Daily Devotion May 2020

5/30/20


Good morning to everyone growing in faith.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/YdjFNHLHRB4


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to . . . (completions at the end)


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


Theology is not merely another branch of philosophy, but something else entirely. For [Bonhoeffer], philosophy was man’s search for truth apart from God. It was a type of Barth’s “religion,” in which man himself tried to reach heaven or truth or God. But theology begins and ends with faith in Christ, who reveals himself to man; apart from such revelation, there could be no such thing as truth. Thus the philosopher—and the theologian who operates on a philosopher’s assumptions—chases his own tail and gazes at his own navel. He cannot break out of that cycle, but God, via revelation, can break in.


The lens through which the Nazis saw the world was purely racial. One’s genetic makeup and ancestral bloodline were all that mattered; one’s most deeply held beliefs counted for nothing.


The Nazis were anti-Christian, but they would pretend to be Christians as long as it served their purposes of getting theologically ignorant Germans on their side against the Jews.


Bonhoeffer didn’t think much of what America had to offer theologically. American seminaries seemed to him more like vocational schools than actual seminaries.


German theologians were unsurpassed in the world.


Fosdick had been the pastor at New York’s First Presbyterian Church when in 1922 he preached an infamous sermon titled “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” In it he laid out a kind of Apostate’s Creed in which he expressed his serious doubts about most of the historic assertions of the Christian faith, including the virgin birth, the resurrection, the divinity of Christ, the atonement, miracles, and the Bible as the Word of God.

Seeing an opportunity to knock out fundamentalism in New York, the Rockefeller Foundation promptly funded the construction of a church for Fosdick, one that would serve as a proper platform for his “progressive” modernist views.

But this church was no mere church. It was a spare-no-expenses cathedral to modernism and progress that had quite literally been modeled on Chartres Cathedral. It had a 392-foot tower and the world’s largest carillon, with 72 bells, among them the world’s largest. It had a commanding view of the mighty Hudson and was strategically adjacent to the Union Theological Seminary, from which Fosdick had graduated and where he would teach courses on homiletics, and where his theology was generally welcomed and disseminated.


Note: Union Theological Seminary in New York City is where Bonhoeffer attended for a time. He was not impressed with it. Here is what he wrote to his superintendent:


Bonhoeffer’s observation on American churches, especially in New York City, were closely related to his view on Union:

Things are not much different in church. The sermon has been reduced to parenthetical church remarks about newspaper events. As long as I’ve been here, I have heard only one sermon in which you could hear something like a genuine proclamation. One big question continually attracting my attention in view of these facts is whether one here really can still speak about Christianity. . . . There’s no sense to expect the fruits where the Word really is no longer being preached. But then what becomes of Christianity per se?

The enlightened American, rather than viewing all this with skepticism, instead welcomes it as an example of progress. The fundamentalist sermon that occupies such a prominent place in the southern states has only one prominent Baptist representative in New York, one who preaches the resurrection of the flesh and the virgin birth before believers and the curious alike.

In New York they preach about virtually everything; only one thing is not addressed, or is addressed so rarely that I have as yet been unable to hear it, namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the cross, sin and forgiveness, death and life.

This is quite characteristic of most of the churches I saw. So what stands in place of the Christian message? An ethical and social idealism borne by a faith in progress that—who knows how—claims the right to call itself “Christian.” And in the place of the church as the congregation of believers in Christ there stands the church as a social corporation. Anyone who has seen the weekly program of one of the large New York churches, with their daily, indeed almost hourly events, teas, lectures, concerts, charity events, opportunities for sports, games, bowling, dancing for every age group, anyone who has heard how they try to persuade a new resident to join the church, insisting that you’ll get into society quite differently by doing so, anyone who has become acquainted with the embarrassing nervousness with which the pastor lobbies for membership—that person can well assess the character of such a church.


Note: Bonhoeffer was invited to attend the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem.


There, in the socially downtrodden African American community, Bonhoeffer would finally hear the gospel preached and see its power manifested. The preacher at Abyssinian was a powerful figure named Dr. Adam Clayton Powell Sr.

By the mid-1930s, Abyssinian boasted 14,000 members and was arguably the largest Protestant church of any kind in the whole United States. When Bonhoeffer saw it all, he was staggered.

Starving from the skim milk at Union, Bonhoeffer found a theological feast that spared nothing. Powell combined the fire of a revivalist preacher with great intellect and social vision. He was active in combating racism and minced no words about the saving power of Jesus Christ.


At this point, Hitler’s ascent to the chancellorship was still two years in the unimaginable future. Bonhoeffer had been in New York a mere nine months, but in some ways it seemed a lifetime. When he left, the Nazis were a tiny gray cloud on the horizon of an otherwise clear sky. Now, black and crackling with electricity, they loomed nearly overhead.

Bonhoeffer wrote Sutz that the “outlook is really exceptionally grim.” He felt that they were “standing at a tremendous turning point in world history,” that something was about to happen. But what? In his prescient way, Bonhoeffer sensed that whatever lay ahead, the church would be threatened. He wondered if it would survive at all. “Then what’s the use of everyone’s theology?” he asked. There were now an urgency and a seriousness to Bonhoeffer that had not been there before. Somehow he sensed he must warn people of what lay ahead. It was as if he could see that a mighty oak tree, in whose shade families were picnicking, and from whose branches children were swinging, was rotten inside, was about to fall down and kill them all. Others observed the change in him. For one thing, his sermons became more severe.


Note: Bonhoeffer is in Germany at this point, and he preached a sermon in Berlin:


Bonhoeffer opened with the bad news: the Protestant church was in its eleventh hour, he said, and it’s “high time we realized this.” The German church, he said, is dying or is already dead. Then he directed his thunder at the people in the pews. He condemned the grotesque inappropriateness of having a celebration when they were all, in fact, attending a funeral.

Nor was it the only sermon of its kind that he would preach that year. But what exactly did Bonhoeffer see, and whence this urgency to communicate what he saw? He seemed to want to warn everyone to wake up and stop playing church. They were all sleepwalking toward a terrible precipice! But few took him seriously. For many, Bonhoeffer was only one of those bespectacled and overserious academic types, with a good dose of religious fanaticism in the bargain. And he preached such depressing sermons!

He took the idea of preaching the Word of God extremely seriously and wouldn’t have dared to speak his mere opinions from the pulpit. He also knew that a word might be delivered that had come straight from heaven and be rejected, just as the messages of the Old Testament prophets had been rejected and just as Jesus had been rejected. The prophet’s role was simply and obediently to speak what God wished to say. Whether or not the message was received was between God and his people. And yet to preach such a burning message, and to know that it was God’s Word for the faithful, who rejected it, was painful. But this was the pain of the prophetic office, and to be chosen by God as his prophet always meant, in part, that the prophet would share in God’s suffering.


Note: Here is what Bonhoeffer wrote in a letter dated January 1936:


I plunged into work in a very unchristian way. An . . . ambition that many noticed in me made my life difficult. . . . Then something happened, something that has changed and transformed my life to the present day. For the first time I discovered the Bible . . . I had often preached. I had seen a great deal of the Church, and talked and preached about it—but I had not yet become a Christian. . . . I know that at that time I turned the doctrine of Jesus Christ into something of personal advantage for myself . . . I pray to God that that will never happen again. Also I had never prayed, or prayed only very little. For all my loneliness, I was quite pleased with myself. Then the Bible, and in particular the Sermon on the Mount, freed me from that. Since then everything has changed. I have felt this plainly, and so have other people about me. It was a great liberation. It became clear to me that the life of a servant of Jesus Christ must belong to the Church, and step by step it became plainer to me how far that must go.


Nowadays we often ask ourselves whether we still need the Church, whether we still need God. But this question, he said, is wrong. We are the ones who are questioned. The Church exists and God exists, and we are asked whether we are willing to be of service, for God needs us.


Bonhoeffer openly thought things through and taught his students to do the same. They followed lines of reasoning to their logical conclusions and considered every angle to have a sense of absolute thoroughness, so that nothing depended on mere emotion. . . . One wished to arrive at answers that could stand up to every scrutiny because one would have to live out those conclusions. They would have to become actions and would have to become the substance of one’s life. Once one saw clearly what the Word of God said, one would have to act on it and its implications, such as they were. And actions in Germany at that time had serious consequences.


Yesterday was Ravi Zacharias’ memorial service. I would encourage you to watch at least part of it. My wife and I found it to be very moving:https://youtu.be/qcY-QRuxcWk



Completions to Verses: . . . give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)


5/29/20


Good morning, Contenders for the Gospel.


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


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:


· In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can . . .


· Take the helmet of salvation and the . . . (completions at the end)


Yesterday Pastor Michael continued Fireside Fellowship with “Contending for the Gospel” based on Philippians 4:2-3. To review, Chapter 1 had to do with how important the gospel was. Chapter Two dealt with the importance of unity. Chapter 3 stressed the importance of proper doctrine particularly regarding salvation by Christ alone. In Chapter 4 we will see the importance of living out the gospel.


Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.


The relationship problem Euodia and Syntyche are experiencing is affecting the church at Philippi. Paul knows the problems that can stem from disunity. Acts 16:11-15 tells about the arrival of Paul in Philippi. In this passage, as well as Acts 17:1-4, 12, we see that there were businesswomen who had prominence in the city and the church. Likely, Euodia and Syntyche were part of this group. They worked with Paul and, like him, were contenders for the gospel.

Euodia and Syntyche were followers of Christ. We know this because Paul mentions their names are written in the Book of Life. Revelation 3:5 says, “All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine.” The Book of Life is also mentioned in 17:8, 20:12, and 21:27. The Book of Life is a book Jesus keeps, and in it are the names of everyone who has received Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The Book of Life reminds believers that their citizenship is in heaven. The Romans had books that listed the people who had Roman citizenship.

It’s possible that Euodia and Syntyche had a personality conflict. It’s possible they had disagreements as to how things should operate in the church. It’s possible that things were changing. With change comes a threat to the influence a person has. When there are differences of opinion as to how things should be, we like to have others agree with our opinion and validate our opinion. We gather those people around us. Before long there is division. Divided churches always diminish as fault-finding and nitpicking grows. Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Arguing results when we try to make our presence more known than someone else’s presence. We have the attitude, “I am more important than the other person.” James 4:1-10 says:

What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

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

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


Pride became the problem. People put their own wills above the will of God. Euodia and Syntyche developed an earthly mindset rather than a heavenly mindset. In Phil. 2:2 Paul said, “Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.” We need to have the mindset that puts Christ and His kingdom first. The centrality of our life needs to be Jesus.

There are some things we need to contend against such as false doctrine, but the physical things in a church are not things over which we should contend. When we fight against the body of Christ, we fight against Christ himself.

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

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


I would encourage you to listen to this interview of Ravi Zacharias given by Eric Metaxas even if you listen to it in segments. It’s well worth the investment of your time. You will be inspired: https://youtu.be/0LfmEVJ1d_k



Completions to Verses:


· . . . extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.


· . . . sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:16-17 (NIV)


5/28/20


Good morning, Thankful People. 


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


Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is . . . (completion at the end)


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


The intellectual dullness and the overwhelmingly languorous atmosphere of Barcelona pushed hard against Bonhoeffer’s hyperactive mind and personality. He was amazed at how people of all ages seemed to while away the hours sitting at cafes in the middle of the day, chattering about little of any real substance. He observed that besides coffee, vermouth-and-sodas were particularly popular, usually served with half a dozen oysters. Though Bonhoeffer was taken aback at what he now experienced, he may be given credit for not merely kicking against the goads: he adapted to the local lifestyle. He might have complained privately to those nearest and dearest to him, but he didn’t let himself become gloomy or stymied by any of it. He wanted to be effective in his role as pastor, and he knew he must enter the lives and, to some extent, the lifestyles of the people he was charged with serving.

Note: Bonhoeffer didn’t compromise his beliefs based on the word of God; he compromised his personal preferences so the doors of communication to share the gospel would be opened. 


Note: Bonhoeffer worked with a German charitable organization where he dealt with people whose businesses had failed, victims of poverty and crime, those in a desperate time of their lives, and even criminals. This next quote is related to this experience.


Through such experiences, Bonhoeffer’s heart for the first time awoke to the plight of the poor and the outcast, which soon became an important theme in his life and theology. In a letter to Rossler, he touched upon this too:

Every day I am getting to know people, at any rate their circumstances, and sometimes one is able to see through their stories into themselves—and at the same time one thing continues to impress me: here I meet people as they are, far from the masquerade of “the Christian world”; people with passions, criminal types, small people with small aims, small wages and small sins—all in all they are people who feel homeless in both senses, and who begin to thaw when one speaks to them with kindness—real people; I can only say that I have gained the impression that it is just these people who are much more under grace than under wrath, and that it is the Christian world which is more under wrath than grace.


This was a very radical and dramatic thing to say, but it is the perfectly logical conclusion to the idea that apart from God’s grace, one can do nothing worthwhile. Anything good must come from God, so even in a sermon that was poorly written and delivered, God might manifest himself and touch the congregation. Conversely in a sermon wonderfully written and delivered, God might refuse to manifest himself. The “success” of the sermon is utterly dependent on the God who breaks through and “grasps” us, or we cannot be “grasped.”


As with most of his sermons, Bonhoeffer began provocatively, putting forth the notion that Christ had been exiled from the lives of most Christians. “Of course,” he said, “we build him a temple, but we live in our own houses.” Religion had been exiled to Sunday morning, to a place “into which one gladly withdraws for a couple of hours, but only to get back to one’s place of work immediately afterward.” He said that one cannot give him only a “small compartment in our spiritual life,” but must give him everything or nothing. “The religion of Christ,” he said, “is not a tidbit after one’s bread; on the contrary, it is the bread or it is nothing. People should at least understand and concede this if they call themselves Christian.”

Note: This is what Pastor Michael has been saying in his study on Philippians.


Note: The following writing by Bonhoeffer addresses the exclusiveness of Christ:

One admires Christ according to aesthetic categories as an aesthetic genius, calls him the greatest ethicist; one admires his going to his death as a heroic sacrifice for his ideas. Only one thing one doesn’t do: one doesn’t take him seriously. That is, one doesn’t bring the center of his or her own life into contact with the claim of Christ to speak the revelation of God and to be that revelation. One maintains a distance between himself or herself and the word of Christ, and allows no serious encounter to take place. I can doubtless live with or without Jesus as a religious genius, as an ethicist, as a gentleman—just as, after all, I can also live without Plato and Kant. . . . Should, however, there be something in Christ that claims my life entirely with the full seriousness that here God himself speaks and if the word of God once became present only in Christ, then Christ has not only relative but absolute, urgent significance to me. . . . Understanding Christ means taking Christ seriously. Understanding this claim means taking seriously his absolute claim on our commitment. And it is now of importance for us to clarify the seriousness of this matter and to extricate Christ from the secularization process in which he has been incorporated since the Enlightenment.


Then [Bonhoeffer] came to his main point: the essence of Christianity is not about religion at all, but about the person of Christ. He expanded on the theme learned from Karl Barth that would occupy so much of his thinking and writing in the years to come: religion was a dead, man-made thing, and at the heart of Christianity was something else entirely—God himself, alive. “Factually speaking,” he said, “Christ has given scarcely any ethical prescriptions that were not to be found already with the contemporary Jewish rabbis or in pagan literature.” Christianity was not about a new and better set of behavioral rules or about moral accomplishment. He must have shocked some of his listeners, but his logic was undeniably compelling. He then aggressively attacked the idea of “religion” and moral performance as the very enemies of Christianity and of Christ because they present the false idea that somehow we can reach God through our moral efforts. This led to hubris and spiritual pride, the sworn enemies of Christianity. “Thus,” he said, “the Christian message is basically amoral and irreligious, paradoxical as that may sound.”


Note: Here is a small part from one of Bonhoeffer’s lectures:


With that we have articulated a basic criticism of the most grandiose of all human attempts to advance toward the divine—by way of the church. Christianity conceals within itself a germ hostile to the church. It is far too easy for us to base our claims to God on our own Christian religiosity and our church commitment, and in so doing utterly to misunderstand and distort the Christian idea.


Note: The author now comments on the above:


Here, in the lecture of the twenty-two-year-old to a handful of high schoolers, one sees something close to his most mature thinking in the future. He differentiated between Christianity as a religion like all the others—which attempt but fail to make an ethical way for man to climb to heaven of his own accord—and following Christ, who demands everything, including our very lives.


Note: Let’s close out today with the following quote from Bonhoeffer:


Christianity preaches the infinite worth of that which is seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued.


I would encourage you to listen to this interview of Ravi Zacharias given by Eric Metaxas even if you listen to it in segments. It’s well worth the investment of your time. You will be inspired: https://youtu.be/0LfmEVJ1d_k



Verse Completion: . . . the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:10 (NASB)


5/27/20


Good morning, Gospel Spreaders.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/8EPcd0B5SNs


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:


· ‘But I have this against you, that you . . .

· ‘Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and . . . (completions at the end)


Yesterday, Pastor Michael continued Fireside Fellowship with the Bible study “Live for the Gospel” based on Philippians 3:17-4:1. To review where we’ve been: Jesus is the only way to salvation. It’s never “Jesus and . . .;” it’s “Jesus only.” Good works and following the law do nothing to gain us salvation. We need to get to know Jesus through a relationship with Him. Jesus is the only one who can transform lives. As followers of Christ, we can expect to suffer for Him because our transformed lives make us counterculture.


Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stay true to the Lord. I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work.


We need to live for Jesus joining together in unity as a family. Families unify each other. Paul gives us a good example to follow as he follows Christ. Paul teaches and he trains. He could say, “Not only do what I say, but do as I do.” In order to go deeper with Jesus, some examples are needed, and Paul and others were those examples. People could pattern their lives after Paul, Timothy, Epaphroditus, and others. Paul instructed the church at Philippi to keep their eyes on those who live out the gospel.

We have to stay focused on Jesus because there are many distractions around us. What we focus on is what we’re going to be like. Focus on Jesus and those who follow close to Jesus. Follow closely in their footsteps.

When something is repeated, it’s important. Paul repeats, “There are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ.” Many do not fix their eyes on Jesus and follow after Him. Paul is talking about those who have professed to be Christians, but their actions don’t show they are followers of Christ. Somewhere along the way they have taken their eyes off of Jesus and those they should pattern their lives after. Now they are enemies of Christ because they no longer live for the gospel of Jesus.

A person who followed the law, became a Christian, and then returned to following the law is no longer a Christian. That person is now an enemy of Christ.

A person who is an antinomian takes the principle of salvation by faith and divine grace to the point of saying they are no longer bound by moral laws. They believe there’s no such thing as sin so they can do as they please. If an antinomian becomes a Christian and then returns to antinomianism at a later point, that person is now an enemy of Christ.

Romans 4:13-16 says:


Clearly, God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to God’s law, but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith. If God’s promise is only for those who obey the law, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless. For the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it. (The only way to avoid breaking the law is to have no law to break!)

So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe.


Romans 6:1-14 says:


Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

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

Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.


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

Those who have chosen to walk away from Christ have chosen eternal, everlasting destruction. When Paul said in verse 19 “Their god is their appetite,” he was referring to the ceremonial food laws that they adhered to closely, and their stomachs became their god. It’s like they were saying, “Look at me. I don’t each these things. I’m following all the rules. I’m clean.” They were counting on good works for salvation. They were glorying in the things that please the flesh.

Sin is always shameful. When we don’t live for Jesus, we take the glory. We want the focus on us. Sometimes we brag about how sinful we are, and at other times we brag about our goodness. Both are shameful.

Paul said all they think about is this life here on Earth. Ephesians 2:19 says, “So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.” Our citizenship is in heaven, so our mind is on heavenly things—Jesus.

Citizenship meant something to the people of Philippi because they were a Roman colony. Not all cities got to enjoy the benefits that accompanied Roman citizenship, but Philippi did. It was the leading city in Macedonia due to its loyalty to Rome. Citizenship was granted because of their loyalty. If a person served in the Roman Army for 21 years, they were given Roman citizenship. People were proud to be Roman citizens. Paul was talking to them about a citizenship that was even greater than Roman citizenship; he told them about a heavenly citizenship. Once a person has grasped heavenly citizenship, they are happy to put Roman citizenship in the loss column of their ledger—counts for nothing. Citizens of heaven live for Christ, honor Christ, take the customs of Christ, talk like Christ, act like Christ.

Citizens of heaven eagerly wait for Jesus to return as their Savior. At this time in history, Roman citizenship was highly treasured. However, it came with a price. Roman citizens were to declare the emperor as their lord and savior. They were expected to worship the emperor. When a person declared Jesus as their Lord and Savior, it meant persecution. It wasn’t an easy life, and Christians looked forward to Christ’s return with eager anticipation.

Do we eagerly wait for Christ’s return now? If we eagerly wait for Jesus, we eagerly live for Jesus. To the degree that you live for Jesus is the degree to which you will long for His return.

Satan has been given freedom to roam the earth now, but when Jesus returns, Satan will be destroyed. Anything dark, shameful, or sinful will be destroyed. We look forward to that day! We’ll never have to struggle with sin again. The hard part of living now is taking everything we have in our profit column and moving it into the loss column. The only thing we place in our profit column is Jesus. This is the hard work of sanctification.

Full salvation and resurrection power occurs when Jesus returns. Meanwhile, we are to stand firm in the Lord by living for Jesus.


I would encourage you to listen to this interview of Ravi Zacharias given by Eric Metaxas even if you listen to it in segments. It’s well worth the investment of your time. You will be inspired: https://youtu.be/0LfmEVJ1d_k



Completion of Verses:

· . . . have left your first love.

· . . . repent and do the deeds you did at first; Revelation 2:4-5a (NASB)


5/26/20


Good morning, Prayer Warriors.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/AHUZdbkik6w


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:


· Whatever you do, do your work heartily, . . .

· knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It. . . (completions at the end)


Eric Metaxas wrote Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. The 608-page book is a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It’s a great read with a wealth of information contained in it. For the next few days, I’d like to share with you some quotes I think you’ll find interesting. To start with, I’d like to quote Timothy Keller who wrote the foreword:


. . . the true gospel, summed up by Bonhoeffer as costly grace, had been lost. On the one hand, the church had become marked by formalism. That meant going to church and hearing that God just loves and forgives everyone, so it doesn’t really matter much how you live. Bonhoeffer called this cheap grace. On the other hand, there was legalism, or salvation by law and good works. Legalism meant that God loves you because you have pulled yourself together and are trying to live a good, disciplined life.

Both of these impulses made it possible for Hitler to come to power. The formalists in Germany may have seen things that bothered them, but saw no need to sacrifice their safety to stand up to them. Legalists responded by having pharisaical attitudes toward other nations and races that approved of Hitler’s policies. But as one, Germany lost hold of the brilliant balance of the gospel that Luther so persistently expounded—“We are saved by faith alone, but not by faith which is alone.” That is, we are saved, not by anything we do, but by grace. Yet if we have truly understood and believed the gospel, it will change what we do and how we live.

By the time of Hitler’s ascension, much of the German church understood grace only as abstract acceptance—“God forgives; that’s his job.” But we know that true grace comes to us by costly sacrifice. And if God was willing to go to the cross and endure such pain and absorb such a cost in order to save us, then we must live sacrificially as we serve others. Anyone who truly understands how God’s grace comes to us will have a changed life. That’s the gospel, not salvation by law, or by cheap grace, but by costly grace. Costly grace changes you from the inside out. Neither law nor cheap grace can do that.

The lapse couldn’t happen to us, today, surely, could it? Certainly it could. We still have a lot of legalism and moralism in our churches. In reaction to that, many Christians want to talk only about God’s love and acceptance. They don’t like talking about Jesus’ death on the cross to satisfy divine wrath and justice. Some even call it “divine child abuse.” Yet if they are not careful, they run the risk of falling into the belief in “cheap grace”—a non-costly love from a non-holy God who just loves and accepts us as we are. That will never change anyone’s life.

So it looks like we still need to listen to Bonhoeffer and others who go deep in discussing the nature of the gospel.


Now let’s get into quotes taken from the book:


The worlds of folklore and religion were so mingled in early twentieth century German culture that even families who didn’t go to church were often deeply Christian . . .

German culture was inescapably Christian. This was the result of the legacy of Martin Luther, the Catholic monk who invented Protestantism. Looming over the German culture and nation like both a father and a mother, Luther was to Germany something like what Moses was to Israel; in his lusty, cranky person were the German nation and the Lutheran faith wonderfully and terribly combined. Luther’s influence cannot be overestimated. His translation of the Bible into German was cataclysmic. Like a medieval John Bunyan, Luther in a single blow shattered the edifice of European Catholicism and in the bargain created the modern German language, which in turn effectively created the German people.

The Luther Bible was to the modern German language what the works of Shakespeare and the King James Bible were to the modern English language. Before Luther’s Bible, there was no unified German language. It existed only in a hodgepodge of dialects. And Germany as a nation was an idea far in the future, a gleam in Luther’s eye. But when Luther translated the Bible into German, he created a single language in a single book that everyone could read and did read. Indeed, there was nothing else to read. Soon everyone spoke German the way Luther’s translation did. As television has had a homogenizing effect on the accents and dialects of Americans, watering down accents and sanding down sharp twangs, Luther’s Bible created a single German tongue. Suddenly millers from München could communicate with bakers from Bremen. Out of this grew a sense of a common heritage and culture.

But Luther brought Germans to a fuller engagement with their faith through singing too. He wrote many hymns—the most well-known being “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”—and introduced the idea of congregational singing. Before Luther, no one outside the choir sang in church.

The Bonhoeffers were a deeply musical family . . . Although [Dietrich] eventually chose theology over music, music remained a deep passion throughout his life. It became a vital part of his expression of faith, and he taught his students to appreciate it and make it a central aspect of their expressions of faith.

Dietrich could not stand empty talk. He sensed unfailingly whether the other person meant what he said . . . In the Bonhoeffer family one learned to think before asking a question or making a remark.


Here is a portion of what Bonhoeffer wrote concerning the Catholic church:

A country has seldom produced so many different kinds of people as has the Catholic church. With admirable power, it has understood how to maintain unity in diversity, to gain the love and respect of the masses, and to foster a strong sense of community . . . But it is exactly because of this greatness that we have serious reservations. Has this world [of the Catholic church] really remained the church of Christ? Has it not perhaps become an obstruction blocking the path to God instead of a road sign on the path to God? Has it not blocked the only path to salvation? Yet no one can ever obstruct the way to God. The church still has the Bible, and as long as she has it we can still believe in the holy Christian church. God’s word will never be denied (Isaiah 55:11), whether it be preached by us or by our sister church. We adhere to the same confession of faith, we pray the same Lord’s Prayer, and we share some of the same ancient rites. This binds us together, and as far as we are concerned we would like to live in peace with our disparate sister. We do not, however, want to deny anything that we have recognized as God’s word. The designation Catholic or Protestant is unimportant. The important thing is God’s word. Conversely, we will never violate anyone else’s faith. God does not desire reluctant service, and God has given everyone a conscience. We can and should desire that our sister church search its soul and concentrate on nothing but the word [1 Cor. 2:12-13].

Bonhoeffer earned his doctorate in 1927, at age twenty-one.

In his essay for Seeberg’s seminar, Bonhoeffer expressed the Barthian idea that in order to know anything at all about God, one had to rely on revelation from God. In other words, God could speak into this world, but man could not reach out of this world to examine God. It was a one-way street, and of course this was directly related to the especially Lutheran doctrine of grace. Man could not earn his way up to heaven, but God could reach down and graciously lift man toward him.


We close today with three quotes from Bonhoeffer:


· Where a people prays, there is the church, and where the church is, there is never loneliness.


· It is much easier for me to imagine a praying murderer, a praying prostitute, than a vain person praying. Nothing is so at odds with prayer as vanity.


· The religion of Christ is not a tidbit after one’s bread; on the contrary, it is the bread or it is nothing. People should at least understand and concede this if they call themselves Christian.


I would encourage you to listen to this interview of Ravi Zacharias given by Eric Metaxas even if you listen to it in segments. It’s well worth the investment of your time. You will be inspired: https://youtu.be/0LfmEVJ1d_k



Completion of Verses:

· . . . as for the Lord rather than for men;

· . . . is the Lord Christ whom you serve. Colossians 3:23-24 (NASB)


5/25/20


Good morning, Grateful People—grateful for Jesus who gave His life that we can be saved, and grateful for those who have given their lives for our country so we can enjoy freedom.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/ZVVbSXz7jaU


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:


· For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; . . .

· Then we who are alive and remain . . . (completions at the end)


Are you familiar with SOAP Bible Study? SOAP stands for: Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer. A passage of Scripture is chosen to read. From that passage, a few verses are selected to journal about following SOAP.

My cousin is a pastor in Hawaii (tough assignment but someone has to do it). Here is what he did and wrote for his SOAP Bible Study for yesterday:


DATE: May 24, 2020

BY: Pastor Bob Miller

TITLE: “The Love God Poured in Me”

CHAPTER READ: Romans 5


SCRIPTURE SELECTED: Romans 5: 5-8

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.


OBSERVATION: God’s love has been poured out into our hearts, as the Holy Spirit came to dwell within us! And this love was shown to us at just the right time, when I was still rejecting God and doing my own thing. But this did not stop Christ from going to the Cross for me! God’s love is demonstrated by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! That is the love, He put in our hearts.


APPLICATION: The love I have in my own strength and ability is a love which reaches to those who have shown love to me first. But this love which God has put in my heart is expanding my love for others and is causing me to love those who have not shown me love and to even love those who have been an enemy to me. I need to allow this love which the Holy Spirit has put into my heart to be expressed today to whomever I meet!


PRAYER: Lord, you are changing me a little by little to love more and more like you! I pray that today will be a day in which Your love can be expressed to ever deeper and broader levels. And so may I not be surprised when I face situations and people that would try my patience. Instead of doing “my own thing” may I lay my life down in service and in love. Amen


Give SOAP a try, and see if it works for you.


I would encourage you to listen to this interview of Ravi Zacharias given by Eric Metaxas even if you listen to it in segments. It’s well worth the investment of your time. You will be inspired: https://youtu.be/0LfmEVJ1d_k



Completion of Verses:

· . . . and the dead in Christ shall rise first.

· . . . shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. John 15:12-13 (NASB)


5/23/20


Good morning to everyone whose eyes are fixed on Jesus.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/BxQ0RnKjrzY


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:


· This is My commandment, that you . . .

· Greater love has no one than this, that . . . (completions at the end)


It comes natural for us to compare ourselves to others; we don’t have to be taught to do it. However, when we make comparisons, someone suffers. If we think we are superior, the other person suffers. If we think another person is superior to us, we suffer.

The Pharisees weren’t known for their humility; they were known for their knowledge of the law and their obedience to it. Let’s take a look at their behavior in John 7:37-49:


On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)

When the crowds heard him say this, some of them declared, “Surely this man is the Prophet we’ve been expecting.” Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others said, “But he can’t be! Will the Messiah come from Galilee? For the Scriptures clearly state that the Messiah will be born of the royal line of David, in Bethlehem, the village where King David was born.” So the crowd was divided about him. Some even wanted him arrested, but no one laid a hand on him.

When the Temple guards returned without having arrested Jesus, the leading priests and Pharisees demanded, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”

“We have never heard anyone speak like this!” the guards responded.

“Have you been led astray, too?” the Pharisees mocked. “Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in him? This foolish crowd follows him, but they are ignorant of the law. God’s curse is on them!”


The Pharisees have compared themselves with others, and the Pharisees have come out on top. Why are they superior? It’s because of their advanced education. They have studied the law diligently, and they know it from beginning to end. Compared to them, the crowd is a bunch of fools. Compared to them, the crowd is a bunch of ignorant people who aren’t in the know. Notice the argument used by the Pharisees for why people should trust them over Jesus: Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in [Jesus]? Evidently, what the most people believe (especially by those who have been trained in the law) is truth. Jesus can’t be trusted because the Pharisees agree amongst themselves that He is untrustworthy.

Notice how the Pharisees not only say that the crowds are foolish and ignorant of the law, but they say: God’s curse is on them! It’s not God’s curse that’s on the crowd, it’s the Pharisees curse that’s on the crowd. The Pharisees have elevated themselves to the position of being able to make this call.

The Pharisees compared themselves to the crowd and Jesus, and they saw themselves as far superior because of their advanced education. They knew more than any of them.

What comparisons do we make with others? The list is probably endless, but here are a few to consider:


· We make comparisons based on wealth. We compare where we live with where others live. We compare what they drive with what we drive. We compare what they do for entertainment with what we do for entertainment. We compare places we have gone with places others have gone. We compare the food we eat with what others eat. We compare our clothes with the clothes of others.


· We make comparisons based on athletic ability.


· We make comparisons based on physical appearance.


· We make comparisons based on public speaking ability.


· We make comparisons based on intelligence.


· We make comparisons based on one’s ability to sing.


· We make comparisons based on one’s ability to play musical instruments.


· We make comparisons based on one’s ability to do artwork.


· We make comparisons based on one’s ability to repair things.


· We make comparisons based on one’s ability to operate machinery.


· We make comparisons based on one’s ability to cook.


· We make comparisons based on one’s ability to debate.


· We make comparisons based on one’s ability to fight.


· We make comparisons based on one’s ability to negotiate.


· We make comparisons based on one’s career.


There’s no end to what we compare. But what does making comparisons accomplish? When we think we’re better than someone else, that leads to pride. Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.” The outcome of pride is never a good thing.

If we think someone else is better than us, that can lead to feelings of inferiority and resentment. We can say to ourselves, “I wish I had the money to buy an outfit like ______. Why didn’t God give me the ability to play golf like _______? I’m the worst cook in the world.” Philippians 4:11-13 says, “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:8 says, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

When we see people who are better than us at something, we can be inspired to improve. We may never reach that level of performance that we see in another person, but that’s okay. We want to become our best, not somebody else’s best. God gives us different talents and abilities. If someone has been given the ability to earn lots of money, we shouldn’t be resentful of the person. We should be happy for them. If someone can hit one amazing shot after another on the golf course, we should be happy for them.

Jealousy has no place in the life of a Christian. James 3:13-16 says:


If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.”


The Pharisees were jealous of Jesus. Jesus hadn’t gone to their schools and been educated in Jerusalem by the experts of the law, such as Gamaliel. Nevertheless, Jesus had large crowds following Him. The crowds were interested in what He had to say, and they wanted to see His miracles. This simply didn’t fit the Pharisees’ paradigm. Jesus turned their world upside down.

That’s what Jesus does when we invite Him into our lives. He turns our world upside down. The old ways we did things don’t work any longer. God gives us a whole new path to take. It’s a path where we die to self and live for Him. It’s not an easy road, but those who have been on it for a while wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s a road of inner joy and peace that leads to heaven and everlasting life with Jesus. It’s worth every sacrifice that is made while here on Earth, and we have the promise from God: “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

Let’s not be like the Pharisees who compared themselves to others. Instead of looking at others, let’s keep our eyes on Jesus. Hebrews 12:1-2a says: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.”


We lost a tremendous apologist of the faith this week, Ravi Zacharias. He was such a powerful testimony for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. If you have the time, I would encourage you to listen to this: https://youtu.be/XXjxtY3ZEOI



Completion of Verses:

· . . . love one another, just as I have loved you.

· . . . one lay down his life for his friends. John 15:12-13 (NASB)


5/22/20


Good morning, Profit/Loss Evaluators.


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


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:


· Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather . . .

· For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure, or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any . . . (completions at the end)


Yesterday, Pastor Michael continued with his Q&A time on Fireside Fellowship answering the question: How do works we do fit with salvation?

Philippians 3:7-9 says:


I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.


Most people consider themselves to be “good.” They consider themselves to be morally upright and honest. Comparisons with others are made and the conclusion is, “I’m a good person. I’ve never murdered anyone. I don’t cheat people. I’m not a compulsive liar. I help people. I give money to help others. I volunteer my time. I’m a good person.” We have a list of good things we have done, and we place those good things on the profit side of our profit/loss ledger. We conclude that we have something to offer to God. We feel like God is pleased with what we have done. Therefore, God likes me and what I’ve done moves me toward salvation.

This kind of thinking comes from humanism. Humanism says humanity is the center of the universe. As humans we can do anything. We can save ourselves. God isn’t real; he is imagined. We find comfort in being “good” people. This kind of thinking is wrong.

Mark 10:17-18 says:


As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good.”


Jesus was saying that left on our own, humanity is not good. Only God is inherently good.

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

The idea of getting into heaven by being a good person is common in Christianity today. Churches promote it. If you are counting on getting into heaven by your goodness, how good do you have to be? Where’s the line that determines heaven or hell? This way of thinking always leaves a person asking, “Am I good enough to get into heaven? Do my good things outweigh my bad things?” Who determines how much goodness you have to have to get into heaven? Works always fall short.

Relationship with God starts not by displaying our goodness but by recognizing our sinfulness. Displaying our goodness is religion, and it doesn’t help us develop a relationship with Jesus. In fact, it keeps us from having a relationship with Jesus. The only way you get to heaven is through a relationship with Jesus not based on works or personal goodness. Personal goodness does zero for you as far as earning you salvation. We become acceptable to God through a relationship with Him.

We are all sinful. Jesus called the following sin: hypocrisy, idolatry, pride, greed, immorality, improper speech, improper thinking. A right relationship with God is only available through Jesus. We are born with a sinful nature. We inherited sin just by being born. Psalm 51:5 says, “For I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.” We are not born good. We have imputed sin—sin that we have because we are part of the human race. Romans 5:12-14, 18 says:


When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come.

Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.


We have inherited sin, imputed sin, and personal sin. Sin is defined as any defection from God’s standards. God’s standards are called truths. When we break any of His truths, that is sin. Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins.” Romans 3:9-12 says, Well then, should we conclude that we Jews are better than others? No, not at all, for we have already shown that all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are under the power of sin. As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.” All our personal goodness is wiped out by a single sin.

Verse 20 says, “For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.” There’s no amount of personal goodness that can impress God enough to give you forgiveness of sins and give you everlasting life. Why? Because no amount of good works in our profit column is enough to overcome sin. Verse 23 says, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”

A relationship with Jesus begins with us recognizing our sinfulness. Romans 5:12 says, “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.” Physical death comes to us because Adam and Eve first sinned. Sin brings death—both physical and spiritual. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” The nature of sin is to kill, destroy, and separate from God forever.

The only way for us to have everlasting life is to have our sins forgiven. Only Jesus can wipe out sin. Romans 5:6-8 says, “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” The good news is Jesus died for us and took the penalty of sin. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” Jesus, the sinless One, took our sins upon Him and died for us so we can receive His good gift of salvation and everlasting life. It’s Jesus who makes us right with God. Salvation is through faith by Jesus Christ. 2 Timothy 1:9-10 says, “For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News.”

Our works may raise our social standing before people, but our works do nothing to raise our social standing before God. We are all sinners before God and unable to reach God except through Jesus. Titus 3:5-7 says, “[God] saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.”

John 3 has the story of Jesus talking to Nicodemus and explaining that he must be born again; he must be given a new Spirit to replace the old nature. Jesus wants us to trust Him for everlasting life. Revelation 3:20 says, “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” John 14:6 has the following words of Jesus, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” The only way we can receive the gift of salvation is by admitting we are sinners. We have to look at the profit column we have with all our good works, and we must move everything over to the loss column and put Jesus only in the profit column.

Romans 10:9-10, 13 says, If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”

Anything we do after we receive God into our lives still doesn’t impress God. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” All the good things we do belong in God’s profit column, not ours. If we boast, we boast in the Lord, not us. See John 15. Any good we do comes from Jesus, so He should get all the glory, not us. After God saves us, we do God works, not good works.

We never become greater in God’s eyes because of anything we do even after becoming followers of Christ. John 3:30 has these words of John: “[Jesus] must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” The hard work of salvation, the hard work of maturing in Christ, is moving what we used to have in our profit column and moving it to our loss column.


We lost a tremendous apologist of the faith this week, Ravi Zacharias. He was such a powerful testimony for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. If you have the time, I would encourage you to listen to this: https://youtu.be/XXjxtY3ZEOI



Completion of Verses:

· . . . thanksgiving.

· . . . inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Ephesians 5:4-5 (NIV)


5/21/20


Good morning, People of Rejoicing.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/-LwBqG7uXbY


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:


· Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents . . .

· And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying . . . (completions at the end)


I was reading in John 7 and several things stuck out.


But after his brothers left for the festival, Jesus also went, though secretly, staying out of public view. The Jewish leaders tried to find him at the festival and kept asking if anyone had seen him. There was a lot of grumbling about him among the crowds. Some argued, “He’s a good man,” but others said, “He’s nothing but a fraud who deceives the people. But no one had the courage to speak favorably about him in public, for they were afraid of getting in trouble with the Jewish leaders.(verses 10-13)


Pastor Michael has been talking to us about grumbling and complaining. He has pointed out passages such as Philippians 2:14-18 and Exodus 14-16. Here it is again in John. Notice what the people were grumbling about—that Jesus was a fraud who was deceiving people. Let’s put this to the test Pastor Michael shared with us:


· Were the people grumbling in order to get others to see things their way? It sure looks that way! It appears they wanted others to agree with them that Jesus was a fraud and deceived others.


· Were the people trying to destroy or diminish the character of another? Definitely! They called Jesus a fraud.


· Were the people trying to get others to join them against another person? It sure looks that way since they were saying this where others could hear what they were saying.


· Were negative motives placed on another person? It certainly looks like they were saying Jesus did what he did in order to deceive others.


· Were they trying to make themselves look better than Jesus? Who would want to be labeled a fraud and deceiver? Yes, they were trying to make themselves look better than Jesus.


· Would anger, strife, division, and disunity be the result of their grumbling? That would be the logical prediction here.


· Do you think these people prayed about the situation, and then left it in God’s hands? No!


This is another classic example of grumbling and complaining. It definitely falls under the category of a sin. What they were doing was wrong. Let’s be people of rejoicing rather than grumbling and complaining.

Notice that no one had the courage to speak favorably about Jesus in public. This is before Pentecost. Acts 4:31 says, “After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness.” 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”


Then, midway through the festival, Jesus went up to the Temple and began to teach. The people were surprised when they heard him. “How does he know so much when he hasn’t been trained?” they asked.

So Jesus told them, “My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me. Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own. Those who speak for themselves want glory only for themselves, but a person who seeks to honor the one who sent him speaks truth, not lies. Moses gave you the law, but none of you obey it! In fact, you are trying to kill me.” (verses 14-19)


It’s so true; when we speak our own words, we want people to be drawn to us. We want to bring glory to ourselves. When we speak what God has said, we are speaking truth, and that truth brings glory to God. We can’t claim any glory for those words because they aren’t our words. Anything that’s on our ledger that brings glory to us needs to be moved from the positive column to the negative column because it counts for nothing. Only what brings glory to God counts for anything. Like Pastor Michael says, “Get rid of the trophy cases.” The real and imagined trophy cases we have in our lives bring glory to things we have done. Only what’s done for Christ amounts to anything, and those trophies belongs in His trophy case because those works were done to bring glory to Him.


The crowd replied, “You’re demon possessed! Who’s trying to kill you?”

Jesus replied, “I did one miracle on the Sabbath, and you were amazed. But you work on the Sabbath, too, when you obey Moses’ law of circumcision. (Actually, this tradition of circumcision began with the patriarchs, long before the law of Moses.) For if the correct time for circumcising your son fails on the Sabbath, you go ahead and do it so as not to break the law of Moses. So why should you be angry with me for healing a man on the Sabbath? Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.” (verses 20-24)


When we make judgments, we need to look inside of us and see what our motivation is. Where’s our heart? Where our heart is makes a difference in what we choose to do. Do our decisions reflect what is best for us (in our own estimations), or do they reflect what God has asked us to do? Are you faced with an important decision? Look below the surface. What is your motivation? Is it selfish? Is it oriented toward the well-being of others? Die to self.

The next part of the chapter has to do with Jesus being the Messiah. There’s only one Messiah, and that is Jesus. There was no Messiah before Him and there is no Messiah after Him. Jesus alone is the one and only Messiah of all time. He came as a suffering servant to us the first time He came to Earth. The next time Jesus returns to Earth it will be to judge it.

Let’s close with 2 Timothy 4:1-5:


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

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

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


We lost a tremendous apologist of the faith this week, Ravi Zacharias. He was such a powerful testimony for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. If you have the time, I would encourage you to listen to this: https://youtu.be/XXjxtY3ZEOI



Completion of Verses:

· . . . forgive him.

· . . . “I repent,” forgive him. Luke 17:3-4 (NASB)


5/20/20


Good morning, Virtual Friends.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/KCWuAxUx3rE


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in . . . (completion at the end)


Yesterday, during Fireside Fellowship, Pastor Michael answered a question that he received about the book of Philippians. The question was: What is grumbling and complaining? When is grumbling and complaining a sin and when is it not a sin?

Philippians 2:14-18 says: Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy.

Let’s be people of rejoicing. If we speak negatively about something, does that mean we’re complaining? Life has negative things, and we speak about them: the weather, volcano eruptions, hurricanes, tornados, meetings. When faced with a large decision, we make a list of pros and cons. The negative things on our list can help us arrive at a good decision.

God speaks in negative terms. See Ephesians 4:25-31 Ephesians 5:1-7. We are instructed by God to identify that which is good and that which is bad; that which is sin and that which is not sin. We are called to be people of light. We are called out of the darkness. We’re called out of the negative things into the positive things. Ephesians 5:11 says: Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. When we stick to the facts, it makes it possible to identify that which is good and that which is bad.

When do we cross the line from stating facts to grumbling and complaining? It’s when we put value on people regarding events. It’s when something we value is not valued by someone else. It’s when it becomes me vs. them.

Normally, we grumble and complain against people. It involves how we value or devalue people. We cross the line when we take the facts and use them against another person. We diminish the character of the person we talk against. We place negative motives on the other person and positive motives on ourselves. We look at ourselves as better than the other person. We make comparisons when we say, “If I had been there, I would have . . .” or “Can you believe he/she . . .” or “How did that decision ever come about?” We cross the line when we tear others down and encourage others to do the same. When our intent is to demean or diminish another person’s character, we are sinning. Grumbling and complaining is usually about faultfinding, and often it involves leadership. Those not in leadership grumble and complain against those in leadership.

Some excellent examples of grumbling and complaining are found in the Old Testament: Exodus 14:10-12; 15:22-24; 16:1-3, 8-9, 11. Grumbling and complaining always invites others in. It’s divisive. Grumbling and complaining against leadership is grumbling and complaining against God. The opposite of grumbling and complaining is rejoicing.

Children grumble and complain about their parents—their leadership. See Ephesians 6:1-4. Here we see that parents aren’t to provoke their children to anger by the way they treat their children. Ephesians 6:5-9 has the responsibilities of employers and employees. Disciples of Christ treat people well. They give respect and honor to people.

Citizens grumble and complain about politicians. See 1 Timothy 2:1-4. We see here that we are to pray and intercede for our leaders. Romans 13:1 says, “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.” When we grumble and complain about our political leaders (or any authority in our lives), we are grumbling and complaining against God. Sometimes it’s appropriate to pray, “God, stop our leader from making that decision,” or “God, remove our leader from his position of authority.”

We bring our grumbling and complaining into the church. When we have our jobs, we probably don’t have much say as to how things are done. If we want to remain an employee, we do things the way our employer wants them done. When we don’t like the way a politician does things, there’s not a whole lot we can do to change the person’s mind. However, in churches we often feel like this is the one place our voice can be heard. We feel like this is where we have the freedom to express our opinions. However, that attitude is wrong. We don’t have equal positions. Read the entire Chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians. Verses 4-6, 12, 15-27 say, There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.

If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.

All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.

Each of us has a significant role in the church. No part is more important or less important than another. We’re not all the same, and that’s a good thing. If everyone was an eye, how would we hear?

Hebrews 13:17 says: Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit. Grumbling and complaining never benefits anyone.

We need to ask ourselves, “Am I grumbling and complaining in order to get others to see things my way? Am I trying to destroy or diminish someone else’s character? Am I trying to get others to move in the opposite direction of leadership? Am I trying to make myself look better than someone else?” A positive answer to any of these questions would mean your grumbling and complaining is sinful.

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



Completion of Verses:

. . . all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. Acts 1:8 (NASB)


Paul's Labor and Blamelessness


5/19/20


Good morning, People of Faith.


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


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:

Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather . . . (completion at the end)


On Saturday, Living Proof Live presented a night for fun, fellowship, worship, and the Word. I’ve already shared the first part of what Beth Moore had to say. Today we will finish up with what she had to say. It has been edited in order to shorten the length.

I want to take Galatians 2:20 apart with you. It says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Regarding this verse, Dr. Richard Longenecker said, “Crucifixion with Christ implies not only death to the jurisdiction of the Mosaic Law but also death to the jurisdiction of one's own ego.” He's making reference to the fact that it is no longer I who live. Our ego no longer gets to boss us around. Imagine if we really did remind our egos when they loom large, “Actually, you are not in charge here. You have been crucified with Christ. You're neither judge nor jury. Get over that offense. You're really not in authority here.” We need to die to the need to be affirmed, approved of, and exalted in different situations. You don't need to be known by the world. You're known by the one who made the world. When our egos crave to be fed, we can remind them, “You're already dead. The life we live we live to Him.”

In the next part of the verse we see, “but Christ lives in me. The life I now live.” I want to ask you, “What life is it that you're now living in this calling of Christ?” The most important thing I'm doing here is being used to love others. We naturally think in terms of living and dying. That is the order: living and dying, but Paul repeatedly reverses that order. For us, dying gives way to living. Every single time Paul mentions death he always follows it up with living. That's true spiritually, but it's also true physically in a lot of ways, because when we drop these physical bodies in our physical death, they're going to give way to life in a way we could not even imagine was possible. This will all seem like a shadow against the true.

Paul states in 2 Timothy 2:11: "Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him." It's past tense; we died with him. 2 Corinthians 4:10-11 says, “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.” We always carry around the death of Jesus so that we can carry around the life of Jesus. We need to take on this mindset, this reorientation, that when we think death we automatically think life because in Christ death gives way to life. For us in Christ, every time we think death, we have to follow it up biblically with life.

The next part of the verse says that Christ lives in me. No greater reality exists in a believer's life—the fact that Christ’s spirit lives in you and lives in me. That it is a greater reality than your flesh and bone. This is so hard for us because for us what we can see is the greater reality. What is unseen is almost ethereal to us, but that's not the way the word of God puts it. We see the definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1 that faith is the evidence of things unseen. 2 Corinthians 4:16 says: Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. There is nothing going on around you that is as remarkable as what is going on in you if you are in Christ. You are literally being renewed day by day, from glory to glory. If you have received Christ as your Savior, His Spirit literally dwells in you. The Holy Spirit of God, the third person of the Trinity, is literally living in us. Nothing we can see with our human eyes or hold in our hands is as actual or factual as Christ living in us.

If you're in Jesus, you have what this challenge takes. I live by faith in the Son of God. It's going to be faith from first to last. You and I come in a long tradition that began with the likes of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David. We come in the New Testament to the lineage and heritage of people like Stephen, Peter, John, James, all the Marys.

Elijah was a human being like us and yet he prayed that it would not rain and there was no rain on the land for 3 1/2 years. Then he prayed again and the sky gave rain. The story is found in 1 Kings 18:41-46. Somehow we get in our head that it is with ease that all these people of great faith accomplished what they did it. We get the idea that is was no work for them, but read the story. Elijah was down on the ground with his head tucked between his knees. He's just told King Ahab, “Listen! You better get ready because the rain is about to fall!” Elijah has a servant going back and forth to see is there is anything happening? Seven times he sent the servant to see if he saw anything. The servant kept saying, “Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.” Finally the servant said, “Well, I see one little cloud.” Elijah jumped up and said, “The rain is coming!” Just one tiny cloud, but Elijah had angst in his faith.

We fellowship in Christ sufferings, but we also fellowship in his joy. Our lives are going to be lived out in this weeping and rejoicing. These will be coexisting companions for us in the life of Christ. They are not opposites from one another. From the same person comes weeping and rejoicing because that is part of our heritage in Christ. I love 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7: You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. What it takes to be an example to people around you is you receiving the word in much affliction with the joy of the Holy Spirit. If you do this, you will be one of the strangest people anybody in your spirit influence knows because in times of affliction, joylessness is the most common characteristic except for those seeking Christ with all their hearts.

I'm so thankful that we do not have a taskmaster that is saying, “Just die to self and live in me.” Instead, Jesus is saying, “My Spirit is in you. I’m the one who loves you and gave myself for you, and I am with you.” We don't know what eternity will really be like because everything in the Word is telling us about things we cannot even begin to picture. It’s giving us something of the known to describe to us the unknown.

I don't know what it will be like when we're all gathered together and all the annals of history are written, but we can imagine. One of the things I love to imagine is that maybe we'll have the time in timelessness to hear all the stories from all the generations. What was it like to live back then? What was it like to be in the faith back then? What was it like back in the glory days and the gory days? I think we'll find out that most of the time the glory days and the gory days happen simultaneously. I think that's how it often goes.

We will be there with all those that have been martyred in so many countries where Christians have been persecuted—North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Sudan, Yemen, Iran, and parts of India. We will see them with their radiant faces before the Lord—smiling, no worse for the wear, oddly—sparklingly beautiful because they brought glory to God, and they've witnessed to people the goodness of God out of their love and self-giving. What does a life look like that Christ is living in and through? It looks like love, and it looks like self-giving.

I like to imagine that in heaven there might be these intervals of testimony time. I like to imagine what it would be like to have Gabriel leading it. I can see him saying, “Now the class of so and so stand up.” I want you to get the feeling for what I'm talking about here:


· Say, for instance, the class of A.D. 60 or thereabouts—those that witnessed Christ’s very life and his resurrection and his post resurrection appearances. Have them stand up and maybe we could have a Q&A period, so we could find out what was it like to live then.


· The class of 150 A.D.—this first generation of those coming up that had not seen Jesus and had not talked with someone who had seen Jesus—like Justin Martyr, a defender and apologist of the faith.


· The class of 397 when the African thinker, Augustine, was thinking aloud and in the words of Jerome who was his contemporary established anew the ancient faith.


· Classes of the 1370s with the harrowing days of Catherine of Siena and Julian of Norwich.


· The classes of 1415, 1418, and 1431—the dangerous days of Jan Hus who was burned at the stake in Konstanz. Thomas a Kempis who wrote The Imitation of Christ. Joan of Arc, the heroine of France.


· The class of 1517 with all the upheaval and the drama surrounding the posting of Martin Luther's Ninety-five Theses.


· 18th Century England in the days of John and Charles Wesley when they preached and revival broke out in a segment of the Church of England. In his 1903 biography of John Wesley, J. F. Hearst wrote this, “When John Wesley was carried to his grave, he left behind him a good library of books, a well-worn clergyman's gown, and the Methodist Church.”


· The class of the 1960s—the decade when out of the mouth of a young Black preacher came the words, “Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead, but it doesn't matter with me now because I've been to the mountain top, and I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place, but I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will, and He's allowed me to go up to the mountain, and I've looked up, and I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land, and I'm happy tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory at the coming of the Lord.”


· Class of 2020—we don't even have a clue what the end of June will look like let alone the end of December.


How shall we now live this life we live? For many of us, in these days of ease, we have eaten tea cakes. However, if we are willing, we could throw every bit of the trust that we have into the Lord our God. He’s the one who planted us in this generation for a time of a potential harvest, the likes of which we have never seen in our lifetimes. We would have the opportunity to eat manna sustained by the one who is the Bread of Life.

Wesley died on March the 2nd in 1791 at the age of 87. I read that his friends were all surrounding him, and he was grasping their hands. They said he just kept saying to them over and over, “Farewell. Farewell,” but at the very end the words he kept repeating again and again were these: “The best of all is God is with us.” The best of all is God is with us! We can do this through the strength of Christ. We can live boldly and by faith from first to last breath and see the glory of the Lord.

Let me pray with you. Father, I pray that you would make us bold in love, bold in joy, and bold in truth. Displace our fears that are so fueled at this time in history, and replace our fears with a fiery faith. I pray you would fill our tongues with the gospel of Jesus Christ and fill our hearts with His love for He who is everything is with us and His Spirit is within us. In the glorious and holy and beautiful name of Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.



Completion of Verses: . . . division. Luke 12:51 (NASB)


Prayers of Thanksgiving


5/18/20


Good morning, Tradition Evaluators.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/XCOnRwDOI1c


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:


· Put on the full armor of God so that you can . . .

· For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the. . . (completion at the end)


Yesterday, Pastor Michael gave the sermon “Religion and Relationship” to his virtual congregation. It was centered around Matthew 15:1-20.

In the Broadway play “Fiddler on the Roof” the question is asked, “What gives balance to life?” The answer is given, “Tradition.” Later it is said, “It’s because of tradition that we know what we’re supposed to do before God.” That’s an interesting statement. What are some of your traditions?

We bring traditions into the church: the priest walking up to the altar swinging incense, the pastor shaking everyone’s hand after the service, lighting candles at the altar, communion on the first Sunday of the month, etc. What happens when tradition is broken? We come to view traditions as the right way to do things. We can even view traditions as the godly way. We can even give traditions the same weight as the Bible or even more weight than the Bible.


Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”


It’s significant that the Pharisees came from Jerusalem. This means the district managers were called in to determine what Jesus was doing that was wrong. There were 613 unwritten rules that the Pharisees had that were an interpretation for what the Old Testament meant. For example, a person was allowed a certain number of steps on the Sabbath, and anything beyond that was breaking the law. These were their own traditions that dictated what it took to serve God. They were manmade rules designed to help people keep God’s rules. Unfortunately, the manmade rules, over time, became more important than God’s rules. These traditions “gave balance to life,” so it was very important that people follow them.

Exodus 30:17-21 has instructions for the priests regarding the washing of hands. However, God never said people were to wash their hands before eating.


Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’ he is not to ‘honor his father’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.


The Pharisees put their traditions above God. “Honor your father and mother” is the fourth commandment of God found in Exodus 20:12. “Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death” is from Leviticus 20:9. Honoring your parents can be difficult, so the Pharisees explained this as meaning helping your parents out when they were old. However, that can be very time consuming and expensive, so the Pharisees said, “If you say, ‘All I have belongs to God,’ then your money can be used for God and not your parents.” The Pharisees used God as an excuse to disobey God. They were justifying themselves for not obeying God. They were pretending to be doing right. If they were giving everything to God, that would mean they were giving their heart to God. A person who gives their heart to God would desire to take care of their parents. The Pharisees loved their money more than they loved God. They wanted to look spiritual. They were being religious.


“You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’"


All the laws in the Old Testament did not make people right before God. The laws were written to point people to who God is. They were outward reminders of God. However, the Pharisees were saying that following their traditions is what made people right before God. They didn’t acknowledge that how one gets right with God is by entering into a right relationship with God. A right relationship comes from the heart not the hands.

When we do religion, we want other people to see our works. If nobody was around, those works would not be done. Religion needs other people around so comparisons can be made. Religion is about conduct, not character. The only way we get right with God is through Jesus. It’s by grace alone through faith.


Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’”


Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”

“Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean.’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’”


Remember, this is during the time when people were coming out of Judaism. They struggled with ties to the rules of Judaism. (See Acts 10:9-16) Jesus came and made everything clean. Jesus showed it’s not about outward things; it’s about the heart.

The actions you do and the words you say reveal your heart. We do who we are. We say who we are. What makes our heart right with God is a relationship with Jesus, not a relationship with religion.

Let’s look at the traditions in our church. If we don’t have communion on the first Sunday of the month, are we doing something wrong? No. However, if we fought and grumbled about when communion was served, we would be doing something wrong.


Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”


The Pharisees were insulted, displeased, upset, put-out, angered. Why do we become offended when tradition is broken? Why do we say, “We’ve always done it that way”? Being offended because of tradition comes from selfishness. It comes from selfish ambition and vain deceit. The only reason I would become offended is because someone was not agreeing with me. The person is not behaving how I would expect them to behave. If you realize you are not the master and commander of the universe, and you understand that everyone doesn’t have to follow your ideas, you can’t be offended. You can only be offended when you take offense. It’s not that we should never be offended. There are times when we should be offended—someone running down Jesus.


He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”


If something doesn’t come from God, don’t worry about it.

Are we more committed to the elements of religion than we are to Jesus? Do we have to have a building to do church? No, we’re not using a building now. Do we have to have ushers to do church? No, we’re not using ushers now. Can we have church without coffee and cookies? Yes, we’re doing it now. Can we have church without bulletins? Yes, we’re doing it now. What do we need to have church? Certainly not traditions. To have church, we need Jesus. Let’s be the church like we’ve never been before.

Are you more committed to the elements of religion than you are to Jesus? Commit to Jesus and Him alone. All the other stuff really doesn’t matter.



Completion of Verses:

· . . . take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

· . . . powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:11-12 (NIV)


The struggle of Unbelief


5/16/20


Good morning to everyone who has been crucified with Christ.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/J9b0G7UHchI


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:


· For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come . . .

· While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then. . . (completion at the end)


Yesterday, Living Proof Live presented a night for fun, fellowship, worship, and the Word. Today, I would like to share what Beth Moore had to say. It has been edited in order to shorten the length. Nevertheless, it will be continued tomorrow.

It feels like we're caught up, somehow, in an apocalyptic movie, doesn't it? Even though we never would have chosen this particular season of time, we were very much chosen for it. You're here on purpose. Perhaps you have never entertained the thought that maybe you have a calling on your life. If you are in Christ, you have a calling. You have purpose. The Holy Spirit has fruit that he wants to bear through your life. I just pray that you sense the Holy Spirit calling you into your place whatever that looks like in your immediate sphere of influence.

What do we do with these days that have been entrusted to us? We’re being called to shift into a new gear because yesterday's walk of faith really is not working for us today.

These are unprecedented days. It's hard to train for the unprecedented. How exactly do you do that? And yet that's exactly what Jesus was doing in the New Testament with his disciples. He was getting them ready for unprecedented days for the things that they would face. Jesus was calling them to be mighty and to be bold and to know that they were going out as sheep among wolves.

Perhaps most of us have been trained well for emergency faith but not enduring faith. We can do the emergency faith, and let's not downplay that—it’s important to know what to do when a crisis comes or when a moment comes that God really wants us to step into and to believe him for. We know how to step into a temporal time of really practicing faith. This is what most of our training has been about in this prosperous West. I'm talking about many of us and not all of us. All of us have not had the same intensity of challenges, but I'm going to tell you that we keep wanting to go back to normal.

What I want to suggest is that maybe some of the ease we have known, particularly in American Christianity, is what was not normal. In the Scriptures we're called continually to practice a fiery faith in the midst of really perilous circumstances. We've been trained up for emergency faith—not necessarily enduring faith. We've been raised up for prosperity faith and not necessarily persevering faith. Hebrews 10:32-39 says, Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while, “He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.

We're not going to shrink back. This is the time that has been entrusted to us. Throughout this time of quarantine I’ve been thinking about this one verse over and over again. In this season of such turbulence, darkness, and so much death, this one verse has ministered to me more than anything else. It's going to seem like a paradox, but I want you to stay with me and see if it resonates with you as well. In these strange days where we’re inundated by news of death, it's like we're in the middle of a war, but we can't see our foe. We can't see someone across from us that we can even identify. We don't know if it's lurking close or if it’s distant from us.

This unseen thing that we've come to know as COVID-19 has shaken us. But that’s not all that is shaking us. On the news recently there’s been a video of a shooting. We've seen suicides spike from all that is happening. It's taking a toll. How on earth are we supposed to process all of this? These are things that trouble and torment our minds. What are we supposed to do with all of this and yet not lose our compassion, not lose ourselves into some kind of denial and turn our faces from it? How do we keep our faces forward and yet be able to deal with all the bad news that we're getting?

The verse I want to share with you is Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (ESV)

I want you know that verse is pure protein. That's steak right there. I would submit to you that I think it might be very possible that we could unpack the entire New Testament from that one verse all the way from Matthew to the expectation of Christ’s return in Revelation. When Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ,” he's not just taking ownership by himself; we’re being invited into that. We have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us and the life we now live in the flesh we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us.

This is going to seem really strange, and it's going to be a radical way of thinking, but it is a very biblical way of thinking. What if one way we answered our tormented thoughts about the fear of death was to be able to say boldly when our world comes crashing down on us, “I have been crucified with Christ.” Would we have guts enough to say, “I need not fear death. I have been crucified with Christ. Now I live in him.”

All that will happen when this life is over is I'm going to drop this physical body; you're going to drop that physical body. We're going to be in the presence of Jesus. We're going to be made whole and complete in Christ. That death we have died we died with Christ to be able to say to that tormenting thought, “You know what? You're too late! I've been crucified with Christ, and now it's by faith that I live.” This is the mindset. It is a radical reorientation to the mindset of Christ. This is how He trained his disciples to think. This is how Paul handled all that he had to face. Paul’s attitude was, “You know what? I have already died with Him and been raised with Him.”

I don’t want you to think that this is some kind of quick fix that fixes everything so there would be no more fear, no more troubled, turbulent, and tormented thoughts. That's not what I'm thinking. We will always feel the weightiness of death—it doesn't answer our fears for our loved ones. We have to remember Jesus cried over the pain of the death with Lazarus. He cried over the pain that it brought to Mary and Martha. He considers death an enemy. First Corinthians 15:25-26 says, “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” When it comes to the destruction of his enemies, Jesus will have already completely dealt with Satan when he finally turns to his last foe. He is saving the foe that he has hated the most for last, and that is death.

We need deliverance from the bondage of a fear of death. We need it desperately. Hebrews 2:14-15 says, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

Remember what Jesus said in John 8:44: “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

In Luke 12:25 Jesus said, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Jesus says to us, “I have you. You are in me.” When we are being tormented by the fear of death, we can say, “You know what? I've already died with Christ. I'm alive with Him.” In regard to COVID-19, does this mean that we get to live carelessly with a kind of “why bother” attitude because we know we died with Christ and we're alive in him? Does this mean we can do away with any of the precautions such as masks and social distancing? Galatians 5:13-14 gives us the answer: For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” So of course we take precautions, because we're loving our neighbor. We're going to listen to the advice of the professionals—those who are dedicating their lives right now to giving us guidance through this kind peril. We're going to do it because we love our neighbor and not because we are living in constant terror.


To be continued . . .


If you would like to hear Beth Moore’s entire talk, it’s available here: https://live.lifeway.com/home



Completion of Verses:

· . . . just like a thief in the night.

· . . . destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 (NASB)

5/15/20


Good morning, Race Runners.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/JTZbbkn-4ZU


Complete the Verse & Name the Book:

· . . . this poor widow has put more into the treasury than . . .

· They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, . . . (completions at the end)


Yesterday, Pastor Michael continued Fireside Fellowship with the study of “Leaning into the Gospel” based on Philippians 3:10-16:


I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.


Paul is continuing on the theme of following Jesus only. Jesus is the only one who can provide salvation, and salvation comes as a gift—not by works. If the only thing we have in the profit part of our profit/loss ledger is Jesus, then it makes sense that we would want to know Jesus. Paul doesn’t want to know about Jesus, he want to know Jesus; He wants a personal relationship with Him. Paul isn’t interested in gaining knowledge about Jesus so he can win a trivia contest about Jesus. Paul wants to know Jesus.

You get to know someone by spending time with them. You get to know someone by living life with them: hanging wallpaper, putting up Christmas lights, playing sports together, eating with them, going through difficult times together. Paul wants to live life with Jesus.

Paul wants to know the power of the resurrection of Jesus. What’s the power of the resurrection? It’s God. There’s a power of God we can know when we know Jesus. Only God has the power to raise people from the dead. When we know Jesus, we know God. We see His power in saving and sanctifying us. As we live this life, we are experiencing the power of His resurrection. We don’t have to look to the future events of dying and being resurrected. Right now we are in the process of being resurrected because of the life of Christ in us. If we’re in the process of resurrection, that means we have died, and we have. We have died to self, and Christ lives in us. Romans 6:4-14 says:


For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

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

Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give into sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.


We are in the process of being resurrected. We died to the old nature, and we now have a new nature. Paul wants to know Jesus more and experience the power that makes it possible to live the new life—to say no to sin and stay focused on Jesus. We have the power of the resurrection in us.

Paul wants to suffer with Christ, because he has Christ in him (see Philippians 1:28-30). If we have Christ living in us, we will suffer for Him because we will be counter cultural. We become separated from those who choose to live a sinful life. When people reject Jesus, they reject those who follow Him. The deeper you go with Christ, the more you can expect to be persecuted.

It’s in hard times that you really get to know a person. Paul was saying, “I want to die to self the way Jesus died to self.” In Galatians 2:20, Paul said, “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Paul is saying he has already been crucified with Christ; it’s not some future event. He has died to self and now puts other people’s interests ahead of his own. Paul’s purpose in life is that the gospel be progressed. Paul wants his life to reflect the resurrection power in him. This is something he wants to attain, but he says it’s not something he has already obtained. He’s not perfect. He’s in the process of being resurrected, but he’s not there yet. He has not attained full salvation.

When Paul says he is pressing on, he is putting a certain amount of force into it because there’s a certain amount of resistance. The resistance is the sinful nature that resists the power of the resurrection. It says, “Come this way. Remember how much you used to enjoy this activity? What’s stopping you from enjoying it again? Come back to it!” But Paul says, “That activity belongs in the loss column. I’m not going back to that old lifestyle. I press forward against the resistance.” Paul wants to know Jesus more fully so he puts the former things behind him, and he presses forward. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” Paul wants to be transformed into the very likeness of Jesus, so his actions, interactions, and reactions all reflect who Jesus is.

When Paul says he is forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, he is saying is forgetting all that used to be in his profits column of his ledger. Now that he has only Jesus in the profits column, there’s no reason to look back. Olympic events were taking place during this time in history, and Paul is likely familiar with the training that goes into the sports. Runners in a race would strain to move forward. They would not look behind them because that would cause them to lose time. Racers would keep their eyes on the goal. They had to know where they were going.

Paul’s goal is everlasting life—full salvation. He wants to experience Jesus in ways he didn’t experience Him the day before. He wants to keep moving forward. Jesus isn’t just a part of Paul’s life; He is his whole life. Jesus is all-sufficient. Just as runners strain and lean into the finish line, Paul strains to lean into Jesus. Paul is purposeful; he’s goal-oriented. The goal of our salvation is to know Christ. Paul wants to experience the resurrection power in everyday living.

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

The Summer Olympics in 1968 were held in Mexico City with an elevation of 7,382 feet. That particular summer was extra hot. Of the 74 participants that entered the 26-mile marathon, only 57 completed it. During the race, John Stephen Akhwari from Tanzania fell and injured his shoulder and dislocated his knee. He was encouraged to drop out of the race, but Akhwari wanted to finish it even though he was only about half way through the race. An improvised knee brace was placed on his knee, and Akhwari hobbled along. He fell on several occasions, and the officials encouraged him to stop, but he would not. The fifty-sixth runner completed the race, and more than an hour later, Akhwari entered the stadium where the finish line was. When spectators recognized him as a marathon runner, they began to cheer him on. They rose to their feet and roared for him. The way the spectators were acting, you would have thought they were cheering for the winner of the race. However, they weren’t applauding his victory of winning the race; they were applauding his victory of finishing the race.

Knowing there would be no prize, Akhwari continued in the race. He would not be deterred. After the race, Akhwari was asked why he finished the race, and he said, “My country did not send me 10,000 miles to start a race; they sent me 10,000 miles to finish the race.”

Jesus did not die on the cross just for us to start the race. He died on the cross for us to finish the race. Press on. Strain ahead. Desire to know His resurrection power so no matter what happens you will finish the race. Lean into Jesus.



Completion of Verses:

· . . . all the others.

· . . . put in everything—all she had to live on. Mark 12:43b-44 (NIV)


5/14/20

Good morning, COVID-20 (Christians of Vitally Important Doctrine in 2020).

Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/2E9R6x57MUY

Complete the Verse & Name the Book:
· I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was . . .
· I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was . . . (completion at the end)

The Kommetjie Christian Church in South Africa (https://www.kcc.org.za) supports a missionary family. Here is a note they received from the couple:

Here's another quick testimony about the online church. One of our friends from New Zealand contacted us, desperately seeking help for a Muslim in Kenya who, as a result of the deaths caused by Covid-19 had begun to seek beyond Islam for some answers. Came across my friend's online church, heard the message, accepted Christ as Savior, preached to his family and neighbors and now has a small home-cell meeting in his house. Desperate for discipleship he has reached out. My friend contacted us, and because of our World Outreach missions network we are now in the process of hooking him up with a missionary in Nairobi and a wonderful man who heads up a Bible seminary in Kenya.

God uses even the death rate of a pandemic to draw people toward Himself and there is rejoicing in heaven over the new souls that have entered. We, in great excitement, are drawn into this otherwise unknown event, simply through our missions network and in turn our own lives are blessed as we see the Lord adding to the number those who are saved. Prayers for the Muslim community are being answered in ways that we cannot even begin to imagine.


Blessings


Eugene & Tina



I’d also like to share with you a devotional from the pastor of the Kommetjie Christian Church, Mike Lombard. In it he shares an article from Dr. Thomas McCall.


The Apostle’s Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. AMEN.


Matthew 6:9-13:

9 In this manner, therefore, pray:

Our Father in heaven,

Hallowed be Your name.

10 Your kingdom come.

Your will be done

On earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts,

As we forgive our debtors.

13 And do not lead us into temptation,

But deliver us from the evil one.

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.


Every time I wash my hands these days, I recite either our Lord’s Prayer or the Apostle’s Creed. This ensures that I make it past twenty seconds, of course, but it also reminds me of what is most important. As I do so, I keep thinking about the striking contrasts between the transience and fragility of what we often do and the steadfast faithfulness and reliability of what God has done, is doing, and promises to do.

Here at the Henry Center we are “going dark” with respect to live events. This is as it should be, for we want to love our neighbors well. Along with the rest of the country, we are shutting down all nonessential work. But there is a sense in which the kind of work to which God has called us is more essential than ever. After all, we exist to “advance Christian wisdom,” and our current project is focused on the intersection of theology and science. If ever there was a time for followers of Jesus to be seekers of wisdom and engaged with the natural sciences, surely it is now. For “now,”—this time—is a time when the idols of the age are being exposed even as people are turning from them and longing for something more stable and more meaningful.

What do I mean by the “idols of our time?” I mean the false deities of the modern West. I mean those “principalities and powers” that so easily seduce and then so fatally ensnare us. Take, for instance, the radical autonomy and rugged individualism that is valued so highly and indeed is often taken for granted—the notion that “what I do is my business and only impacts me.” Seeing the exponential curve of disease spread, can we ever really believe this again? How did we ever believe it? Or consider our tendency to trust in the stability and security of the American economy. Is it not being exposed as fragile? Think of the reliance on health care systems, or the unreflective confidence in our own resources that so often runs so deep that it goes unnoticed. More directly relevant to our work here at the Creation Project, consider the widespread cultural commitment to scientism, the belief that only the natural sciences offer “real” or “objective” knowledge and the corresponding deep and implicit trust in the natural sciences to bring health and safety and meaning to our lives.

Daily, we are tempted to place our trust here; we are lulled into thinking that what we do only matters to us and won’t be a threat to the most vulnerable among us. We slide, sometimes imperceptibly, into placing our trust in our own resources. Almost as if by osmosis, we trust science and technology to fix us. And then, when we start to see the fragility of it all, we begin to worry, and then panic.

This is not a time for Christians to panic. It is a time to seek wisdom, to ask how we might best love God and neighbor. It is a time to reject the myth of radical autonomy and instead to take personal responsibility even more seriously. A time to look for ways to be good stewards of the resources with which we have been so generously blessed. It is time to reject scientism, but to do all that we can to engage and encourage good science and the wonderful scientists and health care workers who are on the front lines in the fight to protect us all. Like all idols, scientism is simultaneously a fierce taskmaster and a fraudulent deity. Actual science, on the other hand, can be a wonderful tool with which to better love God and neighbor.

And this is a time for love of God and neighbor. This is a time to be reminded that the “Creator of heaven and earth” is also the one Jesus taught us to address as “our Father,” the “Almighty” parent who exercises loving sovereignty over creation. A time to know that God has not held himself aloof from us, but instead entered a world not only of filth and viruses but also of hatred and cruelty, that this God became incarnate and not only “suffered under Pontius Pilate” and was “crucified, dead, and buried” but also “rose on the third day” and has conquered our last enemy.

A time to remember that we are not our own, but have been “bought with a price,” and that the Holy Spirit is with God’s people now and always. This is a time to know and proclaim that love—the love of the Triune God who is our Creator, Savior, and Sanctifier—is stronger than death.

This is a time to proceed with the quiet confidence and good cheer that comes from knowing that we are held in God’s hand. This is not a time for panic or despair; it isn’t a time for hoarding or profiteering or “just looking out for me and mine.” This is a time to live with prudence but also with generosity. To sacrifice, to put ourselves at risk not at the expense of others but for the sake of others. To offer to deliver food and supplies to those who lack them, to seek out and encourage the lonely and anxious. It is a time to thank our Creator for good science and to encourage those who pursue it. A time for all manner of small deeds done in quiet, done for our neighbors in such a way that the only sane and rational explanation is an unshakeable confidence in the power and goodness of God. People who live by such hope and confidence expose the impotence of idols, and they reflect the goodness of God.

The time of the coronavirus is a time to turn from the idols that tempt and then torment us. It is a time to see that they are not only fake, but also impotent. It is a time to turn from them and toward God. It is a time to love the Triune God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and our neighbors as ourselves. It is time to remind ourselves of these basic facts again and again—maybe even every time we wash our hands.

Thomas H. McCall (PhD Calvin Theological Seminary) is Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology at TEDS and Director of the Henry Center.



Completion of Verses:

· . . . a stranger and you invited me in,

· . . . in prison and you came to visit me.

Matthew 25:35-36 (NIV)


5/13/20


Good morning, Created by God.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/HjZq9XZE44c


Complete the Verse & Name the BookAnd because lawlessness is increased, most people’s . . . (completion at the end)


Yesterday, Pastor Michael used Philippians 3:4-9 to teach “Loss for the Gospel” as he continued Fireside Fellowship:


. . . though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts. I have even more!

I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pureblooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.


Salvation is by faith alone. The Judaizers said one got right with God by following the Law. Part of the Law was circumcision. Circumcision identified the Judaizers as God’s people. Leviticus 12:3 says, “On the eighth day the boy’s foreskin must be circumcised.” Paul is telling the church at Philippi that he was born a Hebrew and grew up in Judaism. 

The name Israel is special because God gave them that name. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel. From his 12 sons grew the 12 tribes of Israel that formed the nation of Israel. A person could be a descendant of Abraham and yet not be an Israelite. For example, the Ishmaelites and the Edomites descended from Abraham but not Jacob. Therefore, they were not Israelites. 

Paul was an Israelite from the tribe of Benjamin. Benjamin was the youngest of Jacob’s sons and his favorite after his son Joseph was given up for dead. Benjamin is also the tribe from which came the first king of Israel. Paul was named after this king. Paul’s name was Saul before it was changed. When Israel was divided into two kingdoms (Israel and Judah), it was the tribe of Benjamin that sided with Judah and supported the lineage of David. After Israel was destroyed by the Babylonians, it was largely those from the tribes of Benjamin and Judah who returned to Jerusalem to repopulate it. In addition, Mordecai was from the tribe of Benjamin. He was instrumental in saving the nation from destruction when Xerxes was king. Paul is telling the church about his special ancestry about which he could boast.

At the time of the writing of Philippians, a person could call themselves an Israelite if they were circumcised, descended from Jacob, and they followed the Law. However, a person could only be a Hebrew if he spoke Aramaic, and he kept the old Hebrew customs. This is what made a person a Hebrew of Hebrews, and this is what Paul was. Not only that, Paul was a Pharisee. He studied the Law and was devoted to following it. Pharisee means “separated from the common.” There could only be 6,000 Pharisees so it was significant to be a Pharisee. 

In Acts 22:3-5 we find: Then Paul said, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, and I was brought up and educated here in Jerusalem under Gamaliel. As a student, I was carefully trained in our Jewish laws and customs. I became very zealous to honor God in everything I did, just like all of you today.” To have been selected to study under Gamaliel meant Paul had what it took to be one of the top Pharisees. “And I persecuted the followers of the Way, hounding some to death, arresting both men and women and throwing them in prison. The high priest and the whole council of elders can testify that this is so. For I received letters from them to our Jewish brothers in Damascus, authorizing me to bring the followers of the Way from there to Jerusalem, in chains, to be punished.” Not only could Paul brag about his descent but he could also brag about his deeds. Paul was zealous about Judaism. He felt the only way to God was through Judaism. He felt the Way (Christianity) was a threat to Judaism, and he was going to put an end to it. Paul was the epitome of righteousness through the Law. 

In Verse 7 Paul said, “I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.” When Saul/Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, his whole life changed. His eyes were blinded by the light of Jesus, but he saw for the first time his true condition. All the works he had been doing were all for naught; they counted for nothing! His world was turned upside down. Everything he had on the “For Profit” side of his ledger, he had to move to the “For Loss” side of his ledger. 

Knowing Jesus made all the difference. Paul realized his ancestry and position as a Pharisee actually prevented him from knowing Christ. Those things he held in high esteem that he thought were working to draw him closer to God were actually working to prevent him from knowing God. 

Paul is saying to us, “Be careful what you think is profit.” We all have a profit and loss sheet in our mind based on our goodness and accomplishments. For example, we might be proud to be an American tracing our ancestry clear back to those on the Mayflower. We might trace our roots back to the very beginning of NCCU. We might say, “I helped start this church. I gave a lot of money to see the church get planted. I put a lot of time into making the first church in Union become a reality. I donated a lot of my resources to this church.” We come to church with all this on the profit side of our sheet. Paul says it’s all garbage. The word garbage can be translated dung. It’s not just neutral; it actually can prevent a person from knowing God. Our trophy cases prevent us from knowing and growing in Christ. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” When we place the value of our works higher than the value of Christ in our life, we are not walking with Jesus; we are walking away from Jesus.  

Paul puts NOTHING in the profit side of his sheet except Jesus. He knows his whole life is by the grace of God. Paul is doing the works of God and not the works of Paul. Paul knows he’s a descent from God now and none of the former ancestry he valued matters in the least.

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

The only thing that matters, the only thing we should be desperate for, the only thing that should be in our profit column is one word— Jesus. Salvation is by grace alone through faith. It’s not by our works, our descent, or our greatness. It’s not by how many committees we sat on, how much money we’ve given, or how long we’ve attended the church. If any of these are in your profit column, move them over to the loss column, and put Jesus only in your profit column. These are the things that prevent us from following Jesus. If we don’t give up everything we have in our profit column, we will not gain Jesus. It’s so easy to want Jesus and . . . in our profit column, but that will never work. In our profit column has to be Jesus only. Acts 4:12 says, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

Righteousness comes from God. We can’t be right on our own. Righteousness doesn’t come from works. 



Verse Completion: . . . love will grow cold. Matthew 24:12 (NASB)


Being Spiritual Minded


5/12/20


Good morning, People of Rejoicing.


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


Complete the Verses & Name the Book


·      For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks . . .


·      but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews . . . (completions at the end)



One of the best known verses in the Bible is John 3:16 (NIV): For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Perhaps it was the first Scripture verse you memorized. Do you know the context in which this verse was said? Let’s take a look at the context of this very special verse. Here is John 2:23-3:21 (NLT):


Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him. But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew all about people. No one needed to tell him about human nature, for he knew what was in each person’s heart.

There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak to Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”

Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”

“How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked.

Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony. But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven. And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.

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

“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”


At the Passover, Jesus did many signs and wonders that appealed to the people. However, faith that is based only on signs and wonders is less than the faith Jesus demands. There’s a danger that when the signs and wonders cease, faith ceases. Faith needs to be built on the firm foundation of Jesus, so no matter what circumstances happen, our faith is not shaken. When our faith goes deep in Jesus, seeing him on a cross does not deter us.

When a person is confronted by Jesus, his deepest needs and darkest sins are exposed. Nicodemus couldn’t hide the deadness of his soul. We are taught these days that we are responsible only to ourselves—“Look out for Number One.” If we expand that a little bit more we might say we’re responsible for ourselves and those around us. This is only a half-truth. People sometimes don’t acknowledge they are responsible to God. Consequently, an sin is first a sin against God. That is why David said to God in Psalm 51:4: “Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.”

Nicodemus becomes “Exhibit A” to illustrate what is in the heart of people. What Jesus said about Nicodemus can be applied to all mankind. Romans 3:23 says: “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Even though Nicodemus was deeply saturated in the traditional belief in one God, the Law, history of Israel, and what the prophets said, he had missed The Way. Nicodemus needed Jesus just like we need Jesus.

Nicodemus recognized Jesus as someone special because of the miracles He performed, but he didn’t recognize Jesus as the Messiah. In our natural powers, we are not able to recognize what is essentially spiritual. We have to receive a new vision; a vision that comes with a new life. We have to be born again. The Greek word for again is anothen which means “again,” “from above,” and “anew.” All three translations seem to fit here.

Jesus summed up the whole plan of redemption when He said, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.” Fulfillment, life, and solving innermost problems come from a new birth from above—the birth of the Spirit. The Law couldn’t give birth to the good life. Life comes out of the Spirit. There’s an element of mystery with this. Jesus said, “You can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” You can’t explain forgiveness of sins and spiritual regeneration. 

Nicodemus represented the best in Judaism yet there was spiritual deadness, darkness, and ignorance in this old order.

Because the Israelites spoke against God and Moses, God sent poisonous snakes among the people. Many died. The people repented and asked Moses to take away the snakes. Numbers 21:8 says: Then the LORD told [Moses], “Make a replica of a poisonous snake and attach it to a pole. All who are bitten will live if they simply look at it!” So Moses made a snake out of bronze and attached it to a pole. Then anyone who was bitten by a snake could look at the bronze snake and be healed! 

Jesus was raised up on a cross. All who look to Him for salvation receive salvation. Without the cross, we would die in our sins. Although the cross is an instrument of death, the cross of Jesus brings life to those who call on Him. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice and faith is the perfect response to that sacrifice. Here is the first mention of eternal life, the gift that is given to those who have faith. 

John 3:16 is the first mention of God’s love in this Gospel. God’s love extends to ALL people. The Greek word for love used here is egapesen. This is love that is solely interested in others with no thought for self. Egapesen risks all for the advantage of another; it counts no price too great as long as another can benefit. It’s complete love. It’s absolute love. When God gave Jesus to us, He gave that which was most precious to Him. 

We have a choice: life or death. If we respond with faith, we make the choice for life. If we reject Jesus, we chose death and eternal darkness. The purpose of Jesus wasn’t to bring judgment to people but to bring salvation to people. Nevertheless, judgment is inevitable when people refuse to accept God’s mediating and atoning gift of Jesus.

Judgment and condemnation do not come to those who have faith. Condemnation is a current state for unbelievers. It’s our job as believers to shine light into their darkness, so unbelievers don’t remain in their state of condemnation.

There’s a sequence in unbelief—unbelief, darkness, and evil deeds. Unbelief and evil living go hand in hand. A person who says it doesn’t matter what he/she believes is also saying that actions don’t have any moral value or meaning. There’s a sequence in belief—faith, light, and good deeds. A holy person and a holy life go hand in hand. A person who is holy is set apart for God’s service. A holy life is a life set apart for God’s service.

Truth is something said, and truth is something lived.



Completion of Verses:


·      . . . search for wisdom;


·      . . . a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness. 1 Corinthians 1:22-23 (NASB)


The Invisible Hand of Providence


5/11/20


Good morning, Yard Explorers.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/EhSOnw8a_AI


Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but . . . (completion at the end)


Yesterday, Pastor Michael gave the sermon “The Ups and Downs” based on Matthew 14. Life has its ups and downs; times when things go well and everything falls into place, and times when things don’t go so well and it seems like nothing falls into place. This is how life is, and we want to teach our kids to expect both good times and bad times in our lives. 

The Christian life also has its ups and downs; roses and thorns. Jesus said, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b) Matthew 14 starts out with a down time in life:


When Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, heard about Jesus, he said to his advisers, “This must be John the Baptist raised from the dead! That is why he can do such miracles.”

For Herod had arrested and imprisoned John as a favor to his wife Herodias (the former wife of Herod’s brother Phillip). John had been telling Herod, “It is against God’s law for you to marry her.” Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of a riot, because all the people believed John was a prophet.

But at a birthday party for Herod, Herodias’s daughter performed a dance that greatly pleased him, so he promised with a vow to give her anything she wanted. At her mother’s urging, the girl said, “I want the head of John the Baptist on a tray!” Then the king regretted what he had said; but because of the vow he had made in front of his guests, he issued the necessary orders. So John was beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a tray and given to the girl, who took it to her mother. Later, John’s disciples came for his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus what had happened. 

As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. 


Jesus is grieving over the death of his close friend and cousin. Jesus went to spend some alone time with His Father—the God of all comfort. However, instead of finding a place of solitude, Jesus is met by a huge crowd.


But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns. Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. 


In His grief, Jesus has compassion on the crowd. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 says, “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.” 


There are people in the crowd who are grieving. They are sick or a loved one is sick. The doctors have done all they can do, but the patients aren’t getting any better. Jesus is their last hope. In His grief, Jesus begins to minister to the crowds. The crowd goes from a low to a high. 


That evening the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”


There were probably around 15,000 people in the crowd. They had been there all day. At this point, the disciples were likely looking forward to the crowd going to their homes. 


But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.”

But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” they answered.


The disciples went from a high of seeing so many people healed to a low of wondering how a crowd of this size could be fed.


“Bring them here,” he said. Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people. They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. About 5,000 men were fed that day in addition to all the women and children!


The disciples went from a low to another high. Another miracle had happened right before their eyes. Perhaps the disciples thought about how God provided manna for the Israelites in the wilderness, and now Jesus was providing food for the crowd of 15,000 people with only five loaves and two fish. People that day saw Jesus as a healer but more importantly as a life-giver. 

Charles Blondin was a French daredevil who crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope pushing and pulling a wheelbarrow in 1859. He asked the energized crowd if they thought he could repeat the act with a person in the wheelbarrow. The crowd enthusiastically yelled, “YES!” However, when he asked for a volunteer, the crowd instantly grew quiet. Not a single person who said they believed he could do it took a step of faith and got into the wheelbarrow. 

The disciples wouldn’t have learned anything if they hadn’t taken the step of faith and started feeding the crowd. Not only did they say, “I believe Jesus can do it,” but they said, “I’m going to show that I believe Jesus can do it.” They got in the wheelbarrow. 

This is the first time the disciples were part of the miracles of Jesus. Their faith grows and is cemented. They went from doubt and disbelief to trust and belief in Jesus. Their faith is built. As we take steps of faith, Jesus builds our faith. Jesus needs you to do ministry, just as he needed His disciples to do ministry. We’re the hands and feet of Jesus. He needs us to stop observing and start doing. We can’t just read the Bible and say, “I believe it.” We need to live it.

After seeing everything Jesus did that day, the crowds were ready to make Him king. The disciples were likely excited with this prospect, too. This was a high for them. But that’s not why Jesus came to Earth; He didn’t come to destroy the Romans or become a national leader. Jesus told the disciples to get into the boat. Their bubble was burst.


Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.


Finally, Jesus had a chance to grieve for His friend.


Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

“Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.


Before we’re too hard on Peter, remember that he was the only one who took the step of faith and stepped out of the boat. He put his faith into action, but as he looked around at the storm, his faith diminished. We do the same thing. We look at our circumstances instead of Jesus, and our faith starts diminishing. Notice what Peter does at this point; he calls out to Jesus to save him. Jesus took Peter’s doubt and restored it to faith.

There’s really no rational answer to the question “Why do you doubt?” When our faith is in Jesus, and Jesus is God—the creator of the universe, when we know Jesus loves us, when we know Jesus is perfectly good, when we know He is all-powerful, is it rational for us to doubt Him? Is it rational to give more power to a created thing than the creator? 


After they had crossed the lake, they landed at Gennesaret. When the people recognized Jesus, the news of his arrival spread quickly throughout the whole area, and soon people were bringing all their sick to be healed. They begged him to let the sick touch at least the fringe of his robe, and all who touched him were healed. 


From the low of the storm they go to another high of Jesus healing people. The end of Chapter Matthew 13 ends on a down note due to people rejecting Jesus in His own hometown. Chapter Matthew 14 ends on a high note with people being healed by just touching the fringe of Jesus’ robe. What a difference faith makes! What a difference doubt makes! These are the ups and downs of the Christian life. God has power in our faith; He has love in our doubts. 

A lady who had to carry water in bucket from the well to her house, would place a piece of wood in the water, because it would calm the water as she walked and keep it from sloshing out of the bucket. That is what Jesus does for us. He calms our life. We need to put the cross of Jesus in the center of our life, because it’s the cross that settles our faith. The cross settles our life. 

Jesus loves you in the ups and in the downs of life. Put Him in the center of your life.



Verse Completion: . . . if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:24 (NASB)


The Jews Covenent to Obey God


5/9/20


Good morning, Followers of the Son of Man.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/6xCRnqMK5fg


Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in . . . (completion at the end)


Eugene Peterson, author of  The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language, made the following comments about what happens when any kind of disaster strikes:

“When disaster strikes, understanding of God is at risk. Unexpected illness or death, national catastrophe, social disruption, personal loss, plague or epidemic, devastation by flood or drought, turn men and women who haven’t given God a thought in years into instant theologians. Rumors fly: “God is absent”…”God is angry”…”God is playing favorites, and I’m not the favorite”…”God is ineffectual”…”God is holding a grudge from a long time ago, and now we’re payingforit”…

“It is the task of the prophet to stand up at such moments of catastrophe and clarify who God is and how he acts. If the prophet is good—that is, accurate and true—the disaster becomes a leverforprying people’s lives loose from their sins and setting them free for God. Joel is one of the good ones: He used a current event in Israel as a text to call his people to an immediate awareness that there wasn’t a day that went by that they weren’t dealing with God. We are always dealing with God.”

These comments were made several years before COVID-19 was heard of as Eugene Peterson died in 2018. 

Who is God? To reiterate what was said on Thursday: “If the distance from the earth to the sun (93,000,000 miles) was the thickness of a sheet of paper, then the distance between the earth to the nearest other star would be a stack of papers 70 feet high, and the distance across our galaxy, the diameter, would be a stack three hundred ten miles high. Our galaxy is only a speck of dust in the universe.” God is the one who created it all. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Not only is God the creator, but He’s the healer and the only one who can save and provide eternal life. 

What is God like? Joel 2:12-13 says: That is why the LORD says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is merciful and compassionateslow to get angryand filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish.

We might think we have it rough with COVID-19, but listen to what God told Joel:

Hear this, you leaders of the people. Listen, all who live in the land. In all your history, has anything like this happened before? Tell your children about it in the years to come, and let your children tell their children. Pass the story down from generation to generation. After the cutting locusts finished eating the crops, the swarming locusts took what was left! After them came the hopping locusts, and then the stripping locusts, too!

Wake up, you drunkards, and weep! Wail, all you wine-drinkers! All the grapes are ruined, and all your sweet wine is gone. A vast army of locusts has invaded my land, a terrible army too numerous to count. Its teeth are like lions’ teeth, its fangs like those of a lioness. It has destroyed my grapevines and ruined my fig trees, stripping their bark and destroying it, leaving the branches white and bare.

Weep like a bride dressed in black, mourning the death of her husband. For there is no grain or wine to offer at the Temple of the LORD. So the priests are in mourning. The ministers of the LORD are weeping. The fields are ruined, the land is stripped bare. The grain is destroyed, the grapes have shriveled, and the olive oil is gone.

Despair, all you farmers! Wail, all you vine growers! Weep, because the wheat and barley—all the crops of the field—are ruined. The grapevines have dried up, and the fig trees have withered. The pomegranate trees, palm trees, the apple trees—all the fruit trees—have dried up. And the people’s joy has dried up with them.(Joel 1:2-12)

We think we have it rough when we have to stay in our houses. Not only that, but when we do venture out, the stores are out of some things we rely on having: toilet paper, flour, sugar, meat, etc. When we compare our situation with Joel’s time, we’re embarrassed to complain about anything.

Sometimes God allows difficult times to get our attention. When difficult times strike, we have a choice: humble ourselves before God and draw closer to Him or harden our hearts and decide to have nothing to do with God. Difficult times in my life have always brought me closer to Jesus. A humble heart can always be used by God. A proud heart can never be used by God. James 4:6 says: And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Proverbs 8:13 says, “All who fear the LORD will hate evil. Therefore, I hate pride and arrogance, corruption and perverse speech.” Proverbs 16:5 says, “The LORD detests the proud; they will surely be punished.” Daniel 5:20 says: “But when [Nebuchadnezzar’s] heart and mind were puffed up with arrogance, he was brought down from his royal throne and stripped of his glory.”

God isn’t the one who changes; we are. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” People’s ideas of God change according to circumstances, but God Himself never changes. Jesus was God before the pandemic, Jesus is God during the pandemic, and He will be God after the pandemic. We can’t put our faith in an idea; we put our faith in a person—Jesus. He never changes. Everything He expects from us is in His words. 1 Peter 1:24 says, As the Scriptures say, “People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades. But the word of the Lord remains forever.” And that word is the Good News that was preached to you.

It’s my prayer that God will use the pandemic to draw people to Himself. Let’s pray for revival and a time of great harvest.



Verse Completion: . . . the abundance of his possessions. Luke 12:15 (NIV)


Overlooking Personal Offences


5/8/20


Good morning, “Soon” to be Released.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/_JuhYFvVEc0


Complete the Verse and Name the Book: Consequently they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God . . . (completion at the end)


Yesterday, Pastor Michael continued Fireside Fellowship with a study called “Law and the Gospel” from Philippians 3:1-3. A shift of topics takes place in Chapter 3 where Paul discusses theological issues. It’s important that we know proper doctrine or theology.


Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.

Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort.


We need to remember we are family, and we should use terms like brother and sister. We are one unit in Christ. Rejoice means to take joy in the Lord. Notice Paul doesn’t say to be happy no matter what happens. Joy is deeper than happiness. Happiness is connected to circumstances. When there is joy, there is peace and contentedness. In a spiritual sense, joy comes when there is a sense of rightness with God—knowing the future is secure with God. John 16:19-24 says:


Jesus realized they wanted to ask him about it, so he said, “Are you asking yourselves what I meant. I said in a little while you won’t see me, but a little while after that you will see me again. I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy. It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world. So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy. At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name. You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.”


Why will their joy not be taken away? It’s because they are connected to Jesus. Their future is secure, their sins have been forgiven, and they will have everlasting life with Jesus. John 15:9-11 says:


“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!”


I gain something when I die—everlasting life with Jesus. John 17:13 says:


“Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with your joy.”


The completeness or fulness of joy is spending eternity with Jesus. Romans 8:35-39 says:


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

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


Nothing can rip Jesus away from us. Nothing can keep Jesus from loving us. There’s reason to rejoice in the Lord!

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

Paul tells the church at Philippi to watch out for false teachers. Judaism was all about following the law. People were trying to figure out how the old covenant fit with the new covenant of Jesus. People were wondering what to do with the ceremonial laws, the sacrificial laws, the food laws, the Sabbath laws, the laws of circumcision. There was a great debate as to whether Gentiles coming into the faith should be circumcised or not. In the end, it was determined they should not. The bottom line was salvation was by Christ alone: by grace through faith; not by works. Salvation is a gift of God. 

Let’s go back to the origin of circumcision found in Genesis 17:9-11:


Then God said to Abraham, “Your responsibility is to obey the terms of the covenant. You and all your descendants have this continual responsibility. This is the covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Each male among you must be circumcised. You must cut off the flesh of your foreskin as a sign of the covenant between me and you.”


In Exodus 4:10 Moses tells the Lord he doesn’t speak well—he has uncircumcised lips. In Deuteronomy 10:16, Moses tells Israel to circumcise their stubborn hearts. This isn’t a physical act but, rather, a spiritual act. In Jeremiah 6:10, Jerusalem’s ears are uncircumcised—they are closed and will not listen to God. 

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

Paul is saying to watch out for the false teachers that say rules are the foundation of the faith. It’s Jesus who is the foundation of our faith. In Colossians 2:11-12, Paul said:


When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.


When we receive Jesus, the Holy Spirit regenerates us and gives us a new heart. Galatians 5:2-6 says:


Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you. I’ll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses. For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.

But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us . For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love. 


Salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation is never by works or by the law. We can never be good enough to earn salvation; it is a gift. Referring to Jesus, Acts 4:12 says: “There is salvation is no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”Salvation is not “Jesus and . . . ;” it’s “Jesus only.”

Paul calls the false teachers by three names: dogs, those who do evil, and mutilators. Paul calls true believers by three names: those who worship by the Spirit, those who rely on Jesus for what He has done, and those who put no confidence in their own efforts. True righteousness is boasting in Christ alone. Our joy and rejoicing is in Jesus alone for it is through Him we have salvation and everlasting life. 



Verse Completion: . . . has joined together, let no man separate. Matthew 19:6 (NASB) See also Mark 10:9


A Life of Thankfulness


5/7/20


Good morning, Friends & Family (you’re both btw).


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/EqsnGE3_dsg


Complete the Verse & Name the Book: My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to . . . (completion at the end)


Today, I’d like to share some thoughts from Tim Lane on the topic of “Anxiety and Scripture.” Here is what he had to say:


After considering the strengths and limitations of modern diagnoses for anxiety, we need to take a moment to see how Scripture captures the experience of worry and how it pinpoints the problem at the most fundamental level.

In the Old and New Testaments there are a host of words that the writers use to capture the experience of anxiety. Interestingly, the same words can be used to describe something positive and negative; proper concern or problematic obsessive anxiety. The meaning changes based upon the broader context within which the word is used. Let’s take a moment and look at the primary word that is used in the New Testament for worry.

In the New Testament there are 26 occurrences of the word anxiety, and the word merimnao and its various cognate forms are used 22 times. Sometimes it means appropriate concern and care; sometimes it means worry/anxiety. Here are several examples of how the word is used in various contexts:

Positive Examples: Merimnao means appropriate care or concern.


·        Philippians 2:19-20: I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive the good news about you. I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. 


·        Philippians 2:28: Therefore, I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. 


·        2 Corinthians 11:28: Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.


·        I Corinthians 12:25: ...so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.



Negative Uses: Merimnao means over-concern or anxiousness.


·        Matthew 6:25-34 and Luke 12:22-34: These are the two places we find Jesus’ teaching on worry. He clearly indicates that this kind of worry is something we should fight against. 


·        Philippians 4:4-9: Paul says, Do not be anxious for anything. 


·        I Peter 5:6-11: Peter says, Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.



The negative usage raises a fundamental question. What does the word mean? Merimnao shares a connection with a similar word which is the word merizo. This word literally means “to divide,” “to draw in different directions,” “distract,” or  “an anxious care.” Here are some passages where merizo is used:


·        Luke 10:41: In this passage, Martha is distracted about many things. 


·        Matthew 13:22: This passage describes the seed that is sown but the distractions of the world choke it out.

If you combine the meaning of the word merizo with the context in which Jesus is using the word merimnao, you begin to understand how the Bible defines worry. Let’s take a look at the broader context of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5-6. What is the distraction that causes worry?

In Matthew 5:1-48 to Matthew 6:1-34, Jesus is teaching about what it looks like to live in his kingdom as opposed to another kingdom. Are you living your life in the realm of the kingdom of God or the kingdom of this world? The Beatitudes and Sermon on the Mount discuss a host of issues that contrast kingdom living or living as if this world is all there is. The Bible calls that “worldliness.”

Worldliness in Scripture often involves making something good in the creation and making it ultimate. Jesus says that when you do that, you are distracted or divided in your loyalty. You then begin to experience worry because this world is not substantial enough to produce stability, confidence and peace. This can happen if you make your health, finances, marriage, children, career or anything else in creation ultimate in your life. If you look at Jesus' teaching, he talks about making food, clothing and shelter what you strive after and make most important. Those are examples of good things morphing into what you live for.

John Stott puts it this way when he explains how we are to understand Jesus’ teaching on worry in Matthew 6:25-34:

It is a pity that this passage (Matthew 6:25-34) is often read on its own in church, isolated from what has gone before. Then the significance of the introductory “Therefore I tell you” is missed. So we must begin by relating this “therefore,” this conclusion of Jesus, to the teaching which has led up to it. He calls us to thought before he calls us to action. He invites us to look clearly and coolly at the alternatives before us and to weigh them up carefully. We want to accumulate treasure? Then which of the two possibilities is the more durable? We wish to be free and purposive in our movements? Then what must our eyes be like to facilitate this? We wish to serve the best master? Then we must consider which is the more worthy of our devotion.


Only when we have grasped with our minds the comparative durability of the two treasures (corruptible and incorruptible), the comparative usefulness of the two eye conditions (light and darkness) and the comparative worth of the two masters (God and mammon), are we ready to make our choice. And only when we have made our choice--for heavenly treasure, for light, for God---”therefore I tell you” this is how you must go on to behave: “do not be anxious about your life...nor about your body...But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness (25, 33).


In other words, our basic choice of which of the two masters we intend to serve will radically affect our attitude to both. We shall not be anxious about the one (for we have rejected it), but concentrate our mind and energy on the other (for we have chosen him); we shall refuse to become engrossed in our own concerns, but instead “seek first” the concerns of God.

–John Stott, Christian Counter Culture: The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, p. 159-160

Scripture says that there is a fundamental issue of allegiance underneath all of the multi-layered influences that can make anxiety more difficult. This fundamental allegiance is ultimately given to another kingdom. What kingdom are you living in? To whom will you look for security, safety and stability in an unstable world? Where is your treasure? Your answer to these questions will reveal what you are living for and why you are struggling with worry.

According to Scripture, at the heart of worry is an intense struggle to rest upon God’s care and power in the midst of a broken and unstable world. We are to live with godly concern which is dependent upon God and rooted in prayer. When we don’t, we will either “check out” or become “hyper-vigilant,” as illustrated in the diagram below:

Under-concern <------------------------------Godly Concern-------------------------------> Over-concern

What happens when you shift priorities and allegiances from God and his kingdom to your own? You begin to place your hopes and confidence in something unstable. As a result, you become unstable and begin to focus obsessively on that which can be taken away, that which is fleeting.

In light of this biblical framework, you can begin to see how nuanced Scripture is when it comes to understanding and appreciating the struggle with worry. Our aim, by God’s grace, is to live in a zone of godly concern. While there may be many shaping influences that cause you to worry more than another person, everyone is called to relate to God in the midst of anxiety. In other words, the Bible is offering a cure for worry. It is not found in skills and techniques but in a person; God himself.

While skills and techniques may be helpful, Scripture offers more. The Bible offers a personal, redeeming, powerful God who enters our struggle and meets us with his grace. This is where we see the beauty of Christ and learn to talk to and depend upon him as the Spirit enables us.


A dear friend of mine shared the following with me, and I wanted to pass it on to you: Tim Keller quoted something that really resonated with me. Years ago, he heard a woman preacher say, “If the distance from the earth to the sun (93,000,000 miles) is the thickness of a sheet of paper, then the distance between the earth to the nearest other star would be a stack of paper 70 feet high, and the distance across our galaxy, the diameter, would be a stack three hundred and ten miles high. The galaxy is only a speck of dust in the universe and if there is a person or power who holds this all together with the Word of His power (Hebrews 1:3), or his pinky as it were, is this the kind of person I would ask into my life to be my personal assistant?” The entire sermon can be seen here: https://youtu.be/UZehei9m-Z0



Verse Completion: . . . speak and slow to become angry. James 1:19 (NIV)


5/6/20


Good morning, Verse Initiator or Verse Completer. (My sister and her husband have a routine they follow the first thing each morning. One of them starts the day with, “This is the day the Lord has made,” and the other responds with, “We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Try that with someone today.)


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/cEbQswNB6Wc


Verses to Complete & Name the Book:


·      . . . whoever slaps you on your right cheek . . .


·      If anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, . . .


·      Whoever shall force you to go one mile . . .


·      Give to him who asks of you, and do not . . . (completions at the end)



Yesterday, Pastor Michael continued Fireside Fellowship with “Risking for the Gospel” from Philippians 2:25-30. Paul desires the well-being of the church. He wants there to be unity. There needs to be support and encouragement given to other believers. He wants the gospel to be lived out through the church. His desire is for the church to stand firm in Christ. Paul wants the church to be about rejoicing, not grumbling or complaining.


Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you. He is a true brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier. And he was your messenger to help me in my need. I am sending him because he has been longing to see you, and he was very distressed that you heard he was ill. And he certainly was ill; in fact, he almost died. But God had mercy on him—and also on me, so that I would not have one sorrow after another.

So I am all the more anxious to send him back to you, for I know you will be glad to see him, and then I will not be so worried about you. Welcome him in the Lord’s love and with great joy, and give him the honor that people like him deserve. For he risked his life for the work of Christ, and he was at the point of death while doing for me what you couldn’t do from far away.


The church at Philippi supported Paul while he traveled (see Philippians 4:15-18), and they wanted to be a support for Paul while he was in prison. It bought them joy when they could encourage Paul. They recognized that the gospel was the most important message that could ever be shared with others, and they enjoyed partnering with Paul to see that message go out to others. No other message can transform lives, change hearts, and bring everlasting life. By investing in Paul and the gospel, the church was investing in things eternal. The message of the gospel in 2020 is still the most important message there is; it’s eternal. 

Epaphroditus was sent to help Paul while Paul was in prison. That meant that Epaphroditus would stay in prison with Paul and provide for his needs including food and clothing. Prisons were not very sanitary places, and it wasn’t uncommon for people to get infections while there. While in prison with Paul, Epaphroditus got so sick he was near death. The only reason Epaphroditus didn’t die was God healed him. Paul doesn’t want Epaphroditus getting sick again, and that’s one reason Paul decided to send him back to the church at Philippi. 

Notice in Verse 25 Paul calls Epaphroditus a brother. He’s like family to Paul. They are one in Christ. Epaphroditus is also a co-worker. In Greek, co-worker is the word we get synergy from. They were like-minded. Paul also calls him a fellow soldier. They are in a battle together. The battle is between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. It’s a real war of spiritual warfare. We are in this same war today. Ephesians 6:10-20 says:


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

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

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike. I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.


Epaphroditus is like-minded and united with Paul in faith, function, and fight. They are both apostles. The word apostle means messenger. In this case, they are messengers delivering the words of Jesus to others. 

Epaphroditus ministered to the needs of Paul, and Paul wants the church at Philippi to know what a blessing Epaphroditus has been. Paul is sending Epaphroditus back to the church because Epaphroditus is longing to see everyone there. You might say he’s homesick for home. What would be best for Paul would be for Epaphroditus to stay in prison with him, but Paul doesn’t think about what’s best for him; he thinks about what’s best for Epaphroditus and the church. Paul is looking out for the best interests of Epaphroditus; Paul has his back. He encourages the church to welcome Epaphroditus home as a brother in Christ. Paul wants the church to give honor to Epaphroditus and let him know he is valued by the church. He wants the church to value people that value Christ. 

Epaphroditus risked his life for the work of Christ. From the Greek word for risk grew a voluntary group called the Parabalani who undertook the care of the sick and the burial of the dead knowing they could die. Paul and Epaphroditus felt risking their lives for the gospel was worth the risk because death is gain for the Christian. 

Jesus spoke of future events and said, “Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:12-13) It will be the Christians who show love. Christians will be known by their love, not their fear. Christians are willing to risk their lives for Christ. 



Completion of Verses:


·      . . . turn to him the other also.


·      . . . let him have your coat also.


·      . . . go with him two.


·      . . . turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. Matthew 5:39-42 (NASB) See also Luke 6:27-35.


Faith in Times of Crisis


5/5/20


Good morning to everyone living in two realities: the reality of being bound for heaven and the reality of being bound to your house.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/mVpkR4gYTlg


Complete the Verses and Name the Book: 


·      He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to . . .


·      so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of . . .


·      This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is . . . (completions at the end)



Warning: Today’s devotional contains some events from the Vietnam War. If you find war stories to be upsetting, please skip down to Dr. Moody’s sermons, and listen to one of his sermons for today.


Sometimes we have an elevated sense of who we are. We imagine ourselves handling situations that demonstrate what quality people we are having impressive character. 

During the Vietnam war, the Viet Cong had well over a hundred miles of tunnel networks around Saigon. Much was done to destroy them including bombs being dropped and explosives set off in the tunnels, but the best fight against the Viet Cong in tunnels came from a volunteer group of American forces known as “Tunnel Rats” who went into the tunnels armed with pistols and knives. The Tunnels of Cu Chi by Tom Mangold and John Penycate tell of many adventures in these tunnels. Here is part of what happened to two tunnel rats named Flowers and Batman on one of their missions:

A foot above Flower’s glistening and grimy face, the trapdoor was quietly turned round and slotted back into its frame. Flowers froze; the enemy was right there. Suddenly the door moved again. Something dropped into Flower’s lap, right in front of his eyes. He watched it fall, momentarily transfixed; then the danger to his life overwhelmed him as he screamed, “Grenade!”

The American M-26 grenade has a steel casing over a coil of pressed steel. The coil is designed to burst into over seven hundred pieces, and the case into chunks of shrapnel. It is fatal at up to five meters. It is detonated when the pin is pulled that releases a handle igniting the fuse. The acid fuse burns for five to seven seconds before the detonator sets off the pound of high explosive.

Flowers did not know how far he had crawled when the explosion ripped through the tunnel. There was a tremendous ringing in his ears and his legs were bleeding, but he was still crawling. Batman too was moving away when Flowers reached him. He shone his lamp on Flowers’ torn and bloody fatigues. Flowers was suddenly preoccupied about having dropped his pistol. Batman advised him to forget it and keep moving. Another explosion rocked the tunnel. The NVA soldier was trying to make sure that the tunnel rats were dead, even pursuing them. Flowers blindly scrambled back through the different levels. When at last he saw daylight, and reached for the hands of the men above, he collapsed.

Flowers recalled his thoughts in the hospital bed. “If it had been John Wayne, he would have picked up the grenade, lifted up the trapdoor, and thrown it back at the enemy. If it had been Audie Murphy, he would have thrown his body over the grenade to save Batman’s life, and his mother would have received his posthumous Medal of Honor. But since it was Jack Flowers, I started crawling like h***.”

Another time, Flowers was being lowered into a 15 foot hole to enter a tunnel. Three feet before the bottom, the ropes would be released so the person entering the hole would surprise the enemy with his sudden appearance. The cardinal rule for all tunnel rats was to NEVER empty your gun. Here’s what happened:

His feet and elbows rubbed against the side of the shaft, dislodging clods of earth that would tell the Viet Cong below that he was coming down. Flowers pictured the enemy down there on his knees, leaning against the side of the tunnel with his AK-47 set on full automatic fire. In an aperture about four feet in diameter it would be hard to miss. Twenty rounds would cut through Flowers in four seconds. So Flowers knew that the first shot from his pistol would have to kill the VC. He would aim straight at the VC’s face; a shot to the body would not disable him enough to prevent him firing the AK-47. He was three feet from the tunnel floor. He signaled to Schultz to release the rope. The moment had come.

Flowers hit the floor with his pistol firing; the first shot went through the VC’s forehead, the second his cheek, the third his throat, the fourth, fifth, and sixth pounded into his body. Blood racing to his brain, Flowers kept pulling the trigger, clicking on the empty chambers of his revolver. 

Cordite smoke lingered in the dank tunnel air.

Flowers stared dumbly in front of him, disbelieving what his mind had created. There was no enemy soldier there, no adversary with a rifle, just a blank wall with six holes neatly grouped in the earth. Six. And the time-honored law of the tunnel rats said no more than three.

Two days later at Lai Khe the battalion’s executive officer relieved Flowers of his tunnel rat command, and told him to go home.

Flowers imagined himself to be one way, but when the rubber met the road, he turned out to be much different.

I like to picture myself as a person who stands up for the right. I like to picture myself as a strong person who would stand up for the weak in an instant. However, recently, I was thinking back to an incident in my high school biology class in the Philippines. The teacher was out of the room, and a “popular” Caucasian boy started harassing a shy Filipina girl. He cussed at her in the Philippine language. It made me so mad to see that innocent girl being picked on by a bully. I just sat there and did nothing and so did everyone else in the class. I am totally ashamed of myself. Where was the character I imagined myself to possess? It was nowhere to be seen. To this day, that incident bothers me. Where was the knight in shining armor for that shy girl? He sure wasn’t sitting in the seat I was occupying. 

Today I was reading Luke 22:33: Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.” Peter pictured himself just like Flowers pictured himself and just like I pictured myself before being put to the test. Let’s see if Peter fared any better than the two of us:

So they arrested [Jesus] and led him to the high priest’s home. And Peter followed at a distance. The guards lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter joined them there. A servant girl noticed him in the firelight and began staring at him. Finally she said, “This man was one of Jesus’ followers!”

But Peter denied it. “Woman,” he said, “I don’t even know him!”

After a while someone else looked at him and said, “You must be one of them!”

“No, man, I’m not!” Peter retorted.

About an hour later someone else insisted, “This must be one of them, because he is a Galilean, too.”

But Peter said, “Man, I don’t know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.

At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly. (Luke 22:54-62)

Sometimes our lack of courage can be downright embarrassing! We wish we could crawl in a hole and die. We’re ashamed to show our face after our spineless behavior. But there’s good news! God is in the business of transforming lives. God can turn a coward into a mighty warrior for Him. God can take a person who is ashamed to stand up for His Son, and transform him into a person who boldly proclaims the truth of God’s Word.

After the Holy Spirit entered Peter, he was a changed man. Acts 4:8-13 says:

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of our people, are we being questioned today because we’ve done a good deed for a crippled man? Do you want to know how he was healed? Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says, ‘The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’ There is salvation in on one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.

Is there something about you that you don’t like? Ask God to transform you into the person He wants you to be. Look at the change that took place in Peter! When the Holy Spirit enters us, we are transformed. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

The way we behaved in the past no longer has to the way we behave now. We no longer have to be embarrassed about our behavior; now we can boast in the Lord. Let your life be a testimony for Jesus. Let people say of you, “Remember how he used to be? Look at him now. He’s a completely different person!” Jesus is the one who can bring that transformation about. Call on Him.


Here is a link to three of Dr. Moody’s sermons. Each is divided into two parts: https://godcenteredlife.org/broadcasts/



Completions to Verses:


·      . . . receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead,


·      . . . the beast or the number of his name.


·      . . . man’s number. His number is 666. Revelation 13:16-18 (NIV)


5/4/20


Good morning, House Sitters.


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/Rk54OqoVMoY


Complete the Verses and Name the Book:


·      Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but . . .


·      You will know them . . . (completions at the end)



Yesterday, Pastor Michael continued to preach to his virtual congregation. The message was “Doubt and Disbelief” based on Matthew 13:53-58:


When Jesus had finished telling these stories and illustrations, he left that part of the country. He returned to Nazareth, his hometown. When he taught there in the synagogue, everyone was amazed and said, “Where does he get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?” Then they scoffed, “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things?” And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.

Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his own family.” And so he did only a few miracles there because of their unbelief.


Jesus had returned home after preaching, teaching, healing, and ministering to many people. He was likely exhausted from all he had done, but he continued to teach in the synagogue in Nazareth. Likely, the reactions of the crowds were similar to those recorded in Matthew 7:28-29:


When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law.


When Jesus taught, the people’s eyes were opened so they could see things clearly. Jesus made the Scriptures easy to understand. Jesus made it easy to connect with God. Their questions were being answered, and it’s all making sense to them. They were seeing miracles, perhaps like what is recorded in Matthew 9:32-33:


When they left, a demon-possessed man who couldn’t speak was brought to Jesus. So Jesus cast out the demon, and then the man began to speak. The crowds were amazed. “Nothing like this has ever happened in Israel!” they exclaimed.


Jesus wants everyone in His hometown to know who God is. He wants them to hear the gospel message and come to salvation. But the people aren’t open to all He has to say. You’ve heard the saying, “No good deed goes unpunished.” The people started to ask questions: Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t this Mary’s son? Didn’t she have four other sons, too? Where did Jesus learn all these things, because I know he didn’t go to Rabbi school? Wasn’t this the same Jesus who was born in Bethlehem out of wedlock? His dad wasn’t really Joseph, right? So why is this man teaching us? Where’s his credibility? What’s he trying to pull.

The people were offended by Jesus, but what was there to be offended about? Jesus brought healing, forgave sins, and brought them everlasting life. Why would this be offensive to anyone? Maybe the reason they were offended was because they were jealous of Jesus. Maybe they were offended because an illegitimate son was teaching them. Maybe they asked themselves, “What makes Jesus think he is better than us?” We’re not told why they were offended.

What is it that offends us? We’re offended when others say things we don’t like. We’re offended when people say things that don’t fit with our worldview. We’re offended when people tell us, “You’re wrong.” We’re offended when our self-centeredness is exposed. We’re offended because of our pride. 

The Greek word for offense here is also used in Matthew 11:6. Here are verses 4-6:


Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen—the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” And he added, “God blesses those who do not fall away because of me.”


This could be interpreted, “God blesses those who do not take offense because of me.” 


The same word appears again in 5:27-29:


“You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say to anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”


This could say, “So if your eye . . . causes you offense . . .”


Another place this Greek word is found is in John 6:61:


Jesus was aware that his disciples were complaining, so he said to them, “Does this offend you?”


So often when we are offended, we have to tell others about it, and complaining and grumbling flow out from the offense. In our offense, we become offensive toward others and say negative things. It’s easier to be negative than positive. It’s easier to make a list of things that are wrong with the world than make a list of what is right with the world. It’s easier to tear people down than it is to build them up. 

When we take offense, we’re being proud and hardhearted. We are not being humble people. 

Even the brothers of Jesus did not believe in Him. John 7:1-5 says:


After this, Jesus traveled around Galilee. He wanted to stay out of Judea, where the Jewish leaders were plotting his death. But soon it was time for the Jewish Festival of Shelters, and Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!” For even his brothers didn’t believe in him.


Imagine what could have been accomplished if His hometown and family had not taken offense to Jesus. The people in His hometown were self-centered and proud. When they heard Jesus, they had two options:


·      Admit they had been wrong and be willing to change.


·      Take offense to the words of Jesus.


Why do you think Jesus included this short passage in His Word? Perhaps He wants us to know there is danger in rejecting Him. He could be telling us to not be hardhearted but be humble instead. There’s no end to what God will accomplish with a group of people with humble hearts; people who say, “God, I want your way, not mine. I’m open to what You want to say to me.” 


Here’s a short six minute video “The Image of God.” https://youtu.be/YbipxLDtY8c



Verse Completions:


·      . . . inwardly are ravenous wolves.


·      . . . by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? Matthew 7:15-16 (NASB)


5/2/20


Good morning, Fellow Servants of God.


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


Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and . . . (completion at the end)


Pastor Michael has been talking about unity in the body of Christ as he has been giving his fireside chats on the book of Philippians. Pastor Michael has talked about the importance of having a servant’s heart and not thinking of oneself as better or having more significance than another. The importance of humility has been stressed.

Chapter 30 of 1 Samuel is an example of these truths:


Three days later, when David and his men arrived home at their town of Ziklag, they found that the Amalekites had made a raid into the Negev and Ziklag; they had crushed Ziklag and burned it to the ground. They had carried off the women and children and everyone else but without killing anyone.

When David and his men saw the ruins and realized what had happened to their families, they wept until they could weep no more. David’s two wives, Ahinoam from Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal from Carmel, were among those captured. David was now in great danger because all his men were very bitter about losing their sons and daughters and they began to talk of stoning him. But David found strength in the LORD his God.

Then he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring me the ephod!” So Abiathar brought it. Then David asked the LORD, “Should I chase after this band of raiders? Will I catch them?”

And the LORD told him, “Yes, go after them. You will surely recover everything that was taken from you!”

So David and his 600 men set out, and they came to the brook Besor. But 200 of the men were too exhausted to cross the brook, so David continued the pursuit with 400 men.

Along the way they found an Egyptian man in a field and brought him to David. They gave him some bread to eat and water to drink. They also gave him part of a fig cake and two clusters of raisins, for he hadn’t had anything to eat or drink for three days and nights. Before long his strength returned.

“To whom do you belong, and where do you come from?” David asked him.

“I am an Egyptian—the slave of an Amalekite,” he replied. “My master abandoned me three days ago because I was sick. We were on our way back from raiding the Kerethites in the Negev, the territory of Judah, and the land of Caleb, and we had just burned Ziklag.”

“Will you lead me to this band of raiders?” David asked.

The young man replied, “If you take an oath in God’s name that you will not kill me or give me back to my master, then I will guide you to them.”

So he led David to them, and they found the Amalekites spread out across the fields, eating and drinking and dancing with joy because of the vast amount of plunder they had taken from the Philistines and the land of Judah. David and his men rushed in among them and slaughtered them throughout that night and the entire next day until evening. None of the Amalekites escaped except 400 young men who fled on camels. David got back everything the Amalekites had taken, and he rescued his two wives. Nothing was missing: small or great, son or daughter, nor anything else that had been taken. David brought everything back. He also recovered all the flocks and herds, and his men drove them ahead of the other livestock. “This plunder belongs to David!” they said.

Then David returned to the brook Besor and met up with the 200 men who had been left behind because they were too exhausted to go with him. They went out to meet David and his men, and David greeted them joyfully. But some evil troublemakers among David’s men said, “They didn’t go with us, so they can’t have any of the plunder we recovered. Give them their wives and children, and tell them to be gone.”

But David said, “No, my brothers! Don’t be selfish with what the LORD has given us. He has kept us safe and helped us defeat the band of raiders that attacked us. Who will listen when you talk like this? We share and share alike—those who go to battle and those who guard the equipment.” From then on David made this a decree and regulation for Israel, and it is still followed today.


David looked at his military force as one group of men with one common goal—defeat the Amalekites. He saw unity as a strength. “United we stand; divided we fall.”

The Amalekites did not appear to have the same emphasis on unity. When the Amalekite’s slave became sick, his master abandoned him. Where’s the unity in that? Where’s the humble heart of the Amalekite? It doesn’t appear that these are qualities strived for among the Amalekites. 

My uncle was in the Marines, and he told me the slogan of the Marines is “No man left behind.” What would happen if we as Christians had the same slogan for our Christian brothers and sisters? When a Marine is wounded, as many soldiers as it takes help the wounded soldier reach a place where he will not be injured more. Sometimes it’s just one soldier who is needed. Sometimes it’s two or more who are needed. When we see a Christian brother or sister who has fallen, we are called to help that person. In Galatians 6:1-3, Paul puts it this way:


Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.


Notice how David built unity in his troops. He valued each person regardless of what their responsibility was—guarding the equipment or going into battle. He did not want there to be disunity. He didn’t want some people valuing themselves more than others. 

What happened when some of the men did value themselves more than others? The result was grumbling and complaining—again what Pastor Michael has been talking about in Philippians.  

When there is unity in a military force, when victory comes, everyone celebrates. Each person did what they could and each person gets to participate in the celebration regardless of the specific job that was done. Teamwork gets the job done. We are the body of Christ, and we are to function as one. When one part hurts, all the parts hurt. When one rejoices, all the parts rejoice.

Let’s never think of ourselves as being better than another. Let’s not get wrapped up in petty issues like the troublemakers among David’s men and worry about what other people did or didn’t do. Let’s be united in our goal of proclaiming and promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s be united in helping others mature in Christ. Let’s be motivated by love for one another.



Here is a link to three of Dr. Moody’s sermons. Each is divided into two parts: https://godcenteredlife.org/broadcasts/



Verse Completion: . . . take up his cross, and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24 (NASB) See also Mark 8:34.


5/1/20


Good morning, Isolationists. 


Song for the Day: https://youtu.be/wocbaZ1af8o


Complete the Verse & Name the Book: Draw near to God and He will . . .(completion at the end)


Yesterday, Pastor Michael continued Fireside Fellowship with “Renouncing for the Gospel” from Philippians 2:19-24:


If the Lord Jesus is willing, I hope to send Timothy to you soonfor a visit. Then he can cheer me up by telling me how you are getting along. I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with me in preaching the Good News. I hope to send him to you just as soon as I find out what is going to happen to me here. And I have confidence from the Lord that I myself will come to see you soon.


Paul’s life was found in the Lord Jesus, so it’s not surprising that in this letter he uses phrases such as: confident in the Lord, rejoice in the Lord, welcome in the Lord, and stand firm in the Lord. The master and commander of Paul’s life was Jesus—not himself. With phrases like this, Paul is emphasizing the lordship of Jesus. 

Paul wanted to send Timothy to Philippi so Timothy could be part of them. Paul was in prison and yet he wasn’t concerned about himself; he was concerned for others. Paul didn’t want to send Timothy so Timothy could tell everyone how rough Paul was having it in prison. Paul wanted Timothy to tell him how the church at Philippi was doing spiritually. What would bring Paul joy would be a good report of how the people were remaining in Christ. Paul’s purpose in life was to see the gospel proclaimed and promoted throughout the world. 

Paul said he had no one else like Timothy. The like here means like-minded.  They both had the same goal and purpose in life. They were both going in the same direction. Timothy was not like those mentioned earlier in the letter who preached out of jealousy and rivalry. Timothy was not like those who didn’t have pure motives and preached out of selfish ambition. Timothy wasn’t like those who weren’t sincere. In contrast to these, Timothy genuinely cared about the welfare of the people at Philippi. He valued others more than himself. Timothy wanted to see others built up. 

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

Paul and Timothy met each other on Paul’s second missionary journey, so they have had around ten years together: journeying, preaching, praying, rejoicing, crying. Acts 16, Acts 17, Acts 18, and Acts 19 tells of Paul and Timothy traveling together to various cities. Timothy was like a spiritual son of Paul. 1 Timothy 1:2a “I am writing to Timothy, my true son in the faith.” In 2 Timothy 1:2a Paul writes, “I am writing to Timothy, my dear son.” They had a close relationship. In today’s text, Paul said Timothy served with him. They were partners in the gospel. 

Today we emphasize working in internships. When an internship is  completed, the intern leaves and the area and becomes the leader in a different place. We are not taught these days how to be second; everybody wants to be first—to be #1. Nobody wants to be second. However, Timothy stayed with Paul for over ten years as his second. Timothy renounced any selfish ambition or any vain conceit. He saw their relationship as being slaves together for Christ. In God’s Kingdom, there’s no #1, #2, #3 and so on. We’re all in this together in unity. We need to be satisfied with where God has put us. 

Paul’s desire is to get out of prison and go to the Philippians and encourage them in the Lord. 

Timothy renounced everything for the gospel. What have you renounced for the gospel? To what things have you said, “These are not as important as the gospel?” What have you sacrificed for the gospel? When was the last time you were inconvenienced for the gospel? We need to renounce for the gospel, because the gospel always needs to be ahead of us and what we want. Renounce what is standing in the way of the gospel, and put Jesus first. 


Here is a link to three of Dr. Moody’s sermons. Each is divided into two parts: https://godcenteredlife.org/broadcasts/



Verse Completion: . . . draw near to you. James 4:8a (NASB)


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