulence and tempests; will you always have trust?

This is a call to worship Him for who He is and marvel at what He has done, and will do, not a call to listen for new sounds. It is a call to hear His majesty even when everything else is shouting as loud as it can. This is not about us being silent; this is about God making the loud noises of negativity be silenced before Him and His people.

He is not telling us what to do, He is telling us what He will do. This is like the Lord Jesus calming the raging waters (Mark 4:39). When God wants to make them quiet He will, and nothing can stop Him, for He is invincible.

The world screams and shouts, but all the sounds of violence He can silence. This is not about some secret power you can have, but about reflecting on the power He has. This isn’t about some secret encounter you can enter into, but about the open demonstration when something encounters Him. You want to see God work? Stop and take a look around, be still for a moment, and reflect on Him.

Meditation is about reflecting on things God is, and things He has already said and done, not expecting Him to speak to us afresh with new revelation just because we are being still and quietly waiting. He has already spoken and we don’t seem to want to be still and hear that, so why would He “reward” us for doing what we are supposed to be doing already? Just who is God in this relationship? You want to hear something from God? Listen to what He is saying here in this Psalm.

Now in the first place, this is God speaking to the storms, but it also applies to us. This is God calming the chaos and we are stilled with wonder and worship. Now He often does it in our own situations, but no matter what we have to go through, it is only temporary. We can rest assured because God will raise His voice one day and we will rejoice in that day.

Just one word from God can silence any commotion; even in the midst of the Great Tribulation His Word will silence the raging war of Satan (Isaiah 11:4, 30:33 / 2 Thessalonians 2:8 / Revelation 19:15, 21). He is the One who will eventually, in His timing, say “enough!”

When our earthly father shouts, “quiet!” the whole house calms down. When our Heavenly Father shouts, the whole earth stands still!

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Monday, August 04, 2008

60 Seconds (9)

HUMILITY

An old godly writer named Flavel gave some wise words concerning humility, “When God intends to fill a soul, He first makes it empty; when He intends to enrich a soul, He first makes it poor; when He intends to exalt a soul, He first makes it sensible of its own miseries, wants, and nothingness.”

In 2 Corinthians 4:7, Paul wrote, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” The term “earthen vessels” is a reference to the pottery used in those days. It was very brittle, and a slight blow would break it into pieces. It was generally crude, unattractive, but very serviceable. Paul is saying that the “treasure” of the indwelling Spirit is “in clay pots.” Someone asked about Saint Francis of Assisi how he could accomplish so much. “This may be why,” he said. “The Lord looked down from Heaven and questioned, ‘Where can I find the weakest, smallest, meanest man on earth?’ Then He saw me, and remarked, ‘I’ve found him; he won’t be proud of it; he’ll see that I am using him because of his insignificance’.”

Christ said of John the Baptist, “He was the burning and shining lamp.” The lamp of John’s day was a simple affair – an earthen container for oil, wick and flame. A lamp had no inherent light of its own. Also, it had to be carried by another. Further, he himself was neither oil nor the flame, only a wick. The wick is neither seen, nor noticed, until it fails to function satisfactorily. Its service is essentially a hidden one. It is the light which catches the eye. John Bunyan wrote:

“He that is down need fear no fall.

He that is low no pride;

He that is humble ever shall

Have God to be his guide."

In John 5:1, we read, “Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place.” Arthur W. Pink remarks on this verse, “He ministered without ostentation. He never sought to be the popular idol of the hour, or the center of an admiring crowd. Instead of courting popularity, He shunned it. Instead of advertising Himself, He ‘received not honor from men’.” Winston Churchill was stopped by a woman and asked, “Doesn’t it thrill you, Mr. Churchill, that every time you make a speech, the entire hall is filled with people?” “It is quite flattering,” Churchill said, “but I always remember that if I was being hanged instead of making a speech, the crowd would be twice as big.”

1 Peter 5:5, “And be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Dave Arnold, Pastor, Gulf Coast Worship Center, New Port Richey, Florida, 34654

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Who Are You To Judge?

Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!
(1 Corinthians 6:2-3 – ESV)

Judge not, that you be not judged (Matthew 7:1). This verse has become the hue and cry of heretics and backsliders everywhere, not to mention secular scam artists and those who might think they are saved but only become bible scholars when their freedom to sin is challenged.

The next time someone tries to use Matthew 7:1 as some sort of defense for irresponsibility, heresy, or wickedness, show them these verses from 1 Corinthians 6.

They might say, “Yeah, but that isn’t what those verses are talking about.” To which I would say, “Exactly, and that is what I am trying to tell you about Matthew 7:1, so thanks for making my point for me”. I might also say, “Who are you to judge what I think they mean?” Hopefully they can see that we are indeed supposed to judge some things, like the application of these verses. Otherwise no one can even communicate with each other in any meaningful way.

These verses mean a particular thing, they apply not universally, but specifically, and principally, and that is the point. Matthew 7:1 is not a blanket statement against discernment, discretion, distinction, and determination of right and wrong. It is about being hypocritical, which ironically, those who use this verse as a universal prohibition against “judging” are guilty of themselves. Obviously we must make some distinctions. That requires judging things.

Of course you can also bring them to 1 Corinthians 5:12, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?”

The whole idea that we are not supposed to judge ideas, behavior, doctrine, faith and practice is more than ludicrous, it is lawlessness. Indeed, in the same chapter Jesus tells us that we will recognize false teachers by their fruit (Mathew 7:20). In other words we are all judges.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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