Daily Devotion

7/6/2020


Good morning, Jesus Followers.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/6ni5_JGRrgs


Complete the Verse & Name the Bookfor a man is a slave to . . . (completion at the end)


Yesterday Pastor Michael’s sermon was titled “The Lofty and the Lowly” based on Matthew 18:1-14. One of the most difficult things to do in life is change. We all have a worldview of how we imagine things to be. When we change, we have to alter our worldview by adding or deleting information. We now see the world through a different lens. 

As one coaches soccer at the middle school or high school level, he notices that some players come with some bad habits. Some don’t even know how to kick a soccer ball correctly. As they are taught the proper way to kick a ball, some pay attention and change how they kick and make progress; others stay with their old way of kicking and do not progress. 

The disciples are learning from Jesus. Jesus has been trying to change their worldview. They finally learned that salvation is by faith alone through grace and not by works. They learned Jesus is the Messiah, but they had a skewed vision of what that meant. Jesus came to pay the penalty for sin and not be paid a tribute to. Jesus came to serve others, not be served by others. Jesus wanted the disciples to know it’s not about power, influence, or prestige; it’s about humility. It’s not all about us; it’s all about Jesus. Jesus wants them to change the way they think. He was trying to show them how they should act, react, and interact as disciples of Christ. He wanted them to see the kingdom of God is all about relationships. 

The disciples are going to have to change the way they think. They have to learn who the Messiah is, why He came, how His kingdom operates, and how we operate in that kingdom. 


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.(verses 1-5)


The disciples are familiar with how the world operates where intelligence, skills, talents, potential, aggressiveness, who you know, and so on are important for determining who is the greatest—who gets promoted. The disciples are hoping they have what it takes to be the greatest. They want to know how Jesus is ranking them. 

Children in their society had no importance: they didn’t contribute to the family, they didn’t work, they didn’t bring in money. Children were considered the least of all. Jesus held a child He was familiar with and told the disciples if they wanted to be great, they needed to become the least important like the child he held. One enters the kingdom of God through humility, trust, and faith. One becomes the greatest in the kingdom through humility, trust, and faith. One does not become the greatest by works. One does not enter the kingdom of God and work their way up to greater positions in the kingdom. 

The Kingdom of Heaven is all about Jesus: Jesus saving us, Jesus calling us, Jesus using us, Jesus giving us gifts, Jesus giving us His Spirit within us. It’s not about us. Nobody is “special” in the kingdom of God; we all come to salvation in the same way. There’s no favoritism in the kingdom of God. 


“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.

“What sorrow awaits the world, because it tempts people to sin. Temptations are inevitable, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting. So if your hand or foot causes you to sin, but it off and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand or one foot than to be thrown into eternal fire with both of your hands and feet. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. (verses 6-9)


There’s a serious judgment for those who lead people away from Christ no matter who that person is. As disciples of Christ, it’s our job to draw people to Jesus by our actions and our words. 

A millstone was a large, round, heavy stone the ox or donkey would pull in a circular path in order to grind the grain to make flour. One person could not lift a millstone. The depths of the sea is a description of hell. 

In the kingdom of God, people care about one another. They want salvation for others. A disciple of Christ would not say to another believer, “You’re good; you accepted Jesus. Do whatever you want. You’re not going to lose your salvation.” Jesus is saying that we need to get serious about our relationship with Him. If there’s anything that would lead us away from Jesus (and take others with us in the process), we are to get rid of it. There must be a radical transformation that takes place in us so we think differently about how we view the world and think about the world. We have to die to sin—cut it out, root it out.

Very few people fall into addiction without the help of somebody else. Someone gave the alcoholic their first drink. Someone gave the drug addict their first drug.

We can think we didn’t lead anyone into alcoholism, drugs, sexual sins, murder . . . so we must be okay. What about gossip, slander, grumbling, or complaining? These can take people away from Jesus, too. Disciples of Christ do not act in this way. It’s not the Spirit of Jesus. 


“Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father. 

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.  (verses 10-14)


God cares about everyone even the least that don’t seem to matter. We are not to look at others in a way that says their interests are less important than ours. Socioeconomic levels, race, prestige, influence, position . . . none of it matters in the kingdom of God. Disciples of Christ never despise others.

God wants everyone to have eternal life. He’s not willing that any should perish. 1 Timothy 2:4 says: This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. 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.

Jesus want us to understand how we are to operate in the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s not about being the greatest. It’s about realizing that no one is less than us. It’s about us humbling ourselves before Jesus. It’s about us saying to Jesus, “It’s all about you.” We are not to cause people to look at us; we are to cause people to look at Jesus. The Kingdom of Heaven is about Jesus. 

We need to learn to kick the soccer ball differently. We need a new prescription for our glasses. We need to learn it’s all about Jesus, so let’s make it all about Jesus. 


Reminders


·      Sunday services: 8:30 am @  https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live ; 10:30 am in the Worship Center at NCCU


·      Tuesday, Addiction Ministry, 6:00 pm at the Sunday School Building


·      You can watch any of Pastor Michael’s studies 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 at 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. 


·      Prayer Group, Friday, 9:15 am, NCCU tent area


·      The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am:  https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live



Verse Completion. . . whatever has mastered him. 2 Peter 2:19b (NIV)


Mediator of a New Covenant

7/4/2020


Good morning, God Pleasers. Happy Fourth of July!


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/9lpC8WVUP-s


Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and . . . (completion at the end)


Are you a people pleaser or a God pleaser? It’s easy to be people pleasers because people are right in your face and God is not. We get rewarded for being a people pleaser immediately while we usually have to wait for rewards from God. As Americans we like instant gratification, and we are used to receiving it. Businesses that can produce instant gratification seem to do better than those that don’t. A restaurant that provides instant service will likely do better than one where people have to wait a considerable amount of time to be served. 

What happens when a person in leadership is a people pleaser rather than a God pleaser? How does that play out in the courts? King Jehoshaphat had some good advice for the judges who were under his leadership. 2 Chronicles 19:4-7 says:


Jehoshaphat lived in Jerusalem, but he went out among the people, traveling from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim, encouraging the people to return to the LORD, the God of their ancestors. He appointed judges throughout the nation in all the fortified towns, and he said to them, “Always think carefully before pronouncing judgment. Remember that you do not judge to please people but to please the LORD. He will be with you when you render the verdict in each case. Fear the LORD and judge with integrity, for the LORD our God does not tolerate perverted justice, partiality, or the taking of bribes.”


We don’t have to look far to find examples of perverted justice within our own country: people who were guilty of a crime and got off free because of who they knew, their wealth, bribes, race, corruption within the system, false testimony, or some other reason. There are also examples of people who were sent to prison unjustly because of their race, poverty, religious beliefs, or some other reason. When those in authority are more interested in pleasing people over God, the results are going to be bad. I’m just thankful for the many leaders we have who are people of integrity—who do fear God and are interested in finding the truth and acting on it. 

Fortunately, bribes are not a common way of doing business here in America. When I lived in the Philippines, bribes were a common way to operate. For example, it was common knowledge that if an American was stopped by a police officer for a driving violation close to a military base, a pack of American cigarettes to the officer would be all that’s necessary to get back on the road. One time I was stopped on my motorcycle by an officer. When he found out I wasn’t in the military, I was on my way.

When we lived in Manila, my mom saw a truck double parked as he unloaded supplies into a small grocery store. A police officer spoke with the truck driver and before long, the officer was walking down the sidewalk with a bottle of ketchup in his hand.

When entering the Philippines from another country, one has to go through customs where assessments are made on the value of what is being brought into the country followed by taxes on the property. It can take days to get through customs and the taxes can be exorbitant, or one can bribe the person in charge and greatly reduce the time and taxes.

I convinced my mom to take me to DMV a few weeks before my birthday. I wanted to make sure we had everything needed for me to get my first driver’s license. I didn’t want there to be any delays on my actual birthday. My mom explained to a DMV worker why we were there, and a man went to a typewriter away from the counter and started typing. He asked for information so he could fill out the form, and my mother said, “Oh, no. We aren’t here to get a license today. My son doesn’t turn of age for several more weeks.” The DMV employee spoke from his desk, loud enough for everyone in the entire room to hear, “No problem, Mam; I’ll just change his date of birth.” He could not understand why this wasn’t acceptable to my mother (and as a teenager neither could I . . . not really—I knew what was the right thing to do, but I REALLY wanted my driver’s license). He would have given me a license that day even without a bribe.

The apostles were arrested for teaching about Jesus in the Temple. The captain and the Temple guards brought the apostles before the high council, where the high priest confronted them. “We gave you strict orders never again to teach in this man’s name!” he said. “Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about him, and you want to make us responsible for his death!”

But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by hanging him on a cross.” (Acts 5:27-30) The apostles did what God told them to do. The apostles weren’t interested in anarchy. They were not rebel rousers. They believed in doing what the government told them to do except when it was in conflict with what God told them to do. We need to be the same way. 

We can find other examples of people being God pleasers rather than people pleasers in the Bible:


·      Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant. Galatians 1:10


·      For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts. 1 Thessalonians 2:4


·      Many people did believe in [Jesus as the Messiah], however, including some of the Jewish leaders. But they wouldn’t admit it for fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. For they loved human praise more than the praise of God. John 12:42-43


·      Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is ChristColossians 3:23-24


·      Then Saul admitted to Samuel, “Yes, I have sinned. I have disobeyed your instructions and the LORD’S command, for I was afraid of the people and did what they demanded. 1 Samuel 15:24


·      But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.”Acts 4:19-20



Let’s make sure we are first and foremost God pleasers rather than people pleasers. When there’s a conflict between what God asks of us and what people ask of us, may God’s will be done. May we never be found guilty of perverted justice, partiality, or taking bribes. 



Prayer requests:


·      Denise is looking for low income/affordable housing in Belfair, Shelton, or Union (mother-in-law place, studio, or one-bedroom).


·      Denise’s health is rapidly declining. She is experiencing extraordinary pain in her entire body, and it doesn’t stop. In addition to this, there is permanent damage to her right foot. She has a torn meniscus in her right knee and a possible torn meniscus in her left knee. These are caused by her illness and can’t be repaired. There are no medical treatments, repairs, or cures that can be done. Only a touch by the Great Physician, Jesus, will heal her. Please pray that Denise will experience relief from the pain and experience emotional healing as well.


·      Shawn’s cousin with cancer


·      Colleen is battling two kinds of cancer


·      Lee as he recuperates from surgery


·      Lee's cousin, Pete, has had his cancer return. He’s not doing well. His mother, Arlene, would appreciate prayers for both of them.


·      Pastor Michael as he leads our church.


·      If you have a prayer request you would like to have appear here, please email me. Thanks.



Reminders


·      Sunday services: 8:30 am @  https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live ; 10:30 am in the Worship Center at NCCU


·      Tuesday, Addiction Ministry, 6:00 pm at the Sunday School Building


·      You can watch any of Pastor Michael’s study of Philippians 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 at 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. 


·      Friday, Prayer Group, 9:15 am by ZOOM


·      The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am:  https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live



Verse Completion: . . . whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 2 Corinthians 9:6 (NIV)


Walk by Faith

7/3/2020


Good morning to everyone thankful for the freedoms we enjoy.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/hHtDCrt1oqA


Complete the Verses and Name the Book:


·      Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and . . .


·      fixing our eyes on Jesus; the author and perfecter of faith, who . . . (completion at the end)



You may have seen some of the humorous tombstone epitaphs that have been around for a while:


·      I told you I was sick.


·      He loved bacon. Oh, and his wife and kids too.


·      Merv Griffin: I will not be right back after this message.


·      OHNO


·      Raised four beautiful daughters with only one bathroom and still there was love.


·      Devoted husband, father, and Internet novice: Follow me on Facebook!


·      Died from not forwarding that text message to 10 people.


·      We finally found a place to park in Georgetown.


·      Sucks to be me.


·      She always said her feet were killing her, but no one believed her.



All joking aside, what would you like written on your tombstone? How would your life be summed up in one sentence?


2 Chronicles 21:20 has what might have been on King Jehoram’s tombstone: Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. No one was sorry when he died. They buried him in the City of David, but not in the royal cemetery. Isn’t that a sad summary to a life? 2 Chronicles 21:1-11 gives more information on the life of Jehoram:


When Jehoshaphat died, he was buried with his ancestors in the City of David. Then his son Jehoram became the next king.

Jehoram’s brothers—the other sons of Jehoshaphat—were Azariah, Jehiel, Zechariah, Azariahu, Michael, and Shephatiah; all these were the sons of Jehoshaphat king of Judah. Their father had given each of them valuable gifts of silver, gold, and costly items, and also some of Judah’s fortified towns. However, he designated Jehoram as the next king because he was the oldest. But when Jehoram had become solidly established as king, he killed all his brothers and some of the other leaders of Judah.

Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. But Jehoram followed the example of the kings of Israel and was as wicked as King Ahab, for he had married one of Ahab’s daughters. So Jehoram did what was evil in the LORD’S sight. But the LORD did not want to destroy David’s dynasty, for he had made a covenant with David and promised that his descendants would continue to rule, shining like a lamp forever.

During Jehoram’s reign, the Edomites revolted against Judah and crowned their own king. So Jehoram went out with his full army and all his chariots. The Edomites surrounded him and his chariot commanders, but he went out at night and attacked them under cover of darkness. Even so, Edom has been independent from Judah to this day. The town of Libnah also revolted about that same time. All this happened because Jehoram had abandoned the LORD, the God of his ancestors. He had built pagan shrines in the hill country of Judah and had led the people of Jerusalem and Judah to give themselves to pagan gods and to go astray.


King Uzziah is an example of someone who started off right and then got off track. 2 Chronicles 26:3-15 tells of his good years:


Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years. His mother was Jecoliah from Jerusalem. He did what was pleasing in the LORD’S sight; just as his father, Amaziah, had done. Uzziah sought God during the days of Zechariah, who taught him to fear God. And as long as the king sought guidance from the LORD, God gave him success.

Uzziah declared war on the Philistines and broke down the walls of Gath, Jabneh, and Ashdod. Then he built new towns in the Ashdod area and in other parts of Philistia. God helped him in his wars against the Philistines, his battles with the Arabs of Gur, and his wars with the Meunites. The Meunites paid annual tribute to him, and his fame spread even to Egypt, for he had become very powerful.

Uzziah built fortified towers in Jerusalem at the Corner Gate, at the Valley Gate, and at the angle in the wall. He also constructed forts in the wilderness and dug many water cisterns, because he kept great herds of livestock in the foothills of Judah and on the plains. He was also a man who loved the soil. He had many workers who cared for his farms and vineyards, both on the hillsides and in the fertile valleys.

Uzziah had an army of well-trained warriors, ready to march into battle, unit by unit. This army had been mustered and organized by Jeiel, the secretary of the army, and his assistant, Maaseiah. They were under the direction of Hananiah, one of the king’s officials. These regiments of mighty warriors were commanded by 2,600 clan leaders. The army consisted of 307,500 men, all elite troops. They were prepared to assist the king against any enemy.

Uzziah provided the entire army with shields, spears, helmets, coats of mail, bows, and sling stones. And he built structures on the walls of Jerusalem, designed by experts to protect those who shot arrows and hurled large stones from the towers and the corners of the wall. His fame spread far and wide, for the LORD gave him marvelous help, and he became very powerful.


Had King Uzziah died at this point, perhaps what would have been written on his tombstone would be: He feared God, and sought guidance from God who blessed him with many successes. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end here. 


But when he had become powerful, he also became proud, which led to his downfall. He sinned against the LORD his God by entering the sanctuary of the LORD’S Temple and personally burning incense on the incense altar. Azariah the high priest went in after him with eighty other priests of the LORD, all brave men. They confronted King Uzziah and said, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD. That is the work of the priests alone, the descendants of Aaron who are set apart for this work. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have sinned. The LORD God will not honor you for this!”

Uzziah, who was holding an incense burner, became furious. But as he was standing there raging at the priests before the incense altar in the LORD’S Temple, leprosy suddenly broke out on his forehead. When Azariah the high priest and all the other priests saw the leprosy, they rushed him out. And the king himself was eager to get out because the LORD had struck him. So King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in isolation in a separate house, for he was excluded from the Temple of the LORD. His son Jotham was put in charge of the royal palace, and he governed the people of the land. (verses 16-21)


What do you put on Uzziah’s tombstone now? The king God struck with leprosy because he disobeyed God. It’s a sad ending to a life that started out so well.

Back to the original question: What would you like written on your tombstone? It’s a tough question! I’ve given it some thought, and I think I would like a variation of 2 Timothy 4:7: He fought the good fight, he finished the race strong in the Lord, and he remained faithful to the very end.

Now I have to get busy to make sure I am worthy of such an epitaph.


Reminders


·      Sunday services: 8:30 am @  https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live ; 10:30 am in the Worship Center at NCCU


·      Tuesday, Addiction Ministry, 6:00 pm at the Sunday School Building


·      You can watch any of Pastor Michael’s study of Philippians on oue 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 at 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. 


·      Friday, Prayer Group, 9:15 am by ZOOM


·      The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am:  https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live



Completions to Verses:


·      . . . let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,


·      . . . for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NASB)


It Was Good For Me

7/2/2020


Good morning to all God’s children.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/uW6xcmqfiY4


Complete the Verse and Name the Book: Do not become anxious about how or what you should speak in your defense, or what you should say; for . . . (completion at the end)


God loves everyone. He is not partial to any one race. He doesn’t play favorites. This truth came to Peter in Acts 10:1-36, 42-43:


In Caesarea there lived a Roman army officer named Cornelius, who was a captain of the Italian Regiment. He was a devout, God-fearing man, as was everyone in his household. He gave generously to the poor and prayed regularly to God. One afternoon about three o’clock, he had a vision in which he saw an angel of God coming toward him. “Cornelius!” the angel said.

Cornelius stared at him in terror. “What is it, sir?” he asked the angel.

And the angel replied, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have been received by God as an offering! Now send some men to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He is staying with Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore.”

As soon as the angel was gone, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier, one of his personal attendants. He told them what had happened and sent them off to Joppa.

The next day as Cornelius’s messengers were nearing the town, Peter went up on the flat roof to pray. It was about noon, and he was hungry. But while a meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the sky open, and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners. In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.”

“No, Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean.”

But the voice spoke again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” The same vision was repeated three times. Then the sheet was suddenly pulled up to heaven.

Peter was very perplexed. What could the vision mean? Just then the men sent by Cornelius found Simon’s house. Standing outside the gate, they asked if a man named Simon Peter was staying there.

Meanwhile, as Peter was puzzling over the vision, the Holy Spirit said to him, “Three men have come looking for you. Get up, go downstairs, and go with them without hesitation. Don’t worry, for I have sent them.”

So Peter went down and said, “I’m the man you are looking for. Why have you come?”

They said, “We were sent by Cornelius, a Roman officer. He is a devout and God-fearing man, well respected by all the Jews. A holy angel instructed him to summon you to his house so that he can hear your message.” So Peter invited the men to stay for the night. The next day he went with them, accompanied by some of the brothers from Joppa.

They arrived in Caesarea the following day. Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter entered his home, Cornelius fell at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter pulled him up and said, “Stand up! I’m a human being just like you!” So they talked together and went inside, where many others were assembled.

Peter told them, “You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you. But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean. So I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. Now tell me why you sent for me.”

Cornelius replied, “Four days ago I was praying in my house about this same time, three o’clock in the afternoon. Suddenly, a man in dazzling clothes was standing in front of me. He told me, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your gifts to the poor have been noticed by God! Now send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He is staying in the home of Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore. So I sent for you at once, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here, waiting before God to hear the message the Lord has given you.”

Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right. This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 

“And he ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to be the judge of all—the living and the dead. He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.”


We see here that Peter was conflicted about the Jewish beliefs he held concerning food and what God was telling him to do. Traditional beliefs were strong, so strong that when God told Peter to do something, Peter was willing to say no to God. Tradition was placed ahead of God. 

Is there anything we hold on to that is more important to us than God? If God told us to . . . would we do it or would we be like Peter and say, “No, I can’t do that. It’s not proper; it’s not right. That would be wrong for me to do that”? If God tells us to do something, it’s the right thing to do. God speaks to us through His word and tells us what we should and shouldn’t do. His Holy Spirit guides us, too. It’s so important to be in a close relationship with God so His voice is not confused with other voices.

There was a lot of racial prejudice going on during the time when Jesus walked on the earth. Things haven’t changed much in 2000+ years. Peter didn’t want to go against the Jewish law that forbid him from entering the home of a Gentile. God showed him that was stinkin’ thinkin’ (as we used to tell our first grade students). Genesis 1:27 says: 


So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 


All humans are created in God’s image. Jewish laws forbade a man from entering a Gentile home—the place where a Gentile lived—a man created in the image of God. That belief was deeply entrenched inside Peter, but God showed Peter that was a wrong belief. It’s possible that some of the traditions we hold on to strongly are wrong, too. Fortunately, Peter saw that what he believed was wrong—it went against God’s will. God didn’t call Gentiles unclean and neither should Peter. 

It might seem that God had favorites in the Jews since they were His chosen people. Ravi Zacharias said, “Israel was specifically chosen, but the reason they were chosen was not to be favorites but to bring God’s message to the rest of the world. As Abraham was told, ‘through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed’ (Genesis 22:18).”

We believe in an all-powerful, all-loving God who desires for every person to come to know truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-6 says:


I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.


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.


In his book Jesus Among Secular Gods, Ravi Zacharias said:


For all people to have equal value, there has to be something about each human person that is equally true and that cannot change. What is it?

Any naturalistic answer to this question will not do, because our natural endowments are distributed along a spectrum. Some are less intelligent than others, less healthy, less useful for society, less good looking, less wealthy, less capable of passing on their genes, less moral.

Even if currently you measure up well by some of these standards, one day you won’t. We will age, we will weaken, and our financial worth will fluctuate. Morally, we will lack consistency. Physically, every atom in our bodies may be different seven years from now. Who are we if every single thing about us is only temporary and changeable? By any naturalistic standard, human value is fleeting and graduated, with some coming out less valuable than others.

What is it about a human person that is equally true of every other human person and can never be lost, and therefore can justify the equal value of every person and the universality and inalienability of human rights? Only the love of God. God’s love is the one and only thing that will never change and cannot be lost. Here we circle back to the significance of the Christian God being a father—a parent—because a good parent loves his children equally, unwaveringly, and no matter what.

You are not valuable because you can pass on genes; you are valuable because before your genes ever came together you were loved by God and chosen by Him. God does not value only those who survive as the fittest; He gave His life for the unfittest. The measure of human value is not biological, intellectual, financial, moral, or aesthetic; it is personal—measured by the value-conferring love of a personal God.


God loves everyone and so should we. God shows no favoritism and neither should we. 


Reminders


·      Sunday services: 8:30 am @  https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live ; 10:30 am in the Worship Center at NCCU


·      Tuesday, Addiction Ministry, 6:00 pm at the Sunday School Building


·      You can watch any of Pastor Michael’s study of Philippians 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 at 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. 


·      Friday, Prayer Group, 9:15 am by ZOOM


·      The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am:  https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live



Verse Completion. . . the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say. Luke 12:11b-12 (NASB)


Who Am I?

7/1/2020


Good morning Redeemed of the Lord.


Songs for the Day: https://youtu.be/SkLuZxqPPzE (Words by: Samuel Medley, 1775; Music by: John Hatton, 1793; Sung by: Linda Rowberry)


https://youtu.be/TnmPtxsDqnM (from Handel’s “Messiah”)


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


George Frideric Handel composed the original version of Messiah in 1741 in just 24 days. It contains 259 pages and has roughly a quarter of a million notes. If Handel spent 10-hour days working on it, he would have had to write at the continuous pace of fifteen notes per minute. It’s quite an accomplishment! One of my favorite songs in Messiah is “I Know that My Redeemer Liveth.” All of Handel’s Messiah is based on Scripture. This particular song is from Job 19:25-26 and 1 Corinthians 15:20

The words in Job 19 come directly from Job’s mouth. He had lost all ten of his children, his animals, servants, farmhands, and shepherds in a single day. Later he was covered in boils. His “friends” were no encouragement to him. They told him he must have sinned to have these terrible things happen to him. They told him to repent of his sins. His own wife said to him, “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.” It doesn’t appear she had the gift of encouragement either.

In response to the condemnation he received from his “friends,” Job said the following in Job 19:1-29:


Then Job spoke again: “How long will you torture me? How long will you try to crush me with your words? You have already insulted me ten times. You should be ashamed of treating me so badly. Even if I have sinned, that is my concern, not yours. You think you’re better than I am, using my humiliation as evidence of my sin. But it is God who has wronged me, capturing me in his net. 

“I cry out, ‘Help!’ but no one answers me. I protest, but there is no justice. God has blocked my way so I cannot move. He has plunged my path into darkness. He has stripped me of my honor and removed the crown from my head. He has demolished me on every side, and I am finished. He has uprooted my hope like a fallen tree. His fury burns against me; he counts me as an enemy. His troops advance. They build up roads to attack me. They camp all around my tent.

“My relatives stay far away, and my friends have turned against me. My family is gone, and my close friends have forgotten me. My servants and maids consider me a stranger. I am like a foreigner to them. When I call my servant, he doesn’t come; I have to plead with him! My breath is repulsive to my wife. I am rejected by my own family. Even young children despise me. When I stand to speak, they turn their backs on me. My close friends detest me. Those I loved have turned against me. I have been reduced to skin and bones and have escaped death by the skin of my teeth.

“Have mercy on me, my friends, have mercy, for the hand of God has struck me. Must you also persecute me, like God does? Haven’t you chewed me up enough?

“Oh, that my words could be recorded. Oh, that they could be inscribed on a monument, carved with an iron chisel and filled with lead, engraved forever in the rock.

But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!

“How dare you go on persecuting me, saying, ‘It’s his own fault’? You should fear punishment yourselves, for your attitude deserves punishment. Then you will know that there is indeed a judgment.”


When Job says, “I know that my Redeemer lives,” he is saying, according to the Benson Commentary: I have no knowledge, nor confidence, nor hope of being restored to the prosperities of this life; yet this one thing I know, which is much more comfortable and considerable, and therein I rejoice, though I be now a dying man, and in a desperate condition for this life; I know that I have a living and powerful Redeemer to plead my cause, and vindicate my person from all severe and unjust censures, and to give sentence for me: a Redeemer, whom I call mine, because I have a particular interest in him, and he hath a particular care of me.

Job’s Redeemer is currently living, and Job knows Him because He has revealed Himself to Job. His Redeemer has given Job an understanding to know Him. Who is the Redeemer? It’s Jesus. It’s by His power that Job will be resurrected after he dies. Job has given up hope for the comforts associated with this life, but he has not given up hope beyond death. In Job 13:15 Job said “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” Job is trusting God for comfort and happiness—not in this life, but in the life to come—beyond the grave. Job desired death because he knew it would lead to a life with God. How could he know that prior to the coming of Christ? 1 Peter 1:8-12 says:


You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.

This salvation was something even the prophets wanted to know more about when they prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you. They wondered what time or situation the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and his great glory afterward. 

They were told that their messages were not for themselves, but for you. And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.


Jesus said in John 8:56:


“Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.”


Jesus was Job’s Redeemer. Benson Commentary says that when Job said, “I know that my Redeemer lives,” he was saying: I am a dying man, and my hopes as to this life are dying, but he lives, and that forever; and, therefore, though I die, yet he both can and will make me to live again in due time, though not in this world, yet in the other, which is much better. And, though I am now highly censured and condemned by my friends as a great dissembler and secret sinner, whom God’s hand hath found out; yet there is a day coming wherein my cause shall be pleaded, and my name and honor vindicated from all these reproaches, and my integrity brought to light.


We can say the same thing Job said: “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God!


We have a hope, and that hope is a person—Jesus. No matter what happens to us while we are on this earth, we have Jesus. Hebrews 13:5b-6 says:


For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence, “The LORD is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”


Do you feel abandoned? God has not abandoned you! God had not abandoned Job even though Job felt like He had. God has given us many promises, but an easy life is not one of them. What He has promised is to never abandon us. 

Job reached a point where he had no hope in this life, but he had a hope in the life to come. We have that hope, too. Jesus resurrected from the dead, and God is extending resurrection power to us so we will be able to live forever with Him in heaven.

Does it feel like your world falling apart? Job felt the same way! You’re not alone. Let’s join Job today in saying: “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God!” and “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”


Reminders


·      Sunday services: 8:30 am @  https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live ; 10:30 am in the Worship Center at NCCU


·      Tuesday, Addiction Ministry, 6:00 pm at the Sunday School Building


·      You can watch any of Pastor Michael’s study of Philippians 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 at 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. 


·      Friday, Prayer Group, 9:15 am by ZOOM


·      The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am:  https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live



Verse Completion: . . . there will your heart be also. Luke 12:34 (NASB)

6/30/2020


Good morning, Blessed Family of God.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/Sc6SSHuZvQE


Complete the Verse & Name the Book: I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of . . . (completion at the end)


Have you ever used the services of a mediator in your life? A mediator can be a great help during a difficult time. Job was certainly going through a difficult time in his life after the following happened in a single day: his oxen and donkeys stolen, farmhands killed, sheep and shepherds struck by lightning and killed, camels stolen, servants killed, all his children killed in a house collapse. Later Job was struck with terrible boils from head to toe. 

In Job 16:21 Job said: I need someone to mediate between God and me, as a person mediates between friends. Job felt distanced from God, and he needed someone who would talk to God on his behalf. I imagine he would want the mediator to ask God, “Job wants to know what’s going on. He has been blameless. He’s been a man of integrity. He fears you, and he has stayed away from evil. Why have all these bad things happened to him? Are you mad at him? What does he need to do or not do in order for things to get back to how they used to be?” Job would love to hear God’s response because right now he is completely confused as to why God would allow these catastrophes to happen to him. 

Let’s jump ahead more than 2000 years. John wrote:


 In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. (John 1:1-5, 14)


Jesus has always been. He is God—without beginning. However, He didn’t have flesh and blood until He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born to Virgin Mary. After Jesus lived a sinless life, He was crucified for our sins (we should have been the one on the cross), and He rose from the grave on the third day. He ascended into heaven, and He is coming back to judge the living and the dead when He returns to set up His Kingdom.

1 Timothy 2:5a tells us:


There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.


This verse says a lot! There’s only one God and that is Yahweh or Jehovah. Buddha is not God. Neither is Allah, Muhammad, Shiva, Brahma, Ganesha, Mahavira, Vishnu, Durga, Krishna, you, me, or anyone else. There is one God in three Divine persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. 

God the Son is Jesus Christ who is the only Mediator between God and humanity. Only Jesus can reconcile God and humanity. God is just; humanity is unjust. God is righteous; humanity is unrighteous. God is perfect; humanity is imperfect. God is sinless; humanity is sinful. The two do not mix. 

The separation started when Adam and Eve disobeyed God. Sin alienated us from God. There was nothing we could do to reunite us with God. However, God loved us so much He sent His only Son to die for our sins. We needed to die for our own sins, but Jesus loved us, and He was the only substitute that was eligible to die in our place because He was sinless—the perfect Lamb of God. His life sacrifice made it possible for us to be reconciled to God: reunited, brought back together again, friendly relations restored, harmony restored, peace restored, differences resolved, brought to terms. 

1 John 2:1-6 says:


My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.

And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.


In a sense Jesus became our umpire or referee. An umpire or referee makes a call when a violation of the rules of the game comes into play.  In some games, the referee’s call may be challenged. However, it’s still the referee who has the final say. It’s possible that a referee can make the wrong call especially with the game happening so quickly. Regardless of the call, some people will be satisfied with the call and others will be dissatisfied. Fortunately for us we have Jesus as our referee, and He never makes a wrong call. He can see things no one else can see. His call is always right and just. He takes everything into consideration. 

This becomes of utmost importance because Jesus isn’t calling the shots in a game; He’s the one who makes the call as to our final destination for all eternity: heaven or hell. His call is final, and it is fair and just. When we stand before God in judgment, Jesus is our Mediator. All of us should be sentenced to hell for our sins, but Jesus is able to step up for us and say, “I gave my blood for this person. I who am sinless paid the death penalty for this person, so this person does not have to be sent to death. This person is able to have eternal life because he/she acknowledged me before others as their Lord and Savior. By your grace and mercy, allow this person into your eternal kingdom.” Jesus is the only one who can say that. He is the only one who is worthy. On Judgment Day there is only going to be one referee—Jesus. 

Romans 10:9-13 says:


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. As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”


Notice how the last part of 1 Timothy 2:5 says: He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. If we remain slaves to sin by our choice, we will pay a high penalty. Jesus has purchased our freedom with His death on the cross. Romans 6:6-11 says:


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.


It’s also good news that Jesus gave his life for everyone: all nationalities, poor, rich, educated, uneducated, sinners, worse sinners, worst sinners, those who persecute, slaves, rulers . . . everyone. 2 Peter 3:9b says: [The Lord] does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

I would not want to stand before Father God all alone—I would be terrified! Like Isaiah I would say, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.” (Isaiah 6:5) I would want Jesus right by my side, and I would want my Mediator doing all the talking. I don’t stand a chance without Jesus by my side. How close of a relationship do you have with your Mediator?


Reminders


·      Sunday services: 8:30 am @  https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live ; 10:30 am in the Worship Center at NCCU


·      Tuesday, Addiction Ministry, 6:00 pm at the Sunday School Building


·      You can watch any of Pastor Michael’s study of Philippians 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 at 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. 


·      Friday, Prayer Group, 9:15 am by ZOOM


·      The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am:  https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live



Verse Completion. . . both the righteous and the wicked. Acts 24:15 (NIV)


Love that Perseveres

6/29/2020


Good morning to everyone looking out for the spiritual and physical well-being of others.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/DioI2k4IIjs


Complete the Verses & Name the Book:


·      Rejoice . . .


·      pray . . . 


·      in everything . . . (completions at the end)



Yesterday Pastor Michael gave the sermon “Death and Taxes” based on Matthew 17:22-27:


After they gathered again in Galilee, Jesus told them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead.” And the disciples were filled with grief.

On their arrival in Capernaum, the collectors of the Temple tax came to Peter and asked him, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the Temple tax?”

“Yes, he does,” Peter replied. Then he went into the house.

But before he had a chance to speak, Jesus asked him, “What do you think, Peter? Do kings tax their own people or the people they have conquered?”

“They tax the people they have conquered,” Peter replied.

“Well, then,” Jesus said, “the citizens are free! However, we don’t want to offend them, so go down to the lake and throw in a line. Open the mouth of the first fish you catch, and you will find a large silver coin. Take it and pay the tax for both of us.”


Jesus and the disciples were traveling from Caesarea Philippi southwest to Capernaum. Their journey’s destination was Jerusalem. Jesus told them He would be betrayed. Jesus also said He would be killed and be raised to life. The disciples have come to the realization that this would happen. Prior to this, they were in denial. The news fills them with grief. 

Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross developed a model for the Five Stages of Grief. The grief involved relates to grief after receiving the news of a terminal condition such as dementia or cancer. The grief process begins when we find out someone is going to die. Jesus has given His disciples His diagnosis but not the details. One of the stages in grief is depression—the suppression of life as we know it that includes joy and happiness. The disciples realize life will change and never be the same. Mark 9:32 says:


[The disciples] didn’t understand what [Jesus] was saying, however, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant.


Jesus wants the disciples to understand that His suffering, death, and resurrection are key to the gospel message. This concept of the Messiah is foreign to the disciples; they saw the Messiah as a conquering king in the line of David who conquered Goliath and the Philistines and who controlled the entire area of Canaan and beyond. 

When the disciples envisioned a resurrection, they imagined seeing Jesus when they went to heaven. That didn’t fit with the three days Jesus talked about. They lacked understanding. 

When they arrived in Capernaum, they were asked to pay the Temple tax which was equivalent to two days’ pay. Exodus 30:11-16 says:


Then the LORD said to Moses, “Whenever you take a census of the people ofIsrael, each man who is counted must pay a ransom for himself to the LORD. Then no plague will strike the people as you count them. Each person who is counted must give a small piece of silver as a sacred offering to the LORD. (This payment is half a shekel, based on the sanctuary shekel, which equals twenty gerahs.) All who have reached their twentieth birthday must give this sacred offering to the LORD. When this offering is given to the LORD to purify your lives, making you right with him, the rich must not give more than the specified amount, and the poor must not give less.  Receive this ransom money from the Israelites, and use it for the care of the Tabernacle. It will bring the Israelites to the LORD’S attention, and it will purify your lives.”


2 Chronicles 24:6 says:


So the king called for Jehoiada the high priest and asked him, “Why haven’t you demanded that the Levites go out and collect the Temple taxes from the towns of Judah and from Jerusalem? Moses, the servant of the LORD, levied this tax on the community of Israel in order to maintain the Tabernacle of the Covenant.”


The Temple was looked at as the dwelling place of God’s presence. The Temple was the center of Judaism. The tax helped maintain the Temple. This wasn’t a Roman tax; it was a tax collected by the Pharisees. Israelites were proud to pay the tax. Priests and rabbis did not pay the tax. The tax collectors were asking the disciples if Jesus paid the Temple tax. If Jesus didn’t pay the tax, it would imply he was not a true Israelite.  

The question Jesus asked Peter was whether a king would tax his own family. The answer is obviously he would not. Typically, nations would go to war, and it was the conquered nation that would pay taxes to the victor. Jesus was asking Peter, “If your father was the king, would you pay taxes?” The answer is negative because children are exempt. The taxes on the Temple were for God’s house. Jesus is the Son of God so He would be exempt from paying taxes. 

When Jesus was twelve years old his parents lost track of Him, but found him three days later in the Temple. His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”

“But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:48-49) Since Jesus is the Son of God, legally, He would not have to pay this tax. But Jesus told Peter they would pay the tax because they didn’t want to offend anyone. From the Greek word for offend used here we get our word scandal: to trip someone up; cause someone to stumble; to trap someone. There’s a principle that’s above the Law here, and that is the principle of relationship. Jesus doesn’t want to do anything that would cause a person to stumble and ruin their spiritual well-being. Jesus gives up His right to not pay the tax for the spiritual well-being of others. This principle comes out in Romans 14:1, 7, 13, 15, 17, 19-22; 15:1:


Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.

For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves.

So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.

And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died.

For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble.

  We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves.


As disciples of Christ, we care about the spiritual well-being of others. It’s not about our rights. Jesus gave up His rights so we can have everlasting life. 

If Jesus had refused to pay the tax, others might have said, “Well, if Jesus isn’t going to pay the Temple tax, then I’m not going to pay it either. I’m going to be rebellious just like Jesus.” 

Jesus calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. It’s not about our rights. We need to give up our rights so we don’t cause another person to stumble. We want their spiritual well-being over our rights.

Churches right here in Washington State sued the government over their right to congregate as a church in spite of COVID-19. They put their own rights above the well-being of others. Some people feel like the government does not have the right to make people wear masks. It’s not about your rights; it’s about the well-being of those around you. Is it about the law or is it about relationships?

Jesus is helping his disciples understand why the Messiah would suffer. Every other kingdom is about power, might, and strength. The kingdom of heaven is about weakness, suffering, dying to self, and denying self. Jesus wants the disciples to understand that the Messiah will die and a kingdom will start with that death and resurrection.

It’s not about the strictness of the Law; it’s about the salvation of people. 


Reminders


·      Sunday services: 8:30 am @  https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live ; 10:30 am in the Worship Center at NCCU


·      Tuesday, Addiction Ministry, 6:00 pm at the Sunday School Building


·      You can watch any of Pastor Michael’s study of Philippians 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 at 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. 


·      Friday, Prayer Group, 9:15 am by ZOOM


·      The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am:  https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live




Completions to Verses:


·      . . . always;


·      . . . without ceasing;


·      . . . give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB)


Love, Evil, and Truth

6/27/2020


Good morning, Faith Stretchers.


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


Complete the Verses & Name the Book:


·      Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate . . .


·      and with your feet fitted with . . . (completions at the end)



Have you ever put God in a box? I know I have. When I was praying for a wife, I told God it would sure be nice to marry someone who attended the same church I did so what church we attended wouldn’t be an issue. I really liked the church I was attending. Since I was a teacher, I told God it would be great to marry a teacher—someone who understood what all was involved with a teaching career. I also prayed that the lady I met would not have any children living at home. I told the Lord I liked animals, but I wanted a lifestyle that was free from the responsibilities associated with owning animals. Oh, and another thing I asked God for was someone who was committed to regularly giving money to God through the church. 

I knew God wouldn’t give me everything on my wish list, but I was hoping He would provide a wife that had at least some of what I desired. The box I had God in was far too small. God gave me ALL I had on my list and so much more: someone with a happy disposition, someone who found joy in giving to God and others, someone who liked to laugh, someone who could laugh at herself, someone who liked adventures, someone who loved to ski, play tennis, hike, camp, and swim. God gave me someone deeply rooted in Him. 

Evidently, Laurie must have been praying for a husband with tremors, skin issues, and liked riding motorcycles, because that’s what she got.

Amaziah had God in a small box. 2 Chronicles 25:1-9 says:


Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother was Jehoaddin from Jerusalem. Amaziah did what was pleasing in the LORD’S sight, but not wholeheartedly. 

When Amaziah was well established as king, he executed the officials who had assassinated his father. However, he did not kill the children of the assassins, for he obeyed the command of the LORD as written by Moses in the Book of the Law: “Parents must not be put to death for the sins of their children, nor children for the sins of their parents. Those deserving to die must be put to death for their own crimes.”

Then Amaziah organized the army, assigning generals and captains for all Judah and Benjamin. He took a census and found that he had an army of 300,000 select troops, twenty years old and older, all trained in the use of spear and shield. He also paid about 7,500 pounds of silver to hire 100,000 experienced fighting men from Israel.

But a man of God came to him and said, “Your Majesty, do not hire troops from Israel, for the LORD is not with Israel. He will not help those people of Ephraim! If you let them go with your troops into battle, you will be defeated by the enemy no matter how well you fight. God will overthrow you, for he has the power to help you or to trip you up.”

Amaziah asked the man of God, “But what about all that silver I paid to hire the army of Israel?”

The man of God replied, “The LORD is able to give you much more than this!”


Amaziah needed to let God out of the box he had Him contained in. Ephesians 3:20 says: 


Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.


During Passover some prayer warriors put God in a box, too. The story is found in Acts 12:1-17:


About that time King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church. He had the apostle James (John’s brother) killed with a sword. When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish people, he also arrested Peter. (This took place during the Passover celebration.) Then he imprisoned him, placing him under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring Peter out for public trial after the Passover. But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him.

The night before Peter was to be placed on trial, he was asleep, fastened with two chains between two soldiers. Others stood guard at the prison gate. Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter. The angel struck him on the side to awaken him and said, “Quick! Get up!” And the chains fell off his wrists. Then the angel told him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” And he did. “Now put on your coat and follow me,” the angel ordered.

So Peter left the cell, following the angel. But all the time he thought it was a vision. He didn’t realize it was actually happening. They passed the first and second guard posts and came to the iron gate leading to the city, and this opened for them all by itself. So they passed through and started walking down the street, and then the angel suddenly left him.

Peter finally came to his senses. “It’s really true!” he said. “The Lord has sent his angel and saved me from Herod and from what the Jewish leaders had planned to do to me!”

When he realized this, he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer. He knocked at the door in the gate, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to open it. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the door, she ran back inside and told everyone, “Peter is standing at the door!”

You’re out of your mind!” they said. When she insisted, they decided, “It must be his angel.”

Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking. When they finally opened the door and saw him, they were amazed. He motioned for them to quiet down and told them how the Lord had led him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers what happened,” he said. And then he went to another place.


There’s no size of box that can contain our God! David had a good grasp of who God is when he prayed:


“O LORD, the God of our ancestor Israel, may you be praised forever and ever! Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O LORD, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things. Wealth and honor come from you alone, for you rule over everything. Power and might are in your hand, and at your discretion people are made great and given strength. 

“O our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name!” (1 Chronicles 29:10b-13)


Moses and the people of Israel sang praises to God that included:


“Who is like you among the gods, O LORD—glorious in holiness, awesome in splendor, performing great wonders? You raised your right hand, and the earth swallowed our enemies. With your unfailing love you lead the people you have redeemed. In your might, you guide them to your sacred home.

The LORD will reign forever and ever!” (Exodus 15:11-13, 18)


Isaiah wasn’t putting God in a box when he said:


It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. They were calling out to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!” Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke. (Isaiah 6:1-4)


How big is the box you have God in? Today let’s blow the sides, top, and bottom away and let God accomplish that which you believe is impossible. Jehovah God created the universe. He has always been, and He will always be. He had no beginning, and He will have no end. There’s no limit to His power. NOTHING is impossible with Him. Let God out of the box you have Him in, and let God be who He is—Yahweh. 


Reminders


·      Sunday services: 8:30 am @  https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live ; 10:30 am in the Worship Center at NCCU


·      Tuesday, Addiction Ministry, 6:00 pm at the Sunday School Building


·      You can watch any of Pastor Michael’s study of Philippians 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 at 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. 


·      Friday, Prayer Group, 9:15 am by ZOOM


·      The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am:  https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live



Completions to Verses:


·      . . . of righteousness in place,


·      . . . the gospel of peace as a firm footing. Ephesians 6:14-15 (NIV)


Love & Self-Control

6/26/2020


Good morning, Faithful and True.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/JJ7nO0al-fs


Complete the Verse & Name the Book: The harvest is plentiful, . . . (completion at the end)


One of my favorite Bible characters is Stephen. 


Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people. But one day some men from the Synagogue of Freed Slaves, as it was called, started to debate with him. They were Jews from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and the province of Asia. None of them could stand against the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen spoke.

So they persuaded some men to lie about Stephen, saying, “We heard him blaspheme Moses, and even God. This roused the people, the elders, and the teachers of religious law. So they arrested Stephen and brought him before the high council. (Acts 6:8-12)

Then the high priest asked Stephen, “Are these accusations true?” (Acts 7:1)


At this point, Stephen went into quite a lengthy explanation of the history of the Jews starting with Abraham in Mesopotamia. Around the halfway point of his speech, Stephen said:


“But our ancestors refused to listen to Moses. They rejected him and wanted to return to Egypt. They told Aaron, ‘Make us some gods who can lead us, for we don’t know what has become of this Moses, who brought us out of Egypt.’ So they made an idol shaped like a calf, and they sacrificed to it and celebrated over this thing they had made. Then God turned away from them and abandoned them to serve the stars of the heaven as their gods! (Acts 7:39-42a)


Let’s try to put this into perspective in 2020. There are computers today that have programs where the operator can create characters to accomplish feats. The operator can manipulate the characters to create a virtual city. There’s artificial intelligence where the characters can think for themselves up to a certain point. What would happen if characters could be created on the screen that could actually think and act completely on their own? The operator could tell the characters to dig a well for water. What would happen if they responded with, “No, we don’t have to do what you tell us to do. You’re not our boss. The mayor of the city is our boss”?

“But I’m the one who created the mayor of the city,” the operator might say.

“We’re cutting our ties with you. Our allegiance is with the mayor. If he tells us to dig a well, we will dig a well. We don’t answer to you any more.”

“Remember, I’m the one who created you. If you don’t do what I ask of you, I’m going to hit the delete button, and you’ll be history.”

The operator might wonder why his creations were turning against him and pledging allegiance to their own creations or a creation of the operator rather than the operator himself. The created beings are being unfaithful to their creator.

God calls this spiritual adultery. Here is what God said to the people of Jerusalem in Ezekiel 16:16-22, 30-32:


“You used the lovely things I gave you to make shrines for idols, where you played the prostitute. Unbelievable! How could such a thing ever happen? You took the very jewels and gold and silver ornaments I had given you and made statues of men and worshiped them. This is adultery against me! You used the beautifully embroidered clothes I gave you to dress your idols. Then you used my special oil and my incense to worship them. Imagine it! You set before them as a sacrifice the choice flour, olive oil, and honey I had given you, says the Sovereign LORD.

“Then you took your sons and daughters—the children you had borne to me—and sacrificed them to your gods. Was your prostitution not enough? Must you also slaughter my children by sacrificing them to idols? In all your years of adultery and detestable sin, you have not once remembered the days long ago when you lay naked in a field, kicking about in your own blood.

“What a sick heart you have, says the Sovereign LORD, to do such things as these, acting like a shameless prostitute. You build your pagan shrines on every corner and your altars to idols in every square. In fact, you have been worse than a prostitute, so eager for sin that you have not even demanded payment. Yes, you are an adulterous wife who takes in strangers instead of her own husband.


Here is where God uses the delete button:


“Because you have poured out your lust and exposed yourself in prostitution to all your lovers, and because you have worshiped detestable idols, and because you have slaughtered your children as sacrifices to your gods, this is what I am going to do. I will gather together all your allies—the lovers with whom you have sinned, both those you loved and those you hated—and I will strip you naked in front of them so they can stare at you. I will punish you for your murder and adultery. I will cover you with blood in my jealous fury. Then I will give you to these many nations who are your lovers, and they will destroy you. They will knock down your pagan shrines and the altars to your idols. They will strip you and take your beautiful jewels, leaving you stark naked. They will band together in a mob to stone you and cut you up with swords. They will burn your homes and punish you in front of many women. I will stop your prostitution and end your payments to your many lovers.” (Ezekiel 16:365b-41)


God does not take spiritual unfaithfulness lightly! When we pledge our allegiance to God, and then worship other things, He is very disturbed just as we would be if we found out our spouse who pledged to be faithful to us went back on their word. 

James 4:4-5 puts it this way:


You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him.


As Stephen reminded the high council and the high priest of this part of their history, it probably did not sit well with them. Then Stephen turned the heat up on them:


“You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That’s what your ancestors did, and so do you! Name one prophet your ancestors didn’t persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous One—the Messiah whom you betrayed and murdered. You deliberately disobeyed God’s law, even though you received it from the hands of angels.”

The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their fists at him in rage. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”

Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul.

As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.(Acts 7:51-60)


As Christians we daily need to remember to whom our allegiance is due—our Creator. He made us. He has the right to call the shots. Should the created thing say of the one who made it, “He didn’t make me”? Does a jar ever say, “The potter who made me is stupid”? (Isaiah 29:16b) The best part is our Creator loves us so much He took our death penalty upon Himself so we could live. He is 100% faithful to us. We need to be 100% faithful back to Him. We have to be diligent in not allowing any idols to creep into our lives, because divided loyalties don’t work in God’s kingdom. 

Let’s pray that God would give us the same kind of boldness Stephen had and the same spirit of love and forgiveness he demonstrated to those who desired to kill him and did kill him.


Reminders


·      Call someone today to check up on them.


·      You can watch any of Pastor Michael’s study of Philippians 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 at 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. 


·      The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am:  https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live



Verse Completion: . . . but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Luke 10:2 (NIV)


Love without Envy

6/25/2020


Good morning, Salt & Light.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/kIoKHyVub20


Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Let the man who has two tunics . . . (completion at the end)


The lyrics to a song say, “the darkest hour is just before dawn.” In other words, if you are going through a difficult time, hang in there; dawn is coming; better times are just around the bend.

In the book of Esther, we find Mordecai and Esther in their darkest hour. The king at the time was Xerxes and his right hand man was Haman. Haman was the most powerful official in the empire. Esther 3:8-11 tells why Mordecai and Esther became so depressed:


Then Haman approached King Xerxes and said, “There is a certain race of people scattered through all the provinces of your empire who keep themselves separate from everyone else. Their laws are different from those of any other people, and they refuse to obey the laws of the king. So it is not in the king’s interest to let them live. If it please the king, issue a decree that they be destroyed, and I will give 10,000 large sacks of silver to the government administrators to be deposited in the royal treasury.”

The king agreed, confirming his decision by removing his signet ring from his finger and giving it to Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. The king said, “The money and the people are both yours to do with as you see fit.”


This took place in April. The date set for the annihilation of the Jews was March 7 of the following year. Keep in mind that whatever was written in the king’s name and sealed with his signet ring could never be revoked. 

Mordecai and Esther were both Jews. Mordecai caught wind of what was to happen and told his cousin, Queen Esther, who was married to King Xerxes. Mordecai enlisted the help of the queen, but it came at a great risk. Esther would have to go before the king uninvited. The punishment for this was death unless the king held up his gold scepter. Esther risked her life, the king held up his scepter, and Esther invited the king and Haman to a banquet.

Haman despised Mordecai. Mordecai did not kowtow to Haman even though Haman held the highest office. Mordecai would not bow down and show Haman respect even though it was the king’s command. Haman had had enough of Mordecai and decided to have Mordecai impaled on a sharpened 75-foot pole. 

Meanwhile, the king discovered in his records that Mordecai had exposed the plan of two men who had plotted to assassinate King Xerxes. Esther 6:6-10 says: So Haman came in, and the king said, “What should I do to honor a man who truly pleases me?”

Haman thought to himself, “Whom would the king wish to honor more than me?” So he replied, “If the king wishes to honor someone, he should bring out one of the king’s own royal robes, as well as a horse that the king himself has ridden—one with a royal emblem on its head. Let the robes and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble officials. And let him see that the man whom the king wishes to honor is dressed in the king’s robes and led through the city square on the king’s horse. Have the official shout as they go, “This is what the king does for someone he wishes to honor!”

“Excellent!” the king said to Haman. “Quick! Take the robes and my horse and do just as you have said for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the gate of the palace. Leave out nothing you have suggested!”

One can only imagine how humiliated Haman must have felt.

Later, the king and Haman attended Queen Esther’s banquet where the king said to the queen:


    “Tell me what you want, Queen Esther. What is your request? I will give it to you, even if it is half of the kingdom!”

Queen Esther replied, “If I have found favor with the king, and if it pleases the king to grant my request, I ask that my life and the lives of my people will be spared. For my people and I have been sold to those who would kill, slaughter, and annihilate us. If we had merely been sold as slaves, I could remain quiet, for that would be too trivial a matter to warrant disturbing the king.”

“Who would do such a thing?” King Xerxes demanded. “Who would be so presumptuous as to touch you?”

Esther replied, “This wicked Haman is our adversary and our enemy.” Haman grew pale with fright before the king and the queen. Then the king jumped to his feet in a rage and went out into the palace garden. (Esther 7:2b-7a)


The king ordered Haman to be impaled on the sharpened pole Haman had prepared for Mordecai. 

It was still a dark hour though as the king’s decree to kill the Jews was still in effect. Queen Esther again risked her life to ask the king for help. The king made a decree:


The king’s decree gave the Jews in every city authority to unite to defend their lives. They were allowed to kill, slaughter, and annihilate anyone of any nationality or province who might attack them or their children and wives, and to take the property of their enemies. (8:11)


The king’s decree helped the Jews to be victorious over those who attacked them. As a result, Mordecai called for an annual festival to celebrate what took place. 


This would commemorate a time when the Jews gained relief from their enemies, when their sorrow was turned into gladness and their mourning into joy.(9:22b)


The Bible has many more examples of people whose sorrow was turned into gladness. Here are a few:


·      Sarah was past the childbearing years when she gave birth to Isaac. Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born. (see Genesis 21)


·      Abraham was called upon by God to sacrifice his only son to Him, but God’s angel stopped Abraham. (see Genesis 22)


·      Joseph was sold into slavery and became a powerful ruler. (see Genesis 37-45)


·      Job had seven sons and three daughters. He had 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 teams of oxen, and 500 female donkeys. He had many servants. He basically lost everything. He was struck with boils. God restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as before. (see Job 1,2,42)


·      Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den, but God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths. (see Daniel 6)


·      Jonah spent three days and three nights inside a great fish. God ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach. (see Jonah 1-2)


·      Paul and Silas were stripped and beaten with wooden rods. They were severely beaten and thrown into prison. Their feet were clamped in stocks. There was a great earthquake, and the next day they were released. (see Acts 16)


·      Jesus was flogged with a lead-tipped whip, given a crown of thorns, mocked, and crucified on a cross. On the third day He rose from the grave. (see Matthew 27-28)



Do you have a story of when God turned your sorrow into gladness or your mourning into joy? After 24 years of marriage, my wife filed for divorce. I was devastated. It was so difficult. Then God brought Laurie into my life. My sorrow was turned into gladness.

Sometimes we are allowed to go from sorrow to gladness in our lifetime, but sometimes we don’t see the gladness return until after we have died—as in the case of Jesus. Are you in a time of sorrow? You’re not alone. Others have been where you are and understand what it’s like. 

I heard this poem some time ago:


I spent an hour with Laughter

We chatted all the way

But I barely remember a single thing

From what she had to say.


I then spent an hour with Sorrow

And ne’er a word said she

But, oh, the things I learned the day

That Sorrow walked with me.


Sorrow can be a great teacher. I know it taught me to have more empathy for those who were going through a similar experience.

I’m so thankful for God’s unfailing love and faithfulness. He is full of compassion and mercy. He sees my sorrow and your sorrow, and He cares. He is able to turn our sorrow and mourning into joy. Praise Jesus!


Reminders


·      Call someone today to check up on them.


·      You can watch any of Pastor Michael’s study of Philippians 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 at 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. 


·      The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am:  https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live



Verse Completion. . . share with him who has none; and let him who has food do likewise. Luke 3:11b (NASB)

6/24/2020


Good morning, Family of God.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/-f4MUUMWMV4


Complete the Verse & Name the Book: He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For . . . (completion at the end)


Some people have turned an idea into big business. Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook in his Harvard dorm room in 2004. It is now a $350 billion company. Larry Page and Sergey Brin saw the need for a smarter search engine and got to work. The result was Google with a value of $605 billion. Chad Hurley and Steven Chen wanted a simpler way to share videos with friends online. They started YouTube while working in a cubicle. The company is worth $40 billion and serves up more than a billion videos a day. Apple was launched from a garage by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak who had an idea for a computer. Jeff Bezos had an idea for improving shipping. He started with shipping books out of his garage. Amazon is now a $292 billion company. 

All these financially successful companies were started with an idea. Napoleon Hill said, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.” The mind can come up with some impressive ideas. But where does the mind come from? Genesis 1:26-27 says: Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Human beings have a mind created by God. The mind can be used for good or it can be used for evil—to build up or to tear down. 

Romans 12:1-3 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. 

What does a transformed mind think about? Philippians 4:8 tells us it’s that which is: true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and worthy of praise. 

Around 430 B.C. the walls of Jerusalem were broken down making the city defenseless. Nehemiah saw the need for the walls to be rebuilt and he did something about it. In spite of much opposition, in just fifty-two days the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt. Nehemiah 6:16; 7:1-5 says: When our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about it, they were frightened and humiliated. They realized this work had been done with the help of our God.

After the wall was finished and I had set up the doors in the gates, the gatekeepers, singers, and Levites were appointed. I gave the responsibility of governing Jerusalem to my brother Hanani, along with Hananiah, the commander of the fortress, for he was a faithful man who feared God more than most. I said to them, “Do not leave the gates open during the hottest part of the day. And even while the gatekeepers are on duty, have them shut and bar the doors. Appoint the residents of Jerusalem to act as guards, everyone on a regular watch. Some will serve at sentry posts and some in front of their own homes.”

At that time the city was large and spacious, but the population was small, and none of the houses had been rebuilt. So my God gave me the idea to call together all the nobles and leaders of the city, along with the ordinary citizens, for registration. I had found the genealogical record of those who had first returned to Judah.

What ideas has God given to you recently? Have you asked God to give you any ideas recently? God gave Nehemiah an idea to improve Jerusalem, and he acted on it. 

Sometimes ideas we get transpire into multi-billion dollar companies. Usually, they do not. The examples given at the beginning are real, but they are the exception. A large number of businesses fail. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20% of businesses fail in their first year and about 50% of small businesses fail in their fifth year.

Ephesians 5:15-20 tells us how we should live: So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sometimes God gives us ideas like He did when he revealed to Nehemiah what He wanted him to do. Notice how Nehemiah had already completed the rebuilding of the wall when God gave Nehemiah another idea. When we step out in faith and attempt something for God, He takes notice. When we go about our day without a thought of God and His desires, He’s probably not going to be filling our minds with His ideas.

What are some ideas we might seek from God? Here are a few suggestions:


·      What can I do to reach others for you, Jesus?


·      What ministry exists that could use some help?


·      I see an area of need: ___________. What can I do to fill that need?


·      What could I say in a note that would encourage another person?


·      Who needs a phone call?


·      How can I use what I have been blessed with to bless others?


Let’s close with a prayer requesting an idea from God:

Dear Heavenly Father, I know you give people ideas. You gave Nehemiah the idea to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and register the people who lived inside the walls. This was a good thing for the people. I’m asking you, Father, to give me an idea that would improve the life of another person or persons. It might be something very simple like giving a glass of water to someone who is thirsty, or it might be something that completely changes the course of my life like when you called Steve and Joline Moore to Haiti for 16 years. I know if it’s you, God, that gives me the idea, it’s a great idea. I also know your ideas sometimes lead to wealth, but often they lead to difficult times that involve struggles and challenges. However, when it’s your idea, it will be a rewarding experience. Steve Moore had no desire to go to Haiti, but he went there for 16 years and wouldn’t change that experience for anything. It’s what you wanted him to do, and it brought him great joy. 

So, Lord, put in my mind an idea that comes straight from you. Plant it there, and don’t let it leave me. May it be an idea that would directly or indirectly further your kingdom. Your ideas are the best ideas. Your ideas can see into the future while my ideas are so often concerned with the here and now. May the idea you plant in my mind take root and come to full fruition because I was obedient and acted on your idea. 

In the name of Jesus, Amen.


Reminders


·      Call someone today to check up on them.


·      You can watch any of Pastor Michael’s study of Philippians 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 at 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. 


·      The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am:  https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live



Verse Completion: . . . the battle is not yours, but God’s. 2 Chronicles 20:15

6/23/2020


Good morning, Truth Seekers & Finders.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/Pz7578ZNwNU


Complete the Verse & Name the Book: No one who is born of God . . .(completion at the end)


How do we decipher truth? One of the ways is to examine how long what is being said has been around. In other words, we give it the test of time. I’m definitely not saying that everything that’s been around for hundreds or thousands of years is truth. I’m saying it is one test we can apply. Let’s look at an example in Acts 5:17-42:


The high priest and his officials, who were Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But an angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates of the jail, and brought them out. Then he told them, “Go to the Temple and give the people this message of life!”

So at daybreak the apostles entered the Temple, as they were told, and immediately began teaching.

When the high priest and his officials arrived, they convened the high council—the full assembly of the elders of Israel. Then they sent for the apostles to be brought from the jail for trial. But when the Temple guards went to the jail, the men were gone. So they returned to the council and reported, “The jail was securely locked, with the guards standing outside, but when we opened the gates, no one was there!”

When the captain of the Temple guard and the leading priests heard this, they were perplexed, wondering where it would all end. Then someone arrived with startling news: “The men you put in jail are standing in the Temple, teaching the people!”

The captain went with his Temple guards and arrested the apostles,  but without violence, for they were afraid the people would stone them. Then they brought the apostles before the high council, where the high priest confronted them. “We gave you strict orders never again to teach in this man’s name!” he said. “Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about him, and you want to make us responsible for his death!”

But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by hanging him on a cross. Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven. We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.”

When they heard this, the high council was furious and decided to kill them. But one member, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, who was an expert in religious law and respected by all the people, stood up and ordered that the men be sent outside the council chamber for a while. Then he said to his colleagues, “Men of Israel, take care what you are planning to do to these men! Some time ago there was that fellow Theudas, who pretended to be someone great. About 400 others joined him, but he was killed, and all his followers went their various ways. The whole movement came to nothing. After him, at the time of the census, there was Judas of Galilee. He got people to follow him, but he was killed, too, and all his followers were scattered.

“So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!”

The others accepted his advice. They called in the apostles and had them flogged. Then they ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus, and they let them go.

The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus. And every day, in the Temple and from house to house, they continued to teach and preach this message: “Jesus is the Messiah.”


Gamaliel was a wise man. He basically told the council to give Jesus the test of time. Theudas had 400 followers, but what he was teaching was not truth. It didn’t withstand the test of time. Judas of Galilee had his followers, too, but his message was not truth; it didn’t withstand the test of time. Gamaliel was saying it was too early to determine if what Jesus was saying was truth or false teaching. He encouraged the council to leave things as they were for the time being and watch to see what happens in the future. Afterall, if the teachings they were hearing about Jesus were true, then the council could be found to be fighting against God! That would be a serious mistake! Gamaliel encouraged the council to sit back and see what happens.

It’s been two thousand years since this conversation took place. Do you think that’s enough time? According to a Pew Research Center demographic analysis in 2015, Christians are the largest religious group in the world. Here’s the breakdown:


1.   Christians—2.3 billion


2.   Muslims—1.8 billion


3.   Unaffiliated—1.2 billion


4.   Hindus—1.1 billion


5.   Buddhists—0.5 billion


6.   Folk religions—0.4 billion


7.   Other religions—0.1 billion


8.   Jews—0.01 billion


Just because Christians are the largest group, it doesn’t make it the true religion and all the others false. However, it clearly shows that Christianity has stood the test of time. Gamaliel was so right when he said, “But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them.” What Jesus spoke was truth, and there’s nothing that can destroy truth. Many have tried to stamp out truth, but it will never happen. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

As we attempt to decipher truth, another aspect to consider is suffering and persecution. Throughout history the people of God have suffered persecution even to the point of death. Notice that the council had the apostles flogged and “ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus.” The apostles completely ignored the order in spite of the flogging they had received.  Jesus said, “I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” (Matthew 16:18b)

James 1:2-4 says: Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.When we know Truth, we have a joy the world can never take away from us.



In about five minutes, Ravi Zacharias answers the question: “How do I defend the Bible?”  https://youtu.be/1u5cXb4zHbM


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


·      The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am:  https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live



Verse Completion: . . . practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 1 John 3:9 (NASB)

6/22/2020


Good morning, Disciples of Jesus.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/f8TkUMJtK5k


Complete the Verses & Name the Book:


·      Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are . . .


·      you were bought at a price. Therefore . . . (completions at the end)



Yesterday Pastor Michael spoke on “Revealings and Reminders” to a virtual congregation at 8:30 a.m. and a live congregation at NCCU at 10:30 a.m. His sermon was based on Matthew 17:1-21.

When we learn a new skill, if we don’t use it we lose it. The disciples are learning from Jesus: salvation is by faith alone, Jesus is the Messiah, and the method of salvation. 


Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus.

Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.

But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground.

Then Jesus came over and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” And when they looked up, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus.

As they went back down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Then his disciples asked him, “Why do the teachers of religious law insist that Elijah must return before the Messiah comes?”

Jesus replied, “Elijah is indeed coming first to get everything ready. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, but he wasn’t recognized, and they chose to abuse him. And in the same way they will also make the Son of Man suffer.” Then the disciples realized he was talking about John the Baptist. (verses 1-13)


Jesus and the disciples are traveling from Caesarea Philippi to Jerusalem for the Passover which is about a month away. Jesus takes three of his disciples high up on a mountain. Luke’s account says, “Suddenly, two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared and began talking with Jesus. They were glorious to see. And they were speaking about his exodus from this world, which was about to be fulfilled in Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:30-31) There are some correlations here with Exodus 24:1-2: Then the LORD instructed Moses: “Come up here to me, and bring along Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of Israel’s elders. All of you must worship from a distance. Only Moses is allowed to come near to the LORD. The others must not come near, and none of the other people are allowed to climb up the mountain with him.” 

In Luke, the disciples talked about Jesus’ departing (His exodus) the earth and going to the promised land—heaven. In Exodus, three of Moses’ disciples are named that go up the mountain with him. Moses is given instructions to lead the people into the promised land—Canaan. 

When Jesus is transfigured, He is metamorphosized from a human body to a glorified body. Revelation 1:14 says, “His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were like flames of fire.” The glory of Jesus is revealed to His disciples. John mentions this in John 1:14: So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. Peter mentions it in 2 Peter 1:16-18: For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain. God the Father was confirming for the disciples that Jesus was the Messiah. 

Peter volunteered to make three shelters because they were going to spend the night on the mountain. Peter was concerned about the physical realities, but Jesus wanted them to be concerned about the spiritual reality that He truly was the Messiah. The bright cloud overshadowing them can be compared to when the LORD came down in a cloud in Exodus 34:3-7.

The voice out of the cloud is very similar to Matthew 3:17: And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” This is another confirmation of who Jesus is: The Messiah—the Savior of the world. Then we have the imperative statement: “Listen to him.” Perhaps this statement is a fulfillment of the prophesy we find in Deuteronomy 18:15: Moses continued, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.”

We must listen to Jesus because He has the words of life; He has the words of death; He has the words of salvation; He has the words of everlasting life; He has the words of forgiveness. He also has the words of judgment and punishment. We must listen carefully to His words! Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament.

There was a Jewish belief that Moses and Elijah would come together to announce the coming of the Messiah. It’s possible Moses and Elijah are the ones who appeared so there would be no doubt that Jesus was the Messiah. 

Notice how Jesus touched the disciples when they were face down on the ground. Jesus was never afraid to touch people—even lepers. There’s something about physical touch that encourages us and takes away fear. It’s comforting. 

The disciples understand that John the Baptist was the Elijah who was to come. What the disciples still don’t understand is the suffering of Jesus that will take place. A suffering Messiah just doesn’t match their concept of a triumphant Messiah. Notice how the disciples don’t ask Jesus any questions when He says, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” Jesus didn’t want them to tell anyone what they saw because they don’t understand the significance of it. The disciples think the kingdom of God is about power and authority, not suffering and death. 

The four of them likely spent the night on the mountain. When they come down, they see the following:


At the foot of the mountain, a large crowd was waiting for them. A man came and knelt before Jesus and said, “Lord, have mercy on my son. He has seizures and suffers terribly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. So I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn’t heal him.”

Jesus said, “You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Then Jesus rebuked the demon in the boy, and it left him. From that moment the boy was well.

Afterward the disciples asked Jesus privately, “Why couldn’t we cast out that demon?”

“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.” (verses 14-21)


The disciples have faith, but their faith needs to grow. They tried to bring healing to the boy on their own strength, and it wasn’t enough. They failed to understand that it’s not by their power, not by their works, not by their strength, not by their wisdom, not by their wealth, not by their position, not by their influence, not by their goodness. Salvation and sanctification come from God’s power, not ours. 

The disciples needed to learn to die to self. They had to learn that salvation comes through the suffering and death of Christ. The disciples wanted to use resurrection power out on their own without suffering and death, but death has to come. It’s death to self; life to Jesus. 

1 Corinthians 1:25-31 teaches us that it’s not about wisdom, our own strength, or how good we are. Christ chose the weak to show His strength. Christ chose the foolish to show His wisdom. Salvation, sanctification, and ministering for Jesus are the result of dying to self, not exalting self. 

2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “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. Our own personal goodness is not going to carry forth the kingdom of heaven. Anything kingdom oriented comes about by the grace of God and not by our own goodness. When we realize this, then nothing is impossible because it’s all about the power of God within us. 

Learning about the kingdom of God is difficult. Just when we think we have it, God shows us we need another lesson. The disciples never gave up. They continued with Jesus. We need to do the same.  We are insufficient, but God is all-sufficient. 



Ravi Zacharias and Os Guinness answer the question “Who is responsible for evil?” in less than eight minutes: https://youtu.be/xUohtd2hP78


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


·      The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am:  https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live



Completions to Verses:


·      . . . not your own;


·      . . . honor God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)

6/20/2020


Good morning, Contenders for the Gospel.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/tGvJ-fFHT_k


Complete the Verse & Name the Book: And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was . . . (completion at the end)


In twenty-five lessons Dr. Michael Wedman taught the book of Philippians during Fireside Fellowship; that’s roughly twenty-five hours of teaching! Today, we are going to summarize the second half of those lessons. Undoubtedly, some key points will be left out but the hope is that this review will still be profitable.

By investing in Paul and the gospel, the church at Philippi was investing in things eternal. Epaphroditus was sent to help Paul while Paul was in prison. That meant that Epaphroditus would stay in prison with Paul and provide for his needs including food and clothing. Epaphroditus is like-minded and united with Paul in faith, function, and fight. They are both apostles. The word apostle means messenger. In this case, they are messengers delivering the words of Jesus to others. 

Paul is sending Epaphroditus back to the church because Epaphroditus is longing to see everyone there. You might say he’s homesick for home. What would be best for Paul would be for Epaphroditus to stay in prison with him, but Paul doesn’t think about what’s best for him; he thinks about what’s best for Epaphroditus and the church. Paul is looking out for the best interests of Epaphroditus; Paul has his back.

Paul and Epaphroditus risked their lives for the work of Christ. They felt risking their lives for the gospel was worth the risk because death is gain for the Christian. Christians are willing to risk their lives for Christ.

When a professional sports team gets into a slump, what does the coach do? He takes the team back to the basics. Paul wants the church to be well grounded in the fundamentals of their faith. To mature in Christ, we have to have the fundamentals down. It’s upon the fundamentals that we build and grow. The fundamental message that we never tire of hearing is the gospel: the death and resurrection of Christ, the Holy Spirit in us, the fruit of the Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit, how to serve, unity, rejoicing . . . it’s all about Jesus. We don’t mature when we don’t practice the basics. The basics help us decipher right from wrong; they help us identify what is false. 

Anything that prevents us from understanding God, from knowing God, from obeying God, from serving God, from humbling ourselves before God is being uncircumcised. Circumcision is that act of getting rid of anything that separates us from a relationship with Jesus. 

Salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation is never by works or by the law. We can never be good enough to earn salvation; it is a gift.

Paul realized his prestigious ancestry and high position as a Pharisee actually prevented him from knowing Christ. Those things he held in high esteem—what he thought was working to draw him closer to God—were actually working to prevent him from knowing God. 

Paul is saying to us, “Be careful what you think is profit.” We all have a profit and loss sheet in our mind based on our goodness and accomplishments. Paul says it’s all garbage. The word garbage can be translated dung. It’s not just neutral; it actually can prevent a person from knowing God. Our trophy cases prevent us from knowing and growing in Christ. Paul puts NOTHING in the profit side of his sheet except Jesus. He knows his whole life is by the grace of God. Paul is doing the works of God and not the works of Paul.

Acts 27:13-26 has the story of Paul and the storm at sea. The ship Paul is on is in danger of sinking so the crew begins throwing the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. The cargo was in the profit side of their ledger, and yet they were throwing it into the sea. What was on the profit side is now worthless to them. However, the thrown over cargo is not neutral now; it is on the loss side because the captain is going to have to pay for that cargo. The only thing of value to the crew was life, and they were willing to do anything necessary to save their lives. 

The only thing that matters, the only thing we should be desperate for, the only thing that should be in our profit column is one word— Jesus. Salvation is by grace alone through faith. It’s not by our works, our descent, or our greatness. It’s not by how many committees we sat on, how much money we’ve given, or how long we’ve attended the church. If any of these are in your profit column, move them over to the loss column, and put Jesus only in your profit column. These are the things that prevent us from following Jesus. If we don’t give up everything we have in our profit column, we will not gain Jesus. It’s so easy to want Jesus and . . . in our profit column, but that will never work. In our profit column has to be Jesus only.

Paul doesn’t want to know about Jesus, he want to know Jesus; He wants a personal relationship with Him. You get to know someone by spending time with them. You get to know someone by living life with them. Paul wants to live life with Jesus.

If we have Christ living in us, we will suffer for Him because we will be countercultural. We become separated from those who choose to live a sinful life. When people reject Jesus, they reject those who follow Him. The deeper you go with Christ, the more you can expect to be persecuted.

When Paul says he is forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, he is saying he is forgetting all that used to be in his profit column of his ledger. Now that he has only Jesus in the profit column, there’s no reason to look back.

As we mature in Christ, our goal needs to be leaning into, straining into, and pressing into the life of Christ. Paul is telling us to keep moving forward in spite of suffering. Look ahead to the resurrection. Never give up. 

Grumbling and complaining always leads to anger, strife, division, and disunity. What do we do if we don’t like something? We should express our opinion correctly, leave it in God’s hands, and pray. 

People believe they will go to heaven because they are basically good people. They believe God will let them into heaven when God sees how extensive their profit column is. They believe they should be allowed into heaven on their goodness. They feel they deserve heaven based on what they have done. This is humanistic thinking. It’s not biblical. 

Humanism doesn’t take into account sin. Sin is real, and sin separates us from God. “Good” people do not like the word sin. They see themselves as good and want others to see them as good. The fact is we all have sin in our lives. The Pharisees saw themselves as upright people—pillars of the community, and they became very upset when Jesus called them sinners. The Pharisees felt they were faultless according to the Law. They were the “religious” people who put a lot of effort into being perfect. They were appalled when Jesus called them sinners.

A relationship with God starts not by displaying our goodness but by recognizing our sinfulness. Displaying our goodness is religion, and it doesn’t help us develop a relationship with Jesus. In fact, it keeps us from having a relationship with Jesus.The only way you get to heaven is through a relationship with Jesus not based on works or personal goodness. Personal goodness does zero for you as far as earning you salvation. We become acceptable to God through a relationship with Him. Our works may raise our social standing before people, but our works do nothing to raise our social standing before God. All the good things we do belong in God’s profit column, not ours. If we boast, we boast in the Lord, not us. The hard work of salvation, the hard work of maturing in Christ, is moving what we used to have in our profit column and moving it to our loss column.

Would you allow your children to do whatever they wanted, and when they did something that displeased you, allow them to flippantly say, “Oh, sorry”? Of course not. God doesn’t allow it with us either. When we receive salvation, we die to sin, and we live to Christ. Don’t live anything but the gospel. 

Paul told about a citizenship that was even greater than Roman citizenship; he told them about a heavenly citizenship. Once a person has grasped heavenly citizenship, they are happy to put Roman citizenship in the loss column of their ledger—counts for nothing. Citizens of heaven live for Christ, honor Christ, take the customs of Christ, talk like Christ, act like Christ. Citizens of heaven eagerly wait for Jesus to return as their Savior.

Paul doesn’t want the church to ignore the division that’s taking place in it because it will end up killing the church. Paul knows about disagreements; he had a sharp one with Barnabas (see Acts 15:36-41). They ended up parting ways, but they never slandered the other. They knew that would destroy the body of Christ. They wouldn’t do anything that would hurt the spread of the gospel. 

It’s difficult to argue with someone sitting right next to you. We need to realize the body of Christ is a team, and we shouldn’t oppose someone on the same team as us. We need to keep Christ in the center. Let’s be contenders for Jesus and not contenders against one another.

Joy doesn’t come from our circumstances. We are told to rejoice in the Lord. We rejoice because of Jesus in us. Rejoicing invites Jesus into the pain of circumstances. Rejoicing makes Jesus the center of one’s life. We don’t lean into our circumstances; we lean into Jesus. Be people of praise. Praise God for who He is. Our joy comes from Him. 

When teachers make allowances for their students based on their knowledge of the students, that’s an example of gentleness. It’s not about the strict adherence to the letter of the law; it’s about the person. 

John 8:1-11 is an example of Jesus extending gentleness to the woman caught in adultery. Gentleness looks past the law to the person. However, this does not mean that people who break the law shouldn’t be punished or have consequences for their behavior. Gentleness is more than justice because it takes into account the person—not just the action.

Prayer says, “You are God, and I am not.” Prayer recognizes God has the power to do something about the situation. 

Peace comes from God. When we rejoice, when we are gentle, when we pray, God gives us peace.

What we think about is important. It affects how we see the world and interpret the world. What you read will affect how you live. What we think about affects how we act, react, and interact with the world around us.

The eight virtues of Philippians 4:8 help us to live out the gospel. They are what we are to think about—that which is: true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy. While we think on these, let’s give others something virtuous to think about as they observe our life. These virtues are similar to the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. The Holy Spirit is in us and is transforming our character. We need to be thinking about God and His kingdom instead of thinking about ourselves and the earthly kingdom.

Paul says that contentment is not about anything we have; it’s not about material possessions. We need to learn to be content with little or much regardless of the circumstances. The secret to contentment is Jesus; He’s the one who gives us the strength to be content. Contentment is not self-sufficiency but Christ-sufficiency. Christ is all sufficient. Contentment is about being satisfied, and Jesus satisfies fully. Contentment involves moving everything we have in the profit column of our lives and moving it over to the loss column of our lives, so only Jesus is left in the profit column. We trust Jesus with our lives. If we trust Jesus and He is all-sufficient in our lives, then we can be content no matter what the circumstances. Contentment doesn’t come in a day; it’s a lifelong journey with Jesus. 

Paul did not want to be known as a traveling sophist or charlatan. Paul was not speaking to gain money or wealth. His purpose was to tell others about Jesus. Paul recognizes there are false apostles who are only in it for the money. Paul doesn’t want people to confuse him with them, and that’s why he would not take money for the preaching he did. Paul is not preaching the gospel so he can pad his bank account. Paul wants to separate himself from the sophists and charlatans. He wants people to know that with him it’s not about money; it’s about Jesus. The gospel message is what’s important. The sophists and charlatans wanted gain for themselves; Paul wants gain for those who hear and respond to the gospel.

When we give to benefit others, we are giving unto Jesus. We don’t give for our own gain: position, influence, or power. We give to gain nothing. We give because we love God and want to see His kingdom built. At that point, God credits us spiritually.

Paul’s life is all about Jesus. It’s not as if Paul added Jesus to his life; Jesus was his life. Paul greeted people in Christ, said good-bye in Christ, he boasted in Christ, he lived in Christ, he remained in Christ, he taught in Christ, he was empowered by Christ. Christ was central in his life; He was everything.

Jesus gives us faith, brings us to faith, leads us to faith, strengthens our faith, increases our faith, guards our faith, rewards our faith. It’s all about Jesus. We need the centrality of Jesus to become the centrality of our life. We need to empty out the profit column and let Jesus become central in our life. When we do that, we gain everlasting life. 

Jesus can’t be part of our life; He has to be all of our life. We can’t go somewhere or do something and exclude Jesus. He’s with us constantly when He’s central in our life. It doesn’t work to have Jesus on the periphery of our life and call Him in when we need Him. We need to let the centrality of Jesus be with us in the centrality of who we are. 



Pastor Tony Evans does a superb job of preaching on the topic of racism in less than 50 minutes: https://youtu.be/KbhNCTJ-dUI



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 the 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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


·      The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am:  https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live



Verse Completion: . . . thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:15 (NASB)

6/19/2020


Good morning, United in Christ.


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


Complete the Verse and Name the Book: And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were . . . (completion at the end)


In twenty-five lessons Dr. Michael Wedman taught the book of Philippians during Fireside Fellowship. That’s roughly twenty-five hours of teaching! Today, we are going to summarize half of those lessons and the other half tomorrow. Undoubtedly, some key points will be left out but the hope is that this review will still be profitable.

Paul and Timothy classify themselves as servants or slaves to Jesus. They do what their Master asks of them. They put their will aside to do Christ’s will. They are also saints because they received Jesus as their Lord and Savior and were forgiven of all unrighteousness.

A theme of the book is togetherness or unity. This is counter culture because the world makes distinctions between people: race, socioeconomic level, heritage, looks, athleticism, education, accomplishments, etc. God does not make these distinctions. As believers we are all servants of Christ that have received God’s grace or undeserved favor. We can’t do anything to earn God’s grace; it is a gift that comes from the heart of God who loves us. When we allow Jesus to be the master of our lives, He gives us His peace. We are safe and secure in Christ.

The church at Philippi became interested in how they could be a part of spreading the gospel to others. They found a partner in Paul. 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. He is joyful he has this partnership. He prays for the church. Partnering in the gospel leads to prayer for the gospel. Do we pray for one another regularly?

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.

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. What we should care about is that Christ is preached. Use whatever circumstances God puts you in to promote the gospel.

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.

Nothing can disrupt what Paul 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 promotes 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 is Jesus Christ.

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.

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’s the purpose of your life? Is it your job, your kids, your grandkids . . . or is it the progression of the gospel?

In Philippi, citizenship was important. The people who lived there were proud of their Roman citizenship. There were benefits to being a Roman citizen. Paul wants the church at Philippi to know they are 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.

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.

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. 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. The Holy Spirit is our power and strength.

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?” 

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.

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. 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.  

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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 want 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. Grumbling and complaining are, ultimately, directed at God.

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!

Jesus, Paul, and Timothy have the same interests: that all people would come unto salvation, that people would receive Jesus, believe in Him, receive forgiveness of sins, and receive everlasting life. They want to see: the gospel progressed in people’s lives, relationships changed, people remain in Christ, and rejoice in the Lord. How do you put Christ first in someone else’s life? You do what’s best for them. You do what will draw them to Jesus. You do what will grow them in Christ. 

Timothy renounced everything for the gospel. What have you renounced for the gospel? To what things have you said, “These are not as important as the gospel?”



Pastor Tony Evans does a superb job of preaching on the topic of racism in less than 50 minutes: https://youtu.be/KbhNCTJ-dUI


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


·      The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am:  https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live




Verse Completion. . . judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. Revelation 20:12 (NASB)

6/18/2020


Good morning, Faithful Servants of God.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/TYSJj-EHAAk


Complete the Verse & Name the BookJesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, 

‘The stone which the builders rejected, 

This became . . .  (completion at the end)


On Tuesday Pastor Michael wrapped up his study of Philippians, and today we will wrap up quotes from Eric Metaxas’ book Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Notes have been added in different places to aid in understanding the quotes:


Note: Dietrich Bonhoeffer was involved in several assassination attempts on Hitler.


“Who stands fast?” [Bonhoeffer] asked. “Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God—the responsible man, who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God.”

This was how Bonhoeffer saw what he was doing. He had theologically redefined the Christian life as something active, not reactive. It had nothing to do with avoiding sin or with merely talking or teaching or believing theological notions or principles or rules or tenets. It had everything to do with living one’s whole life in obedience to God’s call through action. It did not merely require a mind, but a body too. It was God’s call to be fully human, to live as human beings obedient to the one who had made us, which was the fulfillment of our destiny. It was not a cramped, compromised, circumspect life, but a life lived in a kind of wild, joyful, full-throated freedom—that was what it was to obey God. 


Bonhoeffer talked about how the German penchant for self-sacrifice and submission to authority had been used for evil ends by the Nazis; only a deep understanding of and commitment to the God of the Bible could stand up to such wickedness. “It depends on a God who demands responsible action in a bold venture of faith,” he wrote, “and who promises forgiveness and consolation to the man who becomes a sinner in that venture.” Here was the rub: one must be more zealous to please God than to avoid sin. One must sacrifice oneself utterly to God’s purposes, even to the point of possibly making moral mistakes. One’s obedience to God must be forward-oriented and zealous and free, and to be a mere moralist or pietist would make such a life impossible.


Note: Bonhoeffer wrote the following:


If we want to be Christians, we must have some share in Christ’s large-heartedness by acting with responsibility and in freedom when the hour of danger comes, and by showing a real sympathy that springs, not from fear, but from the liberating and redeeming love of Christ for all who suffer. Mere waiting and looking on is not Christian behavior. The Christian is called to sympathy and action, not in the first place by his own sufferings, but by the sufferings of his brethren, for whose sake Christ suffered. 

 It is we ourselves, and not outward circumstances, who make death what it can be, a death freely and voluntarily accepted.


Note: Bonhoeffer spent a year and a half at Tegel, a military prison, while he awaited his trial. Paul von Hase was Bonhoeffer’s uncle. Von Hase was the city commandant of Berlin in 1940. In 1942 he became part of a group of men who decided to overthrow Hitler.


Bonhoeffer’s noble bearing and generosity were noted by many, even up until his last day. At Tegel he used his own money to pay for legal help for a young prisoner who couldn’t afford it; another time he imposed upon his own defense lawyer by asking him to take the case of a fellow prisoner.

When in the summer of 1943 he was offered a cooler cell on the second floor of the prison, he refused it, knowing that his own cell would only be given to someone else. And he knew that much of his better treatment was because of who his uncle was. He wrote that when the prison authorities found out who his uncle was, “it was most embarrassing to see how everything changed from that moment.” He was immediately offered larger food portions, but refused them, knowing it would have been at the expense of other prisoners. Bonhoeffer was sometimes grateful for the small mercies of the preferential treatment and sometimes disgusted by it. Some of the prison staff actually apologized to him after they found out who his uncle was. “It was painful,” he wrote.

Bonhoeffer was outraged by injustice, and the way many of the senior guards abused prisoners infuriated him, but he used his position to speak out for those who had no power. At one point he even wrote a report on prison life, intending to draw the authorities’ attention to those things that needed improving. He knew his position as von Hase’s nephew would bring some attention to these problems, so he gave chapter and verse of the injustices he observed, being the voice for the voiceless just as he had always preached those in the church must do.


Bonhoeffer was trying with all his might to express the almost inexpressible paradox of a proper relation to God. He had a very high view of marriage: it is “more than your love for each other,” and it “has a higher dignity and power, for it is God‘s holy ordinance, through which he wills to perpetuate the human race till the end of time.” Perhaps the sermon’s most memorable sentence is this: “It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.”


Bonhoeffer said the Psalms and Revelation were a great comfort to him during those days, as were the hymns of Paul Gerhardt, many of which he knew by heart. Note: Here is a sample of one of Gerhardt’s hymns: https://youtu.be/pU1RIkC6PLo


In a nutshell, he saw a situation so bleak, by any historical measures, that he was rethinking some basic things and wondered whether modern man had moved beyond religion. What Bonhoeffer meant by “religion” was not true Christianity, but the ersatz and abbreviated Christianity that he spent his life working against. This “religious” Christianity had failed Germany and the West during this great time of crisis, for one thing, and he wondered whether it wasn’t finally time for the lordship of Jesus Christ to move past Sunday mornings and churches and into the whole world. But this was simply an extension of his previous theology, which was dedicatedly Bible centered and Christ centered.

Bonhoeffer was thinking in a new way about what he had been thinking and saying for two decades: God was bigger than everyone imagined, and he wanted more of his followers and more of the world than was given him. Bonhoeffer recognized that standard-issue “religion” had made God small, having dominion only over those things we could not explain. That “religious” God was merely the “God of the gaps,” the God who concerned himself with our “secret sins” and hidden thoughts. But Bonhoeffer rejected this abbreviated God. The God of the Bible was Lord over everything, over every scientific discovery. He was Lord over not just what we did not know, but over what we knew and were discovering through science. Bonhoeffer was wondering if it wasn’t time to bring God into the whole world and stop pretending he wanted only to live in those religious corners that we reserved for him.


All concepts of reality that ignore Jesus Christ are abstractions.


Bonhoeffer was saying that apart from Jesus Christ, we cannot know what is right or do right. We must look to him in every situation. Only in him can the fathomless evil of the world be dealt a death blow. 


Note: In his book, Ethics, Bonhoeffer wrote the following concerning abortion:

Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed upon this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder.


The only fight which is lost is that which we give up.


Bonhoeffer thought of death as the last station on the road to freedom.


Note: In a sermon Bonhoffer gave while in London, he said:


Life only really begins when it ends here on earth; all that is here is only the prologue before the curtain goes up—that is for young and old alike to think about. Why are we so afraid when we think about death? . . . Death is only dreadful for those who live in dread and fear of it. Death is not wild and terrible, if only we can be still and hold fast to God’s Word. Death is not bitter, if we have not become bitter ourselves. Death is grace, the greatest gift of grace that God gives to people who believe in him. Death is mild, death is sweet and gentle; it beckons to us with heavenly power, if only we realize that it is the gateway to our homeland, the tabernacle of you, the everlasting kingdom of peace.

How do we know that dying is so dreadful? Who knows whether, in our human fear and anguish we are only shivering and shuddering at the most glorious, heavenly, blessed event in the world?

Death is hell and night and cold, if it is not transformed by our faith. But that is just what is so marvelous, that we can transform death.


Note: The prison camp doctor wrote the following:


Through the half-open door in one room of the huts I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer, before taking off his prison garb, kneeling on the floor praying fervently to his God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.


Note: Bonhoeffer’s execution took place on April 9, 1945, at Flossenbürg concentration camp.


Two weeks later, on April 23, the Allies marched into Flossenbürg. In another week Hitler committed suicide, and the war was over.



Ravi Zacharias answers the question “Does God care about our happiness?” in less than six minutes: https://youtu.be/4vtUQ1BksGQ


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


·      The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am:  https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live



Verse Completion

. . . the chief corner stone; 

This came about from the LORD,

And it is marvelous in our eyes’?” 

Matthew 21:42 (NASB) See also Mark 12:10 and Psalms 118:22

6/17/2020


Good morning to everyone who wants Jesus to be central in your life. 


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/zqX9OgA6HP0


Complete the Verse & Name the Book: And the one on whom seed was sown on the good ground, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit, and brings forth, . . . (completion at the end)


Yesterday Dr. Michael Wedman concluded the study of Philippians with his Fireside Fellowship topic of “Christ of the Gospel” based on 4:21-23:


Give my greetings to each of God’s holy people—all who belong to Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me send you their greetings. And all the rest of God’s people send you greetings, too, especially those in Casesar’s household.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.


In verse nine, Paul wrapped up his doctrinal teaching. In verses 10-20 he gave thanks to the Philippians for all they had done for him. In these last four verses he is saying farewell. 

Paul uses the phrase “in/for/with Christ Jesus” twenty-six times in this book because Paul is all about the centrality of Christ. He refers to Christ/Jesus 40 times in this book. If one includes Lord being used with Christ/Jesus, it’s 46 times. Paul’s life is all about Jesus. It’s not as if Paul added Jesus to his life; Jesus was his life. The purpose of Paul’s life was to know Jesus more deeply. Jesus wasn’t something Paul pursued on Sundays; Jesus was who he pursued 24/7 with his whole being. Paul greeted people in Christ, said good-bye in Christ, he boasted in Christ, he lived in Christ, he remained in Christ, he taught in Christ, he was empowered by Christ. Christ was central in his life; He was everything. 

We too need to be Christ-centered. We always need to be thinking about Jesus. Our actions, reactions, and interactions need to reflect who Jesus is in our life. We need to greet others with kindness and with a generosity of encouragement. Galatians 6:10 says, “Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.” There’s a bond that believers share in Christ. There’s a family connection which is a spiritual connection that’s even closer than a physical connection. 

Everyone has a profit and loss column in their life. We recognize we’ve done some good things and some bad things during our life. We put the good in the profit column and the bad in the loss column. We concentrate on our profit column, and we compare our profit column with other people’s profit column. However, as soon as we do this, we lose the centrality of Jesus in our life. 

When Paul said “the brothers who are with me send you their greetings,” he’s talking about Timothy, Epaphroditus, Silas, and others who traveled with him. When he said “all the rest of God’s people send you greetings,” he’s talking about the church in Rome. Even though the two congregations hadn’t met each other, there was a family connection between them; they had the same Spirit of Christ in them. 

Every believer in Christ is part of the global family of God whether we live in India, the United States, or anywhere else. We have an instant connection with each other when we meet. It’s as if we know each other, and it’s because we are both in Christ. You are not alone in this walk with Jesus. There are people around the world who would instantly pray with you. However, if we put our own personality as the center of the universe, we don’t have a unity with other believers. The only person we have unity with is ourselves and those we can manipulate to agree with us. When we are in Jesus, we are automatically in unity. In order to keep unity, we keep Jesus on the throne of our life. 

When Paul says “especially those in Caesar’s household,” he is referring to those who are part of the imperial civil service—those who are employed to keep the government flowing (judges, clerks, servants, slaves, guards, etc.). People who had jobs with the imperial civil service were proud of their jobs. It was an honor to get to work for the emperor. It’s believers within this household that Paul is addressing. They used to boast in working for Caesar, but now they boast in the Lord. They are proud to be Christians—followers of Christ. 

Philippi was a leading Roman city in Macedonia. Many of the people living there used to be in the military. After twenty-one years of service they became Roman citizens who often worked in Caesar’s household. Paul was widely known among those working in Caesar’s household. They would talk about Paul to each other, but to talk about Paul was to talk about Jesus because the two were inseparable. Christ was central in Paul’s life. 

The gospel was being spread as people talked about Paul. The message of Christ can’t be stopped. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18b, “I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” Christ’s church will never be stomped out. The gospel was progressing and the Philippians were part of this. There were people who were for Christ who were working in the government that was against Christ. They were being salt and light. We need to pray for those who are in leadership positions in government.

Colossians 1:15-20 says:


Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fulness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.


Not only is Jesus central to our lives, but He is central to the entire universe. When we grasp who Jesus is, it makes our arguing, grumbling, and complaining seem so trivial. 

Paul started the book with grace: May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace (1:2), and he closes it with grace: May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit (4:23). Grace is unearned, undeserved, unmerited favor that is given to us through Jesus. The centrality of grace is Jesus. We can’t work for grace; it’s given to us freely because Jesus loves us. 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 gives us faith, brings us to faith, leads us to faith, strengthens our faith, increases our faith, guards our faith, rewards our faith. It’s all about Jesus. We need the centrality of Jesus to become the centrality of our life. We need to empty out the profit column and let Jesus become central in our life. When we do that, we gain everlasting life. 

Jesus can’t be part of our life; He has to be all of our life. We can’t go somewhere or do something and exclude Jesus. He’s with us constantly when He’s central in our life. It doesn’t work to have Jesus on the periphery of our life and call Him in when we need Him. We need to let the centrality of Jesus be with us in the centrality of who we are. 



Ravi Zacharias discusses faith, morality, the problem of suffering, the case for a creator, and more in this hour long interview with Ben Shapiro: https://youtu.be/f_EpoJAcOOs


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


·      The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am:  https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live



Verse Completion. . . some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. Matthew 13:23 (NASB) See also Mark 4:20 and Luke 8:15

6/16/2020


Good morning, Faithful Servant of the Lord.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/GJBI3QLtQQE


Complete the Verses & Name the Book:


·      This people honors Me with their lips, but . . .


·      But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as their doctrines . . . (completions at the end)




Today we continue with the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer written by Eric Metaxas: Bonhoeffer—Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. I have added notes in different places to aid in understanding the following quotes from the book:


Note: Bonhoeffer helped many prospective pastors prepare for the ministry. At the start of World War II, a large number of these men were drafted into Hitler’s military. The following is a circular letter Bonhoeffer wrote to the brethren telling of the death of one of these men on the third day of fighting:


I have received the news, which I pass on to you today, that our dear brother Theodor Maass was killed in Poland on 3rd September. You will be stunned by this news as I was. But I beg you, let us thank God in remembrance of him. He was a good brother, a quiet, faithful pastor of the Confessing Church, a man who lived from word and sacrament, whom God has also thought worthy to suffer for the Gospel. I am sure that he was prepared to go. Where God tears great gaps we should not try to fill them with human words. They should remain open. Our only comfort is the God of the resurrection, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who also was and is his God. 


Note: The Confessing Church was a movement within German Protestantism that arose in opposition to government-sponsored efforts to unify all Protestant churches into a single pro-Nazi Protestant Reich Church.


It was very clearly the case that whoever refused the draft in the case of war would be beheaded, would be executed. Was this the point at which we should give up our lives, and thereby also our care for our family, and everything which was important to us?


Note: Canaris was an admiral in Germany’s military. The SS was the Schutzstaffel—a small paramilitary formation that grew to be one of the most powerful organizations in Nazi Germany.


In his diary Canaris wrote, “I pointed out to General Keitel that I knew that extensive executions were planned in Poland and that particularly the nobility and the clergy were to be exterminated.” Canaris was referring to the plan that the SS called the “housecleaning of Jews, intelligentsia, clergy and the nobility.” All Poles with leadership abilities were to be killed.


There had been warnings all along, the loudest being Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf


Since the SS perpetrated the most wicked acts, Hitler could keep the worst of it from his military leaders.


Note: Many of the military leaders did find out about the atrocities committed by the SS, and they made a fuss.


. . . but they came to realize that making a fuss was not succeeding. More Jews and Poles were being butchered every day. They must plan another coup. Many of them were Christians and had no qualms about calling what they saw evil, and felt a duty to stop it at all costs. Many felt that to be good Germans and faithful Christians at that time meant turning against [Hitler].


All his life, Bonhoeffer had applied the same logic to theological issues that his father applied to scientific issues. There was only one reality, and Christ was Lord over all of it or none. A major theme for Bonhoeffer was that every Christian must be “fully human” by bringing God into his whole life, not merely into some “spiritual” realm. To be an ethereal figure who merely talked about God, but somehow refused to get his hands dirty in the real world in which God had placed him, was bad theology. Through Christ, God had shown that he meant us to be in this world and to obey him with our actions in this world. So Bonhoeffer would get his hands dirty, not because he had grown impatient, but because God was speaking to him about further steps of obedience. 


Note: In his book, Ethics, Bonhoeffer wrote:


In a world where success is the measure and justification of all things the figure of Him who was sentenced and crucified remains a stranger and is at best the object of pity. The world will allow itself to be subdued only by success. It is not ideas or opinions which decide, but deeds. Success alone justifies wrongs done. . . . With a frankness and off-handedness which no other earthly power could permit itself, history appeals in its own cause to the dictum that the end justifies the means. . . . The figure of the Crucified invalidates all thought which takes success for its standard.


God was interested not in success, but in obedience. If one obeyed God and was willing to suffer defeat and whatever else came one’s way, God would show a kind of success that the world couldn’t imagine. But this was the narrow path, and few would take it.


Jesus took the Old Testament laws to a deeper level of meaning and obedience, from the “letter of the Law” to the “Spirit of the Law.” Following the letter of the law was the dead “religion” of which Barth, among others, had written. It was man’s attempt to deceive God into thinking one was being obedient, which was a far greater deception. God always required something deeper than religious legalism.


To be true to God in the deepest way meant having such a relationship with him that one did not live legalistically by “rules” or “principles.” One could never separate one’s actions from one’s relationship to God. It was a more demanding and more mature level of obedience, and Bonhoeffer had come to see that the evil of Hitler was forcing Christians to go deeper in their obedience, to think harder about what God was asking. Legalistic religion was being shown to be utterly inadequate.


So the day had come. Bonhoeffer had officially joined the conspiracy. He would be enfolded into the Abwehr’s protection and, in the guise of a member of Military Intelligence, would be protected by Oster and Canaris. The levels of deception were several. On the one hand, Bonhoeffer would be actually performing pastoral work and continuing his theological writing, as he wished to do. Officially this work was a front for his work as a Nazi agent in Military Intelligence. But unofficially his work in Military Intelligence was a front for his real work as a conspirator against the Nazi regime. . . . He was involved in a high-stakes game of deception upon deception, and yet Bonhoeffer himself knew that in all of it, he was being utterly obedient to God. 


Like others at the time, Barth was perplexed about Bonhoeffer’s mission. How could a Confessing Church pastor come to Switzerland in the midst of war? It seemed to him that Bonhoeffer must have somehow made peace with the Nazis. This was one of the casualties of the war, that trust itself seemed to die a thousand deaths.


Even if Bonhoeffer could have explained that he was in fact working against Hitler, many in the Confessing Church would still have been confused, and others would have been outraged. For a pastor to be involved in a plot whose linchpin was the assassination of the head of state during a time of war, when brothers and sons and fathers were giving their lives for their country, was unthinkable. Bonhoeffer had come to a place where he was in many ways very much alone. God had driven him to this place, though, and he was not about to look for a way out any more than Jeremiah had done. It was the fate he had embraced, and it was obedience to God, and he would rejoice in it, and did.


In life with Jesus Christ, death as a general fate approaching us from without is confronted by death from within, one’s own death, the free death of daily dying with Jesus Christ. Those who live with Christ die daily to their own will. Christ in us gives us over to death so that he can live within us. Thus our inner dying grows to meet that death from without. Christians receive their own death in this way, and in this way our physical death very truly becomes not the end but rather the fulfillment of our life with Jesus Christ. Here we enter into community with the One who at his own death was able to say, “It is finished.”


If we inquire the will of God, free from all doubt and all mistrust, we shall discover it. Always give thanks for all things. Everything we cannot thank God for, we reproach him for. 


Only in peace with God, with others, and with ourselves will we hear and do God’s will. In this we may have great confidence and need not become impatient or act rashly. 


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


·      The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am:  https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live



Completions to Verses:


·      . . . their heart is far away from Me.


·      . . . the precepts of men. Matthew 15:8-9 (NASB) See also Isaiah 29:13


Paul Prays

6/15/2020


Good morning, Cross Bearers. 


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/gGUo0-A_Gz8


Complete the Verses & Name the Book:


·      And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as a dead man. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am . . .


·      and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have . . . (completions at the end)



Yesterday Pastor Michael preached his last sermon to his 100% virtual congregation. Next Sunday, he will preach to a split congregation: some virtual and some in person. The topic yesterday’s sermon was “Death and Denial” based on Matthew 16:21-28.

Life has its benchmark moments that we can consider turning points—the point at which one chapter in life is closed and another one is opened. This is where Jesus is at with His disciples. The disciples have learned from Jesus and participated with Him for around two years. 

Notice how verse 21 starts out: “From then on . . .” This indicates a turning point. The disciples understood the gospel message is taken by faith through grace and not by works. This was a different message than the Pharisees were giving. A proper relationship with God comes by faith; it comes by trusting in Jesus. 

The disciples understood that Jesus was the Messiah. The gospel involves a message that involves a person--Jesus. The disciples understood the message of Jesus and they recognized He was the Messiah, but there was one more thing the disciples needed to understand:


From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead. 


Jesus began His teaching that He was going to suffer and die. He had talked about this earlier, but they didn’t understand. Jesus said in Matthew 16:4: “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.” (see also Matthew 12:39-40) Now Jesus was telling the disciples that they needed to go back to Jerusalem. They had been away for around six months. The disciples were apprehensive because they knew Jerusalem was a dangerous place for Jesus. The governing body of Israel, the Sanhedrin, wanted to get rid of Jesus.

The disciples had grown close to Jesus, and they had witnessed many miracles performed by Him. Whenever there were dealings with the Pharisees and Sadducees, Jesus always had the upper hand. Jesus was not intimidated by them. But now Jesus is telling the disciples that things are going to change, and He will not have the upper hand any longer. In fact Jesus would be killed. That just didn’t fit with what they had seen: there wasn’t a disease He couldn’t heal, there wasn’t a demon He couldn’t cast out, there wasn’t a Pharisee He couldn’t confound. Jesus was unstoppable! There was nothing He couldn’t overcome. Suffering and death didn’t make any sense to the disciples. They recognized that Jesus was the Messiah, and they believed the conquering king who would restore Israel to power and rule Israel. 


But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!” 


Generally, when you pull a person aside to talk to them, you have some difficult things to say to them. Peter was saying, “Jesus, you are a great man, but there are some things you need to know. You have something wrong, and I want you to change your way of thinking. You are the Messiah, and I want you to remember who you are. You are not going to suffer and die.”

When we receive a bad report from the doctor that we have a terminal disease and our days are numbered, our first response is “No! This can’t be. There’s some mistake. What needs to be done to change this way of thinking?” This is how the disciples responded to the news Jesus gave them. 


Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”


Why does Jesus respond so harshly to Peter? These are the same words Jesus spoke to Satan when he tempted Jesus (see Matthew 4:10). Jesus said the words to Peter because Peter didn’t understand the method of salvation. Peter and the disciples didn’t understand that Jesus had to die on a cross, that there’s no salvation, there’s no forgiveness of sins, there’s no penalty paid for sins unless Jesus died. The whole purpose of Jesus coming to Earth was to die for my sins and die for your sins. Jesus loved us so much He was willing to die for the sins of the world so we could have salvation from sin and have everlasting life. Jesus wanted people to be put back into a right relationship with God. 

Here we have Peter telling Jesus He doesn’t have to die. When he said that, he was not promoting the kingdom of God; he was promoting the kingdom of Satan. Peter was rejecting the words of God. When Jesus said He would die, Peter told Jesus His words were not true. However, everything Jesus says is true because He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). In rejecting the words of Jesus, Peter is by default using the words of Satan. When we reject God’s words, we are rejecting God and by default accepting the words of Satan. We’re saying, “I’m going to reject Jesus in favor of Satan.”

Peter didn’t know he was being used by Satan. Peter was well intentioned. He didn’t want Jesus to die; he wanted to encourage Jesus. He was well intentioned, but he didn’t know what he was talking about. Jesus did not say to Peter, “I know you mean well, but you are using Satan’s words. However, don’t worry about it because I know you have a good heart.” What Jesus did say to Peter was, “Get out of here, Satan! You are rejecting my words and you’re accepting the words of Satan! Stop what you’re doing! You are baiting a trap for me and trying to tempt me out of my purpose!” Peter is being used by Satan to try and tempt Jesus. Peter and the disciples didn’t understand the method of salvation; they didn’t understand why Jesus came from heaven. 

We often have a mind tuned into our concerns and not the concerns of God. We want our way, our will, our words, our preferences, our opinions, our authority—not God’s. When this happens, we are promoting our kingdom and not the kingdom of God. We put our concerns above God’s concerns. Whose mind do you have—God’s or Satan’s? If we reject the words of God, we are accepting the words of Satan by default. 

The method of salvation was through suffering and death, and that’s why Peter was rebuked so sharply. If Jesus didn’t die on the cross, there would be no forgiveness for sins. Hebrews 9:22b says, “For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.” If Jesus bypassed suffering and death, we would not have everlasting life. The centrality of the gospel is the death and resurrection of Jesus, and Peter tried to stop Jesus from dying. Notice how none of the disciples inquired about a resurrection. 

Salvation comes through suffering and death. Sanctification comes through suffering and death. Following Jesus comes through suffering and death. 


Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. 


We must put to death our own kingdom. We must crucify it. We must put it up to shame. Everything we have in our profit column (look at all I’ve done for God, look how much I’ve given to God, look how many years I’ve served) is shameful because it keeps us from the kingdom of God. We think our works will save us, and they won’t. The profit column must be emptied and be replaced with Jesus alone. 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.”

Romans 6:6-7, 11-12 says, “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. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires.” This is picking up your cross and following Him. It’s dying to self. It’s crucifying our ways, our will, and our words. It’s not going without chocolate, not watching television or giving up coffee for 40 days. We don’t want our Christianity to become minor inconveniences. 

When we die to self we give up those things we know we can’t give up. When you give up arguing, stop pushing your preferences, stop manipulating and controlling people, then you’re on your way to dying to self. Dying to self is saying, “I don’t count at all; what counts is Jesus in me. I want Jesus to live, not me.” Dying to Christ is knowing a commitment to Christ will cost you your family, your job, your house, and even your life. Dying to self means we don’t take offense at what somebody says. It means saying, “I’m not that important that I need to be offended.” We aren’t following unless we’re dying. 


If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 


Jesus is using words of profit and loss. You can’t choose Jesus and . . . it’s Jesus only. We can only have one master. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.” (Matthew 6:24) You can’t expect to have it the world’s way and God’s way. It’s all or nothing. 


And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? 


We’re not disciples of Christ unless we take up our cross and follow Him. Sanctification or maturing in Christ is a process. It’s doesn’t happen overnight but eventually disciples of Christ get it; they understand denying self and following Christ. 


For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds. And I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”


There’s a reward for those who have denied themselves, taken up their cross, and followed Jesus. There’s no reward for leaving the cross on the ground. There’s no reward for following our own kingdom. Jesus is coming again. How we live now matters then. 

The Son of Man coming in his Kingdom started the day Jesus was resurrected. Pentecost, Saul the greatest persecutor of the church becoming Paul the greatest proponent of the church, the inception of the church with its millions of followers of Christ is the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. It’s not referring to the second coming of Christ.

In order to be raised from the grave, we need to die to self and live for Jesus. Like the disciples, we need to know the message, the Messiah, and the method


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


·      The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am:  https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live



Completions to verses:


·      . . . the first and the last,


·      . . . the keys of death and of Hades. Revelation 1:17-18 (NASB)


Pauls Reason

6/13/2020


Good morning to everyone standing firm against the schemes of the devil. 


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/SzZZb6RbLJs


Complete the Verse & Name the Book: If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, . . . (completion at the end)


Today we continue with quotes from Eric Metaxas’ book Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. I have added notes here and there to, hopefully, aid in clarification. 


Note: National Socialism is another word for Nazism—the ideology and practices associated with the Nazi Party. The Confessing Church was a movement within German Protestantism during Nazi Germany that arose in opposition to government-sponsored efforts to unify all Protestant churches into a single pro-Nazi Protestant Reich Church.


The National Socialists’ strategy of dividing and conquering its opponents, of confusing and delaying, was working with the Confessing Church. Bonhoeffer knew that something of this unwillingness to speak out with boldness had to do with money. The state provided financial security for the pastors of Germany, and even pastors in the Confessing Church would jeopardize their incomes only to a certain point.


The Nazis did their best to portray Germany as a Christian nation. 


For Bonhoeffer, the challenge was to deliver the Word of God as purely as possible, without feeling the need to help it along or to dress it up. It alone had the power to touch the human heart. 


[Bonhoeffer] commented on how the ecumenical movement and the Confessing Church had sometimes engaged in well-intentioned dialogue with Hitler and Reichskirche:

“Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you” (Matthew 7:6). The promise of grace is not to be squandered; it needs to be protected from the godless. There are those who are not worthy of the sanctuary. The proclamations of grace has its limits. Grace may not be proclaimed to anyone who does not recognize or distinguish or desire it. Not only does that pollute the sanctuary itself, not only must those who sin still be guilty against the Most Holy, but in addition, the misuse of the Holy must turn against the community itself. The world upon whom grace is thrust as a bargain will grow tired of it, and it will not only trample upon the Holy, but also will tear apart those who force it on them. For its own sake, for the sake of the sinner, and for the sake of the community, the Holy is to be protected from cheap surrender. The Gospel is protected by the preaching of repentance which calls sin sin and declares the sinner guilty. The key to loose is protected by the key to bind. The preaching of grace can only be protected by the preaching of repentance.


In 1937, the Nazis abandoned all pretense of being even-handed and came down hard on the Confessing Church. That year more than eight hundred Confessing Church pastors and lay leaders were imprisoned or arrested. Their leader, the outspoken Martin Niemöller of Dahlem, was among them. On June 27, he preached what would be his last sermon for many years. Crowds had overflowed his church week after week. That final Sunday, Niemöller was no less outspoken than he had always been. From the pulpit he declared, “We have no more thought of using our own powers to escape the arm of the authorities, than had the Apostles of old. No more are we ready to keep silent at man’s behest when God commands us to speak. For it is, and must remain, the case that we must obey God rather than man.” That Thursday he was arrested.


Bonhoeffer was an eternal optimist because he believed what God said through the Scriptures. He knew that whatever befell him or the faithful brethren would open new opportunities in which God would operate, in which his provision would become clear.


But these gentlemen from the Prussian officer tradition were all too well-bred to know how to deal with someone as vulgar as Hitler. On the one hand, he was an uncouth embarrassment, a feral clod hardly to be taken seriously. On the other hand, he was the legal head of their beloved Germany, to whom they had sworn oaths. For most of these men, he presented some kind of obscene Chinese puzzle. Most of them loved their country and hated Hitler, and they rightly saw his war plans as breathtaking in their foolhardiness and immorality. They were convinced that he would smash their great nation on the rocks, and they were quite right. From that meeting forward, they were intent on removing him.


The new head of the Reichskirche was Dr. Friedrich Werner, and as a triple-jointed sycophant, he wouldn’t be outdone. His grand sense of occasion alone would catapult him into the lead because, for his obsequious gesture, he chose the Führer’s birthday. On April 20 he published in the Legal Gazette a sweeping ordinance demanding that every single pastor in Germany take an oath of obedience to Adolf Hitler.

Many Confessing Church pastors felt that taking this oath would be like bowing down to a false god. Just as early Christians had refused to worship images of Caesar, and Jews had refused to worship the statue of Nebuchadnezzar, so they refused to take this oath to Adolf Hitler. But the messianic attitude toward Hitler was widespread, and few dared to stand against it.


Bonhoeffer often spoke of Jesus Christ as the “man for others,” as selflessness incarnate, loving and serving others to the absolute exclusion of his needs and desires. Similarly, the church of Jesus Christ existed for “others.” And since Christ was Lord over the whole world, not just the church, the church existed to reach out beyond itself, to speak out for the voiceless, to defend the weak and fatherless. . . . [Bonhoeffer’s] gaze was in a new way directed away from his own trials and toward the trials of God’s people, the Jews.


Note: November 9, 1938, came to be known as the “Night of Broken Glass.” Violence against the Jews broke out across Nazi Germany. In two days, over 250 synagogues were burned, over 7,000 Jewish businesses were vandalized and looted, dozens of Jews killed, and Jewish cemeteries, hospitals, schools, and homes were looted while police and fire brigades stood by. The morning after the pogroms 30,000 German Jewish men were arrested for being Jews and sent to concentration camps.


In his Bible that day or the next, Bonhoeffer was reading Psalm 74. This was the text he happened to be meditating upon. What he read startled him, and with his pencil he put a vertical line in the margin to mark it, with an exclamation point next to the line. He also underlined the second half of verse 8: “They burn all of God’s houses in the land.” Next to the verse he wrote: “9.11.38.” Bonhoeffer saw this as an example of God speaking to him, and to the Christians in Germany. God was telling him something through his Word that day, and as he meditated and prayed, Bonhoeffer realized that the synagogues that had been burned in Germany were God’s own. This was when Bonhoeffer most clearly saw the connection: to lift one’s hand against the Jews was to lift one’s hand against God himself. The Nazis were attacking God by attacking his people. The Jews in Germany were not only not God’s enemies, they were his beloved children. Quite literally, this was a revelation.


For [Bonhoeffer] prayer was the display of the strongest possible activity.


Throughout 1938, the inability of the Confessing Church’s leaders to be bold and stand firm disheartened Bonhoeffer, not least because the pastors were not receiving the encouragement and support they desperately needed.  He wrote in his Advent letter that year:

I’m not quite sure how we have largely got into a way of thinking which is positively dangerous. We think that we are acting particularly responsibly if every other week we take another look at the question whether the way on which we have set out is the right one. It is particularly noticeable that such a “responsible reappraisal” always begins the moment serious difficulties appear. We then speak as though we no longer had “a proper joy and certainty” about this way, or, still worse, as though God and his Word were no longer as clearly present with us as they used to be. In all this we are ultimately trying to get round what the New Testament calls “patience” and “testing.” Paul, at any rate, did not begin to reflect whether his way was the right one when opposition and suffering threatened, nor did Luther. They were both quite certain and glad that they should remain disciples and followers of their Lord. Dear brethren, our real trouble is not doubt about the way upon which we have set out, but our failure to be patient, to keep quiet. We still cannot imagine that today God really doesn’t want anything new for us, but simply to prove us in the old way. That is too petty, too monotonous, too undemanding for us. And we simply cannot be constant with the fact that God’s cause is not always the successful one, that we really could be “unsuccessful”: and yet be on the right road. But this is where we find out whether we have begun in faith or in a burst of enthusiasm.


Christians cannot be governed by mere principles. Principles could carry one only so far. At some point every person must hear from God, must know what God was calling him to do, apart from others. 


Bonhoeffer knew what few others knew, that the killing of the Jews was beyond anything they had conceived. He felt a responsibility to stop it, to do anything he could.


Reflecting on the American church scene, he was fascinated that tolerance trumped truth.


“It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes” (Psalm 119:71).


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


·      The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am:  https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live



Verse Completion. . . he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. James 1:26 (NIV)


Timothy's Visit

6/12/2020


Good morning, Givers & Receivers. 


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/QZW4_8_zCBE


Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive . . . (completion at the end)


Yesterday Pastor Michael continued Fireside Fellowship with “Credit for the Gospel” based on Philippians 4:14-20:


Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.

As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this. Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once. I don’t say this because I want a gift from you. Rather, I want you to receive a reward for your kindness.

At the moment I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God. 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.

Now all glory to God our Father forever and ever! Amen.


Paul is thanking the church at Philippi for partnering with him in the gospel. He also appreciates the gifts that were sent to him.

At this point, Paul has known the Philippians for around ten years.

Paul was not preaching for financial gain. 1 Thessalonians 2:9 says,“Don’t you remember, dear brothers and sisters, how hard we worked among you? Night and day we toiled to earn a living so that we would not be a burden to any of you as we preached God’s Good News to you.”Paul was a tentmaker and received an income from working with his hands. 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9 says,For you know that you ought to imitate us. We were not idle when we were with you. We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so we would not be a burden to any of you. We certainly had the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow. Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.”Paul worked for a living, and he preached.

Why did Paul work? Let’s get some background. At this time there were sophists who were traveling philosophers. They traveled from town to town giving speeches or lectures, and they became well known. To hear them speak, one would have to purchase a ticket. The best known sophists made a lot of money from doing this. They might speak on: how to improve memory, how to become a better parent, or some other self-help topic. They had great oratory skills, and they knew how to work a crowd. They were charismatic individuals who were dressed to the nines.

In addition to the sophists were charlatans—those who imitated the sophists. What they were after was strictly the money. A play, “The Runaways,” was written during this time that depicted these charlatans who gave a quick talk and then ran away with their money in hand.

Paul did not want to be known as a traveling sophist or charlatan. Paul was not speaking to gain money or wealth. His purpose was to tell others about Jesus.

To further complicate matters for Paul, there were false traveling apostles. They would preach their form of the gospel and get paid for it. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 11:5-15:


But I don’t consider myself inferior in any way to these “super apostles” who teach such things. I may be unskilled as a speaker, but I’m not lacking in knowledge. We have made this clear to you in every possible way.

Was I wrong when I humbled myself and honored you by preaching God’s Good News to you without expecting anything in return? I “robbed” other churches by accepting their contributions so I could serve you at no cost. And when I was with you and didn’t have enough to live on, I did not become a financial burden to anyone. For the brothers who came from Macedonia brought me all that I needed. I have never been a burden to you, and I never will be. As surely as the truth of Christ is in me, no one in all of Greece will ever stop me from boasting about this. Why? Because I don’t love you? God knows that I do.

But I will continue doing what I have always done. This will undercut those who are looking for an opportunity to boast that their work is just like ours. These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve.


Paul recognizes there are false apostles who are only in it for the money. Paul doesn’t want people to confuse him with them, and that’s why he would not take money for the preaching he did. Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:2b-5:


Teach these things, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them. Some people may contradict our teaching, but these are the wholesome teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. These teachings promote a godly life. Anyone who teaches something different is arrogant and lacks understanding. Such a person has an unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words. This stirs up arguments ending in jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions. 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 were those who taught and preached in the church who found that pretending to be followers of Christ could lead to financial gain. They discovered the money that could be made by watching the sophists. 1 Corinthians 9:14-18 says,


In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it. Yet I have never used any of these rights. And I am not writing this to suggest that I want to start now. In fact, I would rather die than lose my right to boast about preaching without charge. Yet preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn’t preach the Good News!

If I were doing this on my own initiative, I would deserve payment. But I have no choice, for God has given me this sacred trust. What then is my pay? It is the opportunity to preach the Good News without charging anyone. That’s why I never demand my rights when I preach the Good News.


Paul is not preaching the gospel so he can pad his bank account. Paul wants to separate himself from the sophists and charlatans. He wants people to know that with him it’s not about money; it’s about Jesus. The gospel message is what’s important. The sophists and charlatans wanted gain for themselves; Paul wants gain for those who hear and respond to the gospel. He knows that in giving there is receiving. When we give, something is credited to our account. Paul is talking about spiritual credits; he’s talking about treasures in heaven. Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21:


“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”


Paul doesn’t desire gifts to pad his personal bank account; he rejoices over what the gifts do for the givers’ spiritual bank accounts. Whenever we give, we receive. Whenever we give physically, we receive spiritually. God credits us in our heavenly account. Paul is traveling around not to gain for himself, but he wants to see credits put in other people’s spiritual bank accounts. Paul’s life is all about the interests of others. He wants to see them grow and mature in Christ.This is what he wants to see go into their spiritual bank accounts.

We need to empty out our physical profit column of things we have done, fill the column with only Jesus. When that has been accomplished, Jesus begins to credit our spiritual profit column. A sign of spiritual growth is to start giving; a sign of spiritual maturity is to keep on giving. Spiritual maturity adds spiritual credits to our spiritual profit column. When we give for the glory of God, that’s when God credits our account. We have to be in a relationship with Jesus in order to have Him put anything in our spiritual profit column.

Leviticus 1:9b says, “It is a special gift, a pleasing aroma to the LORD.” Notice how Paul uses similar language in verse 18b: They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God. When we are in a right relationship with God and when we offer God the things in our life, it’s a pleasing aroma to Him. Ephesians 5:1-2 says: Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. Jesus gave all that He had—His very life. God the Father credited it to His account and raised Him from the dead.

Our giving is not just about money. When we give out of sacrificial love for the gospel and for Christ and out of a personal relationship and love for God, then it’s an acceptable sacrifice, and it’s a pleasing aroma to God. Jesus said in Matthew 25:40: “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” This is in the context of giving a drink to someone who is thirsty. When we give to benefit others, we are giving unto Jesus. Hebrews 13:16 says, “And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.” We don’t give for our own gain: position, influence, or power. We give to gain nothing. We give because we love God and want to see His kingdom built. At that point, God credits us spiritually.

Paul told the Philippians that God would supply all their needs. There’s a physical and a spiritual component to giving. God will credit our spiritual accounts, and He will take care of our physical needs:


·      The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25


·      If you help the poor, you are lending to the LORD—and he will repay you!Proverbs 19:17


·      “Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’ You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!” Malachi 3:8-10


·      “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” Luke 6:38


Giving is a spiritual act of worship. Paul rejoices because the Philippians have learned that. He rejoices not in whathecan gain, but in whatwecan gain by giving. When we give with the right heart, we are credited in our account by God Himself. To God be the glory forever and ever. Amen.


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 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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


·      The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am:  https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live



Verse Completion: . . . mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)

6/11/20


Good morning, Transitioning Isolationists.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/btSfmBR-sMQ


Complete the Verses & Name the Book:


·      Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a . . .


·      Instead, you ought to say, . . . (completions at the end)



Today we continue with quotes from Eric Metaxas’ book Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. I have added notes here and there to, hopefully, aid in clarification.


[Bonhoeffer] felt that what was especially missing from the life of Christians in Germany was the day-to-day reality of dying to self, of following Christ with every ounce of one’s being in every moment, in every part of one’s life. Christ must be brought into every square inch of the world and the culture, but one’s faith must be shining and bright and pure and robust. It must be free of cant and “phraseology” and mere religiosity, or the Christ whom one was bringing into the world and the culture was not Christ at all, but a tawdry man-made counterfeit.


[Bonhoeffer] longed to see a church that had an intimate connection with Christ and was dedicated to hearing God’s voice and obeying God’s commands, come what may, including the shedding of blood.


Why didn’t others see that unless they first recognized evil, it would continue to have power and cause destruction?


I only worry about being so afraid of what other people will think as to get bogged down instead of moving forward.


Things do exist that are worth standing up for without compromise. To me it seems that peace and social justice are such things, as is Christ himself.

I recently came across the fairy tale of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” which really is relevant for our time. All we are lacking today is the child who speaks up at the end.


Note: National Socialism is another word for Nazism—the ideology and practices associated with the Nazi Party.


Bonhoeffer saw that a large part of the problem was Lutheran theological education, which produced not disciples of Christ, but out-of-touch theologians and clerics whose ability to live the Christian life—and to help others live that life—was not much in evidence. The rubber and the road were strangers, and the church was out of touch with the people to whom it was supposed to minister. As far as that went, Ludwig Müller and the German Christians were dead on in some of their criticisms, but their soapy solution was simply to be a dedicated National Socialist. To them, all that business about doctrine was folderol that didn’t matter to the man in the street. Bonhoeffer’s attitude was that it must be made real to the man in the street, and that was where the church was failing.


Most of the ordinands [candidates for ordination] in that course and the subsequent four courses would end up serving in the military, and Bonhoeffer never tried to argue them out of it or make an issue of it. He was not a committed pacifist in that sense and was certainly not convinced that Christians must be conscientious objectors. Bonhoeffer was respectful of the students’ points of view. He never wanted his classes or the seminary to become a cult of personality, centered on him. He was interested only in persuading via reason. Forcing his thoughts on others was something he thought of as fundamentally wrong, as worthy of a “mis-leader.”


Note: Bonhoeffer taught at seminaries in Zingst and Finkenwalde. He had a strict daily routine that involved spiritual disciplines. The following quotes give you an idea of what it was like:


Each day began with a forty-five minute service before breakfast, and ended with a service just before bed. One student from Finkenwalde, Albrecht Schönherr, recalled that the morning service began within minutes of waking:

“Bonhoeffer requested us not to say a single word to each other before the service. The first word to come was supposed to be God’s word.”

The services took place not in the chapel, but around the large dinner table. They began by singing a choral psalm and a hymn chosen for that day. Then there was a reading from the Old Testament. Next they sang “a set verse from a hymn,” using the same verse for several weeks, followed by a New Testament reading.

One meditated on the same verse for an entire week, a half hour each day. Wolf-Dieter Zimmermann recalled that they were not allowed to look at the text in the original language or to consult reference books or commentaries. They must deal with the verse as though it was God’s word to them personally.

Selfishness, laziness, self-pity, poor sportsmanship, and the like were not tolerated.

Another aspect of this “life together” that proved quite difficult was Bonhoeffer’s rule never to speak about a brother in his absence. Bonhoeffer knew that living according to what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount was not “natural” for anyone.

Whatever they thought of the disciplines and the daily devotions, no one at Finkenwalde could complain that there was no fun. Most afternoons and evenings a time was set aside for hiking or sports. Bonhoeffer was forever organizing games, just as his mother had done in their family. There was a lot of table tennis, and anyone looking for Bonhoeffer would try the table tennis room first. They also played soccer. Schönherr recalled that “Bonhoeffer was always at the head of the pack because he was such a fantastic runner.” He had always been competitive, and Bethge remembered that “he hated to lose when we tried shot-putting—or stone-putting—down the beach.”

Albrecht Schönherr remembered that after dinner and recreation, around ten o’clock, there was another service of about three-quarters of an hour, “as the last note of a day with God. After that, silence and sleep. That was the way the day went.”


Bonhoeffer took preaching seriously. For him a sermon was nothing less than the very word of God, a place where God would speak to his people. Bonhoeffer wanted to impress this idea on his ordinands, to help them see that preaching was not merely an intellectual exercise. Like prayer or meditation on a scriptural text, it was an opportunity to hear from heaven, and for the preacher, it was a holy privilege to be the vessel through whom God would speak.

The ordinands must see in [Bonhoeffer] someone who lived what he meant to teach them, just as Jesus did. The teaching and the living must be two parts of the same thing.


In 1932 Bonhoeffer told Hildebrandt: “A truly evangelical sermon must be like offering a child a fine red apple or offering a thirsty man a cool glass of water and then saying: Do you want it? At Finkenwalde he effectively said the same thing: “We must be able to speak about our faith so that hands will be stretched out toward us faster than we can fill them. . . . Do not try to make the Bible relevant. Its relevance is axiomatic. . . . Do not defend God’s Word, but testify to it. . . . Trust to the Word. It is a ship loaded to the very limits of its capacity!”


The church had been instituted by God to exist for the whole world. It was to speak into the world and to be a voice in the world, so it had an obligation to speak out against things that did not affect it directly.


Note: The Confessing Church was a movement within German Protestantism during Nazi Germany that arose in opposition to government-sponsored efforts to unify all Protestant churches into a single pro-Nazi Protestant Reich Church.


Bonhoeffer believed it was the role of the church to speak for those who could not speak. To outlaw slavery inside the church was right, but to allow it to exist outside the church would be evil. So it was with this persecution of the Jews by the Nazi state. Boldly speaking out for those who were being persecuted would show the Confessing Church to be the church, because just as Bonhoeffer had written that Jesus Christ was the “man for others,” so the church was his body on this earth, a community in which Christ was present—a community that existed “for others.” To serve others outside the church, to love them as one loved oneself, and to do unto them as one would have others do unto oneself, these were the clear commands of Christ.

Around that time, Bonhoeffer made his famous declaration: “Only he who cries out for the Jews may sing Gregorian chants.” As far as he was concerned, to dare to sing to God when his chosen people were being beaten and murdered meant that one must also speak out against their suffering. If one was unwilling to do this, God was not interested in one’s worship.


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.

·      The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am:  https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live



Completions to Verses:


·      . . . vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.


· . . . “If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that.” James 4:14-15 (NASB)

6/10/20


Good morning, Contented Followers of Christ.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/BH-t5HPcymA


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:


· that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, . . .


· and that every tongue . . . (completions at the end)


Yesterday Pastor Michael continued Fireside Fellowship with a study titled “Contentedness in the Gospel” based on Philippians 4:10-13:


How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.


One of the major themes of Philippians is joy/rejoicing. Paul wants the church to know he rejoices in God over them. He rejoices over the physical things they have provided, but he is also rejoicing on a spiritual level.

We find the origin of Paul’s trip to Philippi in Acts 16:9-10:


That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.


Paul’s trip resulted in the start of the church in Philippi. They became participants and partners in the gospel with Paul. They wanted to see the gospel promoted and progressed, and they wanted to provide for the physical needs of Paul. 2 Corinthians 11:7-9 says:


Was I wrong when I humbled myself and honored you by preaching God’s Good News to you without expecting anything in return? I “robbed” other churches by accepting their contributions so I could serve you at no cost. And when I was with you and didn’t have enough to live on, I did not become a financial burden to anyone. For the brothers who came from Macedonia brought me all that I needed. I have never been a burden to you, and I never will be.


The Philippians continued to support Paul even when he was away from them. They knew Jesus was the center of life, that He died on a cross, was buried, and rose on the third day. They knew it’s Jesus who forgives sins, redeems us, and grants us everlasting life. They knew salvation was through faith by grace and not by works. They embraced the gospel and wanted to see it spread. The gospel was the fulfillment of their lives.

Paul does not rejoice in the gifts themselves; he rejoices in the Lord. He knows the reason they are giving to him is because they are committed to Jesus. He knows that a sign of spiritual growth is to give to the spread of the gospel. A sign of spiritual maturity is to keep on giving. Paul praises God because the spiritual reality in their lives plays out into the physical realities in their lives. They are providing for Paul’s needs.

It’s difficult to begin giving, and it’s easy to stop giving. An exercise program is difficult to begin, and it’s easy to stop. Spiritual growth is difficult to begin, and it’s easy to stop. Paul recognizes that the Philippians have not only started giving to him but they have continued to give to him. They have not stopped. It speaks to their spiritual wellbeing in Christ.

Paul is not asking for more gifts here. He isn’t preaching the gospel so he’ll receive more things or accolades. He preaches the gospel because that is what God has called him to do. His reward is with God. Paul has learned the secret of contentment.

Stoic Greek philosophers used the word contentment as meaning self-sufficiency independent of anything or anybody. Self-sufficiency was their highest goal in life. They believed contentment was a state of mind. To achieve self-sufficiency, they believed one needed to eliminate desire and eliminate emotion. Socrates was asked, “Who is the wealthiest person?” He answered, “The wealthiest person is the person who is content with the least, because contentment is nature’s wealth.” Socrates would say the wealthiest person was the one who was most self-sufficient: didn’t need anyone, didn’t need anything, who in and of himself had everything. The Stoic Greek philosophers said emotions cause desire for things, so one must get rid of emotions. One must not care about anything or love anything or anyone. The Stoic’s aim was to abolish every feeling in the human heart. It was to come to the point where one didn’t care about anything. To the Stoic philosopher, contentment was the result of inner fortitude.

Paul does not use the word contentment in this way. He is taking the way the Stoics used the word and turning it upside down. Paul has learned to be content with little or much. Contentment does not depend on circumstances or material possessions. Human nature is to want more, and it doesn’t matter if a person has little or much. An entitled mentality or a victim mentality can drive a person to want more, too.

Paul says that contentment is not about anything we have; it’s not about material possessions. We need to learn to be content with little or much regardless of the circumstances. The secret to contentment is Jesus; He’s the one who gives us the strength to be content. Contentment is not self-sufficiency but Christ-sufficiency. Christ is all sufficient. Contentment is about being satisfied, and Jesus satisfies fully. Contentment involves moving everything we have in the profit column of our lives and moving it over to the loss column of our lives, so only Jesus is left in the profit column. Complete sufficiency of Christ in our lives is contentment. We trust Jesus with our lives. 1 Timothy 6:6-8 says:


Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.


Jesus told Paul, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a)


This is the exact opposite of Stoic philosophy. Paul said contentment comes in knowing we are weak and need help.


"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." (1 Corinthians 12:9b-10)


The disciple of Christ says contentment is a grace from God—a gift from Him. Contentment isn’t something we drum up. Contentment is the result of Jesus being Lord and Savior in our lives. It’s the result of us emptying all we have in our profit column and asking Jesus to be our all-sufficiency. When we put Jesus on the throne of our lives, then we can rest—be full, be satisfied, be content.

Picture yourself getting into a rowboat with Jesus and going down a river. Jesus tells you, “I’m in control. You won’t be needing that paddle that’s on the floor of the boat. Just trust me. Be satisfied with me in control.” The journey begins and everything is great. The water is calm, and everything is so peaceful. We have no trouble trusting Jesus. However, later in the journey, the river narrows and the water picks up speed.

We ask Jesus, “Do you want me to start paddling?”

“No, what I want you to do is trust me,” Jesus replies.

The water now begins to get choppy and the boat begins to rock. Water splashes into the boat. The rapids can be felt, and we think we see some really bad rapids ahead. We ask Jesus, “Do you know where you’re going? Are you sure you know what you’re doing? I have some things in my profit column that could be very useful now.” We reach for the paddle, and we try to help Jesus, but the rapids get worse just as we anticipated. Then we hear a waterfall ahead. We know this is very serious. We grab the paddle firmly and wildly backpaddle. At this point we have forgotten Jesus is even in the boat much less in control of the boat. At this point, we are working against Jesus, and we are making things worse.

Jesus wants us to drop the paddle and relax. He knows the river, the rapids, the waterfall. The question is whether we believe it or not. Do we trust Jesus? Is He all-sufficient in our lives? If we trust Jesus and He is all-sufficient in our lives, then we can be content no matter what the circumstances.

John the Baptist’s disciples see John’s work diminishing because of Jesus and they share their concern with John. John replied, “No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven.” (John 3:27) You and I can receive only in this life what God gives us. No matter how hard we paddle, no matter how hard we strive to be sufficient on our own we will only receive that which God gives us. Contentment says, “I will receive only that which God gives me from heaven. I will trust Jesus. I will remain in the boat. I will leave the paddle alone. I’ll remain with Jesus no matter where He takes me.”

Contentment doesn’t come in a day; it’s a lifelong journey with Jesus.


In less than eight minutes, Ravi Zacharias shares an amazing story from Vietnam as he talks about the meaning of life: https://youtu.be/ZzzxpfLk0BA


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


· The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am: https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live


Completions to Verses:


· . . . of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth,


· . . . should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:10-11 (NASB)

6/9/20


Good morning, Prayer Warriors.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/_dR0H0tAYT8


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:When you give a banquet, invite . . .(completions at the end)


The following letter was published on June 4, 2020, by the board of a church denomination. It called for a day of prayer and fasting which has come and gone. However, the specific day isn’t what’s important. What matters is that we call on God in prayer. Here is the slightly modified letter:


Dear Friends,


The last few days have been exceedingly difficult for the global family. For months now, the world has encountered the deadly effects of the coronavirus, which has affected our societies, our churches, and our families. Yet, this week, the news of an older virus that continues to affect many segments of our society—and even our churches—has added to the world’s grief. The virus of ethnocentrism, expressed in explicit and/or veiled racism, has struck again the core of our society; we are now witnessing the many ways in which people respond and react to such a rampant disease. People are in the streets calling for justice and a human cure to this endemic sin of the heart manifested in violence, political division, and great suffering.


With so much bad news, what does it mean to be a people of hope? More specifically, what is Christian hope and how does it change our perspective?


Two fundamental aspects of Christian hope are absolutely linked together.


Christian hope is based in a Person.


Hope is not the power of positive thinking. It is not based on circumstances, either good or bad. It is not new and better ideas, utopian philosophies, or reformed politics. It is objectively focused in the person of Jesus Christ who has been revealed to us as “the grace of God,” “the salvation of all people” and our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:11-13). Hope in anything else will not give us what we are looking for. Jesus is the only One who can satisfy the deep hunger of our hearts and the pain of our world. A deep embracing of Jesus’ life, teachings, and sacrifice will give the world the true sense of peace, justice, and harmony that brings about hope.


Christian hope looks forward to a promised future.


Our hope in Jesus Christ is the hope that there is coming a day when God will make all things that are wrong in the world right again. Our hope is that God will remake the world the way He intends it to be. Our hope is that we will live a resurrected life with Jesus and with all the family of God, from all races, cultures, and times. Christian hope looks forward to a better future.


That hope changes us.


Looking forward in hope changes our behavior. Suddenly we find ourselves acting very differently and thinking very differently. “It teaches us to say 'no' to ungodliness and worldly passions” (Titus 2:12). The old way of life does not have the same pull on us that it used to. Looking forward in hope changes our purpose. Our priorities change. Our passions are redirected. “It teaches us to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:12). We begin to live today as though God’s promised future were already at hand. Looking forward with hope means we see God’s vision of a world with no more injustice, no more violence, no more poverty, no more prejudice.


Because that is a picture of what our future hope looks like—as citizens of the kingdom of heaven and people who believe that God always keeps His promises—we start working toward that vision right now, here on earth.


We begin to long for, and pray for, and work for a time where there is justice and peace; where hungry people can eat and where diseased people can be made well; where holy love enables us to live together joyfully even in our great diversity. We begin to live toward the time where there is no hatred, prejudice, unjust systems, or racism. We live today the way God wants His world to be tomorrow. Hope demands we do more than speak a good word—it is a call to act on behalf of God’s preferred and coming future.


Because of our deep sorrow for the way things are, and our profound hope in God’s faithfulness to bring about a more just and loving world, we are calling for a day of prayer and fasting. The prophet Joel declares, “Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly” (Joel 2:15-16).


Here is a six minute clip of Ravi Zacharias answering the question, “Why does God seem silent when you need Him the most?” https://youtu.be/g-ss2d0GtAs


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


· The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am: https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live


Completions to Verses:. . . the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, Luke 14:13 (NIV)

6/8/20


Good morning, Overcomers.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/ErwiBz1QA4o


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:“For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that . . . (completions at the end)


Yesterday Pastor Michael continued to speak to his virtual congregation giving the sermon “Revelation and Responsibility” based on Matthew 16:13-20. You’ve heard the saying, “Ignorance is bliss.” If you don’t know your car engine is about to go out because you know nothing about engines, then you aren’t worried about it. Ignorance is bliss. However, if you know about engines and you realize your car engine is on its last legs, it’s easy to worry about it because you’re going to be the one responsible for fixing it when it quits.

Knowledge changes us. As we gain knowledge, we have to do something with that knowledge. We have to determine if the new knowledge is true or not; we have to determine to what degree it’s true or not true.

The disciples were gaining new knowledge from Jesus. The Judaism that they knew had become a religion of works, regulations, and rules. It had evolved into the belief that salvation was by works. However, Jesus taught salvation wasn’t about works; it was about faith. Grace comes through a personal relationship with Jesus.

Jesus wanted the disciples to understand who He is.


When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”


Caesarea Philippi is 25 miles NE of the Sea of Galilee. He took the disciples away from Israel so He could speak to them with less distractions. This was an area that was predominantly Roman. It was a place of many temples and many gods.


“Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”


Herod Antipas is the one who had John the Baptist beheaded. When Herod saw Jesus, he wondered if Jesus was John the Baptist come back to life. Elijah was a great prophet of the Old Testament. Malachi 4:5 says, “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives.” They believed that when Elijah came back, the Messiah would come.

John the Baptist is the one who prepared the way for Jesus. John said, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” (Matthew 3:2)

Jeremiah was the great prophet of Jerusalem. He lived during the time when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem. Tradition said before the Babylonians came to Jerusalem, Jeremiah took the ark of the covenant and the altar of incense and he hid them away in a mountain. Their tradition said Jeremiah would return and bring back the ark and incense. When they would be returned, then everyone would know the Messiah had come.

The people were saying Jesus was a great prophet who was getting ready for the Messiah to come. They did not believe Jesus was the Messiah—God with skin on; the Savior of the world.


Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”


That’s a tougher question. It’s personal. Peter stepped up and took the risk of getting the question wrong.


Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”


Peter got it! Peter was saying, “You are God with skin on.” In the midst of all the darkness of beliefs in many gods, Peter declared Jesus is God. He proclaimed the Light. He proclaimed the Truth. He declared all the other gods to be dead, and Jesus to be the one, true, living God.


Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being."


The disciples got it. They understood the two essentials: salvation is by faith, not works, and Jesus was the Messiah. In this case, ignorance is NOT bliss; knowledge is bliss.

God reveals Himself to the world; He reveals Himself to us. Without His revelation, we could not know God on our own. We need God in order to know about God. Jesus said, “For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me, and at the last day I will raise them up.” (John 6:44) God is the one who allows us salvation. Salvation is a gift from God. Jesus is the only path to God. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.”(John 14:16-17)

Salvation is the work of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. 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. (2 Peter 3:9) Salvation is all by God’s doing. This is the exact opposite of what the Pharisees were teaching: doing works, following rules. Jesus taught salvation is a gift from God: His drawing, His calling, His convicting. Peter and the other disciples got it.

Be careful what you read because it will change your life. Once you gain knowledge, you have to do something with that knowledge. You can’t ignore it. Ignorance is not bliss. We know the message of salvation. We know the person of salvation. It’s by faith through grace in Christ alone; it’s a gift of God not by works lest anyone should boast. Now we have to do something with that knowledge.


Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means “rock), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.


Notice Jesus says “my church.” He doesn’t say your church or anyone else’s church. The church belongs to Jesus. Ephesians 1:22-23 says, “God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.” Jesus is the head of the church, and we are His body. We are the “called out” ones—called out from a life of sin and called into a life with Jesus. Jesus is the one who died for the church. It’s His church, and He is going to build it.

We have possessions that are important to us. What do we do with them? We take care of them. We don’t want them to break, but if they do, we fix them. We are God’s possession, and we’re important to Him. He watches over us and cares for us. He fixes us when we need fixing.

Gates keep things in or keep things out. The gates of hell are trying to keep everybody in. The kingdom of Satan is trying to trap people and keep them from entering the kingdom of God. Jesus says the gates of hell will not prevail. The gates of hell have no power over Jesus.

The kingdom of Satan will not destroy the church. We are the overcomers by the power of Jesus. Colossians 2:13-15 says, “You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.” Jesus triumphed over the kingdom of Satan. Satan has no authority over Jesus or His people. Romans 16:20a says, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”

Jesus is building His church; He’s building us. It doesn’t matter who comes against us because they are coming against Jesus. When people bring things against Jesus, they are going to get crushed because Jesus triumphed over Satan. There is no power that can destroy the church, and you and I are the church. The gospel is powerful. It transforms lives. It breaks open the gates of hell and takes people out of the kingdom of Satan and brings them into the kingdom of Jesus.

When Jesus said, “Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means “rock), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it,” He did not mean He would build His church on Peter. This passage means that on the confession of Peter that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, that is what Jesus is building His church on. The church is built on the rock that says Jesus is the Savior, the Messiah. It’s not built on Peter’s life. The church is built on Jesus. The cunning of man won’t build the church. The wealth of man won’t build the church. The wisdom of man won’t build the church. The rock of Jesus will build the church—the fact that He is the Messiah; He is the Christ; He is the Lord and Savior of the world. When your life is built on the rock of Jesus, when the storms of life come, you will be able to stand (see Matthew 7:24-27). The powers of hell won’t conquer you.


And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.


The key to heaven is Jesus—the message of the cross, the message of salvation, the message that the only way to heaven is through Jesus, the message of everlasting life. Our responsibility is to use the keys; open the doors of heaven for people. Our responsibility is to say, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” We are blessed in the heavenly realms. Matthew 28:18-20 says, Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Romans 10:14-15 says, "But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent?" That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” You and I are called to go and preach and proclaim Jesus to all those around us. We need to use the keys we have.

There is spiritual warfare going on. We’re all part of the war even if we don’t know it. With the power of Jesus, we have the power to open and close doors. We have the power to bind and release. Matthew 18:18 says, “I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” We can bind people who are trying to destroy the kingdom of God and loose people who are building the kingdom of God. We do this through prayer. When God agrees with us in our prayers, it will be done for us. We have the spiritual authority to bind and loose according to God’s will.

Ephesians 6:10-12 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 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." These are the powers that are trying to destroy us. These are the powers trying to destroy churches. We are warring against the kingdom of Satan. We are able to be victorious because of the power of God in us. We have the full armor we need to do battle (see Ephesians 6:13-18).

We are citizens of heaven. We have resurrection power. We don’t need to fear the kingdom of Satan. We have the revelation of Jesus, and we need to use this knowledge to bring people to salvation. Knowledge is bliss. Tell people about Jesus.


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


· The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am: https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live


Completions to Verses: . . . He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” 2 Chronicles 16:9a

6/6/20


Good morning, Citizens of Heaven.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/Q7EPZV56PuA


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:Do not be overcome by evil, but . . .(completions at the end)


Today we continue with quotes from Eric Metaxas’ book Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. I have added notes here and there to, hopefully, aid in clarification.


But even in 1933, the anti-gospel of Hitler was moving toward the legal murder of these people who, like the Jews, were categorized as unfit, as a drain on Germany. The terms increasingly used to describe these people with disabilities were useless eaters and life unworthy of life. When the war came in 1939, their extermination would begin in earnest. From Bethel, Bonhoeffer wrote his grandmother: “It is sheer madness, as some believe today, that the sick can or ought to be legally eliminated. It is virtually the same as building a tower of Babel, and is bound to avenge itself.”

He often mentioned the Tower of Babel in his sermons as a picture of man’s “religious” attempt to reach heaven on his own strength. But here he linked it with the Nazis’ Nietzschean worldview in which strength was exalted and weakness was crushed and eliminated. One was about works, and the other about grace.


As would happen so often in the future, he was deeply disappointed in the inability of his fellow Christians to take a definite stand. They always erred on the side of conceding too much, of trying too hard to ingratiate themselves with their opponents.


[Bonhoeffer] had become convinced that a church that was not willing to stand up for the Jews in its midst was not the real church of Jesus Christ.


A church synod had officially voted to exclude a group of persons from the Christian ministry simply because of their ethnic background. The German Christians had clearly broken away from the true and historical faith. Bonhoeffer and Hildebrandt called for the pastors to stand up and be counted by resigning from office. But Bonhoeffer and Hildebrandt were voices crying in the wilderness.


Many years later, after Niemöller had been imprisoned for eight years in concentration camps as the personal prisoner of Adolf Hitler, he penned these infamous words:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

because I was not a Jew.

And then they came for me—

and there was no one left to speak for me.


[Bonhoeffer] had begun to see that the overemphasis on the cerebral and intellectual side of theological training had produced pastors who didn’t know how to live as Christians, but knew only how to think theologically. Integrating the two was increasingly important to him.


Note: Bonhoeffer was convinced the church should oppose Hitler. In a letter to Erwin Sutz, he wrote:


And I believe that the whole of Christendom should pray with us that it will be a “resistance unto death,” and that the people will be found to suffer it.

Even his closest allies, such as Franz Hildebrandt, could not see what he was seeing. He seemed to be operating on an impossibly high theological plane, seeing things in the distance that were invisible to those around him.

While Hildebrandt, Niemöller, and Jacobi were thinking about how to defeat Müller, Bonhoeffer was thinking about God’s highest call, about the call of discipleship and its cost. He was thinking about Jeremiah and about God’s call to partake in suffering, even unto death. Bonhoeffer was working it out in his head at the same time that he was thinking about what the next move should be with Heckel and the church struggle. He was thinking about the deep call of Christ, which was not about winning, but about submission to God, wherever that might lead.


Note: Pastor Bonhoeffer gave his congregation a sermon on Jeremiah:


The opening words were typically intriguing: “Jeremiah was not eager to become a prophet of God. When the call came to him all of a sudden, he shrank back, he resisted, he tried to get away.”

The sermon reflected Bonhoeffer’s own difficult situation. It is extremely doubtful whether anyone in his congregations could understand what he was talking about, much less accept that it was God’s word to them that Sunday. If they had ever been puzzled by their brilliant young preacher’s homilies, they must have been puzzled now.

Pastor Bonhoeffer was beginning to understand that he was God’s prisoner, that like the prophets of old, he was called to suffer and to be oppressed—and in that defeat and the acceptance of that defeat, there was victory. It was a sermon that applied to anyone with ears to hear, but few could actually hear it.


Note: In a letter to Henirod, Bonhoeffer said the following:


We must shake off our fear of this world—the cause of Christ is as stake, and are we to be found sleeping? . . . Christ is looking down at us and asking whether there is anyone left who confesses faith in him.


Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick decreed that discussion of the church disputes, both in public assemblies and in the press, was illegal. The decree was no different from Müller’s previous “muzzling decree,” except that now it was the state, not the church, that had issued it, so there was no chance to dispute it. It was the law of the land. State and church were being welded together at every point.

The oath that new pastors would take read: “I swear before God . . . that I . . . will be true and obedient to the Führer of the German people and state, Adolf Hitler.”


Note: Bonhoeffer held a youth conference, and here are comments from two participants:


· Bonhoeffer told us that our work cannot and must not consist of anything but listening together to what the Lord says, and in praying together that we may hear aright. Listening in faith to the words of the Bible, hearing one another as listeners who obey, this is the core of all ecumenical work.


· Bonhoeffer reminded us that our primary object was not to commend our own views, national or individual, but to hear what God would say to us.


Bonhoeffer’s hope that the youth conference would result in some bold and substantive resolutions was not disappointed. The fifty delegates drew up two resolutions. The first said that God’s commandments utterly trumped any claims of the state. It passed narrowly, with many of Bonhoeffer’s Berlin students registering contrary votes. The second condemned Christian support for “any war whatsoever.”


[Bonhoeffer’s] thoughts on this would be expressed in his book Discipleship, in which anything short of obedience to God smacked of “cheap grace.” Actions must follow what one believed, else one could not claim to believe it.


Note: James 1:22 says, “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.”


Note: When Bonhoeffer was 28 years old, he said the following:


There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.


It is high time we broke with our theologically based restraint towards the state’s actions—which, after all, is only fear. “Speak out for those who cannot speak.” Who in the church today realizes that this is the very least that the Bible requires of us?


The restoration of the church must surely depend on a new kind of monasticism, which has nothing in common with the old but a life of uncompromising discipleship, following Christ according to the Sermon on the Mount. I believe the time has come to gather people together to do this.



If you haven’t seen the interviews on The Journey, you are missing out on a special treat! Here they are:

Ron Wood: https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/videos/556138852003461

Nancy Murphy: https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/videos/552150672140532

Today at 10:00 a.m. is Niel Challstrom. We hope you will join us.


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


· The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am: https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live


Completion to Verse:. . . overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21 (NASB)

6/5/20


Good morning, Redeemed by Jesus.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/XRW-jr_PnbQ


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord . . . (completion at the end)


Yesterday Pastor Michael continued Fireside Fellowship with “Carry out the Gospel” based on Philippians 4:8-9:


And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.


Paul is telling us to think right and act right. Paul knows that what we think about, what occupies our mind, what we mull over, what we get comfortable with, what we invite in, it’s these things that impact our life. How we think is how we act. What goes into our mind is what comes out. Garbage in; garbage out.

What we think about is important. It affects how we see the world and interpret the world. What you read will affect how you live. What we think about affects how we act, react, and interact with the world around us. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, Don’t be fooled by those who say such things for “bad company corrupts good character.” When a person hangs out with people who hold a certain worldview, that person will be affected by what is said and done. Be careful what T.V. shows you watch and what books you read because they affect our character.

Philippians 2:5 says, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” It becomes easier to be people of unity when we are thinking the same. Our minds needs to stay attune to the gospel.

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. As our mind takes in who Jesus is, and as we think on the gospel, our minds are transformed. We act, react, and interact differently. As our minds are transformed, we are able to know the heart of God more. As our minds are transformed, we act more like Jesus.

Paul is saying to make a choice with your mind as to what you are going to allow into your mind. What we allow into our minds determines how we will act and what we will speak. It determines our character. Philippians 4:7b says, “His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Jesus will guard what goes in and out of your mind if you let Him.

Paul gives us eight things to think about:


1. True: that which is reliable, valid, honest. God is all these things. John 3:33 says, “Anyone who accepts his testimony can affirm that God is true.” John 14:6 has the following words of Jesus: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” Psalm 19:7 says, “The instructions of the LORD are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” We are to seek the truth. The armor of God includes the belt of truth. The center of our being is to be bound by truth. How much time do we spend a day listening to half-truths or untruths?


2. Noble: a quality which makes people worthy of respect. 1 Timothy 3:8a says, “In the same way, deacons must be well respected and have integrity.” Titus 2:2a says, “Teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely.” We are to be noble people in the sense of having holiness—Christ in us. We are to be separated from the unholy. A noble person is on a higher plane. A noble person sees the world as the temple of God. There’s a respect for God. It’s understanding that God’s ways are more noble—they are higher. 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.”


3. Right: uprightness, justice, fairness according to how God determines it. Give proper due to who God is and who people are. We are to be in a right relationship with God and a right relationship with others. When thoughts enter our minds, we can ask, “Is this something God would approve of? Is this something that would conform to the standards of God? Is it true? Is it noble? Is it upright?”


4. Pure: morally undefiled, having a sense of chasteness, not stained by sin, fit to be brought before God. We might ask ourselves, “What would Jesus think on?” Paul is saying to have a clean mind—not a dirty or off-color mind. Our thoughts need to be pleasing to God. If there’s a joke Jesus wouldn’t laugh at, then we shouldn’t laugh at it or repeat it. It also involves having a mind that doesn’t think of evil things such as how to take advantage of another person.


5. Lovely: pleasing, agreeable, amiable, attractive, winsome, calls forth love, attracts people by words and deeds, not bitter, involves kindness, sympathy, patience, unity, gentleness. Esther 5:1-2 says the king found Queen Esther to be pleasing or lovely.


6. Admirable: praiseworthy, rings true to God’s highest standards of truth, truth speaking, giving a good report, pleasing to others, that which lifts others up. 2 Corinthians 6:7-8 says, “We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us imposters.”


7. Excellent: every kind of excellence, anything pleasing to God, anything in regard to God’s ways. It’s opposite to the things which are debased in life. Don’t scratch with the chickens; soar with the eagles. Strive for excellence. Don’t wallow with the pigs when you can run with the stallions. Put your mind on the plane God has for us.


8. Praiseworthy: that which brings praise to God; that which glorifies God. Ask yourself, “Is what I’m reading, watching, or thinking about bringing glory to God?”


These eight virtues help us to live out the gospel. These virtues are similar to the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. The Holy Spirit is in us and is transforming our character. We need to be thinking about God and His kingdom instead of thinking about ourselves and the earthly kingdom.

Paul uses four verbs in verse nine: learned, received, heard, seen. Paul wants the church at Philippi to remember all he has taught them and put it into practice. He wants them to remember how he has modeled for them how to live, and he wants them to live the same way. Paul said in Philippians 3:17: Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. He is saying, “Carry out the gospel in your life as I’ve been carrying out the gospel in my life.”

Let’s remember that the early church didn’t have the benefit of the Bible as we do today. Most of the teaching that took place was oral so they learned by listening. They also learned by watching others—seeing how others applied the learning. They weren’t just being taught, they were being trained. Mentoring was important. It wasn’t about book learning; it was about life learning.

What would people learn by observing my life? 1 Corinthians 15:32b-33 says, And if there is no resurrection, “Let’s feast and drink, for tomorrow we die!” Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for “bad company corrupts good character.” We need to ask ourselves, “Does my company cause others to be corrupted, or does it cause others to move closer to God?”

The peace of God comes when we carry out the gospel. We have peace with God through Christ when we follow Christ. Let us think like Christ, let us think about Christ, and let us carry out how we think into the way we act, react, and interact with the world around us. Let’s give others something to think about: that which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.


Let Dan show you how to use our church’s webpage: https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/videos/1001653896934772


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


· The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am: https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live


Completion to Verse: . . . will be saved.” Romans 10:13 (NIV) See also Joel 2:32.

6/4/20


Good morning, Truth Finders.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/887jcen5Pec


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:


· But when they deliver you up, do not become anxious about how or what you will speak; for it shall be . . .


· For it is not you who speak, but it is . . . (completions at the end)


Today we continue with quotes from Eric Metaxas’ book Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. I have added notes here and there to, hopefully, aid in clarification.


[Bonhoeffer] said the church “has an unconditional obligation to the victims of any ordering of society, even if they do not belong to the Christian community. Everyone knew that Bonhoeffer was talking about the Jews, including Jews who were not baptized Christians.


[Bonhoeffer] said the church “has an unconditional obligation to the victims of any ordering of society, even if they do not belong to the Christian community.Everyone knew that Bonhoeffer was talking about the Jews, including Jews who were not baptized Christians.


Note: The Enabling Act went into effect in March of 1933; it allowed the Reich government to issue laws without the consent of Germany’s parliament. It laid the foundation for the complete Nazification of German society.


One week after passage of the Enabling Act, Hitler declared a boycott of Jewish stores across Germany. The stated purpose was stopping the international press, which the Nazis maintained was controlled by the Jews, from printing lies about the Nazi regime. They always cast their aggressions as a defense response to actions against them and the German people.

On the day of the boycott in Berlin, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s grandmother was shopping. The patrician ninety-year-old was not about to be told where to shop. When SA men tried to restrain her from entering one store, she informed them that she would shop where she liked and did so. Later that day she did the same at the famous Kaufhaus des Westens, the world’s largest department store, ignoring the silly kickline of SA men stationed in front. The story of Julie Bonhoeffer marching past the Nazi gorillas was a favorite in the Bonhoeffer family, who saw in her an embodiment of the values they sought to live by.


Most Germans believed Hitler was basically “one of them,” however, and they welcomed the Nazis’ plans to reorder society, including the church.


Everything in German society must fall in line with the Nazi worldview. This included the world of books and ideas. Note: The burning of books followed.


One sometimes hears that Hitler was a Christian. He was certainly not, but neither was he openly anti-Christian, as most of his top lieutenants were. What helped him aggrandize power, he approved of, and what prevented it, he did not. He was utterly pragmatic. In public he often made comments that made him sound pro-church or pro-Christian, but there can be no question that he said these things cynically, for political gain. In private, he possessed an unblemished record of statements against Christianity and Christians.


Hitler’s attitude toward Christianity was that it was a great heap of mystical out-of-date nonsense. But what annoyed Hitler was not that it was nonsense, but that it was nonsense that did not help him get ahead. According to Hitler, Christianity preached “meekness and flabbiness,” and this was simply not useful to the National Socialist ideology, which preached “ruthlessness and strength.” In time, he felt that the churches would change their ideology. He would see to it. Unlike his top men, Hitler had an instinctive political sense of timing, and now was not the time to take on the churches directly. Now was the time to pretend to be pro-Christian.


Note: Jesus said, “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.” Matthew 24:24-25


Since Hitler had no religion other than himself, his opposition to Christianity and the church was less ideological than practical.


Rosenberg’s plan is some of the clearest proof that exists of the Nazis’ ultimate plans for the churches. A few points of his program illustrate what Hitler was open to approving and, under cover of war, would move toward:

13. The National Church demands immediate cessation of the publishing and dissemination of the Bible in Germany . . .

14. The National Church declares that to it, and therefore to the German nation, it has been decided that the Fuehrer’s Mein Kampf is the greatest of all documents. It . . . not only contains the greatest but it embodies the purest and truest ethics for the present and future life of our nation.

18. The National Church will clear away from its altars all crucifixes, Bibles and pictures of saints.

19. On the altars there must be nothing but Mein Kampf (to the German nation and therefore to God the most sacred book) and to the left of the altar a sword.

30. On the day of its foundation, the Christian Cross must be removed from all churches, cathedrals and chapels . . . and it must be superseded by the only unconquerable symbol, the swastika.


Note: Jesus said, “I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” (Matthew 16:18b) Hitler is gone, his regime is gone, but the church of Jesus will never be gone.


After four hundred years of taking for granted that all Germans were Lutheran Christians, no one really knew what Christianity was anymore.


If you board the wrong train it is no use running along the corridor in the opposite direction.


Pastor Niemöller had been a U-boat captain during the First War, who was awarded the Iron Cross for his bravery. He had initially welcomed the Nazis, hailing them as the heroes who would restore moral order. Niemöller met with Hitler privately in 1932, and Hitler had given him his personal assurance that he would keep his hands off the churches and would never institute pogroms against the Jews. This was good enough for Niemöller, who was sure the Nazis’ victory would bring about the national religious revival for which he had long prayed. But he soon saw that he had been taken in. When Niemöller finally turned against Hitler, he did so without any fear, and the sermons he gave at his overfilled church in Dahlem, a working-class section of Berlin, were listened to with the greatest interest, not least by members of the Gestapo. Niemöller knew this and mocked them openly from the pulpit. It was thought that if ever anyone outside the military could lead a movement against Hitler, Niemöller was the man.


[Bonhoeffer] was calling the church to behave like the church, but his declarations fell on deaf ears.


[Bonhoeffer and Hildebrandt] suggested that the churches effectively go on strike against the state to assert their independence. If the state did not pull back and let the church be the church, the church would cease behaving like the state church and would, among other things, stop performing funerals. It was a brilliant solution.

As would always be the case, their suggestion was too strong and too dramatic for most of the conciliatory Protestant leaders. Bonhoeffer’s decisiveness was unsettling to them, since it forced them to see their own sins in what was happening. Just as the politically compromised military leaders would one day balk when they ought to have acted to assassinate Hitler, so the theologically compromised Protestant leaders now balked. They couldn’t muster the will to do anything as stark and scandalous as staging a strike, and the opportunity was lost.


Ravi Zacharias’ daughter’s tribute to her dad (around 11 minutes): https://youtu.be/uMeDssgP_BA?t=269


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


· The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am: https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live


Completions to Verses:


· . . . given you in that hour what you are to speak.


· . . . the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. Matthew 10:19-20 (NASB)

6/3/20


Good morning, People of Rejoicing.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/bIP1PusCcQY


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:


· For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor . . .


· nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to . . .(completions at the end)


Yesterday Pastor Michael continued Fireside Fellowship with “Character of the Gospel” based on Philippians 4:4-7:


Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.


In this passage we see three characteristics of the gospel that should be in us if we are people of the gospel. The first is rejoicing (having joy) or being people of praise (see 1:3, 18; 2:17-18; 3:1). A foundational characteristic of a follower of Christ is joy. It’s not easy to have joy because this world is geared against followers of Christ. However, as Christians we are told to rejoice; it’s not an option.

Joy doesn’t come from our circumstances. We are told to rejoice in the Lord. We rejoice because of Jesus in us. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) 1 John 5:12 says, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.” When we invite Jesus in to be our Lord and Savior, He gives us eternal life. This is something to rejoice over no matter what circumstances we face. However, if we focus on the circumstances in our lives, we are going to lose the joy and become grumblers and complainers.

Rejoicing invites Jesus into the pain of circumstances. Rejoicing makes Jesus the center of one’s life. We don’t lean into our circumstances; we lean into Jesus. Be people of praise. Praise God for who He is. Our joy comes from Him.

When Paul was in prison and he didn’t know if he would be alive the next day, he rejoiced. He rejoiced that the church at Philippi had received Jesus. He rejoiced that they were preaching Jesus. He rejoiced because the message of Jesus continued to go out to others.

The second characteristic of the gospel that is to be part of our life is gentleness. It’s a difficult word to define. It can mean: reasonableness, leniency, good will, kindness, forbearing, yielding, goodness, giving. Gentleness is not a strict adherence to the law. It’s more than justice. A gentle person does not demand justice. 1 Corinthians 6:7 gives us an idea of what gentleness looks like: “Even to have such lawsuits with one another is a defeat for you. Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that? Why not let yourselves be cheated?”

When teachers make allowances for their students based on their knowledge of the students, that’s an example of gentleness. It’s not about the strict adherence to the letter of the law; it’s about the person.

John 8:1-11 is an example of Jesus extending gentleness to the woman caught in adultery. The story ends with Jesus asking the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

“No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

Gentleness looks past the law to the person. However, this does not mean that people who break the law shouldn’t be punished or have consequences for their behavior. Gentleness is more than justice because it takes into account the person—not just the action.

Gentleness looks beyond the letter of the law to the person. Sometimes people need to be cut some slack because of what’s going on in their lives. We shouldn’t be eager to lower the boom every time an infraction occurs.

The third characteristic of the gospel that is to be part of our life is prayer. Pray about everything. Don’t be anxious or worry. Anxiety results when we focus on an issue, and it consumes us. Anxiety results when we take Jesus off the throne of our life and we step back into the place of leadership. We trust ourselves more than we trust God.

Don’t be the person that feeds the anxiety, adding fuel to the fire; be the person who prays. Prayer puts Jesus back on the throne and keeps Him there. Prayer recognizes that we need Jesus. There is no situation too big for the power of God. There’s no situation too small for the care of God. When we pray, we humble ourselves before God.

Thanksgiving recognizes God’s work in our past. Thanksgiving recognizes Jesus can do these things in the future. Thanksgiving recognizes the relationship with Jesus in the present. As we spend time with God, we recognize there’s no fear in love.

Prayer says, “You are God, and I am not.” Prayer recognizes God has the power to do something about the situation. Prayer trusts God.

Colossians 3:15 says, “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.” Peace comes from God. When we rejoice, when we are gentle, when we pray, God gives us peace. We can’t understand His peace. How can we understand someone going through great trials and tribulations and yet being at peace and even being joyful? Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”

God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds as we live in Jesus. As a military guard screens who goes in and who goes out of a military base, so God will screen our hearts and minds. He will protect our hearts and minds from the enemy.

This week let’s be people of prayer, rejoicing, and let’s allow our gentleness to be evident to all.


Enjoy and be challenged by this conversation between Ravi Zacharias and Francis Chan: https://youtu.be/J22GVIj4jj4


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


· The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am: https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live


Completions to Verses:


· . . . things to come, nor powers,


· . . . separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 (NASB)

6/2/20


Good morning, Meditators on God's Word.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/fylsIaNsJ5o


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:If therefore the Son shall make you free, . . . (completions at the end)


Today we continue with quotes from Eric Metaxas’ book Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. I have added notes here and there to, hopefully, aid in clarification.


When you read the Bible, you must think that here and now God is speaking with me.


On one hiking trip, Bonhoeffer had [the students on a retreat] meditate on a Bible verse after breakfast. They had to find a place on the grass and sit quietly for an hour and meditate on that verse.


The Christian life must be modeled. Jesus did not only communicate ideas and concepts and rules and principles for living. He lived. And by living with his disciples, he showed them what life was supposed to look like, what God had intended it to look like.


Note: The following is from a letter Bonhoeffer wrote to his theologically liberal brother-in-law:


First of all I will confess quite simply—I believe that the Bible alone is the answer to all our questions, and that we need only to ask repeatedly and a little humbly, in order to receive this answer. One cannot simply read the Bible, like other books. One must be prepared really to enquire of it. Only thus will it reveal itself. Only if we expect from it the ultimate answer, shall we receive it. That is because in the Bible God speaks to us. And one cannot simply think about God in one’s own strength, one has to enquire of him. Only if we seek him, will he answer us. Of course it is also possible to read the Bible like any other book, that is to say from the point of view of textual criticism, etc.; there is nothing to be said against that. Only that that is not the method which will reveal to us the heart of the Bible, but only the surface, just as we do not grasp the words of someone we love by taking them to bits, but by simply receiving them, so that for days they go on lingering in our minds, simply because they are the words of a person we love; and just as these words reveal more and more of the person who said them as we go on, like Mary, “pondering them in our heart,” so it will be with the words of the Bible. Only if we will venture to enter into the words of the Bible, as though in them this God were speaking to us who loves us and does not will to leave us along with our questions, only so shall we learn to rejoice in the Bible . . .

If it is I who determine where God is to be found, then I shall always find a God who corresponds to me in some way, who is obliging, who is connected with my own nature. But if God determines where he is to be found, then it will be in a place which is not immediately pleasing to my nature and which is not at all congenial to me. This place is the Cross of Christ. And whoever would find him must go to the foot of the Cross, as the Sermon on the Mount commands. This is not according to our nature at all, it is entirely contrary to it. But this is the message of the Bible, not only in the New but also in the Old Testament . . .

And I would like to tell you now quite personally: since I have learnt to read the Bible in this way—and this has not been for so very long—it becomes every day more wonderful to me. I read it in the morning and the evening, often during the day as well, and every day I consider a text which I have chosen for the whole week, and try to sink deeply into it, so as really to hear what it is saying. I know that without this I could not live properly any longer.


On January 30, 1933, at noon, Adolf Hitler became the democratically elected chancellor of Germany.

Two days later, on Wednesday, February 1, a twenty-six-year-old theologian gave a radio address at the Potsdamerstrasse radio station. Bonhoeffer’s speech was titled “The Younger Generation’s Altered Concept of Leadership.” It dealt with the fundamental problems of leadership by a Führer, explaining how such a leader inevitably becomes an idol and a “mis-leader.” Before he could finish, the speech was cut off.


The good leader serves others and leads others to maturity. He puts them above himself, as a good parent does a child, wishing to lead that child to someday be a good parent. Another word for this is discipleship. [Bonhoeffer] continued:

The individual is responsible before God. And this solitude of man’s position before God, this subjection to an ultimate authority, is destroyed when the authority of the Leader or the office is seen as ultimate authority . . . Alone before God, man becomes what he is, free and committed in responsibility at the same time.

The fearful danger of the present time is that above the cry for authority, be it of a Leader or of an office, we forget that man stands alone before the ultimate authority and that anyone who lays violent hands on man here is infringing eternal laws and taking upon himself superhuman authority which will eventually crush him. The eternal law that the individual stands alone before God takes fearful vengeance where it is attacked and distorted. Thus the Leader points to the office, but Leader and office together point to the final authority itself, before which Reich or state are penultimate authorities. Leaders or offices which set themselves up as gods mock God and the individual who stands alone before him, and must perish.


With the tools of democracy, democracy was murdered and lawlessness made “legal.” Raw power ruled, and its only real goal was to destroy all other powers besides itself.


The church has only one altar, the altar of the Almighty . . . before which all creatures must kneel. Whoever seeks something other than this must keep away; he cannot join us in the house of God . . . The church has only one pulpit, and from that pulpit, faith in God will be preached, and no other faith, and no other will than the will of God, however well-intentioned.


In the first nine months of Nazi rule, the speed and scope of what the Nazis intended and had begun executing throughout German society were staggering. . . . No one dreamed how quickly and dramatically things would change.

There was at this time a group that stood solidly behind Hitler’s rise to power and blithely tossed two millennia of Christian orthodoxy overboard. They wanted a strong, unified Reichskirche and a “Christianity” that was strong and masculine, that would stand up to and defeat the godless and degenerate forces of Bolshevism. They boldly called themselves the Deutsche Christen (German Christians) and referred to their brand of Christianity as “positive Christianity.” The German Christians became very aggressive in attacking those who didn’t agree with them and generally caused much confusion and division in the church.


Governments are established by God for the preservation of order. The church had no fundamental quarrel with the state being the state, with its restraining evil, even by use of force.

Then [Bonhoeffer] moved on to clarify that the church does, nevertheless, play a vital role for the state. What is that role? The church must “continually ask the state whether its action can be justified as legitimate action of the state, i.e., as action which leads to law and order, and not to lawlessness and disorder.” In other words, it is the church’s role to help the state be the state. If the state is not creating an atmosphere of law and order, as Scripture says it must, then it is the job of the church to draw the state’s attention to this failing. And if on the other hand, the state is creating an atmosphere of “excessive law and order,” it is the church’s job to draw the state’s attention to that too.

The state which endangers the Christian proclamation negates itself.

Bonhoeffer then famously enumerated “three possible ways in which the church can act towards the state.” The first, already mentioned, was for the church to question the state regarding its actions and their legitimacy—to help the state be the state as God has ordained. The second way—and here he took a bold leap—was “to aid the victims of state action.” He said that the church “has an unconditional obligation to the victims of any ordering of society.” And before that sentence was over, he took another leap, far bolder than the first—in fact, some ministers walked out—by declaring that the church “has an unconditional obligation to the victims of any ordering of society, even if they do not belong to the Christian community.” Everyone knew that Bonhoeffer was talking about the Jews, including Jews who were not baptized Christians. Bonhoeffer then quoted Galatians: “Do good to all men.” To say that it is unequivocally the responsibility of the Christian church to help all Jews was dramatic, even revolutionary. But Bonhoeffer wasn’t through yet.

The third way the church can act toward the state, he said, “is not just to bandage the victims under the wheel, but to put a spoke in the wheel itself.” The translation is awkward, but he meant that a stick must be jammed into the spokes of the wheel to stop the vehicle. It is sometimes not enough to help those crushed by the evil actions of the state; at some point the church must directly take action against the state to stop it from perpetrating evil. This, he said, is permitted only when the church sees its very existence threatened by the state, and when the state ceases to be the state as defined by God. Bonhoeffer added that this condition exists if the state forces the “exclusion of baptized Jews from our Christian congregations or in the prohibition of our mission to the Jews.”


The church was the place where Jews and Germans stand together. “What is at stake,” he said, “is by no means the question whether our German members of congregations can still tolerate church fellowship with the Jews. It is rather the task of Christian preaching to say: here is the church, where Jew and German stand together under the Word of God; here is the proof whether a church is still the church or not.”

Many would have remembered Galatians 3:28, declaring that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

In the spring of 1933, Bonhoeffer was declaring it the duty of the church to stand up for the Jews. This would have seemed radical to even staunch allies, especially since the Jews had not begun to suffer the horrors they would suffer in a few years. Bonhoeffer’s three conclusions—that the church must question the state, help the state’s victims, and work against the state, if necessary—were too much for almost everyone. But for him they were inescapable. In time, he would do all three.


In less than five minutes you can hear Kayleigh McEnany’s tribute to Ravi Zacharias: https://youtu.be/vYIY6Scmayc


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


· The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am: https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live


Completions to Verses: . . . you shall be free indeed. John 8:36 (NASB)


Joke of the day

6/1/20


Good morning, Truth Seekers.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/2SaBhN2idbM


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:


· Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not . . .


· does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not . . .


· does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but . . .


· bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, . . . (completions at the end)


Pastor Michael is still preaching to his virtual congregation. The topic yesterday was “Food, Pharisees, and Faith” based on Matthew 15:21-39; 16:1-12. Have you ever had the experience of having someone trying to teach you something, and you just didn’t understand it no matter how they try to explain it to you? Perhaps that could happen in a calculus class—a problem goes up on the blackboard, and you have no idea how to arrive at the answer.

Jesus has been teaching his disciples for quite some time, but they just don’t get it. It’s important that they get it because they are going to be the ones who carry on the work of Jesus.


Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.”

But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.”

Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.”

But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!”

Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”

She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.”

“Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed.

Jesus returned to the Sea of Galilee and climbed a hill and sat down. A vast crowd brought to him people who were lame, blind, crippled, those who couldn’t speak, and many others. They laid them before Jesus, and he healed them all. The crowd was amazed! Those who hadn’t been able to speak were talking, the crippled were made well, the lame were walking, and the blind could see again! And they praised the God of Israel.

Then Jesus called his disciples and told them, “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry, or they will faint along the way.”

The disciples replied, “Where would we get enough food here in the wilderness for such a huge crowd?”

Jesus asked, “How much bread do you have?”

They replied, “Seven loaves, and a few small fish.”

So Jesus told all the people to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, thanked God for them, and broke them into pieces. He gave them to the disciples, who distributed the food to the crowd.

They all ate as much as they wanted. Afterward, the disciples picked up seven large baskets of leftover food. There were 4,000 men who were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children. Then Jesus sent the people home, and he got into a boat and crossed over to the region of Magadan.


Tyre and Sidon are in the northern Gentile region of Phoenicia. Tyre is about 40 miles from Galilee. Sidon is an additional 30 miles. This would have been around a 140 mile journey by foot. This trip would have taken them four to six months. This is the only time when Jesus left the boundary of Israel. Jesus wanted to be alone with the disciples. He needed some time to put more problems on the blackboard for them. It appeared they needed some remedial instruction since He had worked with them for around three years, and they were still having trouble grasping concepts.

When verse 22 says a Canaanite woman came to see Jesus. The term Canaanite would have had a negative connotation because God told Moses to drive out the Canaanites from the land. It’s this Canaanite woman who recognized Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of David. She knew Jesus was the only hope for her daughter.

The word for dog that Jesus used is not the word for a stray, dangerous dog; it’s the word that means little dog or friendly dog or pet. Jesus was saying the food meant for the family is not to be given to the family pet. The woman replied that even the pet dog benefits from the master’s table by eating the crumbs that fall to the floor. She knew the Messiah was coming for the salvation of the whole world, and that meant she was included. Jesus wanted her to grab hold of Him, and she did. Jesus tested her faith, and she passed the test.

To understand why this story was included here, we need to look at the next story. The trip to Tyre and Sidon is over. A vast crowd gathers around Jesus seeking healing. Jesus feels sorry for them as they have been with him for three days, and they have to walk home. Jesus didn’t want to send them home hungry. The disciples responded with, “Where would we get enough food here in the wilderness for such a huge crowd?”

Jesus was probably thinking, “Didn’t we have this same problem on the blackboard before? Don’t you remember the solution?” In Chapter 14, Jesus fed the 5,000. The problem in Chapter 15 gets solved in the same manner as Chapter 14.

To understand why there would be two different stories of the same problem and solution, we need to go to the next story.


One day the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus, demanding that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.

He replied, “You know the saying, ‘Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow; red sky in the morning means foul weather all day.’ You know how to interpret the weather signs in the sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the signs of the times! 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.” Then Jesus left them and went away. (verses 1-4)


The Pharisees and Sadducees were enemies with each other. The Pharisees were more popular while the Sadducees were more wealthy. They didn’t see eye to eye with each other but here they join ranks against Jesus. They want Jesus to prove to them that He is the Son of God—the Messiah. This is the same tactic Satan used when he tempted Jesus in Matthew 4. They want Jesus to sin. They want to destroy Jesus. Their hearts were hardened. There had been so many miracles done by Jesus and yet they were asking for some miraculous sign from heaven to prove Jesus was the Messiah. Just as Pharaoh had hardened his heart against truth, the Pharisees and Sadducees had hardened their hearts.


Later, after they crossed to the other side of the lake, the disciples discovered they had forgotten to bring any bread. “Watch out!” Jesus warned them. “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (verses 5-6)


Immediately, the disciples thought of the physical.


At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread. Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “You have so little faith! Why are you arguing with each other about having no bread? Don’t you understand even yet? Don’t you remember the 5,000 I fed with five loaves, and the baskets of leftovers you picked up? Or the 4,000 I fed with seven loaves, and the large baskets of leftovers you picked up? Why can’t you understand that I’m not talking about bread? So again I say, ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’”

Then at last they understood that he wasn’t speaking about the yeast in bread, but about the deceptive teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (verses 7-12)


The Pharisees and Sadducees are false teachers. They have hard hearts. They are all about religion and works. Jesus is warning the disciples to be on their guard against such people. He’s warning them to be on guard against people who aren’t in a relationship with God.

What ties all the stories together from Matthew 14 to this story in Matthew 16 is bread; it’s food that ties them all together. It isn’t physical bread that’s the key; it’s spiritual bread. It’s not that the physical bread was so amazing; it’s that Jesus was so amazing. What a person eats is not what’s important; it’s what’s in the heart that matters.

The Canaanite woman is the only one who understood the problem on the blackboard the first time it was presented. She understood the message of Jesus that even though she wasn’t an Israelite, she was an object of God’s love. A relationship with Jesus was still possible because of His love. Because she understood the spiritual reality, Jesus gave her the physical reality she desired, and He healed her daughter. Jesus was teaching that He was the essential element of life, and she got it.

Was the purpose of manna for the Israelites in the wilderness about physical reality? No, whenever they gathered manna, they thanked God for it. They knew it came from God because He loved them, and they could be in a relationship with God. Manna was a spiritual reality of God’s presence in their lives.

Psalms 23:5a says, “You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.” It’s not about a physical feast; it’s about God’s provision, His protection, and His presence. The physical idea of the banquet is the spiritual reality of God’s presence in our lives even in the midst of our enemies, even in the midst of Satan trying to destroy us, even in the midst of our suffering.

In Matthew 4:3-4 says:


During that time the devil came and said to [Jesus], “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”

But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”


The essential element of life is not physical bread; it’s the spiritual reality of a relationship with God. When Jesus had the Last Supper with His disciples, he broke bread and said, “This is my body . . .” We finally get it: the physical bread is not what it’s all about; it’s the spiritual reality that Jesus is the Savior of the world and is the essential element of our life. We are first and foremost spiritual beings. Jesus said, I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35) Jesus is the essential element of life.

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.” (Matthew 6:31-33) Look first to faith in Christ. We focus on the physical things in life when we should be focusing on the spiritual. The Pharisees and Sadducees never got it. The disciples finally got it. The Canaanite woman got it right away. Do we get it? Jesus is the only essential element we need.


In less than 10 minutes, Ravi Zacharias answers the question, “How do you know that Christianity is the one true worldview?” https://youtu.be/nWY-6xBA0Pk


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


· The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am: https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live


Completions to Verses:


· . . . brag and is not arrogant,


· . . . take into account a wrong suffered,


· . . . rejoices with the truth;


· . . . endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NASB)

5/30/20


Good morning to everyone growing in faith.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/YdjFNHLHRB4


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to . . . (completions at the end)


Today we continue with quotes from Eric Metaxas’ book Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. I have added notes here and there to, hopefully, aid in clarification.


Theology is not merely another branch of philosophy, but something else entirely. For [Bonhoeffer], philosophy was man’s search for truth apart from God. It was a type of Barth’s “religion,” in which man himself tried to reach heaven or truth or God. But theology begins and ends with faith in Christ, who reveals himself to man; apart from such revelation, there could be no such thing as truth. Thus the philosopher—and the theologian who operates on a philosopher’s assumptions—chases his own tail and gazes at his own navel. He cannot break out of that cycle, but God, via revelation, can break in.


The lens through which the Nazis saw the world was purely racial. One’s genetic makeup and ancestral bloodline were all that mattered; one’s most deeply held beliefs counted for nothing.


The Nazis were anti-Christian, but they would pretend to be Christians as long as it served their purposes of getting theologically ignorant Germans on their side against the Jews.


Bonhoeffer didn’t think much of what America had to offer theologically. American seminaries seemed to him more like vocational schools than actual seminaries.


German theologians were unsurpassed in the world.


Fosdick had been the pastor at New York’s First Presbyterian Church when in 1922 he preached an infamous sermon titled “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” In it he laid out a kind of Apostate’s Creed in which he expressed his serious doubts about most of the historic assertions of the Christian faith, including the virgin birth, the resurrection, the divinity of Christ, the atonement, miracles, and the Bible as the Word of God.

Seeing an opportunity to knock out fundamentalism in New York, the Rockefeller Foundation promptly funded the construction of a church for Fosdick, one that would serve as a proper platform for his “progressive” modernist views.

But this church was no mere church. It was a spare-no-expenses cathedral to modernism and progress that had quite literally been modeled on Chartres Cathedral. It had a 392-foot tower and the world’s largest carillon, with 72 bells, among them the world’s largest. It had a commanding view of the mighty Hudson and was strategically adjacent to the Union Theological Seminary, from which Fosdick had graduated and where he would teach courses on homiletics, and where his theology was generally welcomed and disseminated.


Note: Union Theological Seminary in New York City is where Bonhoeffer attended for a time. He was not impressed with it. Here is what he wrote to his superintendent:


Bonhoeffer’s observation on American churches, especially in New York City, were closely related to his view on Union:

Things are not much different in church. The sermon has been reduced to parenthetical church remarks about newspaper events. As long as I’ve been here, I have heard only one sermon in which you could hear something like a genuine proclamation. One big question continually attracting my attention in view of these facts is whether one here really can still speak about Christianity. . . . There’s no sense to expect the fruits where the Word really is no longer being preached. But then what becomes of Christianity per se?

The enlightened American, rather than viewing all this with skepticism, instead welcomes it as an example of progress. The fundamentalist sermon that occupies such a prominent place in the southern states has only one prominent Baptist representative in New York, one who preaches the resurrection of the flesh and the virgin birth before believers and the curious alike.

In New York they preach about virtually everything; only one thing is not addressed, or is addressed so rarely that I have as yet been unable to hear it, namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the cross, sin and forgiveness, death and life.

This is quite characteristic of most of the churches I saw. So what stands in place of the Christian message? An ethical and social idealism borne by a faith in progress that—who knows how—claims the right to call itself “Christian.” And in the place of the church as the congregation of believers in Christ there stands the church as a social corporation. Anyone who has seen the weekly program of one of the large New York churches, with their daily, indeed almost hourly events, teas, lectures, concerts, charity events, opportunities for sports, games, bowling, dancing for every age group, anyone who has heard how they try to persuade a new resident to join the church, insisting that you’ll get into society quite differently by doing so, anyone who has become acquainted with the embarrassing nervousness with which the pastor lobbies for membership—that person can well assess the character of such a church.


Note: Bonhoeffer was invited to attend the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem.


There, in the socially downtrodden African American community, Bonhoeffer would finally hear the gospel preached and see its power manifested. The preacher at Abyssinian was a powerful figure named Dr. Adam Clayton Powell Sr.

By the mid-1930s, Abyssinian boasted 14,000 members and was arguably the largest Protestant church of any kind in the whole United States. When Bonhoeffer saw it all, he was staggered.

Starving from the skim milk at Union, Bonhoeffer found a theological feast that spared nothing. Powell combined the fire of a revivalist preacher with great intellect and social vision. He was active in combating racism and minced no words about the saving power of Jesus Christ.


At this point, Hitler’s ascent to the chancellorship was still two years in the unimaginable future. Bonhoeffer had been in New York a mere nine months, but in some ways it seemed a lifetime. When he left, the Nazis were a tiny gray cloud on the horizon of an otherwise clear sky. Now, black and crackling with electricity, they loomed nearly overhead.

Bonhoeffer wrote Sutz that the “outlook is really exceptionally grim.” He felt that they were “standing at a tremendous turning point in world history,” that something was about to happen. But what? In his prescient way, Bonhoeffer sensed that whatever lay ahead, the church would be threatened. He wondered if it would survive at all. “Then what’s the use of everyone’s theology?” he asked. There were now an urgency and a seriousness to Bonhoeffer that had not been there before. Somehow he sensed he must warn people of what lay ahead. It was as if he could see that a mighty oak tree, in whose shade families were picnicking, and from whose branches children were swinging, was rotten inside, was about to fall down and kill them all. Others observed the change in him. For one thing, his sermons became more severe.


Note: Bonhoeffer is in Germany at this point, and he preached a sermon in Berlin:


Bonhoeffer opened with the bad news: the Protestant church was in its eleventh hour, he said, and it’s “high time we realized this.” The German church, he said, is dying or is already dead. Then he directed his thunder at the people in the pews. He condemned the grotesque inappropriateness of having a celebration when they were all, in fact, attending a funeral.

Nor was it the only sermon of its kind that he would preach that year. But what exactly did Bonhoeffer see, and whence this urgency to communicate what he saw? He seemed to want to warn everyone to wake up and stop playing church. They were all sleepwalking toward a terrible precipice! But few took him seriously. For many, Bonhoeffer was only one of those bespectacled and overserious academic types, with a good dose of religious fanaticism in the bargain. And he preached such depressing sermons!

He took the idea of preaching the Word of God extremely seriously and wouldn’t have dared to speak his mere opinions from the pulpit. He also knew that a word might be delivered that had come straight from heaven and be rejected, just as the messages of the Old Testament prophets had been rejected and just as Jesus had been rejected. The prophet’s role was simply and obediently to speak what God wished to say. Whether or not the message was received was between God and his people. And yet to preach such a burning message, and to know that it was God’s Word for the faithful, who rejected it, was painful. But this was the pain of the prophetic office, and to be chosen by God as his prophet always meant, in part, that the prophet would share in God’s suffering.


Note: Here is what Bonhoeffer wrote in a letter dated January 1936:


I plunged into work in a very unchristian way. An . . . ambition that many noticed in me made my life difficult. . . . Then something happened, something that has changed and transformed my life to the present day. For the first time I discovered the Bible . . . I had often preached. I had seen a great deal of the Church, and talked and preached about it—but I had not yet become a Christian. . . . I know that at that time I turned the doctrine of Jesus Christ into something of personal advantage for myself . . . I pray to God that that will never happen again. Also I had never prayed, or prayed only very little. For all my loneliness, I was quite pleased with myself. Then the Bible, and in particular the Sermon on the Mount, freed me from that. Since then everything has changed. I have felt this plainly, and so have other people about me. It was a great liberation. It became clear to me that the life of a servant of Jesus Christ must belong to the Church, and step by step it became plainer to me how far that must go.


Nowadays we often ask ourselves whether we still need the Church, whether we still need God. But this question, he said, is wrong. We are the ones who are questioned. The Church exists and God exists, and we are asked whether we are willing to be of service, for God needs us.


Bonhoeffer openly thought things through and taught his students to do the same. They followed lines of reasoning to their logical conclusions and considered every angle to have a sense of absolute thoroughness, so that nothing depended on mere emotion. . . . One wished to arrive at answers that could stand up to every scrutiny because one would have to live out those conclusions. They would have to become actions and would have to become the substance of one’s life. Once one saw clearly what the Word of God said, one would have to act on it and its implications, such as they were. And actions in Germany at that time had serious consequences.


Yesterday was Ravi Zacharias’ memorial service. I would encourage you to watch at least part of it. My wife and I found it to be very moving:https://youtu.be/qcY-QRuxcWk


Reminders


· The Journey happens today at 10:00 a.m.: https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live


Completions to Verses: . . . give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)

5/29/20


Good morning, Contenders for the Gospel.


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


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:


· In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can . . .


· Take the helmet of salvation and the . . . (completions at the end)


Yesterday Pastor Michael continued Fireside Fellowship with “Contending for the Gospel” based on Philippians 4:2-3. To review, Chapter 1 had to do with how important the gospel was. Chapter Two dealt with the importance of unity. Chapter 3 stressed the importance of proper doctrine particularly regarding salvation by Christ alone. In Chapter 4 we will see the importance of living out the gospel.


Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.


The relationship problem Euodia and Syntyche are experiencing is affecting the church at Philippi. Paul knows the problems that can stem from disunity. Acts 16:11-15 tells about the arrival of Paul in Philippi. In this passage, as well as Acts 17:1-4, 12, we see that there were businesswomen who had prominence in the city and the church. Likely, Euodia and Syntyche were part of this group. They worked with Paul and, like him, were contenders for the gospel.

Euodia and Syntyche were followers of Christ. We know this because Paul mentions their names are written in the Book of Life. Revelation 3:5 says, “All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine.” The Book of Life is also mentioned in 17:8, 20:12, and 21:27. The Book of Life is a book Jesus keeps, and in it are the names of everyone who has received Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The Book of Life reminds believers that their citizenship is in heaven. The Romans had books that listed the people who had Roman citizenship.

It’s possible that Euodia and Syntyche had a personality conflict. It’s possible they had disagreements as to how things should operate in the church. It’s possible that things were changing. With change comes a threat to the influence a person has. When there are differences of opinion as to how things should be, we like to have others agree with our opinion and validate our opinion. We gather those people around us. Before long there is division. Divided churches always diminish as fault-finding and nitpicking grows. Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Arguing results when we try to make our presence more known than someone else’s presence. We have the attitude, “I am more important than the other person.” James 4:1-10 says:

What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him. And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

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.


Pride became the problem. People put their own wills above the will of God. Euodia and Syntyche developed an earthly mindset rather than a heavenly mindset. In Phil. 2:2 Paul said, “Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.” We need to have the mindset that puts Christ and His kingdom first. The centrality of our life needs to be Jesus.

There are some things we need to contend against such as false doctrine, but the physical things in a church are not things over which we should contend. When we fight against the body of Christ, we fight against Christ himself.

Paul doesn’t want the church to ignore the division that’s taking place in the church because it will end up killing the church. Paul knows about disagreements; he had a sharp one with Barnabas (see Acts 15:36-41). They ended up parting ways, but they never slandered the other. They knew that would destroy the body of Christ. They wouldn’t do anything that would hurt the spread of the gospel.

It’s difficult to argue with someone sitting right next to you. We need to realize the body of Christ is a team, and we shouldn’t oppose someone on the same team as us. We need to keep Christ in the center. Let’s be contenders for Jesus and not contenders against one another.


I would encourage you to listen to this interview of Ravi Zacharias given by Eric Metaxas even if you listen to it in segments. It’s well worth the investment of your time. You will be inspired: https://youtu.be/0LfmEVJ1d_k


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


· The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am: https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live


Completions to Verses:


· . . . extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.


· . . . sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:16-17 (NIV)

5/28/20


Good morning, Thankful People.


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


Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is. . . (completions at the end)


Today we continue with quotes from Eric Metaxas’ book Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. I have added notes here and there to hopefully aid in clarification.


The intellectual dullness and the overwhelmingly languorous atmosphere of Barcelona pushed hard against Bonhoeffer’s hyperactive mind and personality. He was amazed at how people of all ages seemed to while away the hours sitting at cafes in the middle of the day, chattering about little of any real substance. He observed that besides coffee, vermouth-and-sodas were particularly popular, usually served with half a dozen oysters. Though Bonhoeffer was taken aback at what he now experienced, he may be given credit for not merely kicking against the goads: he adapted to the local lifestyle. He might have complained privately to those nearest and dearest to him, but he didn’t let himself become gloomy or stymied by any of it. He wanted to be effective in his role as pastor, and he knew he must enter the lives and, to some extent, the lifestyles of the people he was charged with serving.

Note: Bonhoeffer didn’t compromise his beliefs based on the word of God; he compromised his personal preferences so the doors of communication to share the gospel would be opened.


Through such experiences, Bonhoeffer’s heart for the first time awoke to the plight of the poor and the outcast, which soon became an important theme in his life and theology. In a letter to Rossler, he touched upon this too:

Every day I am getting to know people, at any rate their circumstances, and sometimes one is able to see through their stories into themselves—and at the same time one thing continues to impress me: here I meet people as they are, far from the masquerade of “the Christian world”; people with passions, criminal types, small people with small aims, small wages and small sins—all in all they are people who feel homeless in both senses, and who begin to thaw when one speaks to them with kindness—real people; I can only say that I have gained the impression that it is just these people who are much more under grace than under wrath, and that it is the Christian world which is more under wrath than grace.


This was a very radical and dramatic thing to say, but it is the perfectly logical conclusion to the idea that apart from God’s grace, one can do nothing worthwhile. Anything good must come from God, so even in a sermon that was poorly written and delivered, God might manifest himself and touch the congregation. Conversely in a sermon wonderfully written and delivered, God might refuse to manifest himself. The “success” of the sermon is utterly dependent on the God who breaks through and “grasps” us, or we cannot be “grasped.”


As with most of his sermons, Bonhoeffer began provocatively, putting forth the notion that Christ had been exiled from the lives of most Christians. “Of course,” he said, “we build him a temple, but we live in our own houses.” Religion had been exiled to Sunday morning, to a place “into which one gladly withdraws for a couple of hours, but only to get back to one’s place of work immediately afterward.” He said that one cannot give him only a “small compartment in our spiritual life,” but must give him everything or nothing. “The religion of Christ,” he said, “is not a tidbit after one’s bread; on the contrary, it is the bread or it is nothing. People should at least understand and concede this if they call themselves Christian.”


Note: This is what Pastor Michael has been saying in his study on Philippians.


Note: The following writing by Bonhoeffer addresses the exclusiveness of Christ:

One admires Christ according to aesthetic categories as an aesthetic genius, calls him the greatest ethicist; one admires his going to his death as a heroic sacrifice for his ideas. Only one thing one doesn’t do: one doesn’t take him seriously. That is, one doesn’t bring the center of his or her own life into contact with the claim of Christ to speak the revelation of God and to be that revelation. One maintains a distance between himself or herself and the word of Christ, and allows no serious encounter to take place. I can doubtless live with or without Jesus as a religious genius, as an ethicist, as a gentleman—just as, after all, I can also live without Plato and Kant. . . . Should, however, there be something in Christ that claims my life entirely with the full seriousness that here God himself speaks and if the word of God once became present only in Christ, then Christ has not only relative but absolute, urgent significance to me. . . . Understanding Christ means taking Christ seriously. Understanding this claim means taking seriously his absolute claim on our commitment. And it is now of importance for us to clarify the seriousness of this matter and to extricate Christ from the secularization process in which he has been incorporated since the Enlightenment.


Then [Bonhoeffer] came to his main point: the essence of Christianity is not about religion at all, but about the person of Christ. He expanded on the theme learned from Karl Barth that would occupy so much of his thinking and writing in the years to come: religion was a dead, man-made thing, and at the heart of Christianity was something else entirely—God himself, alive. “Factually speaking,” he said, “Christ has given scarcely any ethical prescriptions that were not to be found already with the contemporary Jewish rabbis or in pagan literature.” Christianity was not about a new and better set of behavioral rules or about moral accomplishment. He must have shocked some of his listeners, but his logic was undeniably compelling. He then aggressively attacked the idea of “religion” and moral performance as the very enemies of Christianity and of Christ because they present the false idea that somehow we can reach God through our moral efforts. This led to hubris and spiritual pride, the sworn enemies of Christianity. “Thus,” he said, “the Christian message is basically amoral and irreligious, paradoxical as that may sound.”


Note: Here is a small part from one of Bonhoeffer’s lectures:


With that we have articulated a basic criticism of the most grandiose of all human attempts to advance toward the divine—by way of the church. Christianity conceals within itself a germ hostile to the church. It is far too easy for us to base our claims to God on our own Christian religiosity and our church commitment, and in so doing utterly to misunderstand and distort the Christian idea.


Note: The author now comments on the above:


Here, in the lecture of the twenty-two-year-old to a handful of high schoolers, one sees something close to his most mature thinking in the future. He differentiated between Christianity as a religion like all the others—which attempt but fail to make an ethical way for man to climb to heaven of his own accord—and following Christ, who demands everything, including our very lives.


Note: Let’s close out today with the following quote from Bonhoeffer:


Christianity preaches the infinite worth of that which is seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued.


I would encourage you to listen to this interview of Ravi Zacharias given by Eric Metaxas even if you listen to it in segments. It’s well worth the investment of your time. You will be inspired: https://youtu.be/0LfmEVJ1d_k


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


· The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am: https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live


Verse Completion: . . . the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:10 (NASB)

5/27/20


Good morning, Gospel Spreaders.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/8EPcd0B5SNs


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:


· ‘But I have this against you, that you . . .

· ‘Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and . . . (completions at the end)


Yesterday, Pastor Michael continued Fireside Fellowship with the Bible study “Live for the Gospel” based on Philippians 3:17-4:1. To review where we’ve been: Jesus is the only way to salvation. It’s never “Jesus and . . .;” it’s “Jesus only.” Good works and following the law do nothing to gain us salvation. We need to get to know Jesus through a relationship with Him. Jesus is the only one who can transform lives. As followers of Christ, we can expect to suffer for Him because our transformed lives make us counterculture.


Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stay true to the Lord. I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work.


We need to live for Jesus joining together in unity as a family. Families unify each other. Paul gives us a good example to follow as he follows Christ. Paul teaches and he trains. He could say, “Not only do what I say, but do as I do.” In order to go deeper with Jesus, some examples are needed, and Paul and others were those examples. People could pattern their lives after Paul, Timothy, Epaphroditus, and others. Paul instructed the church at Philippi to keep their eyes on those who live out the gospel.

We have to stay focused on Jesus because there are many distractions around us. What we focus on is what we’re going to be like. Focus on Jesus and those who follow close to Jesus. Follow closely in their footsteps.

When something is repeated, it’s important. Paul repeats, “There are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ.” Many do not fix their eyes on Jesus and follow after Him. Paul is talking about those who have professed to be Christians, but their actions don’t show they are followers of Christ. Somewhere along the way they have taken their eyes off of Jesus and those they should pattern their lives after. Now they are enemies of Christ because they no longer live for the gospel of Jesus.

A person who followed the law, became a Christian, and then returned to following the law is no longer a Christian. That person is now an enemy of Christ.

A person who is an antinomian takes the principle of salvation by faith and divine grace to the point of saying they are no longer bound by moral laws. They believe there’s no such thing as sin so they can do as they please. If an antinomian becomes a Christian and then returns to antinomianism at a later point, that person is now an enemy of Christ.

Romans 4:13-16 says:


Clearly, God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to God’s law, but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith. If God’s promise is only for those who obey the law, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless. For the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it. (The only way to avoid breaking the law is to have no law to break!)

So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe.


Romans 6:1-14 says:


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.

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.

Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.


Would you allow your children to do whatever they wanted, and when they did something that displeased you, allow them to flippantly say, “Oh, sorry”? Of course not. God doesn’t allow it with us either. When we receive salvation, we die to sin, and we live to Christ. Don’t live anything but the gospel.

Those who have chosen to walk away from Christ have chosen eternal, everlasting destruction. When Paul said in verse 19 “Their god is their appetite,” he was referring to the ceremonial food laws that they adhered to closely, and their stomachs became their god. It’s like they were saying, “Look at me. I don’t each these things. I’m following all the rules. I’m clean.” They were counting on good works for salvation. They were glorying in the things that please the flesh.

Sin is always shameful. When we don’t live for Jesus, we take the glory. We want the focus on us. Sometimes we brag about how sinful we are, and at other times we brag about our goodness. Both are shameful.

Paul said all they think about is this life here on Earth. Ephesians 2:19 says, “So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.” Our citizenship is in heaven, so our mind is on heavenly things—Jesus.

Citizenship meant something to the people of Philippi because they were a Roman colony. Not all cities got to enjoy the benefits that accompanied Roman citizenship, but Philippi did. It was the leading city in Macedonia due to its loyalty to Rome. Citizenship was granted because of their loyalty. If a person served in the Roman Army for 21 years, they were given Roman citizenship. People were proud to be Roman citizens. Paul was talking to them about a citizenship that was even greater than Roman citizenship; he told them about a heavenly citizenship. Once a person has grasped heavenly citizenship, they are happy to put Roman citizenship in the loss column of their ledger—counts for nothing. Citizens of heaven live for Christ, honor Christ, take the customs of Christ, talk like Christ, act like Christ.

Citizens of heaven eagerly wait for Jesus to return as their Savior. At this time in history, Roman citizenship was highly treasured. However, it came with a price. Roman citizens were to declare the emperor as their lord and savior. They were expected to worship the emperor. When a person declared Jesus as their Lord and Savior, it meant persecution. It wasn’t an easy life, and Christians looked forward to Christ’s return with eager anticipation.

Do we eagerly wait for Christ’s return now? If we eagerly wait for Jesus, we eagerly live for Jesus. To the degree that you live for Jesus is the degree to which you will long for His return.

Satan has been given freedom to roam the earth now, but when Jesus returns, Satan will be destroyed. Anything dark, shameful, or sinful will be destroyed. We look forward to that day! We’ll never have to struggle with sin again. The hard part of living now is taking everything we have in our profit column and moving it into the loss column. The only thing we place in our profit column is Jesus. This is the hard work of sanctification.

Full salvation and resurrection power occurs when Jesus returns. Meanwhile, we are to stand firm in the Lord by living for Jesus.


I would encourage you to listen to this interview of Ravi Zacharias given by Eric Metaxas even if you listen to it in segments. It’s well worth the investment of your time. You will be inspired: https://youtu.be/0LfmEVJ1d_k


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


· The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am: https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live


Completion of Verses:

· . . . have left your first love.

· . . . repent and do the deeds you did at first; Revelation 2:4-5a (NASB)

5/26/20


Good morning, Prayer Warriors.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/AHUZdbkik6w


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:


· Whatever you do, do your work heartily, . . .

· knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It. . . (completions at the end)


Eric Metaxas wrote Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. The 608-page book is a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It’s a great read with a wealth of information contained in it. For the next few days, I’d like to share with you some quotes I think you’ll find interesting. To start with, I’d like to quote Timothy Keller who wrote the foreword:


. . . the true gospel, summed up by Bonhoeffer as costly grace, had been lost. On the one hand, the church had become marked by formalism. That meant going to church and hearing that God just loves and forgives everyone, so it doesn’t really matter much how you live. Bonhoeffer called this cheap grace. On the other hand, there was legalism, or salvation by law and good works. Legalism meant that God loves you because you have pulled yourself together and are trying to live a good, disciplined life.

Both of these impulses made it possible for Hitler to come to power. The formalists in Germany may have seen things that bothered them, but saw no need to sacrifice their safety to stand up to them. Legalists responded by having pharisaical attitudes toward other nations and races that approved of Hitler’s policies. But as one, Germany lost hold of the brilliant balance of the gospel that Luther so persistently expounded—“We are saved by faith alone, but not by faith which is alone.” That is, we are saved, not by anything we do, but by grace. Yet if we have truly understood and believed the gospel, it will change what we do and how we live.

By the time of Hitler’s ascension, much of the German church understood grace only as abstract acceptance—“God forgives; that’s his job.” But we know that true grace comes to us by costly sacrifice. And if God was willing to go to the cross and endure such pain and absorb such a cost in order to save us, then we must live sacrificially as we serve others. Anyone who truly understands how God’s grace comes to us will have a changed life. That’s the gospel, not salvation by law, or by cheap grace, but by costly grace. Costly grace changes you from the inside out. Neither law nor cheap grace can do that.

The lapse couldn’t happen to us, today, surely, could it? Certainly it could. We still have a lot of legalism and moralism in our churches. In reaction to that, many Christians want to talk only about God’s love and acceptance. They don’t like talking about Jesus’ death on the cross to satisfy divine wrath and justice. Some even call it “divine child abuse.” Yet if they are not careful, they run the risk of falling into the belief in “cheap grace”—a non-costly love from a non-holy God who just loves and accepts us as we are. That will never change anyone’s life.

So it looks like we still need to listen to Bonhoeffer and others who go deep in discussing the nature of the gospel.


Now let’s get into quotes taken from the book:


The worlds of folklore and religion were so mingled in early twentieth century German culture that even families who didn’t go to church were often deeply Christian . . .

German culture was inescapably Christian. This was the result of the legacy of Martin Luther, the Catholic monk who invented Protestantism. Looming over the German culture and nation like both a father and a mother, Luther was to Germany something like what Moses was to Israel; in his lusty, cranky person were the German nation and the Lutheran faith wonderfully and terribly combined. Luther’s influence cannot be overestimated. His translation of the Bible into German was cataclysmic. Like a medieval John Bunyan, Luther in a single blow shattered the edifice of European Catholicism and in the bargain created the modern German language, which in turn effectively created the German people.

The Luther Bible was to the modern German language what the works of Shakespeare and the King James Bible were to the modern English language. Before Luther’s Bible, there was no unified German language. It existed only in a hodgepodge of dialects. And Germany as a nation was an idea far in the future, a gleam in Luther’s eye. But when Luther translated the Bible into German, he created a single language in a single book that everyone could read and did read. Indeed, there was nothing else to read. Soon everyone spoke German the way Luther’s translation did. As television has had a homogenizing effect on the accents and dialects of Americans, watering down accents and sanding down sharp twangs, Luther’s Bible created a single German tongue. Suddenly millers from München could communicate with bakers from Bremen. Out of this grew a sense of a common heritage and culture.

But Luther brought Germans to a fuller engagement with their faith through singing too. He wrote many hymns—the most well-known being “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”—and introduced the idea of congregational singing. Before Luther, no one outside the choir sang in church.

The Bonhoeffers were a deeply musical family . . . Although [Dietrich] eventually chose theology over music, music remained a deep passion throughout his life. It became a vital part of his expression of faith, and he taught his students to appreciate it and make it a central aspect of their expressions of faith.

Dietrich could not stand empty talk. He sensed unfailingly whether the other person meant what he said . . . In the Bonhoeffer family one learned to think before asking a question or making a remark.


Here is a portion of what Bonhoeffer wrote concerning the Catholic church:

A country has seldom produced so many different kinds of people as has the Catholic church. With admirable power, it has understood how to maintain unity in diversity, to gain the love and respect of the masses, and to foster a strong sense of community . . . But it is exactly because of this greatness that we have serious reservations. Has this world [of the Catholic church] really remained the church of Christ? Has it not perhaps become an obstruction blocking the path to God instead of a road sign on the path to God? Has it not blocked the only path to salvation? Yet no one can ever obstruct the way to God. The church still has the Bible, and as long as she has it we can still believe in the holy Christian church. God’s word will never be denied (Isaiah 55:11), whether it be preached by us or by our sister church. We adhere to the same confession of faith, we pray the same Lord’s Prayer, and we share some of the same ancient rites. This binds us together, and as far as we are concerned we would like to live in peace with our disparate sister. We do not, however, want to deny anything that we have recognized as God’s word. The designation Catholic or Protestant is unimportant. The important thing is God’s word. Conversely, we will never violate anyone else’s faith. God does not desire reluctant service, and God has given everyone a conscience. We can and should desire that our sister church search its soul and concentrate on nothing but the word [1 Cor. 2:12-13].

Bonhoeffer earned his doctorate in 1927, at age twenty-one.

In his essay for Seeberg’s seminar, Bonhoeffer expressed the Barthian idea that in order to know anything at all about God, one had to rely on revelation from God. In other words, God could speak into this world, but man could not reach out of this world to examine God. It was a one-way street, and of course this was directly related to the especially Lutheran doctrine of grace. Man could not earn his way up to heaven, but God could reach down and graciously lift man toward him.


We close today with three quotes from Bonhoeffer:


· Where a people prays, there is the church, and where the church is, there is never loneliness.


· It is much easier for me to imagine a praying murderer, a praying prostitute, than a vain person praying. Nothing is so at odds with prayer as vanity.


· The religion of Christ is not a tidbit after one’s bread; on the contrary, it is the bread or it is nothing. People should at least understand and concede this if they call themselves Christian.


I would encourage you to listen to this interview of Ravi Zacharias given by Eric Metaxas even if you listen to it in segments. It’s well worth the investment of your time. You will be inspired: https://youtu.be/0LfmEVJ1d_k


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


· The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am: https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live


Completion of Verses:

· . . . as for the Lord rather than for men;

· . . . is the Lord Christ whom you serve. Colossians 3:23-24 (NASB)

5/25/20


Good morning, Grateful People—grateful for Jesus who gave His life that we can be saved, and grateful for those who have given their lives for our country so we can enjoy freedom.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/ZVVbSXz7jaU


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:


· For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; . . .

· Then we who are alive and remain . . . (completions at the end)


Are you familiar with SOAP Bible Study? SOAP stands for: Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer. A passage of Scripture is chosen to read. From that passage, a few verses are selected to journal about following SOAP.

My cousin is a pastor in Hawaii (tough assignment but someone has to do it). Here is what he did and wrote for his SOAP Bible Study for yesterday:


DATE: May 24, 2020

BY: Pastor Bob Miller

TITLE: “The Love God Poured in Me”

CHAPTER READ: Romans 5


SCRIPTURE SELECTED: Romans 5: 5-8

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.


OBSERVATION: God’s love has been poured out into our hearts, as the Holy Spirit came to dwell within us! And this love was shown to us at just the right time, when I was still rejecting God and doing my own thing. But this did not stop Christ from going to the Cross for me! God’s love is demonstrated by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! That is the love, He put in our hearts.


APPLICATION: The love I have in my own strength and ability is a love which reaches to those who have shown love to me first. But this love which God has put in my heart is expanding my love for others and is causing me to love those who have not shown me love and to even love those who have been an enemy to me. I need to allow this love which the Holy Spirit has put into my heart to be expressed today to whomever I meet!


PRAYER: Lord, you are changing me a little by little to love more and more like you! I pray that today will be a day in which Your love can be expressed to ever deeper and broader levels. And so may I not be surprised when I face situations and people that would try my patience. Instead of doing “my own thing” may I lay my life down in service and in love. Amen


Give SOAP a try, and see if it works for you.


I would encourage you to listen to this interview of Ravi Zacharias given by Eric Metaxas even if you listen to it in segments. It’s well worth the investment of your time. You will be inspired: https://youtu.be/0LfmEVJ1d_k


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


· The Journey happens on Saturday at 10:00 am: https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live


Completion of Verses:

· . . . and the dead in Christ shall rise first.

· . . . shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. John 15:12-13 (NASB)

5/23/20


Good morning to everyone whose eyes are fixed on Jesus.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/BxQ0RnKjrzY


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:


· This is My commandment, that you . . .

· Greater love has no one than this, that . . . (completions at the end)


It comes natural for us to compare ourselves to others; we don’t have to be taught to do it. However, when we make comparisons, someone suffers. If we think we are superior, the other person suffers. If we think another person is superior to us, we suffer.

The Pharisees weren’t known for their humility; they were known for their knowledge of the law and their obedience to it. Let’s take a look at their behavior in John 7:37-49:


On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)

When the crowds heard him say this, some of them declared, “Surely this man is the Prophet we’ve been expecting.” Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others said, “But he can’t be! Will the Messiah come from Galilee? For the Scriptures clearly state that the Messiah will be born of the royal line of David, in Bethlehem, the village where King David was born.” So the crowd was divided about him. Some even wanted him arrested, but no one laid a hand on him.

When the Temple guards returned without having arrested Jesus, the leading priests and Pharisees demanded, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”

“We have never heard anyone speak like this!” the guards responded.

“Have you been led astray, too?” the Pharisees mocked. “Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in him? This foolish crowd follows him, but they are ignorant of the law. God’s curse is on them!”


The Pharisees have compared themselves with others, and the Pharisees have come out on top. Why are they superior? It’s because of their advanced education. They have studied the law diligently, and they know it from beginning to end. Compared to them, the crowd is a bunch of fools. Compared to them, the crowd is a bunch of ignorant people who aren’t in the know. Notice the argument used by the Pharisees for why people should trust them over Jesus: Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in [Jesus]? Evidently, what the most people believe (especially by those who have been trained in the law) is truth. Jesus can’t be trusted because the Pharisees agree amongst themselves that He is untrustworthy.

Notice how the Pharisees not only say that the crowds are foolish and ignorant of the law, but they say: God’s curse is on them! It’s not God’s curse that’s on the crowd, it’s the Pharisees curse that’s on the crowd. The Pharisees have elevated themselves to the position of being able to make this call.

The Pharisees compared themselves to the crowd and Jesus, and they saw themselves as far superior because of their advanced education. They knew more than any of them.

What comparisons do we make with others? The list is probably endless, but here are a few to consider:


· We make comparisons based on wealth. We compare where we live with where others live. We compare what they drive with what we drive. We compare what they do for entertainment with what we do for entertainment. We compare places we have gone with places others have gone. We compare the food we eat with what others eat. We compare our clothes with the clothes of others.


· We make comparisons based on athletic ability.


· We make comparisons based on physical appearance.


· We make comparisons based on public speaking ability.


· We make comparisons based on intelligence.


· We make comparisons based on one’s ability to sing.


· We make comparisons based on one’s ability to play musical instruments.


· We make comparisons based on one’s ability to do artwork.


· We make comparisons based on one’s ability to repair things.


· We make comparisons based on one’s ability to operate machinery.


· We make comparisons based on one’s ability to cook.


· We make comparisons based on one’s ability to debate.


· We make comparisons based on one’s ability to fight.


· We make comparisons based on one’s ability to negotiate.


· We make comparisons based on one’s career.


There’s no end to what we compare. But what does making comparisons accomplish? When we think we’re better than someone else, that leads to pride. Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.” The outcome of pride is never a good thing.

If we think someone else is better than us, that can lead to feelings of inferiority and resentment. We can say to ourselves, “I wish I had the money to buy an outfit like ______. Why didn’t God give me the ability to play golf like _______? I’m the worst cook in the world.” Philippians 4:11-13 says, “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:8 says, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

When we see people who are better than us at something, we can be inspired to improve. We may never reach that level of performance that we see in another person, but that’s okay. We want to become our best, not somebody else’s best. God gives us different talents and abilities. If someone has been given the ability to earn lots of money, we shouldn’t be resentful of the person. We should be happy for them. If someone can hit one amazing shot after another on the golf course, we should be happy for them.

Jealousy has no place in the life of a Christian. James 3:13-16 says:


If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.”


The Pharisees were jealous of Jesus. Jesus hadn’t gone to their schools and been educated in Jerusalem by the experts of the law, such as Gamaliel. Nevertheless, Jesus had large crowds following Him. The crowds were interested in what He had to say, and they wanted to see His miracles. This simply didn’t fit the Pharisees’ paradigm. Jesus turned their world upside down.

That’s what Jesus does when we invite Him into our lives. He turns our world upside down. The old ways we did things don’t work any longer. God gives us a whole new path to take. It’s a path where we die to self and live for Him. It’s not an easy road, but those who have been on it for a while wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s a road of inner joy and peace that leads to heaven and everlasting life with Jesus. It’s worth every sacrifice that is made while here on Earth, and we have the promise from God: “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

Let’s not be like the Pharisees who compared themselves to others. Instead of looking at others, let’s keep our eyes on Jesus. Hebrews 12:1-2a says: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.”


We lost a tremendous apologist of the faith this week, Ravi Zacharias. He was such a powerful testimony for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. If you have the time, I would encourage you to listen to this: https://youtu.be/XXjxtY3ZEOI


Reminders


· The Journey starts today at 10:00 am. Join us on Facebook Live at: https://www.facebook.com/NCCUnion/live


Completion of Verses:

· . . . love one another, just as I have loved you.

· . . . one lay down his life for his friends. John 15:12-13 (NASB)

5/22/20


Good morning, Profit/Loss Evaluators.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/5ykbceYQHZA


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:


· Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather . . .

· For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure, or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any . . . (completions at the end)


Yesterday, Pastor Michael continued with his Q&A time on Fireside Fellowship answering the question: How do works we do fit with salvation?

Philippians 3:7-9 says:


I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. 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. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.


Most people consider themselves to be “good.” They consider themselves to be morally upright and honest. Comparisons with others are made and the conclusion is, “I’m a good person. I’ve never murdered anyone. I don’t cheat people. I’m not a compulsive liar. I help people. I give money to help others. I volunteer my time. I’m a good person.” We have a list of good things we have done, and we place those good things on the profit side of our profit/loss ledger. We conclude that we have something to offer to God. We feel like God is pleased with what we have done. Therefore, God likes me and what I’ve done moves me toward salvation.

This kind of thinking comes from humanism. Humanism says humanity is the center of the universe. As humans we can do anything. We can save ourselves. God isn’t real; he is imagined. We find comfort in being “good” people. This kind of thinking is wrong.

Mark 10:17-18 says:


As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good.”


Jesus was saying that left on our own, humanity is not good. Only God is inherently good.

People believe they will go to heaven because they are basically good people. They believe God will let them into heaven when God sees how extensive their profit column is. They believe they should be allowed into heaven on their goodness. They feel they deserve heaven based on what they have done. This is humanistic thinking. It’s not biblical.

The idea of getting into heaven by being a good person is common in Christianity today. Churches promote it. If you are counting on getting into heaven by your goodness, how good do you have to be? Where’s the line that determines heaven or hell? This way of thinking always leaves a person asking, “Am I good enough to get into heaven? Do my good things outweigh my bad things?” Who determines how much goodness you have to have to get into heaven? Works always fall short.

Relationship with God starts not by displaying our goodness but by recognizing our sinfulness. Displaying our goodness is religion, and it doesn’t help us develop a relationship with Jesus. In fact, it keeps us from having a relationship with Jesus. The only way you get to heaven is through a relationship with Jesus not based on works or personal goodness. Personal goodness does zero for you as far as earning you salvation. We become acceptable to God through a relationship with Him.

We are all sinful. Jesus called the following sin: hypocrisy, idolatry, pride, greed, immorality, improper speech, improper thinking. A right relationship with God is only available through Jesus. We are born with a sinful nature. We inherited sin just by being born. Psalm 51:5 says, “For I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.” We are not born good. We have imputed sin—sin that we have because we are part of the human race. Romans 5:12-14, 18 says:


When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come.

Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.


We have inherited sin, imputed sin, and personal sin. Sin is defined as any defection from God’s standards. God’s standards are called truths. When we break any of His truths, that is sin. Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins.” Romans 3:9-12 says, Well then, should we conclude that we Jews are better than others? No, not at all, for we have already shown that all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are under the power of sin. As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.” All our personal goodness is wiped out by a single sin.

Verse 20 says, “For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.” There’s no amount of personal goodness that can impress God enough to give you forgiveness of sins and give you everlasting life. Why? Because no amount of good works in our profit column is enough to overcome sin. Verse 23 says, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”

A relationship with Jesus begins with us recognizing our sinfulness. Romans 5:12 says, “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.” Physical death comes to us because Adam and Eve first sinned. Sin brings death—both physical and spiritual. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” The nature of sin is to kill, destroy, and separate from God forever.

The only way for us to have everlasting life is to have our sins forgiven. Only Jesus can wipe out sin. Romans 5:6-8 says, “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” The good news is Jesus died for us and took the penalty of sin. 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, the sinless One, took our sins upon Him and died for us so we can receive His good gift of salvation and everlasting life. It’s Jesus who makes us right with God. Salvation is through faith by Jesus Christ. 2 Timothy 1:9-10 says, “For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News.”

Our works may raise our social standing before people, but our works do nothing to raise our social standing before God. We are all sinners before God and unable to reach God except through Jesus. Titus 3:5-7 says, “[God] 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.”

John 3 has the story of Jesus talking to Nicodemus and explaining that he must be born again; he must be given a new Spirit to replace the old nature. Jesus wants us to trust Him for everlasting life. Revelation 3:20 says, “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.” John 14:6 has the following words of Jesus, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” The only way we can receive the gift of salvation is by admitting we are sinners. We have to look at the profit column we have with all our good works, and we must move everything over to the loss column and put Jesus only in the profit column.

Romans 10:9-10, 13 says, 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. For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”

Anything we do after we receive God into our lives still doesn’t impress God. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” All the good things we do belong in God’s profit column, not ours. If we boast, we boast in the Lord, not us. See John 15. Any good we do comes from Jesus, so He should get all the glory, not us. After God saves us, we do God works, not good works.

We never become greater in God’s eyes because of anything we do even after becoming followers of Christ. John 3:30 has these words of John: “[Jesus] must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” The hard work of salvation, the hard work of maturing in Christ, is moving what we used to have in our profit column and moving it to our loss column.


We lost a tremendous apologist of the faith this week, Ravi Zacharias. He was such a powerful testimony for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. If you have the time, I would encourage you to listen to this: https://youtu.be/XXjxtY3ZEOI


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


Completion of Verses:

· . . . thanksgiving.

· . . . inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Ephesians 5:4-5 (NIV)

5/21/20


Good morning, People of Rejoicing.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/-LwBqG7uXbY


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:


· Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents . . .

· And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying . . . (completions at the end)


I was reading in John 7 and several things stuck out.


But after his brothers left for the festival, Jesus also went, though secretly, staying out of public view. The Jewish leaders tried to find him at the festival and kept asking if anyone had seen him. There was a lot of grumbling about him among the crowds. Some argued, “He’s a good man,” but others said, “He’s nothing but a fraud who deceives the people. But no one had the courage to speak favorably about him in public, for they were afraid of getting in trouble with the Jewish leaders.(verses 10-13)


Pastor Michael has been talking to us about grumbling and complaining. He has pointed out passages such as Philippians 2:14-18 and Exodus 14-16. Here it is again in John. Notice what the people were grumbling about—that Jesus was a fraud who was deceiving people. Let’s put this to the test Pastor Michael shared with us:


· Were the people grumbling in order to get others to see things their way? It sure looks that way! It appears they wanted others to agree with them that Jesus was a fraud and deceived others.


· Were the people trying to destroy or diminish the character of another? Definitely! They called Jesus a fraud.


· Were the people trying to get others to join them against another person? It sure looks that way since they were saying this where others could hear what they were saying.


· Were negative motives placed on another person? It certainly looks like they were saying Jesus did what he did in order to deceive others.


· Were they trying to make themselves look better than Jesus? Who would want to be labeled a fraud and deceiver? Yes, they were trying to make themselves look better than Jesus.


· Would anger, strife, division, and disunity be the result of their grumbling? That would be the logical prediction here.


· Do you think these people prayed about the situation, and then left it in God’s hands? No!


This is another classic example of grumbling and complaining. It definitely falls under the category of a sin. What they were doing was wrong. Let’s be people of rejoicing rather than grumbling and complaining.

Notice that no one had the courage to speak favorably about Jesus in public. This is before Pentecost. Acts 4:31 says, “After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness.” 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”


Then, midway through the festival, Jesus went up to the Temple and began to teach. The people were surprised when they heard him. “How does he know so much when he hasn’t been trained?” they asked.

So Jesus told them, “My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me. Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own. Those who speak for themselves want glory only for themselves, but a person who seeks to honor the one who sent him speaks truth, not lies. Moses gave you the law, but none of you obey it! In fact, you are trying to kill me.” (verses 14-19)


It’s so true; when we speak our own words, we want people to be drawn to us. We want to bring glory to ourselves. When we speak what God has said, we are speaking truth, and that truth brings glory to God. We can’t claim any glory for those words because they aren’t our words. Anything that’s on our ledger that brings glory to us needs to be moved from the positive column to the negative column because it counts for nothing. Only what brings glory to God counts for anything. Like Pastor Michael says, “Get rid of the trophy cases.” The real and imagined trophy cases we have in our lives bring glory to things we have done. Only what’s done for Christ amounts to anything, and those trophies belongs in His trophy case because those works were done to bring glory to Him.


The crowd replied, “You’re demon possessed! Who’s trying to kill you?”

Jesus replied, “I did one miracle on the Sabbath, and you were amazed. But you work on the Sabbath, too, when you obey Moses’ law of circumcision. (Actually, this tradition of circumcision began with the patriarchs, long before the law of Moses.) For if the correct time for circumcising your son fails on the Sabbath, you go ahead and do it so as not to break the law of Moses. So why should you be angry with me for healing a man on the Sabbath? Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.” (verses 20-24)


When we make judgments, we need to look inside of us and see what our motivation is. Where’s our heart? Where our heart is makes a difference in what we choose to do. Do our decisions reflect what is best for us (in our own estimations), or do they reflect what God has asked us to do? Are you faced with an important decision? Look below the surface. What is your motivation? Is it selfish? Is it oriented toward the well-being of others? Die to self.

The next part of the chapter has to do with Jesus being the Messiah. There’s only one Messiah, and that is Jesus. There was no Messiah before Him and there is no Messiah after Him. Jesus alone is the one and only Messiah of all time. He came as a suffering servant to us the first time He came to Earth. The next time Jesus returns to Earth it will be to judge it.

Let’s close with 2 Timothy 4:1-5:


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.


We lost a tremendous apologist of the faith this week, Ravi Zacharias. He was such a powerful testimony for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. If you have the time, I would encourage you to listen to this: https://youtu.be/XXjxtY3ZEOI


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


Completion of Verses:

· . . . forgive him.

· . . . “I repent,” forgive him. Luke 17:3-4 (NASB)

5/20/20


Good morning, Virtual Friends.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/KCWuAxUx3rE


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in . . . (completion at the end)


Yesterday, during Fireside Fellowship, Pastor Michael answered a question that he received about the book of Philippians. The question was: What is grumbling and complaining? When is grumbling and complaining a sin and when is it not a sin?

Philippians 2:14-18 says: 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.

Let’s be people of rejoicing. If we speak negatively about something, does that mean we’re complaining? Life has negative things, and we speak about them: the weather, volcano eruptions, hurricanes, tornados, meetings. When faced with a large decision, we make a list of pros and cons. The negative things on our list can help us arrive at a good decision.

God speaks in negative terms. See Ephesians 4:25-31 Ephesians 5:1-7. We are instructed by God to identify that which is good and that which is bad; that which is sin and that which is not sin. We are called to be people of light. We are called out of the darkness. We’re called out of the negative things into the positive things. Ephesians 5:11 says: Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. When we stick to the facts, it makes it possible to identify that which is good and that which is bad.

When do we cross the line from stating facts to grumbling and complaining? It’s when we put value on people regarding events. It’s when something we value is not valued by someone else. It’s when it becomes me vs. them.

Normally, we grumble and complain against people. It involves how we value or devalue people. We cross the line when we take the facts and use them against another person. We diminish the character of the person we talk against. We place negative motives on the other person and positive motives on ourselves. We look at ourselves as better than the other person. We make comparisons when we say, “If I had been there, I would have . . .” or “Can you believe he/she . . .” or “How did that decision ever come about?” We cross the line when we tear others down and encourage others to do the same. When our intent is to demean or diminish another person’s character, we are sinning. Grumbling and complaining is usually about faultfinding, and often it involves leadership. Those not in leadership grumble and complain against those in leadership.

Some excellent examples of grumbling and complaining are found in the Old Testament: Exodus 14:10-12; 15:22-24; 16:1-3, 8-9, 11. Grumbling and complaining always invites others in. It’s divisive. Grumbling and complaining against leadership is grumbling and complaining against God. The opposite of grumbling and complaining is rejoicing.

Children grumble and complain about their parents—their leadership. See Ephesians 6:1-4. Here we see that parents aren’t to provoke their children to anger by the way they treat their children. Ephesians 6:5-9 has the responsibilities of employers and employees. Disciples of Christ treat people well. They give respect and honor to people.

Citizens grumble and complain about politicians. See 1 Timothy 2:1-4. We see here that we are to pray and intercede for our leaders. Romans 13:1 says, “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.” When we grumble and complain about our political leaders (or any authority in our lives), we are grumbling and complaining against God. Sometimes it’s appropriate to pray, “God, stop our leader from making that decision,” or “God, remove our leader from his position of authority.”

We bring our grumbling and complaining into the church. When we have our jobs, we probably don’t have much say as to how things are done. If we want to remain an employee, we do things the way our employer wants them done. When we don’t like the way a politician does things, there’s not a whole lot we can do to change the person’s mind. However, in churches we often feel like this is the one place our voice can be heard. We feel like this is where we have the freedom to express our opinions. However, that attitude is wrong. We don’t have equal positions. Read the entire Chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians. Verses 4-6, 12, 15-27 say, There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.

If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 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.

Each of us has a significant role in the church. No part is more important or less important than another. We’re not all the same, and that’s a good thing. If everyone was an eye, how would we hear?

Hebrews 13:17 says: Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit. Grumbling and complaining never benefits anyone.

We need to ask ourselves, “Am I grumbling and complaining in order to get others to see things my way? Am I trying to destroy or diminish someone else’s character? Am I trying to get others to move in the opposite direction of leadership? Am I trying to make myself look better than someone else?” A positive answer to any of these questions would mean your grumbling and complaining is sinful.

Grumbling and complaining always leads to anger, strife, division, and disunity. What do we do if we don’t like something? We express our opinion correctly, we leave it, and we pray. We leave it in God’s hands.


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


Completion of Verses:

. . . all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. Acts 1:8 (NASB)


Paul's Labor and Blamelessness

5/19/20


Good morning, People of Faith.


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


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:

Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather . . . (completion at the end)


On Saturday, Living Proof Live presented a night for fun, fellowship, worship, and the Word. I’ve already shared the first part of what Beth Moore had to say. Today we will finish up with what she had to say. It has been edited in order to shorten the length.

I want to take Galatians 2:20 apart with you. It says, “I have been crucified with Christ and 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.” Regarding this verse, Dr. Richard Longenecker said, “Crucifixion with Christ implies not only death to the jurisdiction of the Mosaic Law but also death to the jurisdiction of one's own ego.” He's making reference to the fact that it is no longer I who live. Our ego no longer gets to boss us around. Imagine if we really did remind our egos when they loom large, “Actually, you are not in charge here. You have been crucified with Christ. You're neither judge nor jury. Get over that offense. You're really not in authority here.” We need to die to the need to be affirmed, approved of, and exalted in different situations. You don't need to be known by the world. You're known by the one who made the world. When our egos crave to be fed, we can remind them, “You're already dead. The life we live we live to Him.”

In the next part of the verse we see, “but Christ lives in me. The life I now live.” I want to ask you, “What life is it that you're now living in this calling of Christ?” The most important thing I'm doing here is being used to love others. We naturally think in terms of living and dying. That is the order: living and dying, but Paul repeatedly reverses that order. For us, dying gives way to living. Every single time Paul mentions death he always follows it up with living. That's true spiritually, but it's also true physically in a lot of ways, because when we drop these physical bodies in our physical death, they're going to give way to life in a way we could not even imagine was possible. This will all seem like a shadow against the true.

Paul states in 2 Timothy 2:11: "Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him." It's past tense; we died with him. 2 Corinthians 4:10-11 says, “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.” We always carry around the death of Jesus so that we can carry around the life of Jesus. We need to take on this mindset, this reorientation, that when we think death we automatically think life because in Christ death gives way to life. For us in Christ, every time we think death, we have to follow it up biblically with life.

The next part of the verse says that Christ lives in me. No greater reality exists in a believer's life—the fact that Christ’s spirit lives in you and lives in me. That it is a greater reality than your flesh and bone. This is so hard for us because for us what we can see is the greater reality. What is unseen is almost ethereal to us, but that's not the way the word of God puts it. We see the definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1 that faith is the evidence of things unseen. 2 Corinthians 4:16 says: Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. There is nothing going on around you that is as remarkable as what is going on in you if you are in Christ. You are literally being renewed day by day, from glory to glory. If you have received Christ as your Savior, His Spirit literally dwells in you. The Holy Spirit of God, the third person of the Trinity, is literally living in us. Nothing we can see with our human eyes or hold in our hands is as actual or factual as Christ living in us.

If you're in Jesus, you have what this challenge takes. I live by faith in the Son of God. It's going to be faith from first to last. You and I come in a long tradition that began with the likes of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David. We come in the New Testament to the lineage and heritage of people like Stephen, Peter, John, James, all the Marys.

Elijah was a human being like us and yet he prayed that it would not rain and there was no rain on the land for 3 1/2 years. Then he prayed again and the sky gave rain. The story is found in 1 Kings 18:41-46. Somehow we get in our head that it is with ease that all these people of great faith accomplished what they did it. We get the idea that is was no work for them, but read the story. Elijah was down on the ground with his head tucked between his knees. He's just told King Ahab, “Listen! You better get ready because the rain is about to fall!” Elijah has a servant going back and forth to see is there is anything happening? Seven times he sent the servant to see if he saw anything. The servant kept saying, “Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.” Finally the servant said, “Well, I see one little cloud.” Elijah jumped up and said, “The rain is coming!” Just one tiny cloud, but Elijah had angst in his faith.

We fellowship in Christ sufferings, but we also fellowship in his joy. Our lives are going to be lived out in this weeping and rejoicing. These will be coexisting companions for us in the life of Christ. They are not opposites from one another. From the same person comes weeping and rejoicing because that is part of our heritage in Christ. I love 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7: You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. What it takes to be an example to people around you is you receiving the word in much affliction with the joy of the Holy Spirit. If you do this, you will be one of the strangest people anybody in your spirit influence knows because in times of affliction, joylessness is the most common characteristic except for those seeking Christ with all their hearts.

I'm so thankful that we do not have a taskmaster that is saying, “Just die to self and live in me.” Instead, Jesus is saying, “My Spirit is in you. I’m the one who loves you and gave myself for you, and I am with you.” We don't know what eternity will really be like because everything in the Word is telling us about things we cannot even begin to picture. It’s giving us something of the known to describe to us the unknown.

I don't know what it will be like when we're all gathered together and all the annals of history are written, but we can imagine. One of the things I love to imagine is that maybe we'll have the time in timelessness to hear all the stories from all the generations. What was it like to live back then? What was it like to be in the faith back then? What was it like back in the glory days and the gory days? I think we'll find out that most of the time the glory days and the gory days happen simultaneously. I think that's how it often goes.

We will be there with all those that have been martyred in so many countries where Christians have been persecuted—North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Sudan, Yemen, Iran, and parts of India. We will see them with their radiant faces before the Lord—smiling, no worse for the wear, oddly—sparklingly beautiful because they brought glory to God, and they've witnessed to people the goodness of God out of their love and self-giving. What does a life look like that Christ is living in and through? It looks like love, and it looks like self-giving.

I like to imagine that in heaven there might be these intervals of testimony time. I like to imagine what it would be like to have Gabriel leading it. I can see him saying, “Now the class of so and so stand up.” I want you to get the feeling for what I'm talking about here:


· Say, for instance, the class of A.D. 60 or thereabouts—those that witnessed Christ’s very life and his resurrection and his post resurrection appearances. Have them stand up and maybe we could have a Q&A period, so we could find out what was it like to live then.


· The class of 150 A.D.—this first generation of those coming up that had not seen Jesus and had not talked with someone who had seen Jesus—like Justin Martyr, a defender and apologist of the faith.


· The class of 397 when the African thinker, Augustine, was thinking aloud and in the words of Jerome who was his contemporary established anew the ancient faith.


· Classes of the 1370s with the harrowing days of Catherine of Siena and Julian of Norwich.


· The classes of 1415, 1418, and 1431—the dangerous days of Jan Hus who was burned at the stake in Konstanz. Thomas a Kempis who wrote The Imitation of Christ. Joan of Arc, the heroine of France.


· The class of 1517 with all the upheaval and the drama surrounding the posting of Martin Luther's Ninety-five Theses.


· 18th Century England in the days of John and Charles Wesley when they preached and revival broke out in a segment of the Church of England. In his 1903 biography of John Wesley, J. F. Hearst wrote this, “When John Wesley was carried to his grave, he left behind him a good library of books, a well-worn clergyman's gown, and the Methodist Church.”


· The class of the 1960s—the decade when out of the mouth of a young Black preacher came the words, “Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead, but it doesn't matter with me now because I've been to the mountain top, and I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place, but I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will, and He's allowed me to go up to the mountain, and I've looked up, and I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land, and I'm happy tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory at the coming of the Lord.”


· Class of 2020—we don't even have a clue what the end of June will look like let alone the end of December.


How shall we now live this life we live? For many of us, in these days of ease, we have eaten tea cakes. However, if we are willing, we could throw every bit of the trust that we have into the Lord our God. He’s the one who planted us in this generation for a time of a potential harvest, the likes of which we have never seen in our lifetimes. We would have the opportunity to eat manna sustained by the one who is the Bread of Life.

Wesley died on March the 2nd in 1791 at the age of 87. I read that his friends were all surrounding him, and he was grasping their hands. They said he just kept saying to them over and over, “Farewell. Farewell,” but at the very end the words he kept repeating again and again were these: “The best of all is God is with us.” The best of all is God is with us! We can do this through the strength of Christ. We can live boldly and by faith from first to last breath and see the glory of the Lord.

Let me pray with you. Father, I pray that you would make us bold in love, bold in joy, and bold in truth. Displace our fears that are so fueled at this time in history, and replace our fears with a fiery faith. I pray you would fill our tongues with the gospel of Jesus Christ and fill our hearts with His love for He who is everything is with us and His Spirit is within us. In the glorious and holy and beautiful name of Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


Completion of Verses: . . . division. Luke 12:51 (NASB)


Prayers of Thanksgiving

5/18/20


Good morning, Tradition Evaluators.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/XCOnRwDOI1c


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:


· Put on the full armor of God so that you can . . .

· For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the. . . (completion at the end)


Yesterday, Pastor Michael gave the sermon “Religion and Relationship” to his virtual congregation. It was centered around Matthew 15:1-20.

In the Broadway play “Fiddler on the Roof” the question is asked, “What gives balance to life?” The answer is given, “Tradition.” Later it is said, “It’s because of tradition that we know what we’re supposed to do before God.” That’s an interesting statement. What are some of your traditions?

We bring traditions into the church: the priest walking up to the altar swinging incense, the pastor shaking everyone’s hand after the service, lighting candles at the altar, communion on the first Sunday of the month, etc. What happens when tradition is broken? We come to view traditions as the right way to do things. We can even view traditions as the godly way. We can even give traditions the same weight as the Bible or even more weight than the Bible.


Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”


It’s significant that the Pharisees came from Jerusalem. This means the district managers were called in to determine what Jesus was doing that was wrong. There were 613 unwritten rules that the Pharisees had that were an interpretation for what the Old Testament meant. For example, a person was allowed a certain number of steps on the Sabbath, and anything beyond that was breaking the law. These were their own traditions that dictated what it took to serve God. They were manmade rules designed to help people keep God’s rules. Unfortunately, the manmade rules, over time, became more important than God’s rules. These traditions “gave balance to life,” so it was very important that people follow them.

Exodus 30:17-21 has instructions for the priests regarding the washing of hands. However, God never said people were to wash their hands before eating.


Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’ he is not to ‘honor his father’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.


The Pharisees put their traditions above God. “Honor your father and mother” is the fourth commandment of God found in Exodus 20:12. “Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death” is from Leviticus 20:9. Honoring your parents can be difficult, so the Pharisees explained this as meaning helping your parents out when they were old. However, that can be very time consuming and expensive, so the Pharisees said, “If you say, ‘All I have belongs to God,’ then your money can be used for God and not your parents.” The Pharisees used God as an excuse to disobey God. They were justifying themselves for not obeying God. They were pretending to be doing right. If they were giving everything to God, that would mean they were giving their heart to God. A person who gives their heart to God would desire to take care of their parents. The Pharisees loved their money more than they loved God. They wanted to look spiritual. They were being religious.


“You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’"


All the laws in the Old Testament did not make people right before God. The laws were written to point people to who God is. They were outward reminders of God. However, the Pharisees were saying that following their traditions is what made people right before God. They didn’t acknowledge that how one gets right with God is by entering into a right relationship with God. A right relationship comes from the heart not the hands.

When we do religion, we want other people to see our works. If nobody was around, those works would not be done. Religion needs other people around so comparisons can be made. Religion is about conduct, not character. The only way we get right with God is through Jesus. It’s by grace alone through faith.


Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’”


Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”

“Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean.’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’”


Remember, this is during the time when people were coming out of Judaism. They struggled with ties to the rules of Judaism. (See Acts 10:9-16) Jesus came and made everything clean. Jesus showed it’s not about outward things; it’s about the heart.

The actions you do and the words you say reveal your heart. We do who we are. We say who we are. What makes our heart right with God is a relationship with Jesus, not a relationship with religion.

Let’s look at the traditions in our church. If we don’t have communion on the first Sunday of the month, are we doing something wrong? No. However, if we fought and grumbled about when communion was served, we would be doing something wrong.


Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”


The Pharisees were insulted, displeased, upset, put-out, angered. Why do we become offended when tradition is broken? Why do we say, “We’ve always done it that way”? Being offended because of tradition comes from selfishness. It comes from selfish ambition and vain deceit. The only reason I would become offended is because someone was not agreeing with me. The person is not behaving how I would expect them to behave. If you realize you are not the master and commander of the universe, and you understand that everyone doesn’t have to follow your ideas, you can’t be offended. You can only be offended when you take offense. It’s not that we should never be offended. There are times when we should be offended—someone running down Jesus.


He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”


If something doesn’t come from God, don’t worry about it.

Are we more committed to the elements of religion than we are to Jesus? Do we have to have a building to do church? No, we’re not using a building now. Do we have to have ushers to do church? No, we’re not using ushers now. Can we have church without coffee and cookies? Yes, we’re doing it now. Can we have church without bulletins? Yes, we’re doing it now. What do we need to have church? Certainly not traditions. To have church, we need Jesus. Let’s be the church like we’ve never been before.

Are you more committed to the elements of religion than you are to Jesus? Commit to Jesus and Him alone. All the other stuff really doesn’t matter.


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


Completion of Verses:

· . . . take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

· . . . powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:11-12 (NIV)


The struggle of Unbelief

5/16/20


Good morning to everyone who has been crucified with Christ.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/J9b0G7UHchI


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:


· For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come . . .

· While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then. . . (completion at the end)


Yesterday, Living Proof Live presented a night for fun, fellowship, worship, and the Word. Today, I would like to share what Beth Moore had to say. It has been edited in order to shorten the length. Nevertheless, it will be continued tomorrow.

It feels like we're caught up, somehow, in an apocalyptic movie, doesn't it? Even though we never would have chosen this particular season of time, we were very much chosen for it. You're here on purpose. Perhaps you have never entertained the thought that maybe you have a calling on your life. If you are in Christ, you have a calling. You have purpose. The Holy Spirit has fruit that he wants to bear through your life. I just pray that you sense the Holy Spirit calling you into your place whatever that looks like in your immediate sphere of influence.

What do we do with these days that have been entrusted to us? We’re being called to shift into a new gear because yesterday's walk of faith really is not working for us today.

These are unprecedented days. It's hard to train for the unprecedented. How exactly do you do that? And yet that's exactly what Jesus was doing in the New Testament with his disciples. He was getting them ready for unprecedented days for the things that they would face. Jesus was calling them to be mighty and to be bold and to know that they were going out as sheep among wolves.

Perhaps most of us have been trained well for emergency faith but not enduring faith. We can do the emergency faith, and let's not downplay that—it’s important to know what to do when a crisis comes or when a moment comes that God really wants us to step into and to believe him for. We know how to step into a temporal time of really practicing faith. This is what most of our training has been about in this prosperous West. I'm talking about many of us and not all of us. All of us have not had the same intensity of challenges, but I'm going to tell you that we keep wanting to go back to normal.

What I want to suggest is that maybe some of the ease we have known, particularly in American Christianity, is what was not normal. In the Scriptures we're called continually to practice a fiery faith in the midst of really perilous circumstances. We've been trained up for emergency faith—not necessarily enduring faith. We've been raised up for prosperity faith and not necessarily persevering faith. Hebrews 10:32-39 says, Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while, “He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.

We're not going to shrink back. This is the time that has been entrusted to us. Throughout this time of quarantine I’ve been thinking about this one verse over and over again. In this season of such turbulence, darkness, and so much death, this one verse has ministered to me more than anything else. It's going to seem like a paradox, but I want you to stay with me and see if it resonates with you as well. In these strange days where we’re inundated by news of death, it's like we're in the middle of a war, but we can't see our foe. We can't see someone across from us that we can even identify. We don't know if it's lurking close or if it’s distant from us.

This unseen thing that we've come to know as COVID-19 has shaken us. But that’s not all that is shaking us. On the news recently there’s been a video of a shooting. We've seen suicides spike from all that is happening. It's taking a toll. How on earth are we supposed to process all of this? These are things that trouble and torment our minds. What are we supposed to do with all of this and yet not lose our compassion, not lose ourselves into some kind of denial and turn our faces from it? How do we keep our faces forward and yet be able to deal with all the bad news that we're getting?

The verse I want to share with you is Galatians 2:20: 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. (ESV)

I want you know that verse is pure protein. That's steak right there. I would submit to you that I think it might be very possible that we could unpack the entire New Testament from that one verse all the way from Matthew to the expectation of Christ’s return in Revelation. When Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ,” he's not just taking ownership by himself; we’re being invited into that. We have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us and the life we now live in the flesh we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us.

This is going to seem really strange, and it's going to be a radical way of thinking, but it is a very biblical way of thinking. What if one way we answered our tormented thoughts about the fear of death was to be able to say boldly when our world comes crashing down on us, “I have been crucified with Christ.” Would we have guts enough to say, “I need not fear death. I have been crucified with Christ. Now I live in him.”

All that will happen when this life is over is I'm going to drop this physical body; you're going to drop that physical body. We're going to be in the presence of Jesus. We're going to be made whole and complete in Christ. That death we have died we died with Christ to be able to say to that tormenting thought, “You know what? You're too late! I've been crucified with Christ, and now it's by faith that I live.” This is the mindset. It is a radical reorientation to the mindset of Christ. This is how He trained his disciples to think. This is how Paul handled all that he had to face. Paul’s attitude was, “You know what? I have already died with Him and been raised with Him.”

I don’t want you to think that this is some kind of quick fix that fixes everything so there would be no more fear, no more troubled, turbulent, and tormented thoughts. That's not what I'm thinking. We will always feel the weightiness of death—it doesn't answer our fears for our loved ones. We have to remember Jesus cried over the pain of the death with Lazarus. He cried over the pain that it brought to Mary and Martha. He considers death an enemy. First Corinthians 15:25-26 says, “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” When it comes to the destruction of his enemies, Jesus will have already completely dealt with Satan when he finally turns to his last foe. He is saving the foe that he has hated the most for last, and that is death.

We need deliverance from the bondage of a fear of death. We need it desperately. Hebrews 2:14-15 says, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

Remember what Jesus said in John 8:44: “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

In Luke 12:25 Jesus said, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Jesus says to us, “I have you. You are in me.” When we are being tormented by the fear of death, we can say, “You know what? I've already died with Christ. I'm alive with Him.” In regard to COVID-19, does this mean that we get to live carelessly with a kind of “why bother” attitude because we know we died with Christ and we're alive in him? Does this mean we can do away with any of the precautions such as masks and social distancing? Galatians 5:13-14 gives us the answer: For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” So of course we take precautions, because we're loving our neighbor. We're going to listen to the advice of the professionals—those who are dedicating their lives right now to giving us guidance through this kind peril. We're going to do it because we love our neighbor and not because we are living in constant terror.


To be continued . . .


If you would like to hear Beth Moore’s entire talk, it’s available here: https://live.lifeway.com/home


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


Completion of Verses:

· . . . just like a thief in the night.

· . . . destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 (NASB)

5/15/20


Good morning, Race Runners.


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


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:

· . . . this poor widow has put more into the treasury than . . .

· They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, . . . (completions at the end)


Yesterday, Pastor Michael continued Fireside Fellowship with the study of “Leaning into the Gospel” based on Philippians 3:10-16:


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.

Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.


Paul is continuing on the theme of following Jesus only. Jesus is the only one who can provide salvation, and salvation comes as a gift—not by works. If the only thing we have in the profit part of our profit/loss ledger is Jesus, then it makes sense that we would want to know Jesus. Paul doesn’t want to know about Jesus, he want to know Jesus; He wants a personal relationship with Him. Paul isn’t interested in gaining knowledge about Jesus so he can win a trivia contest about Jesus. Paul wants to know Jesus.

You get to know someone by spending time with them. You get to know someone by living life with them: hanging wallpaper, putting up Christmas lights, playing sports together, eating with them, going through difficult times together. Paul wants to live life with Jesus.

Paul wants to know the power of the resurrection of Jesus. What’s the power of the resurrection? It’s God. There’s a power of God we can know when we know Jesus. Only God has the power to raise people from the dead. When we know Jesus, we know God. We see His power in saving and sanctifying us. As we live this life, we are experiencing the power of His resurrection. We don’t have to look to the future events of dying and being resurrected. Right now we are in the process of being resurrected because of the life of Christ in us. If we’re in the process of resurrection, that means we have died, and we have. We have died to self, and Christ lives in us. Romans 6:4-14 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.

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.

Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give into sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.


We are in the process of being resurrected. We died to the old nature, and we now have a new nature. Paul wants to know Jesus more and experience the power that makes it possible to live the new life—to say no to sin and stay focused on Jesus. We have the power of the resurrection in us.

Paul wants to suffer with Christ, because he has Christ in him (see Philippians 1:28-30). If we have Christ living in us, we will suffer for Him because we will be counter cultural. We become separated from those who choose to live a sinful life. When people reject Jesus, they reject those who follow Him. The deeper you go with Christ, the more you can expect to be persecuted.

It’s in hard times that you really get to know a person. Paul was saying, “I want to die to self the way Jesus died to self.” In Galatians 2:20, Paul said, “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.”

Paul is saying he has already been crucified with Christ; it’s not some future event. He has died to self and now puts other people’s interests ahead of his own. Paul’s purpose in life is that the gospel be progressed. Paul wants his life to reflect the resurrection power in him. This is something he wants to attain, but he says it’s not something he has already obtained. He’s not perfect. He’s in the process of being resurrected, but he’s not there yet. He has not attained full salvation.

When Paul says he is pressing on, he is putting a certain amount of force into it because there’s a certain amount of resistance. The resistance is the sinful nature that resists the power of the resurrection. It says, “Come this way. Remember how much you used to enjoy this activity? What’s stopping you from enjoying it again? Come back to it!” But Paul says, “That activity belongs in the loss column. I’m not going back to that old lifestyle. I press forward against the resistance.” Paul wants to know Jesus more fully so he puts the former things behind him, and he presses forward. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” Paul wants to be transformed into the very likeness of Jesus, so his actions, interactions, and reactions all reflect who Jesus is.

When Paul says he is forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, he is saying is forgetting all that used to be in his profits column of his ledger. Now that he has only Jesus in the profits column, there’s no reason to look back. Olympic events were taking place during this time in history, and Paul is likely familiar with the training that goes into the sports. Runners in a race would strain to move forward. They would not look behind them because that would cause them to lose time. Racers would keep their eyes on the goal. They had to know where they were going.

Paul’s goal is everlasting life—full salvation. He wants to experience Jesus in ways he didn’t experience Him the day before. He wants to keep moving forward. Jesus isn’t just a part of Paul’s life; He is his whole life. Jesus is all-sufficient. Just as runners strain and lean into the finish line, Paul strains to lean into Jesus. Paul is purposeful; he’s goal-oriented. The goal of our salvation is to know Christ. Paul wants to experience the resurrection power in everyday living.

As we mature in Christ, our goal needs to be leaning into, straining into, and pressing into the life of Christ—both His resurrection and His suffering. Paul is telling us to keep moving forward. Never give up.

The Summer Olympics in 1968 were held in Mexico City with an elevation of 7,382 feet. That particular summer was extra hot. Of the 74 participants that entered the 26-mile marathon, only 57 completed it. During the race, John Stephen Akhwari from Tanzania fell and injured his shoulder and dislocated his knee. He was encouraged to drop out of the race, but Akhwari wanted to finish it even though he was only about half way through the race. An improvised knee brace was placed on his knee, and Akhwari hobbled along. He fell on several occasions, and the officials encouraged him to stop, but he would not. The fifty-sixth runner completed the race, and more than an hour later, Akhwari entered the stadium where the finish line was. When spectators recognized him as a marathon runner, they began to cheer him on. They rose to their feet and roared for him. The way the spectators were acting, you would have thought they were cheering for the winner of the race. However, they weren’t applauding his victory of winning the race; they were applauding his victory of finishing the race.

Knowing there would be no prize, Akhwari continued in the race. He would not be deterred. After the race, Akhwari was asked why he finished the race, and he said, “My country did not send me 10,000 miles to start a race; they sent me 10,000 miles to finish the race.”

Jesus did not die on the cross just for us to start the race. He died on the cross for us to finish the race. Press on. Strain ahead. Desire to know His resurrection power so no matter what happens you will finish the race. Lean into Jesus.


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


Completion of Verses:

· . . . all the others.

· . . . put in everything—all she had to live on. Mark 12:43b-44 (NIV)

5/14/20

Good morning, COVID-20 (Christians of Vitally Important Doctrine in 2020).

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/2E9R6x57MUY

Complete the Verse & Name the Book:
· I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was . . .
· I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was . . . (completion at the end)

The Kommetjie Christian Church in South Africa (https://www.kcc.org.za) supports a missionary family. Here is a note they received from the couple:

Here's another quick testimony about the online church. One of our friends from New Zealand contacted us, desperately seeking help for a Muslim in Kenya who, as a result of the deaths caused by Covid-19 had begun to seek beyond Islam for some answers. Came across my friend's online church, heard the message, accepted Christ as Savior, preached to his family and neighbors and now has a small home-cell meeting in his house. Desperate for discipleship he has reached out. My friend contacted us, and because of our World Outreach missions network we are now in the process of hooking him up with a missionary in Nairobi and a wonderful man who heads up a Bible seminary in Kenya.

God uses even the death rate of a pandemic to draw people toward Himself and there is rejoicing in heaven over the new souls that have entered. We, in great excitement, are drawn into this otherwise unknown event, simply through our missions network and in turn our own lives are blessed as we see the Lord adding to the number those who are saved. Prayers for the Muslim community are being answered in ways that we cannot even begin to imagine.


Blessings


Eugene & Tina



I’d also like to share with you a devotional from the pastor of the Kommetjie Christian Church, Mike Lombard. In it he shares an article from Dr. Thomas McCall.


The Apostle’s Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. AMEN.


Matthew 6:9-13:

9 In this manner, therefore, pray:

Our Father in heaven,

Hallowed be Your name.

10 Your kingdom come.

Your will be done

On earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts,

As we forgive our debtors.

13 And do not lead us into temptation,

But deliver us from the evil one.

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.


Every time I wash my hands these days, I recite either our Lord’s Prayer or the Apostle’s Creed. This ensures that I make it past twenty seconds, of course, but it also reminds me of what is most important. As I do so, I keep thinking about the striking contrasts between the transience and fragility of what we often do and the steadfast faithfulness and reliability of what God has done, is doing, and promises to do.

Here at the Henry Center we are “going dark” with respect to live events. This is as it should be, for we want to love our neighbors well. Along with the rest of the country, we are shutting down all nonessential work. But there is a sense in which the kind of work to which God has called us is more essential than ever. After all, we exist to “advance Christian wisdom,” and our current project is focused on the intersection of theology and science. If ever there was a time for followers of Jesus to be seekers of wisdom and engaged with the natural sciences, surely it is now. For “now,”—this time—is a time when the idols of the age are being exposed even as people are turning from them and longing for something more stable and more meaningful.

What do I mean by the “idols of our time?” I mean the false deities of the modern West. I mean those “principalities and powers” that so easily seduce and then so fatally ensnare us. Take, for instance, the radical autonomy and rugged individualism that is valued so highly and indeed is often taken for granted—the notion that “what I do is my business and only impacts me.” Seeing the exponential curve of disease spread, can we ever really believe this again? How did we ever believe it? Or consider our tendency to trust in the stability and security of the American economy. Is it not being exposed as fragile? Think of the reliance on health care systems, or the unreflective confidence in our own resources that so often runs so deep that it goes unnoticed. More directly relevant to our work here at the Creation Project, consider the widespread cultural commitment to scientism, the belief that only the natural sciences offer “real” or “objective” knowledge and the corresponding deep and implicit trust in the natural sciences to bring health and safety and meaning to our lives.

Daily, we are tempted to place our trust here; we are lulled into thinking that what we do only matters to us and won’t be a threat to the most vulnerable among us. We slide, sometimes imperceptibly, into placing our trust in our own resources. Almost as if by osmosis, we trust science and technology to fix us. And then, when we start to see the fragility of it all, we begin to worry, and then panic.

This is not a time for Christians to panic. It is a time to seek wisdom, to ask how we might best love God and neighbor. It is a time to reject the myth of radical autonomy and instead to take personal responsibility even more seriously. A time to look for ways to be good stewards of the resources with which we have been so generously blessed. It is time to reject scientism, but to do all that we can to engage and encourage good science and the wonderful scientists and health care workers who are on the front lines in the fight to protect us all. Like all idols, scientism is simultaneously a fierce taskmaster and a fraudulent deity. Actual science, on the other hand, can be a wonderful tool with which to better love God and neighbor.

And this is a time for love of God and neighbor. This is a time to be reminded that the “Creator of heaven and earth” is also the one Jesus taught us to address as “our Father,” the “Almighty” parent who exercises loving sovereignty over creation. A time to know that God has not held himself aloof from us, but instead entered a world not only of filth and viruses but also of hatred and cruelty, that this God became incarnate and not only “suffered under Pontius Pilate” and was “crucified, dead, and buried” but also “rose on the third day” and has conquered our last enemy.

A time to remember that we are not our own, but have been “bought with a price,” and that the Holy Spirit is with God’s people now and always. This is a time to know and proclaim that love—the love of the Triune God who is our Creator, Savior, and Sanctifier—is stronger than death.

This is a time to proceed with the quiet confidence and good cheer that comes from knowing that we are held in God’s hand. This is not a time for panic or despair; it isn’t a time for hoarding or profiteering or “just looking out for me and mine.” This is a time to live with prudence but also with generosity. To sacrifice, to put ourselves at risk not at the expense of others but for the sake of others. To offer to deliver food and supplies to those who lack them, to seek out and encourage the lonely and anxious. It is a time to thank our Creator for good science and to encourage those who pursue it. A time for all manner of small deeds done in quiet, done for our neighbors in such a way that the only sane and rational explanation is an unshakeable confidence in the power and goodness of God. People who live by such hope and confidence expose the impotence of idols, and they reflect the goodness of God.

The time of the coronavirus is a time to turn from the idols that tempt and then torment us. It is a time to see that they are not only fake, but also impotent. It is a time to turn from them and toward God. It is a time to love the Triune God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and our neighbors as ourselves. It is time to remind ourselves of these basic facts again and again—maybe even every time we wash our hands.

Thomas H. McCall (PhD Calvin Theological Seminary) is Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology at TEDS and Director of the Henry Center.


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


Completion of Verses:

· . . . a stranger and you invited me in,

· . . . in prison and you came to visit me.

Matthew 25:35-36 (NIV)

5/13/20

Good morning, Created by God.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/HjZq9XZE44c

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: And because lawlessness is increased, most people’s . . . (completion at the end)

Yesterday, Pastor Michael used Philippians 3:4-9 to teach “Loss for the Gospel” as he continued Fireside Fellowship

Salvation is by faith alone. The Judaizers said one got right with God by following the Law. Part of the Law was circumcision. Circumcision identified the Judaizers as God’s people. Leviticus 12:3 says, “On the eighth day the boy’s foreskin must be circumcised.” Paul is telling the church at Philippi that he was born a Hebrew and grew up in Judaism.

The name Israel is special because God gave them that name. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel. From his 12 sons grew the 12 tribes of Israel that formed the nation of Israel. A person could be a descendant of Abraham and yet not be an Israelite. For example, the Ishmaelites and the Edomites descended from Abraham but not Jacob. Therefore, they were not Israelites.

Paul was an Israelite from the tribe of Benjamin. Benjamin was the youngest of Jacob’s sons and his favorite after his son Joseph was given up for dead. Benjamin is also the tribe from which came the first king of Israel. Paul was named after this king. Paul’s name was Saul before it was changed. When Israel was divided into two kingdoms (Israel and Judah), it was the tribe of Benjamin that sided with Judah and supported the lineage of David. After Israel was destroyed by the Babylonians, it was largely those from the tribes of Benjamin and Judah who returned to Jerusalem to repopulate it. In addition, Mordecai was from the tribe of Benjamin. He was instrumental in saving the nation from destruction when Xerxes was king. Paul is telling the church about his special ancestry about which he could boast.

At the time of the writing of Philippians, a person could call themselves an Israelite if they were circumcised, descended from Jacob, and they followed the Law. However, a person could only be a Hebrew if he spoke Aramaic, and he kept the old Hebrew customs. This is what made a person a Hebrew of Hebrews, and this is what Paul was. Not only that, Paul was a Pharisee. He studied the Law and was devoted to following it. Pharisee means “separated from the common.” There could only be 6,000 Pharisees so it was significant to be a Pharisee.

In Acts 22:3-5 we find: Then Paul said, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, and I was brought up and educated here in Jerusalem under Gamaliel. As a student, I was carefully trained in our Jewish laws and customs. I became very zealous to honor God in everything I did, just like all of you today.” To have been selected to study under Gamaliel meant Paul had what it took to be one of the top Pharisees. “And I persecuted the followers of the Way, hounding some to death, arresting both men and women and throwing them in prison. The high priest and the whole council of elders can testify that this is so. For I received letters from them to our Jewish brothers in Damascus, authorizing me to bring the followers of the Way from there to Jerusalem, in chains, to be punished.” Not only could Paul brag about his descent but he could also brag about his deeds. Paul was zealous about Judaism. He felt the only way to God was through Judaism. He felt the Way (Christianity) was a threat to Judaism, and he was going to put an end to it. Paul was the epitome of righteousness through the Law.

In Verse 7 Paul said, “I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.” When Saul/Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, his whole life changed. His eyes were blinded by the light of Jesus, but he saw for the first time his true condition. All the works he had been doing were all for naught; they counted for nothing! His world was turned upside down. Everything he had on the “For Profit” side of his ledger, he had to move to the “For Loss” side of his ledger.

Knowing Jesus made all the difference. Paul realized his ancestry and position as a Pharisee actually prevented him from knowing Christ. Those things he held in high esteem that he thought were working to draw him closer to God were actually working to prevent him from knowing God.

Paul is saying to us, “Be careful what you think is profit.” We all have a profit and loss sheet in our mind based on our goodness and accomplishments. For example, we might be proud to be an American tracing our ancestry clear back to those on the Mayflower. We might trace our roots back to the very beginning of NCCU. We might say, “I helped start this church. I gave a lot of money to see the church get planted. I put a lot of time into making the first church in Union become a reality. I donated a lot of my resources to this church.” We come to church with all this on the profit side of our sheet. Paul says it’s all garbage. The word garbage can be translated dung. It’s not just neutral; it actually can prevent a person from knowing God. Our trophy cases prevent us from knowing and growing in Christ. 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.” When we place the value of our works higher than the value of Christ in our life, we are not walking with Jesus; we are walking away from Jesus.

Paul puts NOTHING in the profit side of his sheet except Jesus. He knows his whole life is by the grace of God. Paul is doing the works of God and not the works of Paul. Paul knows he’s a descent from God now and none of the former ancestry he valued matters in the least.

Acts 27:13-26 has the story of Paul and the storm at sea. The ship Paul is on is in danger of sinking so the crew begins throwing the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. The cargo was in the profit side of their ledger, and yet they were throwing it into the sea. What was on the profit side is now worthless to them. However, the thrown over cargo is not neutral now; it is on the loss side because the captain is going to have to pay for that cargo. The only thing of value to the crew was life, and they were willing to do anything necessary to save their lives.

The only thing that matters, the only thing we should be desperate for, the only thing that should be in our profit column is one word— Jesus. Salvation is by grace alone through faith. It’s not by our works, our descent, or our greatness. It’s not by how many committees we sat on, how much money we’ve given, or how long we’ve attended the church. If any of these are in your profit column, move them over to the loss column, and put Jesus only in your profit column. These are the things that prevent us from following Jesus. If we don’t give up everything we have in our profit column, we will not gain Jesus. It’s so easy to want Jesus and . . . in our profit column, but that will never work. In our profit column has to be Jesus only. Acts 4:12 says, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” In John 14:6, Jesus said,

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”



Righteousness comes from God. We can’t be right on our own. Righteousness doesn’t come from works.

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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.

Verse Completion: . . . love will grow cold. Matthew 24:12 (NASB)

5/12/20

Good morning, People of Rejoicing.


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


Complete the Verses & Name the Book:

· For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks . . .

· but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews . . . (completions at the end)


One of the best known verses in the Bible is John 3:16 (NIV): For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Perhaps it was the first Scripture verse you memorized. Do you know the context in which this verse was said? Let’s take a look at the context of this very special verse. Here is John 2:23-3:21 (NLT):

Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him. But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew all about people. No one needed to tell him about human nature, for he knew what was in each person’s heart.

There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak to Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”

Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”

“How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked.

Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony. But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven. And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.

“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.

“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”

At the Passover, Jesus did many signs and wonders that appealed to the people. However, faith that is based only on signs and wonders is less than the faith Jesus demands. There’s a danger that when the signs and wonders cease, faith ceases. Faith needs to be built on the firm foundation of Jesus, so no matter what circumstances happen, our faith is not shaken. When our faith goes deep in Jesus, seeing him on a cross does not deter us.

When a person is confronted by Jesus, his deepest needs and darkest sins are exposed. Nicodemus couldn’t hide the deadness of his soul. We are taught these days that we are responsible only to ourselves—“Look out for Number One.” If we expand that a little bit more we might say we’re responsible for ourselves and those around us. This is only a half-truth. People sometimes don’t acknowledge they are responsible to God. Consequently, an sin is first a sin against God. That is why David said to God in Psalm 51:4: “Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.”

Nicodemus becomes “Exhibit A” to illustrate what is in the heart of people. What Jesus said about Nicodemus can be applied to all mankind. Romans 3:23 says: “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Even though Nicodemus was deeply saturated in the traditional belief in one God, the Law, history of Israel, and what the prophets said, he had missed The Way. Nicodemus needed Jesus just like we need Jesus.

Nicodemus recognized Jesus as someone special because of the miracles He performed, but he didn’t recognize Jesus as the Messiah. In our natural powers, we are not able to recognize what is essentially spiritual. We have to receive a new vision; a vision that comes with a new life. We have to be born again. The Greek word for again is anothen which means “again,” “from above,” and “anew.” All three translations seem to fit here.

Jesus summed up the whole plan of redemption when He said, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.” Fulfillment, life, and solving innermost problems come from a new birth from above—the birth of the Spirit. The Law couldn’t give birth to the good life. Life comes out of the Spirit. There’s an element of mystery with this. Jesus said, “You can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” You can’t explain forgiveness of sins and spiritual regeneration.

Nicodemus represented the best in Judaism yet there was spiritual deadness, darkness, and ignorance in this old order.

Because the Israelites spoke against God and Moses, God sent poisonous snakes among the people. Many died. The people repented and asked Moses to take away the snakes. Numbers 21:8 says: Then the LORD told [Moses], “Make a replica of a poisonous snake and attach it to a pole. All who are bitten will live if they simply look at it!” So Moses made a snake out of bronze and attached it to a pole. Then anyone who was bitten by a snake could look at the bronze snake and be healed!

Jesus was raised up on a cross. All who look to Him for salvation receive salvation. Without the cross, we would die in our sins. Although the cross is an instrument of death, the cross of Jesus brings life to those who call on Him. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice and faith is the perfect response to that sacrifice. Here is the first mention of eternal life, the gift that is given to those who have faith.

John 3:16 is the first mention of God’s love in this Gospel. God’s love extends to ALL people. The Greek word for love used here is egapesen. This is love that is solely interested in others with no thought for self. Egapesen risks all for the advantage of another; it counts no price too great as long as another can benefit. It’s complete love. It’s absolute love. When God gave Jesus to us, He gave that which was most precious to Him.

We have a choice: life or death. If we respond with faith, we make the choice for life. If we reject Jesus, we chose death and eternal darkness. The purpose of Jesus wasn’t to bring judgment to people but to bring salvation to people. Nevertheless, judgment is inevitable when people refuse to accept God’s mediating and atoning gift of Jesus.

Judgment and condemnation do not come to those who have faith. Condemnation is a current state for unbelievers. It’s our job as believers to shine light into their darkness, so unbelievers don’t remain in their state of condemnation.

There’s a sequence in unbelief—unbelief, darkness, and evil deeds. Unbelief and evil living go hand in hand. A person who says it doesn’t matter what he/she believes is also saying that actions don’t have any moral value or meaning. There’s a sequence in belief—faith, light, and good deeds. A holy person and a holy life go hand in hand. A person who is holy is set apart for God’s service. A holy life is a life set apart for God’s service.

Truth is something said, and truth is something lived.


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


Completion of Verses:

· . . . search for wisdom;

· . . . a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness. 1 Corinthians 1:22-23 (NASB)


The Invisible Hand of Providence

5/11/20

Good morning, Yard Explorers.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/EhSOnw8a_AI

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but . . . (completion at the end)


Yesterday, Pastor Michael gave the sermon “The Ups and Downs” based on Matthew 14. Life has its ups and downs; times when things go well and everything falls into place, and times when things don’t go so well and it seems like nothing falls into place. This is how life is, and we want to teach our kids to expect both good times and bad times in our lives.

The Christian life also has its ups and downs; roses and thorns. Jesus said, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b) Matthew 14 starts out with a down time in life:

When Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, heard about Jesus, he said to his advisers, “This must be John the Baptist raised from the dead! That is why he can do such miracles.”

For Herod had arrested and imprisoned John as a favor to his wife Herodias (the former wife of Herod’s brother Phillip). John had been telling Herod, “It is against God’s law for you to marry her.” Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of a riot, because all the people believed John was a prophet.

But at a birthday party for Herod, Herodias’s daughter performed a dance that greatly pleased him, so he promised with a vow to give her anything she wanted. At her mother’s urging, the girl said, “I want the head of John the Baptist on a tray!” Then the king regretted what he had said; but because of the vow he had made in front of his guests, he issued the necessary orders. So John was beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a tray and given to the girl, who took it to her mother. Later, John’s disciples came for his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus what had happened.

As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone.

Jesus is grieving over the death of his close friend and cousin. Jesus went to spend some alone time with His Father—the God of all comfort. However, instead of finding a place of solitude, Jesus is met by a huge crowd.

But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns. Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

In His grief, Jesus has compassion on the crowd. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 says, “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.”

There are people in the crowd who are grieving. They are sick or a loved one is sick. The doctors have done all they can do, but the patients aren’t getting any better. Jesus is their last hope. In His grief, Jesus begins to minister to the crowds. The crowd goes from a low to a high.

That evening the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”

There were probably around 15,000 people in the crowd. They had been there all day. At this point, the disciples were likely looking forward to the crowd going to their homes.

But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.”

But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” they answered.

The disciples went from a high of seeing so many people healed to a low of wondering how a crowd of this size could be fed.

“Bring them here,” he said. Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people. They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. About 5,000 men were fed that day in addition to all the women and children!

The disciples went from a low to another high. Another miracle had happened right before their eyes. Perhaps the disciples thought about how God provided manna for the Israelites in the wilderness, and now Jesus was providing food for the crowd of 15,000 people with only five loaves and two fish. People that day saw Jesus as a healer but more importantly as a life-giver.

Charles Blondin was a French daredevil who crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope pushing and pulling a wheelbarrow in 1859. He asked the energized crowd if they thought he could repeat the act with a person in the wheelbarrow. The crowd enthusiastically yelled, “YES!” However, when he asked for a volunteer, the crowd instantly grew quiet. Not a single person who said they believed he could do it took a step of faith and got into the wheelbarrow.

The disciples wouldn’t have learned anything if they hadn’t taken the step of faith and started feeding the crowd. Not only did they say, “I believe Jesus can do it,” but they said, “I’m going to show that I believe Jesus can do it.” They got in the wheelbarrow.

This is the first time the disciples were part of the miracles of Jesus. Their faith grows and is cemented. They went from doubt and disbelief to trust and belief in Jesus. Their faith is built. As we take steps of faith, Jesus builds our faith. Jesus needs you to do ministry, just as he needed His disciples to do ministry. We’re the hands and feet of Jesus. He needs us to stop observing and start doing. We can’t just read the Bible and say, “I believe it.” We need to live it.

After seeing everything Jesus did that day, the crowds were ready to make Him king. The disciples were likely excited with this prospect, too. This was a high for them. But that’s not why Jesus came to Earth; He didn’t come to destroy the Romans or become a national leader. Jesus told the disciples to get into the boat. Their bubble was burst.

Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.

Finally, Jesus had a chance to grieve for His friend.

Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

“Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

Before we’re too hard on Peter, remember that he was the only one who took the step of faith and stepped out of the boat. He put his faith into action, but as he looked around at the storm, his faith diminished. We do the same thing. We look at our circumstances instead of Jesus, and our faith starts diminishing. Notice what Peter does at this point; he calls out to Jesus to save him. Jesus took Peter’s doubt and restored it to faith.

There’s really no rational answer to the question “Why do you doubt?” When our faith is in Jesus, and Jesus is God—the creator of the universe, when we know Jesus loves us, when we know Jesus is perfectly good, when we know He is all-powerful, is it rational for us to doubt Him? Is it rational to give more power to a created thing than the creator?

After they had crossed the lake, they landed at Gennesaret. When the people recognized Jesus, the news of his arrival spread quickly throughout the whole area, and soon people were bringing all their sick to be healed. They begged him to let the sick touch at least the fringe of his robe, and all who touched him were healed.

From the low of the storm they go to another high of Jesus healing people. The end of Chapter 13 ends on a down note due to people rejecting Jesus in His own hometown. Chapter 14 ends on a high note with people being healed by just touching the fringe of Jesus’ robe. What a difference faith makes! What a difference doubt makes! These are the ups and downs of the Christian life. God has power in our faith; He has love in our doubts.

A lady who had to carry water in bucket from the well to her house, would place a piece of wood in the water, because it would calm the water as she walked and keep it from sloshing out of the bucket. That is what Jesus does for us. He calms our life. We need to put the cross of Jesus in the center of our life, because it’s the cross that settles our faith. The cross settles our life.

Jesus loves you in the ups and in the downs of life. Put Him in the center of your life.


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


Verse Completion: . . . if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:24 (NASB)

The Jews Covenant to Obey God

5/9/20

Good morning, Followers of the Son of Man.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/6xCRnqMK5fg

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in . . . (completion at the end)

Eugene Peterson, author of The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language, made the following comments about what happens when any kind of disaster strikes:

“When disaster strikes, understanding of God is at risk. Unexpected illness or death, national catastrophe, social disruption, personal loss, plague or epidemic, devastation by flood or drought, turn men and women who haven’t given God a thought in years into instant theologians. Rumors fly: “God is absent”…”God is angry”…”God is playing favorites, and I’m not the favorite”…”God is ineffectual”…”God is holding a grudge from a long time ago, and now we’re paying for it”…

“It is the task of the prophet to stand up at such moments of catastrophe and clarify who God is and how he acts. If the prophet is good—that is, accurate and true—the disaster becomes a lever for prying people’s lives loose from their sins and setting them free for God. Joel is one of the good ones: He used a current event in Israel as a text to call his people to an immediate awareness that there wasn’t a day that went by that they weren’t dealing with God. We are always dealing with God.”

These comments were made several years before COVID-19 was heard of as Eugene Peterson died in 2018.

Who is God? To reiterate what was said on Thursday: “If the distance from the earth to the sun (93,000,000 miles) was the thickness of a sheet of paper, then the distance between the earth to the nearest other star would be a stack of papers 70 feet high, and the distance across our galaxy, the diameter, would be a stack three hundred ten miles high. Our galaxy is only a speck of dust in the universe.” God is the one who created it all. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Not only is God the creator, but He’s the healer and the only one who can save and provide eternal life.

What is God like? Joel 2:12-13 says: That is why the LORD says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angryand filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish.

We might think we have it rough with COVID-19, but listen to what God told Joel:

Hear this, you leaders of the people. Listen, all who live in the land. In all your history, has anything like this happened before? Tell your children about it in the years to come, and let your children tell their children. Pass the story down from generation to generation. After the cutting locusts finished eating the crops, the swarming locusts took what was left! After them came the hopping locusts, and then the stripping locusts, too!

Wake up, you drunkards, and weep! Wail, all you wine-drinkers! All the grapes are ruined, and all your sweet wine is gone. A vast army of locusts has invaded my land, a terrible army too numerous to count. Its teeth are like lions’ teeth, its fangs like those of a lioness. It has destroyed my grapevines and ruined my fig trees, stripping their bark and destroying it, leaving the branches white and bare.

Weep like a bride dressed in black, mourning the death of her husband. For there is no grain or wine to offer at the Temple of the LORD. So the priests are in mourning. The ministers of the LORD are weeping. The fields are ruined, the land is stripped bare. The grain is destroyed, the grapes have shriveled, and the olive oil is gone.

Despair, all you farmers! Wail, all you vine growers! Weep, because the wheat and barley—all the crops of the field—are ruined. The grapevines have dried up, and the fig trees have withered. The pomegranate trees, palm trees, the apple trees—all the fruit trees—have dried up. And the people’s joy has dried up with them.(Joel 1:2-12)

We think we have it rough when we have to stay in our houses. Not only that, but when we do venture out, the stores are out of some things we rely on having: toilet paper, flour, sugar, meat, etc. When we compare our situation with Joel’s time, we’re embarrassed to complain about anything.

Sometimes God allows difficult times to get our attention. When difficult times strike, we have a choice: humble ourselves before God and draw closer to Him or harden our hearts and decide to have nothing to do with God. Difficult times in my life have always brought me closer to Jesus. A humble heart can always be used by God. A proud heart can never be used by God. James 4:6 says: And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Proverbs 8:13 says, “All who fear the LORD will hate evil. Therefore, I hate pride and arrogance, corruption and perverse speech.” Proverbs 16:5 says, “The LORD detests the proud; they will surely be punished.” Daniel 5:20 says: “But when [Nebuchadnezzar’s] heart and mind were puffed up with arrogance, he was brought down from his royal throne and stripped of his glory.”

God isn’t the one who changes; we are. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” People’s ideas of God change according to circumstances, but God Himself never changes. Jesus was God before the pandemic, Jesus is God during the pandemic, and He will be God after the pandemic. We can’t put our faith in an idea; we put our faith in a person—Jesus. He never changes. Everything He expects from us is in His words. 1 Peter 1:24 says, As the Scriptures say, “People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades. But the word of the Lord remains forever.” And that word is the Good News that was preached to you.

It’s my prayer that God will use the pandemic to draw people to Himself. Let’s pray for revival and a time of great harvest.


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


Verse Completion: . . . the abundance of his possessions. Luke 12:15 (NIV)

5/8/20

Good morning, “Soon” to be Released.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/_JuhYFvVEc0


Complete the Verse and Name the Book: Consequently they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God . . . (completion at the end)


Yesterday, Pastor Michael continued Fireside Fellowship with a study called “Law and the Gospel” from Philippians 3:1-3. A shift of topics takes place in Chapter 3 where Paul discusses theological issues. It’s important that we know proper doctrine or theology.

Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.

Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort.

We need to remember we are family, and we should use terms like brother and sister. We are one unit in Christ. Rejoice means to take joy in the Lord. Notice Paul doesn’t say to be happy no matter what happens. Joy is deeper than happiness. Happiness is connected to circumstances. When there is joy, there is peace and contentedness. In a spiritual sense, joy comes when there is a sense of rightness with God—knowing the future is secure with God. John 16:19-24 says:

Jesus realized they wanted to ask him about it, so he said, “Are you asking yourselves what I meant. I said in a little while you won’t see me, but a little while after that you will see me again. I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy. It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world. So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy. At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name. You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.”

Why will their joy not be taken away? It’s because they are connected to Jesus. Their future is secure, their sins have been forgiven, and they will have everlasting life with Jesus. John 15:9-11 says:

“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!”

I gain something when I die—everlasting life with Jesus. John 17:13 says:

“Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with your joy.”

The completeness or fullness of joy is spending eternity with Jesus. 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.

Nothing can rip Jesus away from us. Nothing can keep Jesus from loving us. There’s reason to rejoice in the Lord!

When a professional sports team gets into a slump, what does the coach do? He takes the team back to the basics. Paul wants the church to be well grounded in the fundamentals of their faith. To mature in Christ, we have to have the fundamentals down. It’s upon the fundamentals that we build and grow. The fundamental message that we never tire of hearing is the gospel: the death and resurrection of Christ, the Holy Spirit in us, the fruit of the Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit, how to serve, unity, rejoicing . . . it’s all about Jesus. Praising God keeps us maturing. We don’t mature when we don’t practice the basics. The basics help us decipher right from wrong; they help us identify what is false.

Paul tells the church at Philippi to watch out for false teachers. Judaism was all about following the law. People were trying to figure out how the old covenant fit with the new covenant of Jesus. People were wondering what to do with the ceremonial laws, the sacrificial laws, the food laws, the Sabbath laws, the laws of circumcision. There was a great debate as to whether Gentiles coming into the faith should be circumcised or not. In the end, it was determined they should not. The bottom line was salvation was by Christ alone: by grace through faith; not by works. Salvation is a gift of God.

Let’s go back to the origin of circumcision found in Genesis 17:9-11:

Then God said to Abraham, “Your responsibility is to obey the terms of the covenant. You and all your descendants have this continual responsibility. This is the covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Each male among you must be circumcised. You must cut off the flesh of your foreskin as a sign of the covenant between me and you.”

In Exodus 4:10 Moses tells the Lord he doesn’t speak well—he has uncircumcised lips. In Deuteronomy 10:16, Moses tells Israel to circumcise their stubborn hearts. This isn’t a physical act but, rather, a spiritual act. In Jeremiah 6:10, Jerusalem’s ears are uncircumcised—they are closed and will not listen to God.

Anything that prevents us from understanding God, from knowing God, from obeying God, from serving God, from humbling ourselves before God is being uncircumcised. Circumcision is that act of getting rid of anything that separates us from a relationship with Jesus.

Paul is saying to watch out for the false teachers that say rules are the foundation of the faith. It’s Jesus who is the foundation of our faith. In Colossians 2:11-12, Paul said:

When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.

When we receive Jesus, the Holy Spirit regenerates us and gives us a new heart. Galatians 5:2-6 says:

Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you. I’ll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses. For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.

But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us . For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love.

Salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation is never by works or by the law. We can never be good enough to earn salvation; it is a gift. Referring to Jesus, Acts 4:12 says: “There is salvation is no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”Salvation is not “Jesus and . . . ;” it’s “Jesus only.”

Paul calls the false teachers by three names: dogs, those who do evil, and mutilators. Paul calls true believers by three names: those who worship by the Spirit, those who rely on Jesus for what He has done, and those who put no confidence in their own efforts. True righteousness is boasting in Christ alone. Our joy and rejoicing is in Jesus alone for it is through Him we have salvation and everlasting life.


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


Verse Completion: . . . has joined together, let no man separate. Matthew 19:6 (NASB) See also Mark 10:9

5/7/20

Good morning, Friends & Family (you’re both btw).


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/EqsnGE3_dsg


Complete the Verse & Name the Book: My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to . . . (completion at the end)


Today, I’d like to share some thoughts from Tim Lane on the topic of “Anxiety and Scripture.” Here is what he had to say:

After considering the strengths and limitations of modern diagnoses for anxiety, we need to take a moment to see how Scripture captures the experience of worry and how it pinpoints the problem at the most fundamental level.

In the Old and New Testaments there are a host of words that the writers use to capture the experience of anxiety. Interestingly, the same words can be used to describe something positive and negative; proper concern or problematic obsessive anxiety. The meaning changes based upon the broader context within which the word is used. Let’s take a moment and look at the primary word that is used in the New Testament for worry.

In the New Testament there are 26 occurrences of the word anxiety, and the word merimnao and its various cognate forms are used 22 times. Sometimes it means appropriate concern and care; sometimes it means worry/anxiety. Here are several examples of how the word is used in various contexts:

Positive Examples: Merimnao means appropriate care or concern.

· Philippians 2:19-20: I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive the good news about you. I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare.

· Philippians 2:28: Therefore, I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety.

· 2 Corinthians 11:28: Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.

· I Corinthians 12:25: ...so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.

Negative Uses: Merimnao means over-concern or anxiousness.

· Matthew 6:25-34 and Luke 12:22-34: These are the two places we find Jesus’ teaching on worry. He clearly indicates that this kind of worry is something we should fight against.

· Philippians 4:4-9: Paul says, Do not be anxious for anything.

· I Peter 5:6-11: Peter says, Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

The negative usage raises a fundamental question. What does the word mean? Merimnao shares a connection with a similar word which is the word merizo. This word literally means “to divide,” “to draw in different directions,” “distract,” or “an anxious care.” Here are some passages where merizo is used:

· Luke 10:41: In this passage, Martha is distracted about many things.

· Matthew 13:22: This passage describes the seed that is sown but the distractions of the world choke it out.

If you combine the meaning of the word merizo with the context in which Jesus is using the word merimnao, you begin to understand how the Bible defines worry. Let’s take a look at the broader context of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5-6. What is the distraction that causes worry?

In Matthew 5:1-6:34, Jesus is teaching about what it looks like to live in his kingdom as opposed to another kingdom. Are you living your life in the realm of the kingdom of God or the kingdom of this world? The Beatitudes and Sermon on the Mount discuss a host of issues that contrast kingdom living or living as if this world is all there is. The Bible calls that “worldliness.”

Worldliness in Scripture often involves making something good in the creation and making it ultimate. Jesus says that when you do that, you are distracted or divided in your loyalty. You then begin to experience worry because this world is not substantial enough to produce stability, confidence and peace. This can happen if you make your health, finances, marriage, children, career or anything else in creation ultimate in your life. If you look at Jesus' teaching, he talks about making food, clothing and shelter what you strive after and make most important. Those are examples of good things morphing into what you live for.

John Stott puts it this way when he explains how we are to understand Jesus’ teaching on worry in Matthew 6:25-34:

It is a pity that this passage (Matthew 6:25-34) is often read on its own in church, isolated from what has gone before. Then the significance of the introductory “Therefore I tell you” is missed. So we must begin by relating this “therefore,” this conclusion of Jesus, to the teaching which has led up to it. He calls us to thought before he calls us to action. He invites us to look clearly and coolly at the alternatives before us and to weigh them up carefully. We want to accumulate treasure? Then which of the two possibilities is the more durable? We wish to be free and purposive in our movements? Then what must our eyes be like to facilitate this? We wish to serve the best master? Then we must consider which is the more worthy of our devotion.

Only when we have grasped with our minds the comparative durability of the two treasures (corruptible and incorruptible), the comparative usefulness of the two eye conditions (light and darkness) and the comparative worth of the two masters (God and mammon), are we ready to make our choice. And only when we have made our choice--for heavenly treasure, for light, for God---”therefore I tell you” this is how you must go on to behave: “do not be anxious about your life...nor about your body...But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness (25, 33).

In other words, our basic choice of which of the two masters we intend to serve will radically affect our attitude to both. We shall not be anxious about the one (for we have rejected it), but concentrate our mind and energy on the other (for we have chosen him); we shall refuse to become engrossed in our own concerns, but instead “seek first” the concerns of God.

–John Stott, Christian Counter Culture: The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, p. 159-160

Scripture says that there is a fundamental issue of allegiance underneath all of the multi-layered influences that can make anxiety more difficult. This fundamental allegiance is ultimately given to another kingdom. What kingdom are you living in? To whom will you look for security, safety and stability in an unstable world? Where is your treasure? Your answer to these questions will reveal what you are living for and why you are struggling with worry.

According to Scripture, at the heart of worry is an intense struggle to rest upon God’s care and power in the midst of a broken and unstable world. We are to live with godly concern which is dependent upon God and rooted in prayer. When we don’t, we will either “check out” or become “hyper-vigilant,” as illustrated in the diagram below:

Under-concern <------------------------------Godly Concern-------------------------------> Over-concern

What happens when you shift priorities and allegiances from God and his kingdom to your own? You begin to place your hopes and confidence in something unstable. As a result, you become unstable and begin to focus obsessively on that which can be taken away, that which is fleeting.

In light of this biblical framework, you can begin to see how nuanced Scripture is when it comes to understanding and appreciating the struggle with worry. Our aim, by God’s grace, is to live in a zone of godly concern. While there may be many shaping influences that cause you to worry more than another person, everyone is called to relate to God in the midst of anxiety. In other words, the Bible is offering a cure for worry. It is not found in skills and techniques but in a person; God himself.

While skills and techniques may be helpful, Scripture offers more. The Bible offers a personal, redeeming, powerful God who enters our struggle and meets us with his grace. This is where we see the beauty of Christ and learn to talk to and depend upon him as the Spirit enables us.

A dear friend of mine shared the following with me, and I wanted to pass it on to you: Tim Keller quoted something that really resonated with me. Years ago, he heard a woman preacher say, “If the distance from the earth to the sun (93,000,000 miles) is the thickness of a sheet of paper, then the distance between the earth to the nearest other star would be a stack of paper 70 feet high, and the distance across our galaxy, the diameter, would be a stack three hundred and ten miles high. The galaxy is only a speck of dust in the universe and if there is a person or power who holds this all together with the Word of His power (Hebrews 1:3), or his pinky as it were, is this the kind of person I would ask into my life to be my personal assistant?” The entire sermon can be seen here: https://youtu.be/UZehei9m-Z0


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, 6:30 pm on Wednesdays. Contact Ron at 253-732-6703 for details.


Verse Completion: . . . speak and slow to become angry. James 1:19 (NIV)

5/6/20

Good morning, Verse Initiator or Verse Completer. (My sister and her husband have a routine they follow the first thing each morning. One of them starts the day with, “This is the day the Lord has made,” and the other responds with, “We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Try that with someone today.)


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/cEbQswNB6Wc


Verses to Complete & Name the Book:

· . . . whoever slaps you on your right cheek . . .

· If anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, . . .

· Whoever shall force you to go one mile . . .

· Give to him who asks of you, and do not . . . (completions at the end)


Yesterday, Pastor Michael continued Fireside Fellowship with “Risking for the Gospel” from Philippians 2:25-30. Paul desires the well-being of the church. He wants there to be unity. There needs to be support and encouragement given to other believers. He wants the gospel to be lived out through the church. His desire is for the church to stand firm in Christ. Paul wants the church to be about rejoicing, not grumbling or complaining.

Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you. He is a true brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier. And he was your messenger to help me in my need. I am sending him because he has been longing to see you, and he was very distressed that you heard he was ill. And he certainly was ill; in fact, he almost died. But God had mercy on him—and also on me, so that I would not have one sorrow after another.

So I am all the more anxious to send him back to you, for I know you will be glad to see him, and then I will not be so worried about you. Welcome him in the Lord’s love and with great joy, and give him the honor that people like him deserve. For he risked his life for the work of Christ, and he was at the point of death while doing for me what you couldn’t do from far away.

The church at Philippi supported Paul while he traveled (see Philippians 4:15-18), and they wanted to be a support for Paul while he was in prison. It bought them joy when they could encourage Paul. They recognized that the gospel was the most important message that could ever be shared with others, and they enjoyed partnering with Paul to see that message go out to others. No other message can transform lives, change hearts, and bring everlasting life. By investing in Paul and the gospel, the church was investing in things eternal. The message of the gospel in 2020 is still the most important message there is; it’s eternal.

Epaphroditus was sent to help Paul while Paul was in prison. That meant that Epaphroditus would stay in prison with Paul and provide for his needs including food and clothing. Prisons were not very sanitary places, and it wasn’t uncommon for people to get infections while there. While in prison with Paul, Epaphroditus got so sick he was near death. The only reason Epaphroditus didn’t die was God healed him. Paul doesn’t want Epaphroditus getting sick again, and that’s one reason Paul decided to send him back to the church at Philippi.

Notice in Verse 25 Paul calls Epaphroditus a brother. He’s like family to Paul. They are one in Christ. Epaphroditus is also a co-worker. In Greek, co-worker is the word we get synergy from. They were like-minded. Paul also calls him a fellow soldier. They are in a battle together. The battle is between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. It’s a real war of spiritual warfare. We are in this same war today. Ephesians 6:10-20 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 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.

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike. I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.

Epaphroditus is like-minded and united with Paul in faith, function, and fight. They are both apostles. The word apostle means messenger. In this case, they are messengers delivering the words of Jesus to others.

Epaphroditus ministered to the needs of Paul, and Paul wants the church at Philippi to know what a blessing Epaphroditus has been. Paul is sending Epaphroditus back to the church because Epaphroditus is longing to see everyone there. You might say he’s homesick for home. What would be best for Paul would be for Epaphroditus to stay in prison with him, but Paul doesn’t think about what’s best for him; he thinks about what’s best for Epaphroditus and the church. Paul is looking out for the best interests of Epaphroditus; Paul has his back. He encourages the church to welcome Epaphroditus home as a brother in Christ. Paul wants the church to give honor to Epaphroditus and let him know he is valued by the church. He wants the church to value people that value Christ.

Epaphroditus risked his life for the work of Christ. From the Greek word for risk grew a voluntary group called the Parabalani who undertook the care of the sick and the burial of the dead knowing they could die. Paul and Epaphroditus felt risking their lives for the gospel was worth the risk because death is gain for the Christian.

Jesus spoke of future events and said, “Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:12-13) It will be the Christians who show love. Christians will be known by their love, not their fear. Christians are willing to risk their lives for Christ.


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:

· . . . turn to him the other also.

· . . . let him have your coat also.

· . . . go with him two.

· . . . turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. Matthew 5:39-42 (NASB) See also Luke 6:27-35.

5/5/20

Good morning to everyone living in two realities: the reality of being bound for heaven and the reality of being bound to your house.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/mVpkR4gYTlg


Complete the Verses and Name the Book:

· He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to . . .

· so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of . . .

· This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is . . . (completions at the end)


Warning: Today’s devotional contains some events from the Vietnam War. If you find war stories to be upsetting, please skip down to Dr. Moody’s sermons, and listen to one of his sermons for today.

Sometimes we have an elevated sense of who we are. We imagine ourselves handling situations that demonstrate what quality people we are having impressive character.

During the Vietnam war, the Viet Cong had well over a hundred miles of tunnel networks around Saigon. Much was done to destroy them including bombs being dropped and explosives set off in the tunnels, but the best fight against the Viet Cong in tunnels came from a volunteer group of American forces known as “Tunnel Rats” who went into the tunnels armed with pistols and knives. The Tunnels of Cu Chi by Tom Mangold and John Penycate tell of many adventures in these tunnels. Here is part of what happened to two tunnel rats named Flowers and Batman on one of their missions:

A foot above Flower’s glistening and grimy face, the trapdoor was quietly turned round and slotted back into its frame. Flowers froze; the enemy was right there. Suddenly the door moved again. Something dropped into Flower’s lap, right in front of his eyes. He watched it fall, momentarily transfixed; then the danger to his life overwhelmed him as he screamed, “Grenade!”

The American M-26 grenade has a steel casing over a coil of pressed steel. The coil is designed to burst into over seven hundred pieces, and the case into chunks of shrapnel. It is fatal at up to five meters. It is detonated when the pin is pulled that releases a handle igniting the fuse. The acid fuse burns for five to seven seconds before the detonator sets off the pound of high explosive.

Flowers did not know how far he had crawled when the explosion ripped through the tunnel. There was a tremendous ringing in his ears and his legs were bleeding, but he was still crawling. Batman too was moving away when Flowers reached him. He shone his lamp on Flowers’ torn and bloody fatigues. Flowers was suddenly preoccupied about having dropped his pistol. Batman advised him to forget it and keep moving. Another explosion rocked the tunnel. The NVA soldier was trying to make sure that the tunnel rats were dead, even pursuing them. Flowers blindly scrambled back through the different levels. When at last he saw daylight, and reached for the hands of the men above, he collapsed.

Flowers recalled his thoughts in the hospital bed. “If it had been John Wayne, he would have picked up the grenade, lifted up the trapdoor, and thrown it back at the enemy. If it had been Audie Murphy, he would have thrown his body over the grenade to save Batman’s life, and his mother would have received his posthumous Medal of Honor. But since it was Jack Flowers, I started crawling like h***.”

Another time, Flowers was being lowered into a 15 foot hole to enter a tunnel. Three feet before the bottom, the ropes would be released so the person entering the hole would surprise the enemy with his sudden appearance. The cardinal rule for all tunnel rats was to NEVER empty your gun. Here’s what happened:

His feet and elbows rubbed against the side of the shaft, dislodging clods of earth that would tell the Viet Cong below that he was coming down. Flowers pictured the enemy down there on his knees, leaning against the side of the tunnel with his AK-47 set on full automatic fire. In an aperture about four feet in diameter it would be hard to miss. Twenty rounds would cut through Flowers in four seconds. So Flowers knew that the first shot from his pistol would have to kill the VC. He would aim straight at the VC’s face; a shot to the body would not disable him enough to prevent him firing the AK-47. He was three feet from the tunnel floor. He signaled to Schultz to release the rope. The moment had come.

Flowers hit the floor with his pistol firing; the first shot went through the VC’s forehead, the second his cheek, the third his throat, the fourth, fifth, and sixth pounded into his body. Blood racing to his brain, Flowers kept pulling the trigger, clicking on the empty chambers of his revolver.

Cordite smoke lingered in the dank tunnel air.

Flowers stared dumbly in front of him, disbelieving what his mind had created. There was no enemy soldier there, no adversary with a rifle, just a blank wall with six holes neatly grouped in the earth. Six. And the time-honored law of the tunnel rats said no more than three.

Two days later at Lai Khe the battalion’s executive officer relieved Flowers of his tunnel rat command, and told him to go home.

Flowers imagined himself to be one way, but when the rubber met the road, he turned out to be much different.

I like to picture myself as a person who stands up for the right. I like to picture myself as a strong person who would stand up for the weak in an instant. However, recently, I was thinking back to an incident in my high school biology class in the Philippines. The teacher was out of the room, and a “popular” Caucasian boy started harassing a shy Filipina girl. He cussed at her in the Philippine language. It made me so mad to see that innocent girl being picked on by a bully. I just sat there and did nothing and so did everyone else in the class. I am totally ashamed of myself. Where was the character I imagined myself to possess? It was nowhere to be seen. To this day, that incident bothers me. Where was the knight in shining armor for that shy girl? He sure wasn’t sitting in the seat I was occupying.

Today I was reading Luke 22:33: Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.” Peter pictured himself just like Flowers pictured himself and just like I pictured myself before being put to the test. Let’s see if Peter fared any better than the two of us:

So they arrested [Jesus] and led him to the high priest’s home. And Peter followed at a distance. The guards lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter joined them there. A servant girl noticed him in the firelight and began staring at him. Finally she said, “This man was one of Jesus’ followers!”

But Peter denied it. “Woman,” he said, “I don’t even know him!”

After a while someone else looked at him and said, “You must be one of them!”

“No, man, I’m not!” Peter retorted.

About an hour later someone else insisted, “This must be one of them, because he is a Galilean, too.”

But Peter said, “Man, I don’t know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.

At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly. (Luke 22:54-62)

Sometimes our lack of courage can be downright embarrassing! We wish we could crawl in a hole and die. We’re ashamed to show our face after our spineless behavior. But there’s good news! God is in the business of transforming lives. God can turn a coward into a mighty warrior for Him. God can take a person who is ashamed to stand up for His Son, and transform him into a person who boldly proclaims the truth of God’s Word.

After the Holy Spirit entered Peter, he was a changed man. Acts 4:8-13 says:

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of our people, are we being questioned today because we’ve done a good deed for a crippled man? Do you want to know how he was healed? Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says, ‘The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’ There is salvation in on one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.

Is there something about you that you don’t like? Ask God to transform you into the person He wants you to be. Look at the change that took place in Peter! When the Holy Spirit enters us, we are transformed. 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!”

The way we behaved in the past no longer has to the way we behave now. We no longer have to be embarrassed about our behavior; now we can boast in the Lord. Let your life be a testimony for Jesus. Let people say of you, “Remember how he used to be? Look at him now. He’s a completely different person!” Jesus is the one who can bring that transformation about. Call on Him.

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.


Completions to Verses:

· . . . receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead,

· . . . the beast or the number of his name.

· . . . man’s number. His number is 666. Revelation 13:16-18 (NIV)

5/4/20

Good morning, House Sitters.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/Rk54OqoVMoY

Complete the Verses and Name the Book:

· Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but . . .

· You will know them . . . (completions at the end)

Yesterday, Pastor Michael continued to preach to his virtual congregation. The message was “Doubt and Disbelief” based on Matthew 13:53-58:

When Jesus had finished telling these stories and illustrations, he left that part of the country. He returned to Nazareth, his hometown. When he taught there in the synagogue, everyone was amazed and said, “Where does he get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?” Then they scoffed, “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things?” And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.

Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his own family.” And so he did only a few miracles there because of their unbelief.

Jesus had returned home after preaching, teaching, healing, and ministering to many people. He was likely exhausted from all he had done, but he continued to teach in the synagogue in Nazareth. Likely, the reactions of the crowds were similar to those recorded in Matthew 7:28-29:

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law.

When Jesus taught, the people’s eyes were opened so they could see things clearly. Jesus made the Scriptures easy to understand. Jesus made it easy to connect with God. Their questions were being answered, and it’s all making sense to them. They were seeing miracles, perhaps like what is recorded in Matthew 9:32-33:

When they left, a demon-possessed man who couldn’t speak was brought to Jesus. So Jesus cast out the demon, and then the man began to speak. The crowds were amazed. “Nothing like this has ever happened in Israel!” they exclaimed.

Jesus wants everyone in His hometown to know who God is. He wants them to hear the gospel message and come to salvation. But the people aren’t open to all He has to say. You’ve heard the saying, “No good deed goes unpunished.” The people started to ask questions: Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t this Mary’s son? Didn’t she have four other sons, too? Where did Jesus learn all these things, because I know he didn’t go to Rabbi school? Wasn’t this the same Jesus who was born in Bethlehem out of wedlock? His dad wasn’t really Joseph, right? So why is this man teaching us? Where’s his credibility? What’s he trying to pull.

The people were offended by Jesus, but what was there to be offended about? Jesus brought healing, forgave sins, and brought them everlasting life. Why would this be offensive to anyone? Maybe the reason they were offended was because they were jealous of Jesus. Maybe they were offended because an illegitimate son was teaching them. Maybe they asked themselves, “What makes Jesus think he is better than us?” We’re not told why they were offended.

What is it that offends us? We’re offended when others say things we don’t like. We’re offended when people say things that don’t fit with our worldview. We’re offended when people tell us, “You’re wrong.” We’re offended when our self-centeredness is exposed. We’re offended because of our pride.

The Greek word for offense here is also used in Matthew 11:6. Here are verses 4-6:

Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen—the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” And he added, “God blesses those who do not fall away because of me.”

This could be interpreted, “God blesses those who do not take offense because of me.”

The same word appears again in 5:27-29:

“You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say to anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”

This could say, “So if your eye . . . causes you offense . . .”

Another place this Greek word is found is in John 6:61:

Jesus was aware that his disciples were complaining, so he said to them, “Does this offend you?”

So often when we are offended, we have to tell others about it, and complaining and grumbling flow out from the offense. In our offense, we become offensive toward others and say negative things. It’s easier to be negative than positive. It’s easier to make a list of things that are wrong with the world than make a list of what is right with the world. It’s easier to tear people down than it is to build them up.

When we take offense, we’re being proud and hardhearted. We are not being humble people.

Even the brothers of Jesus did not believe in Him. John 7:1-5 says:

After this, Jesus traveled around Galilee. He wanted to stay out of Judea, where the Jewish leaders were plotting his death. But soon it was time for the Jewish Festival of Shelters, and Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!” For even his brothers didn’t believe in him.

Imagine what could have been accomplished if His hometown and family had not taken offense to Jesus. The people in His hometown were self-centered and proud. When they heard Jesus, they had two options:

· Admit they had been wrong and be willing to change.

· Take offense to the words of Jesus.

Why do you think Jesus included this short passage in His Word? Perhaps He wants us to know there is danger in rejecting Him. He could be telling us to not be hardhearted but be humble instead. There’s no end to what God will accomplish with a group of people with humble hearts; people who say, “God, I want your way, not mine. I’m open to what You want to say to me.”

Here’s a short six minute video “The Image of God.” https://youtu.be/YbipxLDtY8c

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 Completions:

· . . . inwardly are ravenous wolves.

· . . . by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? Matthew 7:15-16 (NASB)

5/2/20

Good morning, Fellow Servants of God.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/VBzg4B3_yS8

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and . . . (completion at the end)

Pastor Michael has been talking about unity in the body of Christ as he has been giving his fireside chats on the book of Philippians. Pastor Michael has talked about the importance of having a servant’s heart and not thinking of oneself as better or having more significance than another. The importance of humility has been stressed.

Chapter 30 of 1 Samuel is an example of these truths:

Three days later, when David and his men arrived home at their town of Ziklag, they found that the Amalekites had made a raid into the Negev and Ziklag; they had crushed Ziklag and burned it to the ground. They had carried off the women and children and everyone else but without killing anyone.

When David and his men saw the ruins and realized what had happened to their families, they wept until they could weep no more. David’s two wives, Ahinoam from Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal from Carmel, were among those captured. David was now in great danger because all his men were very bitter about losing their sons and daughters and they began to talk of stoning him. But David found strength in the LORD his God.

Then he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring me the ephod!” So Abiathar brought it. Then David asked the LORD, “Should I chase after this band of raiders? Will I catch them?”

And the LORD told him, “Yes, go after them. You will surely recover everything that was taken from you!”

So David and his 600 men set out, and they came to the brook Besor. But 200 of the men were too exhausted to cross the brook, so David continued the pursuit with 400 men.

Along the way they found an Egyptian man in a field and brought him to David. They gave him some bread to eat and water to drink. They also gave him part of a fig cake and two clusters of raisins, for he hadn’t had anything to eat or drink for three days and nights. Before long his strength returned.

“To whom do you belong, and where do you come from?” David asked him.

“I am an Egyptian—the slave of an Amalekite,” he replied. “My master abandoned me three days ago because I was sick. We were on our way back from raiding the Kerethites in the Negev, the territory of Judah, and the land of Caleb, and we had just burned Ziklag.”

“Will you lead me to this band of raiders?” David asked.

The young man replied, “If you take an oath in God’s name that you will not kill me or give me back to my master, then I will guide you to them.”

So he led David to them, and they found the Amalekites spread out across the fields, eating and drinking and dancing with joy because of the vast amount of plunder they had taken from the Philistines and the land of Judah. David and his men rushed in among them and slaughtered them throughout that night and the entire next day until evening. None of the Amalekites escaped except 400 young men who fled on camels. David got back everything the Amalekites had taken, and he rescued his two wives. Nothing was missing: small or great, son or daughter, nor anything else that had been taken. David brought everything back. He also recovered all the flocks and herds, and his men drove them ahead of the other livestock. “This plunder belongs to David!” they said.

Then David returned to the brook Besor and met up with the 200 men who had been left behind because they were too exhausted to go with him. They went out to meet David and his men, and David greeted them joyfully. But some evil troublemakers among David’s men said, “They didn’t go with us, so they can’t have any of the plunder we recovered. Give them their wives and children, and tell them to be gone.”

But David said, “No, my brothers! Don’t be selfish with what the LORD has given us. He has kept us safe and helped us defeat the band of raiders that attacked us. Who will listen when you talk like this? We share and share alike—those who go to battle and those who guard the equipment.” From then on David made this a decree and regulation for Israel, and it is still followed today.

David looked at his military force as one group of men with one common goal—defeat the Amalekites. He saw unity as a strength. “United we stand; divided we fall.”

The Amalekites did not appear to have the same emphasis on unity. When the Amalekite’s slave became sick, his master abandoned him. Where’s the unity in that? Where’s the humble heart of the Amalekite? It doesn’t appear that these are qualities strived for among the Amalekites.

My uncle was in the Marines, and he told me the slogan of the Marines is “No man left behind.” What would happen if we as Christians had the same slogan for our Christian brothers and sisters? When a Marine is wounded, as many soldiers as it takes help the wounded soldier reach a place where he will not be injured more. Sometimes it’s just one soldier who is needed. Sometimes it’s two or more who are needed. When we see a Christian brother or sister who has fallen, we are called to help that person. In Galatians 6:1-3, Paul puts it this way:

Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.

Notice how David built unity in his troops. He valued each person regardless of what their responsibility was—guarding the equipment or going into battle. He did not want there to be disunity. He didn’t want some people valuing themselves more than others.

What happened when some of the men did value themselves more than others? The result was grumbling and complaining—again what Pastor Michael has been talking about in Philippians.

When there is unity in a military force, when victory comes, everyone celebrates. Each person did what they could and each person gets to participate in the celebration regardless of the specific job that was done. Teamwork gets the job done. We are the body of Christ, and we are to function as one. When one part hurts, all the parts hurt. When one rejoices, all the parts rejoice.

Let’s never think of ourselves as being better than another. Let’s not get wrapped up in petty issues like the troublemakers among David’s men and worry about what other people did or didn’t do. Let’s be united in our goal of proclaiming and promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s be united in helping others mature in Christ. Let’s be motivated by love for one another.

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: . . . take up his cross, and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24 (NASB) See also Mark 8:34.

5/1/20

Good morning, Isolationists.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/wocbaZ1af8o


Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Draw near to God and He will . . .(completion at the end)


Yesterday, Pastor Michael continued Fireside Fellowship with “Renouncing for the Gospel” from Philippians 2:19-24:

If the Lord Jesus is willing, I hope to send Timothy to you soon for a visit. Then he can cheer me up by telling me how you are getting along. I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with me in preaching the Good News. I hope to send him to you just as soon as I find out what is going to happen to me here. And I have confidence from the Lord that I myself will come to see you soon.

Paul’s life was found in the Lord Jesus, so it’s not surprising that in this letter he uses phrases such as: confident in the Lord, rejoice in the Lord, welcome in the Lord, and stand firm in the Lord. The master and commander of Paul’s life was Jesus—not himself. With phrases like this, Paul is emphasizing the lordship of Jesus.

Paul wanted to send Timothy to Philippi so Timothy could be part of them. Paul was in prison and yet he wasn’t concerned about himself; he was concerned for others. Paul didn’t want to send Timothy so Timothy could tell everyone how rough Paul was having it in prison. Paul wanted Timothy to tell him how the church at Philippi was doing spiritually. What would bring Paul joy would be a good report of how the people were remaining in Christ. Paul’s purpose in life was to see the gospel proclaimed and promoted throughout the world.

Paul said he had no one else like Timothy. The like here means like-minded. They both had the same goal and purpose in life. They were both going in the same direction. Timothy was not like those mentioned earlier in the letter who preached out of jealousy and rivalry. Timothy was not like those who didn’t have pure motives and preached out of selfish ambition. Timothy wasn’t like those who weren’t sincere. In contrast to these, Timothy genuinely cared about the welfare of the people at Philippi. He valued others more than himself. Timothy wanted to see others built up.

Jesus, Paul, and Timothy have the same interests: that all people would come unto salvation, that people would receive Jesus, believe in Him, receive forgiveness of sins, and receive everlasting life. They want to see: the gospel progressed in people’s lives, relationships changed, people remain in Christ, and rejoicing in the Lord. How do you put Christ first in someone else’s life? You do what’s best for them. You do what will draw them to Jesus. You do what will grow them in Christ.

Paul and Timothy met each other on Paul’s second missionary journey, so they have had around ten years together: journeying, preaching, praying, rejoicing, crying. Acts 16-19 tells of Paul and Timothy traveling together to various cities. Timothy was like a spiritual son of Paul. 1 Timothy 1:2a says, “I am writing to Timothy, my true son in the faith.” In 2 Timothy 1:2a Paul writes, “I am writing to Timothy, my dear son.” They had a close relationship. In today’s text, Paul said Timothy served with him. They were partners in the gospel.

Today we emphasize working in internships. When an internship is completed, the intern leaves and the area and becomes the leader in a different place. We are not taught these days how to be second; everybody wants to be first—to be #1. Nobody wants to be second. However, Timothy stayed with Paul for over ten years as his second. Timothy renounced any selfish ambition or any vain conceit. He saw their relationship as being slaves together for Christ. In God’s Kingdom, there’s no #1, #2, #3 and so on. We’re all in this together in unity. We need to be satisfied with where God has put us.

Paul’s desire is to get out of prison and go to the Philippians and encourage them in the Lord.

Timothy renounced everything for the gospel. What have you renounced for the gospel? To what things have you said, “These are not as important as the gospel?” What have you sacrificed for the gospel? When was the last time you were inconvenienced for the gospel? We need to renounce for the gospel, because the gospel always needs to be ahead of us and what we want. Renounce what is standing in the way of the gospel, and put Jesus first.

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 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: . . . draw near to you. James 4:8a (NASB)

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