Midweek Review 3

It is already that time again!  It is time to reflect on 1 Peter 1:6-12 from the sermon, Faith to Live Differently.  Can you remember the three insights that help to develop, strengthen, and support our faith in Jesus?  Check it now:

The proof of faith, V6-7

The essence of faith, V8-9

The foundation of faith, V10-12

That is amazing that you could remember so well!  Each insight helps us to understand important aspects of faith as related to our belief in God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Faith is critical to and in our relationship with God.  Faith is what we genuinely believe about God. 

The proving of our faith is an important work of God in the believer’s life.  The text spoke of proving the character of our faith which we defined as establishing the authenticity and genuineness of what you truly believe.  This proving is done through trials and suffering grief or as we said, the distresses these trials cause.  No one likes trials, but they have a purpose. James 1:2-3 encourages, “Consider it great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know the testing of your faith produces endurance.”  The idea is, if it is genuine, it has value and will last.  Thank God for the trials He allows and sends your way to prove your faith!

The essence of our faith is found in the simple truth, believing without seeing.  Peter spoke of the believers not seeing Jesus back when He walked the earth, nor in their present time, but two things were important, they loved Jesus and believed in Jesus.  Both are important to the believer’s relationship with God today, to love God because He demonstrated His love for us “in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8) and the power of Jesus statement in Matthew 20:29, “Jesus said, ‘Because you have seen Me you have believed.  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.’” Faith is hope that is seen as already done, even though there is no tangible proof.

The foundation of our faith goes back to the OT prophets and their faith to faithfully proclaim and write God’s Word to the people, then and now.  Their prophecies told of the coming promised seed, the Messiah who would bring salvation to man.  It was a salvation they desired to have during their life spans, yet they were told by the Spirit that the fulfillment of their prophecies, including the suffering and glories of the Christ would not be for them but for believers in the time God set forth.  Which by the same Spirit are being proclaimed through the Gospel today.

These incredible insights should encourage us in our faith to accept trials that prove the character of our faith, as an important part of our growth as believers. We can hold on to our faith amid cynicism and unbelief because our faith is not built upon what is seen, but on what is unseen.  We can be strengthened by the fact that our faith is in God the Mighty Creator who in His infinite wisdom set forth the purposes and plans of redemption long ago and revealed His plans through the prophets. This under-girds our faith to live differently!


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prayer with purpose

Prayer is a true privilege of the children of God.  We have access to the throne of grace because of Jesus our Lord. (see Heb.4:16) We can pray for many things; decisions, health, people, needs, understanding and wisdom, and in different ways; praise, thanksgiving, petition, supplication, and intercession. In Paul’s letters to the various churches he often prayed for the believers in those churches. The prayers he offered are prayers we can model our own praying for the church after. He always prayed for encouragement and growth in the believers.  Reflect on Paul’s prayer for the believers in Colossae, in Colossians 1:9:

“For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you.  We are asking that you may be filled with all wisdom and spiritual understanding,”

Paul had learned of the believer’s “love in the Spirit” from fellow servant Epaphras which caused him and Timothy to pray for the Colossian church.  What an intercession for the believers! He prayed that they would be filled in their minds and hearts with the knowledge of God’s will, and all wisdom, that is God’s wisdom, and understanding, which would be given by the Holy Spirit.  Yet, Paul’s request was not for the saturation of their minds and hearts with “spirituality” so that they could bask in their knowledge and pat themselves on their backs as well-informed believers.  Read Paul’s continued prayer in V10-12:

“so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: bearing fruit

in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened

with all power, according to His glorious might, so that you may have great

endurance and patience, joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled

you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.”

The prayer continued with purpose for their filling, so they could walk worthy of the Lord.  We can stop right here and take a follower of Jesus self-exam; do I walk worthy of the Lord?  Remember He suffered and died for you and He gave His life so that you could have everlasting life.  Good check point!  The prayer continues with the purpose; strengthened in spiritual power to be an overcomer of temptation and sin; with the entirety of your daily living pleasing the Father; your life producing fruit of the Spirit and fruits of the Gospel for His glory in all our good – God honoring works; growing spiritually and experientially in the knowledge of our Triune God; being spiritually strengthened in His power according to His glorious might, not man’s idea of strength or might. Paul desired for the believers to have a genuine experiential walk based on knowledge, wisdom, and understanding of our God, the Lord Jesus Christ.  This is the “worthy of Lord” standard of living, nothing less.  The purpose of living worthy of the Lord is so that believers can have endurance and patience, filled with joyful thanksgiving to God the Father because in His great love, mercy, and grace through Jesus His Son, made it possible to have a relationship with Him and take part in the blessed promise of eternal life with Him.  Paul prayed for the believers to make it to the finish line filled with Jesus in every part of their life.  Pray for one another with purpose!


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What DO You Believe?

“As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed Him, calling out, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’  When He entered the house, the blind men approached Him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I can do this?’  They said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord.’  Then He touched their eyes, saying, ‘Let it be done for you according to your faith.’ And their eyes were opened.”

                                                          – Matthew 9:27-30a

 

While Jesus walked on this earth ushering in the Kingdom of God, He met a lot of people’s needs. The blind received their sight, the lame made to walk, those with leprosy were cleansed, the deaf made to hear, the dead were raised, and the poor were told the good news. The stories of how Jesus met these needs are found throughout the Gospels. We find the story of the two blind men in Matthew. Like many who had great need they called out to Jesus seeking to have the healing and restoring touch from the Son of David. When they called to Jesus and approached Him, Jesus asked them a question, “Do you believe that I can do this?”  I am not sure how much more conversation was done between Jesus and the blind men, their only request to this point was, “Have mercy on us.”  Matthew either intentionally left out part of the conversation or Jesus was aware of the two men’s blindness and their desire to see.  It is probably commentary on the fact that Jesus our Lord is much more acquainted with men’s lives and their needs than what we generally recognize.  Jesus simple question cuts to the core of the request and answer, “Do you believe?” This question is one that I feel we often answer from our head and not our heart.  We may respond intellectually or mentally I believe Jesus could heal cancer, could deliver from disease, could cure my malady.  But is my belief from a deep-seated conviction in my soul that cast all dependence on Jesus? The blind men’s simple response was “Yes, Lord.”  To call Jesus Lord acknowledged His control over their life as an authority even though a simple respectful response.  Jesus touched their eyes and made this statement, “Let it be done for you according to your faith.”  According to their faith, in other words, according to the depth of their belief that Jesus had the power and authority and would do, not could do, what they requested.  The question was not about Jesus power to do so, it was about their belief and trust in Jesus to do it.  Their faith, sincere and dire, was put in Jesus, and if He did not give them sight then they were going to blind for life.  It was about being made whole by the touch of the Master’s Hand, because He was their only hope.  The result was their eyes were opened.  They could see physically, and Jesus also opened their eyes spiritually, because you can’t have a life-changing encounter with Jesus and remain the same.  As we relate to our Lord Jesus and call on His name to answer  prayer or meet a need we have, do we have a “Yes, Lord” response to the question, “do you believe that Jesus can do it?”  The answer lies in what you believe.  What do you believe?


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moms

Today is Mother’s Day 2020.  It is a day to give special recognition and appreciation to our Mothers.  I hope you are able to express appreciation for or to your Mother on this occasion.  I want to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to three important Moms in my life.

First, for my own mom Jan.  My mom lives in Texas along with my Dad.  I am blessed to have living parents in their 80’s.  My mom raised 4 sons which I know gave her grey hair very early.  She cared for and nurtured us as we walked through various stages of life, and as we moved to different places because of my Dad’s work dealing with challenges and trials in doing so.  My Mom loved the Lord and the church, and without question she loved her boys, and still does.  My greatest appreciation is that she taught us about following Jesus and demonstrated that truth by modeling that lifestyle for us. As a result, I have become a man who loves Jesus, the church, and my family. I am grateful for a Godly Mom who was instrumental in God making me who I am today.

 

Second, for my wife’s mother Carolyn.  We said good-bye to Carolyn in September of 2019.  She now dwells in the presence of Jesus.  Carolyn became my second mom when I began dating and then married Debbie. Carolyn’s love language was food, and could she cook and bake.  Whenever we would return home for a visit baked goodies and meals came from everywhere, the freezer, the cupboards, you couldn’t believe she could stash so much away.  She loved her grandkids too.  Carolyn loved the Lord and the church and her family.  She was an avid support to me in my first church staff position as I worked with youth.  As her son-in-law she treated me very well and encouraged Deb and me as we traveled away from Texas to the ministry work God had for us.  We miss her presence on this earth, but her legacy lives on through her children.  I am very grateful for the life, influence, love and support my mother-in-law gave to us.

 

Third, my wife and the mother of our children.  She indeed is a grace gift from God to me and has faithfully supported the work of ministry as we have served full-time vocationally in Oklahoma, Utah, Oregon, Colorado and now Wyoming.  She mothered our children Candace and Colby.  She loves them deeply and has done an amazing job of nurturing and encouraging our kids to be independent and courageous.  She has taught them how to care and love like Jesus.  She has helped guide them through challenges in their lives through prayer and support. She still actively does so.  As a mom, she has always been tenderhearted and has always desired to give the kids what they need whenever they need it, including some tough love.  I am proud of my wife; she has grown in her relationship with Lord immensely over the years and has continued to grow in her love for her family as well.  I am very thankful for her.

 

I am thankful for Christ-centered Moms, Happy Mother’s Day.


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the first priority

The question is not, “what is important to me?”  The question is “what predominates my mind?” There could be several things in your life that are truly important to you, that matter much more than other things.  Yet is your mind and thinking, your mental priorities, your attitudes and actions centered on what is truly important?  Or is your mind predominated by concerns of the lesser and uncontrollable concerns in dealing with things of life?  In other words, how much of your time is intentionally dedicated to what truly matters to you?  Or is your life filled with juggling things that may not be important at all, but are other’s expectations of you, or self-determined expectations of yourself that if not met leave you feeling disappointed?  Yet, these expectations by others or you have nothing to do with what is truly important to you.

For followers of Jesus I think this is the greatest snare of the evil one in attempting to make our lives be off track with what God desires for us.  First, I believe God gives priority desires to the follower of Jesus.  Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.”  Even though you can read the verse to say that whatever desires you have, if you delight in the Lord, He will grant those desires to you.  However, I see it differently, I see that the one who takes delight in the Lord, and seeks the Lord, God will then place desires in their heart that fully align with Him and His purposes and plans.  Therefore, what is important to God will be their desire too.  This then filters into our daily living, so that as we awaken to a new day, we desire to pursue the things that are truly important to God and to us.

The problem is, life is messy and is filled with things that are not that important to us but are thrust upon us by others or ourselves, so that our alignment is no longer on the priority desires given by our Father.  The result is being muddled down in stuff and things that cause worry, fear, disappointment, and weariness.  When this happens, it is time to re-align with the desires God has given you and you can focus on those things that truly matter in life.  Matthew 6:33 reminds us, “But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.”  This passage is speaking about worry regarding the basics of life.  It is a good reminder of what our priority should be even in an uncertain volatile world.  Our priority is pursuing God’s Kingdom as our purpose and living in the righteousness we have by faith in Jesus Christ.  These things will correspond with the desires God places in your heart.  Sometimes we must deal with matters of life that are not as important to us, that is the messiness of life. But when we can keep our focus aligned with God then He guides us to keep what is most important as a priority even when dealing with the lesser.  But by His grace, we can seek His Kingdom and keep what is truly important to us as our first priority.


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Favorite Hymn 3

Growing up as a boy with three younger brothers and living in the country away from urban life I was always on an adventure.  Whether it was exploring the countryside, playing games, riding bikes, we did it together, that is most of the time.  Our favorite thing to do was build forts for battling the enemies that only we could imagine.  We liked pretending to be soldiers on a mission to save the world.

So, when going to church, I always liked the hymns that alluded to soldiers and battles, not sure why it just had an appeal.  Even the lyrics of “We’ve a Story to Tell” captured my attention, “A song that shall conquer evil, and shatter the spear and sword.” (excerpt of lyrics by H. Ernest Nichol) I mean, who wouldn’t want to be on that mission, and it was even God’s mission.  I didn’t really understand the lyrics at that time, but they were great to sing.  One hymn in particular we sang made this young boy sing to the best of his ability.  It was about marching and carrying a banner and it was a little easier to know what I was singing about too.  Every army had a flag that indicated who they were and what side they fought for, even our home-built forts often had flags too!  The hymn was a rallying song for going forward with the King.

 

“There’s a royal banner given for display

To the soldiers of the King;

As an ensign fair we lift it up today,

While as ransomed ones we sing.

 

Marching on, marching on,

For Christ count everything but loss!

And to crown Him King, toil and sing,

‘Neath the banner of the cross!”

– Lyrics: Daniel W. Whittle

 

Even now as I read the lyrics and the tune comes to mind; I sense a desire to march carrying the banner of the cross.  The picture of war and soldiers is not accepted much anymore so hymns of exhortation like “The Banner of the Cross” are not sung as in days of past.  It is a shame because as soldiers of the cross we are embroiled in spiritual warfare on an ongoing basis.  This warfare is not futile for we are in the victorious army of King Jesus which encourages us to faithfully lift the banner of the cross seeking to share the Good news of Jesus all along the way.  One day spiritual warfare will be done, and the victory will be completely won and as ensigns in His army we will reign with Him eternally.  March on for Jesus!

“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in the concerns of civilian life;

he seeks to please the recruiter.”

2 Timothy 2:3-4


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Curbside? Absolutely!

A little bit of humor with a point.

We have been hearing stories from all over the country and even in our own community about the use of curbside service.  Whether it is a restaurant, a grocery store, a pharmacy, a convenience store, Home Depot, a coffee shop, even a bookstore in SLC offering curbside service.  You have probably heard of other stores and or businesses using the same tool to help their business thrive during the COVID-19 restrictions.

We at Emmanuel are not to be outdone!  We have curbside tithe and offering collection service.  Yessiree!  You can pull up curbside to the east side entrance of our church building and an excited Pastor will meet you at your car to receive your financial gift to the Lord’s work at Emmanuel. It is recommended that you call first to ensure the Pastor is on premises to assist you.  Also, you may call and request the Pastor wear a mask for your safety and he will do so.  However, please do not record your giving from your car and report that a masked bandit coerced you to give a tithe!  This is just one small side ministry to encourage you in your stewardship faithfulness!

Kind of crazy isn’t it?  But hopefully it made you chuckle and smile. It reminds me of Paul encouraging the Corinthian believers in their giving, “Each person should do as he has decided in his heart – not reluctantly or out of compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7  I think Paul truly hit the nail on the head, about giving to the Lord through the church or even through an effective ministry of the Gospel.  A person should give from their heart, in my estimation, from their genuine love for Jesus, not because they are demanded to, because there is no joy in that.  A follower of Jesus gives cheerfully, and God our Father loves and enjoys the one who gives and orchestrates the use and blessing of the gift given.  It can be noted that the Greek word for cheerful also means hilarious.  Hilarious is one of those words that I associate with fun and funny, joyous and joy filled, even somewhat giddy.  That is quite a description of the one who gives to God.

It is all a part of a wonderful relationship followers of Jesus should have with the Lord.  We are often blessed so that we can bless the Lord.  But do we offer curbside tithing? Absolutely!   


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Midweek Review 2

On your mark, get set, ready, GO!  You are saying what?  Okay, maybe you do need a little more information.  Can you recall the 4 reasons that should motivate you to live differently as a believer?  Okay, lets list them now, see how well you remembered:

          We live differently because of our God and Father!

          We live differently because we have a Living Hope!

          We live differently because we have an inheritance!

          We live differently because we have security!

Oh, now you remember!  1 Peter 1:3-5 is a very encouraging 3 verses as it reminds us of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ His Son.  Which reason motivates you the most in living differently?  I truly find the most motivation from the fact that God’s power protects me in my faith to reach the final goal of the salvation of my soul. You probably have a different reason that motivates you.

The question is how do the reason and motivation translate into application in one’s daily life?  How do any of these reasons functionally apply to our routines, decisions, planning, or even the examination of our spiritual well-being?  This is a challenge that I think Paul gave encouragement to believers for practical application. In Romans 12:1-2, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.  Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”   As we reflect on our reasons and motivation, they are applied by first remembering, that God calls us to obey His Word because His Word has the absolute best way to live and best provision for our growing relationship with Jesus. God is the Father of Jesus Christ, but also our loving heavenly Father who in grace desires our good. The fact that Jesus is our living hope calls for us to live daily in that hope as well, not keeping it in a safe box of some kind, but allowing it to affect decisions we make in life, so we can experience living hope in our minds and attitudes.  The fact that we have an inheritance that has more value than any amount of riches on this earth calls us to live this life in generosity and the blessing of others.  As a matter of fact, we should desire to share the inheritance with others who may need living hope. In all that we do, all that we think, and all that we hope to do because of our living hope and inheritance we must do for the glory of God because he is protecting us in our faith.  We live for Jesus because He died for us. This reality should be evident in every decision, every thought and attitude, every relationship, every task, and every goal we undertake.  We have the reasons and motivation to do so. The way we do this is by presenting our bodies as holy and living sacrifices acceptable to God and allowing the renewing of our minds to transform us so we can live differently. Don’t forget the reasons in 1 Peter 1:3-5 but take them with you and let them be a part of all that you are and do today!


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upbeat

In the wonderful world of cyber communication, meetings, messaging, and all the social media we get the opportunity to visit with people from all over the place.  Which is good and somewhat fascinating.  I had a friend from a past church ministry contact me the other day and I made the comment that I prayed he and his family were doing well through the insanity of the present circumstances.  I do pray for people to not fall prey to chaos, fear, weariness and the like, but this friend responded differently.  Here is his response:

 “It’s not insanity! It’s all according to plan! A deeper reliance on the Lord, more intentional faith in His guidance and provision. Time to spend in His  word, and so many opportunities to share the hope we have. I personally  find these to be exciting times as a Christian, seeing prophecies coming  true.”

How upbeat can a believer get?  It challenged me to say, “what insanity?” too!  (However, I still think the run on toilet paper was and remains insane!)  But this is the very attitude I need to have to find greater joy in the grace of following Jesus!

The encouraging things about Jesus we believe, and the Christ-like attitudes we try to convey to others are sometimes subdued under the weight of frustration and weariness, I know, it happens to me.  But I don’t think frustration and weariness need to weigh down my thinking, my spirit, or my resolve to be joyful and upbeat.  Like my friend, I must look at the circumstances with the Spirit’s perspective.  The Spirit’s perspective places more focus on God’s sovereign work through these days and gives me reason to have an ‘upbeat’ outlook on the great things God is doing and will do through it all.  Upbeat followers of Jesus could become an epidemic to which God’s Spirit could turn it into a pandemic!  Imagine a world of upbeat followers of Jesus, excited for His work and His return. It is possible, but it must start somewhere, so do you want to be an upbeat proclaimer of hope and the start of an Jesus filled pandemic?

 

“Now may the God of hope fill you

with all joy and peace as you believe

so that you may overflow with hope

by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Romans 15:13


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treasured words

“The instruction of the Lord is perfect, renewing one’s life;

the testimony of the Lord is trustworthy, making the inexperienced wise.

The precepts of the Lord are right, making the heart glad;

the command of the Lord is radiant, making the eyes light up.

The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever,

the ordinances of the Lord are reliable and altogether righteous.

They are more desirable than gold – than an abundance of pure gold;

and sweeter than honey dripping from a honeycomb.”

– Psalm 19:10

 

The Word of God is very important to any person looking to find truth and wisdom, but not very many people outside of genuine followers of Jesus seek the truth and wisdom of the Bible.  I am even amazed that many religious people do not see God’s Word as an essential need for knowing and following God.  I love God’s Word, to me it is such a vital and powerful part of a relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  Yet I lack in prioritizing and treasuring its truth in everyday application.  But then I find a portion of scripture, like the above, that reminds me just how important it is for me to read, study, memorize, meditate upon, and truly treasure the Word in the depth of my heart and soul.

Look at the commentary this passage gives regarding God’s Word:

The Word of God is instruction, not just dos and don’ts, it is perfect instruction on how to live life the way God intended for us to live, so it is rich for renewal of the heart and soul.

We don’t often think of the Bible as a testimony, but it testifies to the reality and redemption that is found in Jesus and that testimony is trustworthy, and if one believes the testimony then, they become spiritually wise in the truth of the testimony.

The precepts of the Lord are general rules and guidelines for our behavior and thinking and they are right in their guidance, and because they are right the heart can be filled with gladness and joy because there is no deceit.

The command of the Lord is radiant, it shines forth from your life, consider “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…and your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27  To follow God’s commands rather provides enthusiasm and vitality that makes our eyes bright and filled with life.

The fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom is pure, it is not tainted or biased by a sin laden world and because it is undefiled, it is eternal and endures.

God’s ordinances have the authority of the ever-existing sovereign, the I AM, which means they are fully reliable and completely righteous.

God’s Words are what we should want more than anything else for they are sweet words of life that have eternal priceless value.

God’s Word is not a collection of rules and regulations, it is the instruction of ordinances, precepts, commands, and a testimony that brings depth to our relationship with God.  Seek to treasure God’s Word and you’ll experience the abundant life in Jesus!


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Church

Today is one of those days.  I always try to come to the church building on Sunday mornings to pray, do a blog and just be here for service time.  There are no people, just myself and the Lord.  But what I have discovered over the last 7 weeks (as of today) is that the church is viewed very differently across the nation. Like today, I get to the church and the dumpster has been used again by someone who lives near by as if it were a public dumpster.  That makes it three weeks in a row now.  So the church is a public dump site for some people.  I have not had many transient people come by the church recently, except one person and it wasn’t to pray, it wasn’t to seek spiritual counsel, it was to get money in order to continue their journey to somewhere.  For some the church is the place to go to get help if you’re on a trip and need more money.  The church is a place to have a funeral, or a wedding but only when needed.  That is the way the world sees the church and it sorrows me.
What would life be like if not for the church? I am not talking about buildings, I am talking about the body of “called out ones, the ekklesia,” those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and are a part of the body of Jesus, the redeemed of the Lord who are adopted in God’s eternal family.  For those who are born again believers the church is a family that exist for the purposes and glory of God.  We’re really not about dumpsters, transient travelers, or being a building for special events.  The church is to be about the Gospel – living it, sharing it, and glorifying God through it.  When believer’s get intentional in doing these things the church through the power of the Holy Spirit takes the shape of what Jesus taught for the church to be.  Ephesians 2 19-21 gives a description of the church, “So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ Himself as the cornerstone.  In Him the whole building, being put together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” We see that the church is a spiritual building, built by God on the work and teachings of the apostles and prophets of the Bible, and Jesus Christ is the anchoring cornerstone.  The picture is of a spiritual temple being built in the Lord.  That is the consummation of the church to be eternally in the presence of God where He dwells with the redeemed, the church.  There are a lot of things that take place on this temporary earth that sometimes don’t fit into the Biblical concept of the church.  But with faith in God, trusting Jesus, and intentionally living out the Gospel we can be encouraged that the church belongs to God, even as each believer in Jesus does as well.  But the church is here to have an impact on a world that does not understand.  Our gatherings, our ministry, our focus point in life is to demonstrate God’s Kingdom has come and it does make a difference spiritually in people’s lives today.  Continue to be the church even though we still are not gathering together!
 

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Favorite Hymn 2

“Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,

When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,

I draw the closer to Him; from care He sets me free:

His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.”

– Lyrics, Civilla D. Martin

 

These are the words of the third verse of this hymn.  I bet right now the tune is filling your head, the music was written by Charles H. Gabriel.  This is one of those songs that is a heart song, that is to be sung with emotion.  It is a favorite hymn of mine because it reminds me of God’s wonderful providence and care.  This verse may address the struggles we have mentally and emotionally with all that is going on during our daily lives.  We get mentally tired, we get discouraged with just the continuation of all the restrictions, we can even be tempted to quit caring because the light at the end of the tunnel seems so dim.  God knows our feelings, our struggles and gently reminds us that this is what the world offers, but in Him the best is yet to come.  He then whispers that He cares for the seemingly insignificant sparrows and their daily lives, so how much more will He care for you and your life.  Luke 12:6-7 says, “Aren’t five sparrows sold for two pennies?  Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight.  Indeed, the hairs of your head are all counted.  Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”  God values all life and He most definitely cares for you when things seem good and going well or when things seem weary, tiring, or even discouraging.  Remember God’s provision, His great love for you and that He will meet your needs.  Then you’ll be able to sing the chorus of the song loud and clear like a sparrow on a beautiful spring day in praise to our God:

 

“I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free;

For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”


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empty?

Do you ever get peckish and go to the cupboard to grab a jar of peanut butter and bread, then go the fridge and get some jelly to make a PB&J only to discover there is not enough peanut butter to make a quarter of a sandwich much less a whole one.  So, now a little “peeved” bug bites you and now you are no longer peckish, you’re hangry! That is a little bit of the way I feel about today being April 30th, the end of the month, and there is no more on the calendar, where did it all go? 

Peanut butter jars get emptied, months run out of days, but the good news for today is, God’s mercies are new every morning!

“Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish,

For His mercies never end.

They are new every morning;

Great is they faithfulness!

I say, the Lord is my portion,

therefore I will put my hope in Him.”

 – Lamentations 3:22-24

 

When we go to God’s spiritual cupboard because we are hungry for Him and His Word, His mercies jar is always full!  His mercies are new every morning.  Mercies is also translated as compassions, which in the Hebrew pictures a deep, kindly sympathy and sorrow felt for another who has been struck with affliction or misfortune, accompanied with a desire to relieve the suffering. (AMG’s Annotated Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary of the Old Testament, 7355) God’s mercies or compassions are extended to His own for their well-being and it is done because of His faithful love.  So, as the days wear long with all this covid-19 stuff and you are beginning to despair go to the Lord, His cupboard will not disappoint.  Also keep in mind Jeremiah wrote that the Lord is his portion.  I like that because with all the temporary things in life, we are never sure if there is enough, but with the Lord as my portion it always be what is needed.  Mesh that together with His mercies and you’ll be spiritually satisfied.

Back to the peanut butter and the cupboard.  When you think all is lost and that your hanger will consume you, someone comes in and says, “there’s more peanut butter in the cupboard, you just have to look for it.”  Sure enough, after moving a few things around you find a new jar of peanut butter and its even the crunchy kind that you like. We need to pursue God and His compassions even when they are not quickly seen or experienced. In some instances, we must continue seek His mercies the Word, or in prayer, or in worship.  God is not playing a game with us, but because He wants to develop the discipline of perseverance in pursuing Him as our only means of mercies and spiritual satisfaction.  Are God’s mercies empty?  No, they’re new and abundant every morning!


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Midweek Review

Test question #1:  Did you participate in listening to the message from last Sunday?

Test question #2: What were the main points of the message and have you thought more about them?

Let’s review!  We started 1 Peter last week looking at His “Very Pointed Greeting”, and quickly affirmed that Peter the apostle of Jesus Christ wrote the epistle.  Which encourages us that God can do amazing things through a follower fully committed to Him.  We also quickly determined that epistle’s recipients were for the most part, converted Gentiles living across Asia minor.  The key word we saw early is that believers were “chosen” which is a wonderful term to describe those who are genuine followers. But there are questions as to its full meaning.  I see several places in scripture that refer to believers being chosen, take Ephesians 1:4, Paul writes “For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before Him.  He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ for Himself…”.  The fact that we are chosen doesn’t seem problematic in any way, it truly shows the mercy, grace, and love of God for man.  In this verse I see two important phrases that give me an understanding of being chosen, “in Him” and “through Jesus Christ”.  These phrases tell me that God’s choosing was predicated upon Jesus Christ and His death, burial and resurrection.  Those who respond to the Gospel are chosen through Jesus.  Another word used in the Bible for chosen is elect, which is from the same Greek word as chosen.  We stated in the message that Peter was referring to God’s chosen or “elected pilgrims”.  There are those who believe election refers to God’s choosing those who would be saved versus those He would choose not to save.  I don’t agree with this concept, but quickly say I do not understand God’s provision in His sovereignty for man to have a free will and His rightful place as God to ordain His work in any manner He desires.  Regardless, I am thankful for the blood of Jesus and salvation.  There can be more examined in scripture and discussed about this aspect of God and election, but for now we’ll continue our review.

We saw 4 things that Peter used to help define who the chosen are, can you name them?  1) chosen according to the foreknowledge of God – God’s loving and gracious provision of redemption for lost mankind, 2) through the sanctifying work of the Spirit – taking the meaning that God’s Holy Spirit was critical in bringing believers to regeneration.  Remember how the Holy Spirit works according to Jesus in John 16:8, “When He comes, He will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgement…”. These three convictions are imperative for salvation.  The Spirit sets us apart through salvation unto God. 3) to be obedient – that is repent and believe the Gospel message to be saved.  Our salvation requires faith, that faith is in obedience to the Spirit’s conviction. 4) to be sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ – Hebrews 9:22, “According to the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”  We are saved by the precious blood of Jesus.  These 4 phrases help to clarify who the chosen are and help us to see that there is a very good reason for followers of Jesus to live differently!  Keep thinking it through!


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possessions

We are a society that possesses a lot of things. Is it bad to have possessions?  I don’t think so, I believe God gives men the blessing of having and owning things.  To own a home is have shelter to live in, rest in, raise a family in, but then again to rent an apartment gives one the same blessing.  Some things we possess are tools whether the vehicles we drive to get from here to there, or kitchen utensils used to prepare meals. We possess a lot of things and sometimes those things are better described as stuff.  Stuff are those possessions we have but are not quite sure why, or we have it because someday we might use it.  Some folks have a lot of things, others not so much.  Things can require lots of attention, which can require time, finances, or huge storage spaces!  Again, I don’t think having possessions is wrong, unless the things and stuff you own, actually own you!  If what we possess becomes an idol, if it has more priority than anything else, there’s an issue.

Followers of Jesus must watch their hearts in regard to possessions.  If possessions become so important in our lives that we neglect our stewardship of the relationship we have with God in Jesus, then we can find ourselves tied to and even in bondage to this world and the things of this world.  Even a believer who should prioritize their family and the church can place so much time and energy into using, maintaining, or even committing an inordinate amount of time pursuing more possessions.  Again, we are talking a about a person consumed with things to the point that they seem to be the endgame and the only purpose in their life so that everything else loses value and suffers because of it.  This is the influence of the world, that unless you have many possessions, you cannot be happy and cannot be considered successful.  It is the wrong attitude regarding possessions.

Proverbs 15:16 advises, “Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure with turmoil.”  Which I believe tells us that the value and worth of a person and the extent of their contentment is not measured by possessions or wealth.  Having possessions is not wrong unless those possessions keep you from serving your Lord.  After all Jesus said in Luke 12:15, “…‘Watch out and be on guard against all greed, because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions.’”  Even though Jesus talks about the place of possessions, He still knows that they can become the very thing that can keep a person from being a genuine follower.  We must seek to have the right heart and attitude each day of life.  Think about what Jesus says in Luke 14:33 and be discerning and wise about possessions; “In the same way, therefore, everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”  A challenge for the time we live in.   


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