Saturday, August 31, 2013

Be Devoted to One Another

Today’s “one another” comes from Romans 12:10, it starts out by saying, “be devoted to one another in brotherly love”. I had a hard time putting into words exactly what it would mean to be devoted to someone so I checked out the Greek word using my Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. It turns out this is the only place in the Bible this particular word is used, not that it matters, but I always find that interesting. The original Greek word Paul used here means “tenderly loving”.

I also looked at the Greek words for “brotherly love”, it turns out there isn’t two different words, the phrase has been translated from a single Greek word “philadelphia” which speaks of a family sort of relationship and literally means, “coming from the same womb”. We are to feel such closeness to our fellow believers that we see them as having come from the same womb we did – and this is true since we’re all born of the same Spirit.

When I think of brotherly love in the Bible, I usually think of the Old Testament example of Jonathan and David. But today I was also reminded of how the believers in Ephesus treated Paul as he was departing. In Acts 20:36-38 we read, “When he (Paul) had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him, grieving especially over the word which he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they were accompanying him to the ship.”

Sometimes showing brotherly love can be difficult, especially if you’ve come from a dysfunctional family or even just a family where affections were more presumed than demonstrated. Personally, I think it has taken me a lot of years to be as good at this as I am, and I know I have a long way to go. But the good news is that I am moving in the right direction, and hopefully, you are as well!

I John 4:20-21 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.”

Discussion Questions:

How have you shown devotion to another Christian? How was that received? Does fear of rejection keep us from adequately showing devotion to one another?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Encourage One Another

My first thoughts concerning encouragement are along the lines of saying kind words to other people. Proverbs 16:24 reads, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” But as I began to study this command, I quickly found that biblical encouragement is much more then trying to “turn that frown upside-down”!

Hebrews 10: 23-25 is the main passage teaching this one another. Verse 25 says we are to encourage one another by “not forsaking our assembling together”. As I carefully consider this statement, I see how encouragement can have many facets. Our regular church attendance encourages our own faith to grow. Our example also encourages others to be regular in their attendance, and it encourages the leadership to see regular attendance among the people. This is a win-win-win situation.

But Hebrews 10:24 takes encouragement to an even higher plane. Here the writer tells us we are to “stimulate one another to love and good deeds”. This is going way beyond showing up on Sunday morning and complimenting someone’s new dress. We are to be seeking more faithful, Christ-like service because of the interaction we had with that person.

In Acts 11:23, we read that Barnabus encouraged the believers in Antioch “to remain true to the Lord.” This is certainly more than a pat on the back, “atta boy”, feel-good moment. We find later in Acts 11: 25-26, that Barnabus brought Paul to Antioch where they both worked for a year to teach and disciple these believers. These men invested their lives to ensure that others were steadfast in their faith.

So now I think I’ve got a better understanding of biblical encouragement. However, I’m left wondering what I can do to actually encourage love, good deeds, and remaining true to the Lord? I think the first step is to be an example, exhibiting these qualities in my own life. And yes, “atta boys” are in order when you see these character traits in the lives of others.

But when I think over this list, I realize that these qualities are imparted by the Holy Spirit. His indwelling of the believer brings about love, good deeds and steadfastness. This implies that biblical encouragement also involves intercession. We are to pray for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to live Spirit-led lives. In Luke 11:13 Jesus is teaching on prayer and says that our heavenly Father is eager to give the good gift of the Holy Spirit “to those who ask”.

To summarize, biblical encouragement is much more than kind words and compliments. We are to desire the super-natural qualities of “agape” love, good deeds and steadfastness in our own lives as well as each other. Like Barnabus and Paul, we should labor so others will have intimacy with God’s word; for it is there that we come to know true “agape” love. Without such knowledge, there are no “good deeds” and our faith will soon fail.

Furthermore, Hebrews 10:25 adds a sense of urgency about our mission; this encouragement needs to be done “all the more as you see the day drawing near.” There is a pressing deadline beyond which our encouragement will stop, either by death or the Lord’s soon return.

Hebrews 3:13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “today”, so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

Discussion Questions:

What other practical ways can we encourage love, good deeds, and steadfastness? In what ways have you personally been encouraged in these areas?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Comfort One Another

Today I had the privilege of attending the memorial service of a well-loved, godly man. It was encouraging to hear of this man’s many years serving our Lord. It was also wonderful to hear the joyous laughter in the fellowship hall after the service as people shared stories from his life. Today truly was a celebration.

Yes, we’ll miss having this dear man in our church family, but today there was joy, peace, and comfort written on so many of the faces of the people attending. Paul says in I Thessalonians 4:18, “Therefore comfort one another with these words.” I know “these words” were and are the source of comfort for days like this – and really, for all days!

So what are “these words”? The previous paragraph in Scripture teaches what happens to those who die “in Christ”. You see there isn’t a Bible verse that reads, “Say good-bye to one another”. Instead, Paul says in I Thessalonians 4:13, don’t grieve as those who have no hope. As Christians we are to handle the death of a loved one differently than the lost world. I think it is here that the reality of our faith is tested and hopefully it shines forth as a bright light for the world to look upon with wonder, “Where do they get their comfort?” Paul says our comfort is in “these words”:

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” I Thessalonians 4:15-18.

Discussion Question:

What other promises in Scripture give you comfort regarding the death of a loved one?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Accept One Another

In Romans 15:7, Paul teaches that we are to “accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.”  In looking at the context of this verse, we find that the previous section of Romans speaks about eating and not eating meat offered to idols. Paul is teaching us here that we need to be accepting of each other’s differing behaviors brought about by matters of conscience – not matters of sin, but matters of conscience. That being said, before I can correctly judge such a situation, I better be sure I know what the Bible says or doesn’t say on the matter.

I also looked up the Greek word used here for “accept” using Zodhiates’ Complete Word Study Dictionary – “to admit to one’s society and fellowship, receive and treat with kindness.” This reminded me of another passage of Scripture where James gives the example of dinner guests getting different treatment based on their expensive clothing. He concludes, “If you show partiality, you are committing sin” (James 2:9). When we behave like members of a high school clique rather than members of the Body of Christ, we are destroying the unity Jesus prayed for and commanded of us.

Another lesson to be seen in this definition is regarding prejudice. In some areas, we’ve come a long way towards overcoming racial prejudice. In others, it seems we’ve only begun. It can be difficult to be truly accepting of people we may have little in common with or know very little about. Therefore, when I’m in such a situation, I think it is important to extend an extra measure of kindness and effort to get acquainted so everyone feels comfortable and acceptance will follow.

I find it interesting that Peter took about five years from the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 to the conversion of the gentile Cornelius in Acts 10 for him to accept that the God of Israel was also accepting of gentiles. “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.” (Acts 10:34-35).

If you’ve realized there is a brother or sister in Christ that you are not fully accepting, consider doing something special for that person. Sometimes this is what our heart needs to eventually get in line with what our mind knows is right… or vice versa!

Discussion Questions:

How is “accepting one another” being carried out in your church? What can you personally do to promote a spirit of acceptance in your local congregation?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Greet One Another With a Holy Kiss

I’m glad to be attending a church filled with huggers. I really look forward to my Sunday bear hugs! Paul says in Romans 16:16, to “greet one another with a holy kiss”. A lot of folks get hung up here on the word “kiss” and, for the most part, I’m right there with them. But in doing so, we overlook the word “holy”.

It doesn’t really matter if we greet one another verbally or with a handshake, a hug, or a kiss. These are just customs that differ depending on when and where you’ve lived. I think Paul’s emphasis here is, first of all, that we greet one another – don’t pass by without acknowledging each other.

Secondly, make your greeting “holy”. At first glance, this seems a little odd and even difficult to do. I think a holy greeting is one that isn’t a mere superficial formality, but one that shows honest concern and comes from a sincere heart. Another way to look at this is to greet one another with God’s unconditional “agape” love.

The world around us has its various customs that come and go, but Paul admonishes us to be different, to not be as the world, but to always greet one another with holiness.

Romans 12:9a Let love be without hypocrisy.”

Discussion Questions:

How do you prefer to be greeted when attending church? Is this any different than the greeting you expect other places? How important is this “one another” to you?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Justification vs. Sanctification

Happy Saint Filbert’s Day! August 22nd is the day that folks in Europe begin harvesting their filberts (hazelnuts). I have a contorted filbert tree in my front yard that measures just about 5 feet tall. It grows well enough – sending off long branches, but they “contort”, hence its name.

The twistings and turnings of this tree make for a very interesting sight, but not a lot of upward growth. My life seems to parallel this tree’s behavior. I twist and turn, I get off the “narrow path” of sanctification and my upward growth seems minimal at times.

This morning I found this tree had three branches that were growing nearly straight downward, two even touching the ground. Today I pruned them off while I was looking for nuts to harvest. This speaks to me about my own worldliness and right now I’m reflecting on what might be my two or three most egregious behaviors. What would the Lord have me be trying to prune in my own life?

My justification, pardon for sin, was secured, once and for all, over 30 years ago when I was born-again into Christ Jesus. However, my sanctification is a journey that was only begun that day, growing in holiness is a life-long process. All Christians are all like contorted filberts to some extent, twisting and turning, some days even touching the ugly earth from which we came. But prayerfully, on most days we strive to reach for the true Light shining above us and our eternal, heavenly home.

The bottom line is that the Holy Spirit who has justified and pardoned me before the Holy Lord God, is also the same Holy Spirit that indwells me to chart the course for my on-going sanctification and holiness. You simply cannot be pardoned and not also be striving for holiness. A great lie to the contrary has been propagated in many pulpits and for many years. But the Bible teaches Jesus Christ is both Savior and Lord; those whom He justifies, He also sanctifies.

Hebrews 12:14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.”

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Assurance of Salvation

Every believer wants and needs assurance that they are truly saved and “in Christ”. Otherwise, Satan can harass you endlessly with doubts regarding God’s love for you and His acceptance of you. So assurance of your salvation is not just a nice thing to have, it is a vital necessity, not only in thwarting Satan’s efforts to derail you, but in being effective in your service for the Lord. You can’t argue to someone else, “You must be born again!”, if you are unsure of your own re-birth.

So, the first thing to ask is, are you saved? II Corinthians 5:17 says, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” So, are you “new”? I know personally I am new and can cite many vivid examples of the changes brought by God’s indwelling Holy Spirit; however I don’t want to dwell on my past sins, nor give them any glory in doing so. But rest assured, someone who is born-again has new priorities for their time, talents, and treasure, they value possessions and people very differently than before being in Christ.

This is one reason I cannot accept that infant baptism has any eternal value. Saving faith begins with repentance – acknowledging your sinfulness before the holiness of God, and turning away from that sin to start the life-long process of sanctification. An infant has no knowledge of God, sin, or repentance; therefore, there is no saving faith imparted by baptizing an infant.

There simply must be a “then” and a “now” regarding your life with Christ. The person who has repented of their sins and been indwelt with Holy Spirit cannot be living the same life as when they were selfishly lost in their sins and un-reconciled to God. No such thing is possible. You must be born again and that re-birth makes you a new creation (John 3:3 and II Corinthians 5:17).

Your personal assurance of salvation comes from recognizing how your spiritual re-birth has effectively changed your life. If you’re searching for assurance, ask the Lord to remind you of your old self, then give Him the glory for the changes He has brought about in you.

If you need help understanding the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how to be saved, please use the link below to visit, or email me at


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Paul's Past, Not a Problem

A couple weeks ago I did a small word study on “principalities”. It was really small because this English word is used only once in the NASB version of the Bible!

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39.

By using Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, I was able to find the original Greek word used for “principalities” is “archÄ“”. This is a prefix we already have some understanding of in English.

Archeology and Archives – something being old, the beginning or earliest
Archangel and Archenemy – the primary, important, or first of something

Therefore, it is not surprising to learn this same Greek word is translated 38 times in the New Testament as “beginnings”. What is surprising (to me anyway) is that “archÄ“” is not also translated as “beginnings” in Romans 8:38. If it were, the passage would read, “nor beginnings, nor things present, nor things to come …”

In other words, Paul’s word choice in the original Greek language seems to say that there is nothing in your “past, present, or future” that will separate you from the love of God! When I think of Paul’s past as a persecutor of the Church, I am grateful to know about his “dirty laundry”, it keeps me from falling prey to hero-worship.

But more importantly, it teaches me about the love of God. Paul says we will find God’s love “in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). Once I am in Christ Jesus and He is my Lord, nothing I’ve done in the past would cause God to turn away from me, I am His child, and He loves me with His unending love. Hallelujah!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Mulligan Mondays

In friendly games of golf, sometimes a Mulligan or a do-over shot is allowed when you’ve hit a really poor shot. In a similar way, I see every Monday as a Mulligan, an opportunity from the Lord to just start fresh. Put the ball back up on the tee and swing away – but hopefully with more clarity, focus, and accuracy!

I am blessed to attend a church where we observe the Lord’s Supper every Sunday morning. As the elements are taken, I’m reminded to reflect over the past week, every week, confess my sins and get back on course. I’m so grateful my Lord Jesus allows for Mulligan Mondays, and Tuesdays, and . . . .!

I John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Friday, August 16, 2013

Becoming Beautiful

The Beatitudes in Matthew 5 teach the path, the only path, one must follow to become beautiful. This path starts with a mournful heart. One must be sorrowful for their sins in order to be truly beautiful. Then one must be meek, recognizing one’s lowliness as compared to the awesome holiness of the Lord God Almighty. Next, we must be hungry and thirst after righteousness. If we are complacent and content with ourselves as we are, that is not a beautiful thing.

In this endeavor, these words of Christ our Lord promise, we shall be satisfied. The one who strives for righteousness in this world shall be glorified in the next. And because we have mourned our sin, fallen prostrate before the holy God, and sought after righteousness with much diligence – then, this path to our beautification, leads us to be merciful, pure in heart, and peacemakers.

The surprising result is that we are then persecuted. But in that persecution there is absolute beauty – we are Christ-like, for none other suffered more for righteousness’ sake. This then is the path of becoming truly beautiful. And a beautiful person such as this is salt and is light upon this earth, but that story is for another day!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Neglecting the Harvest

It’s summertime and my zucchini and tomato plants are going nuts; the harvest is plentiful! I have more than I can eat and I’m busy passing produce along to my family and neighbors.

Today this has reminded me of harvesting men’s souls. Proverbs 10:5 says, “He who gathers in summer is a son who acts wisely, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who acts shamefully.”

The harvest is now, it’s been going on since the Day of Pentecost described in Acts 2. As Christians, we need to wake-up and be busy about our Father’s business.

It would be shameful of me to let the produce rot on the vines, neglecting the opportunity to share what I have with others. Even more so, I shouldn’t neglect sharing my most valuable possession: the Gospel of Jesus Christ.