1 Corinthian 13:1-3 (AMP)
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love [for others growing out of God’s love for me], then I have become only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal [just an annoying distraction]. And if I have the gift of prophecy [and speak a new message from God to the people], and understand all mysteries, and [possess] all knowledge; and if I have all [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love [reaching out to others], I am nothing. If I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it does me no good at all.
In this passage, Paul is explaining to us that we should live a spirit-led life that compels others to want to live the same way. The presence of the Holy Spirit’s gifts is the highest expression of God’s presence in the life of a believer. The gifts are sent to help one another in the body of Christ. But let me ask you, what good are your gifts from God if they are not presented with love?
As Christians, we should be growing our faith and encouraging others in theirs, but that’s not what I’m seeing in today’s culture. Today’s culture is mocking that of which we see in Paul’s Corinth. In Corinth, they’re rude to each other. We see name calling, insults, cruelty, and debate for no purpose or benefit. This spreading infection is called incivility. Incivility is defined in the dictionary as “rude or unsociable speech or behavior.”
Much like in Corinth, our world is in jeopardy due to this incivility. Your faith in Christ might be able to withstand a hurricane, but there will be holes in the foundation caused by the termites of incivility eating away at it.
When Paul speaks, conversation in the city hushes. He explains that if the townspeople don’t express themselves with love, their words will be reduced to a hollow song of nothing. If they can’t relate to others and come together in God, their speech will amount to nothing.
We live in a world of demonizing descriptions and opinions that are encouraged by half truths. We’ve gotten to the point where when something good is done, it seems shaded and motivated by something darker. And I’m not just seeing this in our culture, I’m seeing it in the church. Our sharpness of tongue and inability to debate without using weapons of mass destruction has put us Christians on edge about everything. It’s human incivility.
We are better than this. We Christians are better than how we have been acting. Don’t let others make you sacrifice your civility. Don’t let culture make you act cruel, too. Don’t let the mean you see in the streets make you mean and cynical in the church. Just because you say you’re saved and anointed doesn’t mean you are. The proof is in how you treat others.
Don’t cave in to crushing incivility.
Many people believe that as the culture goes, so goes the church. I don’t believe that. I believe the church leads the culture. So therefore, as the church goes, so goes the culture. Don’t allow incivility to fatigue you and act in the same manner. You are God’s mouthpiece. You might have a natural inclination to be distrustful of people you meet on the street, but even though you are wired a certain way, recognize that you can be transformed by the Holy Spirit to act in a different way. Guard your tongue, mind your business, and be kind.
Don’t let the infection toxify your system. Don’t cave to incivility.
No matter how crazy this culture is in 2018, a revival is on the way. We can’t wait for culture to change; we have to be the ones to start the change. Don’t wait for someone else.
Psalm 25:14 (NIV)
The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.
Did you know that God is waiting on you to respond to Him? He wants to be your Friend, Savior, and Lord, but He’s not going to force you to sign up. He doesn’t force Himself on us. He doesn’t dominate us for relationship. He “allures” us. He simply wants your friendship and your witness.
Why? He’s a God of relationship. He could place the world on autopilot, but He would rather the world spin with you than without you.
He even laid that message out in the first book of His book. In Genesis 1:26, God said, “Let us make mankind in our image…to rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (NIV).
Why do you think He told us that?
Even though it’s His world, He gave you dominion over it. He would rather do what He does with us than without us. The fact that He gives me the grace to realize His presence in my life amazes me. He wants to use that blessing on my life to amaze others.
Now, let me give you the other side of this amazing life God offers you. Your anointing doesn’t mean that you won’t have bad days and long nights. It means that you’re living in a broken world and that God wants you to trust Him and keep saying “yes” to His invitation to live a life with Him in it.
He opens up the windows of Heaven to pour out on your life the blessings you don’t have room enough to receive. It sounds almost too good to be true. You trust Him and He blesses your life. What’s the catch?
The catch is you bless others with the blessings you receive. Jesus commanded His disciples to “therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NIV).
Yet, even His commandment comes with a promise. “Go forth and teach of me. I am with you always,” He says.
So, when life knocks you down, how do you respond?
You get back up and trust Him again. Don’t be scared to take a walk again. Don’t be scared to show up again. Don’t be scared to stand up again. Don’t be scared to lift a prayer again.
He’s just waiting for you to respond.
2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Here’s a hard truth. Sometimes God says, “No.” He doesn’t explain it when you pray and pray for something and it doesn’t come to be. He just asks you to trust Him and believe that He has a better plan for you.
But waiting on a better plan can be difficult!
Think about the greats of the Bible who had to wait a long time for God’s purpose for their lives: Moses (40 years); David (arguably 15 years of being pursued by a jealous, crazy king); Zechariah (99 years old) and Elizabeth (88 years old) before they had John the Baptist; and Noah (estimates say he was told to build the Ark 55-75 years before the Flood). I think you get the picture. Waiting for a promise to be fulfilled can take a long time and takes consistent faith.
But the thing about God’s timing is that He always keeps His promises. They may not look like anything you can imagine, but He has a purpose and a plan and you are part of it.
Reality steals from the faithful by saying that God stopped talking a long time ago. There’s a strand of theology called progressive revelation. This simply means that God has continued talking to His children over time.
Reality can tell you that God stopped talking when the Bible was finalized. It can tell you that the last people He spoke with were the apostles. That reality is a false reality and here’s why:
- God said His Word wouldn’t come back void. In Isaiah 55:11 He says, “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
- If you prayed this morning, you spoke to God. Like the hymn says, “He walks with me, and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own.”
- He is the LIVING God.
Reality tells us that we can’t enjoy the blessings he bestows upon His children. But that’s false too. We shouldn’t feel guilty for what the Lord has done. Even in the exile of Israel, God told His children (ones in exile in Babylon):
Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper. (Jeremiah 29:5-7, NIV)
God wants you to thrive and live, not hide behind what you see in your circumstances today.
Here are five tips for keeping your balance with reality and possibility:
- Stop thinking you don’t deserve what God has given you. You may not be able to justify your blessings, but you don’t have to explain them. A simple answer—Jesus believes in the possibility of me.
- Become a contemplative Christian. As David says in his famous Psalm 119, “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees: I will not neglect your Word.” As one commentator says, “Read God’s word until it reads you.” Life is always going to juxtapose you between reality and possibility. This meditation puts possibility ahead of reality.
- Believe that every new day is a day for possibility. His mercies are new every morning after all.
- Don’t just thank God for changing your reality. Thank God for giving you possibility—also known as hope.
- Remember that you can’t improve on what Jesus has already done. You have salvation, grace, and freedom from sin because you are HIS.
Now, go live for possibility because that’s what God wants for you.
Colossians 3:1-3 (AMP)
Therefore if you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, sharing in His resurrection from the dead], keep seeking the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind and keep focused habitually on the things above [the heavenly things], not on things that are on the earth [which have only temporal value]. For you died [to this world], and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God.
In this passage, Paul is encouraging the disciples not to get caught up in the legalism that is toxically infecting what was intended to be a pure relational spirituality. The disciples are attached to rules and regulations that make them performance-focused. As a result, they forget about the sheer joy in having a relationship with Jesus. Christ died to free us from living lives distant from Him, so that in turn we might together be free to enjoy God in fellowship forever. He’s given us a performance-free journey, so why do we still find ourselves fighting to perform for Him and others?
It’s a relief knowing that God doesn’t expect us to perform for Him. I must admit that, even with the gifts He’s given me, I could never perform well enough to earn the enormity of God’s grace. Resist the temptation to focus on performance-based spirituality. You can never fully live up to it. No one can, and it becomes a legalistic dread. Jesus ceases to be a friend, and is instead seen as an inspection agent who is going around trying to point out the places where you have glaring contradictions. It’s like you’re living every day as if you’re in a courtroom and God is the judge. It’s tiring.
Get out of the courtroom. You don’t need to perform for God—or anyone else for that matter.
Do you want to know why? You are living hidden in Christ. He is within you. He is already doing the inside work on you. You may be feeling unworthy because of the natural contradictions of human performance. So, you try to improve. But everything God is doing in you is not always revealed; it’s concealed within you. Call it a private transformation, an inner alteration, or a transformation of mind. Whatever you want to call it, you need to understand that your outside might look like the construction project is over, but God is still doing rehab on the inside. Your inner self is being renewed day by day, no matter how great the outside looks.
Jesus says that the kingdom of God is within you, and the branch is only strong because it’s connected to the vine. If you believe that, then you must also understand that you don’t go walking around measuring and evaluating the strength of the branch by the branch itself. You can’t always see what makes the branch so strong. In other words, don’t look at everyone’s outward appearance and measure the strength of their spirituality. Everybody who is spiritually strong doesn’t always look like it, dress like it, or hang out like it.
Live freely in the strength and love of God, and performance won’t matter to you. The moment you decide to have a relationship with Him, nothing else matters. You don’t need to be stronger—you’re already mighty in the Lord.
You see, your performance changes when you have a relationship with God and you affirm what you already are, rather than what you hope to be. If you hope to be loved, then you’ll need affection and attachment from someone in order to fulfill that need. But if you already know that you’re loved by God, then you don’t need those false feelings of attachment.
Stop performing for other people. Leave the courtroom. God already went on trial for you. He was examined about your performance and the sentence was death, but He took it for you and set you free. His admonishment to you is that you go outside the courtroom and imitate His life and live redeemed. Leaving the courtroom means you are then free to only perform for one, and you already know that God sees you as perfect righteousness.
It doesn’t matter how other people think God needs to bless you. You’re a privately-owned corporation—it’s God’s business.
Psalm 27:13-14 (NKJV)
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord.
Have you ever driven behind the shopping center strip mall to the back alley where the stores receive deliveries? You might be surprised that the stores are actually a simple metal structure with a fancy façade. The “face” of the store may be fun, functional, or fancy, but the backend is just like all the others.
There’s a façade covering Christians today. We hide behind the picture of perfection. We either project it onto our faith family, or we think we have to live behind it. We walk around thinking that some of our brothers and sisters have never had their faith challenged, that sin has never touched their lips.
Or we think because we’re Christians that we need to be perfect. We struggle with silent sin. We live in fear of our enemies and fear that if we reach out for help, we’ll be condemned. We are drowning in our own doubts and fears of inadequacy. Some of us are going through some crushing circumstances—alone.
But that’s not what God wants for us. He gave us a book of friends who have been right where we are—in pain and in trying circumstances.
In today’s focus scripture, we see a real man who wants to give up, but he can’t. There’s a “thing” keeping him from giving into the doubts and fears.
God gave us His word to show us that “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, NIV).
David, today’s psalmist, was not a perfect person. He wasn’t always upbeat and positive. His sin was often right behind him. But David was different. He was far from perfect, but he was honest with God and himself.
If you pieced together David’s timeline, you’d see that he was often in turmoil or danger. He went from wrestling lions and bears to years of being pursued by a crazy king to seeing his own son die to losing his wife’s respect to having his own children try to kill him.
In today’s psalm, we see a frequent prayer from David: “God, deliver me from my enemies because they seek my life.”
What kept David showing up in prayer? The “thing” Christians have.
By looking at the pattern of David’s life, you could almost certainly deduce that defeat was inevitable and that a faith failure was certain.
However, David had belief. And all Christians have it.
We have that “however” or “unless” as David uses here. “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”
David trusted the promise “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.” (Romans 8:28, NIV).
David had an internal dependence on the hope God offers us. David had faith.
God didn’t give us faith so we would be perfect in our own strength. He gave us faith because He is perfect. He gave us faith so that we would rely on Him when we weren’t perfect. The “thing” we have is that we can believe God is working for us—always.
That’s what kept David showing up in prayer. That’s the “thing” that kept him getting up when he got knocked down.
Do you rely on that “thing” Christians have?