Daily Devotion

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

Fear of Dying pg1

Fear of Dying pg2

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)

Fear of Disease and Disability pg1

Fear of Disease and Disability pg2

3/31/20

Good morning, Room Travelers.

Song for the Day: Agnus De

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not . . . (completion at the end)

On Thursday, Pastor Michael gave his second fireside chat based on Philippians 1:3-8. When Paul wrote Philippians, he was in prison in Rome. He was socially distanced from his friends and not able to interact except with Epaphroditus who had gone to Rome to be with Paul. Philippians 2:25 says, “Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you. He is a true believer, co-worker, and fellow soldier. And he was your messenger to help me in my need.” The church at Philippi partnered in the gospel with Paul. Now that he is in prison he misses the church at Philippi. Philippians 1:3-8 says:

Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began a good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.

The church at Philippi became interested in how they could be a part of spreading the gospel to others. Partners walk along side of you; they are going the same direction you are going. A partner is supportive in time and resources. Paul is thankful for the partnership he has with the church.

Joy is a key word in the letter. Paul is joyful he has this partnership. He prays for the church. We can pray for those we typically sit close to in church during this period of time when the church doors are closed.

Lydia was a participant and a partner in the gospel. Acts 16:13-15 says,

On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there. One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. She and household were baptized, and she asked us to be her guests. “If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged us until we agreed.

Lydia gave what she had because she wanted to partner with Paul in the gospel.

Acts 16:16-34 recounts the story of Paul and Silas casting out the demon inside the slave girl who told the future and made a lot of money for her owners. When their chances of making money were destroyed, they dragged Paul and Silas before the authorities at the marketplace. Paul and Silas were severely beaten and thrown into prison. They prayed and sang hymns, and at midnight an earthquake opened the prison doors and the chains of the prisoners fell off. The jailer was going to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. Paul and Silas told him all the prisoners were still there. The jailer said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” He was told, “Believe in the Lord Jesus.” The jailer and his household got baptized, and he began to wash the wounds of Paul and Silas. He brought them into his house just like Lydia. The jailer’s life was transformed. The jailer not only became a participant with Jesus that night, but he also became a partner with Jesus.

1 Corinthians 1:4-9 says:

I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus. Through him, God has enriched your church in every way—with all of your eloquent words and all of your knowledge. This confirms that what I told you about Christ is true. Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all the blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Sometimes we wonder and fret, but God says He will keep us firm to the end. You are a participant and a partner with the gospel. He is faithful to keep us in fellowship with Him. 1 Timothy 1:12a says, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work.” God is strengthening us in this time of uncertainty. 2 Timothy 1:12 says, “That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.”

Paul loves the people in the church at Philippi. He longs for them. He wants to see them again. We are the family of God. It’s difficult when we can’t be with those we love. We are made for community, so it’s difficult for us to keep our prescribed six foot distance away from each other.

Galatians 6:9-10 says, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.” We are a family of believers. We are partners in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have the same Holy Spirit living in us. We need to be good to each other. Let’s be unified.

Social distancing is teaching us how much we need each other. Pray for each other. Send a note. Make a phone call.

What Scripture verse does Dr. Josh Moody say is worth every parent memorizing? Serve God


Verse Completion: . . . gather with Me, scatters. Luke 11:23 (NASB)

Fear of Not Measuring Up pg1

Fear of Not Measuring Up pg2

3/30/20

Good morning, In & Out (in the house and out to check the mail).

Song for the Day: I'd Never Known

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: For everyone who exalts himself shall be . . . (completion at the end)

Yesterday, Pastor Michael gave the sermon “The Parable of the Mustard Seeds and Yeast” to an empty church . . . building. However, many were in attendance over Facebook. His text was Matthew 13:31-35:

Here is another illustration Jesus used: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.”

Jesus also used this illustration: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.”

Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, he never spoke to them without using such parables. This fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet: “I will speak to you in parables. I will explain things hidden since the creation of the world.”

The Kingdom of Heaven is the opposite of all the other kingdoms. Satan is out to destroy the Kingdom of Heaven, but it will never happen.

Matthew wants us to know that Jesus is the Messiah—God with skin on. Jesus is the Savior of the world, and He came to Earth to save people from their sins.

The average height of a mustard tree in Palestine is about 12 feet—a significant size. It’s the largest of all plants in a garden, and yet it started from the smallest of seeds. Matthew 17:20-21 says:

“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”

The start of the Kingdom of God was insignificant—a baby in a manger. It grew to the point where Jesus had 12 followers and from there grew to become the most dominant kingdom in the world. It’s growing, and it’s unstoppable.

The principle of the mustard seed is revealed in what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10:

Three times I begged the Lord to take [the thorn in my flesh] away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 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.

The mustard seed starts out weak but ends up strong. We don’t build the Kingdom of God through our wisdom, knowledge, finances, or power. Jesus builds the Kingdom of God by His strength. The weaker we are the stronger Jesus can show Himself to be. Don’t be discouraged by smallness or by weakness. Jesus is stronger than the forces that go against Him. 1 Corinthians 1:25-31 says:

This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.

Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the LORD.”

The Kingdom of Heaven didn’t start because of our strength, wisdom, or intelligence. The Kingdom of Heaven is all about Jesus, and it’s only when we humble ourselves that Jesus enters our lives. The Kingdom of Heaven grows because of Jesus in us.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast. Yeast changes things. Yeast makes things grow in size. The Kingdom of Heaven is like that; it’s transformational. It changes lives. It makes a difference.

In Matthew 16:6, we see a negative use of the word yeast: “Watch out!” Jesus warned them. “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Yeast transforms—for good or bad.

Yeast transforms lives. One person gets saved and has his/her life transformed. Another watches that transformed life, and wants his/her life transformed, too. The transformation continues and spreads throughout the community.

Acts 17:5-6 says: But some of the Jews were jealous, so they gathered some troublemakers from the marketplace to form a mob and start a riot. They attacked the home of Jason, searching for Paul and Silas so they could drag them out to the crowd. Not finding them there, they dragged out Jason and some of the other believers instead and took them before the city council. “Paul and Silas have caused trouble all over the world,” they shouted, “and now they are here disturbing our city, too.” The silversmiths in Thessalonica would make idols, but when people started following Jesus, the Christians got rid of their idols. This was damaging to the business of the silversmiths, and they wanted the gospel spreaders stopped in their tracks. There can only be two responses to the gospel: accept or reject. You can’t serve God and money.

It only takes a spark to get a fire going. It only takes one person radically changed by God to start changing the world. The gospel changes churches, communities, cultures, decisions, habits, families, friends, and how we live. The gospel changes you, and it changes me.

Everywhere Paul went people opposed him. They tried to punch him down, but he always sprang back just like dough with yeast in it always rises back up when it is punched down. Whenever the church is persecuted, it grows. The coronavirus will not destroy the church; it will expand the church. Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords.

We are faced with a decision: Will I walk with Jesus or go against Him? Will I join Jesus or try to destroy Him? Are you part of the Kingdom of Heaven?

In Numbers 13 and 14, the Israelites were faced with a decision: Go into the land of milk and honey with giants and fortified walls and conquer it or not.

We may be small, insignificant, and weak, but it is in our weakness that God can use us. Jesus is refining our church and refining the nations. The Kingdom of Heaven is built in weakness and persecution. It’s built in humble hearts submitted to God. The Kingdom of Heaven is unstoppable, and we are part of that kingdom if we have received Jesus as our Lord and Savior and asked Him to forgive our sins.

Dr. Moody give five principles to guide leaders at this time of crisis with the coronavirus:  Biblical Principles to Guide Leaders in this Time of Crisis


Verse Completion: . . . humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted. Luke 14:11 (NASB)

Fear of Being Alone pg1

Fear of Being Alone pg2

3/28/20

Good morning to everyone held captive by COVID-19 but not by the devil.

Song for the Day: First

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might . . . (completion at the end)

On Thursday we were taking a look at the lyrics to the “Song for the Day” by Lauren Daigle. We expounded on the first two lines. Today we will take a look at the remainder of the song. To review, here are part of the lyrics to First:

Before I bring my need

I will bring my heart

Before I lift my cares

I will lift my arms

I wanna know You

I wanna find You

In every season

In every moment

Before I bring my need

I will bring my heart

And seek You

First

I wanna seek You

I wanna seek You

First

I wanna keep You

I wanna keep You

First

More than anything I want, I want You

First

Before I speak a word

Let me hear Your voice

And in the midst of pain

Let me feel Your joy

Ooh, I wanna know You

I wanna find You

In every season

In every moment

Before I speak a word

I will bring my heart

And seek You

You are my treasure and my reward

Let nothing ever come before

You are my treasure and my reward

Let nothing ever come before

I seek You

Before we talk to God about our needs, we should get our hearts right with God. Before we tell Him about our cares, we should lift our arms in praise. Acknowledge who you are talking to—the creator of the universe, the King of kings, and Lord of lords. Jesus is the only one qualified to forgive sins and give everlasting life. We give Him praise for what He’s done in the past for others—mighty acts from the Bible, mighty acts done for our family and friends, and mighty acts done for us personally. We can join Isaiah in saying, “O LORD, I will honor and praise your name, for you are my God. You do such wonderful things! You planned them long ago, and now you have accomplished them.” (Isaiah 25:1) We can join David in saying, “Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you! I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer. You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy.

“I will exalt you, my God and King, and praise your name forever and ever. I will praise you every day; yes, I will praise you forever. Great is the LORD! He is most worthy of praise! No one can measure his greatness.

“Praise the LORD! Let all that I am praise the LORD. I will praise the LORD as long as I live. I will sing praises to my God with my dying breath.

“Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heaven! Praise him for his mighty works; praise his unequaled greatness! Let everything that breathes sing praises to the LORD! Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 63:3-5; 145:1-3; 146:1-2; 150:1-2, 6)

Lauren continues with,

I wanna know You

I wanna find You

In every season

In every moment

Before I bring my need

I will bring my heart

And seek You

First

In the prayer of Jesus, He said, “And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.” How do you get to know people? You get to know them by spending time with them and by becoming a student of them—learning what they like and don’t like. You get to know them through building a relationship with them. That’s how it is with God, too.

Paul understood that knowing a person in a close relationship has positive and negative aspects. He said, “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!” (Philippians 3:10-11) A close relationship with Jesus means everlasting life, but it also means persecution and suffering even to the point of death. Knowing Jesus has a high cost, but Lauren wants to know Jesus, and so do I!

God isn’t difficult to find, but it does take some effort on our part. Proverbs 8:17 says, “I love all who love me. Those who search will surely find me.” Acts 17:27-28a says, “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist.” Deuteronomy 4:29 says, “But from there you will search again for the LORD your God. And if you search for him with all your heart and soul, you will find him.” Jeremiah 29:13 says something similar: “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.”

Lauren then sings of seeking God first. We have to get the priorities in our life in their proper order. Jesus said, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:33) Jesus cares about our needs, but He wants us to focus on Him and not our needs.

Prayer is more than us talking; it’s also us listening. A great way to start a prayer is by listening—asking God what He wants to say to you and giving Him time to respond. It may take a while. We have expectations of instant gratification, but that’s not how God typically operates. We want Him confined to our time of prayer, and since we don’t have much time for that, we need to hear from Him now. Jesus doesn’t want to spend five minutes with us or 15 minutes with us; He wants to spend time with us all day. We are to never stop praying (see 1 Thessalonians 5:17). God doesn’t want us to compartmentalize Him. He desires to be part of every aspect of our lives. If we don’t want Him in some of our compartments, then we shouldn’t have those compartments.

Jesus is our treasure. We need to be like the man in the parable He told about: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.” (Matthew 13:44)

Jesus is our reward. Hebrews 10:19-22 says, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.” Romans 8:38-39 says, “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Listen to the song once more, and allow the words be your words to Jesus as you worship Him.

Many people today think that Christianity only has superficial answers to today's problems. If we as Christians are not persuaded that the greatest answer to our most difficult problems are found in Jesus, then we'll go elsewhere to find the solutions. We must be convinced that in Him is all beauty, love, and knowledge, and then we'll find our resting place in Him. Listen to Dr. Moody preach on “The Depths of Truth.” Here is Part 1: 1 Corinthians: To the Church of God #4 -- The Depths of Truth, Part 1

 

Verse Completion: . . . have life, and might have it abundantly. John 10:10 (NASB)

Fear of Being Disliked pg1 

Fear of Being Disliked pg2

3/27/20

Good morning, Warriors.

Song for the Day: My Life is in Your Hands

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark upon their forehead and . . . (completion at the end)

Yesterday, my wife and I ventured out to the grocery store. We got there before it opened and people were standing outside waiting to get in, but they weren’t congregated around the door in a normal fashion; they were standing with at least six feet between them. I was sitting in my car watching everything and thinking about how the coronavirus has changed life for everyone in the whole world. Here is something that is so small it can’t even be seen, and yet it is holding people everywhere hostage. It’s really difficult to take it all in.

I started thinking about the similarities between the coronavirus and the devil. Both are invisible. You are not sure if they are present or not, because you can’t see any evidence of them around you. They both have the power to take you down and destroy your life if you don’t have anything to combat them. You know you are vulnerable to an attack, but you’re never quite sure where the attack will come from. The attack could come from the handle on the grocery cart. The attack could come from something somebody said. The attack could come from someone coughing. The attack could come in the form of a lie that is wrapped in attractive packaging. It’s tough when you can’t see your enemy!

There are things we can do to reduce the chance of being taken down by the virus or by Satan. We can practice social distancing—standing at least six feet away from another person. We can pray. We can wash our hands regularly. We can read and meditate on God’s word. We can isolate ourselves in our houses. We can be fed by our pastor. We can sanitize our surroundings. We can share Jesus with others (right now that might mean with a phone call, email, or over social media). We can wear face masks. We can put on the full armor of God. Ephesians 6:10-17 says,

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all the strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Currently, there is no antidote for COVID-19. Scientists are working on it, and they will likely come up with a vaccination that will protect oneself from the deadly virus. On the other hand, we have had an antidote for the devil since the beginning of time—the trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Call on God, and the devil will flee. James 4:7-10 tells us how the antidote works:

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

The devil is a much greater threat to our lives than the coronavirus, and yet people ignore the threat. They do nothing to protect themselves. They don’t even want to hear about the Antidote that has been proven 100% effective against the devil. Isn’t it interesting how people are willing to live on the edge spiritually, but physically they don’t want to take any chances? Jesus exposed the devil when He said, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (John 10:10)

The more scientists can learn about COVID-19, the better advice they are able to give people so they can avoid getting sick. Peter learned about the devil and offers us some good advice:

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. (1 Peter 5:8-9)

We are waiting for the coronavirus to get crushed under our feet. The devil’s days are numbered. He may be the ruler of the world now (see John 14:30), but God will destroy him. Revelation 20:10 says,

Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)

What we can’t see is to be feared much more than what we can see. Let’s join David in saying, “I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4)

Which sermon from Dr. Josh Moody will you be challenged by today? Broadcasts

 

Verse Completion: . . . upon their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. Revelation 20:4 (NASB)

Fear of Being a Bad Parent pg1

Fear of Being a Bad Parent pg2

3/26/20

Good morning to everyone held in captivity by microscopic matter that’s not even alive. Let’s try that greeting again: Good morning, Humble People.

Song for the Day: First

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day . . . (completion at the end)

I was listening to the “Song for the Day” by Lauren Daigle. Here are part of the lyrics to First:

Before I bring my need

I will bring my heart

Before I lift my cares

I will lift my arms

I wanna know You

I wanna find You

In every season

In every moment

Before I bring my need

I will bring my heart

And seek You

First

I wanna seek You

I wanna seek You

First

I wanna keep You

I wanna keep You

First

More than anything I want, I want You

First

Before I speak a word

Let me hear Your voice

And in the midst of pain

Let me feel Your joy

Ooh, I wanna know You

I wanna find You

In every season

In every moment

Before I speak a word

I will bring my heart

And seek You

You are my treasure and my reward

Let nothing ever come before

You are my treasure and my reward

Let nothing ever come before

I seek You

Lauren Daigle packs a lot into a few words. She starts off with, “Before I bring my need, I will bring my heart.” When we go to prayer, it’s so easy to begin with our needs. We have important things going on in our lives, and we need God to step in and help. Sometimes those needs are finances: we don’t know where the money is going to come from to pay for bills—rent, house payment, electric, water, car payment, etc. We wonder how we will pay for gas, food for us, food for our pets, clothes, shoes. These things are staring us right in the face, and we don’t see how our few meager dollars are going to stretch to cover everything that needs covering. Then there’s relationship issues that are going on. We know there’s a problem, but we don’t know how to fix the problem. We need God’s help. Lauren doesn’t say these things aren’t important; she tells us to not make them our top priority—what we talk to God about first. Jesus said, “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!” (Matthew 6:7-8) There’s nothing on the list God doesn’t already know about.

Before we bring God our list of needs, we should bring Him a heart of surrender. Job 11:13-18 says:

“If only you would prepare your heart and lift up your hands to him in prayer! Get rid of your sins, and leave all iniquity behind you. Then your face will brighten with innocence. You will be strong and free of fear. You will forget your misery; it will be like water flowing away. Your life will be brighter than the noonday. Even darkness will be as bright as morning. Having hope will give you courage. You will be protected and will rest in safety.”

Jesus said,

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:31-34)

Proverbs 23:26 says,

O my son, give me your heart. May your eyes take delight in following my ways.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says,

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.

Galatians 2:20 says,

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

1 Peter 1:18-19 says,

For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.

1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a says,

You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price.

When we go to God in prayer, we should come with a heart that is humble, thankful, and pure. If there’s anything in our heart that needs to be taken care of, this is the time to do it. Before we proceed, we want our hearts to be pure.

Tomorrow we will continue to look at how God’s word is reflected in Lauren’s song, First. If you have time, listen to it once again.

Dr. Moody continues to look at true power and wisdom with an illustration from pop culture–the Jonas Brothers: We are continuing to looking at true power and wisdom with an illustration from pop culture–the Jonas Brothers. Power Part 2


Verse Completion: . . . is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 2 Peter 3:8 (NASB)


Fear of Children Not Knowing the Lord pg1

Fear of Children Not Knowing the Lord pg2

3/25/20

Good morning In & About.

Song for the Day: Alpha and Omega (notice the social distancing demonstrated . . . well, at least part of the time)

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife . . . (completion at the end)

Yesterday, President Pastor Wedman began his fireside chats using Philippians. Here is Episode 1: Let’s begin with a verse from 3 John 2:

Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.

Philippians begins with the words:

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let’s take a look at five words:

· Servants. This is not a word that is used much these days. We look at a servant as one who is low, someone who serves, someone who hasn’t measured up to those who are not servants. Yet Paul and Timothy classify themselves as servants or slaves to Jesus. They do what their master asks of them. Their will is put aside so they can do Christ’s will. A bond servant is a servant for life, and Paul refers to himself as such in other places. Does my life reflect servanthood to Jesus, or do I have the attitude, “I’m still in charge of my life and I’ll embrace the will of Jesus when it fits with mine?” We wonder how we can do the will of Jesus our way. Paul is interested in doing God’s will His way.

· Saints. Paul and Timothy are saying, “We are servants of Jesus, and we are here to serve you saints in Philippi.” Saints here means that they are perfect before God. They are without blemish, because they are in Christ Jesus. A person can’t be a saint without Jesus. The reason a person is a saint is because that person has received Jesus as his Lord and Savior and has been forgiven of all unrighteousness. Before God, we are saints. When God sees us, He doesn’t see us as sinners; He sees us as His children whom He has perfected, called, and set apart for His good purposes.

· Together. This is a theme of the book: togetherness, unity, community. This is countercultural. In our society, we tend to separate common people with uncommon people (blue collar and white collar; first class and coach). We make those distinctions, but God does not. We need to relearn what it means to be together. This starts with the understanding that there’s no separation of one person being better than another. We’re all servants of Christ.

· Grace. This is a word we probably don’t understand. It means undeservedfavor. It is a gift not based on works. The favor we receive from God can’t be gained, worked for, or manipulated. There’s nothing we can do to impress God so we can receive more grace. Grace comes from the heart of God who loves us. God favors you. You’re one of His favorites! We are justified freely by grace. Grace can’t be worked for; it can’t be earned. Grace is completely free. Grace is based on the gracious and loving character of God. Romans 6:14 says, “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” Ephesians 1:7-8 says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” When something is lavished, it is way over the top. God gives us grace that is way over the top. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God is gracious to us even through our times of suffering. Hebrews 4:14-16 says, Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. We are in times of need, and God’s grace is ready to be lavished on you. Call on God.

· Peace. This is a sense of calmness and security; being able to rest. It’s the calmness of soul, mind, heart, and body. It’s an absence of fear in times of uncertainty. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) Jesus is the one who can give us peace and leave us with peace in our hearts. We live in troubling times. We don’t know what the future holds. A few verses later in 33 Jesus said, “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.” God is in control. Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Prayer is connecting with God, and anytime we connect with God, we are secure. We are safe. We don’t have to be afraid. We sit in His presence, and we enjoy His company. God is our strong tower. Proverbs 18:10 says, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” When we allow Jesus to be the master of our lives, he gives us His peace, and that peace is allowed to rule in our hearts. You can be safe and secure in Christ.

Meditate on these five words today. Let them resonate in your mind and heart. Remember God reigns. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The great questions that many people in Christian circles are asking are, "Where is the Christian influence that we once had in society? What are we to do with this secular agenda?" Paul encourages us that the Church has faced opposition before, and we have the power of God to help us. Listen to the first half of Dr. Moody’s sermon Power 


Verse Completion: . . . loves himself. Ephesians 5:28 (NIV)

Fear of Not Being a Christian pg1

Fear of Not Being a Christian pg2


3/24/20

Good morning to everyone confined to an area but free in spirit.

Song for the Day: I'm Free

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and . . . (completion at the end)

Do you know where in the Bible God told someone to be strong and courageous three times in just four verses? Here is the passage:

“Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:6-9)

This is what God told Joshua as Joshua replaced Moses as the leader of the Israelites. It was a command to him. Joshua had a task that was far larger than him. There was no way he was going to be able to do it in his own power. However, because God was with him, he would be able to accomplish all God had for him. A big part of Joshua’s job was to be strong and courageous.

The dictionary defines courage as the ability to do something that frightens one. Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. Do you think David was frightened as he contemplated a fight with Goliath? Do you think policemen are frightened as they approach a dark house where there has been a report of someone with a gun? Do you think soldiers on the battlefield are frightened? Do you think I was frightened when I jumped from a bridge in South Africa with a bungee cord attached to my ankles and the river water over 700 feet below me?

When we are frightened, it gives us the opportunity to exercise courage. We have to conquer our fears. Fear is there because the danger is real. We’re not sure how everything is going to turn out. If we knew we’d be fine on the other end, it wouldn’t be so frightening. When we don’t know the outcome of what we are facing, it is frightening.

For every task God gives us to do, we know He will be with us, and we know what the ultimate outcome will be. Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before [the people living in the land you are going to enter]. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” God equips us to do the job He has for us. He’s not going to be with us part way through the task and then bail on us. He will never abandon us, and we should never abandon Him. Soldiers on the battlefield depend on each other. Abandoning a fellow soldier is unthinkable. Abandoning God and the task He has given us to do is unthinkable. He if faithful; we need to be faithful.

In light of the coronavirus, what is this telling us? Where it says, “Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go . . . to the living room, to the kitchen, to the bathroom, back to the kitchen, off the living room again . . . oh, wait. I don’t think we’re supposed to add or subtract from the Bible, so scratch that last part. Seriously, with the coronavirus we are to be strong and courageous. We may be frightened but we can face that fear with courage. We may need to be strong and courageous for someone else. Where does our strength come from? It comes from the LORD. Psalm 121 is a comforting psalm:

I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. The LORD himself watches over you! The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. The LORD keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.

God hasn’t abandoned us; the thought hasn’t even entered His mind. He’s with us now in this life, and He will be with in the afterlife. We have nothing to fear. What can separate us from the love of God? Romans 8:35-39 says,

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Dr. Moody shares the second half of his sermon on unity: Unity Part 2


Verse Completion: . . . heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:29 (NIV) 

Fear of Financial Loss pg1

Fear of Financial Loss pg2


3/23/20

Good morning, Isolated Yet Free.

Song for the Day: While I Wait

Complete the Verse and Name the Book: for bodily discipline is only of little profit, . . . (completion at the end)

Yesterday Pastor Michael gave the sermon “The Parable of the Weeds” based on Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. The sermon was delivered to an empty church, but the congregation watched online from home in their comfortable attire.

We are moving into a series of parables that show what the kingdom of heaven is like. Jesus wants us to know something about this kingdom. John the Baptist preached, “The kingdom of heaven has come. Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

Matthew 13:24-30 says,

Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew.

“The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’

“ ‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed.

“ ‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked.

“ ‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’ “

Parables are extended word pictures, metaphors, to help us find one main point. In this parable there is an enemy who plants weeds right next to the grain. The intent is to diminish and destroy the good crop by choking it out. The workers are willing to pull the weeds, but the farmer tells them not to because some of the wheat will be pulled up as well. At harvest the weeds and the wheat will be separated.

Verses 37-40:

Jesus replied, “The Son of Man is the farmer who plants the good seed. The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world, and the harvesters are the angels.

“Just as the weeds are sorted out and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world.

People who are following Jesus as their Lord and Savior are the good seed. They are the ones who were planted to bear fruit. These people have an enemy—Satan. Satan is an enemy of God and all God stands for. Christians are the ones who are to grow up and bear fruit by promoting the Kingdom of God. Satan comes along and plants seeds (people) who will destroy the fruit in our lives. This means there are people who will do all they can to keep you from following God. Matthew 7:15-16 says,

“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit.

Sometimes the enemy shows up in the church. They are wolves pretending to be sheep. Wolves are not playmates of sheep. Wolves kill sheep. 2 Timothy 2:25-26 says,

Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.

Satan takes people captive to do his will. He is out to diminish and destroy the fruit of Christ followers.

Verses 41-43:

The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!

The world is trying to get rid of words like sin, Satan, evil, and hell, but they are a reality. Something else that is a reality is the return of Jesus. There is going to be a harvest where some people will go to everlasting life and others will go to everlasting death. God doesn’t want anyone to perish.

Revelation 20:11-15:

And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide. I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.

This is what Jesus was talking about. The lake of fire is hell which is eternal separation from God.

But there is also everlasting life. Revelation 21:1-7:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.

This is the promise of good seed bearing good fruit. This is the promise of Jesus to those having a personal relationship with Him. It’s only a matter of time until Jesus comes.

We are in a pandemic that started in the Garden of Eden. Without the cure, there is no hope. It affects every single person who has ever lived on Earth. You don’t have to wonder if you’ve been infected with the disease; you have the disease. The disease is called sin. What are we doing about it?

With the threat of the coronavirus, we isolate ourselves. We want to protect ourselves and others from the virus. We don’t want to die or cause anyone else to die. But all of us are going to die in our sins unless we do something about it. We have the cure for sin—Jesus! Have we rushed out to give people the cure? What are we doing to tell others about Jesus? There’s something far more dangerous than COVID-19; it’s ROM-323 and ROM-623A: “For everyone has sinned; we all far short of God’s glorious standard. For the wages of sin is death.” There is no recovering from the pandemic of sin, unless you have the cure—Jesus. ROM-323 is far more dangerous than COVID-19.

The cure for ROM-323 is found in Romans 5:8 and Romans 10:9-10: “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.” We need to be handing out the cure to ROM-323. Who are you going to share the cure with? When are you going to share the cure?

If you have never received the cure for sin, pray this prayer:

Jesus, I recognize the sin in my life. I recognize that it’s a virus that’s going to kill me, and I don’t want eternal death. I ask you for everlasting life. Jesus, come into my life. I believe you died on the cross for me. I believe you were raised from the dead on the third day. Jesus, I invite you into my life. I receive you as my Lord and my Savior. Give me everlasting life, and help me to follow you. In your name I ask this, Jesus. Amen.

There were celebrity preachers who had developed a following in the Corinthian church. We are susceptible to this today, too. We have a tendency to follow someone we admire, and sometimes this creates division within the church. Learn what Paul has to say about this by listening to Dr. Moody’s sermon 

Unity Part 1 


Verse Completion: . . . but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:8 (NASB)

Fear of a Changing World pg1

Fear of a Changing World pg2

3/21/20

Good morning to everyone who belongs to Jesus or wants to belong to Him.

Song for the Day: I Belong to Jesus (Oh Hallelujah)

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said . . . (completion at the end)

After Mary was given the news by the angel, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God,” she went to visit Elizabeth who was six months pregnant with a baby who would turn out to be John the Baptist. When Mary greeted Elizabeth, the baby leaped within Elizabeth. Elizabeth told Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed.” Mary responded with a song of praise. Here is part of that song:

For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. (Luke 1:49-54)

Mary states that God is mighty, He’s done great and tremendous things. Let’s review some of the mighty and tremendous things God has done in the past:

· He created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

· God created animals. (Gen. 1:24)

· God created human beings in his own image. (Gen. 1:27)

· Abraham (at the age of 100) and Sarah had a baby—Isaac. (Gen. 21:5)

· After Joseph was sold into slavery by His brothers, God raised him to be the ruler in charge of the entire land of Egypt. (Gen. 41:41)

· God sent plagues. (Exodus 7-11)

· God opened up a path through the Red Sea for the Israelites to cross on dry ground. (Ex. 14:21-22)

· God closed the path through the Red Sea destroying the entire army of Pharaoh who were pursuing the Israelites. (Ex. 14:26-31)

· God provided manna and quail for the Israelites. (Ex. 16)

· God turned bitter water into drinkable water. (Ex. 15:22-25)

· God provided water from a rock when the Israelites were in the wilderness. (Ex. 17:1-6)

· God put a stop to Korah’s rebellion by having the ground open up and swallow Korah and all his followers, and then God closed the ground. (Numbers 16:31-34)

· God sent a fire that destroyed 250 men who were offering incense. (Numbers 16:35)

· God sent a plague that killed 14,700 people. (Numbers 16:49)

· God opened a path making it possible for the Israelites to cross the overflowing Jordan River near Jericho. (Joshua 3:14-16)

· God brought down the walls of Jericho so the Israelites could charge straight into the town and capture it. (Joshua 6)

· God caused the sun and moon to stay in place until the Israelites had defeated their enemies. (Joshua 10:13)

· God struck King Uzziah with leprosy. (2 Chronicles 26:16-21)

· God made enough flour and olive oil to be in their containers so the widow at Zarephath could feed Elijah, her son, and herself. (1 Kings 17:8-16)

· God raised the poor widow’s son back to life. (1 Kings 17:17-24)

· God kept Jonah alive inside a great fish for three days. (Jonah 1:17)

· God provided horses and chariots of fire for Elisha. They were invisible to Elisha’s servant until God opened his eyes and made it possible for him to see them. (2 Kings 6:15-17)

· God struck the Aramean army with blindness. (2 Kings 6:18)

· God fed 100 people with a sack of grain and 20 loaves of barley bread. There was plenty for all and some food was even left over. (2 Kings 4:42-44)

· God raised a dead man to life when he came in contact with Elisha’s bones. (2 Kings 13:20-21)

· God delivered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from a fiery furnace. (Daniel 3:19-30)

· God delivered Daniel from the lion’s den. (Daniel 6)

· God sent fire from heaven to destroy fifty army soldiers who had come to arrest Elijah. (2 Kings 1:9-10)

· God sent fire from heaven that burned up the bull, the wood, the stones, the dust, and even the water in the trench. (1 Kings 18:1-40)

These are some of the amazing things God did prior to Mary’s pregnancy. Notice that Mary didn’t specifically identify any of these. However, she listed some accomplishments that are amazing in their own right:

· God showed mercy to those who fear Him.

· God scattered the proud and haughty people.

· God brought down princes from their thrones.

· God exalted the humble.

· God filled the hungry with good things.

· God sent the rich away empty handed.

· God helps His people.

· God is merciful.

We serve an awesome God. Nothing is too difficult for Him. He is sovereign over everything. He is the God of gods, Lord of lords, and King of kings. Let’s worship the LORD—the only one worthy of our worship and praise.

I would encourage you to listen to Part 2 of Dr. Josh Moody’s sermon “How Faith Can Free Us from Fear.” 


Verse Completion: . . . “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 (see Deuteronomy

The Reality of Fear pg 1

The Reality of Fear pg 2

3/20/20

Good morning, People of Faith.

Song for the Day: O' Lord

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Let your speech always be . . .(completion at the end)

Today I was listening to the “Song for the Day.” It is Lauren Daigle singing O’Lord. It’s a song of hope. We have one sure hope, and that is in Jesus. We can hope the coronavirus will end soon. We can hope the economy will not crash. We can hope our health will be good. We can hope our marriage will be strong. We can hope we won’t lose our job. We can hope our kids will follow hard after God. We can hope our team wins the game. We can hope in many things, but there’s just one sure hope--Jesus!

When I was a kid and would do the knotheaded things kids do, my grandmother would look at me, shake her head, and say, “No hope . . . no hope!” Fortunately, with Jesus there’s hope and hope we can be sure of. We hope we will spend eternity with Jesus, and as long as our faith is in Him and Him alone, we will certainly spend eternity with Him in his glorious kingdom.

Part of the lyrics to Lauren Daigle’s song are:

Though times it seems

Like I'm coming undone

This walk can often feel lonely

No matter what until this race is won

I will stand my ground where hope can be found

I will stand my ground where hope can be found

Oh, O'Lord O'Lord I know You hear my cry

Your love is lifting me above all the lies

No matter what I face this I know in time

You'll take all that is wrong and make it right

You'll take all that is wrong and make it right

Your strength is found

At the end of my road

Your grace it reaches to the hurting

Still through the tears and the questioning why

I will stand my ground where hope can be found

I will stand my ground where hope can be found

Romans 5:1-5 says, Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

A little later in Romans 15:13 it says, I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Psalm 71:5-6 says, O Lord, you alone are my hope. I’ve trusted you, O LORD, from childhood. Yes, you have been with me from birth; from my mother’s womb you have cared for me. No wonder I am always praising you!

Psalm 43:5 says, Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!

Psalm 130:5 says, I am counting on the LORD; yes, I am counting on him. I have put my hope in his word.

1 Peter 1:13 says, So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world.

1 Corinthians 15:19 says, And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.

Hebrews 10:23 says, Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.

Let’s join Lauren Daigle in singing, “I will stand my ground where hope can be found.” Nothing can take that hope away from us: the loss of a job, the coronavirus, persecution . . . nothing! Our hope is in a secure place—Jesus!

We serve an amazing God. Even though I shouldn’t be amazed by His acts because it’s normal for an amazing God to do amazing things, I’m still amazed. I subscribe to a monthly magazine called Tabletalk. Each month has a theme. The theme for this month is fear! The theme for this month was put together long before there was any talk of the coronavirus, and yet the magazine came out the same month the virus got national attention. I will attach an article from the magazine that has something to do with fear for the next few days.

Dr. Moody preached the sermon How Faith Can Free Us from Fear, Part 1 I will share Part 2 tomorrow.

Verse Completion: . . . with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person. Colossians 4:6 (NASB)

Freedom From Fear

3/19/20

Good morning, Sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

Song for the Day: Sinner Saved by Grace

Complete the Verse and Name the Book: If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God . . . (completion at the end)

Today’s devotional was sent to me by a friend. I thought it was excellent, and I’d like to share it with you:

We find ourselves in a time of unprecedented trouble. Faced with a global pandemic, we need to take a moment to think biblically about our response to COVID-19.

I only have one thought that I will repeat in today’s devotional: Be afraid, but don’t give way to fear.

That statement may seem contradictory, so let me explain.

Fear is one of God’s good gifts to us. I think there are three types of spiritually healthy fear:

1. Fear of God. This is a holy reverence of the Almighty, living in awe of, and submitting to, the King of the universe.

2. Rapid Response Fear. This is our instinctual ability to react in a moment of danger. Think of a parent who spontaneously leaps into action to protect their child right before they hurt themselves.

3. Appropriate Concern: This allows us to be sobered by what we are facing, and with our God-given ability to analyze, we make wise and planned choices to protect ourselves and those we love.

God designed us with the ability to be afraid because he loves us and wants to protect us.

Be afraid, but don’t give way to fear.

Giving way to fear is characterized by meditating on the trouble we are facing and forgetting God in the process. This fear reveals itself when we allow our minds and hearts to be controlled by what was initially appropriate concern.

Is the pandemic (or anything that makes you afraid, for that matter) all you think about, all you read about, and all you talk about? If any type of trouble consumes your meditation, the larger it will loom, the more impossible a solution will seem, and the more frightened you will become.

In this world, you will face danger, so ignoring that reality is not wise. God has given you the ability to be concerned, so acting as if there is no reason for concern is not the solution.

The problem is that your meditation has been consumed by the trouble you are facing.

Whenever trouble consumes our meditation, it’s because we have ultimately forgotten God. We have forgotten that there is a Lord of glory, wisdom, goodness, power, and grace who sits on the throne of his universe. No difficulty of any kind - no person, place, or pandemic - can negate his good and glorious promises to his children.

As you look horizontally, things may seem entirely out of control. But when you look vertically, this world is under careful supervision.

Do I claim to understand the pandemic? Not at all. Until we’re on the other side, we may never fully understand why God would allow this trouble to enter our lives.

But we know who he is. We know what he can do. We know what he has promised. We know that he is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

In this moment of global pandemic, don’t let your meditation be dominated by fear so that you become God-forgetful. Don’t ignore the reality of the situation, don’t be embarrassed by your instinctual ability to respond rapidly when needed, and make wise plans out of appropriate concern.

Most of all, never stop fearing God.

Be afraid, but don’t give way to fear.

God bless,

Did someone forward you this devotional? Subscribe to Paul Tripp's email list and receive Wednesday's Word each week!


Reflection Questions

1. What makes you most afraid of the pandemic? Why is this fear a God-given gift?

2. Besides the coronavirus, what else are you afraid of currently? Have you allowed this trouble to capture your meditation?

3. What happens to you spiritually when horizontal trouble consumes your thoughts and time?

4. How can you practically take steps to fear the Lord in this moment of crisis? Be specific.

5. Who do you know who is afraid at this moment? How does the Bible address their fears? Contact and comfort them today with the gospel!

The following sermon was also sent to me by a friend. Timothy Keller gives a stirring sermon “Blessed Are the Poor.” 


Verse Completion: . . . lives in him and he in God. 1 John 4:15 (NIV)

3/18/20

Good morning, Loved by God.

Song for the Day: You are Holy

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice . . . (completion at the end)

When I was raising a family, the obedience of my kids was a very high priority. I wanted them to follow my instructions because they loved me, respected me, and wanted to honor me by their obedience.

When I laid out the rules I wanted my kids to follow, I tried to make the rules for their own good. I wanted them to prosper. I wanted life to go well for them. I felt like the rules would guide them to the right path for their lives. If they would do what I asked, their lives would prosper. At least that was the plan. However, being an imperfect parent, my rules were imperfect, too.

God is perfect, and His rules for our lives are perfect. The rules are designed for our prosperity. As we follow them, we show God we love Him, respect (fear) Him, and want to honor Him and bring glory to His holy name.

One of the themes of Deuteronomy is obedience and what happens when we obey and also what happens when we disobey. Let’s take a look at some of times when God told the Israelites to obey and what would happen if they did:

· This verse is soon after the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5:6-21. It is the LORD speaking to Moses about the Israelites: “Oh, that they would always have hearts like this, that they might fear me and obey all my commands! If they did, they and their descendants would prosper forever.” Deut. 5:29

· Just a few verses later, Moses tells the Israelites: ”Stay on the path that the LORD your God has commanded you to follow. Then you will live long and prosperous lives in the land you are about to enter and occupy.” (verse 33)

· “These are the commands, decrees, and regulations that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you. You must obey them in the land you are about to enter and occupy, and you and your children and grandchildren must fear the LORD your God as long as you live. If you obey all his decrees and commands, you will enjoy a long life. Listen closely, Israel, and be careful to obey. Then all will go well with you, and you will have many children in the land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, promised you.

“Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed, and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deut. 6:1-9

· “Do what is right and good in the LORD’S sight, so all will go well with you.” Deut. 6:18a

· “Understand, therefore, that the LORD your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands. But he does not hesitate to punish and destroy those who reject him. Therefore, you must obey all these commands, decrees, and regulations I am giving you today.

“If you listen to these regulations and faithfully obey them, the LORD your God will keep his covenant of unfailing love with you, as he promised with an oath to your ancestors. He will love you and bless you, and he will give you many children. He will give fertility to your land and your animals. When you arrive in the land he swore to give your ancestors, you will have large harvests of grain, new wine, and olive oil, and great herds of cattle, sheep, and goats. You will be blessed above all the nations of the earth. None of your men or women will be childless, and all your livestock will bear young. And the LORD will protect you from all sickness. He will not let you suffer from the terrible diseases you knew in Egypt, but he will inflict them on all your enemies!” Deut. 7:9-15

· “Be careful to obey all the commands I am giving you today. Then you will live and multiply, and you will enter and occupy the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors.” Deut. 8:1

· “You must love the LORD your God and always obey his requirements, decrees, regulations, and commands.” Deut. 11:1

· “If you obey, you will enjoy a long life in the land the LORD swore to give to your ancestors and to you, their descendants—a land flowing with milk and honey!” Deut. 11:9

· “If you carefully obey the commands I am giving you today, and if you love the LORD your God and serve him with all your heart and soul, then he will send the rains in their proper seasons—the early and late rains—so you can bring in your harvests of grain, new wine, and olive oil.” Deut. 11:13-14

· “So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders.” Deut. 11:18

· “Be careful to obey all these commands I am giving you. Show love to the LORD your God by walking in his ways and holding tightly to him.” Deut. 11:22

· “There should be no poor among you, for the LORD your God will greatly bless you in the land he is giving you as a special possession. You will receive this blessing if you are careful to obey all the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today. The LORD your God will bless you as he has promised. You will lend money to many nations but will never need to borrow. You will rule many nations, but they will not rule over you.” Deut. 15:4-6

· “You will experience all these blessings if you obey the LORD your God: Your towns and your fields will be blessed. Your children and your crops will be blessed. The offspring of your herds and flocks will be blessed. Your fruit baskets and breadboards will be blessed. Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be blessed.” Deut. 28:2-6

· “If you listen to these commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today, and if you carefully obey them, the LORD will make you the head, and not the tail, and you will always be on top and never at the bottom.” Deut. 28:13

Obedience to God is important. Over and over He tells His people to listen to His words and obey them. It was true for the Israelites, and it’s true for us today. Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commandments.” (John 14:15) Let’s show our love to Jesus by obeying Him. Ponder this thought today as you go about your business: To the degree I obey the words of Jesus is the degree I love Him.

See how Dr. Moody completes this statement: What matters in terms of salvation is not the ability to speak or write or think or perform miracles; what matters is . . . Strange Blessing and Atonement


Verse Completion: . . . of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. Hebrews 13:15 (NASB)

3/17/20

Good morning, Loved by God.

Song for the Day: You Are Holy

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice . . . (completion at the end)

When I was raising a family, the obedience of my kids was a very high priority. I wanted them to follow my instructions because they loved me, respected me, and wanted to honor me by their obedience.

When I laid out the rules I wanted my kids to follow, I tried to make the rules for their own good. I wanted them to prosper. I wanted life to go well for them. I felt like the rules would guide them to the right path for their lives. If they would do what I asked, their lives would prosper. At least that was the plan. However, being an imperfect parent, my rules were imperfect, too.

God is perfect, and His rules for our lives are perfect. The rules are designed for our prosperity. As we follow them, we show God we love Him, respect (fear) Him, and want to honor Him and bring glory to His holy name.

One of the themes of Deuteronomy is obedience and what happens when we obey and also what happens when we disobey. Let’s take a look at some of times when God told the Israelites to obey and what would happen if they did:

· This verse is soon after the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5:6-21. It is the LORD speaking to Moses about the Israelites: “Oh, that they would always have hearts like this, that they might fear me and obey all my commands! If they did, they and their descendants would prosper forever.” Deut. 5:29

· Just a few verses later, Moses tells the Israelites: ”Stay on the path that the LORD your God has commanded you to follow. Then you will live long and prosperous lives in the land you are about to enter and occupy.” (verse 33)

· “These are the commands, decrees, and regulations that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you. You must obey them in the land you are about to enter and occupy, and you and your children and grandchildren must fear the LORD your God as long as you live. If you obey all his decrees and commands, you will enjoy a long life. Listen closely, Israel, and be careful to obey. Then all will go well with you, and you will have many children in the land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, promised you.

“Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed, and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deut. 6:1-9

· “Do what is right and good in the LORD’S sight, so all will go well with you.” Deut. 6:18a

· “Understand, therefore, that the LORD your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands. But he does not hesitate to punish and destroy those who reject him. Therefore, you must obey all these commands, decrees, and regulations I am giving you today.

“If you listen to these regulations and faithfully obey them, the LORD your God will keep his covenant of unfailing love with you, as he promised with an oath to your ancestors. He will love you and bless you, and he will give you many children. He will give fertility to your land and your animals. When you arrive in the land he swore to give your ancestors, you will have large harvests of grain, new wine, and olive oil, and great herds of cattle, sheep, and goats. You will be blessed above all the nations of the earth. None of your men or women will be childless, and all your livestock will bear young. And the LORD will protect you from all sickness. He will not let you suffer from the terrible diseases you knew in Egypt, but he will inflict them on all your enemies!” Deut. 7:9-15

· “Be careful to obey all the commands I am giving you today. Then you will live and multiply, and you will enter and occupy the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors.” Deut. 8:1

· “You must love the LORD your God and always obey his requirements, decrees, regulations, and commands.” Deut. 11:1

· “If you obey, you will enjoy a long life in the land the LORD swore to give to your ancestors and to you, their descendants—a land flowing with milk and honey!” Deut. 11:9

· “If you carefully obey the commands I am giving you today, and if you love the LORD your God and serve him with all your heart and soul, then he will send the rains in their proper seasons—the early and late rains—so you can bring in your harvests of grain, new wine, and olive oil.” Deut. 11:13-14

· “So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders.” Deut. 11:18

· “Be careful to obey all these commands I am giving you. Show love to the LORD your God by walking in his ways and holding tightly to him.” Deut. 11:22

· “There should be no poor among you, for the LORD your God will greatly bless you in the land he is giving you as a special possession. You will receive this blessing if you are careful to obey all the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today. The LORD your God will bless you as he has promised. You will lend money to many nations but will never need to borrow. You will rule many nations, but they will not rule over you.” Deut. 15:4-6

· “You will experience all these blessings if you obey the LORD your God: Your towns and your fields will be blessed. Your children and your crops will be blessed. The offspring of your herds and flocks will be blessed. Your fruit baskets and breadboards will be blessed. Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be blessed.” Deut. 28:2-6

· “If you listen to these commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today, and if you carefully obey them, the LORD will make you the head, and not the tail, and you will always be on top and never at the bottom.” Deut. 28:13

Obedience to God is important. Over and over He tells His people to listen to His words and obey them. It was true for the Israelites, and it’s true for us today. Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commandments.” (John 14:15) Let’s show our love to Jesus by obeying Him. Ponder this thought today as you go about your business: To the degree I obey the words of Jesus is the degree I love Him.

See how Dr. Moody completes this statement: What matters in terms of salvation is not the ability to speak or write or think or perform miracles; what matters is . . . Strange Blessing and Atonement


Verse Completion: . . . of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. Hebrews 13:15 (NASB)

3/16/20

Good morning, Chosen by God.

Song for the Day: Halleuyah, Salvation and Glory

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: For everything created by God . . . (completion at the end)

Yesterday, Pastor Michael delivered the sermon “Come to the Table” by way of video. It was based on Job 36:16.

The corona virus has changed the way we do things. There’s a lot of fear going around not only here but around the world. There are two kinds of fear: healthy and unhealthy. A healthy fear keeps us from running off of a cliff. A healthy fear tells us that if we have a compromised immune system, we need to stay away from contact with others.

Unhealthy fears are often called phobias. The list of fears is endless: bugs, spiders, flying in planes, elevators, going on bridges, being in confined spaces, etc. These are the kinds of fears we don’t want to have; fears that cause us to stop living life. When considering the corona virus, what we fear is likely death. As disciples of Christ, we don’t fear death.

One of the themes in the minor prophets is God’s sovereignty. God is in control of everything. God is in control of the corona virus. This virus didn’t shock God or catch Him off guard. The virus can only do what God allows it to do. Habakkuk 1:5 says, The LORD replied, “Look around at the nations; look and be amazed! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.” God is in control of the nations; He is in control of the leaders of nations. He knows the outcome of everything that happens. Nothing happens outside of the control of God. The corona virus has to be obedient to God.

We tend to fear things we can’t control. Unhealthy fear is all about our fear of not being in control. An unhealthy fear says, “I’m not sure God is really in control. Since I can’t control God, I’m not sure I can trust Him.”

What should our response be to the corona virus? Job 36:16 says, “God is leading you away from danger, Job, to a place free from distress. He is setting your table with the best food.” (NLT) There are three parts to this verse:

1. God is wooing you from the jaws of distress. (NIV) When a man woos a woman, he does nice things for her. God woos us. He speaks kindly and lovingly to us. God wants us to know Him, because it’s in knowing Him that we learn to trust Him. We all go through the jaws of distress: loss of a loved one, loss of a job, loss of health, etc. The jaws of distress could also be the corona virus. But God comes along and says, “I don’t want you to get chewed up with fear from the jaws of distress wrapped up in this virus.” God woos us to Himself and says, “Come to me.”

2. To a spacious place free from restriction. (NIV) Our world becomes smaller and smaller as we focus on the virus. God wants us to see the bigger picture. God wants to open our eyes to see the amazing world He has created.

3. To the comfort of your table laden with choice food. (NIV) I’m reminded of Christmas Day and a table full of delicious food—comfort food. God wants us to enjoy the comfort food of His presence. God doesn’t want us to live in the jaws of distress of the corona virus.

We need to be wise when dealing with the corona virus, but we also need community. Your community might look different from someone else’s community based on your health conditions. It’s not a time to hide away; it’s time to: talk on the phone, stay in community with the church through videos, gather in small groups. Let’s not live in fear. God is sovereign. Focus on God. Let’s hear His wooing. Come to the table. Eat with God. Know God.

God is not a tribal deity; He is the God of the whole earth. God's way is the way for all people. This is a portion of what Dr. Moody says in his devotional Sacrifice and Authority


Verse Completion: . . . is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude. 1 Timothy 4:4 (NASB)

3/17/20

Good morning, Strong & Courageous.

Song for the Day: Be Strong and Courageous

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or . . . (completion at the end)

This past Thursday, Dr. Michael Wedman gave a lecture titled “The End of Nineveh” based on the book of Nahum. Compared to the other minor prophets, Nahum is straightforward. He is not apocalyptic. He writes in poetry, but it’s not difficult to understand.

BACKGROUND:

Nahum means “comfort” or “compassion.” He’s from Elkosh, from the southern kingdom of Judah. The time is 722 B.C., after the fall of Israel. He is writing during the height of the Assyrian Empire under Ashurbanipal (668-627 B.C.). The Assyrian Empire began to collapse after his death.

Assyria was destroyed in 612 B.C. Nahum 3:8 indicates Thebes had been destroyed. It was 300 miles upstream from Cairo and was destroyed by Assyria in 663 B.C. Nahum wrote between 663 and 612 B.C.—most likely during the middle years of Ashurbanipal (668-627).

The book Is an oracle against Nineveh (Assyria). The downfall of Assyria has been characterized as one of the greatest riddles of world history. The country seems to have fallen with appalling suddenness into obscurity. It’s the greatest, sudden destruction of a world empire ever! Nahum was the prophet who prophesied its destruction.

The book is divided into two sections: Chapter 1 and Chapters 2-3. Chapters 2-3 are a more detailed exposition of Chapter 1. The message is given to Judah to encourage them through the hard times of oppression from Assyria. They were to look to God for their deliverance. As we are faced with the coronavirus, we are to look to God for deliverance.

Judah was never taken captive by Assyria. Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon and rebuilt. Alexander the Great destroyed everything around him, but when he arrived in Jerusalem, he bowed down to the high priest and recognized that God is sovereign.

Even though the Assyrians were God’s instruments for disciplining Israel, they are being judged by God for their excessive cruelty and for a failure to acknowledge God’s sovereignty in their rise to power.

CHAPTER 1:

Verses 2-8 are a hymn of praise to God as the “divine warrior.”

Verses 9-15 is a courtroom scene of verdicts—both judgments and acquittals. There’s good and bad depending on what side you are on.

This hymn of praise is based on God’s justice and righteousness. The people are reminded to do what is just, right, and fair. This hymn praises God’s sovereignty over the whole world. God is jealous for His covenant people. He will discipline His people as necessary to get them to walk with Him once again.

The chiasm form of poetry is used here in Chapter 1:

The Lord pours out wrath

The Lord is patient

The Lord judges

The Lord is sovereign

The Lord judges

The Lord is good

The Lord destroys

Verses 9-11 have the charge against Nineveh.

Verses 12-15 are the verdicts:

· Nineveh is guilty—verses 12a, 14

· Judah is acquitted—verses 12b, 13, 15

CHAPTERS 2 and 3:

There is a more detailed description of the destruction of Nineveh. There is a poetic description of the final battle in 2:3-6, 9-10; 3:2-3. Verses 11-13 of Chapter 2 are a metaphor of a mighty lion that no longer has any strength. The lion has now become the prey.

3:1—a woe usually denotes destruction and mourning. A woe is never a good thing.

3:4-7 is a metaphor of a prostitute (Nineveh). Nineveh was completely destroyed and never rebuilt. Note the similarities between 2:13 and 3:5.

3:8 is another rhetorical question (see 2:11). The question amplifies the judgment. It involves a recognition of guilt. It’s just like the fall of mighty Thebes. Nineveh will fall the same way.

3:12-15 show the uselessness and powerlessness of Nineveh’s army and defenses.

3:16 shows the uselessness and powerlessness of Nineveh’s economy.

3:17-18 show the uselessness and powerlessness of Nineveh’s leadership.

3:19 is the final verdict. The hymn closes with another rhetorical question. There’s one other minor prophet that ends with a rhetorical question—the prophet Jonah.

CONCLUSION/SUMMARY:

Nahum prophecies of the Assyrian collapse in order to encourage Judah to trust God. God is sovereign over all the nations. God will judge according to His righteousness and justice. God will make all things right in His timing.

We ask God for more faith, and He takes away some of the things we have been trusting in: people, finances, etc. He takes it away and refines our faith. When our faith is pure and we’re in the right spot with God, He pours out His blessings on us. God knows we are not going to take the blessings and make them idols because our hearts are right with Him. The blessings will be something we use instead of being used by them.

How does the snake Moses lifted up in the desert relate to Jesus? Dr. Moody explains: Blessing from an Unexpected Direction


Verse Completion: . . . persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Romans 8:35 (NASB)

3/14/20

Good morning, Heaven Bound.

Song for the Day: Here's My Heart

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through . . . (completion at the end)

After reading Exodus 5-10 and Matthew 17-18, the following prayer was prayed:

Father in heaven, I know you like a humble spirit. Pharaoh was arrogant and proud when he said, “Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice . . .?” There are many today that have that same attitude. Check me to make sure I don’t have the minutest seed of this kind of attitude. Pharaoh’s arrogance started small and grew to what it became. Father, may I always be a humble person.

Our wisdom is foolishness compared to your wisdom, Lord. Anything good I might possess came from you. If I boast, it only makes sense to boast in you, God.

Your people were slaves in Egypt. The taskmasters had high expectations for the number of bricks that were to be made each day. The Pharaoh then said to keep the same quota of bricks but made the Israelites get their own straw to make them. This was an unrealistic expectation. Your people had a very difficult life. You have not promised your children an easy life, but you have said you’ll never leave us or forsake us. That’s good enough. As long as we have you, that’s all we need. You are sufficient. You are our all in all. You are LORD. You can be trusted. When you told the Israelites you would deliver them from bondage and redeem them with an outstretched arm, they could rest assured it would be done. Your word is truth. You can be trusted 100% of the time. May I not look at circumstances around me, but look to you.

You are the one who brought nine terrible plagues to Egypt and Pharaoh giving Pharaoh the opportunity to let the Israelites go into the wilderness to make sacrifices to you. Pharaoh suffered but would not let the people go. God, you gave Pharaoh many chances to go along with your plan, but Pharaoh hardened his heart against you. Lord, I pray that you would give me a soft heart. I want to be pliable, so I can be shaped into whatever you desire. Make me a useful vessel in your kingdom.

When Aaron threw down his staff in front of Pharaoh, it became a serpent. This was to show that you were behind them. However, the sorcerers did the same. In the end, Aaron’s staff swallowed up the sorcerers’ staffs.

Later the waters of the Nile were turned to blood, and the magicians of Egypt did the same.

The second plague was frogs. Aaron stretched his hand over the waters of Egypt and frogs covered the land. The magicians did the same.

The sorcerers and magicians did some impressive things. However, they were not from you. If we are not careful, we could be fooled by worldly people. Jesus, you said, “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible even the elect.”

There were deceivers in the days of Moses, and there are deceivers today. Give us a discerning spirit that is able to see through deceivers. We want to see you and be led by you. We want to be led by truth.

The third plague (and all the rest of them) could not be duplicated by the sorcerers and magicians. They couldn’t make gnats come from dust. They acknowledged this was your finger. LORD, you are the one true God. In the end, you are victorious. We know you are returning to Earth for your children. We want to be ready for that day.

Jesus, you proved there is life after death at your transfiguration when you spoke with Moses and Elijah. We know after we die that you will raise us to life again when you return to Earth and defeat death.

Jesus, we need more faith. You said if we only have a little bit of faith we can move mountains. We ask you for that kind of faith, so we can move mountains for you. With you, nothing is impossible. Lord, increase our faith.

Jesus, you predicted your death and resurrection on the third day many times while you were here on Earth. What you say will happen always happens. Your words can be trusted even when they don’t seem possible. Lord, we believe; help our unbelief.

Jesus, keep us from causing one of your little ones to stumble. Rather, may we encourage them and help them grow in you. It is not your will that a single one of your little ones perish.

Help us to follow your direction for church discipline. May we follow this sequence hoping for a good outcome after each step:

1. Private talk

2. Two or three witnesses go over every fact with the one who sinned

3. Tell the church

4. Treat the sinner as an outsider

Jesus, have your way in me today. May I bring glory to your name with the way I behave and the words I say. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Does God exist? In the church, we think the answer is obviously yes. But when you engage with people outside the church, you find many people who wrestle with that question. We need to formulate an engaging, biblical response to that question that helps people who think there’s not enough evidence. Ironically, Psalm 14 is a hymn to the atheist. Listen to Dr. Moody’s audio on The Existence of God, Part 1


Verse Completion: . . . the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:2-3 (NIV)

3/13/20

Good morning, Heaven Bound.

Song for the Day: I Got Jesus Medley

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for . . . (completion at the end)

Today we finish the review of Thom S. Rainer’s book I Am a Church Member.

Our own family members aren’t perfect, so how can we expect the members of a church to be perfect? We can find joy in serving our family at home and our family at church.

The leadership of a church needs prayer. Pray:

• For spiritual protection.

• For protection from moral failure.

• For the preaching of the Word.

• For their families.

• For encouragement.

• For physical strength.

• For courage.

• For discernment.

• For wisdom.

Christ is the bridegroom, and the church is the bride. My commitment is to love that bride with an unwavering and unconditional love.

Unconditional love is not always easy. If someone is perfect and meets our every perceived need, it’s easy to think we love that person. But such love is one-way. It’s all about me and my needs. Unconditional love means I will continue to fall more deeply in love regardless of the response. It means my love for the church will grow even as I may disagree with something or encounter disagreeable people.

Unconditional love isn’t easy, but we’ve been given a good role model—Jesus. He loves us sinners so much He gave His life for us on a cross. Romans 5:8 says, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”

If we approach church membership as we would membership at a country club, we would be joining a church to see what we can get out of it. Our attitude would be:

• It’s the pastor’s job to feed me sermons that make me feel good.

• I have determined what an acceptable length for a sermon is.

• The music needs to fit my style of music.

• Deviations from what I have determined is best cannot be tolerated.

• Programs and ministries should benefit me.

• Members will determine what they want and don’t want.

• As members, we expect perks, privileges, and service.

• When asked to serve, we use the excuse, “I’ve done my time” or “That’s the pastor’s job.”

If we look at biblical church membership, we see membership as a gift, something valuable that should be treasured. It’s an opportunity to serve and give.

When we receive the gift of salvation, we become part of the body of Christ. To become part of body we need to acknowledge:

• That I am a sinner. (Romans 3:23)

• That I don’t deserve salvation; I deserve death. (Romans 6:23)

• That Jesus took the punishment for me, and He died in my place on a cross. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

• That I need to repent of my sins. (Acts 3:19)

After we repent of our sins and put our trust in Jesus, we receive the gift of salvation, and we become part of the body of Christ. (see Ephesians 2:8-9)

The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:27-28, “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.”

Here’s how we arrive at being members of a church:

1. We receive the free gift of salvation that includes eternal salvation, forgiveness of sins by Jesus, adoption into the family of God, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

2. We become part of the body of Christ. Membership in the body of Christ, the church, is a treasured gift from God.

When we are thankful for something, we don’t have time and energy to be negative. It’s natural to want to reciprocate when we’re given a gift. Service to God is a gift we can give Him. Service gives us joy. We consider it a privilege to serve Jesus. Matthew 20:26-28 says, “But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

When we see life, salvation, and church membership as gifts, our whole perspective changes. We don’t have any sense of entitlement or expectation. To the contrary, we want to be last and receive the least because that’s the way Jesus did it. And we want to be more like Him.

Paul says the number one reason people reject the reliability of the Bible and choose false teaching is not because there is some great, secret, intellectual problem with the Bible’s teaching. As much as the controversial authors today want to persuade us that they’re discovering something new, really they are just rehashing questions that have been asked and answered many times, and then putting them out in popular form. Listen to Dr. Moody’s audio of The Reliability of the Bible, Part 2


Verse Completion: . . . God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Hebrews 13:4 (NIV)

3/12/20

Good morning, Vessels of the Holy Spirit.

Song for the Day: Yet Not I, But Through Christ In Me

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because . . . (completion at the end)

Today, we will continue with a review of the book I Am a Church Member by Thom S. Rainer.

Members of a church need to have forgiving spirits. Jesus said, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15) Each one of us is imperfect including the pastor. We need to be quick to forgive. Colossians 3:12-13 says, “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

When a person joins a church, they give up their personal preferences, because they recognize they are in the church to meet the needs of others. We’re there to serve, give, and sacrifice for others. Mark 9:35b says, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”

Churches that are largely self-serving have the following behavior patterns:

• They want music to be the way they like it.

• Meetings deal with inconsequential items.

• There’s a high priority on the protection and preservation of the building and grounds.

• The programs become an end instead of a means to greater ministry.

• The budget is inwardly focused.

• There are unreasonable expectations for pastoral care.

• There’s an entitlement attitude—a sense of deserving special treatment.

• They care more about change than the gospel.

• People are angry. They criticize the church staff and others.

• Few share their faith with others.

In contrast to this is the church that is all about servanthood, giving, and putting others first instead of everything being about me, myself, and I.

In Philippians 2:5-11 we are told to have the same attitude Jesus had:

• He “did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage.”

• “He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave.”

• “He humbled Himself.”

• He became “obedient to the point of death.”

When we feel we have come to the end of our rope dealing with difficult people, we need to remember the cross.

We need to lift up our pastor in daily prayer. Pray:

• That God would give him wisdom, insight, and preach the words God gives him to preach.

• That he would not neglect his family.

• That he would be above reproach, faithful to his wife, self-controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher, not addicted to wine, not a bully but gentle, not quarrelsome, not greedy, and that he would manage his household competently. (see 1 Timothy 3:2-4)

• That the devil’s traps that are set to take the pastor down will fail.

• That the pastor would have physical and mental strength to carry out his responsibilities.

• That the pastor would experience the peace only God can give.

God works through the prayers of believers. Even just a five minute prayer for the pastor can make a difference in his day.

There’s an unfortunate pattern that often takes place in many churches:

• A person gets excited about a church.

• The person gets involved in a church.

• The person gets more involved in the church.

• The person starts to see imperfections in the church, the pastor, the staff, and other members.

• The person gets discouraged about the church.

• The person leaves the church.

What we have to remember is no church, pastor, or church member is perfect. We have to remember we are not perfect either. We aren’t part of a church to see what we can get out of it. We’re part of a church to serve and care for others. We’re to look for opportunities to be givers, not receivers. When we are frustrated with others, that’s an opportunity to pray for the person. Jesus put things into perspective when He said, “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5

Influenced by the fantastical myths of Greek culture, teachers were encouraging young Christians that if they really wanted to grow spiritually, they must have a mystical “buzz”–some kind of lightning-bolt experience. In contrast, this passage encourages us to place our confidence, rationally and spiritually and with good reason, in the truth of God’s Word. Listen to Dr. Moody’s audio on The Reliability of the Bible, Part 1


Verse Completion: . . . love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 (NASB)

3/11/20

Good morning, Son Worshipers.

Song for the Day: God

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: And the disciples were continually filled with . . . (completion at the end)

The Home Team groups have been studying two books this year. The first book used was I Am a Church Member by Thom S. Rainer. For the next three days, we will take time to review this book.

Membership in a country club has perks. There are privileges. It means other people will serve you while you enjoy a life of leisure since you have paid your dues. Unfortunately, sometimes people think church membership works the same way. For them, membership is about receiving instead of giving, being served instead of serving, rights instead of responsibilities, and entitlements instead of sacrifices. This wrongful view of membership sees the tithes and offerings as membership dues that entitle members to a never-ending list of privileges and expectations, instead of an unconditional cheerful gift to God.

The body of a church is comprised of people that are very different from each other, but they are all united in their love for Jesus. There is diversity in the midst of unity. 1 Corinthians 12:12 says, “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.” When one part of the body doesn’t function well, the whole body suffers. 2 Corinthians 12:26-27 says, “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.”

If everyone would follow the principles of the love chapter, our churches would be very healthy. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says, “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

We shouldn’t encourage and pray for our pastor only when he is doing things we like; we should encourage and pray for him even when he does things we don’t like.

When we give money to a church, we give with no strings attached.

A physical body needs all its parts to operate smoothly: feet, hands, ears, eyes, etc. What would happen if the feet decided not to function? What happens when a church member decides not to function in a church? Every person in a church has a role, and its important that they fulfill that role. We need to ask ourselves, “How can I best serve the Lord through my church?” In a typical church, about one-third are functioning members. Can you imagine what it would be like if one-third of your body parts were functioning parts? Each person in a church has an important function.

Love in a church is critical. Mark 12:29-31 says, Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” In John 13:34-35 Jesus says, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” Each of us must contribute to the unity of the church.

Ephesians 3:2-3 says, “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.” We are to love those in our church unconditionally. We should never do anything that would cause division. We have to be willing to sacrifice our own personal preferences in order to keep unity in the church. “Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful!” (Colossians 3:14-15)

Gossip is destructive in churches. It tears down unity. James 3:6 says, “And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.” When a person tries to share gossip, the person should be gently rebuked.

We live in a world similar to

the world Hosea lived in 2,750 years ago. Dr. Moody explains with this audio

Love, Sex, and God, Part 2

Verse Completion: . . . joy and with the Holy Spirit. Acts 13:52 (NASB)

3/10/20

Good morning, Radically Changed.

Song for the Day: Radically Saved

Complete the Verse and Name the Book: If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, . . . (completion at the end)

Today, I’d like to share a sermon from my brother-in-law, Dr. Herb Ireland:

Jesus Inaugurates an Upside-Down World

When I say the two words “true greatness” what immediately comes into your mind? Was it the Super Bowl champions—the Kansas City Chiefs? Was it super hero Spiderman? Was it your favorite singer or musical group? We all have our own ideas of true greatness, but I want us to consider true greatness from the perspective of the Holy Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

God the Father

Centuries before Jesus Christ came to this earth, God the Father spoke these words through the statesman prophet Isaiah: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Let these words sink deep into our hearts and minds.

God the Son

One day Jesus told his disciples a second time about his coming death and resurrection from the dead. Right after that the twelve disciples began to argue among themselves about who was the greatest. Can you believe how off base they were in their thinking? Their rabbi is telling them about his coming death and they are scrambling for first place in the group of twelve.

Mark 9:33-37 says,

After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you discussing out on the road?” But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, an said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”

Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”

Jesus took this opportunity to teach the disciples the pyramid principle. The world sees greatness as a pyramid where the closer a man or woman is to the peak of the pyramid, the greater he or she is honored, the lighter the burden, and the more people he commands to serve him and honor him. This was typical thinking during the time of Jesus and is still the same today.

But when Jesus came to this earth He challenged this type of thinking and presented a radical reversal of earth’s way of looking at things. He ushered in the Kingdom of God as an upside-down world.

With an upside-down pyramid, the closer a man or woman gets to the inverted “peak,” the lower his prestige, honor and glory. With this new approach the burden gets heavier and the more people he or she carries in love.

Think on these words from the lips of Jesus and how they turn everything up-side-down in life:

· “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35).

· “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)

· “Whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:4)

· “Whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:44-45).

God the Holy Spirit

The Apostle Paul wrote about the third person of the Holy Trinity and contrasted the way the world works and the way of the Holy Spirit: “The acts of the flesh are obvious: idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:19-23)

Once again, we see the sharp contrast between the way the world works under the control of the evil one and the inauguration of a new way to live and work in the kingdom of God. Thankfully, the Holy Trinity has given us specific instructions on how to live a life that pleases Him and helps people. The authentic mark of this life is that it is up-side-down compared to the way the world lives.

We live in a world similar to the world Hosea lived in 2,750 years ago. Dr. Moody explains with this audio “Love, Sex, and God, Part 1”:  Biblical Answers; Love, Sex and God part 1


Verse Completion: . . . the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. Luke 9:26 (NIV)

3/9/20

Good morning, Salt & Light.

Song for the Day:  Trading My Sorrows

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds . . . (completion at the end)

Yesterday, Pastor Michael gave the sermon “The Parable of the Sower” based on Matthew 13:1-23.

Even though this passage of Scripture has been labeled “The Parable of the Sower,” the main point is not about the sower. The main point is not about the seed. The main point is about the soil.

Matthew 13:10-17 says,

His disciples came and asked him, “Why do you use parables when you talk to the people?”

He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. That is why I use these parables, For they look, but they don’t really see. They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand. This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says, ‘When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes—so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.’

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it.”

Parables are stories that relate a point to a spiritual truth. A parable makes one point. They can reveal the truth, but they can also conceal the truth. To some who heard the parables, the truth was revealed. To others who heard the parables, the truth was concealed. They didn’t get the point Jesus was making. When we hear truth, we have a choice to accept it or reject it. We have to pursue Jesus to understand the meaning of what He said. If we understand, we gain wisdom or enlightenment. If we ignore what Jesus says, we remain ignorant. It behooves us to accept the words of Jesus and apply them to our lives. Those who want more of God will be given more.

Matthew 13:18-23 says,

“Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

There are four types of soil:

1. Hard soil. This is the soil that was used as a path. It gets packed down as people and animals use it, and it doesn’t give seeds a chance to sprout. The seed is the Word of God. The Word of God never gets a chance to get started before Satan takes away the seed.

2. Shallow soil. This is a shallow layer of soil. It’s good soil, but it’s only an inch or so deep, and then there’s nothing but rock. The seeds have an opportunity to sprout and start to grow, but the roots aren’t able to go deep. A person receives Jesus into their life, but their roots don’t go deep, so they end up falling away.

3. Weedy soil. If a person doesn’t get rid of the weeds in a garden, the weeds will take over the garden. They will choke out the good plants. We need to be weeding the soil of our souls. Bad soil produces no fruit. As Christians we are to bear fruit. In order for a plant to be healthy, it needs soil where it is not choked out by weeds. It’s our job to keep the weeds under control. However, if we concentrate on the weeds too much, our focus turns to them instead of the plants we are trying to grow. We can’t forget to spend time on what’s important. What’s important in our lives is Jesus. We have to get rid of the weeds that choke out Jesus. Galatians 5:13-23 shows us how to live by the power of the Holy Spirit. We have to get rid of the bad weeds that start to take over our spiritual garden: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and the like. Once the weeds are gone, we allow the Holy Spirit to plant His seeds in us that will produce fruits of: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The soil of Christ produces the fruit of the Spirit.

4. Healthy soil. We need to check the condition of our soil. We may need to add fertilizer. Not all fertilizers are the same. Each fertilizer has a purpose. We need to determine what we are lacking, and find the fertilizer that will attack the problem. For example, if the soil is lacking nitrogen, then we add nitrogen. We wouldn’t add iron if nitrogen is what it needed. As nutrients are added to the soil, the soil becomes healthy. One nutrient our soil needs to stay healthy is the reading of the Bible so we can know truth. The soil may need Bible study. The soil may need the application of the Bible to our lives. Weeds can be idols we’ve allowed to stay in our soil. They need to be removed.

Hosea 10:12: I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.’

The longer you allow weeds to grow in your life, the more they will choke out the good things in your life. It may be time to plow up the hard ground in our hearts. It may be time to get rid of the shallow soil places in our life. It may be time to do some weeding. We want soil that will produce thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as what was planted. Jesus is asking, “How’s your soil? How’s your fruit? It’s time to seek the Lord until He comes.

What should we look for in a church? Dr. Moody shares his thoughts: Big Church - Small Church, Does Size Determine Health?


Verse Completion: . . . complete in the sight of my God. Revelation 3:2 (NIV)

3/7/20

Good morning, Follower of Christ.

Song for the Day: Lord I Need You

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: and having been freed from sin, you became . . . (completion at the end)

When God places a shepherd to be in charge of a flock, that shepherd has a tremendous responsibility to look after the spiritual well-being of those he is taking care of. The shepherd desires for those who don’t know Jesus, to come to know Him as their personal Lord and Savior. He has a responsibility to those in the flock who already know Jesus, to mature them in the Lord—to help them understand God’s words to us and put them into practice. Let’s take a look at some of the responsibilities of a pastor:

· Conduct worship services

· Prepare and deliver sermons

· Address the needs of the hearers

· Base sermons on Scripture

· Conduct public prayers

· Make visitors feel welcome

· Minister to those with needs and problems: counseling, hospital/home visits

· Deal with conflict situations

· Promote an atmosphere of growth and learning

· Teach classes

· Encourage and guide leaders of different ministries

· Live out in his personal life what he preaches and teaches

· Reach out to all age groups

· Reach out to the community to show evidence of a biblical vision

· Motivate those in the church to be active in outreach

· Promote missions abroad

· Lead the church board

· Lead the elders

· Put people in leadership positions that will be able to use their strengths to build God’s Kingdom

· Provide training for leadership positions

· Delegate responsibilities

· Maintain a close relationship with God

· Listen to God

· Value his marriage and family

· Evidence a sense of calling regarding his ministry

· Take time for reflection and study

· Avail himself of opportunities to continue education

· Cultivate good working relations with leaders in the church

· Relate to other shepherds in neighboring churches

This is not a complete list of responsibilities, but I hope you can start to grasp the magnitude of the weight carried by pastors.

Soulshepherding.org reported that:

· 75% of pastors report being “extremely stressed” or “highly stressed.”

· 91% have experienced some form of burnout in ministry and 18% say they are “fried to a crisp right now.”

· 70% constantly fight depression.

· 80% believe their pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families, and 33% said it was an outright hazard.

· 80% of ministry spouses feel left out and unappreciated in their church.

· 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.

I would encourage you to read the article “10 Ways to Protect your Pastor from Burning Out” by Dr. Jenny McGill, Dean for Indiana Wesleyan University and adjunct faculty member at Dallas Theological Seminary: 10 Ways to Protect Your Pastor from Burning Out

Knowing all this, why would people be quick to criticize a pastor, a shepherd of an entire flock? Unfortunately, it happens now, and it happened in the past. Probably the shepherd with the largest flock was Moses. Numbers 12:1-9 reveals an incident involving criticism:

While they were at Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses because he had married a Cushite woman. They said, “Has the LORD spoken only through Moses? Hasn’t he spoken through us, too?” But the LORD heard them. (Now Moses was very humble—more humble than any other person on earth.)

So immediately the LORD called to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam and said, “Go out to the Tabernacle, all three of you!” So the three of them went to the Tabernacle. Then the LORD descended in the pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the Tabernacle. “Aaron and Miriam!” he called, and they stepped forward. And the LORD said to them, “Now listen to what I say: “If there were prophets among you, I, the LORD, would reveal myself in visions. I would speak to them in dreams. But not with my servant Moses. Of all my house, he is the one I trust. I speak to him face to face, clearly, and not in riddles! He sees the LORD as he is. So why were you not afraid to criticize my servant Moses?”

The LORD was very angry with them, and he departed.

We need to treasure our shepherd. We need to pray for him. We need to encourage him. The last thing he needs to hear is criticism. Of course, pastors are not perfect, and they sin and make mistakes just like the rest of us. If one feels like a criticism needs to be made against the pastor, I would suggest you preface the criticism with at least three positive things you see the pastor doing. Let him know how much you appreciate all he does. After that has been done, gently address the area of concern you have. Remember, God was very angry with those who criticized Moses. We shouldn’t take criticizing our pastor lightly.

Let’s close today with these Scriptures:

· Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. Ephesians 4:29

· Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. Colossians 4:6

· So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

· So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.Romans 14:19

· 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. 1 Corinthians 10:23b-24

· May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus.Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory. Romans 15:5-7


Verse Completion: . . . slaves of righteousness. Romans 6:18 (NASB)

3/6/20

Good morning, Praise Singers.

Song for the Day: Lord Reign in Me

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for . . . (completion at the end)

Yesterday, Dr. Michael Wedman gave the lecture “Promise and Restoration” based on Micah 6 and 7.

The book of Micah is made up of three sections: the summons to hear, the oracle of doom, and a statement of hope.

Summons to Hear—Micah 6:1-8:

“Listen to what the Lord says . . . “ The first two verses are put into a legal format. The Sinai Covenant was a legal contract and was witnessed to. Deuteronomy 30:19 says, “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” In Deuteronomy 32, Moses turns the Sinai Covenant into a song because songs are easier to remember. Isaiah 1:2 says, Listen, O heavens! Pay attention, earth! This is what the LORD says: “The children I raised and cared for have rebelled against me.”

Micah is to present the case. The mountains are the witnesses and jury. The mountains have witnessed the actions of Israel over a long period of time.

In verses 3-5 we have a witness impact statement. God is asking, “How have I wronged you? How have my actions led you to do this?” God’s actions have been only good. God has brought blessing upon them, not harm. They received redemption from Egypt with godly leadership. No one could curse them; they could only be blessed. There was the crossing of the Jordan and the defeat of Jericho. God has kept His part of the covenant. He has acted rightly and justly toward them.

In verses 1-5 it was God who spoke. In verses 6-8 it was Micah who spoke. We have his expectation: How do we worship our God? Do we do it with choice sacrifices. Do we do it with many sacrifices? Do we do it with the most precious of sacrifices? In verse 8 we have the answer: By giving justice toward others. By giving mercy toward others. By having humility before God. By living rightly before God and others!

Justice has to do with how we treat others. James 1:27 says, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”

Mercy is hesed love toward others. It includes faithfulness and kindness.

To walk humbly with God means to live in conscious and constant relationship with God—recognizing who He is and who, then, we are: He is God, and we are not. It’s the opposite of, “Look at me!” God wants our heart and a relationship. Sacrifices don’t mean anything when the heart isn’t right. Micah is contrasting religion with relationship. God has no interest in the multiplication of empty religious acts. See Jeremiah 17:19-27 and Psalm 51:16-19.

Oracle of Doom—6:9-7:6

There’s mistreatment of the poor, false scales and weights (cheating and deception), violence against others, and lying and falsehood is the common language. They were having no consequences for their bad behavior because they were using bribes to pay off those who could inflict consequences on them.

God has begun to destroy them with famines, war, and the loss of crops. Another sin is mentioned—following after false gods. Omri was the father of Ahab of the famous Ahab/Jezebel pair. Another judgment is mentioned—the nation will be ruined and made to be a scorn of the other nations. Leviticus 26:31-33 says, “I will make your cities desolate and destroy your places of pagan worship. I will take no pleasure in your offerings that should be a pleasing aroma to me. Yes, I myself will devastate your land, and your enemies who come to occupy it will be appalled at what they see. I will scatter you among the nations and bring out my sword against you. Your land will become desolate, and your cities will lie in ruins.” Israel is no longer the head, and is now the tail.

Chapter 7 is Micah’s lament. There is no one left who is righteous. There’s no one left for him to fellowship with. There’s no one righteous, no not one. See Romans 3:10-12; Psalm 14:1-3; 53:1-3. There is murder, evil practices, the distortion of justice for their own gain, false righteousness, and there’s confusion and disorder of societal relationships. There’s no trustworthiness or faithfulness including the members of a family. Even the marriage relationship has no trustworthiness or faithfulness. Contrast this with Malachi 4:5-6.

Statement of Hope—7:7-20

Micah turns the focus onto hope—hope in God. The godly will look to their Savior in times of distress and destruction. There is an expectancy of salvation and restoration. God is still faithful. Where sin abounds, grace abounds even more! Romans 5:20-6:4 says, “God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? 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.” Sin always results in death, but grace always results in life. However, grace does not give us a license to sin.

The Israelites and the inhabitants of the earth will be judged for their sin. The day is coming when all will be made right. The Shepherd is coming to lead His people. John 10:11 says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.” Jesus is the One spoken of in Micah 5:2: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf.” The nations will be ashamed but the righteous will rejoice.

There is no God like our God! Our God forgives sin. Our God is faithful. Our God shows His hesed love to His people. Exodus 34:6-7a says, The LORD passed in front of Moses, calling out, “Yahweh! The LORD! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But I do not excuse the guilty.”

Conclusion/Summary

God will restore the rightful order of creation when Jesus returns! Wait for God. Trust in God. Be faithful to God, because He is faithful to you!


Verse Completion: . . . teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16 (NIV)

An Apologetic for the Local Church pg 1

An Apologetic for the Local Church pg 2

3/5/20

Good morning, Holy Spirit Followers.

Song for the Day: One Way

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: And by this we know that we have come to know Him, . . . (completion at the end)

After reading Genesis 46-Exodus 4 and Matthew 15-16, the following prayer was prayed:

Dear Heavenly Father, your hand was on Jacob’s family and 70 of them moved to Egypt so they wouldn’t starve to death during the famine. We take food for granted here in America, and we think we are the ones who provided it, but we know it’s you who provides food for us. We want to give you thanks for your abundant provisions. You deserve all the praise and glory, and we give it to you now.

When the famine was so severe, the people exchanged their livestock for food. When that food was gone, they gave up their land for food and were willing to be slaves to Pharaoh. Thank you for watching over the Israelites and guiding their every step including being sold into slavery. When bad things happen to us, as your children we know we are not forsaken. Your hand is still upon us. May we feel your hand and be comforted.

Tradition held the oldest son would be the one that received the inheritance and blessing. Lord, tradition doesn’t get in your way. You upset the apple cart several times: Isaac receiving the blessing instead of Ishmael, Jacob instead of Esau, Joseph instead of Reuben, and now with Joseph’s sons—Ephraim instead of Manasseh. If you choose to bless a person, that person will be blessed in spite of what tradition dictates. We don’t need to try and manipulate circumstances so we get the blessing. If you want to bless us, you will. You may choose not to bless us, and that’s okay, too. Regardless of what happens, may we be content with what you have in store for us.

Father God, life seems to have its ups and downs; times when things run smoothly and times when things are rough. For the Israelites, things were running poorly—life was tough. The new Pharaoh didn’t know Joseph, and the Israelites were afflicted with hard labor. In addition, every son born to a Hebrew woman was to be put to death. Yet you were there, and you were working to deliver your people. You allowed Moses to be adopted by the Pharaoh’s daughter and nursed by his own mother.

God, you called Moses into a leadership position. He did not see himself as a capable leader. He did not feel adequate to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. God, you said, “Certainly I will be with you.” When you call us to do a task, it’s not us but you working through us that makes it possible for us to accomplish the task. You don’t have to have gifted people to work with. What you need is a willing spirit. May I have a willing spirit to accomplish all you have for me to do.

Father in heaven, you revealed yourself to Moses through a burning bush that didn’t consume itself in the flames. You told Moses, “I am Who I Am.” Moses was to tell the people, “’I Am’ has sent me.” God, you are LORD, Yahweh, Adonai, Jehovah. You are the Creator of the Universe. When you speak, we need to listen, and you have spoken much through your words found in the Holy Bible. May your words be important enough to us that we take them to heart and follow them.

When Moses tried to get out of being your spokesperson by saying he was not eloquent and was slow of speech and tongue, you said, “Who has made man’s mouth? . . . Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.” If you, the Creator of our mouths tells us to use them for you, we need to be obedient. You will make sure our mouth gets the job done. No task is too difficult for you, and if we are called by you, no task is too difficult for us because you will be working through us.

Jesus, you showed the people in Tyre and Sidon you are God by healing the demon-possessed daughter. By the Sea of Galilee you healed the lame, crippled, blind, dumb, and others. When 4,000 men (not including women and children) were hungry, you fed all of them with seven loaves and a few small fish. You truly are God’s Son, and we worship you today as the healer of our body and soul.

May we remember your words, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign.” We don’t seek signs and wonders from you because we have everything we need when we have you. May we seek to do your will rather than seek signs and wonders.

There were false teachers back in your time on Earth, the Pharisees and Sadducees, and there are false teachers today. Help us to spend time daily in your word and be led by the Holy Spirit so we can identify false teachers, so we won’t be fooled by them.

Jesus, you revealed to Peter that you were the Christ. Thank you for revealing yourself to us, too. Jesus, we declare you are the Christ.

Jesus, we see that in order to be one of your children, we have to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow you. If we want to save our life, we’ll lose it, but if we lose it for you, we’ll gain life. If we have a great life now but lose our soul, it’s all for naught. Help us to have our priorities right and follow you no matter what the cost—even the cost of our lives. In your precious name, amen.


Verse Completion: . . . if we keep His commandments. 1 John 2:3 (NASB)

3/4/20

Good morning, Fellow Christian.

Song for the Day: Once and for All

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: If anyone will not work . . . (completion at the end)

Our lives have milestones. To name a few, we have: the day we were born, the day we started school, the day we finished school, the day we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, the day we got married, the day a loved one died, and the day we die.

I was listening to Lauren Daigle’s song Once and for All (today’s song), and some of the lyrics jumped out at me. Here are the lyrics:

God I give You all I can today

These scattered ashes that I hid away

I lay them all at Your feet

From the corners of my deepest shame

The empty places where I've worn Your name

Show me the love I say I believe

Oh Help me to lay it down

Oh Lord I lay it down

Oh let this be where I die

My lord with thee crucified

Be lifted high as my Kingdom's fall

Once and for all, once and for all

There is victory in my Saviors loss

And In the crimson flowing from the cross

Pour over me, pour over me yes

Oh let this be where I die

My lord with thee crucified

Be lifted high as my Kingdom's fall

Once and for all, once…

Notice those words placed in bold print. As I listened to the song, I pictured a person laying down their life—dying. It made sense with the next line of “let this be where I die.” I pictured the place where a person would die. I made it personal making we wonder where the place would be where I would die. Would it be in a hospital, at home, or somewhere else? And then there’s the line, “My Lord with Thee crucified.”

As Christians we hear a lot about being born again. We are born naturally with our mother, and then we are born again when we are born into the Kingdom of Heaven when we repent of our sins and go to Jesus for forgiveness. After listening to the song, I started thinking we as Christians die twice. The first time we die is what is in bold print above—when we die to self; when we allow ourselves to be crucified with Jesus. When we become a follower of Christ, maybe we should be having a funeral service for ourselves because we are dying to ourselves. The old us is gone, buried, cremated. A new life begins. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

Galatians 2:20 says, “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Mark 3:34-38 says, Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, [Jesus] said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Big events in our lives deserve special recognition. On that day when we are crucified with Christ and we die, a funeral needs to take place. Life will never be the same. It’s the most important day of our lives. It’s the only milestone day in our lives that has eternal ramifications.

A funeral is often called a celebration of life. It’s a happy time in the sense that we remember many good times with the person who is deceased, and we rejoice that as Christians they have entered into a new life with Christ. They’ve entered the realm where they get to live with Jesus and there are no more tears, no more death, no sorrow, no crying, and no pain. All these things are gone forever (see Revelation 21:4). However, a funeral is a time of sorrow for those left here on Earth. We miss the person who has departed and we will continue to miss them until the day when we are reunited.

If we had a funeral for ourselves when we were crucified with Christ, there would be sorrow on that day as we remember our sins and repent of them. There would also be sorrow for not dying with Christ earlier than we did. But it would also be a day of great celebration. We freely received; now we can freely give (see Matthew 10:8). We are no longer slaves of sin. Philippians 3:8-9a says, “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him.”

Romans 6:5-11 says,

Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.

We celebrate because we get to spend eternity with Jesus, the one who died for us. That’s something we can celebrate every single day of our lives.

If you have the time, listen to Lauren’s song one more time and thank Jesus for the privilege and honor of dying alongside of Him.


Verse Completion: . . . neither let him eat. 2 Timothy 3:10b (NASB)

3/3/20

Good morning, Jesus Only Worshipers.

Song for the Day: Only Jesus

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, . . . (completion at the end)

Who are your current day heroes? One of mine is Alex Honnold who climbed the 2,900 foot El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in three hours and 56 minutes free solo (without any ropes or special equipment). He’s the only one to have ever accomplished this. What I admire in Alex is his mental strength coupled with his physical strength to accomplish something of this magnitude. Here is a photo of him in Yosemite climbing free solo:

Click for Photo

Another hero of mine is Dan Schneider, a pharmacist in a small town in Poydras, Louisiana. His 22-year-old son was killed while in a bad part of New Orleans. He was likely trying to purchase drugs there. Since the majority of murders of this nature go unsolved, Dan decided to go after the murderer himself. He put his life on the line to figure out who had murdered his son. After a lot of hard work, he found his son’s killer.

Dan didn’t want this to happen to other people’s children, and he set out to fight the drug problem. He discovered a “pill mill” doctor in New Orleans who was handing out opioids like it was candy. Dan did his own investigative work and was instrumental in having Dr. Jacqueline Cleggett’s practice shut down. The qualities I admire in Dan are his courage, persistence, and his tenacity to make sure what is right gets accomplished. Here’s a photo of Dan:

Click for Photo

Another hero of mine (although he’s not a current day hero) is Balaam (sorry—no photo available at this time). The qualities I admire in this man are his courage, integrity, loyalty, and inner fortitude.

Balak was the king of the Moabites, and he feared the Israelites. Numbers 22:3-4 says, And when the people of Moab saw how many Israelites there were, they were terrified. The king of Moab said to the elders of Midian, “This mob will devour everything in sight, like an ox devours grass in the field!” King Balak wanted the Israelites stopped, so he sought the help of a non-Israelite prophet by the name of Balaam. The king wanted Balaam to curse the Israelites so he could conquer them and remove them from the land. Verses 7-8 say, Balak’s messengers, who were elders of Moab and Midian, set out with money to pay Balaam to place a curse on Israel. They went to Balaam and delivered Balak’s message to him. “Stay here overnight,” Balaam said. “In the morning I will tell you whatever the LORD directs me to say.” So the officials from Moab stayed there with Balaam.

Verses 12-13 say, But God told Balaam, “Do not go with them. You are not to curse these people, for they have been blessed!”

The next morning Balaam got up and told Balak’s officials, “Go on home! The LORD will not let me go with you.” I suppose that kind of pressure would be similar to the President of the United States sending a delegation of officials from Washington D.C. to your house with money to get you to put a curse on people you are not a part of. That’s some pressure! But Balaam didn’t fold.

But that’s not the end of the story. Verses 15-18 say, Then Balak tried again. This time he sent a larger number of even more distinguished officials than those he had sent the first time. They went to Balaam and delivered this message to him:

“This is what Balak son of Zippor says: Please don’t let anything stop you from coming to help me. I will pay you very well and do whatever you tell me. Just come and curse these people for me!”

But Balaam responded to Balak’s messengers, “Even if Balak were to give me his palace filled with silver and gold, I would be powerless to do anything against the will of the LORD my God.

Balaam decided to go with the king’s messengers to see the king of Moab. The king said to Balaam, “Didn’t I send you an urgent invitation? Why didn’t you come right away? Didn’t you believe me when I said I would reward you richly?”

Balaam replied, “Look, now I have come, but I have no power to say whatever I want. I will speak only the message that God puts in my mouth.” (verses 37-38) The pressure is intensifying on Balak. It would be like us speaking directly to the President face-to-face with his many officials surrounding him. Everyone around you feels one way, and you alone feel differently. It’s difficult for me to imagine the pressure Balaam felt.

Numbers 23:7-12 reveals what Balaam told the king and the king’s reaction:

This was the message Balaam delivered:

“Balak summoned me to come from Aram; the king of Moab brought me from the eastern hills. ‘Come,’ he said, ‘curse Jacob for me! Come and announce Israel’s doom.’ But how can I curse those whom God has not cursed? How can I condemn those whom the LORD has not condemned? I see them from the cliff tops; I watch them from the hills. I see people who live by themselves, set apart from other nations. Who can count Jacob’s descendants, as numerous as dust? Who can count even a fourth of Israel’s people? Let me die like the righteous; let my life end like theirs.”

Then King Balak demanded of Balaam, “What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies. Instead, you have blessed them!”

But Balaam replied, “I will speak only the message that the LORD puts in my mouth.”

You would think Balak would give up at this point, but he continued to apply pressure. Balaam said, “Listen, I received a command to bless; God has blessed, and I cannot reverse it!”

Balak replied, “Fine, but if you won’t curse them at least don’t bless them!” Notice how if Satan can’t get you to do his will, he will attempt to have you compromise what you know you should do.

But Balaam replied to Balak, “Didn’t I tell you that I can do only what the LORD tells me?” (see verses 13-26)

Surely, Balak will leave Balaam alone now, but no! King Balak takes Balaam to the top of Mount Peor. There more pressure is applied. But the Spirit of God came on Balaam, and Balaam gave a message inspired by the Holy Spirit that culminated with these words: “Blessed is everyone who blesses you, O Israel, and cursed is everyone who curses you.”

King Balak flew into a rage against Balaam. He angrily clapped his hands and shouted, “I called you to curse my enemies! Instead, you have blessed them three times. Now get out of here! Go back home! I promised to reward you richly, but the LORD has kept you from your reward.” (see Chapter 24:1-11)

Finally, Balak gave up trying to break down Balaam. That’s what I mean by courage, strength, integrity, and loyalty. So many great qualities are in the man Balaam. He is truly an inspiration!


Verse Completion: . . . just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32 (NASB)

3/2/20

Good morning, Former Rebels.

Song for the Day: Who's Side Are You Leanin' On

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number . . . (completion at the end)

Yesterday, Pastor Michael delivered a stirring message titled “Whose Side Are You Leanin’ On?” based on Matthew 12:22-50. Matthew wrote to show the Jews (and everyone else) that Jesus is the Messiah. He wanted them to pick which side of the fence they wanted to be on—the Lord’s side or Satan’s side. There’s no middle ground.

Then a demon-possessed man, who was blind and couldn’t speak, was brought to Jesus. He healed the man so that he could both speak and see. The crowd was amazed and asked, “Could it be that Jesus is the Son of David, the Messiah?”(verses 22-23)

Having a demon was worse than losing one’s sight or ability to speak. Satan is out to destroy our lives. This demon-possessed man had no ability to see, no ability to speak, no friends, and no hope. 1 Peter 5:8 says,

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

Satan looks for someone to devour while Jesus looks for someone to heal, to restore their sight, to restore their ability to speak, to give peace to a life of turmoil. What did the man do when he was healed? He praised the One who delivered him—Jesus.

But when the Pharisees heard about the miracle, they said, “No wonder he can cast out demons. He gets his power from Satan, the prince of demons.” (verse 24)

The Pharisees can’t deny the miracle, so they deny the One who did the miracle. The Pharisees don’t love others. 1 Corinthians 13:6 says,

[Love] does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.

The Pharisees aren’t concerned about justice; they are concerned about power, influence, position, being known as the pillars of the community, being known for long prayers and generous giving. What the Pharisees didn’t understand is that money should be used to worship God and not oneself. The Pharisees wanted to get rid of truth because truth would expose them for who they really were—self-servers. In an attempt to get rid of truth, they tried to get rid of the Messenger. They weren’t interested in the Kingdom of God; they were interested in the Kingdom of Self.

Jesus knew their thoughts and replied, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart. And if Satan is casting out Satan, he is divided and fighting against himself. His own kingdom will not survive. And if I am empowered by Satan, what about your own exorcists? They cast out demons, too, so they will condemn you for what you have said. But if I am casting out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you. For who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger—someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house. (verses 25-29)

Demonic activity is not logical; one cannot arrive at truth when involved with demonic activity. As soon as truth is being approached through logic, the demonic activity will find a distraction. A house divided against itself cannot stand. In verse 29, the strong man is Satan.

“Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me.

“So I tell you, every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven—except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven. Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come.

“A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad. You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.” (verses 30-37)

Whose side are you leanin’ on? There’s no sitting on the fence. There’s no pretending. What’s in your heart? You are either for God or against Him. Jesus is always challenging us to change—to be transformed. Good does not come from an evil heart. God knows what’s inside your heart, and you know what’s inside your heart.

Verses 31-32 reference what has been called the unforgiveable sin—blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Look carefully at the context of this verse. Jesus has just cast out a demon, and the Pharisees have said the power to do it came from Satan, the prince of demons. The Pharisees rejected what came from God and called it from Satan. The works of Satan have been labeled as works of God. This is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. John 16:8-9 says,

“And when [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me.”

The Holy Spirit convicts us and regenerates us. Titus 3:3-7 says,

Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. But—When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.

If we reject the Holy Spirit, we reject salvation.

One day some teachers of religious law and Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove your authority.”

But Jesus replied, “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.

“The people of Nineveh will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they repented of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. Now someone greater than Jonah is here—but you refuse to repent. The queen of Sheba will also stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for she came from a distant land to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Now someone greater than Solomon is here—but you refuse to listen.

“When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. Then it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order. Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. That will be the experience of this evil generation.”(verses 38-45)

Jesus had just finished healing a man of being possessed by a demon, healing his eyes so he could see, and making it possible for the man who was dumb to speak. Now in verse 38 the Pharisees are asking for a miraculous sign.

Verse 40 has a prediction of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Verse 41 tells of the people of Nineveh repenting of their sins when they were preached to, but God with skin on is preaching to the Pharisees, and they are not repenting.

The Queen of Sheba recognized God, but the Pharisees do not.

Verses 43-45 deal with a demon being cast out. When this happens, the person has a choice—go back to having demons or continue with God. The Pharisees had a choice: whose side would they lean on? When we reject Jesus, we open ourselves to Satan. 2 Timothy 2:23-26 says,

Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.

If we stop following God, we start following Satan. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 says,

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears what to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths.

Myths are falsehoods. Falsehood is the language of Satan. Ephesians 4:25-26 says,

So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

If we hold on to anger, we are giving Satan a foothold; we are opening the door of our lives to Satan. Whose side are you leanin’ on? Deal quickly with anger.

As Jesus was speaking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, and they want to speak to you.”

Jesus asked, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!”

Whose side are you leanin’ on? If you’re doing your own will, you are leanin’ on Satan’s side. If you are doing God’s will, you are leanin’ on God’s side. Jesus is even more important than family. Take a look at your words, your actions, and your heart. Whose side are you leanin’ on? Jesus is the Savior of the world. Believe in Him and receive Him as your Lord and Savior.


Verse Completion: . . . of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 2 Timothy 4:3 (NIV)

2/29/20

Good morning, Child of the King.

Song for the Day: I Am Not Alone

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: I have been crucified with Christ and . . . (completion at the end)

Pastor Kevin Ulmet is the lead pastor of Nashville First Church of the Nazarene in Nashville, Tennessee. I was sent the following blog and thought I would pass it on to you. I like what he has to say:

NO REASON BUT LOVE

Karen and I were staying in a hotel recently. A breakfast buffet was offered, and we discovered much to her disappointment that there were no grits on the buffet. This is a major issue for my grits-loving Alabama girl, so I asked the server, who informed me that it was a "corporate decision" to remove grits from the breakfast bar menu. She apologized profusely, then said "let me check on something." She returned in a few minutes with news: "Our cook found some in the back. She's making them now. It'll be just a few minutes."

I had two reactions: my first was to say "Oh no, don't go to that trouble - this isn't that big of a deal!" She would not be talked out of her kind gesture. My second was to think to myself "these won't be any good - especially in these circumstances."

A few minutes later two huge bowls of steaming grits appeared. Perfectly prepared, by someone who obviously knew what they were doing. Wow. Some further information: with our frequent lodging status we weren't paying for the buffet. No one was making any money on this gesture. Also, "corporate" had made the decision - there was no earthly reason to go to this extra effort for a couple of free-loading customers, EXCEPT...someone cared, someone wanted to go the extra mile, someone was focused and concerned about...US!

As we enter the Lenten season, and take the journey once again through the Gospels to the last supper, the cross, and then...Easter - remember a few things. There was no earthly reason for God to design the plan of salvation, and for Jesus to willingly submit to it. Only love! There was nothing in it for Him, except suffering and death. It was all for us. No other way to describe it, no explanation makes any sense at all, except...well - here we were, unable to save ourselves, and someone cared enough about us, yes, loved us enough, to do this.

Every person is totally free, endowed with free choice and free will from our Creator, to decide how we respond to this gift of grace. Lent is our season to once again remember what those choices are, and why we choose to receive it: love. Only love. There's no other reason.

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17 (NLT)

Pastor Ulmet

If you would like to read more of his blogs, you may go to the following website. Today’s blog is the first one listed (2/27/20):

Pastor Ulmet Blog


Verse Completion: . . . I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 (NIV)

2/28/20

Good morning, Praise Singers.

Song for the Day: Revelation Song

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of . . . (completion at the end)

Yesterday, Dr. Michael Wedman gave a lecture on “Desolation and Exultation” based on Micah 3-5. The message of Micah is in three parts:

· A summons to hear

· An oracle of doom

· A statement of hope

Chapters 3-5 are predominantly Messianic. Chapter 3 is about the desolation of Israel. Chapter 4 deals with the salvation of Israel. The rule of the King of David is found in Chapter 5.

Chapter 3

The poetic device used here is the strophe which is like a stanza. There are three strophes that are four verses long each. A summons to hear and an oracle of doom are found in each of the three strophes. The statement of hope is found in chapters four and five. Micah continues to address the leadership about their sin.

1. Strophe 1: A message to the princes in the first four verses.

o This is addressed specifically to the leaders. They are taking advantage of the people through their corrupt courts. They don’t care about true justice.

o God will not answer them in the days that they seek justice from God. God will treat them as they treated His people. God will hide His face from them because of their evil—see Numbers 6:22-26. To be blessed by God is to have God look at you—to have His presence. When God hides His face from you, darkness comes upon you.

§ It’s skinkin’ thinkin’ to think that every time you sin God is going to strike you down. God waits for you to repent and turn from your sin. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.”

§ When God has given you ample time to repent, and the sin continues with no repentance and turning from sin, that’s when one is in danger of consequences.

§ Was Jesus really bad and that is why He was hung on a cross? Of course not! Sometimes we suffer because we are good and do the right things.

2. Strophe 2: A message to the false prophets is found in verses 5-8.

o The false prophets prophecy for money. They prophecy whatever the money pays them to prophecy. They are not seeking God’s word for the people. 1 Timothy 6:5 says, “These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy.”

§ There is parallelism in this poetry—the same message is repeated but using different words. With parallelism, the author could compare and contrast.

o The seers will no longer “see.” The light of God’s words will no longer shine for them. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”

o God will no longer speak His words to them. The people are more afraid of what man can take away from them than they are afraid of what God can take away from them. This is one reason we don’t witness to others.

o In verse eight, we see Micah contrasting true prophecy from false prophecy. A true prophet is filled with the Holy Spirit. A true prophet knows the justice of God. A true prophet declares sin.

3. Strophe 3: A message to the princes, priests, and prophets in verses 9-12.

o All three levels of leadership are addressed. They all despise and distort justice for their own gain. They all take bribes and do what money asks of them.

o They still believe God will look after them. They tell others that God is their support. But God is against them. The whole nation will be destroyed because they led in the way of evil.

o There is accountability before God when you are a leader. False prophets asked people what they wanted. True prophets asked God what Hewanted. Are we true or false leaders?

Chapter 4

This begins a lengthy section of the Statement of Hope. It is divided into two sections: verses 1-5 and 6-13. In the last days is a reference to the coming of the Messiah. Hosea 3:5 says, “But afterward the people will return and devote themselves to the LORD their God and to David’s descendant, their king. In the last days, they will tremble in awe of the LORD and of his goodness.” Often this writing is apocalyptic in nature—denoting the end times.

The temple on Mount Zion will be rebuilt. The nations will come from all over the world to hear the words of God. They will want to know how to receive salvation. The Messiah will restore true justice to the nations. There will be no more wars. This is a great promise of hope. Everyone will recognize who God is.

The weapons of war will be turned into instruments of peace. This is in contrast to Joel 3:10 which says, “Hammer your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. Train even your weaklings to be warriors.” Israel will be committed to walking with God.

When reading prophecy, keep in mind there is near fulfillment (“soon” to take place) and far fulfillment (to take place in the “far” off future).

Verses 6-8 indicate that in that day God will bring back a remnant from exile. God will rule over the remnant. God will restore the kingship to Israel. The first will be last and the last first.

Verses 9-10 are back to the current day of the prophecy of doom. It brings to focus the short-comings of the earthly king. It promises the coming of the true king to redeem them—the Messiah.

Verses 11-13 show that the nations believe they are in control and the ones who will do the plundering. However, it is God who is really in control, and He will once again raise up His people to plunder and rule the nations.

Chapter 5

Verses 1-3: A ruler will arise—the Messiah! See Matthew 2:1-6. The Messiah will come to save His people.

Verses 4-6: The Messiah will be a shepherd for His people. John 10:11 says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.” The Messiah will be peace for His people:

· Isaiah 9:6: For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

· Romans 5:1: Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.

The Messiah will lead His people into victory over their enemies. See Revelation 19:11-16.

Verses 7-9: The remnant of Israel will be a blessing to the people of the nations. They will be rulers among the nations.

Verses 10-15: On that day, every strength that Israel trusts in will be taken away so they trust only in God. Their trust is in weapons of war—horses and chariots (see Deut. 17:16 and Isaiah 2:7). Their trust is in their walled and fortified cities. Their trust is in their diviners and sorcerers. They trust in the idols they have made for themselves. They trust in the idols of the other nations. God will take away all the idols that they replace their faith in God with. God will destroy the nations who have not put their faith in Him. (See Rev. 19:11-16 again)

Conclusion

God’s people will suffer loss now because of their disobedience to God. The suffering of loss is so they learn to trust in God alone. Only their faith in God will save them. God will restore them by raising up the Messiah in the last days. The Messiah will rule the nations with His people ruling with Him.

When we’re being refined, it hurts.

2 Peter 1:20-21: Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.

Dr. Moody discusses positive and negative consequences for behavior: Covenant Fidelity


Verse Completion: . . . compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.Colossians 3:12 (NASB)

2/27/20

Good morning, Prayer Warriors.

Song for the Day: Surrounded (Fight My Battles)

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: When any one hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom . . . (completion at the end)

What comes to your mind when you hear faith healer? It could be you think of the enthusiastic preacher/healer who tells his followers that all they need to be healed is faith. “What you believe is what you will receive. If you believe God can heal you of your disease, then you will be healed.” Verses such as Matthew 9:29-30a are often quoted: Then [Jesus] touched their eyes and said, “Because of your faith, it will happen.” Then their eyes were opened, and they could see! When someone is not healed by the modern day faith healer, they are told it’s because of their lack of faith.

As is often the case with lies, there is some truth mixed in with the lies. There is certainly truth in faith being an important part of the Christian life:

· And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. Hebrews 11:6

· For we live by believing and not by seeing. 2 Corinthians 5:7

· For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)

· If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do. James 1:5-8

· Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.Romans 12:3

· Jesus continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You belong to this world; I do not. That is why I said that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I AM who I claim to be, you will die in your sins.” John 8:23-24

· “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” Mark 9:23

· Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.” Matthew 21:21-22

· I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

· “Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.” Galatians 2:16

· I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

· The apostles said to the Lord, “Show us how to increase our faith.” Luke 17:5

What we don’t want to do is lift isolated verses out of context and make sweeping applications. For example, we don’t want to say, “The Bible says in Mark 11:24: ‘I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.’ And these are the words of Jesus, so I’m praying for a new Lamborghini sportscar.” As you read the rest of the Bible, do you read where people asked God for extravagant material goods and God faithfully handed them out like a rich uncle? If there were cases like that throughout the Bible, then that argument could be used to make a point. But that’s not what we find. There are other verses that talk of Christians being hated by others, persecuted, put in prison, insulted, excluded, rejected, falsely accused of all kinds of evil, pursued by enemies, and worse. Paul said in Philippians 3:10b, “I want to suffer with [Jesus], sharing in his death.”

We have to know God’s word in order to identify that which is not true; that which does not line up with His word. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 says,

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths.

Matthew 24:23-25 says,

“Then if anyone tells you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah,’ or ‘There he is,’ don’t believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. See, I have warned you about this ahead of time.”

I don’t think you are going to hear these verses quoted by faith healers:

· Is there no medicine in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why is there no healing for the wounds of my people? Jeremiah 8:22

· We hoped for peace, but no peace came. We hoped for a time of healing, but found only terror. Jeremiah 8:15

· Why do you protest your punishment—this wound that has no cure? I have had to punish you because your sins are many and your guilt is great. Jeremiah 30:15

· [God] said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the LORD who heals you.” Exodus 15:26

· Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 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 12:8-10

· Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16

· Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. Acts 10:38b

· One Sabbath day as Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, he saw a woman who had been crippled by an evil spirit. She had been bent double for eighteen years and was unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Dear woman, you are healed of your sickness!” Then he touched her, and instantly she could stand straight. How she praised God!Luke 13:10-13

· And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment.Hebrews 9:27

· [God] will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever. Revelation 21:4

Did Lazarus die because he didn’t have enough faith to be healed?

God cannot be manipulated or controlled. There’s no formula to follow for healing by God. God is God. He will do as He pleases. If we desire healing, we should go to Him as the Great Physician who made us and understands how everything should work. God is certainly capable of healing anyone of anything, but that doesn’t mean He will. We can ask Him in faith to heal us, but He hasn’t guaranteed us He will heal us in this lifetime. We can rest in the fact that He is sovereign. He may choose to heal us. He may choose to delay healing until He returns to Earth and the resurrection of our dead bodies place.

What in the Bible could be compared to a lady wearing a wedding dress while gardening? Dr. Moody explains: Atonement


Verse Completion: . . . seed was sown beside the road. Matthew 13:19 (NASB). See also Mark 4:14-15 and Luke 8:11-12.

2/26/20

Good morning, Followers of Jesus.

Song for the Day: Day's of Elijah

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who . . . (completion at the end)

Many years ago I had an idea for a newspaper column. I would read the “Dear Abby” column that had people writing in about relationship concerns. I thought it would be great to have people write in about their jobs—especially the tough ones. What gave me the idea was several times I thought to myself, “I must have the worst job in the world.” I would think these thoughts as I was working on a B-52 bomber on the flight line in Spokane at night with the wind blowing and it being below zero in temperature. I would think that same thought when I was getting sprayed with toxic chemicals from a crop duster flying just a few feet above me as I marked his path to spray with my flashlight at night after all the bees were in. What I conceived of was something similar to Mike Rowe’s “Dirty Jobs” except people would write in about their experiences. I thought maybe by reading a column like that people’s spirits would be lifted as they read about jobs worse than their own.

There’s one person’s job I wouldn’t have wanted, and that’s the job of Moses leading over two million people through the desert. They weren’t very happy campers either! Of course, the person to blame when anything went “wrong” was Moses. One complaint the people had was the manna from God. They were tired of it. They longed for the fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic they used to have in Egypt. Let’s pick up the story in Numbers 11:10-15:

Moses heard all the families standing in the doorways of their tents whining, and the LORD became extremely angry. Moses was also very aggravated. And Moses said to the LORD, “Why are you treating me, your servant, so harshly? Have mercy on me! What did I do to deserve the burden of all these people? Did I give birth to them? Did I bring them into the world? Why did you tell me to carry them in my arms like a mother carries a nursing baby? How can I carry them to the land you swore to give their ancestors? Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people? They keep whining to me, saying, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy! If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favor and spare me this misery!”

It sounds like Moses was having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day (just like Alexander in Judith Viorst’s book). We’ve all had days like that, and it’s nice to know we can go to God and tell Him just how we feel. God knew just how Moses felt. He felt the same way about the Israelites except to a stronger degree.

Some time later, God had Moses send twelve men (leaders of the 12 tribes) into Canaan to explore the land. Two men, Joshua and Caleb, returned with a good report of a land flowing with milk and honey. However, the other ten returned with a negative report of the people living in Canaan being powerful with large, fortified towns and even giants living there. They said next to the Canaanites, they were like grasshoppers, and the Canaanites looked at the Israelites as if they were such.

Numbers 14:1-12 records what happened next:

Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!” they complained. “Why is the LORD taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!”

Then Moses and Aaron fell face down on the ground before the whole community of Israel. Two of the men who had explored the land, Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, tore their clothing. They said to all the people of Israel, “The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land! And if the LORD is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey. Do not rebel against the LORD, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the LORD is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!”

But the whole community began to talk about stoning Joshua and Caleb. Then the glorious presence of the LORD appeared to all the Israelites at the Tabernacle. And the LORD said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? Will they never believe me, even after all the miraculous signs I have done among them? I will disown them and destroy them with a plague. Then I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they are!”

Notice how the people felt deserted by God, and then the glorious presence of the LORD appeared to all the Israelites at the Tabernacle. We go through times of trial and tribulation in our lives. Part of it is because God is testing our faith and stretching our faith. He hasn’t deserted us; He’s been there the whole time—we just couldn’t feel His presence. Then God gives us seasons of refreshing.

In this particular case, God was very angry with the Israelites to the point of destroying them with a plague, and he said to Moses, “Then I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they are!” What would you have done if you were Moses? I probably would have said, “It’s about time. You’ve given them way too many chances. It’s time for You and me to part our ways with the Israelites. Thank you for your word to make me into a nation greater and mightier than them. You can count on me; I won’t disappoint You like they did!” Is that what Moses said? Verse 19 records what Moses said:

“In keeping with your magnificent, unfailing love, please pardon the sins of this people, just as you have forgiven them ever since they left Egypt.”

No wonder Moses was such a great prophet! Acts 13:22a says, “But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart.’” I can’t help but wonder if Moses wasn’t a man after God’s own heart, too. What made Moses a man who stood out from others? I think a clue if found in Numbers 12:3:

(Now Moses was very humble—more humble than any other person on earth.)

Moses had one of the worse jobs on the planet, but he was a servant of the LORD, and that’s what made him such an outstanding person. Today, let’s concentrate on being humble people; people God can use in His kingdom.

Love Your Children and Your Spouse page 1

Love Your Children and Your Spouse page 2


Verse Completion: . . . worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name. Revelation 14:11 (NIV)

2/25/20

Good morning, Readers of the Word.

Song for the Day: Is He Worthy

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: And Pilate wrote an inscription also, and put it on the cross. And it was written, . . . (completion at the end)

Today we continue with the second half of Dr. Ireland’s sermon “Our Eyesight Is Determined by our Insight.” The text has been 2 Kings 6:8-23.

When Jesus was ministering on this earth He exposed the ruthless warfare of Satan upon human beings and defeated Satan. Let’s take a look at Mark 1:23-27:

Suddenly, a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, “Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!

But Jesus reprimanded him. “Be quiet! Come out of the man,” he ordered. At that, the evil spirit screamed, threw the man into a convulsion, and then came out of him.

Amazement gripped the audience, and they began to discuss what had happened. “What sort of new teaching is this?” they asked excitedly. “It has such authority! Even evil spirits obey his orders!”

Disciples of Jesus Christ must remember that our eyesight is determined by our insight. 2 Kings 6:16-17 says:

“Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” Then Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes and let him see!” The LORD opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.

When Elisha’s servant in terror informed him that they were surrounded by the enemy and as good as dead, the old prophet declared, “Don’t be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (6:16). This is the pivotal truth in this story: Do not be afraid! Why? Because those who are with us are more than those with them.

Elisha then prayed and asked the Lord to open his servant’s eyes that he might see into the heart of reality. The Lord did just that and when the young man looked at the mountains surrounding Dothan, they were filled with horses and chariots of fire. God had sent a heavenly army to protect his prophet and servant.

The Scripture then informs us that the Syrian army was blinded and led into Samaria where they could have been destroyed except Elisha treated them with kindness and turned an enemy into a friend.

Those who identify themselves, as disciples of Jesus Christ must remember the truth that “our eyesight is determined by our insight.” In other words, how, we look out at the world and interpret it is determined by the inner grid we each have within our minds.

Is your inner grid secular and worldly? If your inner grid is secular then you will interpret the world through eyes that are blind to spiritual realities. You are blind to your own spiritual blindness. Is your inner grid spiritual? If so, then you will interpret the world through a Biblical viewpoint. Is your inner grid basically spiritual but compromised with dirt and dust like you would see on a dirty cabin filter from your car? If so then you will interpret the world through a split vision of being a worldly Christian.

The antidote to not falling away from the Living Lord or into depression over the victories of Satan in our world is to constantly keep our inner grid clean and pure so we can see with spiritual eyes that “greater is He that is within us than he that is in the world” (I John 4:4).

These six strategies facilitate the inner cleansing of the grid:

1. Daily Bible reading

2. Daily listening and communicating with the Living Lord through prayer

3. Attending worship services

4. Participation in a small group of believers

5. Serving others

6. Supporting God’s mission with money.

These sound so elementary, but if you don’t do them, you are opening your life up for spiritual discouragement and defeat.

When I think of the elementary acts that disciples of Jesus need to do and redo to keep spiritually fit, I am reminded of the famed football coach Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers. In the 1960’s he led his team to five N.F.L. championships in seven years. After a game in which his team was badly beaten, he gathered the men in the locker room and declared that they needed to go back to the basics and then held up a football and said, “Gentleman this is a football!”

Philip Ryken, President of Wheaton College, told this story. About twenty years ago he received a newsletter from a medical missionary who was serving in a small field hospital in Africa. The missionary told how about every two weeks he would have to travel to a city to get medical supplies. The normal pattern of the trip was to camp one night in the jungle and then arrive at the city the following day.

The missionary was in the city and had already gone to the bank for money and purchased the drugs and supplies he needed for the hospital when a man approached him. The missionary recognized him as a patient he had treated earlier. The man told him that he knew that the missionary carried money and drugs back to the field hospital. So, he recruited his friends and they planned to follow him into the jungle and when he set up camp and fell asleep they were going to kill him and steal the drugs and money.

However, when he was asleep and they were about to move in for the kill, they saw armed guards all around him. The missionary laughed and told him that there were certainly no traveling guards with him. But the young man pressed the point and told him that he was not the only one to see the guards. His five friends also saw more that 20 guards and so they were afraid to attack and left him alone. It was then that the missionary knew that the Living Lord had sent His angels to protect him from death.

But wait that is not the end of the story. Later when the missionary was in America and moving to various churches to raise money for his support, a man came up to him and told how the Lord laid on his heart that he needed to intercede for him. He told the missionary the date and pressed him to remember where he was at. After reflection the missionary told him that he was in the jungle sleeping when the man was praying in America.

Disciples of Jesus Christ living in America are increasingly coming under attack from our society and Satan and his minions. It is easy to give way to discouragement and fear, but we need to hear the words of the prophet again: “Do not fear, because those who are with us are more that those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:16). 


Verse Completion: . . . “Jesus the Nazarene, The King of the Jews.” John 19:19 (NASB)

2/24/20

Good morning, Children of the King.

Song for the Day: Draw Me Close to You

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that . . . (completion at the end)

For today and tomorrow, I’d like us to “hear” a sermon from my brother-in-law, Dr. Herb Ireland, a retired minister from the Pacific Northwest. The title of his sermon is “Our Eyesight Is Determined by our Insight.” Here is the first part of his sermon:

I must confess that from time to time as I look out at the world I have been discouraged. It just seems that Satan and those the Apostle Paul describes in Ephesians 6:12 as “rulers, authorities, the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” are winning.

Take for instance, while the Roman Catholic Church in the country of Ireland is dominate yet the population voted to repeal the law banning abortion.

Another stinging defeat for the Christian faith came when the Communist Party in China declared that the Church of Jesus Christ would now come under their control. On March 22, 2018, the Chinese Communist Party announced that all "religious affairs" in China would henceforth be supervised by a shadowy Party office called the "United Front Department." Why? Because the Communist Party sees the Church as a direct threat to their rule of the country. The Chinese Communist government has observed that the nation has a case of “Christianity Fever.”*

The suicide rate in the United States has surged to the highest levels with increases in all age groups except older adults. For instance, T.V. celebrity and chef Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade committed suicide. In these tragic suicides Satan and his demons win.

Facing this reality what are disciples of Jesus Christ to do when they look out and the world seems so dark and discouraging? First, we must remember that God is Sovereign over the entire universe and our world in particular. Nothing happens unless He allows it. Next, we have to squarely face the fact that Scripture refers to Satan as the “god of this age” (II Corinthians 4:4) and “that the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (I John 5:19).

With these depressing facts before us, let’s turn to God’s Word for some good news. Let’s think about the fact that our eyesight is determined by our insight. II Kings 6:8-23 says:

When the king of Aram was at war with Israel, he would confer with his officers and say, “We will mobilize our forces at such and such a place.”

But immediately Elisha, the man of God, would warn the king of Israel, “Do not go near that place, for the Arameans are planning to mobilize their troops there.” So the king of Israel would send word to the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he would be on the alert there.

The king of Aram became very upset over this. He called his officers together and demanded, “Which of you is the traitor? Who has been informing the king of Israel of my plans?”

“It’s not us, my lord the king,” one of the officers replied. “Elisha, the prophet in Israel, tells the king of Israel even the words you speak in the privacy of your bedroom!”

“Go and find out where he is,” the king commanded, “so I can send troops to seize him.”

And the report came back: “Elisha is at Dothan.” So one night the king of Aram sent a great army with many chariots and horses to surround the city.

When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha.

“Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” Then Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes and let him see!” The LORD opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.

As the Aramean army advanced toward him, Elisha prayed, “O LORD, please make them blind.” So the LORD struck them with blindness as Elisha had asked.

Then Elisha went out and told them, “You have come the wrong way! This isn’t the right city! Follow me, and I will take you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to the city of Samaria.

As soon as they had entered Samaria, Elisha prayed, “O LORD, now open their eyes and let them see.” So the LORD opened their eyes, and they discovered that they were in the middle of Samaria.

When the king of Israel saw them, he shouted to Elisha, “My father, should I kill them? Should I kill them?”

“Of course not!” Elisha replied. “Do we kill prisoners of war? Give them food and drink and send them home again to their master.”

So the king made a great feast for them and then sent them home to their master. After that, the Aramean raiders stayed away from the land of Israel.

In this story the king of Aram (Syria) was waging war against Israel. If this sounds familiar to you, remember that President Bashir Assad of present-day Syria is still waging war with Israel through its proxy Iran.

In the Biblical story, the king of Syria became quite agitated because when he would set up his strategy to attack Israel he found that his military plans were countered again and again by Israel.

Finally, the king of Syria lashed out at his military commanders and accused one of them of being a traitor in league with Israel.

However, one of his servants informed him that no one in his inner circle was a traitor but it was the work of Elisha the prophet in Israel who informs his king of his military plans and even what he talks about in his bedroom.

With this information the Syrian king sent out a reconnaissance party to find his enemy Elisha. The report came back that he was residing in Dothan. This was the break he was looking for and he sent a large army by night to surround the city.

The next morning when the servant of Elisha arose early to make coffee and breakfast for him he looked out at his world and terror gripped his heart. The large Syrian army surrounded the city and he knew he and Elisha were as good as dead.

Followers of the Living Lord face a dangerous enemy who is bent on destroying our faith in God. The Apostle Peter declared: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (I Peter 5:8).

In the first chapter of the book of Job we find that the angels of God came to present themselves to the LORD and Satan came with them. God asked Satan what he had been up to and he responded: “Roaming back and forth throughout the earth.” In other words, Satan was looking for his next victim.

In third-world countries Satan is often recognized for his destructive power whether it is through voodoo or witch doctors. However, Satan shifts his strategy depending upon which culture and country he is working in. For instance, in America he deceives people so they think he does not even exist. The closest thing the majority of Americans equate Satan with is a Halloween costume of a person dressed up with a grotesque mask and holding a pitchfork. With this deception that there is no Evil One working in our world, we are unguarded and easy pickings for him to destroy.

*Alan Hunter and Kim-Kwon Chan, Protestantism in Contemporary China (Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 1993), 4.

Tomorrow we will continue with Dr. Ireland’s sermon.


Verse Completion: . . . Jesus is the Son of God. Acts 9:19b-20 (NIV)

2/22/20

Good morning, Heaven Bound.

Song for the Day: My Redeemer Lives

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Do not merely listen to the word, and so . . . (completion at the end)

You may have heard it said, “Everyone has their price.” In other words, everyone can be persuaded to do what you want if they are offered a large enough amount of money. Do you believe that? There are certainly no shortage of people who are willing to do what is wrong in order to gain financially. But does everyone have their price? Absolutely not! My father is one who could never be bought. There’s no amount of money a person could have paid him to do something he knew was against God’s will. His treasures were not here on Earth; they were in heaven. Money is part of earthly treasures. It’s here one day and gone the next. There’s no security in money at all. However, treasures in heaven are secure. A crash in the stock market, a decline in health, an accident, a depression in the economy, inflation, thieves, . . . nothing can take away treasures stored up in heaven.

Habakkuk was another person who could never be bought. In Habakkuk 3:17-19, we find his prayer to God:

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.

Habakkuk’s faith was not grounded in circumstances. Good times and bad times are all part of life. It didn’t matter how bad the bad times got Habakkuk was going to rejoice in the LORD. Nothing could take the LORD away from him. Everything else might be taken away from him, but nothing could take the joy of his salvation away from him.

God spoke to Habakkuk and said, “Look at the proud! They trust in themselves and their lives are crooked. But the righteous will live by their faithfulness to God.” (2:4) If a faithful person to God was asked to do something against His will, there’s no amount of money that could make the faithful servant turn unfaithful.

Job was another person who would never compromise his faith in God. He had it all, and then he lost it all. After losing it all, Job said, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The LORD gave me what I had, and the LORD has taken it away. Praise the name of the LORD!” (Job 1:21) Circumstances did not affect Job’s relationship with God. Job didn’t have a price. The very next verse says, “In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God.”

How far are you willing to go to do what is right? In the movie that was shown at church last night, Courageous, there was a character who would not compromise his beliefs. He desperately needed a good job. He was offered a great position in a company as long as he was willing to do some shady business that was customary practice for the company. If he turned this high position down, his family wouldn’t have an income. He struggled over the decision, but in the end, he proved he couldn’t be bought. He turned the position down. As it turned out, he did get the job—the “shady business” was just a guise to see if he was an honest person. The company was looking for a man of integrity, and they found their man.

We were bought with the blood of Jesus. There’s no higher price that could be paid for us. 1 Peter 1:18-19 says, “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.” There’s no amount of money that could ever equal that price. 1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a says, “You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price.” We’ve been bought with such a high price; why would we ever sell ourselves for anything less? The richest billionaire couldn’t buy us back from Jesus, because there’s no amount of money that equals what Jesus paid. If someone tried to buy you (through doing something shady, something sinful, something that wouldn’t honor God) for $100,000, that should be such an insult to you after what God paid for you. A person of integrity can’t be bought for any monetary price.

Let’s be people of integrity and faithfulness.

Engaging Our Fears page 1

Engaging Our Fears page 2


Verse Completion: . . . deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22 (NIV)

2/21/20

Good morning, Vine Implants.

Song for the Day: Chain Breaker

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to . . . (completion at the end)

Yesterday, Dr. Michael Wedman gave a lecture on “Judgment and Warning” based on Micah 1 and 2. He started with a background of the times. In 782-740 B.C., Israel and Judah were strong and thriving outwardly, but they were decaying inwardly—spiritually and morally. These nations were led by Jeroboam II and Uzziah. The prophets Hosea, Amos, Isaiah, and likely Joel prophesied to Israel to repent.

Around 745-727, Assyria was becoming a great nation through Tiglath-pileser. The prophet Jonah prophesied to Assyria that they needed to repent, and they did! There was also the Syro-Ephraimite war where Syria and Israel tried to force Judah to join them in opposing Assyria.

King Ahaz of Judah resisted Israel and Syria and asked Tiglath—pileser for help. Isaiah encouraged Ahaz to trust God alone (see Isaiah 7). Ahaz turned to Tiglath-pileser for help (see 1 Kings 16).

In 727-722, Shalmaneser V occupied Israel and laid siege against Samaria. In 722, Sargon II destroyed Samaria and sent the Israelites into exile.

With the Northern Kingdom of Israel destroyed, the Assyrians turned to capturing the Southern Kingdom. King Hezekiah sought God’s help (see 1 Kings 18-19). King Sennacherib turned back and was assassinated. Isaiah 37:33-38 provides some details of what took place: “And this is what the LORD says about the king of Assyria: “’His armies will not enter Jerusalem. They will not even shoot an arrow at it. They will not march outside its gates with their shields nor build banks of earth against its walls. The king will return to his own country by the same road on which he came. He will not enter this city,’ says the LORD. ‘For my own honor and for the sake of my servant David, I will defend this city and protect it.’”

That night the angel of the LORD went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. When the surviving Assyrians woke up the next morning, they found corpses everywhere. Then King Senacherib of Assyria broke camp and returned to his own land. He went home to his capital of Nineveh and stayed there.

One day while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with their swords. They then escaped to the land of Ararat, and another son, Esarhaddon, became the next king of Assyria.

This is the beginning of the decline of the Assyrians. They never set foot in Jerusalem after this. It was the Babylonians who set foot in Jerusalem later on.

Let’s continue the background information and look at the man Micah. Micah is short for “Micaiah” which means, “Who is like Yahweh?” He was from Moresheth on the plains of Judah. This place was referred to as Moresheth-Gath (see 1:14). It is identified by the larger city. It would be like saying Seattle-Renton. Moresheth was 20 miles southwest of Jerusalem and 5 miles west of Gath.

Micah prophesied about the Northern and Southern kingdoms, but mostly about the Southern Kingdom. The Northern Kingdom’s fate had largely been sealed by this time. Micah was to confirm it. Micah sought to turn his people of Judah back to seeking God.

Micah prophesied during the reigns of Jotham (a 16 year reign—see 2 Kings 15:3ff), Ahaz (also a 16 year reign—see 2 Kings 16), and Hezekiah (a 25 year reign—see 2 Kings 18). This was during the time of Isaiah.

Now let’s look at the uniqueness of Micah. Micah sought to bring repentance to his nation of Judah during the time of the destruction of the Northern Kingdom. Micah’s message resulted in revival! The people did repent of their sins and turned back to God. Micah is mentioned in Jeremiah 26:17-19 (see Micah 3:12). The prophecies of Micah resulted in repentance and revival in the kingdom of Judah. This is why Judah lasted another 150 years.

The message of Micah is in three sections:

1. 1:1-2:13

2. 3:1-5:15

3. 6:1-7:20

There are three parts to the message:

1. A summons to hear

2. An oracle of doom

3. A statement of hope

In verses 2-5, we have a summons to hear. Micah declares the Sovereign LORD is making accusations against the people. He is speaking from His holy Temple. Like Amos, there is a description of the power and might of God. God is coming in judgment because of the sin of Israel and Judah.

In verses 1:6-2:11, there is the oracle of doom. Verses 6-7 are an oracle against Samaria. This briefly touches on the Northern Kingdom. Verses 8-16 is the response of Micah. He is grieved to see judgment on his people. His heart reflects the heart of God—desiring salvation and repentance.

In his oracle of doom, Micah mentions 12 cities. Of these cities, 10 of them have a play on words or a pun. It’s an example of poetry. It’s likely that all the cities have been attacked by Assyria in his campaign against Jerusalem.

Here are the play on words that Micah uses as he refers to the cities:

1. Beth Ophrah means “house of dust” and Micah tells them they will roll in the dust.

2. Shaphir means “beautiful, fair, pleasant” and Micah tells them they will experience the opposite of beautiful, fair, and pleasant.

3. Zaanan means “to exit or come out” and Micah tells them they will not come out.

4. Beth Ezel means “the nearby city” or “the standing city” and Micah tells them their city will no longer stand to protect.

5. Maroth sounds like the word for bitterness in Hebrew. Micah tells them they will writhe in pain and bitterness.

6. Lachish is a military city where the horses and chariots are kept for war. Micah tells the people they will flee like horses and chariots.

7. Moresheth Gath sounds like “betrothed” in Hebrew. Micah tells them no gifts will be given to the betrothed couple.

8. Aczib sounds like the word in Hebrew that means “to be deceptive.” It is used to describe a stream that has dried up. Micah tells the people the town will be useless in the time of war; it is deceptive in its power and strength.

9. Mareshah is related to the word that means “possessor” or “heir.” Micah is telling the people they will be possessed by another.

In the original Hebrew language, every word was made up of three consonants. Using context, readers would know what vowels to add to form the word needed. As time went on, the Hebrew language evolved into something very different. Vowels with dots and marks were added to the consonants. The dots and marks indicate how the vowel is pronounced—for example, a short e or long e sound. A person fluent in Hebrew today would not be able to read the Hebrew that the Bible was written in unless they studied the original Hebrew which is no longer used.

This section of Scripture began with a reference to King David:

· “Tell it not in Gath, weep not at all” in verse 10

· See 2 Samuel 1:19-20—a eulogy over King Saul and Jonathan.

This section ends with a reference to King David:

· “cave of Adullum” in verse 15

· David fled there to hide from King Saul.

The whole poem is a dark and foreboding prophecy that Israel will go into hiding and will themselves be the object of the eulogy. It is an emotional warning to Israel to recall dark times and to avoid them by repentance.

Ten cities are mentioned—a number of fullness. References to David bookmark the 10 cities. In the middle is a statement that the disaster has come from God. The form of poetry called a chiasm is used here by Micah as it was by Amos:

David’s mourning

Five cities

LORD

Five cities

David’s hiding

The message of the poem is to put God at the center of your life. If you do, God will be for you instead of against you.

There is an oracle against the wealthy in 2:1-5. They plot evil by using their power and position to increase their wealth. They take advantage of the poor and powerless. Consequently, they will become the powerless and oppressed.

There is an oracle against the false prophets in 2:6-11. They prophecy only good and happy things. They say, “Sin all you want; God still loves you.” It’s a message of health and wealth. They say whatever will make the people feel good. They give the people what they want to hear: the gains of following God instead of the cost of following God. They do not warn the people of God’s judgments but preach only blessing. Because of this the people spiral down into sin and wickedness. They no longer act as God’s people. The false prophets cause a famine of the Word of God. The people welcome the false prophets who condone what they want to do. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 says:

I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he comes to set up his Kingdom: Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths.

But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.

In Micah 2:12-13, we find a statement of hope. There is a promise of God’s covenant presence for Israel once again. The King will be established once again with Yahweh leading the nation as He once did before.

In conclusion, God has a case against Israel (the blank can with your name), because they have sinned against Him and have broken the covenant. The judgment of God is at hand. Repentance leads to salvation. God will once again lead in victory if we repent.

Keep short accounts with God. Confess and repent daily.


Verse Completion: . . . those who obey Him. Acts 532 (NASB)

2/20/20

Good morning, Kindness Spreaders.

Song for the Day: Raise a Hallelujah

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not . . . (completion at the end)

Parents and teachers are accustomed to laying down rules for kids and having consequences for the breaking of those rules. When Pastor Michael was teaching about Amos, he related how God was similar to parent or teacher in that the consequences would start out rather mild and progress to severe punishment if necessary.

In Leviticus 26, God laid out consequences for breaking His covenant by rejecting His decrees and treating His regulations with contempt, and refusing to obey His commands. These consequences appear to be in levels of punishment that progressively intensify:

· Level One:

     o Punishment—level one

     o Sudden terrors

          § Wasting diseases

          § Burning fevers that cause eyes to fail and life to ebb away

     o Enemies will eat the crops you have grown

     o Defeated by enemies because God has turned against you

     o Ruled by those who hate you

     o You will run even when no one is chasing you

· Level Two:

     o Punishment—seven times over

     o Make the skies as unyielding as iron

     o Make the earth as hard as bronze

     o Proud spirit will be broken

     o Land will yield no crops

     o Trees will bear no fruit

· Level Three:

     o Disaster seven times over

     o Wild animals will rob you of your children

     o Wild animals will destroy your livestock

     o Your numbers will dwindle

     o Your roads will be deserted

· Level Four:

     o God Himself will be hostile towards you

     o God will personally strike you with calamity seven times over

     o Armies will be sent against you to carry out the curse of the covenant you have broken

     o When you run to other towns for safety, a plague will destroy you there

     o You’ll be handed over to your enemies

     o Your food supply will be destroyed. The bread of ten women will fit in one oven.

· Level Five:

     o God will give full vent to His hostility

     o God Himself will punish you seven times over

     o You will eat the flesh of your own sons and daughters

     o Pagan shrines will be destroyed

     o Your places of worship will be knocked down

     o Your dead bodies will be piled on top of your lifeless idols

     o You will be despised by God

     o Cities will be made desolate

     o God will take no pleasure in your offerings

     o God Himself will devastate your land

     o Enemies who come to occupy your land will be appalled at what they see

     o You will be scattered among the nations

     o God’s sword will be used against you

     o Land will become desolate

     o Cities will lie in ruin

· Level Six (for survivors):

     o You will be demoralized in the land of your enemies

     o You will live in such fear that the sound of a leaf blowing in the wind will send you fleeing

     o You will flee as if someone is chasing you with a sword, and you will fall even though no one is pursuing you

     o As you flee from no one, you will stumble over each other

     o You’ll have no power to stand up against your enemies

     o You’ll die in foreign nations

     o You’ll be devoured in the land of your enemies

     o You’ll waste away in your enemies’ lands


Which level is most appealing to you? Don’t you wonder why anyone would even consider entering even the first level of consequences? We can look at the Israelites and think how foolish it would be to do anything that would displease God, especially when he is “Yahweh! The LORD! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.” (Exodus 34:6b-7a)

Fortunately, anywhere along the path of consequences, God made provision for repentance (see verses 40-46). There are also many blessings associated with obedience (see verses 1-13). The blessings included seasonal rains, land that will yield its crops, trees that produce fruit, eat your fill, live securely in your own land, peace in your land, sleep without being in fear, surplus of crops, God will live among you, and He will walk with you and be your God.

Titus 1:15-16 says it this way, “Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are corrupted. Such people claim they know God, but they deny him by the way they live. They are detestable and disobedient, worthless for doing anything good.”

A little later in 3:3-7, Titus says, “Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient {just like the Israelites}. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. But—When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” This calls for a time of praise, thanksgiving, and celebration!

Become a Grown-up page 1

Become a Grown-up page 2


Verse Completion: . . . gather with Me scatters. Matthew 12:30 (NASB)

2/19/20

Good morning, Light of the Earth.

Song for the Day:  Yahweh

Complete the Verse and Name the Book: And it was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He . . . (completion at the end)

It’s time for a test. No worries, it’s only one question: Who is the greatest?

a) Mohammad Ali

b) The CEO of a thriving, successful business

c) A politician who is able to bring about much good

d) The pastor of a megachurch

e) A child

If you were thinking of the self-proclaimed greatest, it would be Mohammad Ali. If you were thinking of a person who had no money worries, it would probably be the CEO. If you were thinking of a person who could help the most people, it might be the politician. If you were thinking of a single person who could bring the most people to Jesus, it might be the megachurch pastor. However, Jesus didn’t pick any of them. Jesus chose a child. Matthew 18:1-6 says,

About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”

Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

“And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me. But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

Jesus values humility. The definition of humility is a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness. It’s the opposite of pride and arrogance. My wife and I were watching American Idol on Sunday, and there was a contestant who had a lot of ability and talent as a singer. He was a repeat contestant. He progressed quite far the previous year, but was let go. The judges were hard on him. They said the reason he was washed out was because of his lack of humility. He was cocky, and that didn’t sit well with the judges. It didn’t look like he had learned anything the past year, so the judges lectured him on his arrogance. They told him that a dose of humility would greatly help him advance his dream of a singing career. Fortunately, he seemed to be very open to their critique, and he accepted their advice with a humble attitude. He was given another chance.

Because Jesus valued humility, so should we. You’ve heard the adage: You attract more bees with honey than vinegar. Altering that just a bit we end up with: You attract more people with humility than arrogance.

The importance of being humble is stressed throughout the Bible. Let’s take a look at some verses:

· And all of you, dress yourselves in humility as you relate to one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.(1 Peter 5:5b-6) Notice how it says “under the mighty power of God.” We aren’t humble people naturally; we need supernatural help and that help is available to us in the mighty power of God.

· 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. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. (Philippians 2:3-8)

· “The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12)

· Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and I will forgive their sins and restore their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

· If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am.(2 Corinthians 11:30)

· Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2)

· No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

· Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall. Better to live humbly with the poor than to share plunder with the proud. (Proverbs 16:18-19

· My hands have made both heaven and earth; they and everything in them are mine. I, the LORD, have spoken! “I will bless those who have humble and contrite hearts, who tremble at my word. (Isaiah 66:2) Contrite means feeling or expressing remorse or penitence.

· Fear of the LORD teaches wisdom; humility precedes honor. (Proverbs 15:33)

· Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth—a stranger, not your own lips. (Proverbs 27:2)

· Seek the LORD, all who are humble, and follow his commands. Seek to do what is right and to live humbly. Perhaps even yet the LORD will protect you—protect you from his anger on that day of destruction. (Zephaniah 2:3)

· On the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom. (Hezekiah 1:1) You might want to look this one up.

Let’s work on being humble people today.

Can we learn anything from Leviticus that applies to our life today? Dr. Moody finds four applications in just three chapters: Sin and Sacrifice


Verse Completion: . . . spent the whole night in prayer to God. Luke 6:12 (NASB)

2/18/20

Good morning, Reborn.

Song for the Day:  Holy Hiway

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and . . . (completion at the end)

When will Jesus return to Earth? When will the rapture take place? Nobody knows. What we know for sure is Jesus is coming back for His followers; we just don’t know when. Jesus tells us in Matthew 24:31: “And he will send out his angels with the mighty blast of a trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones from all over the world—from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.” A few verses later Jesus said, “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son Himself. Only the Father knows.

“When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.” (verses 36-39)

Paul said something similar in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3: Now concerning how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters, we don’t really need to write you. For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. When people are saying, “Everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape.

Paul also explained in a little more detail what will take place at the return of Jesus in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.

We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.

We know Jesus will return, but we shouldn’t be concerning ourselves as to whenit will happen. That’s not what’s important. What is critical is that we are ready for His return. Matthew 25:1-13 says:

“Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. The five who were foolish didn’t take enough olive oil for their lamps, but the other five were wise enough to take along extra oil. When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“At midnight they were roused by the shout, ‘Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out and meet him!’

“All the bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps. Then the five foolish ones asked the others, ‘Please give us some of your oil because our lamps are going out.’

“But the others replied, ‘We don’t have enough for all of us. Go to a shop and buy some for yourselves.’

“But while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came. Then those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked. Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, ‘Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!’

“But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you!’

“So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return.”

The door of opportunity is open for us right now. We don’t know when it will be too late, but the day is coming when it will be too late. The moment of our death or the moment of Christ’s return will mark the moment when the door of opportunity will be closed never to be opened again. 2 Corinthians 6:2b says, Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.

All the words shared from the Bible today should strike terror in the hearts of unbelievers but comfort and encouragement to believers. The good news for the unbeliever is the door for knowing Jesus now and forever is wide open. Jesus invites all to enter. Mercy is extended to all today. Once the door is closed, judgment follows for all who are on the outside of the door.

Be Present With Us page 1

Be Present With Us page 2


Verse Completion: . . . heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? James 2:5 (NASB)

2/17/20

Good morning, Reborn.

Song for the Day: The Blood Will Never Lose it's Power

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for those who take up the sword . . . (completion at the end)

Yesterday, Pastor Michael shared his sermon “Mercy and Sacrifice” based on Matthew 12:1-21. When Matthew wrote his book, he had one main goal—he wanted the Jews and everyone else to know Jesus, the Messiah, the Savior of the world. He wanted them to realize Jesus was God with skin on. Many did not believe, but unbelief doesn’t change truth.

At about that time Jesus was walking through some grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, so they began breaking off some heads of grain and eating them. But some Pharisees saw them do it and protested, “Look, your disciples are breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath.” (verses 1-2)

The Pharisees were legalistic; they were all about their own law. They had a law that on the Sabbath people were only allowed a certain number of steps. Anything beyond the allowed steps was breaking the law. There were many manmade laws they passed off as God’s laws.

Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He went into the house of God, and he and his companions broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests were allowed to eat. And haven’t you read in the law of Moses that the priests on duty in the Temple may work on the Sabbath? I tell you, there is one here who is even greater than the Temple! But you would not have condemned my innocent disciples if you knew the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For the Son of Man is Lord even over the Sabbath!” (verses 3-8)

Jesus defended his disciples. He told the Pharisees His disciples were innocent; they hadn’t broken God’s laws. The Pharisees believed their goodness would get them to heaven. The Pharisees liked to have the attention on them. They liked being the big fish in a small pond.

Legalistic people condemn others for what they think is wrong. They were angry with the disciples for “harvesting” on the Sabbath, but they didn’t care that they were in the presence of God. Legalists are good at picking out the bad in others. They want to be the best person in the room.

Matthew 9:13 says, Then [Jesus] added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” The Pharisees thought they were right with God, but they were far from God.

Hosea 6:6 says, “I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.” When Hosea wrote this, the Israelites were far from God, but they were going through the motions. They were pretenders. Outwardly, they looked good, but their heart was bad. They were treating others unjustly. They served and loved themselves. Legalistic people are self-serving, religious people. But it’s not about religion; it’s about relationship.

Micah 6:6-8 says, “What can we bring to the LORD? Should we bring him burnt offerings? Should we bow before God Most High with offerings of yearling calves? Should we offer him thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Should we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for our sins? No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

God is asking us to be the opposite of legalists. We need to be repentant. Life isn’t lived in black and white; life is lived in color. In Matthew 12: 5, Jesus reminded the Pharisees that the law of Moses allowed priests to work on the Sabbath.

Then Jesus went over to their synagogue, where he noticed a man with a deformed hand. The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Does the law permit a person to work by healing on the Sabbath? (They were hoping he would say yes, so they could bring charges against him.)

And he answered, “If you had a sheep that fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you work to pull it out? Of course you would. And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath.”(verses 9-12)

The Pharisees said it was okay to work on the Sabbath to save possessions but not people. The Pharisees used people and love things. Jesus loved people and used things.

Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored, just like the other one! Then the Pharisees called a meeting to plot how to kill Jesus. (verses 13-14) Jesus celebrated people, because that’s God’s heart. The Pharisees came to celebrate the law, not celebrate Jesus. A right relationship is God-centered; Religion/legalism is self-centered.

But Jesus knew what they were planning. So he left that area, and many people followed him. He healed all the sick among them, but he warned them not to reveal who he was. This fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah concerning him: “Look at my Servant, whom I have chosen. He is my Beloved, who pleases me. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not fight or shout or raise his voice in public. He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. Finally he will cause justice to be victorious. And his name will be the hope of all the world.” (verses 15-21)

Matthew is very clearly saying that Jesus is the Messiah. Wrapped up in the word justice is mercy. God desires mercy, not judgment. Justice without mercy is judgment—not justice. There’s no such thing as justice without mercy, because mercy values people. Judgment alone values law above people. Legalistic people are the first to cry out, “That’s not fair!” while they are treating others unfairly.

We need to value Jesus above the law. Don’t put your hope in the law. Don’t put your hope in legalism. Don’t put your hope in good works, in morals, or in religious work. Put your hope in the Savior of the world—Jesus. We are to be people who reflect the heart of Jesus who is merciful, kind, and just. Proverbs 1:3 tells us to do what is right, just, and fair.

Jesus values you. Let’s value Jesus in our lives, and value mercy, true justice, and love. We need to devalue the trophy case of what we have done for Jesus.

Take Sin Seriously page 1

Take Sin Seriously page 2


Verse Completion: . . . shall perish by the sword. Matthew 26:52 (NASB)

2/15/20

Good morning, Seed Sowers.

Song for the Day: Low Down the Chariot

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must . . . (completion at the end)

Did Jesus ever become stressed out? Let’s take a look at Matthew 26:36-46:

Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me.”

Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”

Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.” When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open.

So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again. Then he came to the disciples and said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!”

Jesus became anguished and distressed. Anguish is severe mental or physical pain or suffering. Distress is extreme anxiety, sorrow, or pain. Jesus was facing death. He knew it was going to be an extremely difficult death. It’s easy to understand why Jesus was stressed out.

Sometimes we stress out about things that we shouldn’t stress out about. In the grand scheme of things, they are no big deal, but we make them out to be big deals. Those irritants we can bring to the Lord and turn them over to Him. A lot of the time that’s all we have to do. Go to a quiet place, share your concern with Jesus, and be done with it.

On the other hand, sometimes there are stressors in our life that are much more than minor irritants. Sometimes events in our life cause us great anguish and distress. I think of those who have traveled down the lonely and difficult road with a spouse who had a terminal disease. Like Jesus, their soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Extremely difficult times! Times when it seems like there’s no strength to carry on. It almost seems like a dead end.

What do you do when you’ve come to that point of desperation? Jesus gathered His friends around Him, or at least He tried to gather His friends around Him and have them comfort Him with their presence and concern. I think Jesus was wanting His friends to pray with Him and for Him. However, His friends were too tired.

Jesus prayed by Himself. He prayed for possible deliverance. When we face “unbearable” pain and suffering, we, too, look for deliverance.

We want God to step into our world and save our loved one from the pain and impending death predicted by the doctors. There’s nothing wrong with praying that prayer of deliverance! Jesus is able to heal anyone of anything. There’s no disease out of range of His healing. But notice how Jesus continued with, “Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” This is where faith and trust comes in. We surrender what we want to what God wants. It wasn’t easy for Jesus, and it’s not easy for us when we’re in the midst of the storm. 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.” God doesn’t promise us we won’t lose a loved one. God doesn’t promise us He will heal us of our disease, but He does promise to strengthen us, help us, and hold us up with His hand. Matthew 28:20b has the words of Jesus before He ascended to heaven, “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Can life be stressful for a Christian? You bet it can! But Jesus will never leave us. His Holy Spirit lives in us. You can’t get any closer to God than that!

Notice how Jesus prayed the same prayer three times. It’s okay to be repetitious in our prayers. We don’t want to be like the old codger whose wife complained that he never said he loved her. He responded with, “I told you 40 years ago, ‘I love you.’ If anything changes, I’ll let you know.” We can pray the same prayers over and over as long as those prayers are from our heart. God hears each prayer.

Jesus couldn’t have been any closer to God, and yet things didn’t turn out well for Him . . . at least for a period of time. He went through a lot of suffering before His day of resurrection. We may be called on to go through a lot, too, before our day of resurrection. As Christians, no matter what happens, the end couldn’t be any better. (As an unbeliever, things will go from bad to worse.) Meanwhile, as we are faced with difficult situations, we can’t lose sight of the future. Whatever is happening now will “soon” be past. What we do for God will last. Let’s get busy in those harvest fields.

What is the access point for people to encounter the living God? Dr. Moody answers: Instructions


Verse Completion: . . . be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 2 Timothy 2:24 (NIV)

2/14/20

Good morning, Lovers of Jesus & Others. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Song for the Day: Beautiful One

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does . . . (completion at the end)

Yesterday, Dr. Michael Wedman gave a lecture on Amos 7-9 titled “Destruction and Restoration.” As we look at the book of Amos, we can see a parallel of how parents deal with their kids and teachers deal with their students. The rules are clearly laid out, and that is followed by a violation. What follows is a review of the rules and a reminder of the necessity to follow those rules. That is Chapters 1-2 of Amos. In Chapters 3-6, we see more violations of the rules followed by even sterner warnings. There are some “mild” consequences (a parent may send a child to his/her room to think about the bad behavior). The opportunity for repentance is still open. In Chapters 7-9, the climate changes. The “parent” is done counting and giving chances to change behavior. The opportunity to repent has expired. Consequences are now going to be put into effect. It’s time to lower the boom!

In these three chapters, we have the “Five Visions of Amos:”

1. Locusts—7:1-3. There are two harvests. The first is in early spring. It’s a smaller harvest. The crop is given to the king for taxes. The second harvest is in late summer, and it’s the main harvest. Amos petitioned God for mercy. God relented and did not bring the locusts.

2. Fire—7:4-6. Obviously, this is a significant fire that would lay waste the whole land. This would be a fire sent from God. Amos petitioned God for mercy. God relented and didn’t bring the fire.

What purpose do these two visions serve? The answer is found in Exodus 32:7-14. Moses sees that it’s not all about him; it’s all about God. We see here the importance of intercession. Moses intercedes on the part of the Israelites.

As parents we intercede for our children—we ask God for His mercy on our children. We want justice and mercy rather than justice and anger. We need to intercede for each other. We need to pray for each other.

3. Plumb line—7:7-9. The plumb line is used to determine if a building is true and straight. God’s word is our plumb line. It is what is used to determine if His people are living true and upright before Him. Israel is not true; they are crooked. They have moved away from truth. Amos does not ask God for mercy. God does not relent of His judgment.

Why does Amos not ask for God to relent of His judgment and show mercy this time around? The answer is found in 1 Chronicles 21:1-16, 27-28. It is better to fall into the hands of God rather than the hands of men.

4. Basket of ripe fruit—8:1-14. Israel is ripe for judgment. God has come; there is no further delay. There is a play on words going on in Hebrew in verse 2: fruit (quyits) and end (qets). What do you see, Amos? I see ripe fruit. God sees the end. The end has come because of a failure to live uprightly and justly (see 4-10). Note in verse 11 that there will be a famine of God’s words. Why is this a problem? It’s because God’s words are the only words that save and transform lives. Only God’s words can save the soul. The success and longevity of a nation depends upon the adherence to the words of God.

5. The LORD standing by the altar. This is the most terrible vision yet. The righteous judge is standing by the altar ready to mete out justice. They know what is true righteousness and justice. People like to quote Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” However, the question we need to ask ourselves is, “Are we in a position for God to fulfill this in our lives?”

The Restoration of Israel: Israel does not end in total destruction. God desires the restoration of His people! God’s will is not to destroy but to save. Even when we are crooked and unjust, God always remains true and just. God acts upon His righteousness and justice. God wants us restored. He is a merciful God.

Conclusion: God desires that our story ends with mercy and grace, just like the story of Amos.

Although Dr. Moody is not teaching from Amos, do you see a similar message in Amos and Exodus? Unveiled


Verse Completion: . . . not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB)

2/13/20

Good morning, Friend.

Song for the Day: The Wonder of it All

Complete the Verse and Name the Book: That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For . . .(completion at the end)

After reading Genesis 44-45 and Matthew 15:1-20, the following prayer was prayed:

Dear Heavenly Father, help me to be more like Judah. He was the brother of Joseph who took Benjamin to see the Pharaoh and Joseph and promised his dad he would be surety for Benjamin. Judah said if he didn’t bring Benjamin back home, he would bear the blame forever. Reuben told his father he could put his two sons to death if Benjamin wasn’t returned.

Judah pleaded with Joseph to let Benjamin return home and Judah would stay behind and be Joseph’s slave. Judah’s love for his father and Benjamin moved him to take action that could have dire consequences for himself—slavery in a foreign country. That’s the kind of love I want to have for you, Jesus. That’s the kind of love I want for my family, my friends, my neighbors, and even my enemies. Judah was a man of integrity, and that’s what I want to be. Give me strength. Fill me with love by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus, may I be as forgiving as Joseph was to his brothers who sold him as a slave. Joseph said to his brothers, “God sent me before you to preserve life . . . it was not you who sent me here, but God.” No condemnation; just forgiveness. May I be like that to those who intend evil against me.

Jesus, I see how the Pharisees and scribes invalidated your words for the sake of tradition. I want to be very careful to never quote tradition as if it is you speaking. That is a terrible sin. You have told me what you like and what you don’t like, and I should never add or subtract from that list. Washing my hands before I eat is good hygiene, but it’s not a sin if I don’t do it. May I clearly see the difference between sin and what is not a sin.

What you care about is the state of my heart. You don’t like it when I honor you with my words but have a heart that is far away from you. My words and my heart need to always be in sync with each other and with you. An evil heart produces evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witnesses, and slander. You are the one who makes hearts pure. Purify my heart so it is full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Holy Spirit, come inside my heart and produce these fruits. May the words I say reflect these fruits. In the name of Jesus, amen.

How long have relativistic pluralists been around? Dr. Moody explains: Golden Calf


Verse Completion: . . . when I am weak, then am I strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10 (NIV)

2/12/20

Good morning, Redeemed of the Lord.

Song for the Day: Open Heaven (River Wild)

Complete the Verse and Name the Book: If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask . . . (completion at the end)

Recently, I was watching the program “The First 48” on TV. Detectives try to solve a murder (or at least get some leads) within the first 48 hours, because they know to strike while the iron is hot. It’s more difficult to get leads after 48 hours. I found it interesting how witnesses to the murder “saw nothing.” It’s very difficult to get witnesses to talk about what they saw and for good reason—snitches end up dead.

What does the Bible say about this matter? Leviticus 5:1 says, “If you are called to testify about something you have seen or that you know about, it is sinful to refuse to testify, and you will be punished for your sin.” That’s quite clear, isn’t it? It’s doing what’s right. Doing what’s right often isn’t easy. Sometimes there are consequences—severe consequences. Sometimes doing what’s right can cost a person his/her life.

To do what’s right takes courage. Let’s take a look at a few verses:

· Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:8

· “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

· Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love. 1 Corinthians 16:13

· For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

· Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. Psalm 23:4

· So be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the LORD! Psalm 31:24

Dr. Laura Schlessinger is a popular radio talk show host. When I’ve heard her, she always signs off at the end of her broadcast with, “Now go and do the right thing.” A lot of times the advice she would give the caller would be to do something very difficult. No doubt there would be consequences from what they were asked to do, but Dr. Laura believed that the action she recommended would take care of the issue they were facing. Doing the right thing takes courage.

What else does Leviticus tell us to do? If we make a foolish vow of any kind, whether its purpose is for good or for bad, we are to admit our guilt and confess our sin. (5:4-5)

Leviticus 6:1-5a: Then the LORD said to Moses, “Suppose one of you sins against your associate and is unfaithful to the LORD. Suppose you cheat in a deal involving a security deposit, or you steal or commit fraud, or you find lost property and lie about it, or you lie while swearing to tell the truth, or you commit any other such sin. If you have sinned in any of these ways, you are guilty. You must give back whatever you stole, or the money you took by extortion, or the security deposit, or the lost property you found, or anything obtained by swearing falsely. You must make restitution by paying the full price plus an additional 20 percent to the person you have harmed.

Leviticus 19:15-18: Do not twist justice in legal matters by favoring the poor or being partial to the rich and powerful. Always judge people fairly.

“Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people.

“Do not stand idly by when your neighbor’s life is threatened. I am the LORD.

“Do not nurse hatred in your heart for any of your relatives. Confront people directly so you will not be held guilty for their sin.

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

Leviticus 19:33-35a: “Do not take advantage of foreigners who live among you in your land. Treat them like native-born Israelites, and love them as you love yourself. Remember that you were once foreigners living in the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

“Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight, or volume. Your scales and weights must be accurate. Your containers for measuring dry materials or liquids must be accurate.”

In His word, God has told us what is right and what is wrong. They both might have negative consequences, but He’s commanded us to do right. Let’s be bright lights in a dark world. Our lights will shine brightly as we are courageous and do the right thing.

Do you have questions concerning slavery in the Bible. Dr. Moody may answer your question: Law and Promise


Verse Completion: . . . whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you. John 15:7 (NASB)

2/11/20

Good morning, Heaven Bound.

Song for the Day: Jerusalem

Complete the Verses and Name the Book: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, . . . (completion at the end)

Today, let’s take a look at the close connection there is between the Old Testament and the New Testament. The New Testament is a continuation of God’s story started in the Old Testament. Let’s go as far back as Exodus. In this book, God speaks from the mountain. In Leviticus He speaks from the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle is the place where God has chosen to dwell among the Israelites.

Where does God dwell in the New Testament and in 2020? Acts 7:46-50 says, “David found favor with God and asked for the privilege of building a permanent Temple for the God of Jacob. But it was Solomon who actually built it. However, the Most High doesn’t live in temples made by human hands. As the prophet says, ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Could you build me a temple as good as that?’ asks the LORD. ‘Could you build me such a resting place? Didn’t my hands make both heaven and earth?’”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.”

Romans 8:9-10 says, “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.”

In the first seven chapters of Leviticus, we find a manual for worship. Worship is not an option for the Israelites; it’s an obligation. Worship began with a sacrifice. It was assumed that when people came to worship God, they didn’t come empty-handed. There was always an offering. As Christian believers, we don’t come to worship with empty hands either. The Israelites came with their own gifts, but we come to worship with God’s own Gift, His Son. Jesus is the basis for our approach to God and the worship of Him.

Leviticus 1:3-4 says, “If the animal you present as a burnt offering is from the herd, it must be a male with no defects. Bring it to the entrance of the Tabernacle so you may be accepted by the LORD. Lay your hand on the animal’s head, and the LORD will accept its death in your place to purify you, making you right with him.”

God determined what was an acceptable sacrifice. Notice here it is a male with no defects. Jesus was a male with no defect; He had no sin. God demanded perfection, and Jesus was the only one who qualified as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Because of the death of Jesus (His sacrifice), we are made acceptable to the LORD. God accepts the death of Jesus in our place to purify us and make us right with Him.

Hebrews 10:11-22 says:

Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. There he waits until his enemies are humbled and made a footstool under his feet. For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy. And the Holy Spirit also testifies that this is so. For he says, “This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the LORD: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”

Then he says, “I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.” And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.

And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

When we see what the Israelites went through with all their sacrifices, we can better appreciate the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross. We can also see the need of a Savior who was able to save us from our sins. Jesus was the only one qualified to make that sacrifice, and He loving obeyed God the Father. We have much to be grateful for!

Put the following in their proper order according to the pattern demonstrated in Scripture: works, obedience, grace, rescue. Check to see if you’re right: Eagles Wings


Completion of Verses: . . . joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

2/10/20

Good morning, Travelers on the Narrow Road.

Song for the Day: There is a Fountain

Complete the Verse and Name the Book: Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is . . . (completion at the end)

Today, I’d like to share part of a sermon from my brother-in-law, Dr. Herb Ireland, who is a retired minister living in Wheaton, Illinois. Here is his sermon “The Pendulum-Principle:”

How did Jesus, who was fully human, handle the same things we face? A close reading of the Gospels will reveal the pendulum-principle at work in the life of Jesus. His entire ministry had a rhythm to it like the rhythm of sleeping and waking, rest and work, and a constant pattern of withdrawal and return.

I want us to consider two examples of the pendulum-principle in the life of Jesus. The first is found in Mark 1:21-39:

Jesus and his companions went to the town of Capernaum. When the Sabbath day came, he went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike the teachers of religious law.

Suddenly, a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, “Why are you interfering with us. Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

But Jesus reprimanded him. “Be quiet! Come out of the man,” he ordered. At that, the evil spirit screamed, threw the man into a convulsion, and then came out of him.

Amazement gripped the audience and they began to discuss what had happened. “What sort of new teaching is this?” they asked excitedly. “It has such authority! Even evil spirits obey his orders!” The news about Jesus spread quickly throughout the entire region of Galilee.

After Jesus left the synagogue with James and John, they went to Simon and Andrew’s home. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with a high fever. They told Jesus about her right away. So he went to her bedside, took her by the hand, and helped her sit up. Then the fever left her, and she prepared a meal for them.

That evening after sunset, many sick and demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. The whole town gathered at the door to watch. So Jesus healed many people who were sick with various diseases, and he cast out many demons. But because the demons knew who he was, he did not allow them to speak.

Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. Later Simon and the others went out to find him. When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.”

But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.” So he traveled throughout the region of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons.

On the Jewish Sabbath Jesus began his day by teaching with such authority that the attenders were shocked and delighted with His fresh approach to the Torah. Then a man with an impure spirit was confronted and the demon was cast out of him. As soon as the service was over, Jesus along with James and John made their way to the home of Simon and Andrew to enjoy a kosher meal together. However, they found that the cook, Simon’s mother-in-law, was sick in bed with a fever. Jesus then took her feverish hand and healed her. We don’t know if Jesus took a nap like some of us do after Sunday dinner, but we do know when the sun set Jesus was inundated with people who were sick and demon-possessed. Mark declares, “The whole town gathered at the door.” At the end of this day Jesus was rung out and felt exhausted and depleted, just like we often do after a full day of work.

Please consider how sleep alone does not restore his depleted energy and equip Him for another demanding day. While deep REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is essential for recovery it is not enough. Jesus quietly withdraws in the early morning, while it was still dark, to a solitary place to pray to His heavenly Father. He needed prayer in order to replenish His strength, recreate His enthusiasm, and restore His perspective. If Jesus needed to do this as a regular rhythm of work and withdrawal how much more do we need it?

Another example is found in Mark 9:2-29. Here is a portion of that passage:

Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed, and his clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make him. Then Elijah and Moses appeared and began talking with Jesus. (verses 2-4)

When they returned to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd surrounding them, and some teachers of religious law were arguing with them. When the crowd saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with awe, and they ran to greet him.

“What is all this arguing about?” Jesus asked.

One of the men in the crowd spoke up and said, “Teacher, I brought my son so you could heal him. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk. And whenever this spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground. Then he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.”

Jesus said to them, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” (verses 14-19)

In this story Jesus deliberately leaves a crowd of needy people in the valley to ascend a mountain with Peter, James and John to withdraw and pray. He senses the need to draw close to His Father and the inner three of His disciples. While on the mountain please note the Scripture says, “They were all alone.” In this atmosphere Jesus is transfigured before the three disciples. The inner purity and majesty of His being fully God shines through His clothes. It is then that Elijah, representing the prophets and Moses representing the Law appears to talk to Jesus about His final mission of death and resurrection for the redemption of mankind. Once again we see Jesus using the pendulum-principle of withdrawing to renew his physical, emotional, mental and spiritual strength before descending into the valley of human needs that surrounded Him.

Conclusion: If we are going to have a real impact for the Living Lord, we must follow the pendulum-principle that Jesus followed during his three years of ministry on earth. A careful reading of His life will reveal deep involvement of ministering and caring for people and then withdrawing to have His spiritual, emotional and physical batteries recharged. The times of solitude, silence, and prayer in the presence of His Father kept Him from burn out and depression. If this was His strategy, shouldn’t it be ours, too?

According to Dr. Moody, there’s something you can do to lighten your burdens and chase the clouds away: Crossing the Red Sea


Verse Completion: . . . the deceiver and the antichrist. 2 John 7 (NIV)

2/8/20

Good morning, Grace Receivers.

Song for the Day: Amazing Grace

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: And do not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices . . . (completion at the end)

Are laws burdensome or helpful? I imagine it depends on what laws one is talking about. If it’s God’s laws, those who follow them from the heart and not out of obligation or for show will find them helpful. God’s laws were written for our own good.

When our first daughter was old enough to play outdoors by herself, we told her the road was off limits. The sidewalk was fine, but noting past the sidewalk and into the street was allowed. That was the law! One day she decided to test the boundaries, and she got a spanking for it. The next time she was outdoors, we watched as she approached the road. She stood on the sidewalk, looked out at the road, shook her head “no” several times, and did not go into the road. She might have been a little too young to understand that the law we had given her was for her own good. Even the discipline we had handed out was for her own good. We handed out the law and the disciplinary action for breaking the law because we loved our daughter, and we didn’t want anything harmful to happen to her.

1 John 5:1-3 says,

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments. Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. (NLT)

Our former pastor in Beaverton, Ron Mehl, wrote a book titled The Ten(der) Commandments. Here are some different passages from the book:

Have you ever heard the Ten Commandments described as a love letter . . . a tender, heartfelt message from the very hand of God? Perhaps not. Yet I’ve become convinced it is one of the most powerful expressions of God’s love in all of Scripture. And you don’t need to read between the lines! It’s all there. He doesn’t leave anything out. These ten statements are all-encompassing, touching virtually every part of our lives. They are the parameters to live by—the truths He knows are going to provide blessing and strength, a future and a hope.

Some people, of course, imagine it to be the exact opposite. They don’t hear love in these statements at all. What do they hear? They hear the clank of chains and the rattle of padlocks. They hear God saying, “You mess with Me, you step out of bounds, and I’ll fry you like a bug landing on a transformer.”

All of this, of course, plays right into Satan’s master plan—the one he’s had from the beginning. (Why change if it still works?) “God is a prude. God is a killjoy. God is a harsh old grandfather with a long, gray beard and bushy eyebrows who doesn’t want anyone to have any fun—ever.”

No, it’s not a very original line of reasoning. The enemy began it with Eve back at the dawn of creation when he said, “Has God really forbidden you this lovely fruit? Oh my. What a pity. What a shame. He knows that if you ever tasted from this tree, you’d be like a god. Nothing could hold you back. You think the Garden of Eden is nice now? You ain’t seen nothin’. God wants to keep you from the tang and sweetness of life. True freedom means freedom from confining restrictions such as these.”

Is he right? Are the Ten Commandments harsh and negative . . . narrow and legalistic . . . cold and confining? Could there be a brighter, warmer, more passionate side to this familiar portion of Scripture we may have missed through the years? Is it possible we’ve misunderstood the first few pages of God’s love letter, the very words that set the Ten Commandments in context?

One of my fondest memories was getting up one morning when Joyce [Ron’s wife] had left for a women’s retreat and finding little yellow Post-it notes from her just about everywhere I looked. I found one on the bathroom mirror that said, “Have a nice day. I love you very much.” There was another on the refrigerator door, another on the toaster, another on my briefcase, and another in my briefcase. There was one on the steering wheel of my car, on the chair in my office, and on my study table. It seemed that wherever I went that day I’d find a little yellow tab with a simple reminder of her love for me.

What a great feeling! I was surrounded by messages of this woman’s love. They were low and high. They were on my left and on my right. They reached me coming in and going out.

Maybe Israel didn’t see those little sticky notes from God, but the truth is, He posted them everywhere. They were on the sand where they knelt to drink from the cool stream God caused to bubble up right out of the arid desert. They were on the desert floor in the morning when they gathered the fresh manna, sweet as honey. They were on the empty helmets of the Egyptian soldiers, tossed up on the sand by the waves. Deliverance! Release! Protection! Provision!

Everything we have and everything we enjoy are because of Him and are blessings from His hand. We, too, were headed south one day. There was nothing between us and an eternal abyss but empty space and a long, long way to fall. As Paul put it, we were “without hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12, NIV).

But what happened? In Christ, the Lord swooped down and picked us up and gave us everything that we have. And now He sustains us and keeps us every day of our lives.

If we lose sight of that, we can’t see anything at all.

Yes, there may be times when you feel abandoned like an eaglet in the wide, empty sky . . . but the Lord will always come. If you will trust Him and put your faith in Him, then He’s guaranteed that He will always show up, and it will always be at the right time. If He seems “late” from your perspective, it’s because He’s letting you see something and learn something that you need to see and learn.

And God our Father—so much more than me, an imperfect human father—yearns for us to avoid destructive paths. So He gave us His Word, and specifically, He gave us the Ten Commandments.

He did it out of a heart of love, wanting to remove confusion from our lives . . . wanting to keep us from the traps and snares of the Destroyer . . . wanting to spare us from the wasting, life-sapping ravages of sin . . . wanting us to find our destiny as His own sons and daughters.

God knows that these truths are extremely important to our future. There are times when we become greatly confused about what is right and what is wrong, and about what we should and shouldn’t do. This blurring of the lines is becoming more and more pronounced through our whole culture as the time of the Lord’s coming draws near. What did Paul call these last days? “Perilous times” (2 Timothy 3:1). Terrible times. Difficult times. Grievous times. Dangerous times. And when we watch the news on TV or pick up a newspaper it should not surprise us that no one seems to know what is right and ethical and moral anymore.

When God wrote the Scriptures He knew very well what kind of world you and I and our children would be living in right now. It’s no surprise to Him at all. He isn’t shocked by any of it. He’s omniscient. He knows exactly what we need to survive in this fast-changing, high-tech, low-morality culture we live in.

With the Ten Commandments, the Lord said, “Please . . . let me remove all confusion.” In virtually every one of these commands, I find something of God’s great protection and affection toward you and me. God says, “I know what is best for us, for you, for Me, for our relationship. There are some parameters here—ten of them—that are literally matters of life and death.”

Let’s thank God for His law. Let’s show our love and respect for Him today by following His Word. Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commandments.” (John 14:15)

Who was it that said God is not a tame lion? It wasn’t Dr. Moody, but it’s probably someone you know. Read to find out who: Bricks Without Straw


Verse Completion: . . . God is pleased. Hebrews 13:16 (NASB)