Daily Devotion January 2022

1/19/2022


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/T8yE1V9Zrjw



Complete the Verse & Name the BookHe will wear righteousness like a belt and truth like an undergarment. In that day the wolf . . . (completion at the end)



Pastor Del McKenzie continued his series of messages on the Holy Spirit with his thirteenth talk titled “The Holy Spirit’s Assurance”. So far we have looked at the Holy Spirit wanting to be our companion, being the Spirit of life, making Jesus real to us, the enabler of worship, leading us in prayer, making us loving people, setting us free, giving us power, being our teacher, being our comforter, the one who brings conviction, and the one who brings unity.


How do you know you are a Christian? Is it because you prayed a prayer? Many people have prayed a prayer and are not Christians. Is it because you are baptized? Many people are baptized but are not Christians. Is it because God is a God of love? Is it because you go to church often? Is it because you said the Apostles’ Creed? 


Do you doubt your salvation? Do you live without confidence in your salvation? Is it possible to be assured of your salvation? 1 John 5:13-15 says: 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.


One of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is to give believers assurance of salvation—reconciliation with God and peace with God. Romans 8:16, 17 says: 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 


There are two main ways the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. The first is in a subjective way. It happens internally. We don’t receive a written document that verifies we are now Christians or anything of the sort. It’s something that goes on inside of us.


Romans 5:1 says: Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Justification tells us we are right with God. Romans 8:1-8 says: 1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin] he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.


Justification is an act of God’s grace whereby he declares the person who puts their faith in Jesus Christ no longer guilty but righteous. Justification comes with an obligation: 12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God (Romans 8:12-14). It’s by the Spirit we are able to put to death the deeds of the body. 


We are adopted into the family of God: you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15b) The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16). The rub is that after we become sons of God by being justified having our sins cancelled and made right with God, we’re still human. We still have a sinful nature. Therefore, we need to be led by the Spirit and helped by the Spirit so we don’t fulfill the desires of that sinful nature. 


Because the sinful nature is present in us, sometimes we question our relationship with God. We expect our progress in sanctification, maturation, and transformation to be more advanced than it is. We stumble and think we have lost our salvation. That’s what the devil tells us, after all. Rather than listen to the accuser, listen to the Spirit: The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. 


Galatians 4:6, 7 says: And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.


1 Corinthians 12:3b says: no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. We can pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name . . .” but the prayer will just be repeated words unless the words are prayed in the Holy Spirit and the words come from the heart. The Holy Spirit is our inner witness. 


The second way the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God is in an objective way. The Holy Spirit uses objective truth to bring out the subjective ministry. Objective truth is truth outside of us. People can rely on objective truth apart from the Holy Spirit, but it’s a cold, calculated approach. They might say, “I must be a Christian because I have this or that.” There’s more to Christianity than that. Christians have an inner witness inside of them—the Holy Spirit. 


The Holy Spirit uses historic truth. Hebrews 10:15-18 says: And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. 


Because of the Holy Spirit we are free of the guilt of sin: The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16). Justification is when God says, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” God declares us no longer guilty. The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross was once for all. Hebrews 10:10 says: And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. The Holy Spirit will take us to this objective truth. 


Jesus died to pay for sin. Sin was totally paid for when Jesus sacrificed himself as our substitute on the cross of Calvary. If we’re concerned about whether or not we are Christians, the Holy Spirit will remind us of this historic truth. 


The Holy Spirit will give us full assurance of faith. Hebrews 10:19-23 says19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. The Holy Spirit cleanses us from a guilty conscience. 


We’re not to sit around waiting for the Holy Spirit to whisper in our ear, “You’re a Christian.” We are to consider how to stir up one another to love and good works not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24, 25). How does the Holy Spirit use objective truth? He uses us to encourage one another in the Lord. 


When you start doubting your salvation, go to the cross.


Tomorrow we will continue this recap of Pastor Del’s message with the second half. 



Verse Completion. . . and the lamb will live together.  Isaiah 11:5, 6a (NLT) 


1/18/2022


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/HQswDNBvTes



Complete the Verse & Name the BookNow you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has . . . (completion at the end)



Yesterday we started a recap of Pastor Michael’s sermon titled “The Leadership of Gideon” based on Judges 7:22 to 8:28. Life for Gideon was going well. God used him and 300 men to face an army of 135,000 men. The result was the death of 120,000 of the enemy. After this and other victories, Gideon ran into some trouble from within his own people. He was challenged vigorously. The Ephraimites were angry at Gideon for not calling on them first to help him in his battle.


But he answered them, “What have I accomplished compared to you? Aren’t the gleanings of Ephraim’s grapes better than the full grape harvest of Abiezer? God gave Oreb and Zeeb, the Midianite leaders, into your hands. What was I able to do compared to you?” At this, their resentment against him subsided.


What Gideon did here was appease their pride and stroke their ego. He knows that is what they are after—fame and recognition. A person knows he’s dealing with a proud person when he strokes that person’s ego, and that angry person settles down. If the Ephraimites were interested in Gideon’s leadership, they wouldn’t have challenged him vigorously. Chances are they wanted in on the plunder. 


Gideon and his three hundred men, exhausted yet keeping up the pursuit, came to the Jordan and crossed it. He said to the men of Sukkoth, “Give my troops some bread; they are worn out, and I am still pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.”

But the officials of Sukkoth said, “Do you already have the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna in your possession? Why should we give bread to your troops?”


The officials of Sukkoth didn’t want to give any bread to Gideon’s exhausted men, because the battle wasn’t officially over yet. If Gideon’s men were captured, the giving of bread would be a big waste. In addition, Sukkoth might be attacked if it’s found out that they have given bread to the enemy. 


The officials don’t want to follow Gideon’s leadership, and they don’t want to follow God’s leadership. They don’t trust either of them. The officials belittle Gideon. If they thought Gideon was going to win, they would have helped him. Instead, they dismiss Gideon as if he’s a nobody. They shame Gideon. 


Then Gideon replied, “Just for that, when the Lord has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will tear your flesh with desert thorns and briers.”

From there he went up to Peniel and made the same request of them, but they answered as the men of Sukkoth had. So he said to the men of Peniel, “When I return in triumph, I will tear down this tower.”

10Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with a force of about fifteen thousand men, all that were left of the armies of the eastern peoples; a hundred and twenty thousand swordsmen had fallen. 11 Gideon went up by the route of the nomads east of Nobah and Jogbehah and attacked the unsuspecting army.12 Zebah and Zalmunna, the two kings of Midian, fled, but he pursued them and captured them, routing their entire army.

13 Gideon son of Joash then returned from the battle by the Pass of Heres. 14 He caught a young man of Sukkoth and questioned him, and the young man wrote down for him the names of the seventy-seven officials of Sukkoth, the elders of the town. 15 Then Gideon came and said to the men of Sukkoth, “Here are Zebah and Zalmunna, about whom you taunted me by saying, ‘Do you already have the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna in your possession? Why should we give bread to your exhausted men?’” 16 He took the elders of the town and taught the men of Sukkoth a lesson by punishing them with desert thorns and briers. 17 He also pulled down the tower of Peniel and killed the men of the town.


They were whipped with thorn and briar branches. At this point, Gideon appears to be overstepping his boundaries as a leader. Then he tore down the tower of Peniel and killed the men of the town. He has clearly crossed a line. Gideon was called by God to destroy the Midianites and Amalekites, but he gets carried away and kills the men of Peniel. The man who was called by God to lead Israel is murdering Israel. Gideon is revengeful; he has a personal vendetta. 


18 Then he asked Zebah and Zalmunna, “What kind of men did you kill at Tabor?”

“Men like you,” they answered, “each one with the bearing of a prince.”

19 Gideon replied, “Those were my brothers, the sons of my own mother. As surely as the Lord lives, if you had spared their lives, I would not kill you.” 20 Turning to Jether, his oldest son, he said, “Kill them!” But Jether did not draw his sword, because he was only a boy and was afraid.


It was traditional for a king to have his son kill the kings of overthrown lands. It was a sign that the son would someday take over the throne and be a strong king. Since the son is a young boy in this instance, he is scared to do such a thing. 


21 Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Come, do it yourself. ‘As is the man, so is his strength.’”  Gideon is being taunted and belittled by these two kings. So Gideon stepped forward and killed them, and took the ornaments off their camels’ necks. Kings rode on camels that were laden with beautiful attire that included gold and silver. By taking the ornaments off the camels’ necks, Gideon was declaring himself to be a king with status at least equal to theirs. He was making a statement: “Everything you had is now mine.”

22 The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us from the hand of Midian.”

23 But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.” 24 And he said, “I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder.” (It was the custom of the Ishmaelites to wear gold earrings.)

25 They answered, “We’ll be glad to give them.” So they spread out a garment, and each of them threw a ring from his plunder onto it. 26 The weight of the gold rings he asked for came to seventeen hundred shekels, not counting the ornaments, the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian or the chains that were on their camels’ necks. 


Gideon is talking out of both sides of his mouth. He has already taken the action to show he is a king by taking the ornaments from the camels along with the pendants, the purple garments worn by the kings, plus 34 pounds of gold, and yet he is also saying that he won’t rule over them. Actions always speak louder than words. Gideon was giving lip-service to God while acting at the same time as if he is a king. 


27 Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.


An ephod is an idol of sorts that represents God. Gideon takes the gold and shapes it into an idol. What Gideon did is similar to what Aaron did when Moses was up on the mountain. Gideon placed the idol in his hometown. He has come full-circle. He destroyed the altar of Baal and tore down the Asherah pole. He did away with two idols, and now he has set up his own idol. 


Israel, the nation that was to represent God and be salt and light to the nations around it, was no longer following God. The nation that told God they would follow his covenant and live rightly before Him, no longer was interested in following God. God was no longer vital to their lives. Gideon, the judge that brought the nation out of idolatry, has brought them back into idolatry. Spiritual depravity has taken place in Israel.


In this story we see things looking like they are going well. However, from within his own people and from within his own heart come trouble. Our downfall often comes from our own heart—from within. 


28 Thus Midian was subdued before the Israelites and did not raise its head again. During Gideon’s lifetime, the land had peace forty years.


For 40 years things were going great. What could possibly go wrong? This story reminds us of Moses’ words to the people, “Look out when you’re in the promised land feeling fat and sassy and enjoying peace and prosperity. Be careful of the enemy from within, because you will start thinking that you don’t need God. You’ll think you did all that was accomplished. Your pride will make you fall. Watch out!”


The nation of Israel is not looking out. We live in a nation today that is not looking out. We live in a nation that is proud, arrogant, self-centered, boastful, and selfish. People want things their way. They are purposefully in conflict with others. They are confrontational at the drop of a hat. They dismiss and belittle others. They are not interested in submitting to the authority of God or answering the call of God. Sadly, many churches in our country have gone the way of Gideon. They pretend to follow God but their hearts are far from God. 


God continually calls his nation and his people back to himself. Will you answer his call?



Verse Completion. . . made you his heir. Galatians 4:7 (NLT) 


Note: Yesterday the reference given for the verse was incorrect. It should have said Isaiah 8:12, 13.


1/17/2022


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/eKUOqgoNjHo



Complete the Verse & Name the BookDon’t call everything a conspiracy like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one . . . (completion at the end)



Yesterday Pastor Michael gave a sermon titled “The Leadership of Gideon” based on Judges 7:22-8:28. Today we will start a recap of that message.


Gideon was hiding out in a cave in an attempt to avoid the Midianites, Amalekites, and other armies that would annually devastate the land of Israel. Israel had fallen away from God. They didn’t follow God or see him as important in their lives. While Gideon was in a cave, an angel visited him and told him he would lead an army against the Midianites. 


After some persuasion, Gideon begins to lead the army of Israel. He destroyed the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah pole standing beside it. Gideon becomes the leader of 32,000 troops. It’s a meager number compared to the 135,000 troops of Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east who formed an alliance against Israel. Nevertheless, the LORD said to Gideon, “You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength. Therefore, tell the people, ‘Whoever is timid or afraid may leave this mountain and go home.’ “ So 22,000 of them went home, leaving only 10,000 who were willing to fight (Judges 7:2, 3). 


God told Gideon 10,000 was still too many. It gets whittled down to 300. The LORD told Gideon, “With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites. Send all the others home” (Judges 7:7).


Gideon along with his 300 men surround the Midianite camp just after midnight. They blew their rams’ horns and broke their clay jars. They held their blazing torches in their left hands and the horns in their right hands and shouted, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon.”


22 When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. The army fled to Beth Shittah toward Zererah as far as the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath. 23 Israelites from Naphtali, Asher and all Manasseh were called out, and they pursued the Midianites. 24 Gideon sent messengers throughout the hill country of Ephraim, saying, “Come down against the Midianites and seize the waters of the Jordan ahead of them as far as Beth Barah.”

So all the men of Ephraim were called out and they seized the waters of the Jordan as far as Beth Barah.25 They also captured two of the Midianite leaders, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb,and Zeeb at the winepress of Zeeb. They pursued the Midianites and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon, who was by the Jordan.


Everything seems to be going well for Gideon. A lot of the soldiers at the Midianite camp didn’t know each other. When they were awakened by all the noise from the horns and clay jars, and they saw all the torches, they panicked. They saw men around them armed with swords and decided they better kill them before they were killed themselves, not realizing that who they saw in the dark in their camp were their allies.  


The result was 120,000 of those in the Midianite camp killed each other. That left only 15,000 men in the Midianite camp, and they decided to flee. When they got to the Jordan River, they were met by Gideon’s army of men as well as men from Ephraim. 


Oreb and Zeeb were likely from the same family. Both of these Midianite leaders were killed in order to put fear into the remaining Midianite men and to raise the confidence of Israel’s men.  


Things were going well for Gideon until he begins to run into some surprising sources of trouble. The trouble doesn’t come from the Midianites or Amalekites; the trouble comes from within.


Now the Ephraimites asked Gideon, “Why have you treated us like this? Why didn’t you call us when you went to fight Midian?” And they challenged him vigorously (Judges 8:1).


His “friends” challenged him vigorously. They argued heatedly with Gideon. There was anger and yelling. They were quarreling vehemently. Gideon was treated as one would treat an enemy. He was contended with vigorously. Isn’t it strange that the conflict comes from within? 


We expect to be persecuted by the world, but when we are persecuted by insiders, we are taken aback. Our family, friends, or church turns on us. Paul said to the elders at Ephesus, 28 “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears” (Acts 20:28-31). 


Paul is warning that people you consider friends now will end up betraying you. They are like savage wolves. 


John also wrote to Ephesus and said: I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. 10 So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.


11 Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. (3 John 9-11)


Wolves that come from within are selfish, self-centered, and they love to be first. They want things their way. They want power and authority in the church. They do evil, and anyone who does evil is not from God. 


Jude 3-4, 12-13, 16 says: Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.


12 These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.


16 These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.


These are people who are egotistical, boastful, proud, and looking for things to be done their way. They claim to know God, but they act the opposite of how God would have them act. These are the kinds of people Gideon comes in contact with through the Ephraimites. They were mad at Gideon for not calling them first, but where were they when Gideon sent word to join forces with him in fighting the Midianites and Amalekites? They are mad at Gideon as if Gideon is the one who has done something wrong. Proud people always blame others. It’s never their fault, so they don’t accept responsibility for their actions. 


Now that the battle is almost over, they want to be in on the fame and glory for the great victory.


Tomorrow we will continue this recap of Pastor Michael’s sermon with the second half.



Verse Completion. . . you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble. Galatians 4:7 (NLT) 


1/15/2022


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/ZZqV6i98SkA



Complete the Verse & Name the Book But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we . . . (completion at the end)



Yesterday we started a recap of Dr. Moody’s sixth sermon in the  series “A Better Future” with a text of Hebrews 13:1-6. We left off with Pastor Moody saying we should keep the persecuted church in the forefront of our minds because whatever is there will be the priority of our actions. Even though we may not know of anyone being thrown in jail because of their Christian faith, we live in a global village. We should not think of the persecuted church as being “them”; we should think of it as “us.” It’s not “they” who are being persecuted, it’s “we” who are being persecuted.


If you are watching your favorite sports team compete in a game, if they win the game, you say, “We won the game.” If they lose the game, you say, “We lost.” You are identifying yourself with the team. How much more then should those of us who are Christians identify with the persecuted Church when we are spiritually and actually part of the same body?! Do you include yourself in the persecuted church? When one Christian is put in jail for their faith, all of us Christians are put in jail. We are one body. 


Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Although love is not mentioned specifically, marriage is a love relationship. To elevate marriage, marriage should be honored by all. The author is not talking about marriage conferences or marriage counseling, as valuable as those things may be. The author is saying that in our community, the way we talk about marriage should honor it. We should be saying to couples, “Wow! You’ve been married 30 years? That’s just brilliant!” To the newlywed couple we should say, “Marriage is such a wonderful experience. You have much to look forward to!” As a community we should be honoring marriages. Singles should be honored as well, but this passage is not about singles. 


Marriage is hard work sometimes. It takes sacrifice. You don’t always get what you want. We should be honoring those who put in the hard work and make sacrifices. 


Any sexual intimacy outside of biblically-defined marriage will be judged by God. This is why we need the blood of Jesus to be prominent in our preaching, teaching, ministries, and lives. We need to be forgiven. We need Jesus who came for the outsider and sinner. Any sexual intimacy outside of biblically-defined marriage will be judged by God is hard teaching, but it won’t make it any easier if we try to blur this clear teaching of Scripture because God is real, and he will judge. 


The solution to sexual destructiveness is elevating, within marriage, sexual intimacy that is undefiled. It may help to schedule sexual intimacy and be patient. The lie is that sexual thrill increases with an increasing sexual variety of partners. This is simply not true. Sexual thrill is directly related to sexual intimacy which takes time. Those who have been married for many years will tell you that sexual intimacy with their spouse gets better and better as a person gets older because the couple knows each other better. Take the time. Be patient. 


If a married couple is experiencing some difficulties regarding sexual intimacy, they need to relax. They have a lifetime to work at it. 


Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”


Now we come to a love we should not have—plilarguria, or the love of money. The quotes are from Joshua and Psalms. As Christians we often get this wrong. We think that what motivates greed is a fundamental desire for the accumulation of more and more stuff. Although there is some truth to this, the reality is one person can only enjoy so much stuff. There’s something going on when a person keeps accumulating more and more and more. Steve Jobs had a mansion in New York on Billionaire Row that he never went to. What’s the point of that? 


Our text is saying that what motivates greed, the love of money, is fear. To counteract that we have, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” There no fear here. “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” People collect more and more stuff because they want to feel safe and secure, but money can be gone in an instant. The only real security is a relationship with Jesus. Greed is generated by fear. Avarice is generated by anxiety. The solution is knowing who God is. A generous person is free from fear. Read Psalm 23: “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures . . . Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me . . . Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life . . .” What can man do to me? Therefore, we live a life of generosity.


Because of the love shown to us, we are to follow the instructions given by Jesus: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28: 19, 20). 


On April 14, 1912, 1,528 people who were on the Titanic ended up in the frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Of this number, only six were rescued by lifeboats. One of the survivors who was in the water later described what happened to him. He clambered up onto a piece of debris in order to get out of the water. He had no life vest. As he was sitting there, a person who did have a life vest splashed his way over to him and encouraged the man to put his faith in Jesus. The man sitting on the debris wasn’t interested. 


The man with the life vest was a Scottish Baptist pastor named John Harper. He was on his way to Chicago to take the pulpit at Moody Church for several weeks. When John heard the man’s response, he said to him, “Well, I guess if you are not going to put your faith in Jesus, you’ll need this life vest more than me,” and John threw his life vest to the man sitting on the debris. John Harper then swam to other people in the water and witnessed to them about Jesus. 


Eventually, John made his way back to the man on the debris. This time when John talked to him, he received Jesus. John Harper’s last words before succumbing to the cold water and drowning were: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” 


That’s love. That’s the way God has loved us, and that is how and why we are to love each other.



Verse Completion. . . receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ. Galatians 3:22 (NLT) 


1/14/2022


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/5ZkNd9BOfQk



Complete the Verse & Name the Book What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that . . . (completion at the end)



Dr. Josh Moody started a series in Hebrews titled “A Better Future.” The sixth sermon was based on Hebrews 13:1-6:


1 Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (ESV)


This passage is all about love. The challenge is that love is far easier to talk about than put into practice. We tend to think of love as sentimental or obvious, but it’s a difficult doctrine to get right. God in his wisdom is not only telling to love, he is showing us how and why to love. 


We all need to feel love. Everyone, everywhere needs to be loved. In Billy Graham’s last crusade, he said, “The greatest need of the world is for the transformation of human nature from hate to love.” Madonna of pop culture once said, “The reason I’ve done all that I’ve done is because I want to be loved.”


We live in the age of outrage. We live in a time when hate is far more prominent than love. Who would call the summer of 2021 “The Summer of Love”? 


In the ancient world when Christians would be placed in an arena to be eaten by lions, they would leap ahead of one another in order to be eaten first and protect their brother or sister in Christ. As pagans observed this, they said, “How they love each other!” 


Do you think the pagans are saying this about Christians today? Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35) Would the pagans be able to identify us as disciples of Christ today by our love for each other? We need to love and be loved.


Let brotherly love continue. The Greek word used for love here is philadelphia, or family love—brotherly and sisterly love. A definition of love can be found in 1 Corinthians 13. The author is telling his readers to let love continue. Love doesn’t stop; it doesn’t give up. 


A church is not really an organization; a church is a family made up of brothers and sisters. People get confused when they think of church as a friendship group. Of course, we should have friends in the church, but there’s a limit to how many friends you can have. Jesus had twelve close friends and one of them was Judas. We can only know about a dozen people in our lives really well. However, there’s no limit to the number of brothers and sisters we can have in our church. When our church has a meeting, it’s not a business meeting; it’s a family meeting of the members of the church. As a family we love each other; we encourage one another. We’re being told here to continue in love and not stop. 


Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. The Greek word for love in this instance is philoxenia meaning “love for the stranger.” Hospitality here does not mean cooking up some brownies. It means loving the stranger—the outsider—who is not yet a Christian, or who is a Christian but not yet part of the church. 


The church is God’s mission to the world. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16, 17). The church bears this message. We have philoxenia—love for the outsider, the stranger.


The phrase, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares, would be recognized by the Jewish readers of Hebrews as the stories of Abraham and Gideon who, in their hospitality to strangers, found they were having an angelic encounter. Numerous theologians believe this angelic encounter was a preincarnate meeting with Jesus. 


Do you want to have an angelic encounter? Do you want to have a divine encounter? The way to have such an encounter is not by listening to praise music on YouTube that’s in a loop. The way to have such an encounter is not by listening to your favorite Bible teacher on YouTube over and over. The way to have an angelic encounter is by loving the stranger. Find a stranger and love them enough to tell them about Jesus. 


 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. There’s been some confusion with this verse. This verse is not referring to those who are in jail or prison because they have committed a criminal offense. Clearly, Christians should love those who are incarcerated even if they have committed a criminal offense, but this verse is not about that. This verse, in the context of the book, is about those Christians who are in jail or prison because of their Christian confession. The author is referring to the persecuted church. He wants the reader to put the persecuted church in the forefront of their minds. Whatever is at the forefront of our minds will be the priority of our actions. What’s at the forefront of your mind? 


There’s probably nobody in Wheaton who has been thrown into jail for being a Christian, but we live in a global village. We are aware of Christians who are being put in prison for their Christian faith in the Middle East, Africa, China, and other areas. We are to have them at the forefront of our thinking. We are the body of Christ regardless of where we reside in the world. We should not think of the persecuted church as “them”; we should think about it as “us.” It’s not “they” who are being persecuted, it’s “we” who are being persecuted. 


Tomorrow we will continue this recap of Pastor Moody’s sermon with the second half.



Verse Completion. . . bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter. Isaiah 5:20 (NLT) 


1/13/2022


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/Zvg4KfJZvck


Complete the Verse & Name the Book: My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer . . . (completion at the end)


Yesterday we started a recap of Pastor Moody’s fifth sermon in a series titled “A Better Future” based on Hebrews 12:18-29. He said that in order to have church you need three things: You need God’s people, you need to have them gather, and you need the word of God proclaimed.


The Old Testament was the Bible of the New Testament Christians. When the Old Testament is read, you are reading the Scriptures that point to Jesus.


The Old Testament looks forward to Christ. We are now at a different point in salvation history; we look back at Christ on the cross and forward to his return. The gathering we have today in our churches is a better gathering; it’s a fulfilled gathering. Church is a gathering of God’s people around God’s word. This goes all the way back to Mt. Sinai, but now it’s a gathering that is fulfilled in the gospel through Jesus. It’s a better gathering. We proclaim the gospel because we are God’s people gathered around God’s gospel.


Note the continuity in this passage regarding fire. Regarding Mt. Sinai we read: 18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire. Regarding Mt. Zion we read: 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.” The physical gathering at Mt. Sinai was awesome; there was a literal blazing fire! When we gather together today, we don’t see that literal blazing fire. We gather with God’s presence in an intense way where our God is a consuming fire. The amazing display of the literal blazing fire in the Old Testament is nothing compared to attending church today. If we only had eyes that could see the innumerable angels joining our festal gathering here. There’s a fire of the very reality of God Himself here. Why would we ever go back to Judaism? We have a far better church now.


You have come to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. A preacher once said, “Preach the blood; that’s where the power is.” The lyrics to an old hymn by Robert Lowry go like this:


What can wash away my sin?

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

What can make me whole again?

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.


O precious is the flow

That makes me white as snow;

No other fount I know,

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.


For my pardon this I see:

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

For my cleansing this my plea:

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.


Nothing can for sin atone;

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Naught of good that I have done:

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.


This is all my hope and peace:

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

This is all my righteousness:

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.


If you trust in the blood of Jesus, you are as white as snow.


25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. Since Hebrews is a sermon in letter form, the author must be speaking about listening to the preacher and following what God says.


The third action we are to take is to worship. Worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. When people say to me, “I’m a Christian, but I don’t feel like I need to go to church and worship,” I begin to wonder if the person is saved. To say we are a Christian but don’t need to gather with God’s people in worship is as contradictory as saying, “I’m married, but I don’t have a spouse,” or “I’m alive, but I don’t have a heartbeat.” There’s a contradiction in terms! For Christians, the gathering together with other Christians is our heartbeat. Worship is the pulse of a Christian.


For our “God is a consuming fire.” I haven’t seen any t-shirts with that printed on them. A consuming fire is a way to describe the holiness of God. God is the Judge of all. If we don’t go to God through Jesus, through the atoning work of Christ on the cross, through the blood of Jesus, our God is a consuming fire.


It’s an ironic shift of terms today that we think of worship in consumeristic terms when biblically the consumer of worship is God. As we leave church, our question should not be, “What did I get out of worship today? What did I receive?” Instead, our question should be, “Was God honored today, for our God is a consuming fire”? When we come to church, we should be coming to receive the blood of Jesus. At some point there will no longer be an offer to receive the blood of Jesus: when one’s heart is hardened to the offer, when one dies, or when Jesus returns. At that point, all that will be left is God as a consuming fire.


As C.S. Lewis considered the teaching of Jesus concerning the Tower of Siloam in Luke 13:1-5, Lewis said, “Suffering is God’s megaphone to a deaf world.”


Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”


Advent is a celebration of the first coming of Jesus as a baby, but it is also an expectation of his second coming. Our God is a consuming fire. He is the Judge of all. In this heavenly gathering with his heavenly word, I’m offering to you the one and only remedy—the blood of Jesus.


Verse Completion: . . . I who live, but Christ lives in me. Galatians 2:20a (NLT)


1/12/2022


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/k0Sqb95vsIM



Complete the Verse & Name the Book Human pride will be brought down, and human arrogance will be humbled. Only . . . (completion at the end)



Dr. Josh Moody started a series in Hebrews titled “A Better Future.” The fifth sermon was based on Hebrews 12:18-29:


18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”  21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”

22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”  27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”


The church is better, therefore, we’d better stick with the church. The author of Hebrews has been making a comparison between things which are good and things which are better—a comparison between that which is lesser and that which is greater. Towards the end of Hebrews the Hebrew Christians are called to be a part of a better future rather than return to Judaism. They are called to seek the city that is to come. 


The church is a gathering of people. There are people today who say, “I want to be spiritual but not religious.” They say that they want Jesus and the Bible—spiritual things—but they don’t want the church. Our temptation today is not to go back to Judaism, it’s to move on to something else and leave the church behind. This passage is telling us that to be a real follower of Jesus we need to be part of a church. 


There are people today who have been hurt by a church. It could be someone said something that offended them. The experience left a bitter taste in their mouth, and they don’t want to return to church. 


This passage elevates the importance of the church as a gathering place for individual Christians. There is a grand confusion about what church is today. 


The church is better, therefore, we’d better stick with the church. The author illustrates this with a story about two mountains. He’s telling the Hebrew Christians that they have not come to the first mountain. He is referencing to Mount Sinai where God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses to give to the people. The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, uses a word for the gathering of the people that took place at Mount Sinai that is the same word that the Greek New Testament uses for church. Church is a gathering of God’s people around God’s word. What do you need to have a church? First, you need God’s people. Second, you need them to gather. Third, you need God’s word to be proclaimed. 


Notice how the author says the Hebrew Christians have not come to Mount Sinai, but they have come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. In this gathering there are thousands of angels. We are being taught here that when we gather as God’s people around God’s word, we are experiencing a better gathering than Mt. Sinai. Even though we can’t see them, thousands of angels have a festival to celebrate our gathering together. Real Christians have their citizenship in heaven. They are part of the city that is to come. When we gather as God’s people around the gospel, we gather in the presence of God. Jesus said, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20). 


When we gather with God, the Judge of all, through Jesus and his blood, by faith we are declared righteous, and now we can gather together with a festal celebration. 


What we are not saying is that the Old Testament is not important, so there’s no need to read it. The Old Testament was the Bible of the New Testament Christians. When the Old Testament is read, you are reading the Scriptures that point to Jesus. The Mount Sinai gathering is fulfilled in the Mt. Zion gathering. 


A new covenant takes place when Jesus arrives. There’s continuity between the Old Testament and the New. People are saved through faith in both. It’s not like the Bible teaches we are saved by works in the Old Testament and by grace in the New Testament. Ephesians 2:8, 9 says For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. We can only be saved through faith.


Tomorrow we will continue this recap of Pastor Moody’s sermon with the second half. 



Verse Completion. . . the Lord will be exalted on that day of judgment. Isaiah 2:11 (NLT) 


1/11/2022


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/-F_W_zl61bI



Complete the Verse & Name the BookBe joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then . . . (completion at the end)



Yesterday we started a recap of Pastor Michael’s sermon titled “The Year Ahead” based on Galatians 6:7-10. He provided our church’s purpose statement: We exist to promote and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ for the salvation and sanctification for all people. He also provided our church’s prayer: God, we pray that the gospel would spread rapidly and be honored. We pray against all wickedness and evil that would attempt to stand against the gospel. We pray that God would strengthen our faith in Jesus by His Holy Spirit. Amen. Pastor Michael then started to go through our church’s value statement: We value the word of God. We value evangelism. 


We value discipleship. We believe in the truth of God’s word for the salvation of all people unto transformational living. Disciples of Christ are transformed people; they are new creations. Disciples of Christ live lives the way Christ wants us to live them. The old nature is rejected, and the new nature is embraced. Romans 12:1, 2 says:


1Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.


The word of God helps us to understand what God desires to do in our lives. We see where we need to change. We become transformed. Our minds are renewed. We are sanctified.


We value missions. We believe in the truth of God’s word for the salvation of all people unto transformational living which is for all people in all places. This is in our purpose statement and Matthew 28:18-20. We value taking the gospel to all nations. We care about people locally, but we also care about people abroad. Missions helps the word of God to spread to all places on the globe. Because we value missions, we participate in Operation Christmas Child, give to Care Net, donate to the Food Bank, give to Rick & Tammy Romano in the Dominican Republic. We are outward focused. We want the gospel to reach all people in all places. Jesus said to go and make disciples of all nations. We need to be intentional about sharing the Good News wherever we go.


We value unity. We believe in the truth of God’s word for the salvation of all people unto transformational living which is for all people in all places accomplished by working together. We all need to be working together as one. Divisiveness does not accomplish God’s work. We as the Church are the body of Christ. There’s only one body of Christ. Individualism does not have a place in the body of Christ. James 4:7 tells us to submit to God. Job 22:21 tells us to submit to God and be at peace with him. Romans 8:7 tells us: The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 1 Peter 2:13, 14 tells us: 13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. Ephesians 5:21 says: Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Humility promotes unity. Humble people do not look out for their own interests. When people look out for the interests of God rather than self, it draws them together in Christ. When people are working for Christ’s glory instead of their own, unity is promoted. Ephesians 4:1-6 says:

1As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.


We don’t have to conjure up unity; we have to make every effort to keep it. We must recognize that Jesus is the center of our church and the center of our lives. As soon as we put self at the center, we are no longer unified; we’re divisive. Humility, gentleness, patience, and kindness all wrapped in love go a long way in promoting unity. 


It’s like Paul is asking, “What part of one don’t you understand?” We are one. We are united together as one. Unity is valued. Show me a church that is united, a church that moves together in the same direction—willingly, lovingly, and gladly—to fulfill the purpose of the Church, and I will show you a church in which the power of the Holy Spirit works in miraculous ways. If we want Jesus to show up in our church, we have to get out of the way. It’s not about our preferences or rights; it’s about Jesus. 


We value the lordship of Christ. We believe in the truth of God’s word for the salvation of all people unto transformational living which is for all people in all places accomplished by working together under the headship of Christ. Jesus is the head of this church—not the pastor, not the governing board, not the elders, not anybody else. Ephesians 1:22, 23 says:


22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.


Jesus is the head of the church. It’s him we look to for guidance. Everything we do is placed under the lordship of Christ. We place all of who we are under all of who he is. We put the gospel first. 


We value the dependence upon the Holy Spirit in prayer. We believe in the truth of God’s word for the salvation of all people unto transformational living which is for all people in all places accomplished by working together under the headship of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Prayer has to be essential to our church. By praying, we recognize we can’t accomplish God’s will for our lives on our own. We depend completely upon the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives. We don’t value independence; we value dependence on God. We’re in a dangerous place when we feel like we don’t need God’s help. 


We’ve looked at our church’s purpose statement, our church’s prayer, and our church’s value statement, but they are just words written down. The words mean nothing without us. If we don’t live the words out and actually put them into action, they mean nothing. We want these words to mean something. We want them to be lived out. Let’s take these great words and turn them into great actions. 


Galatians 6:7-10 says:

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.


We can deceive ourselves by thinking: “We have a great purpose statement. We have a great church prayer. We have a great value statement. Wow! Our church has it together!” It all means nothing if my life isn’t following Jesus. It all means nothing if my life isn’t being given over to Jesus daily. It means nothing if I don’t seek the Holy Spirit in my life. It means nothing if we aren’t sowing to please the Spirit. If we’re not sowing to please the Spirit, we won’t reap eternal life. 


Don’t give up in doing good. Let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Let’s extend God’s grace, forgiveness, kindness, mercy, and faithfulness to others. May our church we a place where people experience God’s goodness.



Verse Completion: . . . the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11b (NLT)


1/10/2022


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/X43XKKMf9Tw



Complete the Verse & Name the BookGive up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for . . .(completion at the end)



Yesterday Pastor Michael gave a sermon titled “The Year Ahead” based on Galatians 6:7-10. Today we will start a recap of that message.


Last week we looked at Paul’s purpose in life: to press on with Jesus, to know Jesus more deeply, to help others know Christ, to finish the race and win the prize of spending eternity with Jesus. 


This week we’d like to look at the purpose of NCCU—our purpose corporately. Our purpose statement is as follows:


We exist to promote and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ for the salvation and sanctification for all people.


Any church that is part of the Church receives its vision from Jesus:  18 All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). Notice how we are given things to do. We can’t be sitting around doing nothing and expect the work to get done. The promotion of the gospel happens when we take action. Each one of us is a witness to what Jesus has done in our lives. Each one of us can share how Jesus has changed and is changing our lives. We are witnesses to who Jesus is in our lives. Paul said:


If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”(Romans 10:9-15)


We need to be taking the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ to all around us. This is why we exist as a church. But sharing the gospel can be difficult, frustrating, and tiring work that can include suffering and persecution. We can be tempted to give up. This is why we need prayer. We need to pray for God’s work. We have worked to develop a prayer for our church:


God, we pray that the gospel would spread rapidly and be honored. We pray against all wickedness and evil that would attempt to stand against the gospel. We pray that God would strengthen our faith in Jesus by His Holy Spirit. Amen.


We pray against wickedness and evil because we are in a war—spiritual warfare. Not everyone who hears the gospel receives the gospel. Not everybody wants to hear the gospel. There are forces that are actively fighting against the gospel being spread. We respond with prayer against wickedness and evil, and we pray for each other that our faith wouldn’t grow weak but be strengthened in Jesus by the Holy Spirit. We pray that people would come to know Jesus, that barriers would be broken down, hearts softened, and minds opened to the truth of the gospel. 


Ephesians 6:10-20 says:


10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.


We access the power of God when we pray. We are dependent upon the Holy Spirit.


Our church has a value statement that shows what we value and how we complete our purpose. It’s based on Scripture. We want these values to be guiding principles concerning how we go about fulfilling our purpose.


We value the word of God. We believe in the truth of God’s word. His words are life to us. They are words of salvation. Many of our activities are centered around the word of God. Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16). It’s the word of God that brings salvation to people. 


Isaiah 40:8 says: “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” We value and proclaim the truth of God’s word in our church. We don’t add to it, subtract from it, change it, or manipulate it. 


We value evangelism. We believe in the truth of God’s word for the salvation of all people. We witness to the reality of the resurrection of Jesus. We are all evangelists. 2 Corinthians 5:17-6:2 says:


17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

1As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.


Evangelism is sharing with others that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. This is the Good News that must be spread. We get to be God’s ambassadors who promote his gospel now


Tomorrow we will continue this recap of Pastor Michael’s sermon with the second half.



Verse Completion: . . . the rights of widows. Isaiah 1:16b, 17 (NLT)


1/8/2022


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/EnZKNZM-Ovw



Complete the Verse & Name the Book My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness . . . That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when . . .(completion at the end)



Yesterday we started a recap of Dr. Moody’s sermon in his series titled “A Better Future” based on Hebrews 12:12-17. He said this passage teaches us how to race ahead spiritually and how not to race ahead spiritually. We find six practical things we can do. We can strive for peace with everyone and strive for holiness. We are told that without holiness we will not see the Lord. Spiritual insightfulness is inextricably connected to moral righteousness. 


Now we come to a very interesting phrase: See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God. We, in Christian circles, tend to think that grace is easy. You might hear someone say, “I don’t understand everything, but I have grace.” Grace is something which must be obtained. We have to insure we don’t fall short of grace. We have to insure we don’t miss out on grace. It’s something we obtain. We need to be looking out for each other so each of us obtains grace because the most difficult thing in the world to believe is that you and I are accepted by God irrespective of what we have done, regardless of what we said. It’s the most difficult thing for us to believe, and yet it is the message of the gospel. 


At home I want my family to run on grace. We have rules in our family, but what I want to cultivate in my family (and the church family) is grace. I’m not talking about cheap grace; grace needs to transform and we need to strive for holiness, but I want those in my family (including the church family) to feel wanted, accepted, and good enough to be included in the family. We need to see to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God. 


Part of my role as a father is to persuade my children that I love them. It’s been my observation that children who tend to grow up and be stable and productive in their lives are individuals who have not only been loved by their parents, but they also believe that they have been loved by their parents. It’s difficult for us to believe that anyone really loves us. God loves us just as we are. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). We need to be persuading each other that we are loved by the Father and each other. Persuade others that they are needed and wanted so no one fails to obtain the grace of God.


The next instruction is that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. If we’re not in a community where there’s a predominance of grace, what tends to happen is there will be bitterness. We are never to nurture bitterness by taking a grievance that’s been done to us and internally repeat to ourselves: “That person did me harm. What they did was unfair. I hope one of these days they get what they deserve.” After a while our bitterness becomes precious to us. If we nurture bitterness, it affects our character and shapes how we interact with other people. It can damage and defile other people with bitterness, jealousy, revenge, and discouragement. The answer to bitterness is to obtain the grace of God. The way to race ahead spiritually is to see to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God. Forgiveness dispels bitterness. 


The author of Hebrews goes on with his instruction: See to it that no one is sexually immoral. He is warning against physical, unrepentant, habitual, sexual intimacy outside the bounds of the biblical definition of marriage. The Bible frequently warns of the danger of sexual immorality. Sexual immorality is like scooping up fire and placing it on your lap. It’s going to do damage! How do we flee from sexual immorality?


1.   Hide God’s word in your heart. Get into God’s word—read it, meditate on it, listen to it, know it, memorize it. 


2.   Effective marriage. Paul said, “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:2) 


For those who are single, the key is to grasp the real meaning of sex and marriage. Even the best marriage is only a pale reflection of what marriage actually is. The Church is the bride of Christ, and heaven is a marriage. If you are a single follower of Jesus, you are not missing out. You will experience the real thing. But if you are physically, sexually, intimate and not following Jesus, you will miss out on the real thing. 


The final instruction of how not to race ahead spiritually is to see to it that no one is unholy like Esau. Unholy here means profane; verging on the irreverent; crossing the line and being in a place you do not deserve to be. It means trivializing the truth. An example would be a person who grew up in a Christian home and says, “I believe in Christianity, but I don’t really need it right now. It’s not that big a deal to me. I like to live my life my own way. I know God will forgive me. That’s his job.” Such a person is trivializing the truth—treating it as if it’s not important. We have a serious warning here: unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.


Esau and the Edomites were the enemies of God’s people. The author is telling his readers that if they go back to Judaism and reject Jesus, they are no longer Jacob (Israel), but Esau. The real fulfillment of the entire Old Testament lands in Christ. To reject Jesus is not to be Jacob but to be Esau. Here is a warning not to trivialize Christ. The book of Hebrews can be summarized in this: Jesus is God’s final word, and therefore he is your last chance. If you reject him, even if you weep and cry, there is no other way to be saved. 


Steven Bolton, a 34-year-old British man in the Maldives, in 2004 was celebrating his birthday on December 26 when, unbeknown to him, there was a massive earthquake in the Indian Ocean that created a huge tsunami that killed countless people. He was on the beach with his wife and four children when he saw the warning. He forced them up a large tree and literally tied them to the branches of that tree with beach towels. The water rushed in and then went back out to sea carrying with it cars, trucks, houses, boats, and endless debris. The tree stood firm due to its deep roots, and all six of them survived.


The author of Hebrews is saying, “There is a large tree. His name is Jesus. Tie yourself to him.”



Verse Completion. . . I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10 (NLT)


1/7/2022


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/5ZkNd9BOfQk



Complete the Verse & Name the Book Like a lily among thistles is . . .(completion at the end)



Dr. Josh Moody started a series in Hebrews titled “A Better Future”. The fourth sermon was based on Hebrews 12:12-17:


12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.


This passage is teaching us how to race ahead spiritually and how not to race ahead spiritually. In this passage we have practical encouragement but also warning. Typically, we don’t like to receive warnings unless we really need them. We really need to heed this warning!


We live in a time when there are some people who are not moving ahead with Jesus, but instead are leaving Jesus behind. They are progressing from Christianity to something else. Some people classify themselves as ex-evangelicals. We live in a time when prominent leaders state, “I used to follow Christianity, but now I have moved on.” 


This passage is teaching us how to race ahead spiritually and how not to race ahead spiritually. It’s an exhortation that provides a very helpful series of instructions. We’re given an equipping message—a “how to” message. 


This passage in Hebrews is set within an overall narrative of how the future is with those who follow Jesus. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come (Hebrews 13:14). There’s a better future for those who follow Christ. Christianity is not a faith of yesterday (only the past); it is a faith of the future. We are moving ahead to the city that is to come. The future belongs to those who follow Jesus. 


In light of that we are given the following instructions: Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Right before this our Christian life was compared to a race which requires discipline that seems painful but yields fruit. We can expect drooping hands, weak knees, and a path where it’s easy to stumble as we run the race. Perhaps you are experiencing drooping hands, weak knees, and you feel like you’re about to stumble as you run this Christian race. You need healing so you can continue on in the race. 


The author of Hebrews gives us six practical things we can do. First, he tells us to strive for peace with everyone. What a word in season for the Christian church today! Striving for peace is not the hallmark of the Christian church today. We need to become the kind of people who are striving for peace. Let’s put out of our minds, once and for all, that any desire for peace is a wimpy, unmanly desire. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” As Christians, we are to strive for peace. That doesn’t mean that we are to compromise the truth. 


It is certainly the case that the very center of the gospel has its own offense. The cross is offensive. The cross is saying to all of us, “You cannot save yourself. Only God can save you.” That is offensive to the pride of the human heart. Paul calls this offense a stumbling block. This does not excuse Christians from being deliberately offensive, tactless, arrogant, or always looking for a fight. As Christians, we are to strive for peace with everyone. 


After Genesis 3, the natural state of all human communities is conflict. Nothing has to be done for there to be conflict; it will be there. On the other hand, peace takes work. Paul said to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3). Peace takes effort. If you are not racing ahead spiritually, it could be because you are in endemic conflict. Conflict gives a person weak knees, tired hands, and a path that is not straight. 


What can be done to promote peace?


1.   Do what you can, to understand. Most people are in conflict because they don’t understand where the other person is coming from. We assume rather than seek to understand. To make sure you are understanding what someone is saying, ask them, “What I hear you saying is . . . Is that right?”


2.   Pray. Pray for the person with whom you have a conflict. When you pray for a person, you begin to have a heart for that person. You begin to care for that person. 


3.   Apply the truths found in Scripture. God through Christ has brought us to peace with him. Therefore, we need to bring peace to others. It’s a foundational expression of the gospel of Jesus Christ that his people strive to live at peace with each other. 


The first practical action we can take to stay in the race is strive for peace with everyone. The second is found in the latter part of Verse 14: and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. How rare it is in churches today to hear a call to holiness! The reason for that is we don’t want to be legalistic or judgmental. We want to be a place that is accepting and welcoming. Nevertheless, the sign of a real Christian is a striving for holiness. None of us have attained perfect sanctification. We’re not in heaven yet. A real Christian is a person who wants to be holy and is striving to be holy. Striving to be holy is a sign of being a Christian. A person who has been saved from their sins no longer wants to live in sin. They want to become more like Jesus. 


How do we strive for holiness? Observe holy people. Watch them. Get to know them. You will discover a sweetness in the person that will leave you saying, “I want to be like that.” If you can’t find any holy people around you, read about holy people from the past: George Müller, Billy Graham, a host of others, and most of all, Jesus. By the grace of God, we can become like Jesus. 


The author goes on: without which no one will see the Lord. What he is saying is spiritual insightfulness (seeing Jesus for who he is) is inextricably connected to moral righteousness. It’s instruction but also a warning. Those who have been saved from sin by the work of the Spirit will strive increasingly to get rid of sin as they strive for holiness. 


Tomorrow we will continue this recap of Dr. Moody’s sermon with the second half.



Verse Completion. . . my darling among young women. Song of Songs 2:2 (NLT)


1/6/2022


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/GNoLZpfCmrQ



Complete the Verse & Name the BookAnd I have faced danger from men who claim . . . (completion at the end)



Yesterday we started a recap of Dr. Josh Moody’s third sermon in a series titled “A Better Future” based on Hebrews 12:3-11. He said God has a personal development plan for all of his children, and we need to subject ourselves to it by being committed and engaged. When Paul writes about discipline, he is using it as one who would use it in referring to the discipline of psychology, theology, gymnastics, chemistry and so forth 


The Greek word paideia means education or learning. A father would insure his children had paideia or an educational program where learning took place. In verse 11 where it says, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it,” the Greek word for trained is gymnazo from which we get the word gymnastics. In the ancient world, the gymnazo was the gym an athlete went to for training. A personal development plan was involved. With paideia and gymnazo we have intellectual discipline and physical discipline. 


The author of Hebrews is saying that God is our personal trainer. We go to the “gym” and our Heavenly Father personally trains us. We go to school and our Heavenly Father is our personal tutor. God wants us to have his holy best and share in his holiness. It’s mind boggling: God, the Heavenly Father, is personally arranging everything in my life to train me and tutor me that I might have the discipline of holiness, the discipline of Christ-likeness, the discipline of godliness, the discipline of seeking the city that is to come. He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 


Often, Christians get stuck in their past. They say, “I can’t get beyond this terrible thing that happened in my past.” Sometimes they get stuck in a wonderful thing that happened to them. They say, “Those were the days!” God arranges the good and pleasant things and the bad and painful things. Our job is to subject ourselves to it—to struggle, to remain, to endure, to submit. God is spiritually training us. He is spiritually discipling us. We’re going to a spiritual gymnasium, a spiritual school, called church where we are spiritually developed. 


When I went in for surgery, I was trusting the doctors, but above them, I was trusting my Heavenly Father. After a Code Four experience, a staff member said to me, “You were lucky.” As Christians we don’t believe in luck. We don’t believe that the circumstances of our lives are controlled by humans. We don’t believe in random events. We don’t believe COVID is a random event. We don’t believe the bizarre politics we have experienced in the past few years is random. We don’t believe the horrible event that happened to you as a child was random. In the amazing providence of God, everything is working toward a better future. God is shaping us to share in his holiness. 


God has a personal development plan for all of his children, and we need to subject ourselves to it by being committed and engaged. His personal development plan does not include those who are not his children. One of the great lies of religion today is that when you die you will go to heaven regardless of what you believe. A great lie is out there that says, “It doesn’t matter what you do with Jesus; what matters is if you live a good life. You can take or leave Jesus.” 


The truth is God is a loving God, and we are sinners. In his love God provided a redemption plan through the sacrifice of his own Son, Jesus. Those who believe in him will live if they are subject to him. Are you subject to him? Are you one of his children? Let God shape your life to be God’s holy best for you for the glory of Christ. 


Are you subject to God’s family—his children? Perhaps the greatest heresy in the Western church in the past fifty or sixty years is the heresy of individualism. Everything is consumer orientated; the consumer knows what’s best. Churches will reconfigure their whole ministry structure out of a consumer mentality. It’s as if the church is saying, “This is the product. You are the consumers.” No! We are family. We have a Heavenly Father. Part of the tapestry of our individual redemption is a commitment to the family of God. God rescued a people for his own possession.


If we are going to experience God’s development plan, it requires that we subject ourselves to the family of God and physically become part of a local church. Get involved with the family, the family of God.


When you go to the gym in order to get stronger, it’s true: No pain; no gain. It’s the same in school. If I’m going to learn well, it will take effort. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Hebrews 12:11). Everything in your life has been orchestrated by the divine conductor and shaped by your Heavenly Father in order for you to experience the marvelous harvest that is to come. 



Verse Completion. . . to be believers but are not. 2 Corinthians 11:26b (NLT)


1/5/2022


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/OkrMzHFxa0I



Complete the Verse & Name the BookGod will judge us for everything we do, including . . . (completion at the end)



Dr. Josh Moody started a series in Hebrews titled “A Better Future”. The third sermon was based on Hebrews 12:3-11:


Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

nor be weary when reproved by him.

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.


God has a personal development plan for all of his children. Sin is something we can get stuck in or become entangled in. Fortunately, God is actively involved in developing us, training us, discipling us, and discipling us. The good news is we don’t need to be stuck in habitual sin, because God has a development plan for us.


Sometimes God removes the desire for habitual sin in an instant, like turning a light switch off. In his autobiographical work, Confessions, Saint Augustine of Hippo was painfully honest in relating how he lived a sexually promiscuous lifestyle. However, when he came to know Christ, the desire to sleep around was instantly gone, but the desire to overeat was not removed, and it was something he struggled with throughout his life. 


We as Christians today are being told that we are the past. We used to be where it’s at, but the future is someplace else—polytheistic pluralism, increased secularism, technological vision, or something else. The Hebrew Christians were being tempted to return to Judaism—to go back to the past, to think only about the past, and to live in the past. The author of Hebrews is saying, “Don’t go back to the past; things are better with Jesus. We have a better future in Jesus, so let’s keep moving forward.”


Think back to how many Christians there were in the world when Hebrews was being written—not very many. Today that number is in the billions. God has a plan for the universe and he is moving history and time to an eternal future. We get to be part of that plan. As Christians we are people of the future, a better future. God has a development plan to get us ready for that future. 


God has a personal development plan for his children, and we need to subject ourselves to it, being committed to it, and engaged with it. In his sovereignty, God set up his development plan and it necessarily requires our involvement. His plan will require us to struggle. His plan involves discipline:


·      My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord


·      For the Lord disciplines the one he loves


·      It is for discipline that you have to endure


·      For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 


·      If you are left without discipline


·      we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us


·      For they disciplined us


·      he disciplines us


·      For the moment all discipline seems painful


The book of Hebrews is basically a long sermon in a lesson. One of the ways a point is made in a sermon is by simple repetition, and the author of Hebrews is using this technique here. 


Sometimes we use the word discipline, in the same way the author uses it—in the context of the discipline of psychology, the discipline of theology, or the discipline of gymnastics. However, if you said to a person, “I think you need some discipline,” they would assume that you think they have a problem. That is not how the author is using the word. He’s using the word as one would talk about the discipline of chemistry or discipline of geography.


Tomorrow we will continue this recap of Dr. Moody’s sermon with the second half.



Verse Completion. . . every secret thing, whether good or bad. Ecclesiastes 12:14 (NLT)


1/4/2022


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/nOTlMzaLp5U



Complete the Verse & Name the BookThese people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who . . . (completion at the end)



Yesterday we started a recap of Pastor Michael’s sermon “The Resurrection Life” based on Philippians 3:10-14. He said Paul gave us four ways we can know Christ:


1.   In the power of his resurrection.


2.   In his sufferings and in his death.


3.   Practice the resurrection life. Paul recognizes that he has not yet arrived at his goal. He doesn’t know the fullness of the resurrection life. He doesn’t know the fullness of dying to self like Christ did. Nevertheless, Paul presses on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of. Paul admits he has more room to grow in Christ, and that’s the direction he is heading. There’s still work to be done in Paul’s life by Christ. More transformation needs to take place. There was no such thing as cruising in the Christian life for Paul. Paul said in Philippians 3:7-9: But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.


Paul was not one to look back at the past and gloat over his trophy case. He’s not proud of anything he accomplished that didn’t give the glory to God. We rob God when we claim God’s work as our own. We are simply vessels to be used by God. Our prayer needs to be: “Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do. I want to be used by you, God.” What we do outside of God means nothing for eternity. Life outside of Christ means nothing. In 2 Corinthians 3:18 Paul said: And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. Paul desires an ever-deepening relationship with Jesus.


4.   Press on. Paul wants to press on with the resurrection life. He forgets what is behind, and he strains toward what is ahead—the goal to win the prize for which God has called him. He’s looking forward to heaven. With the goal in mind, he courageously moves ahead. Defeat is not an option. He will reach his goal so he strains toward what is ahead. He longs for the day when he will hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come and enjoy your rest.” Paul’s one purpose in life is the resurrection life of following Jesus. 


Relay racers are told by their coach to keep their focus on what is ahead. Those who look behind them or look off to the side will lose time. Racers must focus on what is in front of them, always looking ahead with the finish line as their goal. Paul is focused on the prize for which God called him—heaven. Paul isn’t looking back or to the side. His eyes are fixed on Jesus. 


The 1968 Summer Olympics were held in Mexico. The marathon race of 26.2 miles was held on one of the hottest days and at a high elevation of 7,349 feet in Mexico City. Seventy-four runners started the race, but only fifty-seven completed it. One of the finishers of the marathon was John Stephen Akhwari from Tanzania. Part way through the race, he cramped up due to the high altitude. While jockeying for position, he fell dislocating his knee and injuring his shoulder. He got up and continued running. The race wasn’t even to the halfway point yet. The pain was excruciating but he continued the race hobbling along the best he could. He fell down numerous times. Of the 57 who finished the race, Akhwari came in last place over an hour behind the winner after most of the spectators had left the stadium and the sun had set. When those remaining discovered who the runner was who was entering the stadium, they began to clap and cheer for him not because he was going to win a medal but because he didn’t give up under the most adverse conditions. 


After the race an interviewer asked him, “Why did you keep running in the race? Why didn’t you quit with your severe injuries?”


Akhwari answered, “My country did not send me ten thousand miles to start the race; my country sent me ten thousand miles to finish the race.”


Paul’s purpose in life was to press on and finish the race never giving up. His purpose was to know the power of the resurrection in his life now. It was to participate in the fellowship of the suffering of the resurrection life. It was to practice the resurrection life. Paul said specifically what his purpose in life was: I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.


What is your purpose in life?



Verse Completion: . . . disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:13 (NLT)


1/3/2022


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/Rg9wV0nfvgg



Complete the Verse & Name the BookEnjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realize that . . . (completion at the end)



Yesterday Pastor Michael gave a sermon titled “The Resurrection Life” based on Philippians 3:10-14. Today we will start a recap of that message.


Have you ever asked yourself, “Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life?” The apostle Paul understood purpose. He had numerous knockdowns in life but wrote the following:


10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.


What does Paul mean when he says, “I want to know Christ”? He’s not saying he wants more knowledge—facts and information. Paul is writing about knowing Christ in a fuller, deeper sense—experiencing Jesus. He wants a relationship with Jesus. We get to know someone by spending time with them—living life with them, crying with them, rejoicing with them. You get to know what makes them tick and what ticks them off. Paul isn’t concerned about knowing about Jesus, he wants to be withJesus. 


Paul gives us four ways we can know Christ:


1.   In the power of his resurrection. Paul was not writing about being resurrected after he died; he was writing about knowing the resurrection power of Jesus right now while still living life on Earth. What’s this resurrection power? It’s the power of God in my life. It’s POWER that raised Jesus from the dead. Only God has this kind of power. Only God can give life. God showed his resurrection power through Elijah and Elisha when people were raised from the dead. Jesus showed his resurrection power when he raised Lazarus from the dead. God showed his resurrection power when he raised Jesus from the dead. 


Paul wants to experience the power of God in his life every single day, not just every now and then. It’s resurrection power that helps us to say “no” to temptation and sin. It’s the power that gives us wisdom to make wise choices. It’s the power that gives us guidance in life. It’s the power of God that helps us overcome setbacks in life. 


We can live now in the resurrection power of God. It’s this power that transforms us into the image of Christ. Resurrection power is knowing Christ, living with Christ, and being with Christ so that when we act and react and interact in the world, we are interacting as Christ would have us do. In Romans 6:4-14 Paul said this: We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.


Paul is writing about resurrection power at work in us today. It’s power that helps us live a transformed life so we are a able to follow Christ, walk with him, look like him, act like him, and respond like him.


2.   In his sufferings and in his death. Paul wants to participate and share in the sufferings of Christ. We like power, but we don’t like suffering. We want to stay away from suffering, but we can’t. If we are going to know the power of the resurrection life, we will suffer. Philippians 1:29, 30 says: 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.


When you suffer with a friend who is hurting, what does that experience do for you? It brings you closer to each other. We can’t know the power of the resurrection without experiencing the suffering of the resurrection. The more we suffer for Christ, the more we will have the chance to draw closer to him. When we are presented with Jesus, we can respond in only one of two ways: receive Jesus or reject Jesus. When we live transformed lives because of Jesus, people will either reject us or receive us. 


Paul knows that when he suffers for Christ, it’s because of the resurrection power at work in him. 


Paul wants to know Jesus in his death. What was Jesus like in his death? Paul tells us in Philippians 2:5-8:


In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with Godsomething to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing

by taking the very natureof a servant,

being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

by becoming obedient to death—

   even death on a cross!


Jesus was humble. He followed the will of the Father even in his sufferings. Jesus knew that if he was to participate in the power of the resurrection, he had to participate in the sufferings of the resurrection.


Tomorrow we will continue this recap of Pastor Michael’s sermon with the second half.



Verse Completion: . . . both come from God. Ecclesiastes 7:14 (NLT)


1/1/2022


Happy New Year! This is the year the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. 


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/A98YQHG8tLY



Complete the Verse & Name the BookAs the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, . . . (completion at the end)



Last year, we started a recap of the second sermon in the series “A Better Future” given by Pastor Dan Hiben and based on Hebrews 12:1, 2. As runners don’t want to be weighed down with extra weight during a race, we as Christians don’t want to be weighed down with sin.


Sin will cling to you. That's the default reality of the brokenness of this fallen world in which we live. Therefore we must actively work against it. As John Owen famously put it, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Sin so easily entangles! We must do the hard work of honestly admitting our sin and humbly confessing it to God—laying it aside and then receiving from Jesus the mercy and grace that helps us in our time of need. 


When we confess our sin to God, he is faithful and just to forgive us. He separates us from our sin as far as the east is from the west. Our sin is laid aside. It's nailed to the cross, and we can run the race in freedom no longer weighed down by its burden. The hard work of endurance includes laying aside every weight and sin, but it also includes running.


When we run with endurance, we don’t give up. You may be thinking, “I hate running. This is not very encouraging.” If that's you, if you hate running, that's okay. It means you're normal. Being a Christian doesn't mean you have to wake up at 4:00 a.m. and go and run 15 miles every day or be some sort of super athlete. You don't have to love running. Running is hard! The Christian life often is hard, but be encouraged; there is a race that God has set before you. It’s not arbitrary, random, or meaningless. It's not just there to put you through some pain. God loves you. He has put the course before you for a purpose. If you follow all of its twists and turns and ups and downs of the hard work of endurance, you can be confident that course will lead you to the finish line. 


The Christian life is often hard. Maybe you feel it in some very real ways right now. Perhaps the hard work of laying aside weights and sin feels like too much. Maybe the pressure you feel on a day-to-day basis because of your faith is extreme at work, home, or from friends or family. Maybe running the Christian race feels a lot like actual running; it feels impossible to continue. If that's you, remember the words of Jesus, 28 “ Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). 


His ways do lead to true rest! His burden is ultimately the easy one. His heart for you is love. He lays out the course for you, not to be a burden to you, but so you may live in his will. Take heart. The very fact that God has laid the race before you means that he'll take you to the finish line. There's encouragement for endurance, but there's still the hard work of endurance. 


So where do we gain the strength for it? Our text shows us the power for endurance: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1,2). Where do we find the power for endurance? We look straight at Jesus. Yes, we can get encouragement for endurance from the cloud of witnesses that surround us, but the power for the hard work of endurance comes from Jesus himself. Look right at Jesus. 


A runner in a marathon keeps his eyes fixed ahead. He definitely doesn't look behind him, and he doesn't waste time looking to the left or to the right looking at the buildings or people on the side. If he does that, he'll quickly lose track of things in the road—a crack in the road, a pothole, or some obstacle. There are too many challenges to ignore what's ahead, so he keeps his eyes ahead looking to the finish line. 


So it is with the Christian life; we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. First, we look to Jesus because he is a better example. He endured. He stood firm. He ran the race better than anyone ever has or ever will. He endured the cross, even all of its shame, to the point of death. He endured it, even though he didn't deserve it. He never gave in. There's power for endurance as we look at his better example, living our lives with him in view and following in the footsteps he leads us in. 


Jesus is not only a better example, he is also a better pioneer. Our text describes him as the founder and perfecter of our faith. The sense here is that Jesus is a pioneer. He has gone before us. He's forged the path for us, and he will bring us to himself down that very same path. He has run the race for us, and he leads us in the same path that he walked. 


He's also the perfecter of our faith. He's the one who brings it to fullness, to completion. He has entered us into the race, and he will bring us through the race. In other words, we do not live the Christian life on our own strength. The power for endurance doesn't come from our own efforts. It doesn't come from our own reserves. It's not something you have to muster up inside of yourself. The power for endurance comes from Jesus himself. It's him working in us and him empowering us through and through. We must look at Jesus. 


Unfortunately, even though we know this to be true, so many times we look at things other than Jesus for our strength in the race—family, money, our own physical or emotional stamina. Only Jesus in his strength, has the power to keep you in the race, so look to him. 


If you're not a Christian, know this: There's only one path to God. It's Jesus, the better pioneer. He's the one who's made a way. He is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to God except through Jesus Christ. If you have yet to put your faith and trust in Jesus, note that the only way to God, the only way to be rid of the guilt of sin, the only way to have power for the race of life is through Jesus. Put your faith in him. Put your trust in him. Cry out to him. Find the spiritual power that is in him. 


Jesus is the better example, the better pioneer, and there’s a better joy. Jesus endured the cross and despised the shame all for the joy that was set before him. In the midst of his suffering, in the midst of his endurance, the joy of being exalted in the future was at the forefront of Jesus’ mind. He was looking forward to being seated at the right hand of the throne of God, looking forward to the joy of being crowned with glory and honor. He was also looking forward to the joy of bringing many to himself. 


At first glance, it may seem impossible for the cross to be taken on because of joy, but Jesus took it on for the joy that was on the other side of the suffering, on the other side of the finish line. He gave up a present joy for a future joy that was to come. Now he sits at the right hand of the throne of God in the very place of honor. He has received his reward. 


When Jesus went to the father, he sent his Spirit to be with us and to empower us. If you are in Christ, God is in you. It's in the power of the Spirit that we can look to the better joy. This better joy is what every Christian can look forward to—giving up a present joy for an even greater future joy that is to come. We endure trials now for the glory of being with Jesus on the other side. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 4:17, 18:  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.


This light, momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen. Through all the twists and turns, all the ups and downs of the race that God has set before you, God is readying you for the joy of being with Jesus in glory. This is the power for endurance—Jesus, a better example to follow, a better pioneer who's paved the way for us, and a better joy that awaits. When we take on this hard work of endurance, look to Jesus for the power for endurance, we can indeed run the race with endurance.  


Friends, we have a better future that awaits us if we run to the finish. So let's be encouraged by all who have gone before us. Let's also put in the hard work that is required of us, and always look to Jesus who awaits us at the finish line. 


Keith Getty’s song “O Church, Arise” puts it like this:



So Spirit come put strength in every stride

Give grace for every hurdle

That we may run with faith to win the prize

Of a servant good and faithful

As saints of old still line the way

Retelling triumphs of His grace

We hear their calls and hunger for the day

When with Christ we stand in glory



Verse Completion. . . boast only about the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 10:17 (NLT)