Daily Devotion January 2021

1/30/21


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


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/VBzg4B3_yS8



Complete the Verses & Name the Book

·      If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how . . .


·      Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue 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 motives.


Christians in the early days of the Church took very seriously their responsibility to live every day in the light of eternity, conscious that their every action was subject to the scrutiny of the one God, their Savior, who would judge the quick and the dead. Personal responsibility and accountability before God the sovereign Judge was a prominent spur to evangelism in the early Church.


Jesus came to seek and save the lost. That was the supreme purpose of his incarnation and atonement. He knew that evil was not external to man, but intrinsic. Jesus said, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you” (Mark 7:20-23 NLT). 


No one can lay claim to goodness before God. All alike are in need of rescue from the predicament which wrongdoing has involved them in. And Jesus came to bring this salvation to mankind. Naturally, therefore, a clear dualism runs through every strand of the gospel record of Jesus’ teaching. Mankind is divided into those who accept him as the way to God and those who do not. There are two ways we may tread—the broad way which leads to destruction or the narrow way which leads to life: no third option. There are two rulers which may hold sway in our lives: God or Mammon. There are two possibilities open to us: we may have a share in God’s own life through relationship with Jesus, or we remain spiritually dead. Human beings are divided in his parables into sheep and goats, wheat and tares, wise virgins and foolish, those who accept the invitation to the wedding feast and those who determine to remain outside. Jesus said, “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:41-42 NLT).


On whether people declare themselves for him or against him depends their eternal destiny. Entry into the kingdom of God depends upon relationship with him. Always we meet this religious dualism. It is one of the most objectional elements in the gospel to modern man. No doubt it was to people of the first century. The scandal of Christ’s particularity has always been the supreme obstacle to Christian commitment. But these early Christians believed implicitly that Jesus was the only hope for the world, the only way to God for the human race. Now if you believe that outside of Christ there is no hope, it is impossible to possess an atom of human love and kindness without being gripped with a great desire to bring people to this one way of salvation. We are not surprised, therefore, to find that concern for the state of the unevangelized was one of the great driving forces behind Christian preaching of the gospel in the early Church. 


With tears of earnestness Paul preached both publicly and from house to house, urging his hearers to repent and put their faith in Christ. He was prepared to sacrifice his own life for the advancement of the gospel. For he saw himself, as Ezekiel had done long ago, as God’s watchman, charged to give the people warning of the danger they stood in, so long as they refused to heed the offered mercy of God. If the watchman gave warning and people still refused to hear, then their blood would be on their own head: and that is what Paul is saying was the case. But if he had objected to his commission to be watchman, if he had declined to dedicate himself to evangelism, then he would have been responsible for their fate.


Paul was in debt to Christ, and in debt to those who had never heard of Christ. He was Christ’s ambassador, God’s watchman. The need of those who were strangers to Christ drove him onwards in the cause of evangelism. He believed that behind the indifference and opposition to the gospel which he encountered in Rome was Satanic activity. Paul said, “If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God. You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord” (2 Corinthians 4:3-5a NLT). It is through the preaching of the gospel by humble folk who do not advertise themselves but confidently proclaim the Lordship of Jesus that God’s light breaks into blinded hearts. Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile” (Romans 1:16 NLT).


Clement was so concerned for the welfare of those to whom he wrote that no effort was to be spared in the effort to interest them, captivate them, convince them, and finally win them to Christ. Concern for the unevangelized was one of the great driving forces in this cultured Christian scholar. No doubt the same was true of many an uncultured and unscholarly follower of Christ who has left no memorial, but was as keen as Clement to introduce other people to his Lord.



Completions to Verses:


·      . . . can the love of God be in him?


·      . . . with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:17-18 (NIV)


1/29/21


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


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/5AASqVtF2A8



Complete the Verse & Name the BookAs iron sharpens iron, so . . .  (completion at the end)



Yesterday, Dr. Michael Wedman taught from 2 Thessalonians 1:1-5 with a lesson titled “The Suffering of God” as he continued Fireside Fellowship. This second letter to the Thessalonians comes about because Paul really loves these people—he enjoys their company. He met them on his second missionary journey (see Acts 17). The city of Thessalonica did not welcome Christians with open arms. A riot against Paul and those who sympathized with him created a big stir. As a result, Paul was forced to leave the city. Paul was concerned for the church in Thessalonica because of all the persecution against them, and he wanted to encourage them in their faith. 


There are three purposes in writing this second letter: Paul wants to encourage the church to stand firm amidst persecution and suffering; he wants to correct false teaching about the second coming of Christ; he wants to address those who are disrupting the church and causing division and provide disciplinary action for them.


At most, the length of time between the two letters is two years. 


This letter is from Paul, Silas, and Timothy.


We are writing to the church in Thessalonica, to you who belong to God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.


Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing. We proudly tell God’s other churches about your endurance and faithfulness in all the persecutions and hardships you are suffering. And God will use this persecution to show his justice and to make you worthy of his Kingdom, for which you are suffering (verses 1-5).


Paul gives emphasis to the fact that grace and peace come from nowhere else but God and Christ and our relationship with him. He spotlights the need for unity in the family of God. He’s thankful for the Thessalonians; their faith is exceedingly growing-it’s vigorous in its growth. Progress is being made. It’s like adding fertilizer to some raspberries that are producing an average crop and then they begin to produce an abundance of berries. The spiritual growth in faith of the Thessalonians was amazing! They were spending more time with Jesus and becoming more like him. In 1 Thessalonians 3:2b-3a, Paul said, “We sent [Timothy] to strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, and to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through.” Evidently, Timothy did his job well. 


Paul prayed for them in 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24: Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful.


Not only is their faith growing, but their love for each other is growing. There are more acts of kindness, grace, forgiveness, and meeting needs. People are helping each other out more, encouraging each other, and praying for each other. They are demonstrating their love. They are turning their love into action. 


Trials are times of difficulty. Everyone goes through difficult times in their lives. Persecution is particular to disciples of Christ—they are made to suffer because they follow Christ. Not only do the Christians go through trials, but they are persecuted on top of everything else. Paul is impressed with their endurance and perseverance in the faith. 


So often when trials and persecution enter our life we ask ourselves, “Why is this happening to me? Am I doing something wrong? Is God angry with me? Am I being punished by God?” We tend to believe that trials, persecution, and suffering mean our faith is weak, and we’ve done something wrong. When circumstances are wrong, we tend to think we are wrong. We think God doesn’t love us any longer or at least doesn’t love us as much as he used to. We try to rectify that, and we can’t so we get discouraged and begin to fall away from the faith. 


Paul is proud of the Thessalonians because they don’t have this faulty kind of thinking. Their suffering proves they are worthy of God’s calling. The same God who called them into salvation is calling them into suffering for him. There is a suffering that happens because we are disciples of Christ. When we live out our faith in truth, in its entirety, and with all our being, we will be persecuted. This is a spiritual truth and principle. We have faulty thinking when we think God will bless us and nothing bad will happen to us as long as we’re following God. 


Persecution means we are worthy of the calling. Our greatest example is Jesus. Jesus was the only perfect person who always did exactly what the Father asked him to do, and yet he was persecuted and suffered greatly. Suffering isn’t because we do something wrong; it’s because we do something right. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says: 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. Jesus was persecuted because of his relationship with God the Father. 


Jesus said in Matthew 10:38-39, “If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” Following Christ means suffering for him. 


Jesus said in John 16:33: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” Jesus very clearly told us we are going to experience trouble in this world. 


Paul said in Romans 8:17: And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Following Jesus means we are going to share in his sufferings. In Philippians 1:29 Paul said: For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. Suffering for Christ is a usual, expected, and good part of the Christian life. When we walk the road of suffering like Christ did, we become more like Christ. 


After Paul’s conversion the Lord said to Ananias, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:15-16). Paul knew that following Jesus meant suffering. 


Acts 14:21-22 says: After preaching the Good News in Derbe and making many disciples, Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia, where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God. Suffering is part of being a disciple of Christ. 


Acts 5:41 says: The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus. 


2 Timothy 3:12 says: Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.


1 Peter 4:12-19 says: Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.


If you are insulted because you bear the name of Christ, you will be blessed, for the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you. If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs. But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name! For the time has come for judgment and it must begin with God’s household. And if judgment begins with us, what terrible fate awaits those who have never obeyed God’s Good News? And also, “If the righteous are barely saved, what will happen to godless sinners?” So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you. 


When we are committed to God’s way, his word, and his will, and when we live out the gospel in its entirety and in its truth, we will be persecuted. 


Paul is thankful for the Thessalonians because even though they are being persecuted and being pressed to walk away from God, they are enduring—standing true and firm in the gospel of God in its truth and in its entirety. 


Let’s prove ourselves worthy of the love of Christ. May our faith increase. May our love increase. May our faith and love encourage and strengthen others. May we ourselves be strengthened in Christ.



Verse Completion. . . a friend sharpens a friend. Proverbs 27:17 (NLT)


1/28/21


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


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/LICDBT9LF_Y



Complete the Verse & Name the BookAll discipline for the moment seems not joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, . . . (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 motives.


It was not only a sense of privilege and responsibility in representing Christ and inviting men in Christ’s stead to be reconciled to God which thrilled the evangelists; they were moved by the very example of Jesus himself. “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8 NLT). Such is the pattern of the one they are to emulate. They saw that the evangelistic work of the Servant, which was supremely embodied in the activity and death of Jesus, had now been entrusted to themselves. 


Paul was willing to be accursed for his brethren’s sake because he knew that the one who was in the form of God emptied himself of that form, and took on himself the form of the Servant and was made a curse for us. Is it so wonderful if, when the Lord was made a curse for slaves, the slave should be willing to be a curse for his brethren?


This gratitude, devotion, dedication to the Lord who had rescued them and given them a new life, this sense of being commissioned by him and empowered by his Spirit to do the work of heralds, messengers, and ambassadors, was the main motive in evangelism in the early Church. These people had been gripped by the love of God which had taken concrete form in the person of Jesus and had stooped to unbelievable depths in the agonies of Calvary. Magnetized by this love, their lives could not but show it, their lips could not help telling it. They were convinced that the salvation promised long ago in the Scriptures had actually become a reality through what Jesus had done. How could they keep quiet?


Christians had a strong sense of responsibility before God to live lives consistent with their profession. They lived under the eye of God, and they were determined to please him in all they did. Paul said, “Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3). Paul likened the Christian life to a race. “So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:24b-27). 


Prior to becoming a Christian, Paul had been working to acquire a verdict of “acquitted” at the Last Day by the mercy of God and by strict keeping of the Law. On the Damascus Road he discovered that this was an impossibility. However conscientiously he lived, his best was not good enough for a holy God. He came to see the truth which Jesus had proclaimed so shatteringly in parables like the Wedding Garment and the Great Supper that God accepts the unacceptable if they trust in him alone. He saw that men and women had always been accepted on these terms with God. Abraham, David, and the heroes of his nation’s history—all were in themselves sinful men who cast themselves on the mercy of God and found in him their security, not in their own fancied goodness. Paul wrote: “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory” (Romans 5:1-2). United with Christ we could face the judgment unafraid, released from the paralyzing terror of wondering all through our lives if we would be accepted or rejected at the last. 


This confident assurance of salvation anticipated here and now, albeit to be consummated in the future, did not, however, alter the fact that the Christian would have to stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account of how his life had been spent in the Master’s service. Secure in the knowledge that God would accept him, Paul nevertheless determined so to live that he would not be ashamed before his Lord on that great day. He determined to be true to his call. Paul said, “For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body. Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too” (2 Corinthians 5:11 NLT). 


Judgment Day will disclose the nature of everyone’s work. It will be revealed, so to speak, in fire which will burn up the wood, hay, and stubble but merely serve to emphasize the value and validity of the gold, silver, and precious stones of Christ-centered work. “The fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation [Christ] survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”


It should be plain from the sensitive treatment which Paul gives to this question of future judgment as a motive for Christian service that here is no crude doctrine of punishment and reward. Christians know from the outset that through the grace of God they will be saved, provided they do not apostatize from the Savior. The question of their security, so to speak, does not arise. But the enjoyment of that destiny with God is very much dependent on the character they take out of this life with them. And that character is formed by the extent of their obedience to Christ in loving self-sacrifice for others. God does indeed reward the faithful servant, but the reward is a closer conformity to the character of Christ, which is itself the height of happiness. God’s rewards are still the products of his grace. Indeed, if we may judge from the Parable of the Talents, the reward for faithfulness is increased responsibility, increased intimacy with God, and a capacity to enjoy him. This is very different from treating rewards and punishments as a sanction on holy living. 



Verse Completion: . . . afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Hebrews 12:11 (NASB)


1/27/21


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


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/SdDdMzt_w2U



Complete the Verse & Name the BookA prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton. . . (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 motives.


The early Christians were enthused to evangelize. They did it by preaching and personal conversation, by formal discourse, and informal testimony, by arguing in the synagogue, and by chatting while doing the laundry. They might be slighted, laughed at, disenfranchised, robbed of their possessions, their homes, even their families, but this would not stop them. They might be reported to the authorities as dangerous atheists, and required to sacrifice to the imperial gods; but they refused to comply. In Christianity they had found something utterly new, authentic, and satisfying. They were not prepared to deny Christ even in order to preserve their own lives; and in the manner of their dying they made converts to their faith.


There were three main motives common to the Christian evangelists of these first two centuries: a sense of gratitude, a sense of responsibility, and a sense of concern. They did not spread their message because it was advisable for them to do so, nor because it was the socially responsible thing to do. They did not do it primarily for humanitarian or utilitarian reasons. They did it because of the overwhelming experience of the love of God which they had received through Jesus Christ. Paul said: 


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


·      “For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love” (Romans 5:5b NLT).


John said:


·      “This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins” (1 John 4:10 NLT). 


·      “Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other” (1 John 4:11 NLT).


·      “No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us” (1 John 4:12 NLT).


·      “Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14 NLT).


In a word, Christian evangelism has its motivation rooted in what God is and what he has done for man through the coming and the death and the resurrection of Jesus. “We love each other because [God] loved us first” (1 John 4:19 NLT). 


Reflecting upon the cross was unquestionably the greatest single element in keeping the zeal of Christians at fever pitch.


Clement of Alexandria said, “I urge you to be saved. This Christ desires. In one word, he freely bestows life on you . . . Cleanse the temple; abandon pleasures and amusements to the winds and fire, as a fading flower . . . and present thyself to God as an offering of first fruits. The word of God will be your pilot, and the Holy Spirit will bring you to anchor in the haven of heaven.” Gratitude to God for creation, protection, but supremely for the person and the passion of Christ, was manifestly one of the driving forces of Clement’s life.


The words of Jesus, “If you love me, obey my commandments,” are quoted very little in the writings of the second century. The command was not seen as a new legalism, the duty incumbent upon all Christians, but rather what Roland Allen called a “spiritual” as opposed to a “legal” command. No sanctions are attached to it. It is rather associated with the promised presence of Christ on the mission, which “is not a reward offered to those who obey; it is rather the assurance that those who are commanded will be able to obey.”


The example of Christ and the sense of responsibility to him were very important to the early Church. Mission, they saw, was grounded in the very nature of a God who gave; it must be no less evident in those who claimed to have relationship with such a God. Paul was not alone in taking very seriously his position as a servant of God, an ambassador for Christ, a fellow-workman with God, like a trusted steward in a great household. Peter said, “Worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it” (1 Peter 3:15b). 


Paul said, “This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’—and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen,” (1 Timothy 1:15-17 NLT). This is not pious exaggeration. The privilege of representing God, the challenge of the responsibility of doing it adequately, made a growing impression on Paul throughout his life of his own unworthiness coupled with the abundant love and patience and strength of the Lord who had commissioned him. 



Verse Completion. . . goes blindly on and suffers the consequences. Proverbs 27:12


1/26/21


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


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/KLTu1xv2-Us



Complete the Verse & Name the BookDon’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that . . .  (completion at the end)



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


When sin entered our world, everything was put out of order. We are now surrounded with disorder, disorganization, confusion, chaos, and turmoil on a national and international level. We find disorder in families and personal lives. God working in our lives is intended to produce order. Orderliness is a godly character quality. 


Pearl S. Buck said, “Order is the shape upon which beauty depends.” Edmund Burke said, “Good order is the foundation of all things.” Richard Lattimore said, “It’s best to do things systematically since we’re only human. Disorder is our worst enemy.” Michel de Montaigne said, “The virtue of the soul does not consist in flying high, but in walking orderly.”


Jesus was a person of order. Luke 6:12-13 says: One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. At daybreak he called together all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles. Luke 10:1 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. Jesus operated in an orderly manner. 


What is orderliness? It’s a quality or state of being orderly; methodical, neat, tidy, arranged well. Orderliness is preparing myself and my surroundings so I will achieve the greatest efficiency. Our surroundings might involve our home, office, or vehicle. 


The opposite of orderliness is disorganization. It involves confusion and not keeping order. As a military term it means not keeping rank which is insubordination. A disorganized person is an undisciplined person. In the New Testament the word for disorderliness has been translated as a busybody—one who wastes one’s labor; meddles in other people’s business.


Orderliness is in the very nature of the Trinity. Speaking of worship services, 1 Corinthians 14:33 says: For God is not a God of disorder but of peace, as in all the meetings of God’s holy people. Verse 40 says: But be sure that everything is done properly and in order. Public worship must not get out of order and become disjointed. Emotional excesses are to be avoided. 


The resurrection has order to it. 1 Corinthians 15:23 says: But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back.


Hezekiah was told to put his house in order in 2 Kings 20:1: About that time Hezekiah became deathly ill, and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to visit him. He gave the king this message: “This is what the LORD says: Set your affairs in order, for you are going to die. You will not recover from this illness.” We need to have our lives in order and be prepared for death at all times. 


James 3:16 says: For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. 2 Thessalonians 3:11 says: Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business. Orderliness is a godly character quality that makes us more like Jesus. 


What happens when orderliness is missing? Our thought life is affected. We become marked by confusion. Our life is characterized by vacillation, indecisiveness, turmoil, and excuses. We justify not being punctual or not doing what needs to be done. We blame people or circumstances. Our thoughts need to be renewed by God. Romans 12:1-2 says: And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. When our thought life is not orderly, it affects our emotions. When our thought life is not orderly, we waste a lot of time jumping from one thing to another. It keeps us from being effective in our personal lives: doing what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, how it needs to be done. 


Disorderliness keeps us from being effective in our relationships; we become inconsistent. It keeps us from being effective in our work; we’re less productive than we could be. When our thoughts aren’t in order, our lives aren’t in order. 


What aspects of life need orderliness? Our thought life needs orderliness. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 says: We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. We need the mind of Christ. We need Christ to control our thoughts. When we don’t, we have thoughts of jealousy, anger, bitterness, lust, self-pity. These are the thoughts we go to when we don’t have orderliness in our thoughts. Philippians 4:8b says: Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. We have to have orderliness in our thoughts; we can’t let our mind go wherever it wants to go. We have to bring our thoughts under the control of Jesus who is our Master and King. We need to think things he would have us think. We won’t have an orderly life until we have orderly thinking. 


Our attitude needs orderliness. Attitudes usually carry emotions towards: our job, our spouse, our teacher, the pastor, a board member. Attitudes are thought habits. Bad attitudes are the result of thoughts being out of order. 


Our schedule needs orderliness. Repetition is good for us—we do the same things each day at the same time. Many lives are out of order because they have never learned to live on a schedule. We need to make an agenda, and then stick to that agenda. We need to have personal housekeeping—make your bed in the morning when you get up: https://youtu.be/3sK3wJAxGfs


We need orderliness in our relationship with God. We need to keep our spiritual life in order. Keep in close contact with God. Jesus said in Matthew 6:6: “But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” Backsliding usually begins at the closet door—we don’t enter that quiet place to pray and spend time with Jesus alone. Backsliding usually occurs when we give up the orderliness of prayer. Orderliness helps us live most effectively for God. 


What can be done to build orderliness? 


1.   Insist on it in the little things. Start small. Choose a room and put that room in order. Insist on orderliness with your clothing: pick up your clothes; hang your clothes; put away your clothes. Put orderliness into your meals; mealtime should not be a time of chaos. Go to bed on time. Get up on time. Have a schedule. Those who have orderliness in their sleep patterns are happier, healthier, and more effective than those who don’t. A brain can’t be healthy unless it has the right kind and right amount of sleep. 


2.   Take time to plan. Plan your work, and then work your plan. If you have an interview or you have a conflict with someone, plan what you are going to say before the meeting. Pray about the day you have planned. At the end of the day, evaluate how your plan played out. 


3.   Do things the same way. Repetition is profitable. When in high school, Pastor Del used to go to the barn and practice free throw shots. Sometimes he would shoot 400 free throws in a day. In his last year in high school, he made 92% of his free throws during basketball games. 


Orderliness comes through practice. It can be built and become a positive, life-enhancing character quality. It can be built in our personal lives, our marriages, our homes, and be instilled in our children. We do our kids a great favor when we teach them orderliness. 


Not all of us will have the same kind of orderliness in our lives because we have different personalities. Nevertheless, we need to ask ourselves the questions: How orderly am I? Can I be counted on to do things in an orderly way? God wants to help us build orderliness into our lives as a positive, godly character quality. 



Verse Completion. . . God’s Spirit lives in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16 (NIV)


1/25/21


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/M6LTqtYKDtI



Complete the Verse & Name the BookWounds from a sincere friend are better than. . . (completion at the end)



Yesterday, Pastor Michael’s text for his sermon “Bread and Betrayal” was based on Matthew 26:17-30. We all have plans: plan for the day, vacation plans, plans for renovation, plans for a relationship, plans for a career. Isn’t it great when those plans come together and everything falls into place? So often they don’t.


The Pharisees had plans; the high priest had plans; Judas had plans; Mary had plans, the disciples had plans; Jesus had plans. 


On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” (verse 17)


The disciples want to know the plan. It’s the first day of Passover with 2.75 million people in Jerusalem, and the disciples didn’t have a plan. It’s not a good time to make plans for reserving a place to have the Passover meal, but Jesus already had a plan:


He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’ “ So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover. (verses 18-19)


Earlier Jesus had said to his disciples, “As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” (verse 2)


Now it is the second day. The plans Jesus had made earlier for Passover are falling into place.


When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.”


They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely not I, Lord?” (verses 20-22)


It was customary to sit on the floor cross-legged or recline on the floor with everyone facing the same direction. Each person would place their feet to the right of the person in front of them so they could be close to each other and fit more people around the table. 


Jesus and his disciples were enjoying a good meal together while they conversed with each other. Maybe they forgot for a few minutes that tonight was the night Jesus would be arrested and killed. Maybe they thought it wasn’t going to happen after all. This might be compared to the bully who says he’s going to beat you up after school. It’s in the back of your mind all day, but there are times when you forget all about it. The short reprieves are gone each time you remember what’s coming. You hope the bully has forgotten what he said and nothing will happen. 


It hurts the disciples when they hear that one of them is going to betray Jesus. They have spent three years together. They feel like they know each other well. There’s a strong sense of brotherhood. 


Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” (verses 23-24)


This wasn’t a clear indication as to who would betray Jesus because all the disciples had dipped their hands into the bowl. There was likely a bowl of lamb stew at the Passover meal. The partakers would break off a piece of bread and dip it into the bowl. Jesus was saying the betrayer would be someone who had been in fellowship with them, had shared food with them, and had walked life with them. Betrayal is when someone we know, love, and trust turns against us. 


Earlier in Matthew we saw how the plan of the birth of Jesus went exactly as planned as written in the Old Testament. Now the plan of Jesus’ death will go exactly according to plan as written in the Old Testament and prophesied by Jesus. 


Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?”


Jesus answered, “Yes, it is you.” (verse 25)


Each one of the disciples asked the question, and it appears Judas was the last to ask. He knows he’s guilty because he has already made arrangements with the religious leaders to turn Jesus over to them. He’s been paid for his betrayal. Nevertheless, he asks the question, “Surely, not I, Rabbi?” Jesus confirms Judas is the betrayer. It makes sense that Judas would leave the room at this point. 


While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”


Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (verses 26-29)


Passover was a time to reflect on what God had done for the Israelites in Egypt: God sent the angel of death to take the firstborn from every family who didn’t have the blood of a lamb on the top and sides of their doorframe. The Egyptians did not follow God’s instructions and each household lost their firstborn while the Israelites did follow God’s instructions, and the angel of death passed over them. 


During the Passover celebration, the head of the household would take a cup, pronounce a blessing over the family and the meal, and drink from the cup. Bitter herbs (representing bondage as slaves in Egypt) were then eaten, and the lamb stew was presented. The stew was dipped into by him and everyone else in attendance. Then a second cup was presented, and they sang some hymns taken from Psalm 113-127. Following the songs came the presentation and partaking of the Passover meal. After the meal, there would be a third cup of blessing, and everyone would drink from the cup. Following that there would be a fourth and sometimes a fifth cup. 


This is what is going on as Jesus and his disciples were gathered together. They recognized that it was the blood of the lamb that saved the Israelites from death. When Jesus said, “Take and eat; this is my body” he was making a connection between the lamb they were eating and himself: the lamb was sacrificed so the Israelites could have life; the body of Jesus would be sacrificed so they could have life. Jesus is the Lamb of God. 


When we read “Then he took the cup,” it is probably referring to the third or fourth cup of blessing. After that hymns taken from Psalms 115-118 and 120-127 were sung. When Jesus said, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”  he was quoting from Exodus 24:6-8. The covenant was “he will be our God, and we will be his people.” The covenant was God would save them from death. 


Jesus was making a new covenant. It was no longer the blood of animals that would forgive sins but the blood of Jesus—the Lamb of God. He let the disciples know that this was the last time they would have fellowship together before he was killed. When he came back it would be as the risen Lamb.


When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (verse 30)


Jesus and eleven of his disciples go to the Mount of Olives. Oddly enough, everything is going according to plan. The priests had a plan, Judas had a plan, and Jesus had a plan.


We all have plans, but it’s the plan of Jesus that is fulfilled. Our plans can never usurp his plans. It doesn’t make sense to make plans without Jesus. We need the plan of God for our lives, and that plan is to make Jesus the Lord and Savior of our lives. You can’t do life well without Jesus. We know the ultimate plan: “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12).


A well planned life is one which receives Jesus as Lord and Savior. It’s a life that asks Jesus in and asks Jesus to take control. It’s a life that says, “Jesus, I want your plan, and I will walk according to your plan and not my own. I will follow you because you are my Lord, and you are my Master.”


When the disciples answered Jesus, they all said, “Surely not I, Lord?” except for Judas who said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Judas used a word for teacher. The other disciples used Lord to mean Master and Commander; they used a capital “L” while Judas used a lower case “l.” Jesus was not Master and Commander of his life. Are you living your life with Jesus as Lord or Jesus as lord? That’s a question we must answer. It’s God’s plan that you live your life with Jesus as Master and Commander. 


Give up on your own plans for your life. Throw them out. They amount to nothing. Follow God’s plan for your life. It’s time to humble yourself and submit to Jesus. Pray this simple prayer: “Jesus, I want your plan for my life. I know I have sin in my life. I’ve been planning my own life without you, and I know it won’t work. I repent of that. I believe you died on the cross for my sins. I believe you rose from the grave on the third day. Come into my life. Be my Lord and Savior. Be my Master and Commander. Forgive me of my sins. Let me live your plan for my life. I ask this in your name, Jesus. Amen.”


If you prayed this prayer, share that wonderful news with someone you know who has Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Let that person help show you how to live out God’s plan for your life. We all need someone to help us. 



Verse Completion. . . many kisses from an enemy. Proverbs 27:6 (NLT)


1/23/21


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


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/DZP9IihtLII



Complete the Verse & Name the BookI am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for  . . . (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 the evangelists.


If the loving fellowship of the Christian community was one prerequisite for effective evangelism, another was a transformed character. The transformation of John, that Son of Thunder, into the apostle of love, or of Peter, that mercurial hothead, into a man of rock is an essential part of the logic of the gospel. This is what contact with Christ does for a man. He becomes changed into likeness to Christ from one degree of glory to another by the Lord the Spirit. Evangelists used the language of mystical union with Christ or the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to get across the idea of this growing metamorphosis.


 The kind of contrast Paul makes between the “works of the flesh” and the “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5 must have been commonplace, and it was very obvious to pagan eyes. Justin said, “we who formerly delighted in fornication now embrace chastity alone; we who formerly used magic arts dedicate ourselves to the good and unbegotten God; we who valued above all things the acquisition of wealth and possessions now bring all we have into a common stock and share it out to all according to their need; we who hated and destroyed one another and on account of their different manner of life would not live with men of another tribe, now, since the coming of Christ, live happily with them, and pray for our enemies and endeavor to persuade those who hate us unjustly to live conformably to the good precepts of Christ, so that they may become partakers with us of the same joyful hope of a reward from God the ruler of all.”


The link between holy living and effective evangelism could hardly be made more effectively. In particular, Christians stood out for their chastity, their hatred of cruelty, their civil obedience, good citizenship, and payment of taxes. They did not expose infants; they did not swear. They refused to have anything to do with idolatry and its by-products. Such lives made a great impact. Even the heathen opponents of Christianity often admitted as much. Both Pliny and Lucian recognized the pure life, devoted love, and amazing courage of the Christians; so did Marcus Aurelius and Galen. And Christian writers, aware of how crucial this holiness of life was to the advance of the mission, are always stressing its importance.


The sheer joyous enthusiasm of the early evangelists enhanced their absolute claims for Jesus Christ. If he really was the only way to God, if there was salvation in no other, then it is not surprising that they should commend him with such enthusiasm to others. Jesus had promised his joy as a permanent possession of his Church, a joy which no man could take from them. And they demonstrated that this was so. They might be thrown into prison for their views, but they were still singing hymns to God at midnight. Conversion and joy are closely related. Often outward circumstances were unpleasant enough, but that could not rob them of the joy which was their Christian birthright.


The joy that Jesus had displayed even in the face of death was shared by his followers. Paul rejoiced to finish the course with joy, even though he knew that would probably mean martyrdom. This joy came from the confidence that nothing could ultimately harm the person whose Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, and Friend was none other than God himself. A joy which took a man cheerfully to his death for the sake of one he could not see made a profound impression on the ancient world. Joyful Christian lives and, even more, joyful Christian deaths were major factors which attracted non-Christians to Christ. 


This joy of the Christians in both life and death is closely linked with their patient endurance of scourging, insults, and martyrdom which had an incalculable effect in bringing observers to faith. “The oftener we are mowed down by you, the more in number we grow. The blood of the Christians is seed,” said Tertullian; and he spoke from much personal experience. It was not merely the fact that these men and women, drawn from all ranks in society, were prepared to hazard their lives for the Lord Jesus, but it was the manner in which they carried their witness through until death which caused such admiration. Christians faced death with joyful exultation. It was the same with minor annoyances. The spirit of non-retaliation for evil, inculcated by Jesus, had so taken root even in the earliest days of the Church that when Peter and John were imprisoned and threatened by an imposing meeting of the Sanhedrin for their Christian activities, they did not bluster or complain, much less give up. They did not hold a committee meeting to decide what should be done next. They simply joined their friends, and gave themselves to prayer, and then continued preaching the risen Christ. Paul said he was given the privilege of not only believing on Christ but also of suffering for his sake.


There was one other notable characteristic about the early evangelists, though it is one which reads strangely to modern Western eyes: the sheer power that went with the proclamation of the Christian message. The preachers were so full of the Spirit of God, so persuaded of the truth and relevance of their message, that it overflowed from them, and men received what they had to say. 


Part of the power involved healings and exorcisms. The power of the name of Jesus was more effective than any charm, and the Christians were careful to distinguish its effect from magic. Origen points out that unlike magic Christian miracles are always wrought for the benefit of men, that they are done by men whose lives are exemplary, not wicked, and by faith in the power of God, not of evil. No magical lore and sophisticated training was necessary: indeed, it is, generally speaking, uneducated people who do this kind of work by means of prayer, reliance on the name of Jesus, and some brief allusion to his story. For it was not the power of men, or their knowledge of the right formulae which produced these cures, but the power in the word of Christ.


It is an interesting fact arising from all this evidence that exorcisms were done in an evangelistic context. They backed up the claims of the preached word. 


The author said he has seen and been involved in some powerful healings and exorcisms that have likely influenced people to answer the call of the gospel. He goes on to say, “Equally, they can be written off by a hard heart just as they could by the Pharisees who refused to repent at the miracles of Jesus. Signs and wonders never compel faith, but they do point to a beneficent and powerful God who is ready and willing to save.”


In the early centuries the healings and exorcisms performed by the Christian missionaries reinforced their love, the quality of their fellowship, the character of their lives, the courage with which they faced death, and the joy and enthusiasm with which they bore testimony to their Lord.



Verse Completion. . . apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15:5 (NASB)


1/22/21


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


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



Complete the Verse & Name the BookFire goes out without wood, and . . .  (completion at the end)



Yesterday, Dr. Michael Wedman concluded his study of 1 Thessalonians as he taught from 1 Thessalonians 5:23-28 with a lesson titled “The Faithfulness of God” as he continued the ministry of Fireside Fellowship.


It’s God’s will that we are sanctified and set apart for him. We are set apart from the former life we lived in the flesh with our sinful nature to God with the new nature he gives us through a transformation brought about by the Holy Spirit. Sanctification is that process whereby our thoughts, speech, and actions are changed to reflect and promote Christ. Our actions, reactions, and interactions with people are transformed to become more like Jesus. 


Sanctification involves doing God’s will, ways, and work. Sanctified people don’t look like the world in their sexual relations (sanctified people are involved sexually only in the context of a marriage between a husband and wife), how their time is used (to build the kingdom of God), and their speech (to proclaim the kingdom of God). Sanctified people have hope of life after death. Those who are sanctified know Jesus is returning, and they are engaged in the deeds of light rather than the deeds of darkness. Gifts, talents, abilities, health, and wealth are all used to build God’s kingdom rather than their own kingdom. Sanctified people are peacemakers because they have the Spirit of Christ in them. 


Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful.

Dear brothers and sisters, pray for us.

Greet all the brothers and sisters with a sacred kiss.

I command you in the name of the Lord to read this letter to all the brothers and sisters.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.


Sanctification is the work of God. Spiritual growth in our lives is the work of God. Spiritual maturity is the work of God. We can’t sanctify ourselves. We who have a sinful nature are unable to make ourselves holy. It’s by the power of God that we are sanctified. Trying harder won’t make us sanctified. Sanctification is not about being a “good” person; it’s about being a godly person. “Good” people are made good by their works. Godly people are made godly by God. Our part is inviting God into our lives and asking him to make us holy. Our part is humbling ourselves before God and submitting our will to his will. 


We need to be made aware of our need for sanctification. We need to agree with God that our lives need to be set apart to build his kingdom. As God reveals different areas of our lives that need to be sanctified, we need to submit those areas to him. 


2 Corinthians 3:18 says: So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.


We are regenerated by the Holy Spirit. 


Jesus said in John 14:15-17: “If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.”


It’s the power of God within us that enables us to be sanctified—set apart for service. Our part is to say, “Holy Spirit, do your sanctifying work in me. I give myself over to you.” 


Jesus said in John 16:7-15: “But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me. Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more. Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.

“There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.’ “


As believers each one of us has God not only with us but in us by the Holy Spirit. It’s the Holy Spirit who convicts us of our sins and invites us to a new life in Christ. It’s the Holy Spirit who leads us to truth. It’s by the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to think, talk, and speak like Christ. We have a choice: invite the Holy Spirit into our lives or reject the Holy Spirit. 


Our bodies need to be sanctified so everything is given over to God: where we go, what we do, what we say, what we see with our eyes. Paul specifically said bodybecause there was a belief that the body really didn’t matter since it would die and decay at some point—what really mattered was the spirit. Paul is saying it does matter what we do with our bodies. Body, soul, and spirit all need to be set apart for God. May our spiritual fervor for knowing God become even greater. 


We get drawn back into sinful patterns. Our sinful nature entices us to fall back and live how we used to live, and it’s frustrating. Paul described the dilemma and solution in Romans 7:21-25: I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.


It’s the will of God and the power of the Holy Spirit that set us apart from the world and make us holy. When we submit areas of our lives to God and ask him to sanctify those areas, he will sanctify those areas. It might happen immediately, or it might happen over a lifetime as we continue to submit those areas to God. God wants us to be set apart. He has called us to be his people. 


Paul recognizes that the success of the building of the kingdom of God depends upon God. Therefore, prayer is of utmost importance. The sanctified life is difficult; prayer is indispensable. We need to pray for one another. 


Kisses were a form of greeting for family members. Paul is reminding the Thessalonians that they are family. They have the same Christ, the same Lord. They have been adopted into the family of God. 


Paul wants everyone to know God in his fullness and be sanctified through and through. He wants his message on sanctification to be shared with others. The Thessalonians aren’t to keep his words to themselves. Knowledge/information is power so the temptation is to keep knowledge to oneself to give oneself more power. Paul doesn’t want them to be like that. He is commanding them to share his letter. Since many people couldn’t read or write at this time in history, the letter needs to be read aloud. 


Paul opened his letter with grace and he closes it with grace. Our life is a life of grace, and we need to recognize that and live in God’s grace. Our lives need to endue God’s grace to others. God’s grace needs to be like a perfume that follows us wherever we go and is enjoyed by others. May we know the grace, live the grace, and give the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to others. 



Verse Completion. . . quarrels disappear when gossip stops. Proverbs 26:20


1/21/21


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


Song for the Day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4spJTeVrTUE&feature=youtu.be



Complete the Verse & Name the BookTherefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; . . . (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 the evangelists.


Who were the first evangelists in the early church? The apostles. Eusebius said, “by the power and assistance of heaven the saving Word began to flood the whole world with light like the rays of the sun.” Justin said, “From Jerusalem there went out twelve men into the world; they were unlearned and had no ability in speaking; yet by the power of God they proclaimed to every race of men that they were sent by Christ to teach to all the Word of God.”


The term apostle applied both to the apostles of Jesus Christ (the original Twelve and Paul) and also to roving missionaries sent out by the churches and supported by the gifts of the faithful. Their lives, their message, and their Christian effectiveness were their credentials. So far from being motivated by selfish considerations, they often refused to accept the bare necessities of life. 


From outdoor meetings grew catechetical “schools” where all were welcome. When the simple predominated, the more profound truths of Christianity were passed over, and the teachers concentrated on giving “milk.” When able enquirers formed the main part of the gathering, the deeper mysteries of the faith were expounded. Their aim was throughout pastoral and evangelistic; that is why they adapted their message to the capabilities of the hearers. The objective of their lives was to bring men and women of all backgrounds and intellectual abilities to the truth about God, man, and the universe as it was revealed in Jesus Christ.


The very disciples themselves were, significantly, laymen, devoid of formal theological or rhetorical training. Christianity was from its inception a lay movement, and so it continued for a remarkably long time. In a sense, the apostles inevitably became “professionals.” But as early as Acts 8 we find that it is not the apostles but the “amateur” missionaries, the men evicted from Jerusalem as a result of the persecution which followed Stephen’s martyrdom, who took the gospel with them wherever they went. They were evangelists, just as much as any apostle was. There may not have been formal preaching, but there was informal chattering to friends and chance acquaintances, in homes and wine shops, on walks, and around market stalls. They went everywhere gossiping the gospel; they did it naturally, enthusiastically, and with the conviction of those who are not paid to say that sort of thing. Consequently, they were taken seriously, and the movement spread, notably among the lower classes. 


Every Christian was called to be a witness to Christ not only by life but by lip. Everyone was to be an apologist, at least to the extent of being ready to give a good account of the hope that was within them. And this emphatically included women. They had a very large part to play in the advance of Christianity.


The New Testament tells us of women laboring in evangelism, acting as hostess to the Church in their houses, prophesying and speaking in tongues, and acting as deaconesses. This prominence of women continued, as we have seen, in the second century. Sometimes it would be exercised through public speaking, sometimes through martyrdom. 


The almost superhuman dedication of which early Christian women were capable is illustrated by the accounts of some of the martyrdoms. Aged twenty-two, married a year previously, and with a baby at her breast, Perpetua was martyred for her faith in the year AD 203 in Carthage. Before her death, she managed to record her impressions of her imprisonment. Her father tried everything to make her recant. First, he was rough with her, but found that he distressed her to no effect. Then he turned to appeals; his grey hairs, her mother, and supremely her own tiny son who would not be able to survive her, were all thrown into the scales to induce her to change her mind. But she remained firm, and went with dignity and courage to her death. The effect of such devotion to Christ can well be imagined.


Christians claimed that one God, good, loving and upright, was the creator of the whole world; that he had disclosed himself personally in Jesus of Nazareth, through whose death and resurrection a new relationship with God was available for all people who wished to have it; and that his Spirit was available to enter human lives and morally transform them from within, while at the same time binding the Christians together in a loving fellowship to which there was no parallel in antiquity. Moreover, it was seen to be the task of every member of this fellowship to do all in his or her power to spread the gospel to others. Naturally, therefore, the lives of the Christians came under close scrutiny. The truth of their claims must have been assessed to a very large degree by the consistency of their lives with what they professed. That is why the emphasis on the link between mission and holiness of life is given such prominence both in the New Testament and the second century literature.


Inevitably Christians will get abused, but when they do they must keep their conscience clear so that those who revile their good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. Life and lip went together in commending the Christian cause. There must be a clear proclamation of Jesus as Messiah and Lord; and it must be backed up by the lives of men who are not self-centered in their approach. Belief and behavior cannot be separated without disastrous results, among them the end of effective evangelism. That is why the New Testament writers are so intolerant of both doctrinal and moral defections among their converts. Theophilus said with Christians “temperance dwells, self-restraint is practiced, monogamy observed, chastity guarded, righteousness exercised, worship performed, God acknowledged; truth governs them, grace guards, peace screens them, and the holy Word guides.”


The fellowship the Church offered transcended barriers of race, sex, class, and education, and was an enormous attraction. Here were societies in which aristocrats and slaves, Roman citizens and provincials, rich and poor, mixed on equal terms and without distinction: societies which possessed a quality of caring and love which was unique. Herein lays its attraction. Here was something that must be guarded at all costs if the Christian mission was to go ahead. It is for this reason, among others, that we find Christian unity such a crucial matter not only to the New Testament writers, but to Ignatius, Clement, and the second century authors in general.


Tertullian describes the affection which marks the Christian brethren assembled together. The meeting is opened and closed with prayer. Worship, fellowship, and feasting are all carried out under the Father’s eye. The lowly, the needy, the sick are shown particular consideration. Contributions are voluntary and proportionate to each one’s income: they are used to support and bury poor people, to supply the wants of boys and girls who are destitute of means and parents, and of old people now confined to the house, and such as have suffered shipwreck . . . or any who happen to be in the mines or banished to the islands or shut up in prison for their fidelity to God’s Church.



Verse Completion. . . the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)


1/20/21


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


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/Pc5TFKEooto



Complete the Verse & Name the BookDon’t gaze at the wine, seeing how red it is, how it sparkles in the cup, how smoothly it goes down. For in the end . . . (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 conversion.


One of the main factors which led thinking people to Christianity was the discovery within it of the true philosophy, an intelligible and credible account of God, the world, and man. It was the sweetness and power of the words of Jesus that brought Justin to his knees. It was the Old Testament Scriptures, in particular, which satisfied Tatian’s quest for truth. Athenagoras the Athenian was converted through reading the Scriptures. Theophilus of Antioch was an intellectual who was won over by the superiority of the Scriptures over anything else he had ever come across. Clement of Alexandria was another who came to Christ primarily along the path of the intellect.


A second group of Christians came to faith in Christ through a longing for deliverance from the forces of magic, ignorance, sin, and death. An unknown author found in Christ the answer to his doubts, his lust, his hunger for immortality, and his longing for a coherent, simple, convincing explanation of the world. So while the quest for deliverance predominated, the hunger for truth was a significant factor for him. 


Deliverance from the guilt and power of evil has always been a major impetus to conversion for Paul and Augustine. 


Cyprian was an aristocratic orator from Carthage: rich, cultured, but beneath it all he was very much aware of his sin and wondered if there could be any chance of a fresh start for one like himself. He described the situation in his letter to Donatus. “I used to wander blindly in the darkness of night, buffeted this way and that in the stormy sea of the world; hither and thither I floated, ignorant of my own life, and a stranger to the truth and the light. Given the manner of life I lived in those days, I used to think that what God in his tenderness promised me for my salvation was difficult, indeed distasteful. How could a man be reborn and quickened for a new life in the water of baptism? How could one be regenerated and have done with all the past, and, without physical changes, be altered in heart and soul? How, I asked myself, was such a conversion possible? For I was captured and held prisoner by the countless sins of my past life; I did not believe it was possible to be rid of them. So I became a slave to my vices. I despaired of better things. I learned to make excuses for my faults which had become my familiar friends.”


Cyprian found the enormous relief of baptism into Christ, forgiveness, and the moral transformation wrought by the Holy Spirit. “The water of regeneration washed away the stains of my past life. A light from above entered and permeated my heart, now cleansed from its defilement. The Spirit came from heaven, and changed me into a new man by the second birth. Almost at once in a marvelous way doubt gave way to assurance, what had been shut tight, opened; light shone in dark places; and I found what had previously seemed difficult had become easy, and what I had thought impossible could be done. You know it all well enough; you understand as I do what it is that brought me this death to sin and this resurrection to godly living. You know it full well; I am not boasting.”


For all their differences, the profound change which came over men and women when they entrusted themselves to Christ affected their intellect, their conscience, their will, and their subsequent life. Henceforth it was their intention, and progressively their achievement, to say with the apostle, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”


There is another significant aspect to conversion—the impact of exorcism. It was of course prominent in the ministry of Jesus and the apostles, and it continued. “Signs and wonders” figure on almost every page of the Acts, and Luke is clear that they, together with fulfilled prophecies, are a major factor in the advance of the Church. 


One of the main reasons why the gospel spread so fast was because demons that spoiled human lives could be and were thrown out by the power of the living God, who thus demonstrated that he is the Power above all others. 


This ministry of deliverance had particular impact on the poorer classes: we must remember that probably three-quarters of the inhabitants of the ancient world could neither read nor write. To see God’s power actively displayed in their midst played a very big part in their conversion. Origen writes of Christians in his day who drive out demons from people afflicted by them “without any curious magical art or sorcerer’s device, but with prayer alone and very simple adjurations and formulae such as the simplest person could use. For generally speaking, it is the uneducated people who do this kind of work. The power in the word of Christ shows the worthlessness and weakness of the demons, for it is not necessary to have a wise man who is competent in the rational proof of the faith in order that they should be defeated and yield to expulsion form the body of a man.” We must conclude, therefore, that while the conversion of the intellectuals was primarily assisted by Scripture, debate and the godly lives of the evangelists, that of the common people was largely brought about through the miraculous power of the gospel to set people free from the dark forces that could infest and spoil human life. 



Verse Completion. . . it bites like a poisonous snake; it stings like a viper. Proverbs 23:31-32


1/19/21


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


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/FkRiYsTN7KY



Complete the Verse & Name the BookFor the foolishness of God is . . .  (completion at the end)



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


In John 12:1-8 we have the story of Mary anointing Jesus with an expensive perfume that would require a year’s worth of wages to purchase. Judas and the disciples objected saying the money used to purchase the perfume should have been given to the poor. In the first part of seventh verse, Jesus said to the disciples, “Leave her alone.” Jesus was sensitive to Mary while Judas was not. Judas was a hypocrite. He didn’t care about the poor. He cared about himself and lining his own pockets. Judas was callused while Jesus was sensitive. Mary was sincere while Judas was insincere.


Jesus cared about Mary, and he cares about us. Romans 8:34 says: Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.


What is sincerity? It’s a state of quality (not just an act). It’s a kind of quality. It’s what’s usually, generally, consistently true of a person. That’s what a character quality is whether it’s a godly character quality or an ungodly character quality. Sincerity is an honesty of mind or intention. It’s freedom from stimulations or hypocrisy. It’s genuine earnestness. A sincere person is the same inwardly as he is outwardly in appearance. A sincere person is genuine, real, straightforward, and honest. Sincerity is an eagerness to do what is right with transparent motives. 1 Peter 1:22 says: You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart. A sincere person is: transparent, easily understood, clear, open, frank, and candid. A comment regarding a sincere person might be, “You know where he stands.”


What is the opposite of sincerity? It’s hypocrisy—acting or playing a part. It’s like the actors who hold a mask in front of their face and become somebody they aren’t. People who are not sincere project qualities they don’t have. They might show up at church and go through the motions of worshiping God while they live in deliberate, unfaced sin. Our world is filled with hypocrisy. One can see it in movies, sports, and other places. In the early years of the church, people were not allowed to be part of the fellowship if they were a prostitute, gladiator, or actor. Jesus said in Matthew 23:25: “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence!”


What prevents us from being sincere people?


1.   We naturally have something to hide. It started back in the Garden of Eden. Scripture deals with the importance of having a clear conscience:


·      1 Timothy 1:19


·      Acts 24:16


·      Acts 23:1


·      Romans 9:1    


·      2 Timothy 1:3


·      1 Peter 3:16


·      2 Corinthians 1:12


·      1 Timothy 1:5


·      1 Timothy 3:9


·      Hebrews 13:18


·      1 Corinthians 4:4


How many people are we sending down the wrong road with our hypocrisy? What are we trying to hide? Is it bitterness, anger, unforgiveness, or flaws we won’t address?


2.   Lack of love. We’re not willing to take risks with people. We resist God. We often lose sensitivity when we are injured by another person. Those working in trades involving physical labor might get callouses on their hands. It’s possible for us to get callouses on our hearts and lose the love we should have for other people. 


3.   Habit. We’ve seen insincerity modeled for us. 


4.   Our sin nature. We need to call on God to take away our addictions and perversions.


How can we tell when we don’t have sincerity? When we hide from someone or something. When we don’t tell the whole truth. When we try to manipulate. When we’re more concerned about looking good to others rather than being godly. When we attack people from behind by whispering, slandering, gossiping, criticizing, or giving a bad report about someone. 


What happens when we don’t have sincerity? We learn to fake it. We don’t relate to others and others don’t relate to us. True friendship is prevented. We live in a world of independence. It’s difficult to find support when it’s needed. It also hinders ministry—people won’t come to us when we’re not real. We lose our saltiness and our light is hidden. People become suspicious of us. People begin to guess at what we are and what we aren’t; what we mean and what we don’t mean. They begin to fill in the blanks. They begin to suspect things they shouldn’t suspect. 


What happens when we have sincerity? We have credibility—people believe us and trust us when they see authenticity in our lives. We have the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  We also have confidence. We know who we are. We don’t have to second guess ourselves.


How can we build sincerity? We need to recognize and deal with hypocrisy as a sin. We need to confess hypocrisy and repent of it. We need to renounce it and die to it. We have to deal thoroughly with it. It’s possible that’s it’s easier to deal with drunkenness or adultery than insincerity. We can’t rationalize it or justify it. We have to make a commitment to be sincere. We trust God to make us real people. The old hymn “Rock of Ages” is an example of sincerity:



Rock of Ages, cleft for me,

Let me hide myself in Thee;

Let the water and the blood,

From Thy riven side which flowed,

Be of sin the double cure,

Save me from its guilt and power.


Not the labor of my hands

Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;

Could my zeal no respite know,

Could my tears forever flow,

All could never sin erase,

Thou must save, and save by grace.


Nothing in my hands I bring,

Simply to Thy cross I cling;

Naked, come to Thee for dress,

Helpless, look to Thee for grace:

Foul, I to the fountain fly,

Wash me, Savior, or I die.


While I draw this fleeting breath,

When mine eyes shall close in death,

When I soar to worlds unknown,

See Thee on Thy judgment throne,

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,

Let me hide myself in Thee.



Jesus was crucified for us. We can hide ourselves in him when we are sincere. We need to get rid of the sham, pretense, and deception and be honest with ourselves and with God. 


The hymn “Moment by Moment” also speaks about sincerity:



Dying with Jesus, by death reckoned mine;

Living with Jesus a new life divine;

Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine,

Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.


Never a trial that He is not there,

Never a burden that He doth not bear;

Never a sorrow that He doth not share,

Moment by moment, I’m under His care.


Never a heartache, and never a groan,

Never a teardrop, and never a moan;

Never a danger but there on the throne

Moment by moment He thinks of His own.



Jesus is always praying for us. It’s our sincerity of heart that attracts people to Jesus. May we always be growing in the character quality of sincerity. 



Verse Completion. . . wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. 1 Corinthians 1:25 (NIV)


1/18/21


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/gwsMYaeA09I



Complete the Verses & Name the Book

·      Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich. Be wise enough to . . . 


·      In the blink of an eye wealth disappears, for it will . . . (completion at the end)



Yesterday, Pastor Michael’s text for his sermon “Anointing and Annoyance” was based on Matthew 26:1-16. Not everyone will enter into the kingdom of heaven because not everybody believes in Jesus, receives Jesus, follows Jesus, worships Jesus and works to build the kingdom of Jesus. Some work to build their own kingdom. 


The public teaching of Jesus has now been completed and he is two days away from his death:


When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, “As you know, Passover begins in two days, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified” (verses 1-2). This is Scene 1 of this passage of Scripture.


Scene 2 is a secret meeting:


At that same time the leading priests and elders were meeting at the residence of Caiaphas, the high priest, plotting how to capture Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the Passover celebration,” they agreed, “or the people may riot” (verses 3-5).


The religious leaders previously had wanted to discredit Jesus and make him look bad, but now they wanted him dead. Those who were supposed to be leading the people to God were now plotting to kill God. 


Caiaphas was the high priest for 18 years when an average time for high priests to serve was approximately three and a half years. When we go back in history we see that high priests were from the line of Aaron—they came from one family. When the Romans took over Israel, they decided who the high priest would be. Family line no longer mattered. It became very political. The high priest was no longer about leading people to God. Rather than being a high priest that represented God to the people, Caiaphas represented Rome to the people. He didn’t stand up for God; he stood up for Rome. Because Caiaphas was such a good politician, he was able to keep his job far longer than others had been able to remain as high priests.


There were around 3.75 million people in Jerusalem for the Passover, and the last thing the religious leaders wanted was for a riot to break out. They had to be careful about how they arranged for the death of Jesus. If there was a riot, Caiaphas would be replaced as high priest, and he couldn’t have that. Notice the conflict between Scene 1 and Scene 2: Jesus would die in two days (during Passover), and Jesus would die after Passover. As the events unfolded we see that it’s God who establishes timelines. God is sovereign over all. 


We now move to Scene 3:


Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume and poured it over his head (verses 6-7).


John 12:3 says: Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance.


The cost of the perfume was approximately a year’s worth of wages. To get a little perspective on how much money this was, let’s look at the time when Jesus fed 5,000 men (approximately 15,000 people). Mark 6:37 says: But Jesus said, “You feed them.”

“With what?” they asked. “We’d have to work for months to earn enough money to buy food for all these people!” 


The bottle of perfume could have purchased enough food to feed approximately 30,000 people. That’s a lot of food! 


The disciples were indignant when they saw this. “What a waste!” they said. “It could have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor” (verses 8-9).


The disciples were trying to make Mary feel guilty and shameful for what she had done, and they were even trying to make Jesus feel the same way for allowing it. 


But Jesus, aware of this, replied, “Why criticize this woman for doing such a good thing to me? You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me. She has poured this perfume on me to prepare my body for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed” (verses 10-13).


The disciples said what Mary did was bad but Jesus said it was good. Mary understood who Jesus was—the Messiah, and she understood he was going to die in two days. She prepared his body for burial by pouring the perfume on his body. In a relationship with Jesus, she gave everything. She loved him with her whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. 


The disciples made it about works, legality, and money. Mary was about building God’s kingdom. 


But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself (John 12:4-6).


Judas was a thief who stole money from Jesus and the other disciples. He didn’t care about the poor; he cared about himself. He was a hypocrite. He liked using Jesus to profit himself. He was selfish and self-centered. He wasn’t there to serve Jesus. He was a pretender who didn’t have a relationship with Jesus. He worked to build his own kingdom. Mary gave; Judas took. Those who are in a relationship give; those who are not in a relationship take. Mary desired to have Jesus on the throne of her life. By pouring the oil on Jesus, she crowned him as king of her life. 


Sadly, in churches today there are people who are there for control. They are not there to build the kingdom of God. They aren’t interested in having a relationship with Jesus. Anytime someone shames another person in public, we know that doesn’t come from God. Judas shamed Mary in front of all who were present. True disciples of Christ build each other up with their words and actions. 


When the disciples were indignant and asked, “Why this waste?” it shows they had been influenced by Judas. When Mary broke her jar of perfume, the wonderful aroma filled the house. When Judas broke his jar of shaming Mary, its poison filled the house and poisoned the other disciples. We have to be very careful because there is always the poison of a Judas amongst us: arguing, complaining, bickering, pointing out what’s wrong, shaming people and tearing people down. Mary worshiped; Judas complained. 


Now we come to Scene 4:


Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests and asked, “How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?” And they gave him thirty pieces of silver. From that time on, Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus (verses 14-16).


In Matthew 17:22, Jesus prophesied, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies.” Now we see the fulfillment of that prophecy. 


Exodus 21:32 tells us that if a slave was accidentally killed by someone’s ox, the price of that slave was to be thirty silver coins. The religious leaders didn’t look at Jesus as being worth any more than a slave, and they offered Judas that amount to turn him over to them. Judas agreed because his first love was money. He had a greater relationship with money than he had with Jesus. 


In these four scenes we see different responses to worship. Jesus accepted worship from Mary. He told the disciples to leave her alone as she had done a beautiful thing. We need to be like Mary. We need to pour out everything we have to Jesus and crown him as king of our lives. The religious leaders wanted to kill Jesus. They wanted people to worship them and not Jesus. Judas’ response was to try and control Jesus so he could get his own way. 


Let us crown Jesus as king of our lives. Mary got it right: Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords; Jesus is the Messiah.  



Completions to Verses:


·      . . . know when to quit.


·      . . . sprout wings and fly away like an eagle. (Proverbs 23:4-5)


1/16/21


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/l2xhf_Gogjs



Complete the Verse & Name the BookLive in harmony with one another. Don’t be proud, but be . . . (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 conversion.


One may ask if preaching for a decision was a necessary part of evangelism. Consider this: If there is one God, Creator, Redeemer, Judge, as the early Church passionately asserted, then those who have been brought back from their rebellion against him into fellowship with him cannot but pass on the knowledge of that rescue to others; the new life cries out to be shared. In obedience to Jesus Christ’s express command, the Church could not do less than go and preach the gospel to all who would hear. And once preached it could not but be divisive because it would not fit in with the comfortable contemporary synthesis of religions, but made absolute claims on a person’s loyalty and allegiance in the name of an absolute God.


The apostles thought of the Church as the extension of Israel, and consequently baptism was the appropriate mode of entry, as circumcision had been in the Old Testament. The Church was equally the fellowship of believers, for which repentance and faith are the conditions of acceptance. It is no less true that the Church is the community of the Spirit, and the only way to join this community is to allow the Spirit of Jesus access to one’s life. It goes without saying that the Catholics have tended to stress the first of these concepts, the Protestants the second, and the Pentecostals the third. All are equally valid; but each one becomes falsified if taken in isolation and to its logical extreme.


A modern objection that is brought against any definite, challenging preaching for conversion is that it is too emotional, too hasty and naïve, and appeals only to a certain type of person. The apostles gave themselves to the proclamation of the Word. They spent a great deal of time at it, day in day out, year in year out. Paul might spend only a few weeks in Thessalonica, but whole years in Corinth and Ephesus. He could argue all day long with Jewish theologians; he could talk all night until Eutychus fell out of the window, and when that little problem was sorted out, he could go on talking until daybreak! He could preach with all his heart in Pisidian Antioch and then defer the matter for another week. He argued with passers-by in the market place at Athens, he held discussions in the lecture hall of Tyrannus, he entered into extended dialogue, with Felix and Agrippa. 


Primitive evangelism was by no means mere proclamation and exhortation; it included able intellectual argument, skillful study of the Scriptures, careful, closely reasoned teaching, and patient argument. Evangelism is called teaching in several places in Acts. The hearers would inevitably want to know a good deal about Jesus before putting their faith in him. 


The apostles asked for faith which was self-commitment on evidence, not a leap into the dark. They were tied to history by the very fact of the incarnation and they did not seek to escape from it. The gospel does indeed challenge people to decision, but not an emotional or ill-considered commitment.


Paul’s conversion touched him at every level of his being. His mind was informed and illuminated; Jesus was not, as he had thought, accursed, but was the Lord. His conscience was reached; he faced up to the fact that he had been kicking against the pricks. His emotions were stirred as he saw the implications of his rebellion against Christ. But this was a mere incidental on the way to his will, Christ’s real goal. His will was bent in trusting surrender to Jesus who had called him, and who was from henceforth to be Lord of his life. And in consequence his life was transformed: in direction, immediately, and in achievement as time went on. His supreme aim henceforth was to live for his Redeemer. 


The conversion of Paul serves as a pattern for subsequent believers. Despite the enormous variety of temperaments, backgrounds and capacities of those reached by the gospel in the early Church, an illuminated mind, a quickened conscience, a humbled grateful heart, a yielded will, and a changed life were the common factors in the conversion of them all. If Paul provides the classic example of sudden conversion, that of Peter is much more gradual.



Verse completion. . . willing to associate with people of low position. Don’t be conceited. Romans 12:16 (NIV)


1/15/21


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


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



Complete the Verse & Name the BookDirect your children onto the right path, and when they are older, . . .  (completion at the end)



Yesterday, Dr. Michael Wedman taught from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 with a lesson titled “The Will of God” as he continued Fireside Fellowship.


The majority of what Paul wanted to say to the Thessalonians in this first letter to them has been said. Now he wants to leave them with six phrases they can focus on as they live sanctified lives for Christ:


Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.


We are to look at life with eyes that see things that are good—things which brings joy. There can always be joy in life because God exists: he sees things, understands things, and has the power to act for us because he loves us. He knows what’s best for us. Philippians 4:4 says: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Not only do we rejoice with the words we say but also with our attitude, expression, and body language. Those who rejoice lift others up. How can we lift others up if we are angry, bitter, complaining, tearing others down, or fault finding? 


In the first part of 2 Corinthians 6, Paul described some of his hardships, but then he said he was “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10a). We don’t live our lives as if difficult times don’t exist; we know they exist, but we rejoice in the midst of the sorrow. A Christian’s joy is not dependent upon circumstances. A Christian’s joy is totally dependent upon who we know—Jesus. Jesus said: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Sorrow is temporary; eternal life is forever.


Not only are we to be joyful continually, but we are to pray continually as well. These two go hand in hand. When we cease to pray or have sporadic prayers, our joy diminishes. Paul always has in the forefront of his mind that he is walking with Jesus. Paul is spontaneous in his prayers. In 1 Thessalonians 3 Paul is writing about Timothy and standing firm in faith when he breaks into a prayer in verses 11-13. Communion with Christ is central in Paul’s life. It affects everything he does. Paul does not compartmentalize his life into prayer time, work time, recreation time, and so on. Prayer is in everything he does. When we pray, we are saying, “God, I am dependent on you. I need you.” We need to have a dependent posture before God. 


We rejoice, pray, and give thanks. These three are interconnected and occur continuously. We are not told to give thanks for all the terrible things that happen in our lives; we are told to give thanks in all circumstances. We can do that because we know God is working things for us. Romans 8:28 says: And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Even though there may be times in our lives when it seems like God has abandoned us, he has not. God takes the bad things that happen in our life and weaves them into the tapestry of our lives so that in the end it makes a beautiful picture. The back of a tapestry is nothing attractive to look at, but the front side can be a something remarkable. We can give thanks that God will take the bad and turn it into something good. Romans 8:31-32, 37-39 says: What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. We can be people of gratitude because we are victors in Christ. You may not feel like a conqueror or a victor right now, but that is your ultimate destiny in Christ. God is for you; he is never against you.


We are to be people of celebration (rejoice), people of dependence upon God (pray), and people of gratitude (thanks). This is God’s will for us. 


We are not to quench the Spirit—put out the fire of the Spirit. Thirst can be quenched. Conversation can be quenched. Happiness can be quenched. The Holy Spirit in our lives can be quenched, and it’s dangerous when he is quenched. The Holy Spirit does so many things for us: guides, comforts, teaches, helps, counsels, reveals, enlightens, convicts of sin, provides power to live the sanctified life, regenerates. We are to pay attention to what the Spirit is saying to us. Ephesians 4:30 tells us: And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. We grieve the Holy Spirit when we don’t pay attention to the Holy Spirit, think on the Holy Spirit, look to the Holy Spirit, listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to us through our conscience. 2 Timothy 1:6-7 says: For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ. He is the one who is helping us to live a holy life.


We are not to treat prophesies with contempt but rather test them all. Prophesies are not so much about predicting the future but words of God that he wants us to know. Prophecy is taking God’s words and making them known and understood. When we don’t listen to the words of God, we are treating his words with contempt. When we don’t listen to the words of God spoken through a person, we are treating God’s words with contempt. God can use anyone to speak his words. Don’t forget, God spoke to Balaam through a donkey. We are to be open to listening to God’s voice spoken through other people, but we are to test that voice. We test that voice using Scripture. If the word lines up with Scripture, it’s likely from God. If it goes against Scripture, it is not from God. That which comes from God leaves us with peace and a confidence that God has spoken. That which leaves us in fear, confusion, and chaos is not from God. 


We are to hold on to what is good and avoid every kind of evil. If something is good we hold on to it; we don’t give it up. If something is evil, we reject it. If the evil comes from an enemy, it’s easy to reject it. If the evil comes from a friend, it’s not so easy to reject it, but that’s what we are to do. We don’t reject the friend; we reject the evil. True friends correct each other. Proverbs 27:17 says: As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.


In this passage of Scripture Paul says six things:


·      Rejoice always; celebrate God


·      Pray continually; be dependent upon God


·      Give thanks in all circumstances; be a person of gratitude towards God


·      Do not quench the Spirit; pay attention to God


·      Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; be open to hearing from God


·      Hold on to the good and reject every kind of evil; hold on to God and let go of anything that doesn’t come from God


When we accept that which doesn’t come from God, it loosens our hold on that which is from God. Hold on to truth. When we begin to accept that which is not true, we begin to loosen our grip on that which is true. We are to be people of holiness and truth—sanctified people who think like God, act like God, speak like God; people who do his will, words, and ways. 



Verse Completion. . . they will not leave it. Proverbs 22:6 (NLT)


1/14/21


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/vXMPNXXnCls



Complete the Verse & Name the BookEach man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for . . . (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 hit some of the highlights concerning conversion.


Together with repentance goes faith. The content of the faith is often not specified: people heard the preaching and believed. But it is the message about Jesus that formed the content of their faith. Acts 10:43 says: [Jesus] is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name. The leap of faith is inevitably prior to the life of faith.


The third condition incumbent upon all who wanted to begin the Christian life was baptism. It was the seal both on God’s offer of forgiveness and the Spirit and on man’s response to that offer in repentance and faith. Repentance is a turning from wickedness (Acts 3:26: When God raised up his servant, Jesus, he sent him first to you people of Israel, to bless you by turning each of you back from your sinful ways.) whereas faith is a turning “to God” (Acts 15:9: [God] made no distinction between us and them, for he cleansed their hearts through faith. Acts 26:20b: All must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do.) or “to the Lord” (Acts 11:21: The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord.) Conversion is nothing other than turning to Christ in repentance and faith.


The decisive turning to Christ in repentance and faith was given a physical sign and seal, baptism. Baptism signified entry into the Christian society. Those who repented and believed the Word were baptized. That was the invariable pattern. Baptism and conversion belong together; it is the sacrament of the once-for-allness of incorporation into Christ. Christianity involved a commitment to Jesus as Lord, belief in the Christian teaching, a willingness to live the Christian life, and baptism into the triune name.


Baptism was administered on profession of repentance and faith in Jesus. It brought forgiveness and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. But it also brought a man into a new community, in which he shared a common life with his Christian brethren. This was a moral life. It was known as “The Way.” He lived his life in the presence of God and tried to please him in everything. He was intimately related to his brother Christians in bonds of obligation and love; he shared his goods with them, he cared for the poor, the widows, the famine-stricken. And the baptismal life not only involved holy living and Christian love, but also worship and fellowship, witness and instruction. The first converts continued in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers: and with one accord they bore their testimony to Jesus. Baptism, in short, set the seal on conversion in every way—individual, corporate, ethical, educational and theological. Conversion, baptism and the new life were inseparable. 



Verse Completion. . . God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV)


1/13/21


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/hTV7iasNUE0



Complete the Verse & Name the BookTrue humility and fear of the LORD lead to . . . (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 hit some of the highlights concerning conversion.


Currently, we use the word conversion to indicate that someone has left one religious position for exclusive attachment to another or we speak of conversion in someone who up till a certain period had been a merely nominal adherent of his faith, but had then awoken to its significance and importance with enthusiasm and insight. 


Conversion of this nature would have seemed foreign to the ancient world. In the first place, Hellenistic men and women did not regard belief as necessary for the cult. So long as the traditional sacrifices were offered, so long as the show went on, all would be well. You were not required to believe in the deities you worshipped. However, they were told that the worship of them was important for the safety of the state and the well-being of society.


Secondly, Hellenistic men and women did not regard ethics as a part of religion. The philosopher was expected to preach, not to practice what he preached. Men came to him for advice, not for example.


The third reason why the idea of Christian conversion was so surprising to Hellenistic people was the exclusive claims that it made on its devotees. Christians were expected to belong, body and soul, to Jesus, who was called their master. They were to acknowledge no other “Lord,” be he emperor or pagan deity. This all seemed very strange, for ancient religion was never exclusive. Philosophy, magic, astrology, gnosis were deemed to supplement not to supplant their ancestral religion. 


The uniqueness of Christian conversion stood out from what they saw around them. Christianity called on Jews as well as Gentiles to put their faith in God’s Messiah and join the company of his people. For the Gentile this would be conversion to a new faith; for the Jew it would be, in an important sense, conversion within the faith in which he had been nourished, and of which Christ was the summit and goal. But the shock would be as great for the Jew, or even greater, as it was for the Gentile. Both would have to be baptized into the Church of the Messiah. And whereas for the Gentile that would be much preferable to circumcision, to the Jew it was a great stumbling-block. It meant renouncing all claim to be God’s elect simply on the grounds of birth and circumcision. It meant becoming like a new-born child, and washing away all impurities in the bath of baptism—and that was what they were accustomed to thinking took place when a proselyte was baptized into Israel. A more humbling renunciation of all privilege, all acquired and inherited merit and standing before God, could not be imagined. Christian conversion was humbling, dynamic, and stark.


According to Luke, the two main factors in evangelism were the Spirit of God and the Word of God. The Spirit is what creates, validates and energizes the Church. The Word of God is the very sword the Spirit uses. Does a person believe? Then it is because the Word brings faith. Acts 4:4 says: But many of the people who heard their message believed it, so the number of men who believed now totaled about 5,000. Does a person receive the Spirit? It comes from hearing the Word. Acts 10:44 says: Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message. Does a person become a Christian? It is due to God’s illuminating the heart of the hearers of the apostolic message. Is a person a counterfeit Christian? Then it is because he has no part in the Word. Acts 8:21 says: You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God. It is no exaggeration to say that the Word is the prime agency under the Spirit of God for the mission of the Church in evangelism. 


There was as great a flexibility in approach among the early Christians as there was unity in aim and similarity in content. First, they preached a person. Their message was frankly Christocentric: Jesus the man, Jesus crucified, Jesus risen, Jesus exalted to the place of power in the universe from which he would return in judgment at the end of the age, Jesus who meantime was present among his people in the Spirit. 


Second, they proclaimed a gift. The gift of forgiveness, the gift of the Spirit, the gift of adoption, of reconciliation. The gift that made “no people” part of the “people of God.” Nothing could be done to merit the gift; it proceeded entirely from the grace of God. Pardon for the past and power for the future were two prominent aspects of the gift of God which the apostles proclaimed. 


Third, they looked for a response. They expected results. They challenged people to do something about the message they had heard: repent, believe on Jesus, and be baptized. People needed to change their attitude to their old way of life and be willing to let go of their sins. It involved a changed attitude towards God whom they had offended and in practice deposed from his rightful place of sovereignty in their lives. 



Verse Completion. . . riches, honor, and long life. Proverbs 22:4 (NLT)


1/12/21


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


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/DmR0z4EWUjw



Complete the Verse & Name the BookThere is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with . . .  (completion at the end)



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


Stephen was full of faith, wisdom, and the Holy Spirit. He became a powerful evangelist sharing Jesus with others. Stephen delivered a  powerful sermon to the high priest and the high council recorded in Acts 7. Verse 51 records the following words of Stephen: “You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That’s what your ancestors did, and so do you!” Stubborn people are stiff-necked: rebellious, arrogant, hardened, and refuse to listen. These are people who are not yielded to God. 


The opposite of being stiff-necked is being flexible. Jesus was firm, but he was flexible. When the woman who was caught in adultery was brought to Jesus, he said, “Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” (John 8:7b). Since all had sinned, everyone departed and Jesus was left with the woman. He said to her, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

“No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more” (John 10b-11).


Jesus was holy and without sin. He preached righteousness and holiness, but he had the character trait of flexibility.


What kind of people should we be? We should be people with godly character qualities. We need to pattern our lives after Jesus. 


Flexibility is the quality or state of being flexible. Flexible is something that can be bent, is pliable, yields to pressure, and is not stiff. It also includes being capable of yielding to discussion, dialogue, or any other moral force. A flexible person is not rigid or obstinate. Flexibility is not setting our affections on ideas or plans which may be changed by other people. 


The opposite of flexibility includes resistance. It could involve opposing someone. 2 Timothy 3:8 says: These teachers oppose the truth just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses. They have depraved minds and a counterfeit faith. False teachers oppose the truth; they don’t yield to the truth. 


The opposite of flexibility also incudes rigidity (stiffness, lack of pliability, not easily bent, not moving, firmly fixed) and being obstinate (unreasonably determined to have one’s own way, stubborn, dogged).


What are we like when flexibility is present in our lives? There’s a willingness to listen to people even though they may disagree with us, question us, or confront us. Flexibility also involves cooperation with people. It involves turning away from our own selfish ways of doing things. There’s a willingness to adjust our schedule as necessary. There’s an openness to change. There’s a willingness to explore options. Galileo Galilei said, “I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn’t learn something from him.” Ralph Emerson said something similar: “In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.” A person with flexibility is open to learn something from everyone. 


When flexibility is absent, there’s a refusal to listen to others. There’s refusal to consider another’s point-of-view or to change. An inflexible person can’t be reasoned with. They are territorial: “This is my place, my organization, my church.” They are defensive and protective of their own ways and ideas. They move into an “us and them” mentality or a “me and you” mentality which is always dangerous. When we are like this, we become difficult people to get along with. We say things like, “Don’t confuse me with the facts; my mind is made up.” We prefer to tell rather than ask or listen. This often stems from insecurities, pride, or fears that we have. 


The mark of flexibility is a willingness to listen to people even though they may have a different stand than we have. 


Flexibility can be misdirected; it can be pushed too far the wrong way. Flexibility is misdirected when we yield in the wrong places. We can’t yield on Scripture; we have to stand on Scripture. Flexibility is misdirected when we compromise truth or righteousness. It’s misdirected when we allow known sin in our lives. It’s misdirected when it produces the wrong quality: when we become wishy-washy instead of strong, when we stand for nothing, when we demand flexibility in other people but don’t display it ourselves. Flexibility is misdirected when we disvalue people: policies become more important than people, procedures become more important than the people they were written for. We’re misdirected when we become obstinate, cynical, sarcastic, belittling, or entrenched in our prejudices.


Flexibility is a positive, godly character quality that we should be building into our lives. How do we mold flexibility into our lives? 


1.   Evaluate ourselves or ask a trusted friend to evaluate us. Are we rigid, stubborn, obstinate, set in our ways, prejudice, bigoted, fearful, territorial, insecure, or defensive? 2 Corinthians 13:5a says: Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. 


2.   Learn to listen. Be an empathetic listener. Go beyond the words people say and listen to what their hearts are saying. Feel their emotions. Try to understand who they are, where they’re coming from, and why they think the way they do.


3.   Always be open to a better way. We can always learn. 1 Corinthians 13:9 says: Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! There are many ways in which we can learn, and we should be open to learning. We need to be lifelong learners. Everyone can teach us something. From some people we learn what not to do. 


4.   Seek to change. Ask God for transformation. Transformation takes place by the grace of God. We can delight in the change that takes place and the changes that will take place in the future. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says: So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.


How are you doing with flexibility? Could you use some flexibility in your marriage? Are you entrenched in certain ways, and it’s causing friction in your relationship? Do you need some flexibility in your family? Are you too rigid with your spouse or your children? Do you need some flexibility in your personal life? Does everything have to be done your way and in your time? Are you too rigid with your neighbors? Are you willing to yield a little bit? Do you need flexibility in your church? One church had a very large dispute concerning whether people should be sitting or standing while singing. 


If I was to graph where I fell on a continuum between obstinate and flexible, where would I be placed? Would I be 80% obstinate and 20% flexible? Would I be 25% obstinate and 75% flexible? God wants us to have the character quality of flexibility, so let’s pursue it. Hebrews 12:14 says: Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.



Verse Completion. . . punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.1 John 4:18 (NIV)


1/9/21


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


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



Complete the Verse & Name the BookFor the wages of sin is death, but . . . (completion at the end)



Yesterday, Dr. Michael Wedman taught from 1 Thessalonians 5:12-15 with a study “The Peace of God” from the Fireside Fellowship headquarters in Union, Washington.


To be sanctified means to be set apart. It means Jesus is our Lord and Savior and we have a new way of living, thinking, acting, and interacting. Sanctification means God is at work in our lives through his Holy Spirit—changing us, shaping us, helping us to learn what it is to walk the life of a disciple of Christ as one who thinks differently, talks differently, and acts differently. A disciple of Christ is one whose actions, reactions, and interactions with people are all informed by the word of God. Sanctified people are set apart to do God’s will and follow his word. 


Paul earlier talked about sanctification in regard to: sexual purity, use of our time, what we say, how we view death, life after death, and being set apart for Christ’s return. Now Paul will talk to us about what it means to be sanctified in our church relationships. 


So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other.

Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. 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 5:11-15)


Part of what Paul is talking about here is the relationship between leaders and followers in a church. Even though he has some difficult words to say, he wants everyone to know he’s speaking to family—” brothers and sisters”. The topics of division and unity are in all of Paul’s letters. He wants people to know that division, disunity, fighting, and chaos are common tools used by Satan to destroy individuals, churches, and the witness of churches in the community. 


Leaders need to be understood for who they are, what they have been called to do, and the importance of spiritual, godly leadership to the well-being of the church. Leaders have an important place in how churches operate. Leaders work hard; they work until they are tired. A lot of energy is extended into the work they do. It involves pouring oneself into God’s kingdom. Leaders have a tremendous responsibility because they will be judged by God for what they did as leaders. 


Leaders care for people; they look out for their spiritual well-being. They insure spiritual growth is taking place. Admonishment may take place. To admonish means to set in the right direction; it’s a strong encouragement to walk with Christ. It’s related to correction but gentler. It’s never harsh, judgmental, or injurious. It always is meant to build up. Sometimes admonishment is taken wrong and the consequence is resentment. 


Leaders are accountable to God. Hebrews 13:17 says: Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit. 


Leadership is difficult. Encouragement and acknowledgement is needed. Not everybody is on board. 2 Thessalonians 3:11 says: Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work, and meddling in other people’s business. Idleness leads to being busybodies which leads to being tale-tellers which leads to disruption. 1 Timothy 3:15 tells us the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth. We have to know the truth, walk in the truth, and remain in the truth. Admonition has to take place in the church. Jesus said to the church in Pergamum, “But I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. Repent of your sin, or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of my mouth”(Revelation 2:14a, 16). Jesus said to the church in Thyatira, “But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to turn away from her immorality” (Revelation 2:20-21). We need to be people who are walking in the light—truthtellers. 


Leaders need to be held in high regard. We are to think well of them. We need to lift them up. They need to be shown respect rather than finding fault with them. If you look for faults in people (leaders or not), you will find them. Everyone has faults because we are all human. There will always be differences of opinion, but it’s what we do with those differences that will demonstrate sanctification or not. It’s easy to find fault with someone who doesn’t agree with you. It’s easy to put a spotlight on someone’s faults. 


Sometimes people in churches have double standards: they expect the pastor or the elders to love unconditionally, to forgive freely, to be gracious in all that’s done, but they themselves don’t live that way.  All of us need to strive to be more like Christ every day. We hold leaders in high regard not because our personalities connect with each other but because they have received a call from God to lead the church. Someone has said, “It’s not a matter of personalities; it’s the good of the church that is the most important thing. The church cannot be expected to do its work effectively if the leaders are not being loyally supported by their fellows. It’s a matter of fact that we are often slow to realize to this day that effective leadership in the church of Christ demands effective following. If we are continually critical of them that are set over us, small wonder if they are unable to perform the miracles that we demand of them.” Effective leadership takes effective followership. We support our church leaders so the work of Christ can continue. 


When Paul says, “we urge you to warn those who are lazy,” he is saying to admonish those who are idle. They need to be warned about what idleness leads to: strife, chaos, disruptiveness, disunity, division, and fault-finding. 


We are to encourage those who are disheartened by circumstances, disheartened by what’s happening around them. 


We are to help those who are spiritually weak—those who are struggling to grow in Christ—those who want to remain in Christ but are having a difficult time. They may be confused about what is happening around them. They may be blaming God for unfortunate circumstances. We are to gather around them and lift them up. 


As human beings we like to be around strength, power, and success. We want to get away from weakness and failure so we distance ourselves from people we might categorize as such. We shouldn’t be distancing ourselves but rather encouraging them. Notice the verbs here: strive, urge, warn, encourage, help, be patient, forgive. These are the things we are to be doing. 


As disciples of Christ we do good wherever we go. We lift people up. We build people up—especially those in the body of Christ and those who lead the body of Christ. We are peacemakers. We carry with us the peace of God. We take the peace of God and share it with those around us. 



Verse Completion. . . the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 6:23 (NASB)


1/8/21


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/r6Eiv1r5UnE



Complete the Verse & Name the BookA prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton . . . (completion at the end)



Ken Ham is the CEO and founder of Answers in Genesis (a fundamentalist Christian apologetics parachurch organization with headquarters in Petersburg, Kentucky), the popular Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, and the world-renowned Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Kentucky. He posted the following on Facebook yesterday:


America is in a mess spiritually, morally, and politically. How should we understand what is happening? Should our emphasis be one of trying to save America? First, how does God view America or any nation? “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales.” (Isaiah 40:15)


Should we look to man to solve the problems in this nation? “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man” (Psalm 118:8).


“Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?” (Isaiah 2:22) “Oh, grant us help against the foe, for vain is the salvation of man! With God we shall do valiantly; it is he who will tread down our foes.” (Psalm 60:11–12) Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. ‘Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.’” (Jeremiah 17:5–7)


Should we look to politicians to solve the problems? “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.” (Psalm 146:3–4)


Should we look to an army to solve the problems? “The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.” (Psalm 33:16–20)


What is wrong with the nation? To quote my good friend Ray Comfort, this nation could be summed up this way: “The nation forgot the Lord their God who had blessed them abundantly, and had instead given itself to lawlessness, and slaughtering their own offspring in the womb. Therefore, the judgment of God fell upon them.” In many ways, this fits with what God was saying to the people at the time of Hosea. “The LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land.” (Hosea 4:1)


How then should we deal with these problems? America or any nation is not going to last forever, but the souls of people will live forever. Surely our emphasis should be on seeing souls saved for eternity through salvation in Christ. “This Jesus. . . . And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11–12)


The same God who spoke to Solomon about the people of Israel, is the same God who is watching over everything today: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)


Yes, so many people in this nation, including many rulers (politicians, judges, etc.), have turned their backs on God. They have rejected God and his Word in the education systems. They have sacrificed millions of children to the god of self. They have rejected God in many ways through rejecting prayer, rejecting nativity scenes and crosses, and replacing the truth of God as Creator for the lie of evolution. (Even many church leaders and Christian academics have compromised God’s Word with evolutionary ideas.) “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” (Romans 1:21–23)


How does God view the plans of rulers who reject him? “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’ He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, ‘As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.’” (Psalm 2:1–6)


Is America under judgment? This description in Romans chapter 1 certainly fits with what we are experiencing. “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (Romans 1:28–32)


What can we do? We need to tell the nations about the one true God and about the message of salvation that only he provides: “Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth! Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.” (Psalm 96:1–6)


And we should “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) for the souls of those who have rejected him. And remember — there’s a raging spiritual war, but: “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds” 2 Corinthians 10:4.



Verse Completion. . . goes blindly on and suffers the consequences. Proverbs 22:3 (NLT)


1/7/21


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/p3iYnHx8P0s



Complete the Verse & Name the BookThe horse is prepared for the day of battle, 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 hit some of the highlights concerning evangelizing the Gentiles.


When we read the writings of the leading writers in the second century, we can determine that the majority of Christians had very little theology in them. Grace, justification, sanctification, union with Christ, and the other evangelical doctrines that meant much to the apostles Paul, John, Peter, and the writer to the Hebrews had been largely jettisoned and replaced with a religion of a new legalism in ethics and a Christology which lost interest in the humanity of Jesus. 


How does a person come to Christianity? It is through faith alone that God can be known, a faith that brings joy, love, and the desire to imitate Christ.


The Epistle to Diognetus is admittedly one of the noblest Christian writings outside the Canon.


Macarius said, “Let us then welcome the Lord our God, the true healer, who alone is able to come and cure our souls, inasmuch as he has labored so much for our sake. He is always knocking at the door of our hearts, that we may open to him so that he may come in and rest in our souls. He says, ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and will sup with him and he with me.’ To this end he endured to suffer many things, giving his own body unto death, and purchasing us out of bondage. It was in order that he might come into our soul and make his abode with us . . . That is why he is always knocking, desiring to enter into us. Let us then receive him, and bring him into our lives. For he is our food, our drink, our eternal life. And every soul that has not yet received him within and given him rest, or rather, found rest in him, has no inheritance in the kingdom of heaven with the saints, and cannot enter into the heavenly city. But thou, Lord Jesus, canst bring us thereto, glorifying thy name, with the Father and the Holy Spirit forever.”


The moralism into which Christianity tended to lapse in the second century has its roots in the New Testament. It is one thing to see Christian behavior as a new law, the principle of universal love; it is quite another to see it as a revised edition of the old Law.


The greatest enemy of Jewish Christianity was undue conservatism (in which Jesus was a complement, so to speak, to the Law); whereas the greatest danger to Gentile Christianity lay in undue adaptation to the thought forms of the day (in which Jesus was seen as the key to wisdom and heavenly enlightenment). If conservatism stifles authentic Christianity, liberalism dissipates it. Mercifully there were plenty of Christians in the second century who stuck fairly closely to the apostolic message while adapting its presentation into terms familiar to their contemporaries. There must have been. Their lives and their words made great inroads into paganism; their brave deaths under martyrdom made even greater impact.


This is the characteristic aim which the Greek exponents of the gospel set themselves: to embody biblical doctrine in cultural forms which would be acceptable in their society. Not to remove the scandal of the gospel, but so to present their message in terms acceptable to their hearers that the real scandal of the gospel could be perceived and its challenge faced. That was their aim. 


If Christ is for all men, then evangelists must  run the risk of being misunderstood, of misunderstanding elements in the gospel themselves, of losing out on the transposition of parts of the message so long as they bear witness to him. Christians are called to live dangerously. The principle of the incarnation must be carried into Christian preaching. At all events they took the risk, and insofar as they were centered in Jesus Christ, his incarnation, death, and resurrection, God honored their witness. It is all too easy for us with hindsight to fault their ethics and their Christology, their failure to preserve the balance between adaptability and conservation, but it would be good to be able to feel confident that the churches of our own day were succeeding half as well, and were displaying anything like the same courage, singleness of aim, Christ-centeredness and adaptability as those men and women of the first Christian century. 



Verse Completion. . . the victory belongs to the LORD. Proverbs 21:31 (NLT)


1/6/21


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/m-zp8lHBryU



Complete the Verse & Name the BookFor where two or three have gathered together in My name, . . . (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 hit some of the highlights concerning evangelizing the Gentiles.


The assurance and confidence of the Christians, who were quite willing to lose home, comfort, friends, and even life itself in  propagating their cause, won its share of converts; so did the fear of judgment, which became an increasingly strong emphasis in the second century. But perhaps the greatest single factor which appealed to the man in the street was deliverance, deliverance from demons, from fate, from magic.


Jesus was represented by the early Christians as in constant conflict with demons. These were very real to ancient people.


Astrology was a mighty force in the first century; the geocentric cosmology popularized by Hipparchus in the second century BC had led to a widespread belief that events on earth were governed by the stars. But Jesus was preached as Lord, Master of the scroll of destiny, the one who breaks the dominance of the astral powers on man (see Philippians 2:5-11).


Irenaeus pointed out the superiority of Christian miracle to magic: it never deceives people as magic frequently does; its effects last, as magic frequently does not; it is exercised for the good, both physical and eternal, of the recipients, unlike magic; and its efficacy is firmly based in the supreme miracle, the resurrection of the Lord from the dead on the third day. Here was yet another way in which the immensely popular verse Psalm 110:1 had its fulfillment. 


There seems to have been widespread agreement among the early evangelists on three factors which ought always to figure in preaching the gospel to the Gentiles: an attack on idolatry, a proclamation of the one true God, and the moral implications that flow from this (see 1 Thessalonians 1 and Romans 1).


It would be pointless to preach Jesus as Lord if he were merely to be thought of as an addition to the already overcrowded pantheon. His whole significance depended on his being the manifestation of the one true God (see 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).


This is true apologetic, and also true evangelism, where the content of the gospel is preserved while the mode of expression is tuned to the ears of the recipients. God is displayed as the unique Creator of the world and all mankind; he does not inhabit shrines like the Parthenon; so far from needing worship and sacrifice from man he is Giver of all things. Paul consistently endeavored to have as much common ground as possible with his audience—even while he was at work undermining their position. Paul used heathen poets to preach biblical doctrine, namely that personal beings owe their origin and significance, their life and everything to a personal Creator God. 


The pattern of Christian preaching to the pagan for centuries was:


1.   Understand which religions are false, and cast aside the impious worship of gods made with hands.


2.   Perceive with the mind the fact that God is one, most high, whose power and providence made the world from the beginning and direct it towards a future.


3.   Know his Servant and Messenger whom he sent on embassy to earth.


It would have been easy to compromise. A gesture of respect either to the traditional gods or the imperial bust was easy to make and seemed churlish to refuse. But Christians were adamant: the very hint of idolatry produced the strongest reactions in their breasts. The Apologists are full of it. Christians would not go to the theatre, public banquets, gladiatorial shows; employment in the army, the teaching profession, the civil service was highly suspect among many Christians because of the measure of idolatry involved. Public life was riddled with it; and it is hardly surprising that Christians were tempted either to shut themselves up in ghettos away from the world, or to become lax and lose their Christian distinctiveness. The balance was not easy to keep.


Christians had the conviction that idolatry and immorality went hand in hand. In practice this was generally the case. It was one of the unique properties of Judaeo-Christian monotheism to insist that true ethic and true religion were inseparable, that it was impossible to confess allegiance at one and the same time to a good God and live a loose life. In all other religions in antiquity there was no necessary tie between belief and behavior. 



Verse Completion. . . there I am in their midst. Matthew 18:20 (NASB)


1/5/21


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


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/Obp-9BEZe1c



Complete the Verse & Name the BookSome people are always greedy for more, but . . .  (completion at the end)



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


There’s the story of woodcutter who would sell a cord of wood that was supposed to be 4’ X 8’ X 4’ but he would always cut the length short so it wasn’t a full four feet. He then became a Christian, but people were skeptical until they found out he didn’t cheat people any longer on the length of the wood he sold them. Honesty is a witness to others of a godly character trait. Possessing the character quality of honesty makes us more like Jesus. 


In the biography of Stonewall Jackson, there’s an interesting fish story. Jackson had been left an orphan when his parents died. To earn money he would sell fish. One day he caught a beautiful large bass. A man riding by on horseback saw the fish and offered Jackson a dollar for it. Jackson said, “No, I’ve already agreed to sell my fish to another man for 50¢ each. He’s taking a great number of small ones, and I think he should have the large one, too.” At that point the man on horseback offered $1.50 for the fish, but Jackson wouldn’t sell it. He had internalized the character quality of honesty. 


F. B. Meyer, a famous writer of the 1800s, said, “The best gift that any of us can make to our country or our age is an undefiled character and a stainless life.” We can’t overemphasize the importance of character. 


Some examples of the honesty of Jesus include: the paying of taxes, an honest answer to the man who said, “What must I do to obtain eternal life?”, an honest answer to Peter when Peter said he would never deny Jesus, an honest answer to Peter when Peter said Jesus would never wash his feet, an honest answer to Pilate when he asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” If we want to have the kind of character that Jesus had, we need develop honesty in our lives.


The word honesty originated from the word honor. That which is honorable is fair, right, and that which brings honor. It’s the opposite of being deceitful. 


Aesop’s Fables include the story “The Old Woman and the Doctor.” The story is as follows:


An Old Woman who had bad eyes called in a clever Doctor who agreed for a certain sum to cure them. He was a very clever Doctor, but he was also a very great rogue; and when he called each day and bound up the Old Woman’s eyes, he took advantage of her blindness to carry away with him some article of her furniture. This went on until he pronounced the Woman cured. Her room was then nearly bare. He claimed his reward, but the Old Lady protested that, so far from being cured, her sight was worse than ever. “We will soon see about that, my good Woman,” said he; and she was shortly after summoned to appear in Court. “May it please your Honor,” said she to the Judge, “before I called in this Doctor I could see a score of things in my room that now, when he says I am cured, I cannot see at all.” This opened the eyes of the Court to the knavery of the Doctor, who was forced to give the Old Woman her property back again, and was not allowed to claim a penny of his fee. 


The moral of the story is: Knavery overreaches itself.


The doctor in this story was not an honest person. Honesty involves never stealing, never deceiving, never taking advantage of the trust of other people. It’s living in a transparent way so people know we will never cheat them, and we will always be trustworthy. 


The opposite of honesty is dishonesty that can involve fraudulence, faithlessness, deceit, and cheating. Honesty involves being true, genuine, and real.


Plato said, “Honesty is, for the most part, less profitable than dishonesty.” Honesty and truthfulness go together in Scripture. Proverbs 12:17 says: An honest witness tells the truth; a false witness tells lies. Proverbs 24:26 says: An honest answer is like a kiss of friendship. We should value honesty as a quality of life. 


George Washington said to Alexander Hamilton, “Still I hope I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain (what I consider the most enviable of all titles) the character of an honest man.”


Shakespeare said, “No legacy is so rich as honesty.”


Alexander Pope said, “An honest man is the noblest work of God.” It’s a work of God’s grace that brings honesty into our lives.


Job 6:25 says: Honest words can be painful, but what do your criticisms amount to? Honesty costs us something. We should seek and appreciate honest responses. 


How do I know if I am an honest person? 


·      When I don’t try to arrange things for myself—arranging meetings with people we want to impress, trying to be at the right place at the right time so things will work out for our benefit, or trying to get close to the “right” people. We need to take care of the depth of our life, and God will take care of the breadth of our life.


·      When I’m a free person. A free person is a relaxed person. There’s no artificiality or pretending. Words will not be spoken that will be regretted later. Honest people are not afraid to say what they think. They’re not saying things in an attempt to impress people. 


Jesus said in Matthew 6:7: “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.” We don’t want to be like the man Winston Churchill described as “one who had the unique ability to condense a minimum of thought into a maximum of words.” This is a trap dishonest people fall into. 


·      When I don’t exaggerate or give false impressions. Embellishing accounts and events is a dangerous trap to fall into. It’s often called one upmanship—when an account is told, you can tell a better one. Tied into that is using words that stretch things (incredible, unique, unbelievable, greatest).


What are the results of dishonesty? There’s a story of a man who was going to get a promotion at work, but when his superior noticed he took some food in the cafeteria and didn’t pay for it, not only did he miss out on a promotion but he got fired from his job. 


People who are dishonest have to continually cover their backside. They become closed people because of what they are hiding. 


What are the results of honesty? People trust us. When Del was in high school in the small town of Eureka, MT, he turned out for basketball. Since he showed up without basketball shoes, the coach sent him to a store in town to get some shoes. Del explained his situation to the store owner and asked if he could get the shoes and pay for them the next day. When the owner of the store found out who Del’s dad was, he said, “Oh, of course you can have shoes. We would trust Ross with anything.” When Del had that experience, he said to himself, “I want to grow up to be just like my dad and have that kind of trustworthy reputation.” 


When we are honest, not only do people trust us but there is freedom, liberty, and a clear conscience. We can live in ease. We don’t have to be uptight. Honesty is also a great preventative for ulcers, emotional breakdowns, and depression. 


How can we build honesty? The human heart is deceitful, so we start with being honest with ourselves. If there is sin in our life, we acknowledge that sin. We don’t call it something else or try to cover it up. If we have carnality, we call it carnality. If we have worldliness, we call it worldliness. If we have a bad attitude, that’s what we call it. This is often a difficult step, but it’s a first step that needs to be taken. 


We need to correct all cheating and defrauding. This includes paying back what has been stolen. When Del was in sixth or seventh grade, he found a nickel in his teacher’s desk, and he took it. When he was in college, he was praying to be filled with the Holy Spirit but not much was happening. At that point God spoke to Del about that stolen nickel. Del then wrote a letter to that teacher and paid back the nickel. We need to correct all cheating, lying, and defrauding we’ve done. 


We need to deal with self-promotion. Self-promotion is a terrible disease—trying to move ourselves up a ladder, get attention, receive acclaim. Instead of self-promotion we need to build meekness and humility into our lives. We can trust God to take care of us and lead us where we should go. Anything less than dealing with self-promotion will cause dishonesty. 


We need to give our motives over to the Holy Spirit. We have to say to the Holy Spirit, “Examine my motives.” The motives of our hearts will be exposed on Judgment Day. 


No price is too great to build honesty into our lives—how ever many people we have to pay back, how ever many people we have to apologize to, how ever many people we have to mend fences with. We must do it if we are going to build honesty as a character quality into our lives. 


We must build honesty into the lives of our children and grandchildren. John Ruskin said, “To make your children capable of honesty is the beginning of education.”



Verse Completion. . . the godly love to give! Proverbs 21:26 (NLT)


1/4/21


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/VArq5W34FVE



Complete the Verse & Name the BookBut he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power . . .. . . (completion at the end)



Yesterday, Pastor Michael’s text for his sermon “Waiting and Working” was based on Matthew 25:1-30


New Years is often a time of resolutions. The Bible has no shortage of resolutions. We will be taking a look at a couple of resolutions from Jesus in the form of parables. The two parables found here are related to the last parable in Chapter 24 that was about watching, waiting, being on your guard, being obedient, being faithful. They all concern the return of Jesus. 


The first parable in Chapter 25 is about waiting and the second is about working. The first story Jesus told involved a wedding. Weddings in the Near East were big events. At this time in history, parents customarily got together and decided who their children would marry. They were arranged marriages, and once the arrangement had been made, the couple was considered married. But the ceremony and wedding feast still had to take place. 


On the date that was set for the wedding to occur, there would be quite a procession of the groom and his party going down a number of streets while music was being played accompanied by singing and dancing. They would make their way to the bride’s house, and no doubt someone from the bride’s party would hear them coming and would warn everyone that the groom was on his way. The bride’s party would join them, and both parties would then go to the place where the official wedding would take place—whether it was the groom’s house or some other arranged place. 


The date was set for all this to occur, but the actual time when the groom would pick up the bride wouldn’t be set, so she never knew exactly what time he would show up. Likely, it would be at some point in the evening, and torches would be needed for light. 


After both parties arrived together at the place where the wedding and feast would take place, the doors would be closed, and nobody else would be allowed into the celebration. That is the background for the parable Jesus told:


“At this time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

“ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

“Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’

“But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”


There were ten virgins, or maidens (young ladies), in this story. At midnight the bridegroom and his party finally arrived at the bride’s home. It’s dark outside, so they need light. Torches in the form of wrapped cloths that were soaked in oil were used to provide the light. They would normally last about a half of an hour before they would have to have more oil added to the cloths. It was the responsibility of the maidens to provide the light for the procession. 


Five of the maidens had their torches and extra oil, and five had torches but no extra oil. Those without oil asked for oil from those who had. Those with oil would not share their oil in fear of running out of light themselves. Some may read this and say, “That’s not fair. That’s not sharing,” but this parable is not about fairness or sharing; it’s about being prepared. Everyone had ample time to prepare for the wedding. They had known the date for some time. Five did prepare properly; five did not. Those who were prepared told those who were not to go buy some oil, but while they were gone looking for oil, the bridegroom arrived. By the time the unprepared maidens arrived at the wedding location, it was too late; the door had been shut.


This parable is about us. It’s about the coming of Christ. Jesus is the bridegroom and you and I are the bride. We know Jesus is coming for us. To be part of the great procession, we have to wait with preparedness. The wise will be prepared for his coming; the foolish will not be prepared. In the parable, the unprepared maidens wanted to borrow some oil from the prepared maidens. When Jesus returns there will be those who will want to get in on the shirttails of others, but they will be unable to because it doesn’t work that way. My faith is unable to save anyone but me. 


To prepare for the second coming of Jesus we pray, “Jesus, I know you are returning to judge sin, and I know I have sin in my life. I know you are the Savior of the world, and the only one who can forgive me of my sins. I ask for you to do that. Come into my life and be my Lord and Savior.”


The whole point of the parable is to tell us to be prepared when Jesus returns. Unfortunately, there are many people who are not prepared for his return. 2 Timothy 3:1-7 says: 


But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. 

They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.


Jesus is the only way to salvation. Salvation is not by works that try to impress God; it’s not by philosophy; it’s not by giving; it’s not by going to church. The wise receive Jesus as Lord and Savior. 


The next parable is about working:


“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 

The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

The man with the two talents also came. ‘‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

“ ‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ “


This is a serious parable about the return of Christ. It asks what we are doing knowing that Jesus is returning. The man who went on a journey is Jesus. He went to heaven and entrusted his wealth to us. The kingdom of God is entrusted to us. We are entrusted with building his kingdom while he is gone. We have been entrusted with increasing the wealth of the kingdom through preaching the gospel, proclaiming the gospel, and partnering in the gospel.


Each one of us has been given gifts and abilities determined by God for the use of his glory. God expects us to take the gifts, talents, health, and wealth he has given us and build his kingdom. He expects us to invest in the lives of others so others can come to know Jesus. A wise response to what we have been given is “Jesus, I recognize the talents, gifts, and abilities you have given me. Help me to use these to promote your kingdom to the greatest extent of my ability.”


One servant in the parable did nothing to grow what was given to him. He was wicked and lazy. He did nothing to expand the kingdom of his master. He was not interested in the harvest of souls. 


We are expected to build the kingdom of God. It’s not a suggestion. It’s not a hope. It’s not “if you feel like it.” It’s not “if you have the time.” It’s not “you might consider . . .” Jesus expects us to use our abilities, talents, spiritual gifts, health, and wealth that he has given us to build his kingdom. It’s a command. Jesus said in Matthew 28:19-20:


“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”


Don’t hide what God has given you. Don’t waste what God has given you. Use everything you have been given to invest in the kingdom of God. God has given us opportunities to invite others to Christ. When we use those opportunities, God will give us even more opportunities. When we’re faithful in serving God and faithful in overcoming our laziness, God will give us more opportunities to serve him. 


How can we be in God’s kingdom if we don’t use what God has given us? James 2:26 says: As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.Faith in Christ leads to working for Christ. 


Ephesians 2:10 says: For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Each of us has a responsibility to work for the kingdom of God. 


Jesus is returning, and he expects us to work to build his kingdom until the day he returns. Are you using your talents? Are you using your abilities? Are you using your spiritual gifts? Are you using your wealth? Are you using all that you have to build his kingdom? We’re good at excuses: “I’m tired . . . It’s not the right timing . . . I just don’t feel good about it . . . I’ve got a lot going on right now . . . I’m doing a lot of other things . . .”


God has given us a bag of gold, or two bags of gold, or five bags of gold. What are we doing with it? When was the last time you used your bag(s) of gold to build the kingdom of God? When was the last time you used an excuse to not use the gold you were given? In the end there is no excuse for not using our time, talents, and abilities for God. A big part of faith in God is working for God. It’s saying, “God, I want to use all you have given me for you, no matter how much it inconveniences me, no matter how much it tires me, no matter how uncomfortable I am with what you’ve asked me to do, I will give myself and all that I have and am to you. So here I am, God; use me . . . whenever . . . however . . . wherever . . . because I love you, God!”


Jesus is returning. We are to watch for his return, we are to wait prepared for his return, and we are to be working actively to build his kingdom until he does return. The life of faith is not a spectator sport. It’s not sitting on the couch and watching others play the game. The life of faith is getting off the couch and getting in the game. Let’s work together to build the kingdom of God. 



Verse Completion. . . is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)


1/2/21


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/jasoo3UDSwY



Complete the Verse & Name the BookWatch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and . . . (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 hit some of the highlights concerning evangelizing the Gentiles.


The Christian gospel is meant for everybody, Jew and Gentile, educated and barbarian, male and female, bond and free. There was no dispute about that in the earliest Church, even though there was much heart-searching about the extent to which non-Jewish converts should conform to ritual, the Law, and the external marks of Israel. Salvation indeed comes from the Jews; its source lies in a man born under the Law. But it is designed for the whole world.


The good news about Jesus was being proclaimed throughout the civilized world and was making open and unhindered progress in the hub of the Empire, Rome herself. It was in Antioch that the gospel first began to be preached to people who had no connection with Judaism at all. Finally it was recognized that the Gentile adherents of the faith did not need to keep the Law of Israel nor have the covenant badge of circumcision: faith and baptism by themselves brought someone into the society of the Messiah, whether he was Jew or Greek. 


Evangelism is never proclaimed in a vacuum, but always to people, and the message must be given in terms that make sense to them. The evolution of the preaching involved the following: In the first stage, the “good news” was the coming of the Kingdom of God; this was the message of Jesus himself. In the second stage it was that Jesus was “the Man” ordained to be judge of the living and the dead: this was the preaching of the disciples to the Jews. The third stage was the announcement that Jesus was God or Lord. The baptismal confession became “Jesus is Lord.”


To be sure, “Christ” was not dropped—the followers of The Way were first called Christians in Antioch—but it began to lose its specific Jewish notion of Messiah, and became instead a sort of surname for Jesus. 


The gospels make it clear that it is through the agency of Jesus that men are brought into the kingdom. Entering the kingdom, receiving the kingdom, being saved, and inheriting eternal life are all taken as synonyms in a fascinating passage in Mark 10, and they are all firmly tied to “following Jesus.” The kingdom is inseparable from the King.


Paul used the metaphor of adoption. It was a marvelous word for bringing home to Gentiles the fact that they were once out of relationship with God, with no claim on him, but now, through the divine initiative expressed in Christ the proper Son, they have become members of the family, heirs to its riches and privileged to call God by the intimate name, Abba.


Paul said, “I have become all things to all men, so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22b). Paul was prepared to alter the wrappings of his gospel in order to commend its contents. He points out that there is a fundamental difference between the defender of orthodoxy, who is anxious to maximize the gap between authentic Christianity and all deviations from it, and the Apologist, who is concerned to minimize the gap between himself and his potential converts. Paul’s genius as an apologist is his astonishing ability to reduce to an apparent vanishing point the gulf between himself and his converts, and yet to “gain” them for the Christian gospel. 


Slaves were commonly (and indeed legally) regarded not as people but as thingsin the ancient world, although there are many examples of kind and considerate treatment by generous owners. But when the Christian missionaries not only proclaimed that in Christ the distinctions between slave and free man were done away with as surely as those between Jew and Greek, but actually lived in accordance with their principles, then this had an enormous appeal. Not only to be accepted by others of a different class, but to be adopted into the very family of God—this must have been almost too wonderful to be true for the average Hellenistic slave, until he remembered that the founder of this faith was himself a Servant, who knew from personal experience what  ignominy and undeserved suffering meant.


What a sense of gratitude it must have given a person who was a slave to think that the Son of God loved him, and died for him, and was now his true Master in heaven with whom there was no partiality.


In the Graeco-Roman world, women were very much the second sex. With few exceptions, they had no public rights or influence but were entirely under thepotestas of their husbands. It was much the same in Judaism. Christianity changed all this. Men and women were of equal value in God’s sight; women had followed throughout his ministry, and had remained faithful to him even when the men had run away. Moreover a leading part in the spread of the gospel was undertaken by women; sometimes in public or semi-public, as in the work of a Priscilla, a Lydia, a Phoebe, or a Syntyche.


The early Church contained not only “unlearned and ignorant men” but many of the rich priesthood, the wife of Herod’s steward and one of his youthful amici, leading Pharisees, rich Cypriots like Barnabas and prominent provincials like Paul. In addition, from the earliest days some Romans joined the Church. 


There were rich men in the Roman church of the second century. If we ask what elements in the gospel won these men and women to Christ, the answer is tentative and probably diverse, but would include the following factors. We know from Saul of Tarsus that a sense of guilt, inability to live up even to his own standards, made him long for cleansing. He was not alone in this. Paul renounced his wealth and position in order to go round proclaiming the “teaching of the Lord.” Miracles were very important. Pardon and power attracted the cultured classes of the Empire to the faith. Christianity made its impact primarily by satisfying the moral, the sacramental, the social, and the intellectual needs of men and women in a way which neither paganism or Judaism could. 


The intellectuals, too, made their way slowly into the Christian movement. They were, the best of them, dominated by a concern for truth, and Christianity offered them one whom they believed was final truth in personal categories. The resurrection proved to be the key. It convinced some at least that Jesus was what he claimed to be. Christianity was wisdom teaching; it made sense of the world. Christianity was pointed out to be as old as creation. Christianity was the belief that God became a man in the form of Jesus.



Verse Completion. . . you will stay out of trouble. Proverbs 21:23 (NLT)


1/1/21


Good morning, and welcome to 2021! Happy New Year!


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/XUBpff5zrV4



Complete the Verse & Name the Bookwhile we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are . . . (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 hit some of the highlights concerning evangelizing the Jews.


By the end of the third century, there was utter and complete breakdown in communication between the Jews and Christians. Deuteronomy 32:21 says:


They made me jealous by what is no god and angered me with their worthless idols. I will make them envious by those who are not a people; I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding.


Origen was the most influential Christian theologian before Augustine. Origen sees the fulfillment of this Deuteronomy passage in the contemporary scene. He said, “That is why even now the Jews are not roused against the Gentiles, against those who worship idols and blaspheme God. No, they do not hate them, nor does their indignation blaze against them. But it is against the Christians that they are consumed with an insatiable hatred, Christians who have abandoned idols and are converted to God!” It’s a pathetic commentary that the gospel failed to strike a lasting root in Judaism, its native soil.


The attempt to evangelize the Jews in the first 200 years of Christianity was, on the whole, a failure. The destruction of the Temple was seen as divine retribution on the Jews for the slaying of the Messiah; the blame for the crucifixion was increasingly placed on the Jewish nation as a whole, though in the early days it was only the responsible leaders who were arraigned in these terms by the apostles. The Christians robbed the Jews of their holy books, their Law, their status and their history as Israel in a systematic way. If ever any evangelistic enterprise taught the lesson that the gospel cannot be preached without love, this was it. The Christian community failed to make it credible that they were the people of the Messiah.


In the early days, however, before the war of AD 66, the gospel did make considerable headway among the Jews of Jerusalem, Syria, Egypt, and Rome. Wherein lay its appeal?


First and foremost, no doubt, the person and character of Jesus. If John the Baptist made such an impression on Israel, how much more so Jesus? His teaching, his love, his miracles, his whole person must have been a supreme attraction to the spiritual Israelite. If only he could get over the problem of the death of Jesus on a cross, and be convinced of Jesus’ resurrection, it would not take a great deal to bring him into the synagogue of the Messiah. 


Secondly, the personal witness of the apostles to the resurrection must have been a marvelous attraction. If Jesus had really broken the hands of death and risen to the life of the Age to Come, then he was the leader for them.


The way in which the Christians argued their case so plausibly from Scripture clearly had an enormous impact. 


The joyous fellowship of the early community, with its apostolic leadership, its community of food and possessions, its earnest meetings for prayer, its deep and intimate brotherhood—this, too, must have had an appeal all its own. Persecution would only serve to deepen this “love for the brethren”. There was power in the way the Christians loved each other. There was power to overcome character defects. There was power to endure opposition and death gladly for the sake of Jesus. Stephen did more for his Master in his death than he did in his life.


The offer to pardon struck a very congenial note in Jewish circles. Any religion dominated by the concept of Law and moral responsibility before God must lead either to nomism or despair. How can a man be just before his maker? Judaism had no answer. To fail to keep the Law in one point was to be guilty of all. But Christianity had an answer, a credible answer, a reasonable answer. The followers of Jesus claimed that he, acting on God’s behalf, had dealt radically and finally with the problem of human failure on the cross. He had borne the curse of the broken Law when he “became a curse for us”. He had fulfilled the destiny of the Suffering Servant. Pardon for the person who came to God through Christ was understood to be a present possession, an anticipation here and now of the final judgment. And it brought a release and a dynamic which nothing in Judaism could equal. Judaism proclaimed, indeed, that God forgives sin, but Christianity proclaimed that God redeemed sinners.


This concludes the topic of evangelizing the Jews in the early church. Next, we will look at evangelizing the Gentiles during the same period.



Verse Completion. . . temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NASB)


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