Daily Devotion February 2021


Good morning. Give thanks to the LORD; for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/u8jImIjg4UY?t=60

Complete the Verse & Name the Book“If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and. . . (completion at the end)

On Thursday Dr. Michael Wedman taught from 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 with a lesson titled “The Encouragement of God” as he continued Fireside Fellowship. Yesterday recapped the first half, and today we will recap the second half.

We stand firm because of what God has done for us. Our response to what he has done for us needs to be one of thanksgiving. Thankfulness keeps us away from discouragement. Thankfulness is a great way to encourage people. Paul is thankful for the Thessalonians, and he is encouraging them with his words, and he’s encouraging us today with his words. He has reminded them that God chose them; God wants them; God values them; God has put a high price on them because of their value. 

When at recess in elementary school, teams would be chosen to play a game. The captains of each team would take turns choosing players. If you were one of the first ones chosen, it made you feel great; you felt valuable. When you were one of the last chosen, it made you feel bad; you felt like you weren’t worth much. You may have felt like the only reason you were chosen was because the captain was forced to take you. God isn’t forced to take you; he wants to take you. You are of great value to him. We stand fast and we hold firm because God values us—our company, our presence, his creation. 

We were chosen as first fruits. First fruits are those that have been waited for for a long time. They are precious. You are precious to God. It’s possible that you are the first fruits in your family to come to God. That’s significant. God chose you so he could save you, forgive your sins, and give you everlasting life. He chose to put his Holy Spirit in you so you would have his wisdom, understanding, guidance, help, comfort, grace, and presence. 

It’s the Holy Spirit that sets you apart from the world. He’s the one who regenerates us, causes us to be a new person that’s born again. We’re taken from our old life of darkness, sin, and selfishness, and we are made new and set apart to God, light, hope, goodness, grace, forgiveness, mercy, salvation, and everlasting life. Sanctified means to be set apart as his child. 

God called us by name. His Holy Spirit convicted us of sin and called us to righteousness. We were rescued from falsehood and called to truth so we could get to know God for who he is. Truth is rare these days. We are the fortunate ones who get to know truth, and since we know truth we are to live by the truth. 

What does it mean to share in his glory? The Old Testament often uses the words “the glory of his presence.” In the Temple was the glory of his presence. When God would come with thunder and lightning, it was the glory of his presence. Moses saw the glory of his presence. Jesus showed the glory of his presence to three of his disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration. We share in the glory of God today. We have God’s Holy Spirit in us; we can’t help but share in his glory. We have his presence in us now, and we will glory in his presence for all eternity. 

Why should we stand firm? Why should we hold fast? Because of what God has done for us: 

·      He’s loved us.

·      He’s chosen us.

·      We’re first fruits.

·      We’re precious to him. 

·      He’s given us salvation.

·      He’s sanctified us. 

·      He’s set us apart.

·      He’s called to us, and we get to share in his glory. 

These are the things we need to remember and be thankful for. 

But that’s not all! Not only are we grateful for what he has done, but we are thankful for what he’s doing now, and what he’s going to do in the future. Every day we spend with God, we get to know him and his love more and more. We get to experience his presence more and more. Daily he gives us grace—undeserved favor. He gives us his grace not because of the good things we have done. He loves us the same grace whether we have sinned or not sinned. We don’t get extra grace because we are extra good. You may have heard the saying: Don’t fall out of his good graces. What that saying means is “be good to that person so that person will be good to you.” If you fall out of that person’s good graces, then that person is not going to be good to you. God is always gracious to us! It doesn’t matter if we’re good or bad. He loves us to the same degree no matter what we do. Satan wants us to think God loves us less each time we sin. Romans 5:8-9 says: But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. Jesus died for us because we were sinners. Jesus always loves us and pours out his grace to us. 

Jesus is the one who pours encouragement into our lives. He’s the one who gives us sure hope. Sure hope is what we can’t see but what we know is true (not something we hope is true). We hope for everlasting life with Christ not because we’re not sure about it, but because we can’t grasp it here and now.  Nevertheless, we are sure of everlasting life with Christ because he has given us salvation, he chose us, he called us, he sanctified us, we’re important to him, we’re first fruits, and we’re sharing in his glory. Jesus never stops loving us. He never abandons us. Deuteronomy 31:8 says: 

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.

Life is difficult. Living the Christian life is difficult, but be encouraged. Stand fast. Hold firm. White knuckle the truth. God is with you. His strength is given to you. 

Verse Completion. . . its desire is for you, but you must master it.” Genesis 4:7 (NASB)


Good morning. Give thanks to the LORD; for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/xA4zOAtPeJ0

Complete the Verse & Name the BookNo one can serve two masters; for . . . (completion at the end)

Yesterday, Dr. Michael Wedman taught from 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 with a lesson titled “The Encouragement of God” as he continued Fireside Fellowship.

There are times in life when following God is difficult; it’s difficult to always do the right thing. We live in a time when people want a truth that fits them—a truth that makes them feel good. People want a truth that allows them to live the way they want to live. They really aren’t interested in God’s Truth—the whole gospel. They want to pick and choose from a gospel which suits them. We live in a culture that is drifting away from the word of God and the truth of God. That makes it more difficult to live as a totally committed disciple of Christ. It becomes easier to be a private Christian who doesn’t share one’s views and convictions. 

Compromise with the world takes place. The result is churches are no longer the pillar and foundation of the truth. 1 Timothy 3:15b says: This is the church of the living God, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth. So many churches no longer proclaim the whole truth of God; they no longer follow Scripture. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The Spirit who is in us, because we have received Jesus as the truth, is the Spirit of truth. If we are going to be disciples of Jesus, we must be people of the truth—committed to standing for the truth. 

It’s a lot easier to not stand for the truth, so why should we stand for the truth? Paul answered this question for the Thessalonians who were going through severe persecution:

As for us, we can’t help but thank God for you, dear brothers and sisters loved by the Lord. We are always thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation—a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and through your belief in the truth. He called you to salvation when we told you the Good News; now you can share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

With all these things in mind, dear brothers and sisters, stand firm and keep a strong grip on the teaching we passed on to you both in person and by letter.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope, comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say.

The Thessalonians had it tough; they had persecution from without and false teaching from within regarding the second coming of Jesus. There was a lot of false information being circulated as the truth. We are starting to experience similar things in our culture today. The world is telling us that the truths of the Bible are false, bigoted, and they promote hate crimes. What used to be “free speech” is now labeled as “hate speech.” It’s becoming dangerous to share the truth contained in the Bible. 

With all the books on prophecy regarding the second coming, we can become fearful about The Great Tribulation, the Antichrist, and living in a world with those who support the Antichrist. Just like the Thessalonians, we can experience persecution from without and false teaching from within. Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 2:2-3a: Don’t be so easily shaken or alarmed by those who say that the day of the Lord has already begun. Don’t believe them, even if they claim to have had a spiritual vision, a revelation, or a letter supposedly from us. Don’t be 

fooled by what they say. This is a picture of a boat that has lost its mooring and is being tossed around by the wind and sea and is floating aimlessly. We are not to be like this. We are to hold fast and stand firm in the truth. When we hold fast we grip as tightly as we can so we won’t be ripped away from the truth and the truth won’t be ripped away from us. Too many churches are loosely holding on to the gospel. If there’s a part that would upset people, the church lets that part of the gospel go. 

Standing firm is like going to the ocean and standing in the water securely so the waves don’t knock you over or drag you out to sea. There are waves of falsehood, waves of compromise, waves of the world that are trying to knock us down and drag us away from Scripture. We must stand firm—hold tightly to it. We have to white knuckle the truth holding on to it as if our life depended on it, because it does. When we let go of the truth, we are letting go of God—letting go of who he is and who we are before him. 

To be continued tomorrow.

Verse Completion. . . either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6:24 (NASB)


Good morning. Give thanks to the LORD; for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/j3jK3x3iMOM

Complete the Verse & Name the BookIn the beginning God. . .  (completion at the end)

Today I’d like to share a message from Pastor John Hagee, pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas.

Today I bring you a message of encouragement. I’m hearing parents express their deep concerns about what has taken place in our country. Let me say this to you parents (and grandparents): Don’t feel sorry for your children (or grandchildren), or fear for them because of the world they are growing up in. God created them and called them to live in this exact moment of time. Their life is not a coincidence or an accident. Don’t teach them to be fearful and disheartened by the state of the world’s condition. Teach them to be hopeful that they can do something positive to impact the world. Raise them up to know the power they walk in as children of God. Train them up in the authority of the Word of God. Teach them to walk in faith knowing that God is in control of our lives. Empower them to know that they can change the world. 

Every person in all of history has been placed in the time into which they were born through God’s sovereign plan. He knew Abraham could pass his test. He knew Moses could handle Pharaoh. He knew that Daniel could handle the lion’s den. God is sovereign. He knew David could handle Goliath. He knew that Esther could handle Haman. Children can handle anything because God is with them. He knew Peter could handle persecution. He knew that Paul could handle Rome. He also knows that your child (grandchild) can handle whatever challenge they face in their life, because he created them specifically for this time. Don’t be afraid for your children, but be honored that God has chosen you to parent (grandparent) the generation that is facing the biggest challenge of our lifetime. Raise up leaders like Abraham, Moses, Daniel, David, Esther, Peter, and Saint Paul. 

God isn’t sitting in heaven wringing his hands and wondering the outcome of this crisis. He knew from the day of Genesis that this chaos was coming. God is raising up an army to drive back the darkness by turning on the light of Truth to make his glory known over all the earth. Don’t let your fear steal the greatness God placed in your children (grandchildren). 

I know it’s hard to imagine them as anything but our children (grandchildren), and we want to protect them from anything that could hurt them. But remember this truth: They were born for such a time as this. God is with us, and God is in control. May God bless you and encourage you today with this word. 

Verse Completion: . . . created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1 (NASB)


Good morning. Give thanks to the LORD; for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/3kxWMq7gGF8

Complete the Verse & Name the BookTherefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer . . .  (completion at the end)

After reading Exodus 36-37 and Matthew 24:1-28, the following prayer was prayed:

Father God, your word talks about skillful people when it says “. . . in whom the Lord has put skill and understanding.” I acknowledge that any skill or understanding I have is from you. I also acknowledge that you do not give out skills and understanding to all people equally. What I know is I will give an account to you for how I used the skills you gave me. You said, “To whom much is given, much is required.” Thank you for the amount of skill you have given me. It is just the right amount for me. May I not look at myself as better than anyone else or be jealous of those who have been given more than me. May I use the talents and abilities you’ve given me to help build your kingdom. 

When the tabernacle was being constructed, people brought freewill offerings every morning. After a time they had to be told to stop because there was more than enough to get the work done. May I be the kind of person who gives freely from my heart with no reservations. If we as your followers give as we ought, there will be more than enough to meet the needs of each local congregation. I pray that will happen. Move in me so I become what you desire me to be.

Jesus, you gave us many signs of the end of the age:

·      False Christs

·      Wars and rumors of war

·      Nation against nation

·      Famines

·      Earthquakes

·      Christians killed

·      Christians hated by all nations

·      Many Christians falling away and betraying each other

·      Christians hating each other

·      False prophets misleading many

·      Lawlessness increasing

·      Love growing cold

The signs are all around us that remind us we are living in the last days. Jesus, help us to endure to the end. May your gospel be preached to the whole world.

Jesus, we know a time of great tribulation for Christians is coming. It will be the worst tribulation in the history of the world. False Christs and false prophets will show great signs and wonders. Keep us from being deceived. Keep our eyes on you—the author and finisher of our faith.

Jesus, we know your return to Earth will be quick, like lightning. There won’t be time to prepare for your return once you appear. We know that now is the time of salvation. Thank you for saving me, and I pray that others will be saved. Use me in your harvest fields. Keep your children ready for your return. May we stay close to you and not wander off away from the fold. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Verse Completion. . . of a righteous man is powerful and effective. James 5:16 (NIV)


Good morning. Give thanks to the LORD; for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/qo1rVApgOKU

Complete the Verse & Name the BookCharm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but . . .  (completion at the end)

Yesterday, Pastor Del McKenzie continued his series on “Godly Character Qualities” with the topic of punctuality. So far he has taught on gentleness, humility, integrity, endurance, responsibility, thankfulness, forgiveness, acceptance, generosity, loyalty, honesty, flexibility, sincerity, orderliness, thoroughness, discernment, and decisiveness.

A French proverb says: Men count up the faults of those who keep them waiting. William Hazlitt said, “Few things tend more to alienate friendship than a want of punctuality in our engagements.” William Shakespeare wrote: Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.

Punctuality is a character quality. Punctual means to relate to a point—being to a point at a certain time. Punctual means to be prompt—to be on time. When we are punctual, we are at a point when we should be at that point. Being punctual shows esteem for other people and their time. The opposite of being punctual is being tardy, late, or delayed. Are you generally on time, or are you generally late?

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says: For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. If punctuality is a character quality for us, we will be there when we say we will be there. If we have tardiness as a character quality, there will be multiple times when we are not on time. God is always on time. Galatians 4:4 says: But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law.

What good comes out of being punctual?

1.   We don’t waste other people’s time. We don’t become distracted by other things as we are waiting for the tardy person to arrive.

2.   We don’t miss the valuable input of others.

3.   We don’t negatively influence others. When a person is consistently late for a meeting, that tends to rub off on others. 

4.   Our word is seen as being trustworthy. 

5.   We earn the respect of others.

6.   We are seen as being credible. 

7.   We are more relaxed and less stressed when we are punctual. Tardy people usually arrive in a hurry. The stress they put on themselves is not good for emotional health, mental health, and physical health. Those in a hurry to get someplace may take risks.

8.   We feel good about ourselves when we are on time. Those who are tardy can become frustrated with themselves and feel like a failure. 

9.   A punctual person gets off to a good start.

10.   Often enthusiasm accompanies punctuality.

11.   Punctual people usually arrive prepared for the meeting.

12.   Punctuality is good modeling for others.

What causes us not to be punctual?

1.   A lack of organization. Tardy people often live disorganized, undisciplined lives.

2.   An independent spirit that is not concerned about others.

3.   A selfish spirit that has the attitude: My time is more important than your time. This meeting isn’t important. I have better places to be. 

4.   Bad habits. 

5.   Poor training.

6.   Impress others that it’s my time—I am free to come and go as I please.

7.   A cheap view of grace. An attitude that says: They will forgive me.

How do we build punctuality into our lives?

1.   We evaluate our tardiness. Why am I this way? When did it start? 

2.   Commit ourselves to being punctual; change the pattern of our lives. Once the pattern has been changed, it’s much easier to maintain it. We are managers of God’s resources, and that includes time. When we aren’t punctual, we take away from God’s resources. 

3.   Do our work in advance. There’s the story of the man who was late for the train. The train was pulling out of the station, and the man chased after it. When he failed to get on the train, he said to a boy standing close by, “I should have run faster.” The boy responded, “No, you should have started sooner.” John Wesley said, “I’m always in haste, but never in a hurry.” He was saying he didn’t have time for idleness. He planned his work, and he worked his fun. 

4.   We may need to eliminate the unnecessary and unproductive things in our lives that eat up our time. 

5.   We can plan ahead. Any intelligent person alert to life’s obligations can do this. We shouldn’t settle for anything less than punctuality. 

6.   Be on time at work. 

7.   Be on time socially. When you tell a friend that you are going to meet him/her at a given time, make sure you are punctual. 

8.   Be punctual with your family.

Spiritually, salvation is limited in time to this world while we are alive. Hebrews 9:27-28 says: And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes the judgment, so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him. We only have one lifetime to find God’s salvation. This is illustrated in the parable of the ten bridesmaids told by Jesus and recorded in Matthew 25:1-13

We need to respond to the Holy Spirit when he speaks to us. When we ignore the prompting of the Holy Spirit, we can miss opportunities of ministry to another person who is open to hear what we have to say about Jesus. 

Are you late in seeking God? Are you sure of your salvation? Have you believed in Jesus Christ, or are you putting it off? Being too late for salvation has eternal consequences. We don’t know the day or the hour of Christ’s return. Are you late in obeying God? Romans 13:11 says: This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.

We don’t want to waste our lives; we want to live lives that please God and are a tribute to his honor and glory. 

Verse Completion. . . a woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised.Proverbs 31:30 (NLT)


Good morning. This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. 

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/enxca57LiVU

Complete the Verse & Name the BookFor prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, . . . (completion at the end)

Yesterday, Scott Frisbee’s sermon “Church in the Fast Lane” was based on Hebrews 10:19-25:

And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great Hight Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

This past year has been amazingly fast with all the changes that have taken place. 

When Hebrews was written around 68 A.D., it was inconceivable for anyone to enter the Most Holy Place of the Temple other than the high priest, and that was only once a year! Here we read that anyone may enter the Most Holy Place and be in the presence of God at any time. This is only possible because Jesus shed his blood on the cross for our sins.  

The Hebrews knew Jesus had said he would return to Earth. They had been expecting him for years, and nothing had happened. For us it has been over 2000 years, and Jesus has not returned. We have to remember that God’s concept of time and our concept of time are at odds with each other. Psalm 90:4 says: For you, a thousand years are as a passing day; as brief as a few night hours. 2 Peter 3:8 says: But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. God is faithful. He said he would return, and we know he will. We just have to be patient. 

If you’ve listened to the stories on The Journey, you’ve seen how God has always been faithful even when we have not. We change; circumstances change, but God never changes. He can be trusted to do what he says he will do. Hebrews 13:8 says: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Malachi 3:6a says: “I am the LORD, and I do not change.” What God says he will do, he will do. We can depend on his word. John 14:1-3 has the following words of Jesus: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.”

When one takes off in a plane from Seattle heading for Hawaii, after the plane banks and is headed in the right direction, one spends hours in the sky with nothing but ocean visible in all directions. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a small bit of land is visible which happens to be exactly where the pilot intended to land. It can only happen because the pilot has instruments that tell him/her what direction to go to get to the desired destination.

To get to our desired destination of heaven, we have to follow the instruments that will guide us there: God’s word and his Holy Spirit. There are many distractions that can get us off course, but if we keep our eyes and hearts on Jesus, we won’t get off course. 

Before COVID ever arrived, God guided our church to get our services online. Dan was the man in the background working to get all of our church services broadcasted online. After COVID hit, he worked to improve the system we had. Today, I am standing in a bright, green studio in Dan’s house where the recordings and live broadcasts are made. Through Facebook, people around the world are able to be a part of our church who will probably never set foot in Union. Facebook is able to get us into places we would probably never travel to. God has opened doors to reach people for Christ that we never dreamed possible. 

Sometimes it feels like we are on the open ocean riding the high waves. We’re going up and down, not knowing what is in store for us. This is a time when our faith can be built as we look to God to get us through this storm. We can encourage each other to hang in there just as the author of Hebrews encouraged the believers. 

Just as Lego pieces fit together to form a figure, so each of us fits together in the body of Christ. I Corinthians 12:12-27 says:

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.

Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 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.

God has taken all kinds of different people and put them together in one place, NCCU, to form us into the body of Christ. We each have our spot in the body of Christ. When someone vacates their spot, a hole is left. Find your spot in the body of Christ, and fill it. You are needed. Each part of the body of Christ is important just as each part of the human body is important. Your part may be to pray for our church. That’s an important part! If you haven’t found your part, pray about it. God will guide you. Your part might be to write encouraging notes to others or call people on the phone and offer an encouraging word.

Keep your eyes on Christ, and keep your brothers and sisters in the Lord close by you. That’s what is going to get us through the difficult days now and the difficult days in the future. 

Verse Completion. . . but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:21 (NIV)


Good morning. This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/fi_XGd7faLQ

Complete the Verse & Name the BookO God, I beg two favors from you; let me have them before I die. First, help me never to tell a lie. Second, give me . . .(completion at the end)

Yesterday, we were looking at being ambassadors for Christ. To be good ambassadors, we need to develop negotiation skills. We started looking at Luanne Kelchner’s list of ten effective negotiation skills. We got through the first four (here for partial review), and now we will look at the last six and finish looking at 2 Corinthians 5:20-21.

1.   Analyze a problem to determine the interests of each party. As we talk to people about Christ, find out what they want out of life and show them how Christ can fulfill their deepest needs.

2.   Prepare before a meeting. We need to read, study, and meditate on God’s word. We need to pray.

3.   Practice active listening skills. Instead of doing all the talking, we can learn to listen to what the other person is saying. Listen for areas where you agree with the person and share common goals with them. Pay attention to their body language.

4.   Keep your emotions in check. Don’t let your strong convictions allow you to lose your cool. 

5.   Use clear and effective communication. The case for Christ has to be stated clearly so no misunderstandings take place. Explain your reasoning.

6.   Use collaboration and teamwork. Don’t forget about your brothers and sisters in Christ you can talk to about an issue. You’re not in this alone. C.S. Lewis said, “Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction.”

7.   Develop problem solving skills. Look for a variety of ways to reach others for Christ. Don’t get locked into only one way of sharing your faith.

8.   Develop the ability to make a decision. Del McKenzie gave an entire talk on the topic of decisiveness this week. We have to know when to act decisively. We need to listen to the Holy Spirit who may be telling us to stop the conversation for the time being. 

9.   Maintain good relationships. Jesus taught us to be peacemakers. He said, “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). Paul said, “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). It’s not easy to maintain good relationships with some people, but God can help us develop interpersonal skills. God can develop patience in us and help us be able to persuade others in the faith without using manipulation.

10.                 Practice ethics and being reliable. As ambassadors for Christ, we have to do what’s right at all times even when it’s not in our best interest. Jesus taught us how we should live, and we need to live that way by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us. We have to be people that can be trusted. There should be no hypocrisy in how we live. 

Ambassadors need to be respected representatives for who they represent. When we represent Christ, we need to do everything possible that would foster respect. We should be striving to live impeccable lives. Ephesians 5:1-9 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 an offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.

Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure than no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.

Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do. For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. When we produce what is good and right and true, we earn the respect of others.

After writing about being ambassadors for Christ, Paul said: For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

We can’t make ourselves right with God because we have sin and God does not. There’s nothing we can do to earn our salvation. It is a gift from God. 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 was made to be the offering for our sin. He was the only one who qualified to be that offering, and it was because he was the only one who had no sin. What a high price Jesus paid for our sin! He gave his life for our sins and then turned around and offered us eternal life as a gift! That’s a gift that deserves to be shared with others. 

Verse Completion. . . neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. Proverbs 30: 7-8 (NLT)


Good morning. This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/9rjix44QzFQ?t=76

Complete the Verse & Name the BookBut above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but let . . . (completion at the end)

As a kid growing up in the Philippines, I remember driving by a residence with high walls and security officers at the gates. I was told that was where Ambassador Charles Bohlen lived. I wasn’t quite sure what an ambassador did, but I knew he worked at the American Embassy in Manila. I determined he must be a very important person.

Ambassadors of the United States are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. They represent the interests and policies of the United States while they live in a foreign country. Ambassadors need to be good managers that are able to recover quickly from difficult conditions. They must be skilled negotiators who are respected representatives of the United States. I don’t believe they have an easy job.

2 Corinthians 5:20 says: So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 

Each of us Christians is an ambassador for Christ. We represent his interests and policies wherever we go. People don’t always want to listen to what we have to say as Christ’s ambassadors. Nevertheless, we can’t shrink back from an attack; we have to recover quickly from a  difficult situation we just experienced, and press on under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 

We have to be skilled negotiators. Luanne Kelchner has identified ten effective negotiation skills. Let’s take a look at them and see if we can apply these skills as ambassadors for Christ.

1.   Analyze a problem to determine the interests of each party. As we talk to people about Christ, find out what they want out of life and show them how Christ can fulfill their deepest needs.

2.   Prepare before a meeting. We need to read, study, and meditate on God’s word. We need to pray.

3.   Practice active listening skills. Instead of doing all the talking, we can learn to listen to what the other person is saying. Listen for areas where you agree with the person and share common goals with them. Pay attention to their body language.

4.   Keep your emotions in check. Don’t let your strong convictions allow you to lose your cool. Keep these verses in your mind and heart:

a.   Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

b.   And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Ephesians 4:26a

c.    Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper—it only leads to harm. Psalm 37:8

d.   But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15

e.   People with understanding control their anger; a hot temper shows great foolishness. Proverbs 14:29

f.     A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. Proverbs 15:1

g.   A hot-tempered person starts fights; a cool-tempered person stops them. Proverbs 15:18

h.   An angry person starts fights; a hot-tempered person commits all kinds of sin. Proverbs 29:22

i.     Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:31-32

j.     Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. Colossians 3:13-15a

k.    Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. James 1:19-20

Remember: You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

We will wrap this up tomorrow.

Verse Completion. . . your yes be yes, and your no, no; so that you may not fall under judgment. James 5:12 (NASB)


Good morning. Give thanks to the LORD; for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/upXgh6FsLGo

Complete the Verse & Name the BookThe voice of the LORD strikes with . . . (completion at the end)

Today we will conclude looking at Michael Green’s book Evangelism in the Early Church. I will primarily use quotes from the book to touch on some of the highlights concerning his epilogue. 

One of the most striking features in evangelism in the early days was the people who engaged in it. Communicating the faith was not regarded as the preserve of the very zealous or of the officially designated evangelist. Evangelism was the prerogative and the duty of every church member. We have seen apostles and wandering prophets, nobles and paupers, intellectuals and fishermen all taking part enthusiastically in this the primary task committed by Christ to his Church. The ordinary people of the Church saw it as their job: Christianity was supremely a lay movement, spread by informal missionaries. The clergy of the Church saw it as their responsibility, too. 

What is more, this infectious enthusiasm on the part of such diverse people of differing ages, backgrounds, sex, and cultures was backed up by the quality of their lives. Their love, their joy, their changed habits, and progressively transformed characters gave great weight to what they had to say. Paganism saw in early Christianity a quality of living, and supremely of dying, which could not be found elsewhere.

People will not believe that Christians have good news to share until they find that bishops and bakers, university professors and housewives, bus drivers and street corner preachers are all alike keen to pass it on, however different their methods may be. 

There had to be a deep sense of the seriousness of the issues involved. Christians really had to believe that those without Christ would suffer eternal and irreparable loss. This thought is what would drive the Christians to unremitting labors to reach the lost with the gospel. 

The early missionaries were very conscious of their responsibility to seek the Lord’s approval in all they did. They were accountable to him, and he had bidden them to proclaim the good news to all the world. How could they face him unashamed if they had flouted his last command?

It is not too much to say that without a coherent eschatology it is not possible to do effective evangelism. The message of salvation must not only be related to the individual, the Church, and the Lord, but also to the whole purposes of God in his world. Communism and humanism both have clearly defined eschatological goals; Christians have one which makes much more sense than either, but are mute about it. This could certainly not be said of the early Church. The modern decline of belief in heaven and hell, or even in any life after the grave, among many professing Christians is an insuperable barrier to dynamic evangelism.

One thing was constant in the early church: their message was Christocentric through and through. The content of their proclamation was none other than the person of Christ. Their aim remained both simple and direct: to introduce others to Jesus Christ. Everyone was clear on the need for a decisive turning to Christ in repentance, faith, and baptism; for continuing in the apostolic teaching through faithful study of and obedience to the Scriptures; and for joining in the apostolic fellowship through participation in the common life of the Church, by prayer, service, and regular reception of the Eucharist. Believing as they did in the finality of Christ they lived their lives accordingly; and in urging other people towards conversion they saw themselves participating in and forwarding God’s purpose for his whole creation.

Truth was a unity, and it was derived from the ultimate reality made personal in him who was Way, Truth, and Life. It was this conviction which nerved them to proclaim the absolute in a world which was dominated by the relative in morals, religions, and concept of history; and for the most part they did it without fear and without censoriousness. Their gospel was big enough to embrace earth and heaven, this life, and the next. They were concerned with labor relations, slavery, marriage and the family, the exposure of children, cruelty in the amphitheater, and obscenity on the stage: increasingly they came to see that the gospel carried political implications as well. They demonstrated that those who are genuinely heavenly minded are the very people who are deeply committed to doing God’s will on earth. 

When Christians have the will to speak of their Lord, they find no shortage of ways in which to do it. Indeed, it is the motivation of these men and women which impresses us more than their methods. Their moving allegiance to God, their profound sense of discovery, their deep concern for their Christless fellows drove them out into unremitting service in the cause of the gospel. 

Evangelism was the very life blood of the early Christians: and so we find that “day by day the Lord added to their number those whom he was saving.” It could happen again, if the Church were prepared to pay the price.

This concludes excerpts taken from Michael Green’s book, Evangelism in the Early Church. What has been shared is only a tiny portion of the 474 page book. I hope it has whet your appetite for more. If it has I would encourage you to purchase the book. Here is a link to one place where you would be able to purchase the book or Kindle edition: https://www.amazon.com/Evangelism-Early-Church-Michael-Green-ebook/dp/B001FSJA8E/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2IQ5RDFQ0NYXG&dchild=1&keywords=evangelism+in+the+early+church&qid=1613527927&s=digital-text&sprefix=Evangelism+in+the+E%2Cdigital-text%2C198&sr=1-1

Whether you purchase the book or not, I hope you have been challenged, as I have, to do a better job of sharing the gospel with others in 2021. I want to be a worker in God’s harvest field that is ripe with the harvest. 

Today at 4:50 p.m., you can join Josh Moody Live from College Church in Wheaton, Illinois, as he discusses the objection to Christianity that says the Bible is not historically accurate:https://www.facebook.com/CollegeChurchInWheaton/posts/3782499748482277

Verse Completion. . . bolts of lightning. Psalm 29:7 (NLT)


Good morning. Give thanks to the LORD; for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/XFM6BxUp2i0

Complete the Verse & Name the Book“The Sabbath was made for man, and not . . . (completion at the end)

We will continue to take a look at Michael Green’s book Evangelism in the Early Church. I will primarily use quotes from the book to touch on some of the highlights concerning evangelistic strategy.

Paul’s greatest vision was the gospel for the whole world. That is why he planned to make Rome his base for yet more evangelism in the furthest western boundaries of the known world. 

Regarding persecution Origen said, “We are only persecuted when God allows the tempter and gives him authority to persecute us . . . If it is [God’s] will that we should again wrestle and strive for our religion, we will say, ‘I can do all things through Christ Jesus our Lord who strengthens me.’ God knows what he is doing in the matter of the appointment of kings.” The Christian should take with the utmost seriousness the claim of Jesus, “Be of good cheer: I have overcome the world.”

Evangelism took place because of the interplay of the Holy Spirit, the words and example of Jesus, the opportunities that presented themselves for witness, and the conviction common to the early Christians that they had found the very elixir of life, the secret to the riddle of the universe; how could they keep silent about it?

There can be no doubt that the expectation of the imminent return of Christ gave a most powerful impetus to evangelism in the earliest days of the Church. The assurance of God’s ultimate victory exercised a most powerful stimulus towards cooperating in the work of the Lord here and now, while the opportunity still existed. 

Irenaeus gives the second coming of Christ full treatment. Christ will indeed come again, and this will mean ruin for the impenitent and resurrection for those who believe and obey: he carefully defends this doctrine against the charge of vindictiveness, and shows that people are damned not because God will not forgive them but because they willfully shut their eyes to the light and refuse to be forgiven. Everyone, in fact, goes to the place of his choice.

Eschatological expectation, then, continued to play a great part in the conscious thinking of a Church bent on mission, long after it was very clear that the hopes of a speedy return of Christ had been given up. 

There was plenty of variety in eschatological expectation among the Christians of the first generation, as later. But within this variety there was a deep unity of conviction that God would complete by personal intervention on the last day what he had begun at the creation and redeemed by the cross and resurrection. The personal return of Christ was central to their eschatology just as the personal achievement of Christ was central to their gospel. 

For all its variety of emphasis, the New Testament picture of the goal of human existence is remarkably homogeneous. It will be personal encounter with the God who has created and redeemed; it will involve a world where the run caused by human sin will be finally righted by the act of the Redeemer. Such a hope imposed an inevitable challenge. Christians must so live that they would not be ashamed to meet their Lord at his return, or at the “anticipated Parousia” of death if this should come first. And Christians must be involved in the work of the Creator-Redeemer God in spreading the message of what he has done for sinners and what he will do to the obstinately rebellious who reject his salvation. The supreme spur to holy living and dedicated missionary work was this consciousness of the imminence of the end, of the limitations on the opportunities for evangelism, of the ultimate accountability we all have to God. 

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of eschatology on the mission of the early Christians. They believed that the long-awaited kingdom of God belonging to the day of salvation, the kingdom of which the prophets had spoken, was already ushered in through the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth. They saw his death and resurrection as decisive in inaugurating the last days, and they were conscious thereafter of living in the last chapter, so to speak, of the book of human history, however long or short that chapter might be. But the death and resurrection of Jesus had not finalized the promises, or fully realized the kingdom. God’s will was not yet done on earth as it is in heaven. However, the Church had two great and inter-connected possessions during the interim period before the end. It had the Spirit and it had the world mission.

The period before the end is no barren period of waiting; it is the time of the Spirit, the time of evangelism. In the Little Apocalypse, Jesus says that before the end shall come, his followers must face hardship and ill treatment in the cause of world mission, “in synagogues and before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.” It was only the gracious forbearance of the Lord which delayed the longed-for goal: “The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

People had been mistaken in their interpretation of the Scriptures relating to Christ’s first coming, although they studied them earnestly. It was not unlikely that they would prove equally fallible in interpreting the Scriptures relating to his second advent. Nonetheless, they held three basic convictions that they cherished. First, God was sovereign, and would bring in his kingdom in his way at his time. Second, God was the Creator and Redeemer of the whole world, and the Gentiles had as much place as the Jews in his purposes. Third, the role of the Church in the interval before the end was evangelism “to the Jew first and also to 

the Greek” in the power of the Holy Spirit given to them both as the guarantee of the coming kingdom and as a constituent part of it. Eschatology and mission were irrevocably united in the person of the Spirit.

Verse Completion. . . man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27b (NASB)


Good morning. Give thanks to the LORD; for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

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

Complete the Verse & Name the BookThe godly care about the rights of the poor; the. . .  (completion at the end)

Yesterday, Pastor Del McKenzie continued his series on “Godly Character Qualities” with the topic of decisiveness. So far he has taught on gentleness, humility, integrity, endurance, responsibility, thankfulness, forgiveness, acceptance, generosity, loyalty, honesty, flexibility, sincerity, orderliness, thoroughness, and discernment.

In the book Pilgrim’s Progress written by John Bunyan in 1678, there is a character named Mr. Facing Bothways. He was the epitome of someone who couldn’t make up his mind. 

Jesus was a person of decisiveness. He demonstrated it when he said to Zacchaeus: “Zacchaeus! Quick, come down [from the tree]! I must be a guest in your home today” (Luke 19:5b). Luke 10:1-4 says: The Lord now chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit. These were his instructions to them: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields. Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves. Don’t take any money with you, nor a traveler’s bag, nor an extra pair of sandals. And don’t stop to greet anyone on the road.” Jesus made the decision as to what was to be done. Luke 19:45-46 says: Then Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people selling animals for sacrifices. He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” Jesus didn’t say, “Maybe you should leave” or “It might be a good idea if you left.” He made a decision and drove them out of the Temple. In Luke 9:51 we read: As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. He had purpose. He was determined. He was unwavering. A decision had been made.

What is decisiveness? It’s a character quality of being decisive—having the power or quality of settling a dispute, question, doubt, contest, or event. A decisive person is able to settle on what needs to be done. It involves prompt determination. A decisive person is able to finalize difficult decisions based on the will and the ways of God. 

James 1:5-8 says: If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do. The opposite of decisiveness is being two-souled—facing two different directions at the same time. People like this could be called double minded or fence straddlers. They are divided between faith and the world. They are unsettled, wavering, unstable, undermined, and vacillating. An example of this was Peter attempting to walk to Jesus on the water. He looked two ways: at the water and at Jesus. 

When the wife of a “successful” pastor was asked what kind of a man her husband was, she said, “When he’s at a theological liberal conference, he’s a liberal. When he’s at a theological conservative conference, he’s a conservative. When he’s at home, he’s a perfect demon.”

One of Aesop’s fables is about a time when the beasts and the fowl were engaged in a war. The bat tried to be on both sides. When he was with the fowl, he claimed to be a fowl. When he was with the beasts, he claimed to be a beast. When his hypocrisy was discovered, he was rejected by both the beasts and the fowl. The only time he could come out of hiding was at night. 

You can’t hold onto the world with one hand and the Lord with the other hand. If you try it, you will be rejected by both. Jesus said, “A kingdom divided by civil war will collapse” (Mark 3:24a). When we pray, we need to have our mind facing one direction—to God (James 1:5-8).

Ephesians 4:14-16 says: Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Decisiveness is a mark of maturity and a character quality. We should have convictions that false teachers can’t pull us away from. Nothing should be able to pull us away from Truth. 

Judas was double minded. He tried to be a follower of Jesus and a follower of the world at the same time. It never works out. God wants us to have an undivided heart. Psalm 86:11 says: Teach me your ways, O LORD, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you.

What are the benefits of decisiveness? 

1.   There is greater productivity. Time and energy are not used up trying to make a decision. We are able to work on what needs to be done. 

2.   There is inner peace. Indecision causes turmoil. If you are moving in a direction, you can always change that direction. If you are sitting still, you are unable to change direction. 

3.   There is greater confidence. Uncertainty destroys confidence. Show me a person who has confidence, and I’ll show you someone who has developed the character quality of decisiveness. Worrying about a past decision makes us tentative.

4.   Leadership. Part of leadership is making decisions: marriage, family, church, business. 

5.   Every area of life is affected by it. We need to be decisive about our commitment to God. The lyrics of a song have these words: I have decided to follow Jesus. The cross before me; the world behind me. No turning back.

6.   It helps with our commitment to people. Am I with them or not? Are they with me or not? We need to be committed in marriage and not just live together. We need to be decisive about small things such as when we go to bed and when we get up. 

What are the obstacles to decisiveness?

1.   Fear. We fear making a mistake. We think if we don’t make a decision then we won’t make a mistake. However, it’s a mistake not to make a decision. We fear not being liked. We fear that if a decision is made, someone will be upset with us. We need to overcome that fear. We need to be like David and say: But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you (Psalm 56:3).

2.   Doubt. We wonder if we did the right thing. What if the decision was the wrong decision? What if there’s a better decision? Will my decision work or not work? 

3.   Mistakes. We hang on to mistakes we have made in the past. We don’t want to make another mistake so we make no decision. However, no decision is a decision. Don’t get hung up on being perfect; life is not perfect. Nobody is perfect. 

4.   Timidity. Because of a timid personality, we want other people to make our decisions for us. Weigh the pros and cons of a decision and then make the decision. Timid people haven’t learned to appreciate the abilities God has given them. 

5.   Laziness. We think it’s easier not to make a decision so we take the easy road. We don’t want to put out the mental and emotional energy it takes to make a decision, so we become lazy and don’t do it. 

6.   Temperament. Sometimes phlegmatic people have a difficult time making decisions. Sometimes people use the excuse: I need more information before I make my decision (and the decision never gets made). 

How do we build the character quality of decisiveness into our lives?

1.   We need to determine our convictions. What are the important things that I believe in life? Identify them. Make a list if necessary. Once they have been determined, build them into your life and thinking. Stand on them. Let your opinions become your convictions. If you can’t let an opinion become a conviction, then let go of that opinion. 

2.   We need to give ourselves deadlines. Sometimes people try to pressure us into making a decision before prayer and serious thought can be given to it. Try saying something like, “I’ll try to have an answer for you in 24 hours.” You’ve given yourself a deadline. 

3.   We need to draw on God’s wisdom. James 3:17-18 says: But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. James 1:5 says: If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. Make the best decision possible based on the wisdom you receive from God.

4.   We deal with the obstacles to decisiveness listed above. Don’t procrastinate making a decision. 

5.   We refuse to allow mistakes to paralyze our lives. Remember that everyone makes mistakes and move on from there. 

We owe it to ourselves, to others, and to God to be decisive people. Our decisions need to be based on God’s will and God’s ways. God wants us to be single minded. 

Verse Completion. . . wicked don’t care at all. Proverbs 29:7 (NLT)


Good morning. This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. 

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/TAtx1y58jS0

Complete the Verse & Name the BookIn fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus . . . (completion at the end)

Yesterday, Pastor Michael’s text for his sermon “Hypocrisy and Hanging” was based on Matthew 27:1-10. We’ve been walking through the journey of Jesus on his way to the cross. The journey he took changed people’s lives forever! 

Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death. They bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate, the governor (verses 1-2). 

The Sanhedrin had held court at night which was in direct violation of their court rules. Now they have made plans to execute Jesus. For crimes that involved capital punishment, a second session of their supreme court would have to be held a day later. That would give time for those on the court to think about what they have heard and not be too hasty in making a decision that might end up being the wrong decision with no way to change it. The Sanhedrin had broken the rule about meeting at night, and now they broke the rule concerning a second court session. Those who represented justice were phonies; they were hypocrites who said one thing and practiced another. 

It’s ironic that they would bind Jesus. Jesus is the one who taught: “Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Matthew 5:39-41) and “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45a) and “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:5,7) and “Anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5:22a). Nevertheless, Jesus is bound so he will look like some violent, heinous criminal to Pilate.

The Sanhedrin had to take Jesus to Pilate because they didn’t have the authority to execute anyone. They had the authority to pass a capital judgment, but the actual execution could only be performed by the Romans. The Sanhedrin would have to convince Pilate that Jesus was worthy of execution. That would not be an easy task because Pilate was known for being against the Sanhedrin. They knew his first response would be “no.”

Matthew now leaves that scene and moves to Judas: “When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty silver coins, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter’s field as the Lord commanded me”(verses 3-10).

After Judas betrayed Jesus, he stuck around to see what would happen to Jesus. Judas probably didn’t want Jesus to die because he was making money off of Jesus. Judas was a thief who was embezzling

money. He loved money, and he didn’t want his source of income to dry up. Judas knew if Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus would become a powerful ruler, and as the treasurer for a powerful leader there would be lots of money to embezzle. However, the plan Judas had didn’t work out because it wasn’t God’s plan. Only God’s plans come to fruition. Our plans don’t work because we don’t have the power and control to insure the plans work. Only God has that kind of ability.

Judas was sorry for what he had done. Sometimes we are sorry only because our plans didn’t work out. Sometimes we’re sorry only because we got caught. Judas could be sorry only because his plans to make more money off of Jesus didn’t work out. He could be sorry he didn’t have a better plan because his plan to make money had completely fallen apart. He betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver because he loved money more than he loved Jesus. He followed Jesus for the money he could make off of Jesus not because he loved Jesus. 

Judas was appalled when Mary poured expensive perfume on Jesus. Judas didn’t see that as an act of worship but as a waste of money. Judas was all about money. He was determined to get that money back, and he started with being paid thirty pieces of silver by the Sanhedrin to betray Jesus. That was all profit for Judas. None of it had to be shared with anyone. 

Now Judas wants to get rid of the silver he was paid. That money could be traced back to Judas, and then everyone would know what he had done—betrayed Jesus. To wash his hands of his act, he returned the money. He knew Jesus was completely innocent, and that is working on his conscience. Judas knew he had sinned, but instead of confessing his sins to God, he confesses them to the chief priests who had conspired with him. Judas discovers that the chief priests don’t care one bit about him or God. All they care about is themselves. On the outside they want to appear as if everything they do is for God, but on the inside everything they do is for themselves. If they had known God, they would have had a relationship with Jesus. What they care about is power and influence; they care nothing about others. 

The chief priests know the money Judas threw into the temple was blood money—money that was used to convict an innocent man to death. They use the money to buy a potter’s field where the poor could be buried. This is the fulfillment of Zechariah 11:12-13. 

Everything that happens is by the plan of God, the power of God, and the purpose of God. Jesus is the one who is moving the plan along—not Judas, the Pharisees, Peter, the Sanhedrin, Pilate, or anyone else. 

What was the difference between Peter and Judas? Both betrayed Jesus. Judas planned his betrayal; Peter did not. Peter loved Jesus. Peter’s plan was to never deny Jesus. His plan was to die with Jesus. On the other hand, Judas did not love Jesus; he loved money. Everything Judas did was for himself. 1 Timothy 6:9-10 says: People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. Money can take people away from Jesus. People can love money more than they love Jesus. The love of money took Judas away from Jesus and plunged him into ruin and destruction. 

Judas went to people to repent of his sin. People are not able to forgive people of their sins. Peter went to God to repent of his sin, he wept bitterly, and he found forgiveness. Salvation comes only through God—not people. Salvation does not come through good works. A person can never do enough good works to earn salvation. 

When Judas didn’t forgive Mary for breaking the expensive perfume on Jesus, and when Judas didn’t forgive Jesus for allowing that to happen, he gave a foothold to the devil. Ephesians 4:26-27 says: “In your anger do not sin.” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. By letting the sun go down on his anger, Judas invited Satan into his life. 

Peter loved Jesus, repented, and found forgiveness in Jesus. He knew salvation comes from Jesus alone. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Acts 4:12 says: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” The only person we can go to for the forgiveness of sins is Jesus. He is the only one who can give your soul rest. 

Jesus doesn’t want anyone to perish. He wants everyone to receive salvation through him. Jesus came so you could have everlasting life. John 3:16 says: “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.” Peter has everlasting life because he went to Jesus for forgiveness.

If you’ve never invited Jesus into your life to be your Lord and Savior, pray this simple prayer: Jesus, I know that I have sinned. I ask you to forgive me of my sin. I know you are the only one who can forgive me. I ask you to take this sin away from me. I’m sorry, Jesus. I don’t want to sin against you any longer. Come into my life. I accept you and receive you as my Lord and Savior, my Master. Help me to turn my life around so I can live for you and know everlasting life with you. In Jesus name I ask and pray, amen. 

Verse Completion. . . will be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3:12 (NIV)


Good morning. Give thanks to the LORD; for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/A3IUqz10ARE

Complete the Verse & Name the BookWhoever gives to the poor will lack nothing, but . . . (completion at the end)

Today we will finish a recap of Dr. Michael Wedman’s lesson “The Opposite of God” from 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 that was taught on Thursday during Fireside Fellowship.

In verse eight Paul writes: And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. Paul is likely referring to Revelation 19:11-21: I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has his name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. 

And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great.”

Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh. 

Jesus is returning and the Antichrist will be destroyed.

When the Antichrist comes, he will come with deception, lies, and fear. The Antichrist will have the power of Satan so he will be able to do signs and wonders. Consequently, some will fall for the lies and worship the Antichrist. We will be able to identify the Antichrist by his deceit, lies, and wicked deeds. 

We who know Christ will not be deceived into worshiping the Antichrist. It’s so important that we know Jesus before all end time events take place. We need to read his Word and spend time with him in prayer and communion. We need to know Jesus well so we can identify the counterfeit when he appears. The Antichrist will do everything possible to convince people he is God. 

Many will be deceived by the Antichrist. They will refuse to love the truth and so be saved. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The only way to salvation is through Jesus, but the Antichrist will say that the only way is through him. Sadly, many will fall for the Antichrist’s deception. 

Romans 1:18-25, 28, 32 says: The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. 

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchange the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.

Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Even in Paul’s day the spirit of the Antichrist was at work: opposing God, suppressing God, exchanging the truth for a lie, promoting lies as if they were the truth. They chose to do those things willingly. They delighted in wickedness, promoted wickedness, and praised wickedness. 

Pharaoh hardened his heart against God and his servant, Moses. Each time another plague was sent, Pharaoh hardened his heart even more. Because he made the conscious effort to suppress God, deny God, to get rid of God, to exchange the truth for a lie, to exalt in wickedness rather than goodness, God in turn hardened his heart. The more we exchange the truth for a lie, the farther we get away from God, the more we oppose God, the harder our heart gets, and the less likely it is that we are able to repent of our sins and get back to God. God allows us to make the choice; he wants all of us to choose life. 2 Peter 3:9 says: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. Sadly, many people make the conscious choice to oppose God and take on the spirit of the Antichrist. The consequence for such a decision is eternal death—separation from God forever. Romans 6:23 says: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Proverbs 1:20-33 says: Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech: “How long will you simple ones love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you. But since you rejected me when I called and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand, since you ignored all my advice and would not accept my rebuke, I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you—when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you. 

Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me. Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the LORD, since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”

There’s a spiritual principle that says if you harden your heart against God, he will let you. The result is eternal separation from God!

Christ has not yet come, but he is coming. Don’t believe the latest conspiracy theory about the return of Christ. All the end time events will happen in God’s timing, in God’s control, in God’s power, under God’s authority. Everything will take place exactly as God planned it to happen. We don’t need to be anxious, fret, or fear the Antichrist. He is doomed to destruction. Stand firm with Jesus. Stand firm in the truth. Don’t be tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes (Ephesians 4:14). Let nothing move you away from Christ. 

Verse Completion. . . those who close their eyes to poverty will be cursed. Proverbs 28:27 (NLT)


Good morning. Give thanks to the LORD; for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/bParc5Dh_kw

Complete the Verse & Name the BookAnd this is the promise which He Himself made to us: . . . (completion at the end)

Yesterday, Dr. Michael Wedman taught from 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 with a lesson titled “The Opposite of God” as he continued Fireside Fellowship. Paul wrote this letter because of three concerns he had for the Thessalonians. First, he wanted to encourage them to stand firm in the face of persecution and suffering. Next, he wanted to correct some false teaching about the second coming. We see this in today’s passage:

Now, dear brothers and sisters, let us clarify some things about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we will be gathered to meet him. Don’t be so easily shaken or alarmed by those who say that the day of the Lord has already begun. Don’t believe them, even if they claim to have had a spiritual vision, a revelation, or a letter supposedly from us. Don’t be fooled by what they say. For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed—the one who brings destruction. He will exalt himself and defy everything that people call god and every object of worship. He will even sit in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God.

Don’t you remember that I told you about all this when I was with you? And you know what is holding him back, for he can be revealed only when his time comes. For this lawlessness is already at work secretly, and it will remain secret until the one who is holding it back steps out of the way. Then the man of lawlessness will be revealed, but the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by the splendor of his coming.

This man will come to do the work of Satan with counterfeit power and signs and miracles. He will use every kind of evil deception to fool those on their way to destruction, because they refuse to love and accept the truth that would save them. So God will cause them to be greatly deceived, and they will believe these lies. Then they will be condemned for enjoying evil rather than believing the truth. 

Some of the Thessalonians heard that Jesus had already returned to Earth the second time. Paul assures them this has not happened. In the second verse, he tells them they shouldn’t be so easily shaken or alarmed by this false report that could have taken the form of a false spiritual vision, a false revelation, or a false letter from him. Paul wants them to stand firm and keep their mental equilibrium—really think about what is being read, heard, and passed around. He doesn’t want them to be easily unsettled or quickly shaken. 

Today there are an abundance of books about the end times. People get carried away by what they read in these books or hear on TV or the radio. People today are confused about the end times just like the Thessalonians were confused in the first century. 

The day of the Lord doesn’t refer to a single day but rather a series of events surrounding the second coming of Jesus: the great tribulation, the rapture, Armageddon, the judgment. Some of the Thessalonians believe that the day of the Lord has started, and they are all worked up about it. Paul is telling them to calm down. The Thessalonians are acting like a boat that has been torn away from its mooring in a storm and is being tossed about here and there by the wind and waves. The Thessalonians and we need to be moored to the Truth and not allow any storm to break us away from that mooring whether it’s a new teaching, a new book, a new theory, or a person who comes along and says, “God told me . . .” Paul said in Ephesians 4:14: Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.

There’s a sense of urgency and alarm in some of the Thessalonians. They’re going about saying, “The sky is falling!” They are fretting and feeling anxiety. They have reacted emotionally to false information. 

Paul doesn’t want the Thessalonians to allow falsehood to cause them to doubt the truth. Deceitfulness involves a lie becoming the “truth” and replacing the “truth.”

The rebellion in verse three refers to world rebellion against the rule and sovereignty of God—the great tribulation. The man of lawlessness is the Antichrist, and the Antichrist had not been revealed. Paul is hitting on the high points of the return of Christ: 

·      Christ has not yet returned.

·      The Antichrist has not been revealed.

·      The Antichrist is doomed to destruction. The Antichrist cannot win even though he will rule for a short time. 

·      The Antichrist will oppose God and speak out against him.

·      The Antichrist will exalt himself as God.

·      The Antichrist will allow only the worship of him. 

·      The Antichrist will set himself up in God’s temple in the Holy of Holies (the most sacred part of the temple where the presence of God was). The Antichrist will say, “There is no other god but me.”

·      His end is eternal destruction. 

·      God keeps the Antichrist held back until the proper time for him to be revealed. Revelation 20:1-3 says: And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. Galatians 4:4 says: But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Jesus came to Earth at the right time, God’s time, and the same will be true for the Antichrist. The Antichrist is not all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present; only God is those things. 

·      The spirit of the Antichrist is already at work in this world. 1 John 2:18-25 says: Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—even eternal life.

The spirit of the Antichrist is present today—those who are against Jesus. They prefer falsehood over Truth. 

1 John 4:1-6 says: Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

There are many antichrists in our world today—all who oppose Jesus; all who promote falsehood over the Truth. We need to be grounded in the Truth so we won’t be deceived by falsehood. 

This concludes the first half of this lesson by Dr. Wedman. The second half will be posted tomorrow.

Verse Completion. . . eternal life. 1 John 2:25 (NASB)


Good morning. Give thanks to the LORD; for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

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

Complete the Verse & Name the BookIn the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than . . . (completion at the end)

We will continue to take a look at Michael Green’s book Evangelism in the Early Church. I will primarily use quotes from the book to touch on some of the highlights concerning evangelistic strategy.

The Christian gospel was intended for all people everywhere. The early Christians had no hesitations on that point: it was the agreed starting point for mission. The very nature of God demands a universal mission: if there is but one God, whose will for all is that they should be saved, then the preaching must be worldwide. If this supreme God has revealed himself uniquely in Jesus of Nazareth, and in him has acted decisively for our redemption, then the news of this greatest of all events must be spread far and wide. The nature of the gospel no less than the nature of God involves the Church in a mission to all mankind. The first generations of the Christian Church recognized this clearly. 

The spread of Christianity was largely accomplished by informal missionaries, and must have been to a large extent haphazard and spontaneous. Nevertheless there are several factors that determined the direction the Christian gospel took. Geographical factors played an important part in forming the strategy and tactics of the Christian mission. The whole civilized world adjacent to the Mediterranean basin was under the effective control of a single power, Rome. Rome had a single language, Greek. Communications by both land and sea were excellent. 

We’ve heard “all roads lead to Rome.” If that was true then all roads left Rome, and those roads could be used to spread the gospel. The gospel was carried to India in the first and second centuries AD.

Christians were not the first to use the roads and trade routes of the Roman Empire. In every major area where the Christians penetrated in the first two centuries the Jews had been there before them. Jesus said, “One sows and another reaps. I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor.” The gospel spread along the lines of natural communication. 

Paul was the pioneer missionary par excellence. He seems to have selected places which were centers of Roman administration, of Greek civilization, of Jewish influence, and of commercial importance. Those centers included: Ephesus (the most important town in the whole of Asia), Corinth, Antioch, Philippi, Paphos, Thessalonica, and Rome. However, this wasn’t always the case. Paul chose Beroea in Macedonia, and it was not as important a place as Pella. Paul didn’t always chose key places to preach. He was led by the Holy Spirit. The “insignificant” places he went were not centers at which he must stop, but centers from which he might begin; not centers into which life drained, but from which it spread abroad.

The strategy of a man like Saint Paul was basically simple: he had one life, and he was determined to use it to the greatest extent and at the best advantage possible in the service of Jesus Christ. His vision was at once personal, urban, provincial, and global. Consequently, he had to be selective. He had only one life. And in order to make the most of it, he seems to have made a deliberate policy of going for leaders in a community, through whom, if he were successful in bringing them to Christian commitment, the message might be widely disseminated. He preached the gospel to men like the proconsul of Cyprus, the chief man of Malta, the procurators Felix and Festus, King Agrippa and Bernice, and, supremely, the Emperor himself. These men were of no more intrinsic value to God than any beggar in the streets; but their influence, if converted, was infinitely greater. 

For all the pride which the subsequent Church took in the presence within its ranks of all kinds of people, with a preponderance of the poor, the outcast, the slaves, and the women, nevertheless this lesson was never forgotten. Before long men of the caliber of Justin and Clement, Origen, and Tertullian were members of the Church, and they were not blind to the importance of reaching influential people with the gospel.

Paul envisioned provinces like Macedonia, Achaea, and Asia being saturated with the gospel. He would set up two or three centers of the faith in a province, and then move on to allow native enthusiasm and initiative of the converts to lead them to others whom they could win for Christ. Of central importance was Ephesus where he spent a full two years. 

Verse Completion:. . . flattery.Proverbs 28:23


Good morning. Give thanks to the LORD; for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/Ymkl0t0FOcw

Complete the Verse & Name the BookBut when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but . . . (completion at the end)

Last Thursday, Dr. Michael Wedman taught from 2 Thessalonians 1:6-12 with a lesson titled “The Justice of God” as he continued Fireside Fellowship. Paul wants the Thessalonians to know what to do when they are faced with suffering. Every disciple of Christ who lives the gospel out in its truth and entirety will be persecuted and suffer. Knowing this, suffering becomes something we can embrace. 

In [God’s] justice he will pay back those who persecute you.

And God will provide rest for you who are being persecuted and also for us when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven. He will come with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power. When he comes on that day, he will receive glory from his holy people—praise from all who believe. And this includes you, for you believed what we told you about him.

So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.

There is balance in the suffering that takes place. Because God is just, those who persecute will be paid back. Those who are against God will one day appear in his courtroom and be judged for what they have done. 

Justice is based on God’s truth and righteousness. God is the one who determines what is right and wrong. Unfortunately, we have wandered away from God’s justice, and we have become the ones who determine what is right and wrong. Our system of justice is tainted by selfishness, self-centeredness, and falsehood. God’s justice is always just, right, and fair. 

Those who are opposed to the gospel will be opposed by God. Romans 12:19 says: Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD.This is a quote based on Deuteronomy 32:35. 1 Peter 3:12 says: “The eyes of the LORD watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the LORD turns his face against those who do evil.” God knows what’s going on in our lives. He’s aware of everything that happens to us. 

The justice of God is coming when Jesus returns to Earth. This is a spiritual truth; it’s a fact. Nevertheless, we can become frustrated and want God’s payback to occur now; we don’t want to wait until his return. Sometimes that happens, and sometimes it doesn’t happen. It’s not a spiritual truth that God will pay back wrongs during our lifetime. What we are to do is be patient with everyone. See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people (1 Thessalonians 5:14b-15).

Jesus warned about eternal punishment for those against him in Matthew 7:21-23 and 25:41-46. There are two responses to the gospel: receive Jesus or reject Jesus. When we receive Jesus, we are given everlasting life. When we reject Jesus, we end up with eternal death in a place called hell. Heaven and hell are real places. In Matthew 25:30, Jesus said: “’Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” Verse 46 has the following words of Jesus: “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

In Revelation 20:11-15, John writes about the final judgement: And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide. I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire was prepared for Satan and his angels (see Revelation 20:7-10). 

In contrast to hell is heaven where there is no sin, no darkness, and no wickedness. Heaven is a place of perfect peace, perfect safety, perfect rest, perfect contentment, perfect truth, and perfect righteousness. It’s a place where all who have believed in Jesus as Lord and Savior will spend eternity. It’s a place where there will be no sickness, crying, pain, or worrying. These are spiritual truths and spiritual truths can’t be undone. 

When we are separated from the Lord forever, there is no light, no happiness, no warmth, no goodness, no relief. What we do find is pain, suffering, ugliness, wickedness, and gnashing of teeth. The good news is we don’t have to experience any of this because Jesus died for us. Jesus paid the penalty of death for us. When he arose from the grave on the third day, he proved he has victory over death. That means we can have victory over death and sin as well. Salvation is a free gift offered to 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. 

Once we have believed and received Jesus, we need to obey him. Jesus said in John 14:15: “If you love me, obey my commandments.” When Jesus isn’t first in our lives, we aren’t concerned about following his commandments; we follow our own commandments. Paul wants the Thessalonians to know they need to follow hard after God. A person is either for or against Jesus; there’s no fence sitting. A person can claim whatever they want with their mouth, but deeds must back up the words. James 2:26 says: Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works. Following hard after Jesus proves we have faith.

Because God is just he will not only punish sin but he will give relief to those who receive him. The best day in the life of a Christian will be the day when Jesus returns to Earth. The time of trouble, persecution,  and suffering will be over. We have some relief of trouble in our lives now because we have the presence of the Holy Spirit in us, but ultimate relief will come with the return of Jesus. Meanwhile, the Holy Spirit gives us strength to get through difficult days. 

Paul is telling the Thessalonians to hang in there and not give up because of the persecution they are going through. They shouldn’t be afraid of what might happen to them. When we submit to God and love him with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, God makes sure we get eternal life. God gives us power to continue the works to which he has called us to do. 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. Paul prays that the Thessalonians’ desire to build the kingdom of God will come to fruition. 

Our lives are to glorify Jesus. When we come out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of light, our goal is to lift up Jesus and bring glory to him. We use the talents and abilities God has given us to bring glory to him, not ourselves. When we lift up Jesus, Jesus shares his glory with us. We take joy in seeing Jesus lifted up. We rejoice when we get to see others come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. We rejoice that we got to play a small part in their experience. God’s grace reminds us it’s nothing we do—our works, our efforts, our goodness, our greatness, our abilities—but it’s all Jesus in us. We are able to glorify Jesus when we are filled with the Holy Spirit. 

Stand firm with Jesus. Suffering will be experienced but know that God is just, and he gives eternal life to those who follow after him. Jesus is coming again.

Verse Completion. . . because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, Titus 3:4-5 (NIV) 


Good morning. Give thanks to the LORD; for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

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

Complete the Verse & Name the BookPeople who conceal their sins will not prosper, but . . .  (completion at the end)

Yesterday, Pastor Del McKenzie continued his series on “Godly Character Qualities” with the topic of discernment. So far he has taught on gentleness, humility, integrity, endurance, responsibility, thankfulness, forgiveness, acceptance, generosity, loyalty, honesty, flexibility, sincerity, orderliness, and thoroughness.

Most of the problems we have in the world are the result of character flaws. So many of the problems could be solved if the people involved had godly character qualities. We live in a day of deception. We live in a day when people say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter (Isaiah 5:20). A professor at Queens Theological College in Canada wrote an article that argued for homosexuality and gay marriage. Included in the article were these words: “The Old Testament presents an inadequate and flawed view of God rooted in a sexist and patriarchal culture context. The Old Testament can be dismissed as non-authoritative for Christians.” Here is an example of someone who is deceived, someone who is saying evil is good. The professor went on to say: “The anti-gay culture bears responsibility for failing to encourage lifelong, same sex relationships and instead encourages one night stands.” So if I am opposed to gay marriage, then it’s my fault if homosexuals have one night stands because I have encouraged them to do so. The professor is clearly deceived. 

Paul said in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Evil people and imposters will flourish. They will deceive others and will themselves be deceived. (see 2 Timothy 3:1-5,13)

We need to develop the same character qualities Jesus had. Jesus had discernment. In Matthew 19:16-22 we read: Someone came to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”

“Why ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. But to answer your question—if you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments.”

“Which ones?” the man asked.

And Jesus replied: “’You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“I’ve obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else must I do?”

Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Jesus was able to discern the man’s heart.

Another example is found in Matthew 16:21-23: From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that they 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.

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!”

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.”

Discernment is the ability to determine the things of God, and distinguish them from the things of man. Jesus determined the things of God; Peter did not. 

The basic definition of discernment is the mental ability to distinguish one thing from another. It involves a sharpness of judgment. It also involves insight—making a distinction between two things. Often what we are discerning is good and evil. We discern what is the will of God and what isn’t the will of God. 

In 1 Samuel 16 we find the story of Samuel assigned with the task of anointing the next king of Israel. In verses six and seven we read: When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Surely this is the LORD’S anointed!”

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Discernment involves the ability to look at the heart of a person.

There are three words used in the New Testament for discernment: 

·      To test, examine, discover, approve/disapprove. In business a person might examine wheat before buying it. In the spiritual sense we read in Galatians 6:4: Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. 1 Corinthians 11:28-29 says: That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. 2 Corinthians 13:5 says: Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you, if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.

·      To ask questions; evaluate; scrutinize; search out. 1 Corinthians 2:15 says: Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others. 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22 says: Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil. 1 John 4:1 says: Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.

·      To make a distinction; weigh thoroughly each part. In business scales are used to provide accurate weights. In 1 Corinthians 6:5-6 we are told to weigh privately that which appears to be out of order between brothers.

Discernment is seeing through a surface problem to the root causes. 

We need to develop the ability to discern ourselves and face our failures, weaknesses, and deficiencies. Psalm 19:12 says: How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. Proverbs 19:25 says: If you punish a mocker, the simpleminded will learn a lesson; if you correct the wise, they will be all the wiser. Proverbs 17:10 says: A single rebuke does more for a person of understanding than a hundred lashes on the back of a fool. We don’t want to be blind to how we are. We need to recognize our strengths and abilities are gifts. 

We need to develop the ability to discern others. When we are told things about others, we need to be able to determine whether that information is accurate or inaccurate. When we are offered advice, we have to determine whether it’s good advice or poor advice. The examples of lives offered to us can be wrong: alcoholism, living together outside of marriage. We have to discern life: what gives joy, what gives peace, what gives satisfaction, what is prosperity and how much should we pursue it. Proverbs 28:11 says: Rich people may think they are wise, but a poor person with discernment can see right through them. 

We need to discern what is our purpose in life. 

How do we build discernment into our lives? 

1.   Build God’s word into our thinking. Psalm 1:1-2 says: Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night. Psalm 119:105: Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:130: The teaching of your word gives light, so even the simple can understand. Study, search, and pursue the word of God. As we do we build God’s principles into our thinking. 

2.   We are to be spiritual people who live in the direction and flow of the Holy Spirit rather than live in our sinful nature. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says: But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. To have discernment we have to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) and walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). 

3.   We are to be a servant of God. Psalm 119:125 says: Give discernment to me, your servant; then I will understand your laws. When God gives us discernment, we are able to: determine a good path from a bad path, a good lifestyle from a bad lifestyle, a superior lifestyle to an inferior lifestyle. We need to live under his Lordship saying, “Always, Lord.”

4.   We ask for discernment. 1 Kings 3:9 says: Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?Discernment is of greater value than money or position. We can study the book of Proverbs that was written to teach us about wisdom that includes insight, understanding, perception, comprehension, discipline, discretion, and discernment. King Solomon asked God for discernment and God gave it to him (see 1 Kings 3:16-28). Unfortunately, Solomon lost his discernment when he went against God’s will and took pagan wives who led him away from God. We have to pursue discernment all of our lives. We can’t let it slip. 

The character quality of discernment may cover all the other godly character traits.  

Verse Completion: . . . if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy. Proverbs 28:13 (NLT)


Good morning. This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. 

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/TRcIEMgppK8

Complete the Verses & Name the Book:

·      The harvest is plentiful . . .

·      Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to . . . (completion at the end)

Yesterday, Pastor Michael’s text for his sermon “Wickedness and Weeping” was based on Matthew 26:57-75. We’ve seen how everything that has taken place is all part of God’s plan, purpose, and has been accomplished through his power. Nothing has surprised him or caught him off guard. God is in control. 

There are two scenes in this passage of Scripture. The first scene is Jesus on trial before the Sanhedrin.

Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled (verse 57). 

Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin were waiting for Jesus to arrive since his arrest had been arranged by Judas. The Sanhedrin was the Supreme Court of Israel composed of seventy-one men. To have a quorum they needed to have one third present so we know there were at least 23 men there. It was illegal to hold court at night and yet that’s what the Sanhedrin was doing. In addition, the Sanhedrin was not to hear any cases during Passover and yet they did. They violated their own laws. 

The Sanhedrin was supposed to be the group that led the nation in truth. They were supposed to be the authorities on God and how to live rightly before God. Now they don’t care about truth; they care about proving Jesus is guilty. They have already decided he is guilty and deserves to die. They aren’t looking for the facts. 

But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome (verse 58).

Earlier that evening Peter had cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant, and now Peter is sitting with the guards. It’s cold and they are likely sitting around a fire. 

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death (verse 59). 

You would think the Supreme Court would be filled with those who were committed to truth, justice, God, and leading the nation closer to God, and yet they are now looking for false evidence that will put Jesus to death. They aren’t interested in truth. They are self-righteous hypocrites. They see Jesus as a threat to their way of life, their position, their power, their plans, and they want Jesus dead. 

But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward (verse 60a). Many were willing to lie about Jesus, but their testimonies conflicted with each other. Two witnesses with the same story had to be present, but that wasn’t happening. At this point a member of the Sanhedrin likely went to two “witnesses” and told them what to say.

Finally two came forward and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days’” (verses 60b-61).

What Jesus really said is recorded is John:

Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days.”

The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken (John 2:18-22).

In this ancient Jewish culture, the temple was the center, the heart, of the nation. Everything surrounded the temple of God: their traditions, religion, economy. For someone to threaten the temple was to threaten the nation. Only a terrorist would threaten the temple; therefore, Jesus was a terrorist—a traitor to the nation and worthy of the death sentence. 

Speaking about a new temple and the Messiah coming into the new temple, Zechariah said: “Tell [Joshua, the high priest] this is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD. It is he who will build the temple of the LORD, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two’” (Zechariah 6:12-13). The harmony will be between the priest and king. 

He who would build the new temple would be the Messiah. Therefore, Jesus is not only guilty of being a terrorist but he is guilty of claiming to be the Messiah. 

Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” But Jesus remained silent (verses 62-63a).

The high priest wants Jesus to say something that will trap him, but Jesus didn’t answer. This fulfilled Isaiah 53:7: He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. Jesus is very clearly the Messiah fulfilling prophecy. 

The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God” (verse 63b). 

The high priest is committed to Satan and falsehood at this point, and yet he is pretending to be committed to God. Standing right in front of the high priest is God with skin on! 

Jesus didn’t have to answer the high priest—the law provided that the accused didn’t have to respond to anything that would incriminate himself. But Jesus chose to answer:

“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”

“He is worthy of death,” they answered. (verses 64-66).

Jesus didn’t answer the first time because the accusations weren’t true. The second time he did answer because what they accused him of was true: He was the Messiah. Jesus answered because he wanted God’s plan for him to die on a cross to go forward. 

Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, “Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?” (verses 67-68).

Think about who is saying these things and doing these things—the chief justices, the high priest, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the elders of the people—those who were supposed to be upright and just. They’re the ones who want respect for being the most holy people and yet their hearts are desperately wicked. They’re hypocrites. They’re legalists who hate Jesus and want him dead. You find out what’s in people’s hearts by watching their actions. Sometimes what’s in a person’s heart is exposed in a short time; sometimes it takes longer. With the Sanhedrin, it took a long time, but in the darkness, away from the spotlight, their evil hearts are exposed. We need to ask ourselves, “In the darkness when no one else is around, what comes out of my heart?”

Now we move to Scene Two:

Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said

But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. 

Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”

He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” (verses 69-72).

Perhaps he moved to the gateway in case he had to make a quick exit. 

The first time Peter denied knowing Jesus was to an individual girl. The second time he denied Jesus was to a small group of people and with an oath. Perhaps the oath was “By the gold of the temple  . . .” or “By the altar in the temple . . .” or “On my mother’s grave . . .”

After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away” (verse 73).  

Now it isn’t individual people accusing him, it’s a group that’s involved. Pressure on Peter is intensifying. They pick up on his distinct Galilean accent just as people in the West would pick up on the accent of someone from the Deep South. 

Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” (verse 74a)

Perhaps Peter said, “May my wife forever be barren,” or “May my children never marry,” or “May my house be destroyed,” or “May I never be blessed by God again,” and “LEAVE ME ALONE! HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU? I DON’T KNOW THE MAN! I’VE NEVER KNOWN THE MAN!”

Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly (verses 74b-75)

These are difficult words. Why are they here? Peter probably doesn’t like these verses being included here. These words are here to contrast Jesus, who took intentional steps to insure he went to the cross, with Peter, who took intentional steps to insure he didn’t go to the cross.  

These words are here to show Jesus was in control of the situation. What he said would happen did happen—Peter would deny Jesus three times. Peter said it would never happen, but Jesus knew the truth. Peter’s plan couldn’t overturn the plan of Jesus. 

These words are here to contrast Peter with the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin are wicked, black-hearted people. They broke their own laws so they could pretend they were doing something right. When there’s a court that doesn’t care about truth and justice, what’s the point of having the required two witnesses? They wanted the two witnesses so they would appear to be doing what’s right. They wanted to appear to be good people even though they were wicked people. Even though they beat Jesus, spit in his face, mocked him, and punched him, they still wanted people to think they are good people worthy of honor and respect. 

After Peter denied Jesus three times and the rooster crowed, he went away and wept bitterly. Peter didn’t want to deny Jesus; he even vowed that he wouldn’t. He thought he would have enough strength to stand with Jesus and die with Jesus, but when it came right down to it, he didn’t. He wasn’t quite there yet. He can’t believe what he has just done and who he’s done it to because he loves Jesus. It wasn’t his plan to deny Jesus. It wasn’t his purpose in life to deny Jesus, but he did. 

Weeping bitterly was an act of contrition where he said to himself, “Why did I do that? I wish I’d never done that!” It’s repentance. Peter responds out of love for Jesus. Even though he blew it, he still loves Jesus, and he repents of his sin. 

Just like Peter, we don’t always get it right. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15) Sometimes we don’t, and we need to go to Jesus in repentance. 

As Luke tells the story he says: Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly (Luke 22:60-62). Jesus didn’t look at Peter with a look of condemnation; he looked at Peter with love. His look said, “Peter, I still have a plan for your life, and it’s not to die with me tonight. It will be to die with me another time. Peter, I love you, and I forgive you.” 

Listen to the voice of Jesus speaking to you and saying, “I forgive you. I have a plan for you. I love you, and I know you love me. Let’s move on together.” When we repent of our sins, Jesus always forgives us. 

Completion of Verses

·      . . . but the workers are few.

·      . . . send out workers into His harvest. Matthew 9:37-38 (NASB)


Good morning. Give thanks to the LORD; for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/l2xhf_Gogjs

Complete the Verse & Name the BookWoe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law-- . . . (completion at the end)

After reading Exodus 32, 33, 34, and 35 and Matthew 23, the following prayer was prayed:

Father God, Moses prayed, “If Thy presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here.” That is my prayer, too. I want to stay in your presence at all times. Never let me leave your presence. Pull me back to you when I start to stray off. 

Moses prayed, “Show me Thy glory.” That is my prayer, too. I want to see your glory. Open my eyes that I might see it and be a changed person.

You told Moses you are compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in loving kindness and truth, and you forgive iniquity, transgression, and sin, but you also will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.

Lord, may I bring the first fruits of my toil to you in gratitude for your faithful provision. You are the one who has given me the ability to earn a living. Thank you for that blessing. I praise you for every good gift knowing they all come from you. 

God, people could tell when Moses had spent time with you because his face shone. May others be able to tell when I have spent time with you by my words, actions, attitude, and love for others.

Jesus, you condemned the scribes and Pharisees for saying and not doing, for doing deeds to be noticed by men, for loving the place of honor at banquets, and for loving the respectful greetings in public places. You said whoever wants to be great should be a servant. You said whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Give me a servant’s heart that finds joy in serving others. Pull out any pride in my life by its roots and plant humility in its place. 

Jesus, you called the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites, blind guides, fools, and blind men. You said they offered long prayers while devouring widows’ houses. Jesus, keep me from being like the scribes and Pharisees, and make me like you. Give me a pure heart that thirsts after righteousness. May I seek justice, mercy, and faithfulness. Do a work in me so I become more like you. My prayer for today is that others may see you in me. That can only happen by the power of the Holy Spirit living in me, so fill me with your Holy Spirit today. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Verse Completion. . . justice, mercy and faithfulness. You ought to have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. Matthew 23:23 (NIV)


Good morning. Give thanks to the LORD; for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/K42bvpgimTg

Complete the Verse & Name the BookWhen there is moral rot within a nation, its government topples easily. But . . . (completion at the end)

We will continue to take a look at Michael Green’s book Evangelism in the Early Church. I will primarily use quotes from the book to touch on some of the highlights concerning evangelistic methods.

If public proclamation of various types and the private use of the home were crucial factors in the spread of the gospel, no less important was personal evangelism, as one individual shared his faith with another.

In the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, Luke intended it to illustrate the value of personal evangelism, humility, obedient trust in God, tact and knowledge of the Scriptures, directness in pointing to Jesus, and bringing a person to the point of decision. 

Evangelism that was direct and personal was a feature of early Christian expansion. The apostles were always at it—Peter and John with a beggar near the Temple, Peter with a Roman officer in his house, Paul as a shipwrecked mariner talking to the chief man of the island about his Lord. 

Origen wrote the following in a letter to Gregory: “Do you then, my son, diligently apply yourself to the reading of the sacred Scriptures? Apply yourself, I say. For we who read the things of God need much application, lest we should say or think anything too rashly about them. And applying yourself thus to the study of the things of God . . . knock at its locked door, and it will be opened to you . . . And applying yourself thus to the divine study, properly seek, and with unwavering trust in God, the meaning of the Holy Scriptures, which so many have missed. Be not satisfied with knocking and seeking; for prayer is of all things indispensable to the knowledge of the things of God. For to this the Savior exhorted, and said not only ‘Knock and it shall be opened to you; and seek and you shall find’ but also, ‘Ask, and it shall be given unto you.’”

It was through the wise, dedicated, individual evangelism of Christians like Origen that some of the most notable converts were brought into the Christian Church. Hand-picked fruit was the best.

In addition to speaking to people about Christ, whether in public, in small house groups, or as individuals, one further method was open to the early carriers of the gospel. Those with the talent could write. And they did. In fact, they invented an entirely new literary form, the Gospel, to carry their evangelistic message. So far as we know, Mark was the first to have this brilliant idea of constructing from the floating stories about Jesus and catechetical fragments used in preaching and teaching the pagan hearers of the good news, a written account of Jesus which was different from anything that had appeared in the world of letters before. The Gospel was written as a testimony from the lips of many witnesses collected together by the author and arranged in order to show what sort of a person Jesus was, to give the evidence on which the disciples had followed him and had adjudged him the Messiah and Son of God, and by the strongest possible implication, challenge the readers to make the same act of faith in Christ as they themselves had done. 

In the Gospel of John, he wrote: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.” He wants to so highlight Jesus, his person and significance, by the “signs” he selects, that he can bring his readers, be they Jewish or Greek, to the place where they are convinced that he is indeed the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, the veritable Son of God. Such intellectual assent should lead the reader, as it had the writer, to commitment to this Christ, commitment which opens the door to a new dimension of living, life shared with God.

The book of Matthew was primarily designed for “insiders”—preachers and teachers of the Christian mission. His aim is not directly and primarily evangelistic. He seeks chiefly to support the work of faithful teaching rather than stirring appeal for initial repentance and faith.

Luke and Acts were clearly designed for publication, through the good offices of Theophilus; it was wise, in antiquity, to dedicate your book to some great man through whose influence, and often at whose expense, it would be published. Luke wanted men to read his books in order not merely to defend Christianity against the slanders to which it was exposed, but supremely to make Christians of them. From first to last he concentrates on a single subject, salvation.

The Gospel of Luke explains what this salvation means. It includes healing (7:3), forgiveness (7:50), wholeness (8:36) and new life (8:50), and is brought uniquely through Jesus (19:10). When Jesus enters someone’s house, he brings salvation with him (19:9). 

Acts is designed for everyone, be he centurion or barbarian, Cypriot landowner or Ethiopian eunuch, magician or proconsul, jailer or female business executive. Luke’s deep concern is that all men should come to share in the salvation of Christ. 

A warmth, a Christ-centeredness, a deep and obvious concern for people marks every page of the Gospels and Acts, with the possible exception of a chapter like Matthew 23; but in the second century this too often gives way to a rather cold, almost arrogant, battering of the opposition. The love must have been there, as is clear from the way in which these Apologists lived and died; but it is to a large extent masked in their writings, and to that extent one may well imagine that not many pagans or Jews were won to the faith through these documents, if in fact they read them. 

Jerome tells us that in the third century Pamphilus of Caesarea “readily provided Bibles not only to read but to keep, not only for men but for any women whom he saw addicted to reading.”

To the use of the Scriptures the early Christians added prayer as a prime necessity in all evangelistic enterprise. When the Twelve poured out their hearts to God in prayer they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they spoke the Word of God with boldness, and multitudes believed. Paul knew that prayer was one of the great ways of binding Satan and preparing the hearts of hearers for the gospel. He asks the Ephesians to pray for him that utterance may be given him in opening his mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel. He asks the Corinthians to give “underground assistance” to his gospel assault on the strongholds of evil by means of prayer. “Pray without ceasing,” urges Ignatius, “on behalf of other men. For then there is hope of repentance that they may attain to God.” Evangelism was God’s work, through human agency. They knew that he would not reveal himself to pagans in saving power unless they displayed their utter dependence on him through prayer.

It was, then, with the Scriptures and prayer as their main weapons, backed by their love, their burning zeal to share their faith with others, and the sheer quality of their living and dying, that the early Christians set out to evangelize the world.

Verse Completion. . . wise and knowledgeable leaders bring stability. Proverbs 28:2 (NLT)


Good morning. Give thanks to the LORD; for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

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

Complete the Verse & Name the BookWhat, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, . . . (completion at the end)

We will continue to take a look at Michael Green’s book Evangelism in the Early Church. I will primarily use quotes from the book to touch on some of the highlights concerning evangelistic methods.

Here is an extract from an early church sermon: “Jesus is all. When he judges, he is Law, when he teaches, he is Word, when he saves, he is Grace, when he begets, he is Father, when begotten he is Son, when he suffers, he is Lamb, when buried he is Man, when risen he is God. Such is Jesus Christ. To him be glory forever, Amen.”

Preaching, whether in synagogue, Christian assembly, or open air, whether normal or under direct inspiration, was an important factor in the methods of the mission. Nevertheless, the break with the synagogue, the rise of persecution, and the absence of Christian buildings for worship all hindered formal proclamation of the gospel. It was not easy to gather a large assembly without inviting police action. However, despite the hazards and the difficulties, great numbers of Christians must have given themselves to preaching all over the ancient world.

In a commentary on Psalm 36 Origen said, “All in whom Christ speaks can be called an arrow of God. But, what is rather sad is I see very few arrows of God. There are few who so speak that they inflame the heart of the hearer, drag him away from his sin, and convert him to repentance. Few so speak that the heart of their hearer is deeply convicted and his eyes weep for contrition. There are few who unveil the light of the future hope, the wonder of heaven and the glory of God’s kingdom to such effect that by their earnest preaching they succeed in persuading men to despise the visible and seek the invisible, to spurn the temporal and seek the eternal. There are all too few preachers of this caliber.” 

Origen went on to say that he would never want to turn into the devil’s arrow by causing anyone to stumble through what he did or said. “Sometimes we think we are confuting someone, and we speak ill-advisedly, and become aggressive and argumentative as we endeavor to win our case no matter what expressions we use. Then the devil takes our mouth and uses it like a bow from which he can shoot his arrows.” Such was the inner fear of a man of whom Eusebius could say, “As his doctrine, so was his life; and as his life, so also was his doctrine.”

Preaching and teaching went together, and there was much practical work as well: the visiting of prisoners, the encouragement of those condemned to death for their faith, as well as working for a living, and the exercise of great abstinence in food, drink, sleep, money, and clothing.

Paul and others involved in evangelistic work did not think that argument alone could bring anyone into the kingdom of God. But they knew that it could break down barriers which obstructed men’s vision of the moral and existential choice which faced them, of whether to respond to Christ or not.

There is no denying the zeal and the sense of discovery which marked the witness of the early Church in both their public and their private testimony, in both their written and their spoken word. It was this utter assurance of the Christians that they were right about God and Christ and salvation which in the end succeeded in convincing the pagan world that it was in error. 

One of the most important methods of spreading the gospel in antiquity was by the use of homes. It had positive advantages: the comparatively small numbers involved made real interchange of views and informed discussion among the participants possible; there was no artificial isolation of a preacher from his hearers; there was no temptation for either the speaker or the heckler to “play to the gallery” as there was in a public place or open-air meeting. The sheer informality and relaxed atmosphere of the home, not to mention the hospitality which must often have gone with it, all helped to make this form of evangelism particularly successful. 

It was preferable if the father of a family was converted first, for then he would bring over the whole family with him. The action of the head of the family committed the rest of his dependent group. It was not so easy when Christianity entered the home through the agency of a member of the household other than its head. Jesus had foretold that allegiance to him might well split the family, and so it proved time and again.

There was a gradual infiltration of the middle and upper classes of Roman society by Christianity through the lives and words of slaves and freedmen in their home environment. This is how that unique institution, the Christian home, began to make an impression on surrounding paganism.

The earliest Christian meetings took place in homes. It is only to be expected, therefore, that Christians should have borne witness to their faith through the decoration of these homes.

The evidence suggests that they did so in a tentative and allusive way. They affected decorations which would mean much to a fellow Christian, but would either seem unremarkable to the non-Christian or might excite mild comment, which in turn could give the Christian householder an opportunity to bear witness to his faith. In Ostia, for instance, there are mosaics showing the eucharistic loaves, a chalice, and the fish motif. 

The Acts of the Apostles shows Christian homes were used for prayer meetings, for an evening of Christian fellowship, for Holy Communion services, for a whole night of prayer, worship and instruction, for impromptu evangelistic gatherings, for planned meetings in order to hear the Christian gospel, for following up enquirers, for organized instruction. When Paul claimed in his farewell address to the Ephesian elders that he had taught them “in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance to God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ,” it was no idle boast. Like Baxter many centuries later, he had discovered that this house evangelism was more fruitful than any.

The duty of the parents to train up their children is paramount: it is through the witness and example of the Christian home that children are brought into and nourished within the fellowship. It appears that the early Christians took very seriously indeed the words of Jesus asserting that the kingdom of God belonged to children. 

Origen came from a Christian family whose light must have shone out brightly in the dark days of the Severan persecution in AD 202. His father Leonides was arrested for his faith and, in due course, martyred. Origen wrote to his father encouraging him to stand firm in the hour of his trial, and not to weaken out of consideration for them. When young Origen was longing to go and join his father and get arrested and martyred, his mother prevented him by hiding his clothes!

The early church had a warmth of faith in Jesus and love for him that led them to sacrifice privacy, security, finance, and even personal safety in order to promulgate the Christian gospel. Homes like this must have been exceedingly effective in the evangelistic outreach of the Church.

Verse Completion. . . who can be against us? Romans 8:31 (NIV)


Good morning. Give thanks to the LORD; for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/vl6uQasIeQU

Complete the Verse & Name the BookThe wicked run away when no one is chasing them, but . . . (completion at the end)

We will continue to take a look at Michael Green’s book Evangelism in the Early Church. I will primarily use quotes from the book to touch on some of the highlights concerning evangelistic methods.

Christianity is enshrined in the life, but it is proclaimed by the lips. If there is a failure in either respect the gospel cannot be communicated. 

For more than 150 years the early church possessed no church buildings. The synagogue provided the seedbed for evangelism among the Jews. Wherever there were Jews, there were synagogues, and all loyal Israelites were expected to attend weekly. Here was a ready-made congregation for Christian missionaries to address. It was one of the most important factors in the early spread of the faith. Synagogues were intended to foster devotion, discipline, and learning. The service consisted of the Shema, prayer, the reading of the Law and the Prophets, usually followed by an exposition, and the Blessing. Any member of the congregation might be called upon to read the Scriptures; anyone might be asked to give the exposition. This belonged to no privileged or priestly class. This elasticity in ministry accounts for the fact that Jesus was invited to read the Prophets in his home synagogue at Nazareth, and that Paul was so often invited, as a distinguished Pharisee visitor, to read and address the congregation during the course of his missionary journeys. Such opportunities were gratefully accepted by the Christian missionaries to Israel in the decisive three decades or so before the door into the synagogues was slammed in their faces.

The sermon in the synagogue at Antioch is a model of the missionary approach to the Jews. The addresses at Lystra and Athens are two varieties of Gentile missionary preaching. These are typical examples of evangelism taking place in the synagogues. The sermon would have three parts. In the first part Luke shows how the history of God’s people leads up to the coming of the Messiah. The second is devoted to an exposition of the good news of Jesus, in whom the ancient prophecies have been fulfilled, the Davidic blessings concentrated, the divine sonship realized. It lays stress on his death and burial and resurrection. It honestly faces the difficulty of his rejection by Israel and his death on a cross: this was all in fulfilment of the Scriptures. The third part of the sermon stresses the forgiveness of sins which is available through the risen Jesus, the freedom he offers which was never available under the Law of Moses, and the need for response in faith to him. A solemn warning concludes the sermon: God’s mercy is not to be trifled with.

Christian missionaries showed that Christianity was not something new, but the climax of God’s self-disclosure, the fruition of the history of Israel. Stating that Jesus was the Messiah led to a careful study of the Scriptures. The evangelist aimed to convince those in attendance that the Messiah was Jesus, and to bring them to the newness of life which the evangelist himself had found in Jesus. 

Apart from working in and through the synagogues, the disciples followed their Master in preaching in the open air. Impromptu meetings can only be effective in places where numbers of people naturally passed, so the temple area was a favorite site. Efforts needed to be lively and challenging. “Visual aids” that emphasized the power of the gospel would draw attention. The tongues at Pentecost and the cure at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple served two main purposes apart from their benefit to the recipients: they drew the crowds so that they could be reached by the preaching, and they demonstrated in unmistakable terms the fundamental doctrines of the gospel—God’s love for the unlovely, and his power to break the forces of sin and suffering in human life. If the meeting attracted the unfavorable attention of the authorities, be they Jewish or Roman, this was no disaster. It gave an added significance to the preaching, and facilitated the subsequent break-up into small groups for discussion and further instruction.

Open-air preaching took place in courtyards, open fields, river banks, and market places. Open-air evangelism continued throughout the first two centuries. The preaching centered on the person, mission, passion, resurrection, and power of Jesus of Nazareth. The challenge to repentance and faith, coupled with the promises of joy and the warnings of hell, are characteristic of first and second century Christian preaching. 

“Orthodox” Christian preaching, such as we might expect to find today, took place either in the synagogue or the open air. But in the early days there were also prophets who spoke directly in the name of Christ. Prophecy was a gift some possessed and others did not: it was very highly prized, next to the apostolic office itself, because in both, Jesus was directly communicating with his people. Prophets join apostles in having a foundational character for the Church simply for this reason that both are agents of revelation. Prophecy was coherent speech that was under the direct domination of the Holy Spirit. Paul stresses that the genuineness of prophecy is to be judged by the recipients, and judged in accordance with whether or not it enshrines apostolic doctrine. The importance of godly behavior in those who lay genuine claim to this gift was stressed. 

Verse Completion. . . the godly are as bold as lions. Proverbs 28:1


Good morning. Give thanks to the LORD; for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/05jKxv8ApuI

Complete the Verse & Name the Book: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who. . .  (completion at the end)

Yesterday, Pastor Del McKenzie continued his series on “Godly Character Qualities” with the topic of thoroughness. So far he has taught on gentleness, humility, integrity, endurance, responsibility, thankfulness, forgiveness, acceptance, generosity, loyalty, honesty, flexibility, sincerity, and orderliness.

Henri-Frederic Amiel once said, “The unfinished is nothing.” It seems like every community has at least one house that is unfinished. There are educations that are unfinished. There are projects that are unfinished. There are lives that are unfinished. As we go through the Scriptures we see many examples of people who didn’t finish life well: Solomon, Sampson, King Saul, Judas, Demas. When we lack the character quality of thoroughness, we end up doing sloppy things and the result is a sloppy life—a life that doesn’t end well.

Jesus was a thorough person. Matthew 13:53 says: And it came about that when Jesus had finished these parables, He departed from there. (NASB) Jesus said in his high-priestly prayer in John 17:4: “I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do.” (NASB) John 19:30 says: When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. (NASB) Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7 NASB)

Thorough means “carried to completion; complete in all aspects.” We need to let excellence be our signature and mark the work we do. Thoroughness is knowing what factors will diminish the effectiveness of our work or words if they are neglected. When we are thorough, we do the best we can, we pay attention to detail, and we complete what we start. Thoroughness is a character quality. It does us well to examine ourselves and ask, “How thorough am I? On a scale of 1-10, where do I fall?”

The opposite of thoroughness is incompleteness—leaving things only partly done. It’s sloppiness or carelessness. 

Thoroughness is important if we’re going to be like Jesus. Jesus taught twelve disciples so they would be able to carry on the work after he was gone. 

After Moses passed the baton to Joshua, we find these words: Just as the LORD had commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD had commanded Moses. (Joshua 11:15 NASB) 

In Deuteronomy 4:2 we find a call to obedience: “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” (NASB) Obedience was to be thorough. 

King Saul was told by God through Samuel: “Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” (1 Samuel 15:3 NASB) King Saul was not thorough in his obedience. We read in verses 20-22: 

Then Saul said to Samuel, “I did obey the voice of the LORD, and went on the mission on which the LORD sent me, and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.

“But the people took some of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the LORD your God at Gilgal.”

And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.”

In the parable of the talents, the man who had been given five talents gained five more talents. “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.’” (Matthew 25:21) 

Jesus said in Matthew 23:23: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.”

Paul said, “For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.”(Acts 20:27 NASB)

Thoroughness is important in many aspects of life. At the top of that list is a relationship with God. So many times we try to cut corners and take shortcuts in our relationship with God. We might give a little time to God’s word but don’t do any in-depth study. We give a smattering of time to prayer. Someone has said, “If our prayer is meager, it’s because we regard it as supplemental and not fundamental.” When we deal with sin, we try to shorten the process rather than being thorough. If we want a life that’s totally in tune with God, we have to be thorough.

Thoroughness is important in family life. We have to be thorough with our spouse in our: love, support, affirmation, care for them. The same is true with our children. We need to do a thorough job with them. They shouldn’t be getting leftovers. Their spiritual well-being needs our attention.

We need thoroughness in our appearance, work, relationships with other Christians, ministries we are involved in, financial management, and our forgiveness of other people. 

When we are not thorough, there are negative results: disorganization, low efficiency, having to redo what wasn’t done right the first time, our whole team suffers (family, marriage, work, sports). Our sloppy life affects others. 

When we are thorough, there are positive results: a foundation for life is provided, we feel good about our work, we can accept ourselves and be free from self-condemnation, we are freed from complaints of things not being done correctly or not being done at all, and there are more opportunities for ministry.

How do we plant thoroughness into our lives? 

1.   Stop making excuses. Don’t say, “That’s just how I am; I’m not a detail kind of person. Little things don’t matter.” We need to confess if we have been careless or sloppy. Shortcuts need to be avoided. We do what needs to be done as soon as we can and as well as we can.

2.   Trust God for self-discipline (self-control). We can cut out that which isn’t important. We can learn to properly say “no.” We can ask ourselves, “Is this task done as completely as I can do it? Am I really finished? Is this the best job I can do? Have I put everything I’ve got into it?”

3.   See every task as an assignment from the Lord. Colossians 3:23-25 says: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.” (NASB) What we do can be made an offering to the Lord, including the unpleasant tasks. When we have a list of things to accomplish, we can do the difficult things first. Don’t forget to do the everyday activities: hang up your clothes, make your bed, dust the furniture, shovel the snow. 

Henri-Frederic Amiel said, “It is not what he has, nor even what he does, which directly expresses the worth of a man, but what he is.” He is speaking of character and thoroughness. 

Thoroughness is a godly character quality. Am I thorough? How can I build this character quality in my life? 

Verse Completion. . . does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Matthew 7:21 (NASB)


Good morning. This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. 

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/kRBhg7Z9YR0

Complete the Verse & Name the BookAs a face is reflected in water, so the heart . . . (completion at the end)

Yesterday, Pastor Michael’s text for his sermon “Predictions and Prayer” was based on Matthew 26:31-56. Last week we looked at how everything that happened happened according to the plan of God. The plan of God always goes according to the control and power of God. Everything that happens is under God’s control. 

In this passage of Scripture, there are three scenes. Scene 1 is found in verses 31-35:

Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me,” for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”

Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”

But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.

As they were on their way to the Mount of Olives, Jesus told his disciples that this would be the night he would be betrayed, and the disciples would be caught up in the scandal. He told them their lives would be forever changed because of what was about to happen. This would be the night that the prophecy foretold in Zechariah 13:7 (about 500 years prior) would be fulfilled. 

Jesus would suffer and die, but it would only be temporary—he would rise from the dead. Jesus wanted to encourage his disciples. 

After Jesus said that all the disciples would fall away, Peter pledged his loyalty to Jesus in a similar manner he had done previously that’s described in Matthew 16:22. Jesus told Peter he would disown him three times that very night before the rooster crowed the second time.  There were two times during the day when a rooster would crow: just after midnight and just before dawn. Peter assured Jesus of his loyalty along with all the other disciples. 

Peter denied God’s plan. Wouldn’t it be nice if we never denied God’s plan? How often do we say, “Jesus, that’s not the plan. That will never happen”? After Peter’s statement in Matthew 16:22, Jesus rebuked Peter. Here Jesus does not rebuke him or any of the disciples. Jesus knows our humanity; he knows our tendency to get things wrong. In our humanity it is difficult for us to accept God’s will. 

Scene 2 is verses 36-46:

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the  body is weak.”

He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Gethsemane was a place they went to often. It wasn’t a public park. It was likely a privately owned orchard. It would have been a place where arrangements to be there were made ahead of time. He went off to pray and took Peter, James, and John with him. This was a difficult time for Jesus and he wanted to be with his closest friends. Jesus was in distress. The sorrow and trouble he felt was killing him. He was dreading what was in store for him. He knew the plan for him would involve pain (beating, having nails driven into his hands and feet, a slow death on a cross) and shame (stripped of his clothing, mocked, a crown of thorns on his head). He would be carrying the weight of everyone’s sins to the cross. He would become sin (2 Corinthians 5:21) and be separated from the Father. 

When Jesus prayed, “. . . if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me,” he wasn’t saying he didn’t want to go through with the plan. In John 10:17-18 Jesus said: “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.” In his humanity Jesus doesn’t want the pain, shame, suffering, and separation, yet he prays, “Not as I will, but as you will.” 

When Jesus returned to the disciples and found them sleeping, he didn’t rebuke them in their humanity but used it as an opportunity to teach them about spiritual warfare. The greatest temptation faced by Jesus was to run away from the will of the Father—not do the plan. Our greatest temptation is to not do the plan of God. Every time we are tempted, every time when Satan comes along and wants to draw us away from God, Satan is saying, “I don’t want you to do the plan of God.” Jesus was telling the disciples that they were in spiritual warfare. Satan does not want the plan of God to come to fruition. He doesn’t want you to be part of God’s plan. What we have to do is pray. Prayer is the weapon we need to resist the temptation to walk away from the plan of God. God has a plan, and we have the opportunity to be part of that plan. However, Satan doesn’t want us to have a part in God’s plan. We must pray to remain committed to the plan. Prayer brings the power of God to get the plan done. We need the power of the Holy Spirit in us to get the plan done. We can’t do it in our own power. We need to watch and pray so we know the plan and are committed to the plan. 

For the third time Jesus prayed for the power of God to be in him so he could complete the plan God had for him. Prayer provides the power to stay committed to the plan of God. 

The word for “let us go” means to advance. Jesus wasn’t saying, “Let’s get out of here. Let’s retreat. Let’s avoid this problem,” even though that was an option. Jesus wasn’t being forced to do God’s will, and no one forces us to do God’s will. Jesus chose to do God’s will and advance God’s will. Jesus was not going to live in fear. He was saying, “Let’s do God’s plan by his power in us.” Prayer is never retreat. It’s always spiritual warfare, and it’s an advance of the will of God.

Scene 3 is verses 47-56:

While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. (verses 47-49)

Can you imagine the confusion on the part of the disciples when they saw Judas with the armed crowd? No doubt their adrenaline kicked in at this point. They were no longer sleepy. Not only were the high priest’s temple guards there but Roman guards were there as well. Likely, there were around 200 Roman soldiers present. 

When Judas said “greetings,” the word meant “happiness and well-being.” It would be a word you would say to someone who shared your table—a close friend. Judas called Jesus “Rabbi” which would be “lord” rather than “Lord.” When Judas kissed Jesus, he didn’t do it just once, but he kissed him many times so insure that those who were there to arrest Jesus had no doubt as to who they were to take into custody. 

Jesus replied, “Friend, do what you came for.”

Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. (verse 50)

The word Jesus uses for “friend” is not a close friend but a “friend” that is kept at arm’s length. 

With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. (verse 51)

Peter’s impulsive act could have resulted in all the disciples and Jesus being killed right on the spot.

“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (verses 52-54)

Jesus took control of the situation. In commanding Peter to put the swords away, Jesus was commanding the Roman soldiers to not take action because the incident has been taken care of.

Jesus had to remind Peter that he was not a person of the sword but rather a person of prayer and peace. He had to remind Peter of the plan. Jesus could have called 72,000 angels to his rescue, but that wasn’t the plan. The plan was for Jesus to die on a cross for the sins of mankind. 

At that time Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. (verses 55-56)

Jesus knew what the Scriptures said. He knew the plan, he was committed to the plan, and he knew there was power to make the plan happen. A fight with swords and clubs was not part of the plan. Nobody was going to thwart of the plan of the Father. 

In verse 31 Jesus said, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me.” Verse 56 is the fulfillment of that prophecy: “Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.” Jesus is in control of the plan. He has the power to make it happen. 

It’s the power of God that brings about the plan of God in our lives. It’s not always in God’s plan that we will always receive blessings. When we pray, we pray for things to turn out well; we want a good outcome. It’s fine to pray that way. However, sometimes our prayers need to be, “Lord, I know the suffering that’s going to take place. I know the pain I’m going to go through. I know the plan, and I don’t like it. I’m not anxious to get there or walk through this, but I’m committed to your plan no matter what that means. Jesus, give me the power to stay committed to walking through this plan with you. May your will be done.”

Part of the reason Jesus prayed was to confirm God’s will. Prayer gives us the power to make God’s plan happen. By the power of the Holy Spirit in us, we can advance God’s plan. 

Verse Completion. . . reflects the real person. Proverbs 27:19 (NLT)