Daily Devotion April 2020

4/30/20

Good morning, House Bound (but bound to get better).


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/fM4m3iE0Z24


Complete the Verse & Name the Book: We live by faith, not . . . (completion at the end)


Do little things matter? My first full-time job was working in a trailer factory. I started out with the job of checking the water system. I hooked up a water hose to the trailer and checked for any leaks or problems. Invariably, there would be issues. One of the common ones was a broken washer. When the plumbing was being assembled, nylon washers would be placed where the water pipes joined the sinks. When the washer is being installed, the plumber has to be careful not to tighten the connection too much or the nylon washer would crack. It made a distinct sound when it cracked. If it wasn’t replaced, there would be a water leak. It wouldn’t leak much, but it would leak and over time cause damage. It was such a little thing, but it was important. Changing the washer was a pain. I would have to get under the sink with very little room to operate while other workers stumbled over me. It would have been easy to just ignore the tiny little problem, but I knew the ramifications for whoever bought the trailer, so I did my job.

Luke 16:10-11 has the following words of Jesus:

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?”

A person who takes rightly takes care of the little things is a person of integrity. It’s a reflection of character. A person who didn’t have integrity wouldn’t bother to replace a broken nylon washer—it’s such a little thing! But little things matter. Those little things that are done with nobody else noticing reflect on who we are as a person. Jesus is saying if we can’t be trusted with taking care of little things, we can’t be trusted with taking care of big things. When those in leadership are charged with something scandalous, it’s a big deal because it’s a reflection on the person’s character. If a person can’t be trusted with how they run their personal affairs, how can they be trusted with running a nation? “Little” things do matter.

The story is told of Abraham Lincoln working as a store clerk in New Salem, Illinois, in 1831. When he realized he had overcharged a lady a few pennies, he walked five miles to return the money to her. He earned the nickname Honest Abe because of his integrity. Lincoln lived out the words of Jesus by being faithful in the little things and being faithful in the large ones.

How we handle our money here on earth is important. Even if we just have a little money here on earth, it matters how it’s handled. If we keep all of it for ourselves, that doesn’t follow God’s teachings. First of all, everything belongs to God. Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the LORD’S and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.” Because everything belongs to God, He can do as He pleases. 1 Samuel 2:7 says, “The LORD makes some poor and others rich; he brings some down and lifts others up.” We don’t own anything; we get to use a few things for a season. Money is a tool used by God to help us live and love like Jesus. Luke 12:34 says, “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” We need to be content with what God gives us. Philippians 4:19 says, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” Jesus reminded us, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

1 Timothy 6:9-10 puts money into perspective: “But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” Proverbs 22:26 reminds us to not bury ourselves in debt: “Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender.”Deuteronomy 15:10-11 reminds us how to manage our money: “Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the LORD your God will bless you in everything you do. There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need.” Proverbs 3:9-10 reminds us to give back to God: “Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce. Then he will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine.”

One more thought from Scripture about money comes from Mark 8:36: “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?” When we can be trusted with our worldly wealth, it puts us in a position to be trusted with the true riches of heaven. When we can be trusted with little things, we can be trusted with big things. Little things matter. Let’s be faithful in the little things; the big things will take care of themselves.

Here is a link to three of Dr. Moody’s sermons. Each is divided into two parts: https://godcenteredlife.org/broadcasts/


Reminders

· Call someone today to check up on them.

· Pastor Michael is giving a fireside fellowship talk from the book of Philippians on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:00 am. If you have missed any of them on Facebook, they can be found on our Media menu.

· Join Lola in prayer on Wednesdays at 10:00 am on Facebook Live at https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live  You can also call the church office for prayer: 360-898-7855.

· Join Ron for Transformative Prayer on Zoom, 7:00 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


Verse Completion: . . . by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7 (NIV)

4/29/20

Good morning, House Bound & Heaven Bound.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/ZNrVed6dP6s


Complete the Verses & Name the Book:

· Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek and you shall . . .

· For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks . . . (completions at the end)


Yesterday, Pastor Michael’s topic during his fireside chat was “Rejoicing in the Gospel.” His text was Philippians 2:14-18:

Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy.

As disciples of Christ, there is no room for grumbling, arguing, and complaining. Grumbling is dissatisfaction. When we grumble, we are discontent. We don’t like how something is. We want the situation to change. We grumble about things that don’t suit us. When we grumble, we are saying, “I am the master and commander of the universe. It’s my preference that matters.” We grumble about things that are not right in our eyes. When we grumble, we make ourselves to be the authority of what is right and wrong. When we grumble and complain, we are not grumbling and complaining to anyone in particular but to everyone in general. Grumbling and complaining always wants company. We diminish others to raise ourselves up. Much of grumbling and complaining is based on assumptions and falsehood. Motives are assigned that were never there in the first place.

There are many examples of grumbling and complaining in the Old Testament. Exodus 15:22-25:

Then Moses led the people of Israel away from the Red Sea, and they moved out into the desert of Shur. They traveled in this desert for three days without finding any water. When they came to the oasis of Marah, the water was too bitter to drink. So they called the place Marah (which means “bitter”).

Then the people complained and turned against Moses. “What are we going to drink?” they demanded. So Moses cried out to the LORD for help, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. Moses threw it into the water, and this made the water good to drink.

When a person is not in a leadership position, he/she is always able to make the right decision; the person in leadership making decisions is always making the wrong decisions. That’s a spirit of grumbling and complaining, and that spirit is contagious. Exodus 16:1-3:

Then the whole community of Israel set out from Elim and journeyed into the wilderness of Sin, between Elim and Mount Sinai. They arrived there on the fifteenth day of the second month, one month after leaving the land of Egypt. There, too, the whole community of Israel complained about Moses and Aaron.

“If only the LORD had killed us back in Egypt,” they moaned. “There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.”

Grumbling often takes people into areas of falsehood. The Israelites were remembering the “good ol’ days,” but was that really how it was? They were slaves who were worked to the bone. Exodus 17:1-3:

At the LORD’S command, the whole community of Israel left the wilderness of Sin and moved from place to place. Eventually they camped at Rephidim, but there was no water there for the people to drink. So once more the people complained against Moses. “Give us water to drink!” they demanded.

“Quiet!” Moses replied. “Why are you complaining against me? And why are you testing the LORD?”

But tormented by thirst, they continued to argue with Moses. “Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Are you trying to kill us, our children, and our livestock with thirst?”

Then Moses cried out to the LORD, “What should I do with these people? They are ready to stone me!”

Grumbling and complaining are, ultimately, directed at God. In Exodus 16:8b it says, “Yes, your complaints are against the LORD, not against us.” In the passage above, Moses said, “And why are you testing the LORD?” The Israelites were good at grumbling and complaining, and so are we. We like to think we could do a better job than anyone else could do. We like to think our preferences, our ways, our ideas are better than the person leading. Grumbling tries to undermine the authority, character, and credibility of the person that is being grumbled against. In 1 Corinthians 10:6-10, Paul refers back to this period of Israel’s history:

These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did, or worship idols as some of them did. As the Scriptures say, “The people celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.” And we must not engage in sexual immorality as some of them did, causing 23,000 of them to die in one day.

Nor should we put Christ to the test, as some of them did and then died from snakebites. And don’t grumble as some of them did, and then were destroyed by the angel of death.

Paul takes grumbling very seriously. He says to “do everything without complaining and arguing.” Grumbling always leads to quarreling. Grumbling says, “My way is better than your way. I know better than you know. I am more important than you are.” Philippians 2:3-4 says:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

When we look to our interests first, it always leads to grumbling and complaining. Our attitude needs to be not me verses you (disunity) but rather we are in Christ together (unity). Children of God do not grumble and complain; they produce fruit in keeping with repentance. Jesus is our example; He humbled Himself.

We are to be blameless and pure. Pure means unmixed. Without fault in this context means you are not the one causing arguments, bringing divisions, or entering into grumbling and complaining. We are not to be part of the warped and crooked generation, because we are children of God. We don’t want to get to the point where we would rather have our own way than see people around us come to Christ. Grumbling and complaining ruins the witness of Christ. When we grumble and complain, we put our kingdom above Christ’s kingdom. The result is we persecute the kingdom of God.

As disciples of Christ we are to be different—counter-culture. We are to be the light of the world. To be those lights, we need to hold firmly to the words of Christ. Our purpose in life is to promote the Kingdom of God.

Paul gives the image of sacrifices. In ancient Israel, the people would offer a sacrifice to God for their sins in the form of a bull, lamb, or dove, but there was often a drink offering that went along with it. The drink offering was often fresh wine from the harvest. It would be poured on or next to the animal sacrifice. Paul is giving this picture of the life of the vine being poured out on the sacrifice. He is saying he’s glad to have his life poured out into the lives of the church at Philippi knowing they are holding firm to the faith; that they are serving Jesus.

When was the last time you sacrificed for Jesus? When was the last time you were even inconvenienced by the gospel? Paul was rejoicing in prison that he could pour out his life for the gospel. We need to be people of rejoicing that rejoice in: the fact I’m a disciple of Christ, the free gift of salvation, having my sins forgiven, having freedom from guilt, having everlasting life, having a book that tells me how to get to know God, the fact that death is gain. Let’s change from grumbling, complaining, and arguing to rejoicing. We have much to rejoice over!

Here is a link to three of Dr. Moody’s sermons. Each is divided into two parts: https://godcenteredlife.org/broadcasts/

Reminders

· Call someone today to check up on them.

· Pastor Michael is giving a fireside fellowship talk from the book of Philippians on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:00 am. If you have missed any of them on Facebook, they can be found on our Media menu.

· Join Lola in prayer on Wednesdays at 10:00 am on Facebook Live at https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live You can also call the church office for prayer: 360-898-7855.

· Join Ron for Transformative Prayer on Zoom, 7:00 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


Completion of Verses:

· . . . find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.

· . . . finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened. Matthew 7:7-8 (NASB) See also Luke 11:9-10

4/28/20

Good morning, Hide & Seek Players. Remember VOVID-19 is still it so remain hidden.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/RY4CW5pte98

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, . . . (completion at the end)

On Good Friday, there was a special livestream event organized by World Vision. I have shared what Samuel Rodriguez, Tony Dungy, Francis Chan, Max Lucado, Edgar Sandoval Sr., and Ravi Zacharias had to say. Today, we will finish up with Nick Hall, the founder and chief communicator at PULSE—the largest student-led prayer and outreach movement in America (photo attached):

We believe Jesus changes everything. God loves you! The whole reason this event was put together was so you would have the opportunity to come to know Jesus. The story of the gospel is pretty clear. God created us to know Him—that we would only be satisfied in Him. Some of you that are listening have never felt fully alive. You've never felt fully satisfied. You've tried to fill that void with many things. We fill it with drugs. We fill it with women or men. We fill it with all sorts of success and platforms. Isn't it interesting that right now, in the midst of this pandemic, so many of those things seem worthless?

The Bible describes this condition as sin. It says that everything we turn to, apart from God, separates us from a holy God. All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. You see, we didn't organize this event because we had perfect people to make presentations. We put it on as imperfect people pointing to the only perfect one. His name is Jesus. The good news is that God saw us in our sin—in our brokenness—and He did something about it. He sent His one and only son.

Jesus came on a rescue mission for you and for me. He lived the life that we couldn't live, and He died the death that we deserve. The Bible says that the wages of sin are death and so Jesus died. He stretched out His arms on that first Good Friday. That's why we call it good. How could death be good? Because His death brought about life.

Jesus died for you, but the story doesn't stop there. If Jesus was buried somewhere, he would be just like every other religious leader. You can go and visit their grave. You can celebrate the memory of their life, but when you go to the tomb where Jesus was buried, He's not there! On the third day God raised Jesus from the dead. He conquered your sin. He conquered your shame. He conquered your guilt and your pain. Once and for all he removed the sting of death so that anyone who would call on the name of the Lord could be saved.

Right now I want to invite you, not to a simple prayer, not to some simple moment, but I want to invite you to give your life to Jesus. This isn't a little thing; it’s a significant thing! You were made to know Him. What if this whole pandemic crisis has existed to bring you to realize your need for Jesus. Right now I want to invite you to say yes to Jesus.

I'm going to pray, and you can join me wherever you are and surrender your life to Him. I like to think of it like this: before I knew Jesus, I was driving the car of my life. I went where I wanted to go. I did what I wanted to do. I would pretend like God was a part of it, but the truth was He was in the back seat. Then there came a turning point. I said Jesus, “You need to take over. You need to take the wheel of my life. I trust you, and I'm surrendering now to you.”

This could be your turning point. Pray with me right now, “Dear God, I know that I have messed up—that I am a sinner. Right now, I am putting my trust in you—the Jesus who died on the cross, the Jesus who conquered my sin and shame, the Jesus who rose from the grave. I acknowledge you as my Savior and Lord. I'm inviting you right now to be the leader of my life. Fill me with your Holy Spirit, and help me to follow you. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.”

If you prayed with me, the Bible makes it very clear that when one person turns from death to life there is a celebration in heaven. Even if you're all alone, you can know that the angels are rejoicing for you.

This may be a time of social distancing, but it doesn't have to mean spiritual distancing. It's so important that you get encouragement and support, so I want to encourage you to download the move closer app. We would love to connect you with a church where you can get in the word of God and keep growing. Whether this was the first time you said yes to Jesus or whether this was you sticking a stake in the ground and coming back to your first love, I want to say, “Welcome home!” This is what Easter is all about!

Here is a link to three of Dr. Moody’s sermons. Each is divided into two parts: https://godcenteredlife.org/broadcasts/


Reminders

· Call someone today to check up on them.

· Pastor Michael is giving a fireside fellowship talk from the book of Philippians on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:00 am. If you have missed any of them on Facebook, they can be found here in our Media menu

· Join Lola in prayer on Wednesdays at 10:00 am on Facebook Live at https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live  You can also call the church office for prayer: 360-898-7855.

· Join Ron for Transformative Prayer on Zoom, 7:00 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


Verse Completion: . . . to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. James 1:27 (NASB)

4/27/20

Good morning, Qualified to Be Quarantined. 

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/TxC16duiHvQ


Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Where your treasure is . . . (completion at the end)

On Good Friday, there was a special livestream event organized by World Vision. I have shared what Samuel Rodriguez, Tony Dungy, Francis Chan, Max Lucado, and Edgar Sandoval Sr. had to say. Today, I’d like for you to hear from Ravi Zacharias, apologist, author, and founder of RZIM;

We glorify faith a lot, but faith is the means. It is the object of your faith that you need to be focusing on. Who is it you're completely leaning on? Whose arms are you comfortably relaxing in? We sing the words of the song that say, “Underneath me are the everlasting arms.” No other faith has so much teaching on how to find peace and strength in suffering.

I remember when my friend Nabeel Qureshi was dying of cancer. The first time he discovered he had stage four cancer was when he was just 32 years old. He sat across the table from me and said, “I've just been diagnosed with stage four cancer.” I looked at this young man: handsome, strapping, tall, statuesque, broad shouldered, and so nice. We traveled together and in the last place he said to me, “Uncle, I want you to take me one more trip overseas.” We weren’t related but out of respect he always call me uncle.

We went to Malaysia for his last message overseas. It was only after he landed in Kota Kinabalu that he found out his mother was born there. He phoned her from there and said, “I’m in Kota Kinabalu.”

She said, “Nabila was born there.” As you know, he comes from an Islamic faith. After his last message, we were standing by the car. When he got into the car I had one more message to preach. We looked at him and I had a feeling, “I'm never going to see him again. He's done; he's gone.” He had bought some gifts for his wife that day, and as he got into the car he was gone.

I couldn’t even get myself to look at him in the coffin, because he didn't look a shadow of himself. But he had resigned himself to the fact and the hope that the Christ who had brought him that far was going to be the Christ who would be greeting him when he arrived in glory.

No trial will exhaust you but that the love of Christ can provide for you. May I say this to you very graciously? I've lived a lot of physical pain, and, believe it or not, a lot of emotional issues, too—a lot of emotional pain. But I have found his grace to be sufficient. You get on your knees and ask him to give you strength one day at a time, one moment at a time.

I don't know what you're going through today, but if you are a typical human being, your heart may be ready to break like Shannon Bream who said, “I didn’t know which way I was going to turn, but my faith in God carried me through.”

God’s diagnosis of your condition, His provision for your malady, His sustenance and suffering—no worldview deals so much with the strength of God in the midst of your suffering. Some people are crass enough to tell you you're being judged, but God does not triumph in spite of the dark mystery of pain—He conquers through it. He conquers through it!

This brings me to the final thought, and that final thought is He is the only one who made a promise and fulfilled it. The promise itself ought to have peaked the ears of his critics. Listen to the promise. His promise did not say after I die I will spiritually rise again. He could have said that, but you could never falsify that. Do you know what I mean by falsify it? You could never have done anything to prove it false because there was nothing substantially claimed; it was only spiritually claimed. How do you prove that false? He claimed it in substance that He would bodily rise again. This body will be destroyed, but in three days He would raise it up. They did not know he was speaking of the temple of his body.

This is was what tormented the atheist Anthony Flew. Anthony Flew for so many years said there were two struggles he couldn't cope with in his closing years. The first was how to defend the existence of a moral framework apart from God, and the second was if Jesus did rise again from the dead, what have I done with it? What have I done about it?

So I say to you He claimed empirically falsifiable things such that if he hadn't risen again you could have proven it false. Here's what I want to say to you. There are two areas of evidence. If Jesus had just connived and schemed this whole thing do you know what he would have done? He would never ever have made women the first witnesses. Do you know why? Their testimony wasn't admissible in court. He paid them the greatest compliment in three instances. One of them involved the woman with the alabaster ointment. Do you notice he never asked her where she got that ointment from? She probably had gotten it from a corrupt lifestyle. He never asked about that. He just allowed her to spill it in a way that even Oscar Wilde when he was dying made reference to the woman with the alabaster ointment who spent her costliest nard on her Savior. Instead, Jesus scolded the Pharisees saying, “You guys are so jealous looking at her. I want you to know that wherever the gospel is preached there should also this story be told.” He paid her the greatest compliment—the gospel is going to be preached at the highest level and what this woman has done to me will be told.

Then there’s the story of the woman from Samaria—five broken marriages. “Yes, I know who you are, but I'm going to give you a drink of water so that you will not thirst again.” The Samaritans were a discriminated group of people; the women even more discriminated against. Jesus took a Samaritan woman and made her the first evangelist to the Samaritan people.

And then Jesus rises from the dead. He could have gone to big, muscle bound Peter and said, “You're a big guy. You go and tell him.” He could have gone to an articulate somebody else, but He came to the women. The guys were hiding around like a bunch of frightened Boy Scouts. Jesus said to the women, “Go and tell Peter.” So the first thing this tells me is it was an empirically falsifiable possibility, and He had claimed it. Number two: He chooses women to be the first relators of the supreme truth. Number three: Who did he choose? Paul of Tarsus who persecuted him, Thomas the doubter, and James, his brother. He made them the powerful evangels of that time.

Jesus amongst the other gods; Jesus amongst the secular gods—I want you to know that the most beautiful thing that we have in our ministry as we preach and tell people the good news is the ministry of the resurrection from the dead.

I close with the simple reality of a poem written by a Vietnam veteran. The poem is called “Conversion.” Here it is:

"Lord God, I have never spoken to you

But now I want to say, ‘How do you do?’

You see, God, they told me You didn't exist

And like a fool I believed all this

Last night from a shell hole I saw your sky

I figured right then they had told me a lie

Had I taken time to see the things you made

I'd have known they weren't calling a spade a spade

I wonder, God, if you'll take my hand

Somehow I feel that you'll understand

Funny I had to come to this hellish place

Before I had time to see Your face

Well, I guess there isn't much more to say

But I'm sure glad, God, I met you today

I guess zero hour will soon be here

But I'm not afraid since I know

you're near

The signal!

Well, God, I'll have to go

I like You lots, I want you to know

Look now this will be a horrible fight

Who knows, I may come to Your house tonight

Though I wasn't friendly to You before

I wonder, God, if You'd wait at Your door

Look, I'm crying, I'm shedding tears

I'll have to go now God goodbye

Strange now, since I met You, I'm not afraid to die"

God has prepared a place for you and that place is what John Chapter 14 begins with: If it were not so I would have told you. When I buried my mother, the first member of our family to die, I remember the words that came to my mind. She had not just gone, she had gone home, gone home to be with our Lord. So I tell you, your heavenly Father has a home and a place prepared for you. He is the one who describes your condition. He is the one who sustains you in your suffering. He is the one who rose again from the dead for you. No other claimant to divine prophetic status puts those precious truths together. That's why He says no man comes unto the Father but by me.

Please don't be troubled that there is only one way. It would be like me complaining that I can only marry one woman. I thank God for the privilege of marrying one. I thank God for the privilege of loving one. When you put this ring on your finger, it is a tourniquet to stop your circulation. Don't complain that you can love just one person. Love was never intended to be free. It is the nature of love to bind itself. God has provided for you the exclusive way to find truth, meaning, and love in the way, the truth, and the life. No other one in history stands tall. People can dance on His grave all they want, but the fact is He is not there. He is risen! The Bible always rises up to outlive its pallbearers. May God richly bless you as you give your life to Christ.

If you have ten minutes, I’d love for you to hear the words Jonathan Evans spoke at his mother’s funeral. I think they will be an encouragement to you or someone you know: https://youtu.be/yRsiPMp6drw


Reminders

· Call someone today to check up on them.

· Pastor Michael is giving a fireside fellowship talk from the book of Philippians on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:00 am. If you have missed any of them on Facebook, they can be found at here on our Media menu.

· Join Lola in prayer on Wednesdays at 10:00 am on Facebook Live at https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live

You can also call the church office for prayer: 360-898-7855.

· Join Ron for Transformative Prayer on Zoom, 7:00 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


Verse Completion: . . . there will your heart be also. Matthew 6:21 (NASB)

4/25/20

Good morning, Masked Missionaries.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/-KicvBB2L68


Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to . . . (completion at the end)


Pastor Kevin Ulmet is the lead pastor at the Nashville First Church of the Nazarene. Their church has a weekly newsletter in which Pastor Ulmet writes a blog. Today, I’d like to share with you what he wrote for this week:

LET'S ALL GET BACK TO...WHAT?

The COVID-19 pandemic has wrought much destruction across our world. According to a report I read tonight, here is a brief bullet-point summary of what it has left so far in its wake:

211 Nations of the world have reported certified cases of the virus

The United States has had more cases and deaths than any other nation in the world

IF ALL mitigation efforts are followed, Dr. Anthony Fauci predicts 200,000 American deaths by the end

1.6 billion school children worldwide are unable to attend school classes physically

97% of Americans have been under stay-at-home orders from their Governors

22 Million Americans have lost their jobs in the last 30 days

We have seen the worst drop in the Stock Markets and Oil prices in history

1 in 3 American renters did not pay their rent for April on time

Sunday's obituary pages in the Boston Globe ran 16 pages

The deceased in New York are loaded into refrigerated trailers holding 145 bodies each daily (Source - CNN.COM)

As the discussion in our nation turns to the "grand re-opening" the desire to "return to normal" rises. I have been thinking a lot about that lately, as a Pastor responsible for a sizable congregation and leader of a multi-level organization. We all want to get back to "normal" - at least that's what we've been saying, right? But what would that "normal" consist of? And do we REALLY want to get back to all of it?

I have concluded after this month in quarantine, and having developed some new rhythms in my life that I think are really healthy and fulfilling, that much of what I once thought "normal" I don't want to return to. Here are a few things I DO NOT want to return to in a few weeks:

The frenetic pace of life I left behind in mid-March. I prided myself in making sure virtually every working moment was occupied, information was streaming into my head, phone calls were made during commutes to and from work, and I was never off of or far from my cell phone very long. No - I can't do that any more. Life is far too short and precious. I need time to be human, to pray and meditate more, to spend more time reading my Bible and thinking deep thoughts about life and love.

Never being "home" enough to really love my "house." This past month I fell in love all over again with the home we moved into in 2017. The spaces we decorated and furnished have provided not only a haven of rest for us, but two perfect "offices" for us to work from within our own walls. We've gotten immense amounts of "work" done - all within this wonderful space.

Not having time to "walk the hill." I live in Spring Hill, and a favorite walking trail in our community was the site of the Battle of Spring Hill November 29,1864. As Generals Schofield and Hood led their troops, 850 soldiers shed their blood and died, many of them on "the hill" that still dominates the landscape of our town. There is an aura about the place, as is often true of historic sites. I had walked that hill probably 2 times since we moved here nearly 3 years ago. This past month, we've walked it many many times, and it has become a symbol for me of a slower pace, needed exercise, interacting with nature, and spending time with my wife. I want to do that a lot more than I used to!

Seeing "through" front-line laborers instead of "seeing them" for the heroes they are. Service personnel in our stores and restaurants, and medical staff in our health care facilities are often people we took for granted, seldom stopping to thank or read their name tags if they had one. Their daily routines have now become near-sacred to us, as we recognize just how significant these people are, and how they have been willing to serve us at personal risk during this pandemic. I want to notice them now, and appreciate their vital daily service to me and so many others.

Seeing everything and everyone through economic lenses. 9/11 changed us as Americans - we became less materialistic, took more time for each other, even grew spiritually and many returned to church. We said we'd "never be the same" - and that was true - for about 1-1/2 to 2 years. Then "normal" crept back in. And before you knew it, we were right back where we had come from. Then the crash of October 2008 and the ensuing "Great Recession," we said would make certain that new values about materialism and debt would never be forgotten. And they weren't. For about 3 years or so. And then "normal" crept back in. We rode an 11-year record span of economic growth and expansion, and believed just 45 days ago it would always be this way. Oh my, how that has changed. Once again, we say we'll "never be the same." Really? For how long?

The future is in our hands. No, we can't control the pandemics or economics or sad state of politics. But we can control how we are going to live. What kind of people we are going to be. What kind of values we are going to live by. What kind of time we are going to set aside for the relationships that are really important. And how focused we are going to be on pursuing God and His holiness in our lives. I challenge all of you, and yes, myself - let's create new "normals" - not just return to the old. We're better than that. We've learned, haven't we? God has been at work through these times to teach us lessons yet again. Let's live them out in the years ahead. That's my intention, God helping me.

Pastor Ulmet

If you would like to hear a sermon by Pastor Ulmet, here is the one he gave last Sunday. He is starting a new series on “Kingdom Encounters,” and this is the first sermon in the series. If you want to go directly to the sermon, it starts at 26:30: https://livestream.com/nfcn/events/2091635/videos/204804606


Reminders

· Call someone today to check up on them.

· Our church has a new website. Pastor Michael is giving a fireside fellowship talk from the book of Philippians on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:00 am. If you have missed any of them on Facebook, they can be found at this website. All sermons are posted here, too. Check it out our Media menu

· Join Ron for Transformative Prayer on Zoom, 7:00 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


Verse Completion: . . . accomplish His work. John 4:34 (NASB)

4/24/20

Good morning, Forgiven.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/TZrvLRgHaVY


Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Set your mind on . . . (completion at the end)


Yesterday, Pastor Michael gave his tenth fireside chat called “Remaining in the Gospel” based on Philippians 2:12-13:

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

The word therefore refers back to when Paul said Jesus is Lord. Paul was saying that because God exalted Jesus to the highest place, because Jesus has been given the name that is above every name, because at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and earth, therefore we should do what comes next in the text.

Paul is telling the people in the church at Philippi to continue to obey God even though Paul can’t physically be there to encourage the people in their faith. Paul wants them to not get discouraged and give up. He wants them to grow and mature in Christ. He wants them to continue to walk with Christ so the gospel can be promoted.

We are to let the impact of knowing Jesus in our lives be realized out of our lives to those around us. We are to continue in the faith. If we’re stopped, we’re not going anywhere. If we’re not going anywhere, no one is going to go with us. In Luke 3:8-9, John says:

“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

We have to produce the fruit of salvation, and in order to do that, we have to work out our salvation. How do we do that? Definitely not by working for salvation. There’s no amount of goodness, works, giving, proper conduct, or high morals that can get us into heaven. Good works do not lead to eternal life and the forgiveness of sins. Ephesians 2:8-10 says:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

We don’t work for salvation; we work because we have salvation. The works we do are what God asks us to do, and those works produce fruit in keeping with repentance. We are focused on God’s purpose and not our own. James 2:20-26 says:

You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Faith produces deeds. A faith in Jesus has to lead to the works of Christ—producing the fruit that Christ produces in us. Because Jesus is our Lord, He is our Master and Commander and we respond in obedience.

When you accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, you are completely saved. However, as we continue in obedience to Christ, our salvation grows: we know God more, we understand God more, we love God more, we mature. When we gain salvation in the sense that we gain everlasting life through dying, this is what is known as full salvation. This is what Paul was talking about when he said, “For me to die is gain.” When we experience full salvation, we don’t have to deal with sin, pain, or darkness any longer. Paul is saying to continue to walk with Jesus right up to the time of full salvation. We are to persevere, and draw closer to God.

When we consistently go to the gym with a workout routine, we have a goal. The goal includes plan to reach that goal, and that plan always involves discipline. Do we have a workout plan for our spiritual life? Paul tells us to work out our salvation. We need to have a goal. That goal should include a plan to reach that goal. That plan will involve discipline. Our spiritual workout might include: reading and meditating on God’s Word, praying, listening to sermons, doing a Bible study, teaching others, being part of a small group, becoming involved in a ministry, listening to praise music. What does your spiritual workout routine look like?

We have a responsibility to work out spiritually, but Paul also says that it’s God who works in us. The two go together: we have our part, and God has His part. The word in Greek for work is the word from which we get the word energy. It is God who gives us energy to do the work He has for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 says:

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

God prepares us for the work He has for us, and He gives us the energy to complete the work. In John 15:5, Jesus says:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

You may have heard the words: “Only one life ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” It’s true. We must remain in Jesus or our life is for nothing. Sometimes we get disconnected from the vine, and we try to do things on our own. We soon discover we don’t have energy. To receive energy, we have to stay in the vine.

What does it mean to work out our salvation with fear and trembling? Proverbs 1:7 says:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

Psalm 111:10 says:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.

Fear is associated with wisdom, understanding, obedience, and knowing God. Job 28:28 says:

And he said to the man, ‘The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.’ “

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 contain the parting words of the wisest man to ever live, Solomon:

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

God is all sufficient; we are not. We must remain in the vine for our lives to have worth. God is the only one who can bring us to full salvation.

Dr. Moody shares some interesting thoughts in his article “Some Theological Reflections on Christ and COVID-19.” https://godcenteredlife.org/articles/some-theological-reflections-on-christ-and-covid-19/


Reminders

· Call someone today to check up on them.

· Our church has a new website. Pastor Michael is giving a fireside fellowship talk from the book of Philippians on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:00 am. If you have missed any of them on Facebook, they can be found at this website. All sermons are posted here, too. Check it out our Media menu.

· Join Ron for Transformative Prayer on Zoom, 7:00 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details. 


Verse Completion: . . . the things above, not on the things that are on earth. Colossians 3:2 (NASB)

4/23/20

Good morning, Praise Singers.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/jbCu4gBKX-I

Complete the Verses and Name the Book:

· If you forgive men for their transgressions, your . . .

· But if you do not forgive men, then . . . (completions at the end)

On Tuesday, Pastor Michael gave his ninth fireside chat titled “Relationships in the Gospel” based on Philippians 2:5-11. In Chapter One, Paul talked about who Jesus is and who we are before Jesus. A relationship with God has to have an impact on our lives. In Chapter Two, Paul talks about how that is lived out.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Ralph Emerson said, “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” Our actions speak louder than our words. Paul wants us to take a look at our actions in relationships. To the degree in which we imitate Christ in our relationships is the degree to which we will promote Christ to those around us. Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”(John 13:34-35) How will we be known as disciples of Christ? By how we treat one another; by how we interact, act, and react in our relationships with others.

It begins with a mindset; it begins with how we think—our thought processes. The mindset of Christ is different from the mindset of the world; it’s often opposite. The world says to step on everybody else as you climb the ladder to success. Jesus says to be a servant. Romans 12:1-2 says:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Our minds are renewed by a relationship with Jesus. Philippians 4:8 says:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Train your mind to think differently. In our relationships, we go down the road of the worst case scenario. We wave at someone, and the person doesn’t wave back. We start to think that the person must be mad at us. Train your mind to travel down the best road. The person probably didn’t even see us, and that’s why they didn’t wave back.

What was the mindset of Jesus who was, is, and will always be God? Even though He was God, he didn’t see this as something to be grasped—to be held tightly. When someone didn’t recognize Jesus as God, He didn’t feel like He was being robbed. Jesus didn’t have to prove who He was. He didn’t have to promote who He was. In fact, He did the opposite. When He did miracles that showed He was God, Jesus would tell the person to not spread the news around. Jesus was all about His life bringing glory to God the Father rather than Him. When we work in the church, it’s to bring glory to God and not ourselves. Jesus didn’t defend Himself, and we don’t have to defend ourselves.

We latch on to our self-esteem, and we expect people to treat us in certain ways. We latch on to our ego. We latch on to great things we have done. We latch on to what we can offer. Jesus didn’t latch on to the fact that He was God. He didn’t latch on to the glory He used to live in. He let it all go. He made Himself nothing. He took the nature of a servant. Are we able to let go of our ambition, our self-centeredness, our preferences, our ways of doing things, our will, our desire? Division comes when we latch on to things and won’t let them go. Selfish ambition results in rivalry. We need to let go of what we want and want what will bring the most glory to God.

As disciples of Christ we stop latching on, we let go, and we limit ourselves. Jesus, who was God, limited Himself to a physical body. Do we limit ourselves, or do we push, prod, poke, and politic to get our way? Limiting ourselves results in the betterment of others to the glory of God. We need to limit our rights so others can be promoted and God receive the glory. Jesus made a choice to limit Himself. John 10:14-18 says:

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

Jesus made a conscious decision to die for us. He didn’t have to; He wasn’t forced to; He wasn’t coerced to. Jesus chose to limit Himself, because He loved others. Jesus knew we were unable to save ourselves, so He died that we might live. It was out of His love for us that He died on a cross. Death on a cross was reserved for slaves and conquered nations. Jesus, who was rich, became poor so we who were poor could become rich. Jesus is the perfect example of humility.

Because Jesus died on the cross for our sins (taking the lowest place), God exalted Him to the highest place. This is how things work in the kingdom of God: If you want to be exalted, take the lowest place. James 4:10 says:

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

We want to lift ourselves up rather than allowing God to lift us up. We forget that our sufficiency is found in Christ. All our needs are met in Him. 1 Peter 5:5-6 says:

Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

When we try to get our own way, when we politic, when we play people, when we push people, when we prod people, when we poke people, when we manipulate people, we become opponents of God. God opposes the proud. The mindset of a disciple of Christ is to glorify God the Father because Jesus is Lord—He’s Master and Commander. A disciple of Christ does not work things so he becomes master and commander.

Satan attacks those who promote Christ because Satan wants to destroy God’s kingdom. If we have the mindset of Jesus, Satan will be defeated. With the mindset of Jesus, we don’t latch on, we learn to let go, and we purposefully limit ourselves because we love one another. With the mindset of Jesus, God is glorified.

Do you sometimes wonder how to follow Jesus? Dr. Moody has a sermon on this topic, and it’s been divided into two parts. Here are both parts:

https://godcenteredlife.org/broadcast/1-corinthians-to-the-church-of-god-14-how-to-follow-jesus-part-1/

https://godcenteredlife.org/broadcast/1-corinthians-to-the-church-of-god-14-how-to-follow-jesus-part-2/


Reminders

· Call someone today to check up on them.

· Our church has a new website. Pastor Michael is giving a fireside fellowship talk from the book of Philippians on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:00 am. If you have missed any of them on Facebook, they can be found at this website. All sermons are posted here, too. Check it out our Media menu.

· Join Ron for Transformative Prayer on Zoom, 7:00 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


Completion of Verses:

· . . . heavenly Father will also forgive you.

· . . . your Father will not forgive your transgressions. Matthew 6:14-15 (NASB)



4/22/20

Good morning, Gospel Spreaders.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/z4EoLm3_luM

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be . . . (completion at the end)

Last Thursday, Pastor Michael gave his eighth fireside chat called “Realizing the Gospel” based on Philippians 2:1-4:

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Paul and the church at Philippi are participants and partners in the gospel. This led to the promotion of the gospel. Prayer was an important part of all of this. Paul is joyful for this and for their persevering through the gospel during times of persecution.

Paul wants the church to know what it looks like when the gospel is lived out in our lives. The gospel should make a difference in how we live our lives. Our lives should be transformed. We should be learning new patterns of living. Walking with Jesus means we often are walking in the opposite direction in which we formerly walked. Sometimes it’s difficult to stay in step with Jesus; it’s a struggle. Paul knows this, but he says we have to do it. Because of who we are in Christ, and because of what Christ has done for us, our lives must be transformed.

Jesus is our Savior, but He must also be our Lord—master and commander of our life. We are servants/slaves of Jesus. Jesus is the head of the body. Therefore, He directs the body. The body responds to the head.

Paul knows we don’t always respond to the gospel as we should. We don’t always do what the head tells us to do. Sometimes we get rebellious.

The church at Philippi was dearly loved by Paul. Nevertheless, there were those in the church who knew theology, but their knowledge didn’t translate into the way they lived. Even in this great church, there were people who were at odds with each other. Philippians 4:1-3 says:

Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

The way the gospel is lived out in our life is through unity in the church: standing together, going in the same direction together, being like-minded. Are you encouraged knowing you are part of Christ’s body? Have you felt the comfort of Christ? Do you have fellowship with the Holy Spirit; do you sense His presence? Have you experienced the tenderness and compassion of Christ? As Christians, the answer to all these questions is a resounding, “Yes!” Because Christ is pouring Himself into you, you need to pour out Christ to others. The way this happens is by being like-minded: one in Spirit and one in Mind. When we are like-minded, we have the same purpose; we have the same goal. We understand that life is about the proclamation and promotion of Jesus Christ. We want others to know Jesus.

When we are of one mind, we all travel in the same direction. That doesn’t mean we have to be carbon copies of each other. It doesn’t mean we can’t have differing opinions. When we are transformed, we use our individuality for the common good of the gospel. We can have different preferences but in the end, when a decision is made, we’re all heading in the same direction—the direction Christ is going.

We know we are not heading in the same direction when we start attacking others, bickering, fighting, starting rumors, or campaigning. Verse 3 says to “do nothing out of selfish ambition.” We shouldn’t be doing anything that would glorify ourselves. Ambition wants to be first. Ambition sees others as rivals. Ambition also has connotations of politics—doing what’s necessary to get one’s way. In America, we have two major political parties that work to promote themselves. They don’t seem to work together for the common good of the country. There’s not unity.

God tells us to not promote ourselves and think we are more important than others. 1 Corinthians 12:14-21, 27 says:

Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Selfish ambition wants to be the head; it wants to be in the driver’s seat. Selfish ambition wants to be equal with God, but we are God’s slaves. Selfish ambition in the church wants eyes focused on them. Selfish ambition says, “Look how amazing I am.” On the other hand, a servant’s heart says, “What can I do to bring glory to God?” Use the talents God has given you to bring glory to God.

Paul also tells us to do nothing out of vain conceit. This involves ambition for reputation. A conceited person believes lies about themselves. They see themselves as better than everyone else. They are always making comparisons. This person is also quick to fight. James 4:1-2 says:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.

Vain conceit wants its own way, and if it doesn’t get it, it will politic to get it. If that doesn’t work, a fight will result that may include: starting rumors, tearing another person down, or slandering others. Vain conceit wants its own way because this person believes he/she is the most important person and others need to recognize this fact. Paul says there’s no room for this in the church. James 3:13-18 says:

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

Paul and James are saying the same thing. The transformative solution to selfish ambition and vain conceit is humility. Humility is insufficiency. It’s recognizing, “I’m insufficient to do the work God has called me to do. I’m insufficient to sing in the choir. I’m insufficient to greet people at the church door. I’m insufficient to preach on my own.” Humility recognizes God as all-sufficient. Everything we do is done in the sufficiency of Christ.

The gospel of Jesus Christ living out in our lives looks like valuing other people. It’s recognizing the value in others. It’s considering others as being better than ourselves. It’s looking to the interests of others. Churches are divided because of selfish ambition, vain conceit, politics, rivalry, contentiousness, profit, power, and putting one’s own interests above others including Christ. We are to be servants of Christ, concerned for the salvation and sanctification of others.

I would encourage you to listen to Dr. Moody’s sermon “How to Make Sense of it All” based on 1 Corinthians 15:50-58: https://youtu.be/32ijxEudgYA


Reminders

· Call someone today to check up on them.

· Our church has a new website. Pastor Michael is giving a fireside fellowship talk from the book of Philippians on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:00 am. If you have missed any of them on Facebook, they can be found at this website. All sermons are posted here, too. Check it out our Media menu

· Join Ron for Transformative Prayer on Zoom, 7:00 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


Verse Completion: . . . hated by all nations because of me. Matthew 24:9 (NIV)

4/21/20

Good morning, Prayer Warriors.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/DMZ8D6nTKhg

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: For God has not given us a spirit of . . . (completion at the end)


On Good Friday, there was a special livestream event organized by World Vision. I have shared what Samuel Rodriguez, Tony Dungy, Francis Chan, and Max Lucado had to say. Today, I’d like for you to hear from Edgar Sandoval Sr.—President of World Vision U.S. What he had to say spoke to me the most of any of the speakers. Perhaps it will be the same with you.

I'm so grateful for this opportunity to come together as the body of Christ during Holy Week. As we are all separated in our households, we need this time of prayer and unity. So thank you, Nicole, and all those who planned this service, and a special thank you to my son, Edgar Junior, who is filming me today.

Normally, when we observe Good Friday, we just have to imagine the darkness of this day 2000 years ago as Jesus hung on the cross, but now we find ourselves in a fearful, dark time with the COVID-19 death toll rising across the country and the world. And we haven't seen the peak yet. The virus is indiscriminate affecting the wealthy, the poor, the powerful, the weak, those from the North, those from the South, from the East to the West—all of us are vulnerable to the same imminent danger.

Just as the light broke through the darkness on Resurrection Sunday, we can trust that God is working behind the scenes today. We know the victory is assured in our salvation, and we've got a job to keep doing. Our Lord is calling people back to Himself. He wants us to be His hands and feet to do His work. That is why, during this uncertain time, World Vision is bringing prayer, kindness, and a bias to action. We are responding to COVID-19 everywhere we work—nearly 100 countries across the globe. Our actions are our response to the love of God in Jesus, because perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18). The love of Jesus gives us hope that outweighs our fear and releases us to love and serve others as He did. With each act of love, we can do more than just stop the spread of fear; we can replace it with hope. I believe this is a time when our obedience matters most. Our God is not just the God of the good times; he is a God of the here and now. He is working in your life and my life inviting us into His Kingdom to align our lives with His here on earth and for eternity.

What does God care about? Well, as I read the Bible, I see an unmistakable thread of verses about God's heart for the poor and vulnerable. They are everywhere in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. It's everywhere I look! Caring for the poor and vulnerable was consistently God's command to the people of Israel in Old Testament times just as it is the vision of Jesus for us today. Then and now God calls his people to be his instrument for sharing his love to the least, the lost, and the hurting.

The least of these are on my heart constantly now. They are the people who even before this crisis were ultra poor and highly vulnerable. They live in tightly built, overcrowded and unhygienic refugee settlements in Bangladesh and Syria, slums in India, shantytowns in Kenya, and barrios in Venezuela. I have been to these places. In fact, just a few months ago, I was in Bangladesh where nearly 1,000,000 Rohingya refugees live in a sprawling camp. The families’ tents are so close together and so flimsy. Each shack is barely 100 square feet and overcrowded with up to 12 people.

You and I can hunker down in our well built homes filled with amenities and plenty of food and running water. But for these ultra vulnerable people, these tightly crowded, unsanitary places are their homes. This is where they will hunker down to prevent infection. This is the only place for their elderly people. They have the same concerns you and I have for our parents and for their school age children—for their loved ones with disabilities like my daughter, Andrea. They are on my mind, and I believe they are on God's mind, too, because our God cares about the same things yesterday, today, and forever.

Everywhere I look in the Holy Book, He is pleading with his people to take care of the poor, the marginalized, the sick, the vulnerable. Take care of them! When we say, “Lord, we want to humble ourselves as we draw closer to you. Please tell us, Lord, how should we fast.” The Lord says, “Edgar, is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter?” (Isaiah 58:6-7, NIV)

When we ask, “Lord, who is a woman of noble character?”

The Lord says, “She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.” (Proverbs 31:16-20, NIV)

“Okay, but what about the man, Lord? Who is a righteous man?”

The Lord says, “Suppose there is a righteous man who does what is just and right. He does not eat at the mountain shrines or look to the idols of Israel . . . He does not oppress anyone, but returns what he took in pledge for a loan. He does not commit robbery but gives his food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked.” (Ezekiel 18:5-7, NIV)

Then we asked, “Lord, what is pure and true religion?”

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress . . .” (James 1:27, NIV)

When we look at the earthly ministry of our Lord Jesus, how does it begin and end? Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of the prophet, Isaiah. He states his mission on earth: “The spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.” (Luke 4:18-19, NIV)

Just days before His crucifixion, as recorded in Matthew 25, Jesus gives us final instructions. In no uncertain terms, He tells us that all the nations will be gathered before him and people will be separated to the right and to the left. We want to know how he will decide who goes where, and the answer is clear: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, . . . I was sick and you looked after me, . . . Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:35-36, 40, NIV)

This is our mission in the here and now—to love our neighbors. Friends, the least of these are right here in our neighborhoods—those who are hungry, fearful, and alone. They're also around the world where COVID-19 could be utterly devastating in ultra poor communities and refugee settlements.

Let us take a moment to honor the World Vision staff and faith leaders working tirelessly to help those in the margins of our society who are affected by COVID-19, internationally and here in the United States.

Here are the words of some of the workers shown in the video:

· “In this time of need, Oh Father God, that we have with this coronavirus, with all this fear that’s out there, we are stepping out of our four walls to help our community.”

· “We believe that God is greater than this pandemic.”

· I urge you to be strong and to continue to keep your faith in God.”

· “The fear is real, but what we're trying to do is to show that we still care.”

· “We're really trying to put all our efforts to reach the most vulnerable families—those are our priority.”

· “This disaster response is on an unprecedented level. Not only is it around the whole country and around the world, but it's right here in our own backyard.”

· “This is a global problem. The solution requires everyone to do their part—from the average person washing their hands to organizations like World Vision doing their work to the international community working together.”

· “How do we alleviate the fear? It’s through acts of kindness—through love.”

· “We have not been given the spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind.”

We invite you to join us. We need your help to respond quickly with the tangible love of God to meet the urgent needs of vulnerable families.

In the U.S., World Vision is working hand in hand with churches and school districts to deliver essentials to the most vulnerable children and families. Through our 13 strategic locations, we are distributing family emergency kits containing a week’s worth of food for a family of five, hygiene and protective items, educational supplies, and resources for kids. Our hope is to reach 650,000 people right here in the U.S. Globally, World Vision is uniquely positioned to face the spread of COVID-19. We are scaling up our response in 17 countries that are the most vulnerable. We are aiming to reach over 22,000,000 people including 11,000,000 vulnerable children.

We’re working in three ways: protect, provide, and prevent.

· To protect we're distributing protective equipment for health workers and supporting health systems in other ways including equipping 220,000 community health workers.

· To provide we are caring for children made vulnerable by COVID-19. These are kids in families who were already living on the edge. We’re providing food, care packets, cash, voucher programs, and more.

· To prevent we are helping families and communities stop or slow the spread of the virus by implementing our world class clean water and sanitation programs.

As we do this, we are engaging faith leaders who are key to influencing behavior change. We're also joined by our experience and success managing past global outbreaks including polio, HIV, Zika virus, and Ebola fever. So if you are able, please support us as we rush to help in the name of Jesus. Go to worldvision.org/pulse with your gift. It will go to fight COVID-19 here in the U.S. and around the world. Together we will be caring for the most vulnerable people everywhere.

Let's trust God like never before. Let's unite in prayer and move swiftly to help each other, and let's please not forget the least of these. God is pleading with us to take care of them. It was the critical mission of Jesus on Earth, and it’s ours today. God bless you.

If our victories don’t come through our cleverness, erudition, strength of will, or personality, then how do we gain victories? Dr. Moody explains: 

https://godcenteredlife.org/devotional/judges-4-5-victory/


Reminders

· Call someone today to check up on them.

· Our church has a new website. Pastor Michael is giving a fireside fellowship talk from the book of Philippians on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:00 am. If you have missed any of them on Facebook, they can be found at this website. All sermons are posted here, too. Check it out the Media menu.

· Join Ron for Transformative Prayer on Zoom, 7:00 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


Verse Completion: . . . timidity, but of power and love and discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 (NASB)

4/20/20

Good morning, Virtual Friends.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/LyPcR1yWwkw

Complete the Verses & Name the Book:

· See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, . . .

· For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells . . .

· And in Him you have been . . . (completions at the end)

Yesterday, Pastor Michael gave the sermon “Parable of Treasure, Pearl, and the Net” based on Matthew 13:44-52 to a virtual congregation as the coronavirus continues to keep us in check.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”(verse 44)

In ancient Palestine, it was common for people to put money in the ground. The rich had investment opportunities, but the common person didn’t have a bank or any other place to store money except in the ground. They would put their money in a clay pot and then bury the pot in the ground.

In this parable, there’s a man who discovered one of these clay pots and felt it would be worth it to sell all he had and buy the field where the pot was discovered so all the money in the pot would be his. He realized that the treasure in the field was worth more than everything he owned. That field was extremely costly to the man, but he gained even more by buying it.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (verses 45-46)

This parable is very similar to the previous one. Here is a man who buys and sells pearls. He knows the value of them. On one of his trips to find pearls he can make a profit on, he finds a very valuable pearl. It’s one-of-a-kind. He’s never seen one quite like this. He knows he will be able to sell this pearl for a premium price. Since he doesn’t have enough money to purchase it, he sold everything he owned. He then proceeded to buy the pearl. He now owns nothing except this one pearl. He’s fine with it, because he knows the cost of buying that pearl is far outweighed by the value of that pearl.

Both of these parables teach us something about heaven. The treasure and the pearl represent the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is more valuable than the totality of our possessions. Being in the kingdom of heaven is the most valuable thing in the entire universe. Our response to the kingdom of heaven should be just like the treasure hunter and merchant in these parables—giving up all they had so they could have the one thing that was worth more than all they owned. The reality for us is it costs to follow Jesus; it costs us everything: hobbies, habits, family, friends. It’s a sacrifice to follow Jesus. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26) To be a follower of Christ, you have to die to self. There’s no room for self-endeavors, selfishness, or self-serving. As followers of Christ, we sacrifice for Him.

The problem is people don’t tend to believe that the kingdom of heaven is worth more than all we possess here on earth. Christians are guilty of this, too. We want Jesus as our Savior. We want everlasting life. However, we want Jesus as our Savior but not as our Lord. We want Jesus to save us but not change or transform us. We want Jesus to save us but not tell us what to do. However, when we accept Jesus as Savior, we accept Him as Lord because it’s a package deal. We can’t pick and choose. The reason we don’t follow Jesus wholeheartedly is we’re afraid of what that will cost us. We’re afraid of losing something we have here on earth.

The treasure hunter in the parable was filled with joy after he sold everything and bought the plot of land. He didn’t care that he now owned only one thing. Are you willing to give Jesus everything? Can you give Jesus everything joyfully? Are you investing the value you have into the kingdom of heaven?

“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (verses 47-50)

This parable is very similar to the parable of the weeds found in verses 24-30 of this chapter. The kingdom of heaven is not like any other kingdom. It far surpasses all other kingdoms in value. We have a choice to make; are we going to follow Jesus regardless of the cost, or are we going to reject following Jesus because the cost is too high? Following Jesus leads to eternal life; rejecting Jesus leads to eternal death.

Jesus tells this kind of parable twice because it’s important. When Jesus repeats something, we better pay attention. The kingdom of heaven is real; the kingdom of hell is real. Jesus wants all of us to be in His kingdom. He wants us to realize how important the kingdom of heaven is. He wants us to understand that the choices we make determine what kingdom we are in.

“Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.

“Yes,” they replied.

He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” (verses 51-52)

The kingdom of heaven is the most valuable kingdom there is. Are you part of this kingdom? Are you willing to pay the cost of this kingdom? Right now we are in a pandemic. It’s costing you something: isolation at home, wearing masks, not seeing grandchildren. You are willing to pay the cost because you know what could happen if you don’t—your death or the death of someone else. You realize that the cost of not seeing your grandchildren now far outweighs the cost of not being able to see them later. If we’re willing to pay the cost for an earthly kingdom, shouldn’t we be willing to pay the cost for an eternal kingdom? Are we willing to do whatever God asks of us?

The whole Bible points to this truth: there’s a heaven and there’s a hell. Jesus is the way to heaven. Have you given up everything to gain Christ? Count the cost, pay the cost, and gain the treasure.

If you’ve never prayed to ask Jesus into your life, pray this prayer with me:

“Jesus, I want to be part of the kingdom of heaven. I realize the value of eternal life, the value of forgiveness, and the value of your kingdom. Jesus, I ask you to forgive me of my sins. I ask you to come into my life. Jesus, be my Savior, and Jesus be my Lord. Help me to live for you. Jesus, help me to make you the Lord of my life. Help me not to hold back from you. Help me to realize that whatever I give up, pales in comparison to what I gain, because I gain you and a relationship with you. God, help me to realize the joy of what I gain and forget about what I think I'm going to lose. So Jesus, lead as both my Savior and my Lord. I asked this in your name, Jesus. Amen.”

Are you investing in the kingdom of heaven? Are you giving God your time, your talents, your tithes, and your treasures to build His kingdom? The most valuable possession you could ever have is Jesus. Value the kingdom of heaven. Make it the most important thing in your life.

I would encourage you to listen to Tim Keller’s meditation on Psalm 91 called “Trusting God in Difficult Times.” It’s less than 12 minutes long. This is different from the other two that were provided last week: https://youtu.be/_pXWZNtxS0Q


Reminders

· Call someone today to check up on them.

· Our church has a new website. Pastor Michael is giving a fireside fellowship talk from the book of Philippians on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:00 am. If you have missed any of them on Facebook, they can be found at this website. All sermons are posted here, too. Check it out our Media menu.

· Join Ron for Transformative Prayer on Zoom, 7:00 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


Completion of Verses:

· . . . rather than according to Christ.

· . . . in bodily form,

· . . . made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority. Colossians 2:8-10 (NASB)

4/18/20

Good morning, Lost but now Found.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/Vr0d51uFTMc

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. . . . (completion at the end)

On Good Friday, there was a special livestream event organized by World Vision. I have shared what Samuel Rodriguez, Tony Dungy, and Francis Chan had to say. Today, I’d like for you to hear from Max Lucado—pastor, teacher, and bestselling Christian author:

I want to share some thoughts of hope and encouragement during these very difficult days. We can have hope and be encouraged because of the greatest day—Easter Sunday. There's a promise in the book of Psalms in the Old Testament, Chapter 30, Verse 5: “Weeping may last through the night.” You already knew that weeping lasts for a night. Maybe you've had much weeping during the time of this global pandemic. Weeping may last through the night. You'll find that to be true in a hospital. You'll find that to be true and in a cemetery. You'll find that to be true in a convalescent home—weeping may last through the night. You didn't need a Bible verse to tell you that, did you? But you might need a Bible verse to tell you this: the rest of that Scripture—joy comes with the morning. Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes. Despair will not rule the day. Sorrow will not last forever. The clouds may eclipse the sun, but they cannot eliminate it. Night may seem to delay the dawn, but it cannot defeat it. Morning comes—not as quickly as we want, not as dramatically as we desire, but, my friend, morning always comes. This is the promise of God, and this is the promise of Easter.

This is also the promise in one of the great Easter stories—the story of Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene was a faithful follower of Christ. Her world came apart the day that Christ died. In John 20:1, we find that early on the first day of the week, that's Easter Sunday, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb while it was still dark. Now, she knew nothing of an empty tomb. She came with no other motive except to remove the remaining clots of blood from the beard of Jesus and further prepare His body for burial. When she arrived, she saw that the stone had been taken away. She assumed that grave robbers had taken the body and she ran to fetch Peter and John. Peter and John ran to the site. John was faster, but Peter was bolder. Peter stepped inside and John followed. Peter saw the empty slab and stared. John saw the empty slab and believed! Easter had its first celebrant.

We would expect the gospel story to say focused on Peter and John. After all, they are apostles and the authors of epistles, but they go back and the focus of the Bible stays on Mary Magdalene. Verse 11 says she stood outside by the tomb weeping. Her face was awash with tears. Her shoulders heaved with sighs and sobs. She felt all alone. As she wept, she stooped down and looked into the tomb. She saw two angels in white sitting—one at the head and the other at the feet where the body of Jesus had lain. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

Well, Mary mistook these angels for men. I think it's easy to see why. I mean it was still dark outside and even darker in the tomb. Her eyes were tear filled and besides, who's going to imagine the appearance of angels in a tomb? Her Sunday was too dark to expect to see an angel, so she said, “They've taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Her world has hit rock bottom. Her Master has been murdered, his body buried in a borrowed grave, and then robbed and taken away. Maybe you've had a moment like this—a moment in which you feel like bad news just became worse. The moment in which sadness comes wrapped around you like a fog. Maybe that's where you are today. If so, then find hope. Let Mary Magdalene’s story be your story. You see in the midst of Mary's darkest moment, the sun came out!

I'm reading in versus 14 and 15 now. When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there. She did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to him, “Sir, if you’ve carried him away, tell me where you've laid him, and I'll go get Him.” She didn't recognize that this was Jesus, so Jesus did something about it. I'm looking at verse 16: Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

Maybe it was the way He said her name with His Galilean accent. Maybe it was something in His tone, or maybe it was the divine work of the Holy Spirit in her heart. But something upon hearing her name caused her to realize that she was standing in the presence of the resurrected Lord. When she heard him call her by name, she knew the source. I'm reading now again from John's gospel. Now in verse 16: She turned and said to him, “Rabboni!” which is to say teacher. In a second, in the pivot of a neck, her world went from dark to light; from BC to AD; from no hope to hope in Christ. He called her by name.

My dear friend, He is calling each of us by name. I believe this global pandemic is a global wake-up call. He's calling us by name. He's getting our attention, and He's reminding us on this Easter Sunday that we have no guarantee of surviving in this pandemic. However, we do have a guarantee of seeing Christ again and being united with him in heaven forever. Do you hear him calling your name? My friend, He loves you. He loves you too much to let you die all by yourself. He comes to meet you. You are everything to God.

Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that He had spoken these things to her—to her! Of all the people, He spoke to her! Why her? As far as we know, she didn't become a missionary; there's no epistle that the bears her name; no New Testament story that describes her work. Why do you think Jesus made this inaugural appearance to her? Maybe so that we would believe Scripture when Scripture says weeping may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning. This feels like a time of weeping. Dear friend, joy is coming. Joy is coming, because Jesus is in charge of joy. He loves you! He is calling your name! Why don't you call out to him and say, “Yes!”

I would encourage you to listen to Tim Keller’s meditation on Psalm 46 called “Trusting God in Difficult Times.” It’s only about 12 minutes long. This is different from yesterday: https://youtu.be/pG1yCv_EYKI


Reminders

· Call someone today to check up on them.

· Our church has a new website. Pastor Michael is giving a fireside fellowship talk from the book of Philippians on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:00 am. If you have missed any of them on Facebook, they can be found at this website. All sermons are posted here, too. Check it out our Media menu.

· Join Ron for Transformative Prayer on Zoom, 7:00 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


Verse Completion: . . . In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Acts 3:6 (NIV)

4/17/20

Good morning, Family.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/-4Nx2hEhVRE

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: It is appointed for men to die once, . . .(completion at the end)

On Good Friday, there was a special livestream event organized by World Vision. I have shared what Samuel Rodriguez said Tony Dungy said. Today, I’d like for you to hear from Francis Chan, a pastor, author, and missionary:

A couple of years ago I was standing on the Mount of Olives in Israel, and I was picturing the triumphal entry of Jesus. That's what we celebrate on Palm Sunday when the whole crowd was going down that mountainside and they were screaming, “Hosanna!” There's a good chance Lazarus was there, because he had just passed through Bethany. Here's a guy who was raised from the dead, and the people from the city who witnessed that were there, and they were just screaming! The whole crowd is so fired up, but then as Jesus goes into Jerusalem things change.

Jesus starts confronting the religious leaders. He starts explaining that he's going to die. Suddenly, the crowd turns on him, and rather than the crowd screaming, “Hosanna,” they’re screaming, “Crucify him!” By the time of the cross, the crowds are gone. In fact, most scholars believe the disciples weren't even there anymore. From what we see in Scripture, it could have been just Mary and John there. There could have been others, but that's all we have record of.

As I was sitting on that that mountaintop imagining it all, I kept thinking, “Okay, if I was there, I definitely would have been in that crowd screaming, ‘Hosanna!’ And I think I would not have been in that crowd screaming, ‘Crucify him!’ “ But then I started thinking, “Okay, but would I have been one of those few that actually followed him to the cross?” That would have been terrifying, because they're making an example of the leader. If I'm going to follow, I've got to be thinking they're going do the same thing to me. That's why Peter denied him. It was a terrifying thought! So sure, in my mind I'd like to believe that I would have gone, but then I look at my life, and I've seen myself get afraid of lesser things and chicken out. If I can't bench press 100 pounds, why would I think if you gave me 300 pounds, I’d be able to press it? So there is a sense of guilt. There's a sense of shame.

But I don't stay there asking myself, “Would I do it? Could I do it? Am I sure with what the Holy Spirit's done in my life?” The response isn't to just stay in that guilt. The response is to pray for courage. That's what I see throughout the Scriptures. Even the apostles who were so bold were praying for more courage. Here's the big response--when I feel that guilt, when I wonder, “Would I have the courage to do it?” I just start praising Jesus, because He did do it, and it was just as hard for Him if not harder. Some people think, “Oh, well, He's God! Of course He could!” No, remember He's in the garden. He's 100% man. The incarnation was real, and He was sweating drops of blood! Jesus was saying, “God, is there any other way?! Take this cup from me!” He's begging the Father, but He overcomes all that. He goes because he loved me. He goes because he loved you.

This is what Good Friday is all about. This is why it's good. It's good because His love drove him to do that. I've been meditating on this verse in James 4:5 where it says He jealously yearns for the Spirit that's in us. I just can't get over those two words: jealously yearns. The God Almighty yearns, and He yearns jealously for the Spirit that's inside of me. He doesn't want me out pursuing all these things and all the busyness. He's yearning for the Spirit in me. And He's yearning for you—not for lip service but a deep connection from the core of your being to Him.

That's why there's something good about you being alone right now. It's one thing to yearn for him and scream for him when everyone else is there, because the crowd may move you to that, but this Good Friday it’s good for you to have some quiet and some isolation so that the core of your being, not just your lips, but the core of your being, would connect with Him.

We always took communion on Good Friday. There's something about the Eucharist, the real body and blood of Christ, and being in a deep connection with Him which you can do with just a couple of people. I'm praying you have that with Him this Good Friday.

There may be those who don't even believe in Jesus. You say you're an atheist or whatever. It's kind of easier to do that when everyone else is telling you you're an accident. But the question is when you are all alone, what is your soul telling you? What is the core of your being telling you?

The Bible says in Romans 1 that everyone knows when they look at creation that there's no excuse. They know! They can see His invisible qualities and his divine nature through what has been made. I don't believe that you in your soul believe that you were just an accident. You were created by God! And I also don't believe that you go with a crowd of “good people” and that God sees you as “good people.” The Scriptures say that all have sinned and fall short of God's glory. I think when you're alone again, away from the crowds that are telling you, “You’re a good person,” you will recognize that you have done things you know are offensive to a holy God. The Bible says that's why we need the cross, and I'm praying for you that this Good Friday when no one else is around, that maybe you can get away from the noise and come before Almighty God and say, “God I get it! Despite what I've been taught, despite what I've said I know, You're real! I know that I am guilty. I so need your forgiveness! Thank you for the cross. Enter into me. Change me. Forgive me.”

“God, I pray that you just pour out your grace this year, this moment, on anyone who is hearing this that their eyes would be opened and that they would know that you are worth following even to the cross. In Jesus name, Amen.”

I would encourage you to listen to Tim Keller’s meditation on Psalm 11 called “Trusting God in Difficult Times.” It’s only about 11 minutes long: https://youtu.be/gjQM7uZcbbM


Reminders

· Call someone today to check up on them.

· Our church has a new website. Pastor Michael is giving a fireside fellowship talk from the book of Philippians on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:00 am. If you have missed any of them on Facebook, they can be found at this website. All sermons are posted here, too. Check it out our Media menu.

· Join Ron for Transformative Prayer on Zoom, 7:00 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


Verse Completion: . . . and after this comes judgment. Hebrews 9:27b (NASB)

4/16/20

Good morning, Citizens of Heaven.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/CxRo7CcgF0o

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when . . . (completion at the end)

On Good Friday, there was a special livestream event organized by World Vision. It featured the following speakers and singers: Nick Hall, Michael W. Smith, Francis Chan, Edgar Sandoval Sr., Max Lucado, Ravi Zacharias, Kari Jobe & Cody Carnes, Lauren Daigle, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, and Tony Dungy. I shared on Saturday what Samuel Rodriguez said, and today I’d like for you to hear from Tony Dungy, an NFL Super Bowl champion and Hall of Fame coach. 

I'm in Tampa, FL, probably doing what you're doing right about now—trying to keep your family safe and occupied during this coronavirus outbreak. We're getting ready to celebrate Easter, and it's been pretty awesome, but with ten kids in our house we're not able to go outside and do a lot of things we would normally do. However, God is still blessing us during this time of sacrifice.

We attend Grace Family Church here in Tampa, and we have about 10,000 members on six different campuses around the community. The last three weeks we have been doing online services, and last week we had 45,000 people watch our service online. God's word is still going out. We have a Wednesday night Bible study that normally has about 200 people attending. Last Wednesday we had 3,000 people who watched the lesson online, so God is actively moving in the midst of our storm.

Because we aren't able to go out, we wanted to do something special for our kids. During this Easter week we put a cross in our front yard right by our door. We draped the cross on Palm Sunday in purple to show that Jesus came into the city of Jerusalem as royalty. However, the sentiment changed, and by Friday he was nailed to the cross. We changed to a red sash on our cross to show that his blood was actually shed for us. But then on Easter Sunday morning, bright and early, we changed to a white sash that represented our sins being forgiven, Jesus purifying us, and Jesus rising from the dead and going to heaven.

The book of John is what we're actually studying in our Bible study, and it's really had some comforting words for us. I want to take you to two passages that I shared with our family and our Bible study group just to show them how blessed we are during this time. The first is found in John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Well, that certainly gives us peace knowing that we can take heart and be of good cheer in Jesus.

He gives us one other reason we can take heart. He told his disciples this a little earlier in John 14:1-3: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” So in this time of uncertainty, with the coronavirus affecting our whole world and leaving us asking, “Am I going to be safe?” I think those two passages can give us a lot of peace.

Number one—Jesus has overcome the world. Number two—He’s got a place prepared for us. He's going to come back and get us when everything is ready. We're able to get there because of what He did on the cross on Good Friday and rising from the dead on Easter morning. We can have peace as we celebrate Easter. This peace the world really can’t understand, but we know it because of our relationship with Christ.

I would encourage you to listen to this video of Kendra Doutt, missionary in Nicaragua, tell about God’s hand in providing some much needed supplies during this time of the coronavirus. It’s only about five minutes long: https://youtu.be/CAS7taTDH8o


· Our church has a new website. Pastor Michael is giving a fireside fellowship talk from the book of Philippians on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:00 am. If you have missed any of them on Facebook, they can be found at this website. All sermons are posted here, too. Check it out our Media menu.

· Join Ron for Transformative Prayer on Zoom, 7:00 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


Verse Completion: . . . I became a man, I did away with childish things. 1 Corinthians 13:11 (NASB)

4/15/20

Good morning, Son Worshipers.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/3i0bAr7--kM

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, . . . (completion at the end)

Yesterday, Pastor Michael gave his seventh fireside chat based on Philippians 1:27-30. You may have heard or said one of these sentences recently: “How much longer will we have to go through this? I don’t know how much more I can take. When will this ever end?” Perhaps the Apostle Paul said something along this line while he was in prison.

And yet Paul said, “Whatever happens . . .” whether he’s in jail for a week, for a year, or he dies in jail . . . whatever happens, “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.”

These are difficult words. They are counter cultural words. As we read Scripture, we often see that our worldview is wrong; it’s out of balance. We often don’t include the sovereignty of God in our worldview. As we face difficult words like this we are challenged to be transformed. There are expectations for the way in which we are to conduct ourselves—in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. The Greek says to conduct yourself as a citizen of the gospel of Christ, or as a citizen of heaven.

In Philippi, citizenship was important. Philippi was a Roman colony. In the province of Macedonia, there were only five cities that were Roman colonies, and Philippi was one of them. It was a leading city. Palace guards could only come from Rome or one of its colonies. The people who lived in Philippi were proud of their Roman citizenship. There were benefits to being a Roman citizen. For one thing, you didn’t have to pay some taxes that others had to pay. As American citizens, we have certain rights, freedoms, and privileges.

Paul wanted the church at Philippi to know they were citizens of Christ. He wants them to know that the benefits of being a citizen of heaven far outweigh the benefits of being a Roman citizen. In Phil. 3:20, Paul says, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” In Ephesians 2:19-20, he says, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.”

When traveling in a jazz band in junior high school, upon arrival at our destination as guests of a school, the band teacher would give us a lecture on expected behavior that included the words, “You are going to conduct yourselves in a manner that is worthy of the school you represent.” This is what Paul was saying to the church at Philippi, and he’s saying it to us, too. We are citizens of heaven. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we are to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of Jesus Christ. Disciples of Christ are to conduct themselves in a way that’s different from others: they don’t get drunk, participate in orgies, swear, create chaos, steal, tear people down, and so on. Disciples act, react, and interact differently than the world does.

There’s only one other place where this Greek word for citizenship is used, and that’s Acts 23:1: Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all conscience to this day.” Here is the same Greek word that means living according to being a citizen. Paul is saying that disciples of Christ conduct themselves differently from the world.

Why would Paul have to encourage us to act like disciples of Christ? It’s because we don’t always act as we should. It’s easy to fall or stay in old patterns. It’s a lot easier to live as a citizen of the world than to live as a citizen of heaven. The reason for that is there is opposition to the gospel. There is persecution. That’s why Paul is in prison. There are those who don’t want the gospel to succeed. They want to destroy the gospel, and, consequently, they want to destroy you. It would be easy to live as a citizen of heaven if everybody lived that way.

We have been granted grace to be disciples of Christ and to suffer for Him. We probably wouldn’t put the word grace and the word suffer together, but suffering for Jesus and the gospel is a grace that God grants us. We should be suffering for our own sins but instead we suffer for Christ who took our place on the cross. We are graced to suffer for Christ. James 1:2-3 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” We consider it a joy to suffer because we are suffering for Christ; we’re suffering for righteousness. Verse 4 says, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Persecutions can send us away from God or to God. Paul and James say to run to God. Let the persecution produce maturity in you. Verses 5-8 say, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” When you don’t know what’s the next step you should take, go to God; ask Him. Verse 12 says, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” Trials, persecutions, and pandemics are opportunities to send us closer to God. In the end, we will receive the crown of everlasting life.

How do we stand firm? First of all, we expect opposition: those who would try to frighten us, terrorize us, intimidate us, make us stop sharing the gospel, make us stop living out the gospel. When opposition comes our way, we stand strong. We don’t water down the gospel or change it in any way. We recognize that those who oppose the gospel are opposing God, and those who oppose God are opposed by God. But God saves those who are with Him.

We stand firm by the Holy Spirit. It’s the Holy Spirit living in us that allows us to follow Christ. The Holy Spirit is our power and strength. Without the Holy Spirit in our lives, it’s like being stuck in neutral in a car. You can rev the engine all you want, but the car is not going anywhere. It has to be placed in drive. If we don’t engage the Holy Spirit, if we don’t welcome Him, if we don’t live as He wants us to, we have no power. We’re going nowhere. In times of unknown, in times of opposition, in times of persecution, in times of tribulation, engage the power of the Holy Spirit in your life. Rather than panic or work harder, say, “Holy Spirit, let’s do this together.”

We stand firm by striving together as one. The book of Philippians is all about joy, togetherness, and community. We’re in this together with Jesus in the same Spirit. We need each other. There’s no place for discord in the family of God. We need to live in unity as one. It’s not about our preferences. We need to suffer together. We need to go through trials together. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” The coronavirus may be one way in which God says, “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is near.” We are to stand firm and live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The church in Philippi supported Paul while he was in prison. Don’t do the isolation from the coronavirus alone. Call someone.

Dr. Moody has a wide selection of devotionals I think you would enjoy if you have time: https://godcenteredlife.org/devotionals/


· Our church has a new website. Pastor Michael is giving a fireside fellowship talk from the book of Philippians on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:00 am. If you have missed any of them on Facebook, they can be found at this website. All sermons are posted here, too. Check it out our Media menu.

· Join Ron for Transformative Prayer on Zoom, 7:00 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


Verse Completion: . . . “My Lord and my God!” John 20:27-28 (NIV)

4/14/20

Good morning, Followers of our Resurrected Lord.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/-0l5dGiaXCo

Note: Today's song by Andrea Bocelli was sung in front of the Duomo Cathedral in Milan, Italy, on Easter Sunday. His online concert was listened to by over 26,000,000 people.


Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore . . . (completion at the end)


My brother-in-law is a retired minister who lives in the Chicago area. Before the pandemic hit, my sister and he headed south in their Rialta motorhome to warmer weather. After COVID-19 hit, they decided to stay where they were since it wasn’t a highly populated area, and the reports they received from Chicago weren’t very inviting.

On Easter Sunday, they decided to organize an Easter service to be held in the Astor Landing and Marina Campground in Florida. They made signs and posted them around the campground encouraging people to come join in worship while keeping their social distancing. Today I’d like to share some photos of the event, and share with you what retired Pastor Ireland shared with those in attendance:

As you know we Americans have been waging war on a silent killer called COVID-19. It has been a most unusual time in our history. Yes, we have fought enemies before but this is a faceless enemy we can’t see with the naked eye. To date 108,000 in the world have died including 20,000 in the United States. There are so many infected with the coronavirus that our economy to a large extent has shut down and we have been ordered to shelter in place and practice social distancing. On this Easter Sunday, I ask myself are there lessons that we can learn from this pandemic or do we simply muddle through life with no reflection on Easter and COVID 19.

The first thing I have learned is there are limits on our power to control events in life. Living in one of the most advanced nations on earth, we soon discovered that we were powerless to stop the spread of the killer virus. With scientists working around the world to find a vaccine for COVID-19, we still do not have one. We are beholden to forces greater than we are. I am reminded of the first lesson taught in Alcohol Anonymous that “Human beings must admit their powerlessness to begin their recovery.” An important lesson that we can learn is that there are limits to our control over events and people in life.

The second thing I’ve learned is there are no limits with God. When Jesus Christ was living on this earth He predicted His death and resurrection to His disciples. Luke 18:31-34 says:

Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”

The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.

On Good Friday Jesus was crucified between two thieves and then His lifeless body was laid in a cold grave dug out of the side of a hill. The disciples of Jesus were crushed by this terrible event and went and hid themselves lest they be picked up by the Jewish authorities and thrown in prison or face the same cruel death as their Master. They seemed to have forgotten Jesus words that “On the third day he will rise again.”

There are no limits on God’s power and this was displayed on Easter Sunday when He was raised from the dead and appeared to His stunned disciples. John 20:19-23 says:

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (NIV)

There are no limits on God’s power to transform rebellious human beings into sons and daughters of God. One of the all-time favorite songs that Americans love and sing is “Amazing Grace.” It is sung not only in church settings but in all kinds of venues. However, most people do not know how it was originally written. The author, John Newton, started his career at sea as a young boy. He worked for several years on transporting slaves from Africa to England. On one of these trips, as an adult, a terrific storm engulfed the ship he was on and in the midst of this crisis he could not control, he confessed his sins and accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior. He then renounced his slave trade and became a prominent supporter of abolitionism. It was out of this terrific storm that he wrote “Amazing Grace.” Here are the words of this famous hymn:

Amazing grace, How sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost, but now I am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,

And grace my fears relieved.

How precious did that grace appear

The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares

I have already come,

'Tis grace has brought me safe thus far

And grace will lead me home.

When we've been there ten thousand years

Bright shining as the sun,

We've no less days to sing God's praise

Than when we've first begun.

My sister read the following poem to those in attendance:

How the Virus Stole Easter

By Kristi Bothur

(with a nod to Dr. Seuss)

Twas late in ‘19 when the virus began

Bringing chaos and fear to all people, each land.

People were sick, hospitals full,

Doctors overwhelmed, no one in school.

As winter gave way to the promise of spring,

The virus raged on, touching peasant and king.

People hid in their homes from the enemy unseen.

They YouTubed and Zoomed, social-distanced, and cleaned.

April approached and churches were closed.

“There won’t be an Easter,” the world supposed.

“There won’t be church services, and egg hunts are out.

No reason for new dresses when we can’t go about.”

Holy Week started, as bleak as the rest.

The world was focused on masks and on tests.

“Easter can’t happen this year,” it proclaimed.

“Online and at home, it just won’t be the same.”

Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the days came and went.

The virus pressed on; it just would not relent.

The world woke Sunday and nothing had changed.

The virus still menaced, the people, estranged.

“Pooh pooh to the saints,” the world was grumbling.

“They’re finding out now that no Easter is coming.

“They’re just waking up! We know just what they’ll do!

Their mouths will hang open a minute or two,

And then all the saints will all cry boo-hoo.

“That noise,” said the world, “will be something to hear.”

So it paused and the world put a hand to its ear.

And it did hear a sound coming through all the skies.

It started down low, then it started to rise.

But the sound wasn’t depressed.

Why, this sound was triumphant!

It couldn’t be so!

But it grew with abundance!

The world stared around, popping its eyes.

Then it shook! What it saw was a shocking surprise!

Every saint in every nation, the tall and the small,

Was celebrating Jesus in spite of it all!

It hadn’t stopped Easter from coming! It came!

Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the world with its life quite stuck in quarantine

Stood puzzling and puzzling.

“Just how can it be?”

“It came without bonnets, it came without bunnies,

It came without egg hunts, cantatas, or money.”

Then the world thought of something it hadn’t before.

“Maybe Easter,” it thought, “doesn’t come from a store.

Maybe Easter, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

And what happened then?

Well....the story’s not done.

What will YOU do?

Will you share with that one

Or two or more people needing hope in this night?

Will you share the source of your life in this fight?

The churches are empty - but so is the tomb,

And Jesus is victor over death, doom, and gloom.

So this year at Easter, let this be our prayer,

As the virus still rages all around, everywhere.

May the world see hope when it looks at God’s people.

May the world see the church is not a building or steeple.

May the world find Faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection,

May the world find Joy in a time of dejection.

May 2020 be known as the year of survival,

But not only that -

Let it start a revival.

The attached photos are of Easter at the campground. My sister is reading the poem and my brother-in-law is giving the sermon. The cross was made by the caretaker of the property just for this occasion.

Dr. Moody has a wide selection of devotionals I think you would enjoy if you have time: https://godcenteredlife.org/devotionals/


· Our church has a new website. Pastor Michael is giving a fireside fellowship talk from the book of Philippians on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:00 am. If you have missed any of them on Facebook, they can be found at this website. All sermons are posted here, too. Check it out our Media menu.

· Join Ron for Transformative Prayer on Zoom, 7:00 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


Verse Completion: . . . the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” John 19:11 (NIV)

4/13/20

Good morning, Worshipers of our Risen Lord.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/jGF_2WyGy1Q

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Then Jesus told [Thomas], “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed . . . (completion at the end)

Yesterday Pastor Michael gave an Easter message based on John 18-20. Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to be in the story related in these chapters? Let’s go back to that time:

The sign above his head says Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews. I know; I read it. I was there. That sign didn't make the chief priests and the Pharisees very happy, because he was no king to them. In their mind, he was no king at all. I suppose he really wasn't my king either.

I worked for the chief priest; I was a servant of the chief priest. I liked what I did. It was a good job. I liked my position. He treated me well. I got to meet a lot of people, like this Jesus fellow. This is the Jesus who now hung on the cross with that sign above his head.

I was there when Joseph of Arimathea went and asked Pilate for the body of Christ. I knew Joseph. He was a Pharisee. Joseph was one of us. We had conversations, and so I was a little surprised when Joseph asked for the body of Jesus. His friend, Nicodemus, helped him. Nicodemus was a pharisee also. I didn't know him very well, but I knew who he was. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus asked for the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave the body to them.

They took the body from the cross and they brought it to Joseph's own tomb. They prepared Jesus’ body for burial. Did you know that Nicodemus brought 75 pounds of spices! That would be very expensive! Why would anyone spend that amount of money for Jesus? My bosses said Jesus was a criminal and that he was a conspirator against Rome. That’s why he hung on the cross. So why would you waste your money on Jesus? They put him in Joseph’s own tomb. Tombs are expensive! Not everybody gets to be in a tomb—only those who have money, who are powerful, or have position. Joseph spent a lot of money on this tomb, and he gave it to Jesus, the criminal.

That's why Jesus was on the cross; he was a criminal. I was there when the chief priests asked Pilate to have the soldiers break the legs of those who were on the cross. Normally, they didn't break the legs of those who were on the cross; they let them suffer. That's what crucifixion was for—crucifixion. It was one of the cruelest deaths you could have. People could last on a cross for up to a week—just hanging there. They wanted the legs broken, because they wanted the criminals to die, so they could be taken off the cross, because this Sabbath was a very special Sabbath; it was the Passover.

The Passover time was perhaps the most significant time in the history of our people. It was the days in which we remembered that God brought us out of Egypt. It was the days in which God saved us. It was the time of salvation. We were slaves in Egypt for 450 years or so, and then God showed up. God began to work on the Egyptians to let us leave Egypt, and on that night of Passover, the angel of death came by and he killed all the first born of the Egyptians—every single first born. But we Israelites were saved, because we were told to take the blood of a lamb that we had sacrificed and paint our doorposts with it. When the angel saw the blood of the lamb on the doorpost, he passed over and no death came to that house. That's why we call it Passover. It was a significant time in which we remembered when we were saved.

So you can see how during this most sacred time of salvation in our history, we didn't want these criminals still hanging on a cross. Passover was a time of salvation—not a time of death. So Pilate agreed and gave the order that the soldiers were to break the legs of those on the cross.

There were three men on the crosses—Jesus in the middle and two criminals on either side. The soldiers went to the first criminal and they broke his legs. Then they went to the second criminal, and they broke his legs. Legs are broken, because when you're hanging on the cross, the only way you can get breath into your sagging lungs is to lift yourself up. If you can't lift yourself up and get air into your lungs, they fill up with water, and you actually suffocate while you're on the cross. So they broke the legs of those two criminals, and they came to Jesus. These soldiers were professionals; they knew what they were doing. They did it all the time, and when they came to Jesus, they realized that Jesus was already dead. Amazingly, significantly, Jesus was already dead. They didn't have to break his legs. Instead, they took a spear and they jabbed it into his side just below his heart. Out of that wound flowed blood and water—the water that had filled up in his lungs. Jesus was certainly dead!

I was there when Jesus died. I was there when he breathed his last. There was Jesus up on that cross. I heard him say he was thirsty, and I watched the soldiers fill a sponge with vinegar wine and put it on a pole and lift it up to Jesus. After that Jesus cried out in a loud voice. He said, “Father, I commit my spirit unto you.” Then he said, “It is finished,” and he took his last breath and died.

I saw it. I heard it. I was there. I was there when they put Jesus on the cross. I was there when they took Jesus from the place of Pontius Pilate—when the soldiers grabbed Jesus and drug him out of there and made him carry his own cross all the way to Golgotha, the Place of the Skull. It was a big, wooden beam they placed on his shoulders. It was a rough beam with splinters and slivers and it chaffed his already broken and beat up body. I don't know how he carried it. He could barely carry himself. I don't know how he did it, but he carried that beam to his cross.

When he got there they put the cross together, and they threw Jesus down upon it. They took nails—rough nails, large nails—and they hammered his wrists and his feet. They didn't normally hammer nails into those who were being crucified. Normally, they just tied them on, but they hammered nails into people who they really wanted to suffer—suffer with every breath, every movement, and every time they lifted themselves up. Nails provided extra agony, and believe me, my bosses wanted Jesus to suffer! They did everything they could to make Jesus suffer.

After they nailed him on the cross, they lifted up the cross and it thudded into place. There Jesus hung on that cross, broken, beat up, bleeding, wounded, dying naked for all to see—to shame him, to mock him, to insult him. Many of the chief priests and the Pharisees stood around and laughed at him and mocked him saying, “You saved others. Can’t you save yourself? If you really are the Messiah, come down from that cross.” The soldiers joined in with that mocking and as they were watching him die, they were gambling to see who would get his clothes.

I was there. I heard it. I saw it. I was there when the crowd shouted, “Crucify him.” I was there in the crowd at Pilate’s palace. Pilate brought Jesus out to us and said, “Here is the man, but I find nothing wrong with him. I find that he's innocent.” He wanted to let Jesus go, but the Pharisees and the chief priests, my bosses, started yelling, “Crucify! Crucify!” They worked up the whole crowd, and soon the crowd was chanting, “Crucify! Crucify! Crucify!” They didn't want anything else for Jesus but for him to be crucified. So Pilate gave him over to be crucified. Pilate sat on his judgment seat and he said, “Let him die a death of crucifixion.”

They took Jesus, and the soldiers beat him, whipped him, mocked him, spat on him, and put a crown of thorns on his head, and sent him off. There Jesus stood in front of the people with the crown of thorns on his head and in a bloodstained purple robe. They dressed him up like a king.

I was there when the chief priests came to Pontius Pilate and wanted Jesus crucified. They accused him of all sorts of crimes like being a conspirator against Rome. They accused him of everything they could think of. I knew it wasn't true since I worked for the chief priest. As his servant, I heard these things all the time. So Pontius Pilate began to question him but he couldn't find anything wrong. Pontius Pilate said, “I don't know what you've done wrong. I don't know why they want to crucify you. I don't find anything wrong.”

Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you a king?”

Jesus answered, “It is as you say, but my kingdom is not of this world.” His kingdom was of a different world, and Pontius Pilate did not want to crucify him. In fact, Pontius Pilate tried to save his life. Pontius Pilate offered up the criminal, Barabbas. Barabbas was a heinous criminal, and he was in jail for a reason. Barabbas was a conspirator against Rome. He led rebellions against Rome. He was a dangerous man both to the Romans and to the Israelites. Pontius Pilate said, “I can give you one of these two guys. I can give you Barabbas or I can give you Jesus.” I don't know for sure but it seemed to me like Pontius Pilate thought they would choose Barabbas to be crucified. Barabbas was someone who deserved crucifixion. But they shouted they wanted Barabbas released and Jesus crucified. Pontius Pilate had to release Barabbas.

The chief priests, the Pharisees, my bosses, took advantage of everything they could to get Jesus to be crucified. I know because I was there. I was there when Judas came and said that he could get them Jesus so they could arrest Jesus. My boss had been talking about that for over a year. They wanted to crucify Jesus. They hated Jesus. That's all I heard—how much they hated Jesus.

Then Judas came. Judas seemed pleased that he could cause some sort of trouble for Jesus. I don't know what he was thinking but I know what my bosses were thinking. They were delighted. They thought it was the best news they had had in years—that one of Jesus’ disciples would be able to hand him over and in a place where it wouldn't be public. Judas came and we were all there—the chief priests, the Pharisees, a detachment of soldiers. We had our torches and of course weapons. It was at night and Judas led us across the Kidron Valley on the lower slope of the Mount of Olives in the garden of Gethsemane. When we got to the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was already there with the rest of his disciples.

Oddly enough, it was Jesus who spoke first and greeted us. It was Jesus who said, “So who are you looking for?”

Those up front said, “We're looking for Jesus of Nazareth.”

Jesus said, “I am he.”

When Jesus said that, I don't know exactly how it happened, but we found ourselves on the ground—every one of us was on the ground—except for Jesus and his disciples. Jesus stood over us and you can believe that the chief priest was not very happy about being on the ground before Jesus. They got back up and Jesus again asked, “Who are you looking for?”

They said, ”Jesus of Nazareth.”

I didn't understand why they didn't recognize Jesus when he said, “ I am the one you're looking for. I am Jesus of Nazareth.”

We stepped forward to grab Jesus and arrest him, but before we knew it, one of Jesus’ disciples, I think it was Peter, had a sword. We didn't even see his sword since it was at night. He grabbed his sword and he swung. I was up there with the chief priest, and I tried to get in the way, but his sword came down on my ear and cut it off. I went down. There was blood all over the place, and I just remember thinking, “This is not good! This is terrible! There's going to be a battle! They have swords. We have swords. This is going to get ugly.”

All I heard was someone, I think it was Jesus, say, “Enough!”

Nobody moved—not even the soldiers. Everybody listened to Jesus. And there I was. Jesus reached out towards me, and he gently drew me up. He took my hand away and placed his hand on my ear. When he took his hand away, I didn't feel pain. I felt some sort of sensation. I put my own hand on my ear and it was back in place like it had never been cut off! I remember I looked up into his eyes, and I have to tell you, I didn't see the eyes of a criminal. I didn't see the eyes of a conspirator. I think what I saw were the eyes of a King.

Before I could do anything, the chief priest and the soldiers grabbed him and dragged him away. They left his disciples just as Jesus had asked. They dragged Jesus off and they took him to the chief priest’s house. The chief priest shouted at him and yelled at him and tried to convict him of being something he wasn't. They spat on him and they blindfolded him. They took rods and they beat him. They said, “Prophesy now. Who hit you?” They beat him up and they spat on him. They were violent! As I watched I wondered how they could do that to the man who had just healed me.

I was there for the arrest. I was there for the beatings. I was there for the accusations. I was there for the judgment. I was there for the shouting. I was there when he was put up on the cross. I was there when he died. I was there when they took him down. I was there when they put him in the tomb. I didn't understand it.

I know what my boss had been saying for the last few years—that Jesus was a criminal, that he was a conspirator, that he was dangerous, that he was a liar. But I knew what I saw. I knew what I heard. I knew what I felt. I knew what I had experienced. I wondered about what had just happened. I wondered what the purpose of all of this was.

I was there the week after all of this when Jesus showed himself to 500 of us. We had heard that Jesus had been raised from the dead. I wanted to see it for myself. Sure enough, Jesus appeared! There was a crowd of 500, and Jesus was there with the nail scars in his hands. This was the same Jesus whom I had seen put on a cross, placed in a tomb, who stood before Pontius Pilate, who I saw getting beat up by the chief priest and Pharisees. This was the same Jesus! He was alive! He was living!

I don't know how it happened but he was alive! It made me think of Lazarus. Maybe you've heard of Lazarus. Lazarus was dead and he was in the tomb, and Jesus came, and they rolled away the stone, and he unwrapped Lazarus. Lazarus was alive again, and he is still alive today as this happened only a few weeks ago.

I don't know how Jesus came out of the tomb, but he is alive! Did I remember Jesus talking about dying and being raised again? I remember being there when Jesus was saying things like, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it again.” My bosses scoffed at that and said, “He's a lunatic. He doesn't know what he's talking about.” I was there when he said the only sign that you can have is the sign of Jonah who was in in the belly of a fish for three days, but after that he was out. I didn't understand what that meant. I was there when Jesus said the Son of Man must be crucified, but he will be raised again. I was there and remember those words.

I know what I saw. I know what I felt. I know what I experienced. Jesus is alive! And I remember he said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Jesus was talking about himself.

When he was speaking to Nicodemus, he said that he is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by him. Jesus is the way of salvation. Jesus is the truth of salvation. Jesus is the life for salvation.

This Passover season for us is all about salvation. It is all about salvation from the Egyptians. My bosses wanted Jesus off the cross because they thought death was a terrible thing and they didn't want death kicking around when it should be about salvation, but they had no idea that death was the way to salvation. Jesus hung on the cross because he was the Passover Lamb, and his blood was shed so that I could have his blood on me—on the doorposts of my heart so that death passes over me, and I have everlasting life.

I have everlasting life because of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Passover means so much more to me now than it ever did before. It means life everlasting. It means my sins are forgiven. It means Jesus, the Lamb of God, took the sins of the whole world. It wasn't just about Egypt. It wasn't just about Israel. It's about the whole world—you and me. We have salvation through Jesus because of his death and resurrection at Easter. That's what we celebrate today—Jesus, and he is alive! I have everlasting life!

I know! I was there! I was a servant of the high priest, but now I'm a servant of the High King. I’m a servant of Jesus. Who do you serve?

Dr. Moody has a wide selection of devotionals I think you would enjoy if you have time: https://godcenteredlife.org/devotionals/


· Our church has a new website. Pastor Michael is giving a fireside fellowship talk from the book of Philippians on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:00 am. If you have missed any of them on Facebook, they can be found at this website. All sermons are posted here, too. Check it out our Media menu.

· Join Ron for Transformative Prayer on Zoom, 7:00 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703.


Verse Completion: . . . are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29 (NIV)

4/12/20

Happy Easter! The Lord is risen!

Here are some great songs to celebrate this season:

https://youtu.be/0gGa1w_bnvM

https://youtu.be/eb1ayV5sTtM

https://youtu.be/7asEdmZsSPo

https://youtu.be/VXp6xcY5IqU

https://youtu.be/-4Nx2hEhVRE

Watch some great speakers and singers including Ravi Zacharias, Max Lucado, Edgar Sandoval, Samuel Rodriguez, Tony Dungy, Nick Hall, Francis Chan, Michael W. Smith, Kari Jobe & Cody Carnes, and Lauren Daigle in a special Good Friday event that was livestreamed on Friday: https://youtu.be/yHvz6TRZwzE

4/11/20

Good morning, Cross Bearers.

Song for the Day: Ten Thousand Angels

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: For to me, to live is Christ and . . . (completion at the end)

Yesterday, there was a special livestream event organized by World Vision. It featured the following speakers and singers: Nick Hall, Michael W. Smith, Francis Chan, Edgar Sandoval Sr., Max Lucado, Ravi Zacharias, Kari Jobe & Cody Carnes, Lauren Daigle, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, and Tony Dungy. A dear friend of mine invited me to the event, and I’m so glad I “went.” For the next week, I’d like to share what the speakers said. Today we will hear from Rev. Samuel Rodriguez—President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference:

John 20:1 says, “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.” She went to the tomb not when things were pristine and perfect but in the darkest hour. A woman named Mary had the audacity, the faith, to run while it was still dark. It's what we do in the darkest hour that defines us. While it was still dark, everyone else was in the confines of their homes resting. Yet this woman was launched forward by her encounter with Jesus to the extent that she was willing to run towards his tomb.

We live in a dark hour. We live in the midst of a global pandemic with COVID-19. It's dark outside. It's dark over the entire canopy of humanity. The world is dark right now, but the empty tomb should prompt you and me to do nothing less than run to the place where we understand completely that Christ has risen. The tomb is empty. With that fact we can change the world around us. Because he lives, that empty tomb is not an idea; it’s is not a human construct. That empty tomb is the most powerful, empowering element in my reality and in your reality.

The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:11 that the same identical Spirit (not a tangential spirit; not a kindred spirit; not a similar spirit) that raised Jesus from the dead lives inside of us—inside every single person who has called upon the name of the Lord as Savior and King. Because he lives, we understand not only that the tomb is empty but what Jesus did cannot be undone. Hebrews 9:12 tells us that with His own blood, not the blood of goats and calves, He entered the Most Holy Place once and for all and secured our redemption for evermore.

It's not about what we do for God; it's about what God already did for us. He came down so we can get up. He defeated darkness so we can be light. He died so we can live. He said, “It is finished,” so we can get started. He came out of the tomb so you and I could come out of sin, failure, and captivity and change the world around us.

What Jesus did cannot be undone. Because He lives, we understand that what he did on the cross and through his resurrection wasn't good for a season, wasn't good just for the early church, the early centuries, it is good according to Hebrews 10:12 for all time. What this means is that when Jesus died, your past died—not for a day but forevermore. When Jesus died, your sins died—not for an hour but forevermore. When Jesus died, your hell died forever. When Jesus died, your captivity died forever. When Jesus died, that abuse, that shame, that condemnation, your failures, my failures died forevermore.

When he rose, when he resurrected, when he got up, your salvation came to life. Your deliverance came to life. Your healing came to life. Your light, your peace, your miracle, your eternity, your destiny, came to life. The cross put a seal on your past. The empty tomb secured your future. That's why today is not just any day. This resurrection Sunday, even in the midst of this darkness, is prompting you and me to spiritually, emotionally, and relationally to run towards the empty tomb. This is not just any day; this is not Valentine's Day; this is not Saint Patrick's Day; it's not Memorial Day; it's not Labor Day; it's not Flag Day; it's not Halloween; it's not even the 4th of July. This is Resurrection Day! This is much more than a holiday—it is a holy day with great due deference. It's less about a bunny that hops, and it's more about the Lamb that died and resurrected. It's not just about baskets full of sweets; it's about an empty tomb that's full of hope. What I learned from what Jesus did for us 2000 years ago is that your dead season and my dead season came to an end the moment we realized that the tomb is empty. Simply stated, because he lives, your dead season and my dead season are over.

I know we're living in a dark time, but I want you to hear me—the tomb is empty! We're in the midst of a global pandemic, but the tomb is still empty. Economic markets are failing and falling across the land, but the tomb is still empty. There is panic and consternation influx throughout humanity in the year 2020, but here's the great news—the tomb is still empty, and because that tomb is empty, your heart can be filled, right here, right now, with the love, the grace, the hope, the peace that can only come through Christ. Jesus Christ—crucified and resurrected! We are saved by His grace, washed by His blood, filled with His Spirit, delivered by His truth, healed by his wounds, secured in His hands, empowered by his name, and defined by his love, because he lives!

Dr. Moody has a wide selection of devotionals I think you would enjoy if you have time: https://godcenteredlife.org/devotionals/


· Our church has a new website. Pastor Michael is giving a fireside fellowship talk from the book of Philippians on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:00 am. If you have missed any of them on Facebook, they can be found at this website. All sermons are posted here, too. Check it out our Media menu.


Verse Completion: . . . to die is gain. Philippians 1:21 (NIV)

4/10/20

Good morning, Travelers. Have you decided where to go for Easter yet? We’ve been looking at the living room, dining room, bedroom, or porch. We’ll formalize our plans soon.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/LrhSjP5988E

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Love never fails, but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there . . . (completion at the end)

Yesterday was the sixth fireside chat Pastor Michael gave from an undisclosed mansion just over the hilltop. He spoke on the “Progress of the Gospel” based on Philippians 1:22-26. This is a significant portion of Scripture as it contains Paul’s purpose statement. Do you have a purpose statement for your life? Let’s read today’s text:

For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.

Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what he is doing through me.

Paul believes death is something gained and not something lost. This is counter culture because the prevalent worldview would say life is better than death. Paul desires death over life. He looks forward to being loosed from this life. It’s like when campers break camp; they loosen the tent pegs, take the tent down, and move on. It’s also like loosening the mooring ropes on a boat so the boat is able to depart. Paul makes a radical statement when he says he’d rather depart this life than remain here. We do all we can to extend life and gain another day, but Paul looks at life differently; he sees death as gain.

Paul knows Jesus, and he desires to physically see Jesus. He knows the minute he is loosed from this life, he will be able to see Jesus. He will gain eternal life. Death is always better than life when we know Jesus. Death is nothing to be scared of.

Paul is not being suicidal. He’s not in great pain. He hasn’t been diagnosed with a terminal disease. However, he is in prison, and life is uncertain there. He could be killed at any time. He knows at some point his life will end, but he’s not worried about it. On the other side of death, is eternal life with Jesus. 1 John 5:13 says,

I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.

Death is a solid promise of gain for all who have asked Jesus into their life. Do you know that if you died today you would see Jesus? Do you have that confidence? Can you say with Paul, “For me to die is gain?” You can have that confidence. This is why Jesus came—that you would have eternal life; that you would be forgiven of your sins. We’re all sinners. Romans 3:23-25a says, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.” A little later in Romans 6:23 it says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” All it takes is one sin to separate us from God; one sin to keep us from everlasting life. Eternal separation from God is hell—a place where there is no light. God’s heart is that no one would perish; that everyone would come to everlasting life.

Jesus paid the penalty for our sins by dying on the cross. Romans 5:8-9 says, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.” Jesus took your sins and my sins and died on the cross for us.

In the Old Testament, the blood of the sacrificial animals took the place of the people’s blood for sin. Jesus is called the Lamb of God because He shed His blood so we wouldn’t have to shed our own blood. God accepted the sacrifice of Jesus, and we know this because He raised Jesus from the dead on the third day. Consequently, death no longer has victory. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we, too, can be raised from the dead to live eternally with Him.

Salvation is offered to everyone; it’s a free gift. It can’t be earned by good works or anything else. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”

Jesus said, “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” (Revelation 3:20) Jesus is offering the free gift of salvation to you today.

Paul tried to destroy Christians, but on his way to Damascus He had an encounter with Jesus. Jesus asked him why he was persecuting Him. Paul was blinded by Jesus and led to believers in Damascus who explained who Jesus really was—the Savior of the world. Paul repented of his sins and his life was transformed. He now had purpose in his life.

Paul found life necessary. What was necessary was the spread of the gospel. Paul’s mission was to bring as many people as possible to Christ and see them mature in Christ. Paul wanted to see other people have their lives transformed by Christ just as his was. Paul wanted other people to experience the joy in their lives that only Jesus can bring.

What are we doing to progress the gospel in our lives? Are we involved in a Home Team? When you are involved in the lives of others, you have a chance to progress the gospel in their lives.

There’s no reason for boasting about how spiritual we are, how wealthy we are, how smart we are . . . but we can boast about Jesus. We can boast about what Jesus is doing in the lives of others. Boast about Jesus wherever you go—progress the gospel.

What’s the purpose of your life? Is it your job, your kids, your grandkids . . . or is it the progression of the gospel? You can pray to that end. Make the purpose of your life the progress of the gospel. When you do, you will understand that to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Dr. Moody has a wide selection of devotionals I think you would enjoy if you have time: https://godcenteredlife.org/devotionals/


· Our church has a new website. Pastor Michael is giving a fireside fellowship talk from the book of Philippians on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:00 am. If you have missed any of them on Facebook, they can be found at this website. All sermons are posted here, too. Check it out our Media menu.

· Today at 6:30 pm there will be a hymn sing on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/ or you can go to this websites Broadcasts menu to watch it live. You can also watch it after the fact at the church’s new website mentioned earlier.

· On Sunday, from 11:00 am until 1:00 pm, there will be drive-thru prayer at the church.


Verse Completion: . . . is knowledge, it will be done away. 1 Corinthians 13:8 (NASB)

4/9/20

Good morning, Doers of the Word.

Song for the Day: Praise You in this Storm

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: And from everyone who has been given much shall . . . (completion at the end)

Have you ever felt inadequate to a task? Gideon certainly did. Judges 6:1-15 says:

The Israelites did evil in the LORD’S sight, so the LORD handed them over to the Midianites for seven years. The Midianites were so cruel that the Israelites made hiding places for themselves in the mountains, caves, and strongholds. Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, marauders from Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east would attack Israel, camping in the land and destroying crops as far away as Gaza. They left the Israelites with nothing to eat, taking all the sheep, goats, cattle, and donkeys. These enemy hordes, coming with their livestock and tents, were as thick as locusts; they arrived on droves of camels too numerous to count. And they stayed until the land was stripped bare. So Israel was reduced to starvation by the Midianites. Then the Israelites cried out to the LORD for help.

When they cried out to the LORD because of Midian, the LORD sent a prophet to the Israelites. He said, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of slavery in Egypt. I rescued you from the Egyptians and from all who oppressed you. I drove out your enemies and gave you their land. I told you, ‘I am the LORD your God. You must not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you now live.’ But you have not listened to me.”

Then the angel of the LORD came and sat beneath the great tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer. Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the LORD is with you!”

“Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The LORD brought us up out of Egypt? But now the LORD has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.”

Then the LORD turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!”

“But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”

Notice the underlying currents of the belief that only good things happen to good people. Gideon said, “If the LORD is with us, why has all this [bad] happened to us?” Like a lot of people today, Gideon believed if God was on your side, only good things could happen to you. Throughout Scripture there are words of blessing for His people. For example, Psalm 115:12-13 says, “The LORD remembers us and will bless us. He will bless the people of Israel and bless the priests, the descendants of Aaron. He will bless those who fear the LORD, both great and lowly.” However, that doesn’t mean that God’s people only experience good things in their lives. Romans 5:3 says, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.”

Sometimes bad things happen as a result of the bad things we have done. That appears to be the case here in Judges 6 where the Israelites had done evil in the LORD’S sight, and the Israelites suffered for it. However, sometimes bad things happen because that’s how life is. Job was a blameless man who feared God and stayed away from evil, and yet he had oxen and donkeys stolen from him, his farmhands killed, his sheep and shepherds killed by fire, camels stolen, and servants killed. Job had all of his children killed by a powerful wind that collapsed the house they were in, and Job was covered in boils from head to foot (see Job 1). John the Baptist was beheaded. Stephen was stoned to death. Jesus was crucified on a cross. These were all good people in right standing with God. In this particular case, Gideon should have recognized the bad things that happened to the Israelites were consequences for their sinful behavior.

When God told Gideon to rescue the Israelites from the Midianites, he told God that the clan he belonged to was the weakest clan and not only that, but he was the weakest in his family. Gideon told God he was the weakest of the weak. In God’s eyes, Gideon was perfect because Gideon wouldn’t be relying on his own strength because he had none. He would have to rely on God’s strength. Jesus told Paul, “My power works best in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) Paul was able to say, “That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

In comparison to Goliah, David was no match for the giant. David was a mere shepherd boy, and Goliah was a seasoned warrior of intimidating size. However, God used the weak to defeat the strong.

How are you feeling today? Do you feel strong and invincible? Do you feel there’s no task too great that you couldn’t accomplish it? If so, I’m not so sure God will be able to use you today. Do you feel weak? Do you feel trampled on? Do you feel you have nothing to offer? Do you feel you are the weakest of the weak? If so, you are a prime candidate for God’s use today. He’s looking for people just like you! He knows you aren’t going to try and take over His plan in your strength, because you have none. He knows you’re not going to gather a group of followers behind you, because no one would follow you. You come with nothing to offer, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, God transforms you into a useful vessel He can use mightily in His kingdom! Your potential with God as your strength is limitless!

Let’s make sure our hearts are surrendered to God. God has given each of us talents and abilities that He can use to build His kingdom, but they have to be surrendered to Him. We can’t go in our own strength, because if we do the results will be minimal. Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. (Ephesians 6:10)

Dr. Moody has a wide selection of devotionals I think you would enjoy if you have time: Devotionals


· Our church has a new website. Pastor Michael is giving a fireside fellowship talk from the book of Philippians on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:00 am. If you have missed any of them on Facebook, they can be found at this website. All sermons are posted here, too. Check out our Media menu.

· Friday at 6:30 pm there will be a hymn sing on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/videos

· On Sunday, from 11:00 am until 1:00 pm, there will be drive-thru prayer at the church.


Verse Completion: . . . much be required; and to whom they entrusted much of him they will ask all the more. Luke 12:48b (NASB)

4/8/20

Good morning, Ye Workers of Projects.

Song for the Day: Christ Our Hope in Life and Death

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: . . . greater is He who is in you than . . . (completion at the end)

Yesterday, Pastor Michael gave his fifth fireside chat—“Provision for the Gospel” based on Philippians 1:19-21:

For I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance. For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.

Paul’s goal in life was to promote the gospel of Jesus Christ, but his future was uncertain. He couldn’t predict what would happen to him. In spite of his circumstances, he didn’t have a complaining spirit, a martyr mentality, or a victim mentality. What was important to Paul was not his circumstances but rather having a relationship with Jesus and insuring the promotion of the gospel. He knew there was a chance that his imprisonment would end in death. However, he knew deliverance in one form or another would come. Regardless of what happened, Paul expected God to be exalted in his body. Do we eagerly expect Jesus to be exalted in our lives, or do we eagerly expect things not to work out? Do we eagerly expect trouble and negative things to happen? Paul looks forward to knowing Jesus no matter what happens.

Paul knows God through Jesus, and that gives him peace about the future. 1 John 5:13 says, “I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.” There’s no doubt that the future for Paul involves a life with Jesus. 1 John 2:12-14 says:

I am writing to you who are God’s children because your sins have been forgiven through Jesus. I am writing to you who are mature in the faith because you know Christ, who existed from the beginning. I am writing to you who are young in the faith because you have won your battle with the evil one. I have written to you who are God’s children because you know the Father. I have written to you who are mature in the faith because you know Christ, who existed from the beginning. I have written to you who are young in the faith because you are strong. God’s word lives in your hearts, and you have won your battle with the evil one.

These are all things that are settled in Paul’s heart. They give him confidence, strength, contentment, and peace. Nothing can disrupt what he knows, and he knows Jesus. He wants more and more of Jesus. He wants everything he does to exalt God. It’s been said that our lives are the theater in which Christ is played out. We’re on a stage and others watch us. Jesus will be exalted or not be exalted by what we say and do. What’s happening on your stage? Is Jesus exalted?

Paul wrote in Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.” Paul will promote the gospel unashamedly. He knows the only thing that has power for salvation, power for transformation, power for everlasting life, and power for the forgiveness of sins, and that power is Jesus Christ. Paul’s life was changed—radically transformed. He used to persecute but now he promotes Jesus. How can I expect the same kind of transformation to take place in my life? It’s by the prayers of people and the provision of the Holy Spirit (see verse 19). Paul recognizes that he lives in community with others. Technically, it’s not our prays that make the difference; it’s the power of God. The prayer isn’t powerful in itself; it’s to whom the prayer is prayed that has the power—the Creator of the Universe. A prayer to anything other than God has no power. Paul is asking for prayer. He was never a lone wolf Christian. When Paul became a Christian, he became part of the body of Christ. It’s the same with us. We need each other, and we need to gather together as Christians even if it’s just virtual church for the time being. We’re in this together, so encourage one another.

The Apostle Paul knew God’s Spirit. As Christians, we have God’s Spirit as well. The Holy Spirit provides for us so we are able to promote the gospel. Read the words of Jesus in John 15:26-16:15. The Holy Spirit is our provision: for knowing Him, for being confident in Him, for boldly proclaiming His message, for being unashamed of who Jesus is. 2 Timothy 1:7-8 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News.”

The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of boldness. There’s nothing we need to fear in this life or in death. We have the expectation of Jesus with us now and always. That’s the provision the Holy Spirit gives us.

Who’s playing on your stage? Is it Jesus? Let it be Jesus.

Dr. Moody has a wide selection of devotionals I think you would enjoy if you have time: Devotionals


· Our church has a new website. Pastor Michael is giving a fireside fellowship talk from the book of Philippians on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If you have missed any of them on Facebook, they can be found at this website. All sermons are posted here, too. Check out our Media menu.


Verse Completion: . . . he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4b (NASB)

4/7/20

Good morning! I made sure I was at least six feet away from you when I gave you that greeting.

Song of the Day: The God Who Stays

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become . . . (completion at the end)

With the nice weather, I decided to finish my job of eradicating the scotch broom next to the side of our house. Scotch broom is a weed that can grow to be ten feet tall. In the spring it produces a “beautiful” yellow flower that is no friend of those with allergies. It has a very effective reproduction system, too. I started this project of wiping out the scotch broom years ago, and slowly but surely I made progress. The war is finally over, and I won . . . at least for now. Hopefully, if I can stay on top of it, so it won’t come back.

Part of my strategy in getting rid of the scotch broom was to give the huckleberry bushes a chance to flourish. I like the looks of huckleberry bushes and appreciate that they do something positive—provide a delicious fruit. As I was working, I noticed something interesting. Some of the huckleberry bushes were kept low to the ground by something that couldn’t even be seen with a casual look. However, upon closer inspection, a very small, thin, prickly vine was intertwined in and over the huckleberry bushes, and it was restricting the growth of the bushes. I couldn’t tell what kind of thorny weed vines they were, but I saw they were very effective in stifling the growth of the huckleberry bushes. All I had to do was cut the vines and remove them from the plant—something very quick and easy to do. I lifted the constricted branches of the huckleberry bushes, and they were transformed. If they could talk, they probably would have said, “Thank you! It was so frustrating being held down by something so tiny!”

As I continued to work, I thought about the part of Hebrews 1:1 that says, “let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us.” That verse came alive for me. Now I had an illustration of what that verse was saying. I clearly understood what the God was saying in this verse. Those thin vines that held the huckleberry bushes down are the same vines that holds me down—vines of sin.

Sin can trap us. It can keep us from being productive. While sin holds us captive, whatever is in the area will take over and dominate just like the scotch broom was doing. When we give Satan an inch, he takes a mile.

What the entangled huckleberry bushes needed was a savior, and that turned out to be me. I was able to set them free so they could flourish. What about us and the sin that so easily entangles us? That sin needs a Savior, and it sure isn’t me, some self-help book, or anything else. There’s only one person who can snip the vines that entangle our lives, and that person is Jesus. Only Jesus can get rid of sin in our life. Science can’t. Doctors can’t. Psychotherapists can’t. Positive thinking can’t. Only Jesus can get rid of the sin in our life. He’s the only one who is qualified, and that qualification cost Him His life on a cross.

When sin wraps its vines around us, it’s frustrating. Paul put it this way: “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. (Romans 7:15, 18-19) What do those vines of sin look like? Galatians 6:19-21a gives a partial list: When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outburst of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Those thin, little vines of sin can work their way into our lives, and before we know it, we’re helpless. We need a Savior! Those huckleberry bushes had it tough. Their only hope was a savior who might happen to walk by them and notice their predicament. The odds of that happening were slim. On the other hand, we have it easy. Unlike the huckleberry bushes who couldn’t call out, we can call out at any time, and we have a Savior who is always listening for a cry of “Help!” He is a compassionate Lord who delights in restoring us into a relationship with Him. A cry of repentance is always heard by Jesus. He will answer our prayer and fill us with the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:5-7, 9-11 says:

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.

But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

What thin, little vine of sin is holding you down? It’s just a small, thin cord, but it is strong! We don’t have the power to break it. Only Jesus can break it and set us free. Let’s call on our Savior now to do exactly that.

Dr. Moody has a wide selection of devotionals I think you would enjoy if you have time: Devotionals


· Our church has a new website. Pastor Michael is giving a fireside fellowship talk from the book of Philippians on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If you have missed any of them on Facebook, they can be found at this website. All sermons are posted here, too. Check out our Media menu.


Verse Completion: . . . all things to all men, that I may by all means save some. 1 Corinthians 9:22 (NASB)

4/6/20

Good morning, Housebound. Here’s hoping the only fever you suffer from is cabin fever.

Song for the Day: Lazarus Come Forth

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted . . .(completion at the end)

Yesterday, Sam Uch gave the sermon “A Second Chance” based on John 11:1-44. Life can be challenging and even overwhelming at times. The walls may seem to be closing in on us as we deal with the restrictions imposed on us by the coronavirus. Our own health or the health of our loved ones can concern us. Christ is the only way we can have hope.

Lazarus lived with his two sisters in Bethany. He became very sick but there were no doctors who could help him. There was no medicine that could cure him. Their only hope was in Christ Jesus, but Lazarus died before Jesus arrived in Bethany.

Verse 14 says, So [Jesus] told [the disciples] plainly, “Lazarus is dead. And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.” Just as Lazarus was physically dead, we can be spiritually dead. If we don’t have Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are spiritually dead. When I was in high school, I attended church, but I was spiritually dead. I was physically in church, but spiritually I wasn’t there. There was no joy; there was no happiness. I had stress, worries, and doubts because I wasn’t connected with Christ.

Romans 5:10 says, “For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.” It wasn’t until I was walking alone on a railroad track and thinking about what I knew in my head but not my heart, that I realized I needed a personal relationship with Jesus.

Jesus arrived in Bethany and saw Mary and Martha who were crying over the death of their brother. Jesus loved them, and He wanted to show them that God is mightier than anything else. Verse 43 tells us Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out with his hands, feet, and head bound in graveclothes. What a victory over the grave! Lazarus experienced the power of God. It was a miracle, and so is every conversion by Jesus. We pass from death to life; from being dead spiritually to being alive spiritually—all by the power of God. Romans 6:4 says, “For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.” Lazarus was given a new life—a second chance in life. Jesus has power and authority over death.

This isn’t the only example of the the resurrection power of Jesus. In Luke 8:40-56 we have the story of Jesus bringing the daughter of Jairus back to life. Acts 9:36-43 has the story of Peter raising Tabitha from the dead by the power of Jesus.

When Lazarus came out of the grave, he was still bound by graveclothes. Although Lazarus was alive, he was still wrapped up in bondage. He didn’t have freedom. Many Christians are like that—bound by the gray cloths of sin.

We need to be ready for the return of Christ which could happen at any time. We don’t want to be in bondage when He returns. Sin restricts us from doing the word of the Lord and accomplishing His work. We need to shed the graveclothes so there’s no barrier between God and us. Romans 13:13-14 says, “Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.”

Lazarus got rid of the bondage. Jesus said, “Unwrap him and let him go!” He was free. If you still have graveclothes on, leave them behind. Step into life. Let God free you of sin. John 8:36 says, “So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” No matter what the circumstances are that would bind us, in Christ we can be free. Jesus is in control whether it’s the coronavirus, earthquakes, fire, or anything else. If Jesus can raise Lazarus from the grave, He can give each of us a second chance.

Lazarus was a witness to the power of Jesus. We are a witness of the power of Jesus to the people in Union. It’s our responsibility as a follower of Christ to share the Good News with others. We need to help people out of their graveclothes. We have no fear when we have Jesus in our life. The blindman who was healed was a witness for Jesus. The demon possessed person who was healed was a witness for Jesus. The man who was healed of leprosy was a witness for Jesus. I am a witness for Jesus, too.

Jesus gives us a second chance to live eternally with Him. If you acknowledge Jesus as your Lord and Savior, He will restore you. He will raise you up spiritually from the dead. He will transform your old life into a new life. He will give your life purpose.

Choose from three of Dr. Moody’s sermons to listen to. Each sermon is divided into two parts: Broadcasts


· Our church has a new website. Pastor Michael is giving a fireside fellowship talk from the book of Philippians on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If you have missed any of them on Facebook, they can be found at this website. All sermons are posted here, too. Check out our Media menu.


Verse Completion: . . . beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)

4/4/20

Good morning, Wall Climbers.

Song for the Day: Sovereign Over Us

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of . . . (completion at the end)

Today’s devotional is based on a sermon by the late S.M. Lockridge:

We are killing ourselves trying to live. People think they can find peace of mind in pills or other addictions. People try to eat their way to ecstasy and drink their way to pleasure. They try to smoke their way to settled nerves. They try to puff their way to popularity and push their way to power. They try to bully their way to friendship.

I know where to go where a poor man has a chance, where a sick man can get well, where an ignorant man can become wise, where a bad man can be made good, a good man can be made better, and where even a dead man can be made alive. It’s in Jesus Christ.

We live unto the Lord, and when we die, we die unto the Lord. Jesus Christ is Lord of the dead and the living. Lord means having power or authority. The Great Commission is based on the claims of our Savior’s lordship. Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18b-20, NASB)

Lord means ownership. His lordship is based on His ownership. “The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it. For He has founded it upon the seas, And established it upon the rivers.” (Psalm 24:1-2, NASB) God didn’t have to put His signature in the corner of a sunrise; He’s the owner. He didn’t have to put a laundry mark in the lapel of a meadow; He’s the owner. He didn’t have to carve His initials in the side of a mountain; He’s the owner. He didn’t have to put a brand on the cattle on a thousand hills; He’s the owner. He didn’t have to take out a copyright on the song He gives the birds to sing; He’s the owner.

Beyond the human level, the word Lord stands as a reverent allusion to God. The orthodox Hebrew word for God, Jehovah or Yahweh, was not even pronounced because it was so sacred. When the sacred and incommunicable name for God was to be shared, the word LORD was used. “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6: 4-5, NASB)

Christians have applied the usage of this word as a term of respect with an implied pleasure of obedience. Peter said, “Therefore, let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36, NASB) Christ represents what God did to redeem us. Lord represents what we ought to do because we are redeemed. We ought to call Him owner, because He possesses, absolutely, our lives. “In Him we live and move and exist.” (Acts 17:28a) We ought to call Him owner. We ought to call Him Father, and be obedient sons and daughters.

He is our only hope and help. God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; Though its waters roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, The holy dwelling places of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered; He raised His voice, the earth melted. The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold.

Come, behold the works of the LORD, Who has wrought desolations in the earth. He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth. He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariots with fire. “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. (Psalm 46, NASB) Jesus is Lord because He came down the stairway of heaven, was born in Bethlehem, hid in Egypt, brought up in Nazareth, baptized in the Jordan River, tempted in the wilderness, performed miracles by the roadside, healed multitudes without medicine and made no charges for His service, conquered everything that came up against Him, took your sins and mine and went to Calvary and there died.

While hanging on the cross, Jesus said several things. Some taunted him and said, “If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Others said, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself.” Jesus didn’t say a word, but His silence seemed to say, “You just wait until Sunday morning! I’ll show you that’s it’s better to come up out of the grave than to come down from a cross.” Then He died—until the sun refused to shine. He died—until the veil in the temple was rent in two. He died—until the tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised (Matt. 27:52, NASB). He died—until the centurion said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matt. 27:54, NASB)

He was buried in a borrowed tomb. That used to bother me: the one who holds the waters in the palm of His hand, who weighs the mountains with a scale, who scooped out the seas with the palm of His hand, who has the moon and stars leaning on his arm . . . how could He be buried in a borrowed tomb? Well, He wasn’t going to stay there long, so what difference did it make? He just stayed in the grave long enough to clean it out, and make it a pleasant place to wait for the resurrection. On schedule, He resourced His power and showed the world He is Lord!

God is omnipotent, but there are those who say that one of these days He will lose His power; it will be wrestled away from Him. Some have in mind that they are going to destroy His power. If you destroy His power, what are you going to use for power? If you try to destroy Him with fire, He’ll refuse to burn. If you try to destroy Him by water, He’ll walk on the water. If you try to destroy Him with strong wind, the tempest will lick His hand and lie down at His feet. If you try to destroy Him by law, you’ll find no fault in Him. If you try to destroy Him by the seal of an empire, He’ll break it. If you try to destroy Him by putting Him in a grave, He’ll rise. If you try to destroy Him by rejecting Him, you’ll hear a still, small voice saying, ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me.’ (Revelation 3:20)

Jesus Christ is Lord. He’s the pearl from paradise. He’s the gem from the glory land. He’s truth’s fairest jewel. He’s life’s strongest cord. He’s light’s clearest ray. He’s joy’s deepest tide. His name stands for a synonym for free healing, friendly help, and full salvation. His blessed name is like honey to the taste, harmony to the ear, help to the soul, and hope to the heart. In His birth is our significance. In His life is our example. In His cross is our redemption. In His resurrection is our hope.

At His birth, men came from the East. At His death, men came from the West. And the East and the West met in Him. Hallelujah! The Lord God omnipotent reigns. At His name, to His name, in His name every knee is going to bow and every tongue is going to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (see Philippians 2:10-11). Every knee will bow: the young knee, the old knee, the black knee, the white knee, the wounded knee.

Some say they have a lot of living to do before they come to Christ, but you don’t really live until you come to Him who said, “I came that they might have life, and might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10b) As you live, so will you die. Borderline Christianity is far too dangerous. “Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6-7)

The love of God is stronger than sin, deeper than sorrow, and it’s mightier than death. The Lord is my light. The Lord is my strength. The Lord is my salvation. The Lord is my rock. The Lord is my fortress. The Lord is my deliverer. The Lord is my high tower. The Lord is my shield. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. This world is a wilderness of want; we’re always wanting something. A man will break his health down trying to get wealthy, and then he’ll turn around and spend his wealth trying to get his health back. If your bank account gets low, then your blood pressure gets high. If you have food on your table, your faith gets weak.

The Lord is my shepherd, and that’s all I want. I don’t lack rest, because He causes me to lie down in green pastures. I don’t lack refreshment, because He leads me beside the still waters. I don’t lack for forgiveness, because He restores my soul. I don’t lack in guidance, because He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. I don’t lack for companionship, because even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me. I don’t lack for comfort, because Thy rod and staff comfort me. I don’t lack for sustenance or provision, because Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. I don’t lack for joy, because Thou hast anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows. I don’t lack for anything in this life, because goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life. I won’t lack anything in the life to come, because I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

I’ll dwell in the land where we’ll never grow old. I’ll dwell in the city whose founder and maker is God. I’ll dwell out there where the silence of eternity is interpreted by love. I’ll dwell in the sun-kissed regions of an unclouded day. I’ll dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Jesus Christ is Lord!

Choose from three of Dr. Moody’s sermons : Broadcasts


Verse Completion: . . . knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ. Philippians 3:8 (NASB)

4/3/20

Good morning, House Pacers.

Song for the Day: Down to the River

Complete the Verse & Name the Song: And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches . . . (completion at the end)

Yesterday, Pastor Michael gave his fourth fireside chat from Philippians. “Promotion of the Gospel” is based on 1:12-18:

And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.

It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. For I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance.

We were made for community. We want people to know what’s going on in our lives—the good and the bad. This makes social distancing difficult to deal with. God lives in community: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Paul doesn’t focus on himself and what it’s like in prison; he focuses on the gospel. Paul’s concern is to promote the gospel—promote Jesus. Are we focused on Jesus in our church, work, and homes? Are we promoting ourselves or Jesus? Self-promotion often comes out in the form of criticism.

The palace guards never left Rome. There were 9,000-12,000 soldiers who had the job of guarding Rome. These guards knew why Paul was there in prison—because he preached the gospel. Paul continued to preach the gospel even while he was in prison.

There were four levels of detainment:

1. Imprisonment: in chains or out of chains

2. Under military guard—the palace guards

3. Under the supervision of a trusted person (out of the prison walls)

4. Out on bail

It appears Paul was in the second level of detainment. Paul was the captive, but he had a captive audience as he shared the gospel with the guards. It’s highly likely that the people in the church at Philippi knew some of the palace guards. When people at Philippi saw Paul standing up for the gospel, it inspired them to do the same.

The boldness of Paul was contagious to other Christians. The gospel was spreading. We may be socially distanced, but we don’t have to socially distance the gospel. Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.” The gospel is the power of God. If we want the church to be more powerful, then then church needs to promote the gospel more. Evangelism spreads the gospel.

There were those who were preaching Christ, but they were envious of Paul. When Paul was placed in prison, they saw that as an opportunity to grow their followers. They shamed Paul because he was in prison. However, Paul wasn’t looking for people to become his followers (on Facebook—ha); he was looking for people to become followers of Christ. It’s a spiritual disease when part of the body of Christ tries to destroy other parts of the body of Christ. The bottom line is people are able to come to know Christ no matter who is preaching the gospel. It’s the words of Jesus that bring people to repentance and salvation. The number one important thing is that Christ is preached. We should rejoice whenever Christ is preached.

When someone is preaching Christ, but you don’t agree with everything the person says, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Rejoice in the truth of the gospel that is shared with others. Theology can get us into some thick weeds, but we have to get back to the center—Jesus.

Paul’s life is given over to the promotion of the gospel. When we’re participants of the gospel, we then become partners in the gospel who then pray for the prominence of the gospel, so we can promote the gospel. Use whatever circumstances God puts you in to promote the gospel.

Choose from six broadcasts of Dr. Josh Moody to listen to. There are some interesting topics: Broadcasts


Verse Completion: . . . choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. Matthew 13:22 (NASB) See also Mark 4:18-19 and Luke 8:14.

Fear Not for I am With You pg1

Fear Not for I am With You pg2

4/2/20

Good morning, Housebound.

Song for the Day: Perfect Wisdom of our God

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, . . . (completion at the end)

Do you trust God? Do you believe every word He says? Do you believe Jesus is coming back again? Do you believe in life after death? Everything God says is truth, because He is truth. His word is good. You can depend on it 100% of the time.

God made a promise to Abraham that is recorded in Genesis 17:7-8:

I will confirm my covenant with you and your descendants after you, from generation to generation. This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. And I will give the entire land of Canaan, where you now live as a foreigner, to you and your descendants. It will be their possession forever, and I will be their God.

Joshua 21:43-45 records the fulfillment of this covenant:

So the LORD gave to Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. And the LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had solemnly promised their ancestors. None of their enemies could stand against them, for the LORD helped them conquer all their enemies. Not a single one of all the good promises the LORD had given to the family of Israel was left unfulfilled; everything he had spoken came true.

Everything God had spoken came true. However, it didn’t come true in the way the Israelites had anticipated. Had I been an Israelite back then, I would have pictured myself leaving the slavery of Egypt behind and entering into Canaan. I probably would have given the process a couple of weeks or so. I would have pictured going into Canaan and taking over the land with ease. God is able to do anything, so why wouldn’t He prepare everything ahead for me so all I would have to do is walk into the land and take possession of it?

That’s not the way it worked for the Israelites. Instead of a couple of weeks, it was 40 years! Only a handful of the original Israelites walked into Canaan. Not even the leaders, Moses and Aaron, entered the promised land. There were miracles (the parting of the Red Sea, manna, quail, water in the desert, etc.), but there were hardships, too (lack of water, lack of food, enemies who wanted to destroy them, wandering, etc.). Life in the wilderness was composed of ups and downs.

Isn’t our life similar to that of the Israelites? We have ups and downs. We envision how God will work in our lives and the lives of others, and that isn’t what happens. We read verses like “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you,” and we relate that to something in our lives. Perhaps we are looking for a job. We read this verse and think that means God is going to give us the job we interviewed for the day before. If we don’t get the job, we are confused. We think God needs to operate in the way we think He should operate. In essence, we are saying, “If I was God, this is how I would handle this situation . . .” The problem with that is we are not God—not even close! God’s ways of doing things are very different from ours. Isaiah 55:8-9 says:

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

God has a plan for our lives just as He had a plan for the Israelites. When the Israelites complained and disobeyed God, the accomplishment of His goal was postponed. What God said would happen, happened. However, it took much longer than it had to take because of the behavior of the Israelites. Sometimes the reason bad things happen in our lives is because of our own bad behavior. Sometimes “bad” things happen in our lives because God is testing us to see how we will react. Sometimes bad things happen because Satan is the prince of the world. John 12:31 says, “The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out.”

We can expect bad things to happen to us, but we can also expect good things to happen to us. Philippians 4:19 says, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” We can expect good things from God. James 1:17 says, “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” Isaiah 41:10 says, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

I don’t think any of us saw COVID-19 coming and having the impact it has had on the world. It’s changed all of our lives. However, God saw it coming. It hasn’t surprised Him at all. Our plans have been changed by the coronavirus, but God’s plans have not. He’s still coming back to judge the living and the dead. Jesus is still the only way to receive salvation through the repentance of sins and by God’s grace. The virus has not changed God. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

God can be trusted. He is faithful. What He says He will do He will do. Just remember it may not be accomplished in the way we think it will be accomplished. God’s ways are different from our ways, and that’s a good thing! “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Slander can take the form of reviling those in authority. Reviling is so prevalent in our Western world that we’ve forgotten that it should not be the norm. We revile politicians, teachers, doctors…and pastors. Instead, we need to speak in a way that is honoring to God. Listen to the second half of Dr. Moody’s sermon 7 Boundaries

 

Verse Completion: . . . “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12:19 (NASB) Also see: Hebrews 10:30 and Deuteronomy 32:35

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4/1/20

Good morning long distance runners. Today is the start of another month of social isolation. Pace yourselves so you can make it to the end.

Song for the Day: Messiah

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, . . . (completion at the end)

Yesterday Pastor Michael continued his fireside chats with “A Prayer for the Gospel” from Philippians 1:9-11:

I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.

Partnering in the gospel leads to prayer for the gospel. Do we pray for one another regularly? When we do pray, what do we pray about? Here Paul doesn’t pray for his own needs; he prays for others. Paul prayed that they might know God more and love people more. He wants them to know God deeply. Phil. 3:10-11 says:

I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Paul wants to know Jesus more deeply. He practices what he prays for others. He’s not satisfied with where he’s at. He doesn’t look at past achievements; he looks forward to having even a closer relationship with Jesus. Many Christians are satisfied with where they’re at; they plateau in their spiritual life, but Paul is not like that. He makes knowing God the passion of his life.

In contrast to the spiritually mature people in Philippi are the immature people in Corinth. 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 says,

Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world?

They were worldly people in Corinth. They weren’t pursuing a deep relationship with Jesus. It’s never okay to know a little bit about Jesus and leave it there. Hebrews 6:1-3 says:

So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. You don’t need further instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And so, God willing, we will move forward to further understanding.

This is a command. We must move forward in our relationship with Jesus. When you know Jesus deeply, you know what is just, right, and fair. You gain wisdom. Romans 12:1-2 says:

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

The Christian life isn’t just about not doing what is wrong, but it’s about doing what is profitable—what is beneficial. Not only should we ask ourselves, “Is this action hurtful?” but we should also ask, “Is this action helpful?” 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 says:

You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial. Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others.

We need to be loving others in such a way that they are built up, strengthened, and encouraged so they can go deeper with Christ. We’re partners and participants in the gospel. Paul’s life was all about Jesus. Is our life all about Jesus? We need to pray for pure and blameless lives. We need to be in a place where we are ready for the return of Christ.

Paul is praying we will have transformed lives. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says:

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

We know the will of God by knowing God, and we know God through Scripture. When we live for Christ, we don’t worry about His return; we look forward to it.

The fruit of righteousness Paul talks about is found in Galatians 5:22-23:

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

We can’t produce these fruits on our own. However, the Holy Spirit can transform us so we are able to produce these fruits. Left to ourselves, we suppress ourselves so we can look different to others. When we are transformed, the new nature given to us comes from within and naturally goes outward. John 15:1-5 says:

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”

There is no righteousness on our own. Paul is praying for the prominence of Christ in our lives, and it will be evident in the way we act, react, and interact. Paul is praying for spiritual progress. How is your spiritual progress? Do you read the Word? Do you ask God to speak to you through His words? Do you ask God to be prominent in your life? Do you pray for the prominence of God in others?

Jesus prayed that his followers would be in the world but not of the world. But the church tends instead to be of the world but not in it. Paul teaches here about boundaries. Listen to the first half of Dr. Moody’s sermon: 7 Boundaries

 

Verse Completion: . . . he shall not lose his reward. Mark 9:41 (NASB)

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