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Monthly Archives: February 2012

Our Good and His Glory

Hello again!

Today we’re going from first to second Corinthians. — This is what God gave me today in His word:

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. (2 Corinthians 1:8-10)

God’s strength is shown best when we are weakest. Paul despaired of life itself; he thought he was going to die. Yet God rescued them, thus showing His power. This isn’t a lesson people like to learn, as it gives us a glimpse at just how feeble we really are, and no-one likes that. But, have you ever heard the expression, “If it doesn’t kill you, it’ll make you stronger.”? In this case, that expression is exactly right. God won’t let “it” (whatever “it” may be) kill our faith, and thus whatever trial we’re in, will “only make us stronger” in our faith.

In everything, God is sovereign. This includes trails. Though God can never be the author of evil, He does give the Devil permission to do things. So, in this way, what the Devil intends for evil, God uses for our good and His glory. Every trial is for our good, in that when God brings us out of it, we can’t help but trust Him more (“On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.”). And it works for God’s glory, by allowing Him to show a bit of His power through us.

That being said, we aren’t to go throwing ourselves at possibly life threatening situations unless we hear, as Paul apparently did, a clear call from God to do so. – on a side-note, God will only ever call us to do something that will build up the Kingdom, so if you think God’s calling you to do something evil, it’s not God calling. – In which case, you should of course, go.

The point being this: even if we think we’re tempted beyond all reason, or if we’re in a life-threatening situation, God will work through that for our good and His glory.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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Love

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1)

Now, I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard a gong or a cymbal, but a gong makes an extremely loud, ringing nose; depending on how loud you hit it, it virtually drowns out all other instruments, and forces you to look at itself. A cymbal isn’t really any better: it makes a loud metallic sound, and if not combined with other instruments, can get extremely annoying… And Paul is saying that, if he speaks in tongues, but has not love, he’s like these instruments: loud, annoying, and in general off doing his own thing. Thus making love, all the more important. Yet, what exactly is love? Is that a question that can even be answered?

Paul gave us the opposite of what love would look like when he talked about clanging cymbals, etc. so, with that in mind, let’s look at what the opposite of a noisy gong/clanging cymbal would be:

  • Something that harmonizes with other instruments.
  • Something that doesn’t draw attention to itself, but instead contributes to making the song sound its best.

Love doesn’t draw attention to itself: it instead finds its proper place, and works to the glory of God (to make the song sound its best). It’s always “in harmony” with other believers. Even though Paul continues to describe it in the verses after this one, but we’ll stick with these for now.

Love Doesn’t Draw Attention To Itself

What is it we typically think of when we think of love? Perhaps we think of people sharing flowers, a wedding, something along those lines. Yet it’s much more than that. Love is something that makes us not want to draw attention to ourselves, but instead to become neon signs pointing towards the ultimate display of love: Jesus’ death for us. Love doesn’t aim to be the famous singer or actor (not that those things are wrong), it aims, instead, to be the brightest light for Jesus.

Love Harmonizes With Other Believers

Love doesn’t go off and do its own little thing, in an effort to make an Earthly name for itself. Rather, it joins with others for the furthering of the kingdom of God. Love makes us know our place in the body, and not try to become an eye, or an ear, or for that matter a foot. Instead, it makes us be content with where God has placed us, and work as hard as possible to bring Him more glory in the position that we’re in.

Now that we’ve looked at love from the standpoint of an instrument, let’s review the greatest display of love, ever:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

For God so loved the World, He sent His one and only son, Jesus Christ, to die a horrible, gruesome, bloody death on a cross. This is love in its purest essence: someone leaving riches and fame, in fact, leaving Paradise itself, in order to further (or, to be more accurate, in order to actually start) the Kingdom of God. Not only that, but the way in which Jesus did it, makes it impossible for us not to worship Him. He descended from on High to die for us! There’s no way we could ever have a love like His. However, we can still have love. We can still serve God, though not as Jesus did, and we should be doing so to the best of our feeble, human ability.

Why it is that marriages break? The married couple didn’t have love, and their goal wasn’t to further the kingdom of God as much as possible. Why is it Churches fail? Because those Churches didn’t have love. In every area of life, love is vital. Weather that area is marriage, family in general, Church, a social group, work, or anywhere else: love is key. Yet the unbeliever doesn’t and cannot have this love; this is obvious to all, to matter what area of life they en-devour to succeed in. Yes, anyone can put on a good face and smile, but that doesn’t matter if the heart doesn’t have love in it. We can see this by simply looking at any “dysfunctional” family out there. It’s only by coming to Christ, that we get the ability to love others. It’s only by coming and finding Jesus’ incredible love, that we ourselves are infused with it.

God is incredible; He’ll never stop giving. If any ask Him for His love, He will give it. If any ask for strength, He will give it. God is rather like a bank, but we don’t have to deposit anything in Him in order to continually draw strength and love from Him. He is all-powerful; and He is all-giving, in that He’s more than willing to give His children strength to overcome, and love to serve Him better. Yes, sometimes we forget to ask for His strength, and fall to temptation. Yet God is all-forgiving too! God is the purest personification of love that there is; He is also the purest personification of justice, and of every other emotion (before the fall) known to humankind. Let’s worship Him; and while we do so, let’s also make a withdraw on some of that strength and love that He offers freely.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2012 in Delivered Through Love, God is Love

 

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A Look into Spiritual Gifts

Hello again!

This is what God has given me today in His word:

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. (1 Corinthians 12:7-11)

In everything, God is sovereign. This is also true when it comes to Spiritual gifts; even if it seems we don’t have any, we do. It’s just that our gifts are all different, as Paul said above, to some are given wisdom, to some the utterance of knowledge, etc.. Paul also points out that no matter how small the gift we have is, we still have one. As compared to an unbelievers, who is unable to help build up, but only tear down: that’s another thing that separates the believer from the unbeliever. Where one is (supposed to be) building up, the other is only able to tear down. And its only by coming to Jesus, and accepting Him as savior, that we’re able to stop tearing down, and start building up.

But, even though Christians are able to build up others with words and actions through gifts, the strange thing is, it seems Paul doesn’t want us to be content! In fact, quite to the contrary:

1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. (1 Corinthians 14:1)

We’re told to “eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit,”. This is possibly the only time that it actually is alright to not be content: yes, we’re able to, and should be building up others with the gifts that God has given us. But we’re also told not to stop there! As Christians, we’re supposed to eagerly desire more… A little more specifically, we’re to eagerly desire more so that we may better “follow the way of love” (build each-other up).

In addition to all this though, its important to realize one more thing: God has given us these gifts. This may seem like a fairly basic concept, but sometimes we lose sight of what God has done for us, and start thinking that, “yeah, we’re really pretty good to have done this.” In other words: we sometimes forget that its God’s work, and not ours. Though I’ve never seen someone forget who (God) gave them the ability to heal someone (possibly because I’ve never seen someone with the gift of healing), those with more subtler gifts may find it a temptation to praise themselves for something, rather than God. For example: the gift of the utterance of knowledge. It may be a temptation with that to think of how well someone has “trained their brain,” or some such thing.

As it is, however, we’re to praise God: He’s the one whose given us any and every gift, and He’s the one we should be focusing on; not ourselves.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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The Sermon Today

Hello again!

Today the second interim-pastor, Mark Campo, preached at Fountain of Grace Church (i.e. The Fountain). He preached on Judges 6:1-32, and had four main points:

  1. God uses ordinary things, In extraordinary ways.
  2. The things God does come from His strength not ours.
  3. If we do courageous things for God, it’s a testimony to others of God.
  4. It is necessary for us to be serious about our response to God’s call.

For the most part though, he actually focused on three things:

  1. What a wine-press is, and what it meant for Gideon to be threshing wheat there.
  2. What a threshing floor is.
  3. That we should tear down the “altars” (arguments against God, etc.) of the Muslims.

Now, it may seem bad when I put it like that, but if you’d been there you would’ve seen how he tried to weave all of those things in with each-other. But, in general, his sermon emphasized that no matter who you are, God can use you.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2012 in Todays Sermon

 

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God Will Always Make a Way Out

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:13-14)

Temptation can be anything: a new bike, a new (better) job, anger, family, even reading the Bible (not applying the Bible, but reading it anyway, is a natural pathway to pride) can be a temptation to falling to Satan. Yet it’s important to realize that, no matter what temptation we face, it isn’t something that a hundred others haven’t already gone through before you a hundred times. The actual reason this is an important realization, is because of a couple of things: first, it puts the suffering (from temptation), whatever that may be, into its proper perspective. In addition, it’s just, in general, encouraging to know that you aren’t the only one whose had this problem.

Temptation is dangerous, yes. Just as dangerous as the sin it can produce. But with that being said, God will always provide a way out. And that, right there, is the second biggest difference between an unbeliever and a believer. – The first biggest difference is, of course, that we’ve been saved; washed clean by Jesus’ blood. – An unbeliever will fall, fall, and fall again. A Christian, though he may stumble, will never fall; will never become inescapably snared in the Devil’s trap.

Even though a Christian will never be completely trapped, as God will always create a way out, we should still “run from idolatry” of all kinds. Yes, God always makes a way out, but let’s make an effort to make sure He’ll (almost) never have to! Let’s turn around and run towards God, and growing into His image!

So, to summarize: God will always provide a way to overcome temptation, Christians may stumble but will never fall, and we’re supposed to run as fast as possible away from idolatry.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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What Is and Isn’t Lawful For a Christian

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. (1 Corinthians 6:12-13)

Really? All things are lawful for Christians? It seems Paul has just given us immunity from the law! – Well, yes, all Christians are allowed to do anything that they want… Unless the thing in question contradicts the rest of the Scripture.

Think of it this way: the ten commandments state both that we’re to obey our parents, and that we’re not supposed to murder. But what if our parents tell us to murder? Well, in that case, we shouldn’t obey them as it goes against the rest of Scripture. Same thing goes here: are we allowed to do anything and everything we want to? Absolutely! It’s just we want to do has to be in context with what the rest of Scripture says. In addition to this though, it’s also very important to realize that are bodies are not our own: but the Lord’s, and meant for Him. i.e. Would you “do evil” with the Lord’s property? Then don’t do so with your own body.

But now that we’ve experienced the warning not to do things contradictory to Scripture, we need to realize that, as Christians, our minds have been encased in God’s helmet of salvation, and our wants have been changed/are being changed to reflect the wants of our Heavenly father: God. Thus, though we still need to examine our motives for doing things, and the results those things will have, it isn’t something we have to spend much time worrying about… Now, before people start getting angry, let me explain: our minds and bodies are being conformed into the image of God. Because of that, our wants are changed. What we now want should no longer be what we used to want, but should be what God wants. Therefore, we do need to keep an eye (so to speak) on our thoughts and continue to bring every wrong thought captive to God, it isn’t something we need to have a heart attack over.

To summarize: our wants and desires are no longer what they once where, but are focused on Christ. Therefore, Christians are allowed to do whatever they want to, that is in accordance with Scripture. And, for the record, if you can’t find a verse in the entire Bible that tells you can’t steal, you’re aren’t looking hard enough; same goes for everything the law says (read Romans 13 to see what I mean).

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2012 in Wants and Desires

 

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Santification

A quick warning before we start: if you’re going to read the beginning of this post, please read the end to! You need to read the end of the post in order to realize I’m not supporting legalism in the beginning… With that said:

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

Such were some of you… But you’ve been washed clean by Christ. That may be one of my favorite verses in the Bible, as it perfectly captures what exactly it is that Jesus has done for us: He’s washed us clean in His blood. Sometimes we hear that phrase, as Christians, so much that it’s meaning is deadened to us. He’s actually washed us clean in His blood. Immortal God came down to Earth, becoming a man, and died for us. More than that though, now Christ has sanctified us! And, as this sanctification includes the mind, our wants and desires are changed as well… Something, however, which poses a rather interesting question:

What if I continue to want what I wanted before coming to Christ? Am I not a “true” Christian, and if not, what would make me one?

Well, I’m not about to put myself in the place of God, and tell you how to become a “true” Christian (as compared to a “false” one), but this is what the Bible says on the matter (this is the later half of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples):

13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by[d] the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. (John 17:13-19)

Jesus says here that his disciples are “hated by the world,” something which, it is inferred, was caused by Jesus giving them His word (“I have given them my word and the world has hated them,” as if the two where synonymous). Thus, because we are also Jesus’ disciples, and have His word – and because of His word, the Bible, understand that we’re not supposed to be homosexuals, thieves, etc. – the world should “hate us” as well. If the “World” (unbelievers in general) doesn’t hate us, than the only other possibility is that the world completely loves us: there is no grey line with Christ, either you serve one master (Jesus), or the other (the World), you can’t serve both. Thus, if the World loves us, we’re not “of Christ.” See where I’m going here?

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not promoting legalism! There is forgiveness for sins, and, sadly, every Christian still falls to sin while on Earth. But we should no longer need that sin to find fulfillment. Instead, we now find fulfillment in Christ! What I’m saying is this: if we still feel as if we need to do this or that, or to have this or that, “this or that” is an idol that we’re worshiping instead of Christ! We shouldn’t need or want any sin, ever. This isn’t to say we won’t still fall (unwillingly!) to temptation, but it does mean that we’ll always get back up again. Paul puts it far better than I do:

1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. (Romans 6:1-7)

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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