March 30 and April 6, 2014

Committed to What, to Whom?

What is your BHAG (pronounced B-HAG; denoting Big, Harry, Audacious Goal; connoting a very difficult task or seemingly unattainable goal)?  What is that one thing that God wants to accomplish through you before He calls you home someday?  Do you know it?  Are you committed to complete it?  The Apostle Paul knew.  He was committed!  You should be challenged to let God stretch you into the partner through whom He can accomplish something you never could alone.  ‘Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey’ (chorus to Trust and Obey; lyrics by John H. Sammis; music by Daniel B. Towner; 1887).

Paul’s BHAGs

  • In Colossians 1.25 and 28, Paul wrote his mission and his vision statements.  His mission was ‘to make the word of God fully known’.  His vision was to ‘present everyone mature in Christ’.  Big, Harry, Audacious Goal!!!
  • One requirement of every such statement is the clarity of the words chosen.  Paul was writing from his first Roman imprisonment in AD 60, some 25 years after Jesus partnered with him on the Damascus Road (Acts 9.1-19).
  • Paul seemed to consider God’s word like Winston Churchill characterized Russia in his famous quote: “Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”
  • There was a nugget (the key; Matthew 16.19) within God’s (enigma; John 1.1, 4.24; Acts 17.28) Old Testament (mystery; John 1.1-5, 17.17) law and prophets for which Paul had sought and finally found in Jesus (riddle; John 1.14, 3.16, 14.6), Who fulfilled both, Law and prophets (Matthew 5.17-20).  As Paul had written in Galatians 3.21-22, the Law revealed sin but could never give eternal life.  The One about Whom the prophets had written had found Paul and revealed truth to him (see John 1.17-18)!
  • What was the nugget (the key) of the riddle, enigma, mystery?  Colossians 1.27!  Christ in you as the evidence of God’s presence with, in, and through you (Isaiah 7.14 – Immanuel means God is with you!; Luke 17.20-21; Jeremiah 31.33)! Remember the ‘Christ’ means Messiah means Anointed.  Thus, Paul is saying that God’s anointing is within you!  Reflect upon Ephesians 1.13-14; then on Colossians 2.8-10; and lastly on 1 Corinthians 2.6-16 (Ephesians 3.9-10).
  • And, so, Jesus prayed John 17.18 and gave the Great Commission in Mark 16.15-18 because of the assurance of Mark 16.20 (see the importance of this in John 15.24; tie this back to Exodus 34.10 for understanding ‘Christ in you’; John 14.12).
  • Thus, Paul made ‘the word of God fully known’ (Colossians 1.25)!  Paul’s first BHAG!
  • His second BHAG was his vision of ‘present[ing] everyone mature in Christ’ (verse 28).
  • How could Paul ‘present everyone mature in Christ’, especially since he was imprisoned? He wrote the protocol for accomplishing this while in prison in Ephesians 4.11-13, where he defines maturity and identifies the teachers and illustrators.  He comments on the maturity process in Romans 5.1-5 and 12.1-2 (Philippians 4.8).  Note, also, 2 Peter 1.5-8.
  • You are studying this as someone who is becoming the mature image of Christ revealed in the word of God [2 Corinthians 3.18; that is, Jesus’ knowledge (John 12.49-50) and His faith (John 5.19-20)].

How did Paul discover his BHAGs?

  • Acts 13.1-3 describes a curious scene and prompts the question: how does God reveal His plan for and to you?  A further question: do you ‘minister to God’ this way?  Jeremiah 29.12-13 say this is the only way to know Jeremiah 29.11.  Jesus’ plan for Paul (Acts 9.15-16, 26.16-18) became clearer during the times he spent in ‘ministering to the Lord’.
  • What about you?  What is God’s BHAG that He wants to partner with you to accomplish through you?  Are you committed to embrace it and let Him complete it?

Praise God!!! Romans 15.25-26  Copyright © by Maurice L. Painter, 2014.  www.sozoclass.com

I Stand by the Door

by Sam Shoemaker

I stand by the door.  I neither go too far in, nor stay too far out.  The door is the most important door in the world; It is the door through which people walk when they find God.  There’s no use my going way inside, and staying there, when so many are still outside and they, as much as I, crave to know where the door is.  And all that so many ever find is only the wall where a door ought to be.  They creep along the wall like blind people,  with outstretched, groping hands.  Feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door, yet they never find it … So I stand by the door.

The most tremendous thing in the world Is for people to find that door–the door to God.  The most important thing any person can do Is to take hold of one of those blind, groping hands, and put it on the latch–the latch that only clicks and opens to the person’s own touch.  People die outside that door, as starving beggars die on cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter—die for want of what is within their grasp.  They die, on the other side of it–die because they have not found it.  Nothing else matters compared to helping them find it, and open it, and walk in, and find Him … So I stand by the door.

Go in, great saints, go all the way in–go way down into the cavernous cellars, and way up into the spacious attics–it is a vast roomy house, this house where God is.  Go into the deepest of hidden casements, of withdrawal, of silence, of sainthood.  Some must inhabit those inner rooms.  And know the depths and heights of God, and call outside to the rest of us how wonderful it is.  Sometimes I take a deeper look in, sometimes venture in a little farther; but my place seems closer to the opening … So I stand by the door.

There is another reason why I stand there.  Some people get part way in and become afraid lest God and the zeal of His house devour them for God is so very great, and asks all of us.  And these people feel a cosmic claustrophobia, and want to get out. “Let me out!” they cry, and the people way inside only terrify them more.  Somebody must be by the door to tell them that they are spoiled for the old life, they have seen too much: once taste God, and nothing but God will do any more.  Somebody must be watching for the frightened who seek to sneak out just where they came in, to tell them how much better it is inside.  The people too far in do not see how near these are to leaving–preoccupied with the wonder of it all.  Somebody must watch for those who have entered the door, but would like to run away.  So for them, too, I stand by the door.

I admire the people who go all the way in.  But I wish they would not forget how it was before they got in.  Then they would be able to help the people who have not yet even found the door, or the people who want to run away again from God, you can go in too deeply, and stay in too long, and forget the people outside the door.  As for me, I shall take my old accustomed place, near enough to God to hear Him, and know He is there, but not so far from people as not to hear them, and remember they are there, too.  Where?  Just outside the door–hundreds of them, thousands of them.  But–more important for me–one of them, two of them, ten of them, whose hands I am intended to put on the latch.  So I shall stand by the door and wait for those who seek it.

March 23, 2014 Qualified Risk

Qualified Risk

Investing on the New York Stock Exchange, driving on our interstates during the year’s first snow, and going on a blind date are examples of life’s risks.  You could add others, more personal.  But, are there risks in whatever God has tasked you to do?  This study will answer ‘yes and no’ and help you move forward to accomplish His tasks.

Paul could have only guessed about what Jesus meant.

Jesus said there would be days like this.

Why risk your present life for Jesus?

  • Paul summarized his answer in 1 Corinthians 15.19.  Although he did not begin with the end in mind, he reversed his path when he realized it led only to distruction.  Consider John 14.6 in Paul’s counsel to philosophers in Acts 17.22-31, who were seeking their own ways.
  • Jesus answered this question rather bluntly in Mark 8.34-38.  Are you?  Isaiah 33.14-16 discusses future and present rewards of risked relationships with non-believers in business and life.
  • Why risk you present life?  Because Jesus wants you to!  Connect John 17.18 to 2 Corinthians 5.17-20 to Ezekiel 33.11.  Now, do you understand your role?
  • Yes, there are risks to life and limb from being a Christian today.  But, there are no risks to your reward from faithfulness!  Reread 2 Timothy 4.7-8!

Hebrews 10.23: ‘Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He Who promised is faithful.’  Luke 1.37, Matthew 19.26, Jeremiah 32.17, 27!

Praise God!!! Copyright © by Maurice L. Painter, 2014.  www.sozoclass.com

March 16, 2014 Not Giving Up on the Future

Not Giving Up on the Future

Picture this: the hand of a frog coming out of the mouth of a pelican squeezing the neck of the pelican so it cannot swallow the frog.  The caption: ‘Never, ever, give up!’  Apostle Paul assures the saint of God’s overcoming power in 1 Corinthians 10.12-13, illustrated by the frog.  You may think you are on sure footing, but satan is always looking for a scheme to deceive you into vulnerability.  In 2 Corinthians 2.11, Paul encouraged vigilance; expect satan to try to deceive you; 1 Peter 5.8, too.  Were are you vulnerable?  That’s where he will start.  While writing these letters in AD 55-56, Paul might have remembered John Mark, the young man who turned back from the task he had assumed.  This act became satan’s scheme for trying to stop God’s work through Barnabas and Paul.  This story is found in Acts 15.36-41.

Who was John Mark?

  • An evangelist and author of the first gospel written (AD 61).  Scholars believe that he described himself in Mark 14.51-52 to establish his first-hand knowledge.
  • Apparently, either his mother or father was a Roman, for he had a Jewish name, John (Acts 12.25), and a Roman name, Marcus or Mark (Easton’s Bible Dictionary).  He was called Mark more than John later in life.  He was born in Jerusalem.
  • Mark’s mother (Mary) apparently had some wealth and influence and owned the residence to which Peter went after he was released from prison (Acts 12.12-13).  In 1 Peter 5.13, Peter evidences that he might have led Mark to faith in Jesus Christ.
  • Mark was a cousin of Barnabas (Colossians 4.10).  He went along with Barnabas and Paul on their first missionary journey in AD 47 (Acts 12.25) but left them in Perga (Acts 13.13).
  • What could have discouraged him?  Satan used his departure three years later (AD 50) to divide Barnabas from Paul (Acts 15.36-40).
  • Paul’s displeasure may have come from Jesus’ teaching about loyalty and tenacity; see Luke 9.62 (verses 23-26, also).  Paul later expressed similar displeasure with certain others who abandoned him during his second imprisonment, in about AD 66; see 2 Timothy 4.10.
  • The result was that Barnabas took John Mark and went to Cyprus and Paul took Silas, another prophet from Jerusalem, and went to Syria and Cilicia.
  • Later, Mark was reconciled to Paul and was with him in Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome (Colossians 4.10 and Philemon 1.24).  (Mark was also with Peter in Babylon [1 Peter 5.13] and with Timothy in Ephesus during Paul’s second imprisonment in Rome [2 Timothy 4.11].)  Paul also reconciled with Barnabas before he wrote 1 Corinthians 9.6 in AD 55.

Stay focused on the results to be produced!

  • Whenever two people walk together, satan has twice the opportunities to disrupt their intended purpose and goal (Amos 3.3; 2 Corinthians 6.14).
  • What do you do when satan disrupts?  Paul and Barnabas, although seeing Mark differently, remained true to telling people about John 14.6, now in multiple cities. Young Mark matured under Barnabas’ leadership and, later, rejoined Paul’s team (Philippians 3.13-14).
  • Perhaps Paul recognized his need to reconcile with Mark and with Barnabas when he criticized Corinthian Christians for divisive immaturity, in 1 Corinthians 1.10-13.  He may have seen these two when he wrote about spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12.1-11, noting that the same Holy Spirit is in each believer, although the manifestations may differ.
  • Unity produces results!  Reflect upon Colossians 3.12-17; Ephesians 4.26-27, 32; Ecclesiastes 4.12; Matthew 18.19-20.
  • ‘Never, ever, give up!’

Praise God!!!  Copyright © by Maurice L. Painter, 2014.  www.sozoclass.com

March 9, 2014 Generous Giving Develops Strong Faith

Generous Giving Develops Strong Faith

Apostle Paul’s declaration in Romans 1.16-17 is your declaration, too.  The Good News about Jesus is the gift of eternal life with God (John 3.13, 6.47) and the revelation of God as the Satisfier of daily needs (John 1.17-18, 14.8-9; Jehovah-jireh/provider, -rapha/healer, -nissi/protector, etc).  These are received by faith (Exodus 16.3-5/Matthew 14.13-21, Numbers 21.9/Matthew 9.20-22, 2 Chronicles 20.12/John 8.3-11, respectively)!  Hence, ‘the righteous shall live by faith’; daily and eternally depending upon God for salvation!  Your challenge is to ‘live by faith’ when God calls for the last few dollars in your savings account.  Will you hold onto what you have (Luke 18.18-23), or will you give God the opportunity of using the funds He has reserved in your account and replace them with an abundant blessing?  The first response is ‘limited’ faith; the second leads to ‘unlimited’ faithfulness of God!

God asks for His reserved funds during difficult times, which can pressure your faith.

  • Acts 11.27-30 tells an interesting story about the work of the Holy Spirit through persons who are available to Him.
  • Agabus the prophet would later prophesy, by the Holy Spirit, that Paul would be arrested in Jerusalem; see Acts 21.10.  He came to Antioch from Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to make an earth-shaking announcement: there would be a famine in Israel and throughout the known world.  This happened in AD 45-46, during the reign of Claudius, Emperor of Rome (AD 41-54; he was the ruler that drove the Jews out of Rome, including Priscilla and Aquila; Acts 18.2).
  • After announcing pending trouble, the Holy Spirit encourages the believers to collect and send funds to support the believers in Judea.  Did they have excess capital in savings? Probably not, since they, as Jews, might have suffered the loss of jobs and families as had the believers in Jerusalem (Acts 4.32-37; introduction of Barnabas).  So, where would the Christians of Antioch get the funds to send?  From reducing their level of living and trusting God to multiply what they had.  Do you think Paul and Barnabas had told them about God providing the manna and Jesus feeding the 5,000 men plus their families with them?  Do you think God repeated His miracle to honor their faith?  Acts 26.12 is similar.
  • Did God test their faithfulness?  How is this similar to His instructions about the exiting Hebrews gathering manna (Exodus 16.3-5, especially verse 4)?  What is the lesson for you?  God will use satan’s troubles (John 16.33) as an opportunity to reveal Himself and His love for you and His faithfulness to His word (Isaiah 55.10-11)!
  • Jesus illustrated this important lesson using a widow’s two mites (Gk: lepton; the smallest bronze of copper coin; two equaled nearly a halfpenny in value: Easton’s Bible Dictionary). In Mark 12.41-44, Jesus observed the rich giving Temple offerings from part of their wealth and contrasted the widow giving ‘her whole livelihood’, nearly a halfpenny!  How did Jesus’ comment about her putting in more teach that her faith was greater than the others’ faiths?  How does she demonstrate Paul’s teaching in Romans 1.16-17?

Attitude is more important than amount!

  • Adam’s son Cain offers a simple example; in Genesis 4.4-7.  See Proverbs 21.27, Ecclesiastes 8.12-13 and Romans 2.6-11.
  • In 2 Corinthians 8.1-7, Paul encouraged believers in Corinth to fulfill their earlier (verse 10) promise to collect funds for believers in Judea, by comparing them to the ‘afflicted’ churches in Macedonia.  Theirs was a ‘severe test of affliction’, an ‘extreme poverty’.  Yet, ‘their abundance of joy…overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.’  Paul was not manipulating them but was informing them that representatives of the Macedonian churches would accompany him through Corinth on his was to deliver their gifts in Judea; don’t be embarrassed by not fulfilling your promise (2 Corinthians 9.4-5)!  Consider Ecclesiastes 5.4-5 and Deuteronomy 23.21.
  • In 2 Corinthians 8.13-14, Paul uses the popular word ‘fairness’ to describe the work of God.  It is ‘fair’ that God would give you abundance now to satisfy another person’s need and reverse the opportunity later, should the circumstance reverse.  How does Proverbs 19.17 speak about this?
  • Note that God does not take from one to give to another (2 Corinthians 9.7).  He offers the opportunity of experiencing God deeper; be cheerful with the anticipation of experiencing God deeper! This is his comparison in Jeremiah 9.23-24.  Does wealth lead to God (Matthew 6.24, 19.16-26), or does experiencing God deeper lead to wealth (Deuteronomy 8.18; Luke 6.38)?
  • Paul gave your takeaways in his discussion of the ‘bottom line’ in 2 Corinthians 9.6-12. 1: you receive in proportion to what you give (Proverbs 19.17); 2: God is able to make all grace abound (remember that Grace is defined as God’s word and His willingness to use His great power to bring it to your reality!); 3: God multiplies your monies for food; 4: God multiplies your ‘seed’ for sowing (Genesis 26.12); 5: God increases your harvest of righteousness (Hosea 14.9); 6: you will be enriched in EVERY WAY to be generous (time, money, talent, etc.); 7: and all who observe you will give thanks to God for you!

When God asks for His reserved funds, what will you say?

  • A well-known company has offered $1 Billion to the person who can name every college basketball team that will be in the Road to the Final Four, including the teams in each bracket and the final victor.  Would accomplishing this be of greater value than your faith in Jesus Christ?  Consider a comparable situation in Hebrews 11.24-26.
  • Last week’s video testimony by David and Elizabeth illustrates how God might ask for His funds.  They covenanted with God to give a percentage above their tithe of all the funds that God blessed them with during the year following.  When they began to honor their covenant, God began to increase their income…during a down economy, in which he is self employed and she homeschools their two sons.  He said that their income was 50% greater because of God honoring their covenant actions.
  • Reflect on the following verses:  Job 23.10-14; Proverbs 8.10-11, 19-21; 24.3-4; 28.20; 30.7-9.
  • 1 Peter 1.7!  You LIVE by faith…now and then!

Praise God!!!  Copyright © by Maurice L. Painter, 2014.  www.sozoclass.com

March 2, 2014 Why Should You Study The Bible?

Why Should You Study The Bible?

In recent studies, we have considered the help Barnabas provided to the new church in Antioch.  Jews and Greeks had been persuaded by the witness of believers from Jerusalem that Jesus is the only way to God, the only truth, and the only life; that no person can ever come to God except through Jesus (John 14.6).  You may remember the early days of your acceptance of Jesus as Savior.  Evangelism results in salvation from sin and its cause and effects; death to the schemes of a former way of life.  The great need, then, is to learn a new way of living, a new discipline or skillful routine of life.  Paul described the result of this in Romans 12.1-2.  Replace the old way of thinking with a new way, so that the expressions of lifestyle exhibit a better person.  But, why  desire to change?  And, why study the Bible to learn the discipline to produce this better life?

Illustrations

  • Jesus told two parables to illustrate the incomparable value of turning to the new life only provided by Jesus.  You read these in Matthew 13.44-46.  Notice Jesus’ comparisons to communicate value to His hearers and readers.  The Kingdom of God is of greater value than whatever property the man in the story and the merchant owned that they were prompted to liquidate in order to possess the greater value.
  • Apostle Paul expressed his personal valuation of the Kingdom of God in Philippians 3.7-11. What words did he use to connote ‘Kingdom of God’?  He knew his life on earth would end biologically or be shortened by man, which it was in AD 67.  But, he knew he would live forever with Jesus!  Paul had given up everything so he could ‘know Christ Jesus my Lord’ (verse 8; 2 Timothy 4.7-8).
  • What is of greater value to you than having Jesus?

What makes knowing Christ Jesus of greater value than everything?

  1. ‘Jesus is the resurrection and the life’ (John 11.25, 1.4).  Notice the assurance in the remainder of Jesus’ words in verse 25.  Paul knew this (Colossians 3.4)!
  2. Disciple Philip’s question in John 14.8 led Jesus to offer the most important reason for knowing Jesus, in verse 9.  Read Apostle John’s conclusion about Jesus in John 1.18 (verses 1 and 14, too).
  3. What is the value of having God?  Consider the valuation given by God, Himself, in Jeremiah 9.23-24.  Greater than the three ways we value ourselves and others today.  Research His names: Jehovah-tsidkenu, -rapha, -jireh, -rohi, -nissi, – shalom, -shammah!  That’s value!  Priceless!

Why, then, should you want to know God?

A disciple is a follower or student of a teacher, leader, or philosopher; someone who is studying a subject of interest or in order to enter a particular profession.  2 Timothy 2.15; for 2 Timothy 3.16-17, which is the goal of discipleship!  Follow Jesus!

Praise God!!!  Copyright © Maurice L. Painter, 2014.  www.sozoclass.com