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Refresh & Restore Stuff I've Been Writing

Refresh & Restore — October 22, 2020

1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god.

Daniel 1:1-2

Greetings, Sojourner!

We are certainly living in strange times! It seems that every time we wrap our minds around the way the world is changing, it just changes some more. Fear seems to be the norm and peace seems to be either stuck in 2019 or just beyond our reach in 2021. We have had to survive viruses and murder hornets. And, to top it off, this is an election year!

With the present in such disarray, anxiety regarding the nature of the future is escalating. I talk to at least one person a day who mentions their feelings of uncertainty about the future. Most of them reference how unsure they are about the state of our country and how Christians will navigate this uncharted future.

It is in our nature to fear the unknown. And change is always less than welcome. However, I do not believe that we need to fear. But the fact that we do not have to be afraid does not mean that there will be no trouble. Look at Jesus’ words in John 16:

“In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33b

No matter the tribulation that we face, we can “take heart” because Jesus has already won the victory. We can withstand whatever may come so long as we keep our faith and trust in Him alone.

How can we be sure of this? It is because it can be seen in the Word of God. We have examples of people whose faith was put to the test. We can see how they reacted when the times got hard. We can see the substance of their faith, and, hopefully, learn from it and see that sort of faith grow in our own lives.

I can think of no better example of faith under fire than Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. They lived under a corrupt government in Judah where even their king – a descendent of David – allowed his heart to lead him on to evil. These young men, along with many others, were kidnapped and sent into captivity in Babylon. They were living in times that were prophesied by Isaiah years before:

“Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your father’s have stored up till this day, shall be carried off to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord. And some of your sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”

Isaiah 39:6-7

They had their whole lives torn apart, yet one thing set them apart from the rest – their faith in God! And they followed Him before their time of trial began. Even though they lived long before Paul penned these words to Timothy, they exhibited that God gives us “power and love and self-control” instead of a “spirit of fear” (2 Timothy 1:7). It was because of their standing relationship with the Lord that they survived, and that God received glory and recognition through their lives and actions.

These young men lived through things that I hope we never have to live through. After they were taken from their homes, they had their pasts and their futures stolen from them. All four of these young men had names that proclaimed something about God. Daniel (Hebrew – “God is my judge”) was renamed “Bel protect the king”; Hananiah (Heb. “the Lord is gracious”) was renamed “command of Aku”; Mishael (Heb. “who is like God?”) was renamed “who is what Aku is”; and Azariah (Heb. “the Lord is my helper”) was renamed “servant of Nego/Nebo”. Nebuchadnezzar knew that they were more likely to stray away from God if he isolated them from Him. He could not allow names that reminded them of their faith to get in the way of his own agenda. And he stole their future by having them made eunuchs. The fact that they could trace their lineage all the way back to Adam had become irrelevant since they were most certainly the end of their family trees.

Not only did he remove them from their heritage, but he sought to interrupt the practices of their faith by having them indoctrinated by “the literature and language of the Chaldeans” (Daniel 1:4) and assigning them a “daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank” (Daniel 1:5). They were being given permission to break the rules. I cannot imagine how appealing this must have seemed to these teenagers; it would be appealing to me as an adult! Their mouths must have been watering as they smelled delicious foods that were forbidden before. And God must have seemed so far away with all the terrible things they were going through. Yet they held on to their faith and the hope that one day Emmanuel (Hebrew – “God with us”) would come and bring the rescue they so desperately hoped for.

Look at the power that their faith held in their lives. “Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank” (Daniel 1:8). He went to his captor – the “chief of the eunuchs” and asked that they be allowed to keep the dietary restrictions from the Law. Literally everyone else was partaking and breaking the Law. They were keeping up with the status quo. They were seeking the opportunities that thriving in Babylon could afford. But “God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs” (Daniel 1:9).

It is interesting to me that Daniel did this instead of pursuing that God rescue him from his captivity. We have already seen that it was foretold that all these things would occur and can reasonably assume that Daniel and his friends were familiar with Isaiah’s prophecy. So, rather than seek out comfort for themselves, they sought to glorify God with their lives by being obedient to His Word where they were. God gave them “favor” but it is vastly different than what we hear today. God’s “favor” helped them to be faithful to Him amid the trial. When everyone around them was compromising, they were holding fast to the promise. And that promise was more powerful than their fear of Nebuchadnezzar. They were living out Psalm 119:38: “Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared”.

These young men give us such a good example of faith. The circumstances that we are confronted with pale in comparison to what these teenagers faced. Yet there is coming a day when we may have to deal with similar things. In fact, there are places in the world where this is already the case. I think that Sinclair Ferguson says it better than I can:

“The same pattern employed by Nebuchadnezzar to draw Daniel away from the Lord is employed all around us today: isolation from God’s influence to produce holiness in our lives; indoctrination with the worldly ways of thinking (of course, we do not share all of the world’s conclusions, but too often we think about everything in the same way and operate with the same value system – how many of us would rather die for the glory of God than live halfheartedly for Him in a measure of comfort?); compromise with the riches of this world instead of…’solid joys and lasting treasures’…; confusion about our own identity and purpose.”[1]

I realize that this probably seems like a lot of bad news. And I know that the tone of today’s devotion is heavier than usual. But there is coming a time when we will wish that we had been faithful in the easier times. Let me assure you of this: the good news vastly outweighs the bad.

Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were right where God wanted them to be. When you look at the end of Daniel 1, you see clearly that God blessed their faithfulness to Him, and, even though He did not send them home, they were in a position so that many people – their kinsmen and Babylonians alike – could hear the truths about God. Their continued faithfulness during their trials showed the eternal value of following after the Lord. And no matter how faithful we are or are not to Him, He is always faithful to His people. It has been foretold:

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

Isaiah 43:1b-3a

That’s good news!

No matter what you are going through, Jesus knows you and wants to be your refuge in your time of need (Nahum 1:7). Will you reach out to Him and seek His help now (1 Peter 5:7)?

“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

Deuteronomy 31:8

[1] Sinclair Ferguson, The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 21: Daniel

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Songs for Sunday

Songs for Sunday — October 18, 2020

Often I find myself sitting at this computer, praying and searching for the best words to prepare our hearts for worshiping our King on Sunday. Today, I am sure that I have the best words – perfect words.

I did a Bible search for verses referencing praising the name of the Lord. Here is a small sampling that show us the scope and depth that our worship should contain for the One with a name above every other:

Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD!

Psalm 113:1

Let them praise the name of the LORD! For He commanded and they were created.

Psalm 148:5

Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; His majesty is above the earth and heaven.

Psalm 148:13

Let them praise His name with dancing, making melody to Him with tambourine and lyre!

Psalm 149:3

Let not the downtrodden turn back in shame; let the poor and needy praise your name.

Psalm 74:21

And now we thank you, Our God, and praise your glorious name.

1 Chronicles 29:13

I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify Him with thanksgiving.

Psalm 69:30

You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.

Joel 2:26

Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to your name! The righteous will surround me, for you will deal bountifully with me.

Psalm 142:7

I will give to the LORD the thanks due to His righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.

Psalm 7:17

And it is in the name and to the “glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13) that we will praise and have hope as we sing tomorrow!

These passages were on my heart as the worship set came together this week:

Here are our songs:

I hope to see you with us, whether you gather in person, in the parking lot via speaker, or on Facebook or YouTube live!

If gathering in person, please remember that masks are recommended and that we need to remain vigilant in our social distancing measures. Continue to pray for those who are sick – not just our members but all those around the world.

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Refresh & Restore

Refresh & Restore — October 15, 2020

1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Titus 3:1-7

Greetings Sojourners!

I have been thinking a lot about the effect that spending time with Jesus should have on our lives. Looking at the lives of Peter, John, and Paul make it seem somewhat unattainable for us – somewhat out of our reach. I do not know about you, but, many times, I find myself using the lofty examples of the apostles and other “heroes” in the Bible as excuses to not desiring to see the Spirit of God move more in my own life.

In the first part of this study, we saw that the Sanhedrin saw Peter and John’s “boldness” and were “astonished” that these “uneducated, common men” were able to speak with any eloquence; we also saw that it was “recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). That challenged me. Do I long for people to look at me and be impressed with my eloquent words or skills, or do I long for people to look at me and see that Jesus has impacted my life?

Last week, we looked at Paul’s trial before the Roman governor Festus and King Agrippa. Paul did not hesitate to share both the reality of his sinful past and the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Rather than seek to have himself set free, he shared how Festus and Agrippa could be freed from their sin and live through Christ Jesus. How much of my life is spent avoiding trials and tribulations, even for the sake of Christ? If it became illegal to worship Jesus (like it is in so many parts of the world), would there be enough evidence in my life to bring me up on charges – much less convict me?

The older I get, and the more I walk with Christ, the more fully I realize that I often fail. Looking at the first two verses of today’s passage remind me of this. I often struggle with submitting to authority because it shows me that I am not in charge. I would rather do things that serve me than to be “ready for every good work”. More times than I would care to admit, I “speak evil” of others and enjoy doing it. For years I thrived on “quarreling” and see this flare up in my life even today. And, while I may exhibit gentleness and courtesy on the outside, I am often angry, bitter, and rude in my heart.

I am glad verse three reminds us that our sinful lives should be part of our past – not our present, but all too often I find that I struggle with the same old sinful nature more than I feel that I should. Instead of being characterized as “once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another”, I find those qualities to show up in my every day life. I am thankful that, the more I walk with Christ and spend time with Him in prayer and in His Word, that those moments have less power over me. But I would much rather not struggle at all.

I identify fully with Paul’s words in Romans 7:15:

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing that I hate.”

If we are honest, we enjoy the sins that we habitually commit. But – if we are in Christ – our love for Him should produce a hatred for the things in our lives that go against God, namely sin. Longing to follow after God is a result of walking with Him. Wanting what He wants is too. But, while I am glad that verse 3 points out that there should be a difference between our sinful past and our present walk with Christ, I am eternally thankful for the gospel truths that show up in verse 4.

BUT. GOD.

Let that phrase sink in.  I was dead in my trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-2) – BUT GOD. I was lost and headed toward death (Romans 6:23) – BUT GOD. I was doomed to die and stand before the judgment of God with no righteousness (Hebrews 9:27) – BUT GOD.

We shift here from looking at all we can accomplish (verses 1-3) to what Christ alone can accomplish should we trust in Him as our Savior and Lord. You see, there is nothing that we can do to save ourselves. Jesus is our only Savior. He is our only hope. And that is why verses 4 and 5 bring such good news: “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy….” Our efforts do not save us – His effort does. Our own meager works condemn us, but His mercy saves.  Rather than give us the punishment due our sin, he “himself bore our sins in His body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24).

Note that this is a result of his “goodness” and “loving kindness”. So often people want to paint God as cruel because of the existence of Hell. But, in “goodness and loving kindness”, He made a Way through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). We see in 1 Timothy 2:4 that God “desires all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth”. And through that knowledge of the Truth – again Jesus (John 14:6), people will see that they must turn away from their sin to God. Look at how God’s heart in this is shown in Ezekiel 18:23: “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?”

God is merciful, but He is also just. He cannot merely pass over our sin. This is why Jesus died on the cross – to pay our price for our sins (Colossians 2:13-14, Romans 6:23). God’s kindness in allowing people to come to a knowledge of the Truth (Jesus) and enter into His Kingdom through the living Way (again Jesus) is “meant to lead you to repentance” (Romans 2:4).

Salvation is also a result of God’s love. Many people are familiar with John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” He loved us enough to give His only begotten Son. Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:4-5 mirror and clarify today’s passage: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved….”

A love like that impacts one’s life.

Imagine that you and I are walking down a busy street together. While we are walking, we hear the roar of an engine and the screeching of tires a few yards behind us. There is barely enough time to understand what is going on, and I act solely out of reflex – shoving you to the safety of the yard while I (standing where you were just standing milliseconds before) take the full weight of the vehicle. Obviously, I would be dead. But you would be alive.

In that situation, you could definitely describe my actions as kind. Those actions would be characterized as a sacrifice. What would you say to my wife when she arrived at the crash site? What would you tell my children? How about your family – would my sacrifice come up as a topic of conversation?

You would tell everyone. My sacrifice would move you to words and gratitude. But I would be dead and my sacrifice would help only you.

We have been looking at the effect that Jesus’ presence – the effect of His sacrifice – on one’s life and how it should be evident. Jesus’ sacrifice is real in every way my hypothetical story was not – the main difference being that Jesus’ sacrifice is actual and He did not remain dead! The news of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf can help others be saved from sure destruction and damnation.            

If Jesus’ “goodness and lovingkindness” has appeared in your life, if He has saved you, it is time to make sure that His presence is producing a recognizable difference in your life. If you see no difference – no fruit, maybe it is time to assess whether or not you have moved from darkness to light – from death to life. The good news is that it is not too late to give your life to Him!

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Songs for Sunday Uncategorized

Songs for Sunday — October 11, 2020

Last week, Big John said something that has stuck in my head all week. He talked about how earthly parents are limited in how much they can do for their children.

They want to take away pain, but there is only so much they can do to relieve their children’s suffering. They want to save them from trouble, but – again – they have limits. But our God is not limited!

Romans 8:31-39 tells us about the everlasting love of our heavenly Father:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?

Romans 8:31-32

What powerful and humbling questions!

He goes on to tell us more about that love:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

Romans 8:35

Any of those things would be enough to thwart me as an earthly Father. Again, I – as all earthly fathers are – am limited. But our Father is not! Look at the answer to all of these questions:

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:37-39

That’s good news! And that never ending, never stopping, never failing, never giving-up love of our God and Savior is what we are singing about this Sunday!

These verses were on my heart as the worship set came together this week:

Here are our songs:

I hope to see you with us, whether you gather in person, in the parking lot via speaker, or on Facebook or YouTube live!

If gathering in person, please remember that masks are recommended and that we need to remain vigilant in our social distancing measures. Continue to pray for those who are sick – not just our members but all those around the world.

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Refresh & Restore Salvation

Refresh & Restore — October 8, 2020

9 “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. 11 And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.

12 “In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. 14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness of the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles – to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

19 “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.

Acts 26:9-20

Greetings Sojourners!

I hope that this finds you well and ready to dive into God’s Word together!

Last week, we started looking more closely at what it means to have been in the presence of Jesus. Our theme verses for this devotional are Acts 3:19-21, and, in them, we see that “times of refreshing…come from the presence of the Lord”. Those words came from a sermon that Peter preached, and we followed those events through to their end when the hearers of that sermon were “astonished” that “uneducated, common men” – working class fishermen –  could have spoken so eloquently (Acts 4:13). It was clear to all that the only way this could have happened was that they “recognized that they had been with Jesus”.

So, today, we are continuing our look at what happens to one’s life when they have been with Jesus – when He has saved them and “caused [them] to be born again to a living hope” (1 Peter 1:3). Peter and John were standing trial for practicing their faith, and it is the same for Paul in today’s passage.

Paul was standing before King Agrippa and was given the opportunity to “make a defense…for a reason for the hope” that was in him (1 Peter 3:15). I am sure that it had to be tempting to speak up for release. In fact, Paul had been imprisoned for a while by that point. Yet Paul saw this as an opportunity to share the gospel with his captive audience.

King Agrippa was really nothing more than a figurehead, but he had been summoned to hear Paul’s case by the Festus, an official representing the Roman government. Paul was originally put in jail for his own protection as some Jewish men had made a vow to kill him. He could have been released, but he had instead appealed to the emperor (Acts 25:25) since 1) it was his right as a Roman citizen, and 2) he felt compelled to take the gospel to the household of Caesar (Philippians 1:13, 4:22). You see, he had no desire to free himself from his worldly bonds because he was right where Jesus had already freed him to go – “…if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

I have often heard people say that they wished that they had a life like Paul’s, but, hearing his testimony, I do not think that people have really thought that through. Paul did not candy-coat his story or gloss over the rough bits. He was unashamedly sharing his sinful past because there was “now no condemnation” for those actions (Romans 8:1); he had already been forgiven!

He testified to the fact that he had been heavily involved in persecuting those who are now his brothers and sisters. He testified to the fact that he put them in prison (where he now finds himself) and that he sought to have them speak against Jesus. Why did he share these terrible bits? He cannot have been proud of them. Why would he tell these strangers about his sinful past? He wanted them to understand that they too could be forgiven – that they too could be saved!

He moves on from his sinful past to the moment that he encountered Jesus. For us, it is through His Word and the prompting of His Holy Spirit as it is read or preached. But, for Paul, it was an experience like no other. The very same Jesus he was persecuting – and trying to convince people that He was dead – showed up on the road to Damascus! Talk about a life-altering experience! The very Light that he was trying to extinguish shined so brightly on that road that he became literally blind. And the gospel truth of the resurrected Christ that he was blind to suddenly became clear!

Any time that a lost sinner, dead in his or her trespasses and sins, gets saved and finds new life in Christ, it is a miraculous thing. Men and women dead in their sins can come alive in Christ through faith and repentance in Him – even today! Think of the awesome opportunity that Paul had that day: he stood before the political leaders of his day and shared with them how to be saved. Let us look at the message he proclaimed to them.

He shared with them that – just as his blind eyes were opened – the gospel of Jesus Christ could “open their eyes” (v. 18a). Isaiah 42:7 tells us that God can “open eyes that are blind” and “bring out…prisoners from the dungeon”. This is especially cool since the prisoner (Paul) is seeking for Christ to free his jailers from the true prison – sin! He hoped that – as he would later write – their eyes would be opened to see “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

He also shared with them how Christ can turn us from “darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God” (v. 18b). This reminds me of the imagery that we read about around Christmas time: “…the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16). Paul introduced them to Jesus who was the “life and light of men” and who “shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome” (John 1:4-5)! He wanted them to have the opportunity to turn away from their lives of sin to the light and light that only comes from Jesus Christ.

The last part of his message focused on forgiveness. How many of us could forgive those who had wrongfully imprisoned us? How many of us can forgive things much less than that? But this was not some great character trait of Paul; it is a trait that comes from being forgiven of much ourselves (Matthew 18:21-35)! You see, Paul’s sharing of his former wickedness and life change through Christ showed that he remembered what Christ had done for him. And he knows and wants others to have it, too.

He wanted King Agrippa, Festus, guards, and anyone else who would listen to “receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith” (v. 18c). He wanted them to know that it is in Christ “in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14) and that “to Him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name” (Acts 10:43).

I want you to know that the same thing is offered today. I hope that you have looked at the life of Paul today and noticed whether your life shows that you have been with Jesus. One day, we will all stand before Him, and we will either stand on the merit of our own works and the “wages of [our] sin” or on the merit of the work He did on our behalf and “the free gift of God…eternal life” (Romans 6:23).            

It is my hope and prayer that, if you are reading this, you have had your eyes opened by the gospel of Jesus Christ and moved from darkness to light, the power of Satan to God by repenting of your sins, believing in Him, and finding the forgiveness that only comes from Him. If you have, pray with me that God will make Himself evident in your life. If you have not received this eternal life, I would love to talk with you and introduce you to the One who gives it in abundance.

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Prayer Stuff I've Been Writing

Prayer Guide for the 2020 Election

The Bible is clear that, as believers, our “citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior” (Philippians 3:20). But it is also apparent that we still have an earthly home. Living in these two realities can be quite challenging.

Paul, in 1 Timothy 2, gives us a little bit of guidance on this subject, specifically in regard to praying for earthly leaders:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to come to the knowledge of the truth.

1 Timothy 2:1-4

We are literally urged to make supplication (beg God sincerely) and to intercede (come to God on behalf of) for all people, specifically “for kings and all who are in high positions”. The scope of these prayers of supplication and intercession encompasses how we live our lives and are aligning ourselves with God’s desire for “all people to come to the knowledge of the truth”. Let us respond by praying for the American people and our current and prospective leaders during this election season. Let us also pray that many in both categories come to know Christ!

During this time when people are typically at each other’s throats politically, let us be on our knees in prayer, seeking God’s mercy and grace. This does not negate any other type of political activity or engagement. But it does recognize that seeking the will of the holy, sovereign God of the universe is literally the most we can do in this situation. It is good do one’s civic duty; but it is imperative that we seek Christ daily.

Over the next thirty days, we will look at and pray specifically for what God’s Word has for us our own hearts and minds, our nation, the election, the candidates and incumbents, the Church, spiritual warfare, and that God would grant revival to break out in America!

Sunday, October 4

Pray for God to give you wisdom – not just in regard to the election, but also to follow Him. Ask Him to lead you by His Holy Spirit and guide you through His Word. Ask Him to examine your heart and the choices/positions you are for/against and that He show you how those stances line up with His Word.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.

James 1:5-6

Monday, October 5

Pray again for God to give you wisdom and that His wisdom will impact the way you live your life – not just how you vote. Just as His wisdom is pure, ask Him to cleanse you of your sin. As His wisdom is peaceable, ask Him to not only give you peace but to let you be an agent of peace for Him. Ask Him to make you gentle and open to reason as you converse with your neighbors, all of whom may not hold the same views as you. And ask Him that the mercy that He has shown you be evident in your life as you genuinely and sincerely bear fruit for Him.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

James 3:17

Tuesday, October 6

Pray to God about the issues that are troubling you in your community and country. Let the issues that concern your heart be poured out to Him. Bare your soul to Him. Ask Him to be your refuge rather than looking to a politician to fill that role. Ask Him in His strength to solve the issues that pain you. Ask Him to give you strength to be part of the solution rather than merely worrying or talking about it. Ask Him to help you realize that He is not far off but that His help is “very present”, even in the things that trouble you about events, circumstances, and issues facing this country today.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Psalm 46:1

Wednesday, October 7

Pray to the Lord and call upon His name. Trust that He hears you. Ask Him to move upon your heart that you may seek Him – not just in this election season, but for all time. Ask Him to remove idols from places of worship in your heart. Ask Him to grant you repentance where you need it. Ask Him to give you the hope and refreshing that comes from His presence as you seek Him.

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:12-13

Thursday, October 8

Pray to God and trust Him today. Ask Him to give you an eternal perspective in regard to this election. Ask Him to help you to trust Him no matter the outcome of the election. Tell Him that you trust His judgment and will for your life and for the future of this country. Tell Him that you trust Him more than the electoral college or your political party of choice. Ask Him to grant you the faith you need to believe that He has all of this under control despite the news and social media fear-mongering and trying to convince you otherwise. Trust in His Name – the name of our God and Savior Jesus Christ – over chariots and horses, and even elephants and donkeys.

Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.

Psalm 20:6-8

Friday, October 9

On behalf of our nation, pray that people will turn away from their sin and to God. Ask God to soften hearts and allow people to share the gospel in their communities, cities, states, and all across this nation. Ask God to give you opportunities to share His gospel. Thank Him for coming and dying for our sins. Thank Him for raising from the dead. Thank Him for the opportunity to trust Him to be saved and pray that lost people around this country turn from their sins and to Him.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:6

Saturday, October 10

Pray for God to open people’s hearts and minds to His gospel and the wisdom that comes from His Word. Rather than focus only on how America was built on biblical wisdom and values, ask God to make it so once again. Pray that God’s Word will bring the correction we desperately need. Then, ask God to pour out His Spirit on us and make His Word known throughout this nation.

How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you.

Proverbs 1:22-23

Sunday, October 11

Pray for people who are walking in darkness. Rather than condemn them in their sin, remember that there is no condemnation in Christ (Romans 8:1) and ask God that He help them to fear Him and obey His Word. Ask Him to remind us and the world that He is the Light. Thank Him for shining. Ask Him to grant our nation the opportunity to turn from darkness to His Light.

Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.

Isaiah 50:10

Monday, October 12

Pray to God and thank Him for the freedoms that we celebrate in this nation. Ask Him to preserve those freedoms that we may serve Him and His Kingdom. Ask Him to grant you repentance for wasting the religious freedoms here in America and taking them for granted. Thank Him for the example of those in persecuted countries who practice in persecution what we do not in freedom. Ask Him to give you opportunity and freedom to worship and serve Him. Then, do it!

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:1

Tuesday, October 13

Pray to God and thank Him for the freedom and liberty that America represents. Ask Him to again let her shine as a beacon of right judgment and fair treatment. Ask Him to allow opportunity for reconciliation from whenever her people fall short of those ideals. Ask Him for opportunities for our nation to help those who need it. Thank Him for rendering such help to us in our times of need. Ask Him to help you to see the needs in our communities and to allow you to be a part of His work locally to benefit this nation.

Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.

Zechariah 7:9

Wednesday, October 14

Pray to God that His wisdom will be like a necklace for you during this election season. Ask Him to help you examine your behavior and speech in regard to this election. Ask Him to guard your steps and help you not to stumble as you navigate rough political waters. Thank Him for the Life that comes from Him and ask that He help you live it well and not stumble.

My son, do not lose sight of these – keep sound wisdom and discretion, and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck. Then you will walk on your way securely, and your foot will not stumble.

Proverbs 3:21-23

Thursday, October 15

Pray that God’s wisdom will influence your mind as you contemplate which candidates, parties, and/or platforms you support and are planning to vote for. Ask Him for insight in the midst of crooked media and campaign strategies. Ask Him to bring His Word to your mind when you need it so that you may not forget to whom you belong. Ask Him to bind His Word to your thoughts and that your mouth have opportunity to share the hope contained within it.

Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.

Proverbs 4:5

Friday, October 16

Pray for God to guard your behavior and character as the election draws closer. Pray that God will season your verbal speech as well as your social media presence. Ask Him to grant you opportunity to keep you mouth closed if need be. Ask Him to strengthen your thumb on the delete key rather than using it to tear down others. Thank Him that He gave you mercy and grace when you were His enemy. And ask Him to allow you to forgive those who vote and support differently than you.

But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

Galatians 5:15-16

Saturday, October 17

Pray for President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. Pray for the democratic party candidates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Pray for the third party candidates. Ask God that any and all of these who may not know Him as Lord and Savior will have the opportunity to hear His gospel, repent, and believe. Ask Him to fill those who are saved with His Spirit and give them the courage to follow Him alone as they lead or campaign. Ask Him that all of the candidates “come to a knowledge of the truth”. Ask Him for firm conviction for leaders to live “godly and dignified” lives in every way. Thank Him for the gospel and the life change that it brings through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to come to the knowledge of the truth.

1 Timothy 2:1-4

Sunday, October 18

Pray that God give His wisdom to those currently leading our country and to those who hope to one day fill those positions. Thank Him for those who lead who claim to know Him. Ask Him to fill those leaders with His Spirit and allow them the freedom and courage to practice what His wisdom shows us in His Word. Ask Him to let their understanding and practice praise Him and give Him glory.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!

Psalm 111:10

Monday, October 19

Pray to God to give firm conviction to us and our brothers and sisters across America. Ask Him to help us to see how He would have us to vote. Ask Him to keep us on the firm foundation of the Rock that is Jesus. Ask Him to keep our convictions firmly founded on the truth found in His Word. Thank Him for the faith you have in Him and ask Him to guard it for you.

If you are not firm in your faith, you will not be firm at all.

Isaiah 7:9b

Tuesday, October 20

Pray for God’s protection from evil for our leaders and candidates. Ask Him to not only protect them from the evil around them but also for the evil that is within their own hearts. Ask God to guard and protect us from the evil that Satan wants to reign in this and all lands. Thank God for the victory that He has already won. Ask Him to show us clearly what is evil and what is good that we may follow Him in all our ways.

You, O Lord, will keep them; you will guard us from this generation forever. On every side the wicked prowl, as vileness is exalted among the children of man.

Psalm 12:7-8

Wednesday, October 21

Pray for the Church in America. Pray that we will truly be unashamed of the gospel. Ask God to give us the courage to share His Word that we may see Him save people and work in this nation. Ask Him to give us faith enough to stand and live on His gospel in our every day lives.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Romans 1:16-17

Thursday, October 22

Pray for the witness of the Church in America. Ask Him to allow us to be salt and light. Ask Him for the opportunity to examine our presence in our communities. Pray for opportunities for healing where others have done great damage. Thank Him for the freedom we have in Christ, and, while so doing, ask Him to give opportunities for that freedom to exhibit love instead of selfishness. Ask Him to strengthen your local faith family that you may be known for your love for Christ and each other and not for hate.

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.

Galatians 5:13

Friday, October 23

Pray that the Church will be known for Christ-like characteristics above any other reputation. Ask God to give our local faith families unity based on our relationship with Him. Ask God to grant us the opportunity to be of one accord and mind as we are about His Kingdom work. Thank Him for your brothers and sisters in Christ and ask that He help you to genuinely see others more “significant than yourselves”. Ask God for opportunities, during this season and beyond, to show that we care about the interests of others and not just those nearest and dearest to our hearts.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Philippians 2:1-4

Saturday, October 24

Pray that God provide strength for His Church to respond to the wickedness in this world as Christ did rather than responding out of the wickedness in our own hearts. Ask God for the strength to live out the gospel in our lives. Ask Him for the opportunity to lead people to Him instead of distracting them. Ask Him to help us win souls to Him rather than winning arguments. Ask God to free those who see themselves as our opponents from the snare of Satan and grant them repentance that we may lose enemies by gaining brothers and sisters in Him.

The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

2 Timothy 2:24-26

Sunday, October 25

Pray that God will help His Church persevere and endure so that the gospel may be proclaimed. Ask Him to open our mouths to proclaim His Word. Pray for your brothers and sisters in your local faith family. Ask God to strengthen them. Pray for those in your local faith family who are charged with shepherding and preaching. Ask that God strengthen them and give them bold witnesses and opportunities to make much of Jesus.

To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel….

Ephesians 6:18b-19

Monday, October 26

Pray that God will help His Church to look more like Him than the world around them. Ask God to renew our minds and remind us of the transformation that takes place when we move from being dead in our sins to alive in Christ Jesus. Ask Him to help His people to be able to “discern what is the will of God”. And ask Him for the strength to follow in those convictions.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2

Tuesday, October 27

Pray that we handle God’s Word well. As we notice people around us being blind to the gospel and teachings of God’s Word, pray that God would open their eyes to see the truths of Scripture. Ask God to make sure that our own eyes are open to His truths, as well. Ask God to help us to not be “underhanded” in our use of His Word and not to let us “lose heart” in the midst of the spiritual battles we face.

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

2 Corinthians 4:1-4

Wednesday, October 28

Pray that God will show you “how you walk”. Ask that He help you to look at your personal walk with Him and see any deficiencies. Ask that He strengthen your walk and to help you to follow Him more closely. Ask that He make clear through His Word what His will is and to allow you to understand it. Ask Him to protect you, your family, your faith family, and your nation during these evil days. And ask that He help you to use the time that you have wisely and for His glory!

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Ephesians 5:15-17

Thursday, October 29

Pray that God strengthen you with His strength and protect you as only He can. As we “wrestle” with Satan’s forces, ask God to help us to trust in Him in the midst of the struggle. Thank Him that the victory has already been won by Him! Ask Him to help us to rely on that victory and not be overthrown by the “schemes of the devil” or to be used by Him to advance His schemes.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Ephesians 6:10-12

Friday, October 30

Pray that God will move powerfully across this nation and save people. Ask God that He remind you what it is to be saved and how He saved you. Thank Him that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”! There have been great revivals – Great Awakenings – in this country in the past, and they only come from Jesus. Ask that God will spark revival and awakening again. Ask that He make a way for us to get the gospel out and see people saved as in Bible days.

…because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved…. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Romans 10:9-10, 13

Saturday, October 31

Pray that God will produce a “humble” and “contrite…spirit” in you – that we will repent of our sin regularly and follow after Him. Ask God to help you to “tremble at [His] Word” – to have such a reverence and awe in reading it and hearing it preached that it impacts the way you live your life. Thank God that for making all things come to be. Ask God to help us to look only to Him for help and Life.

All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

Isaiah 66:2

Sunday, November 1

Pray that our nation will learn to “tremble at [God’s] presence” in worship before it learns to in judgment. Ask God to make His name known among those who do not know Him. Thank God for the “awesome things that we did not look for” – things He did because He is God and knows best for us! Thank Him for acting on behalf of “those who wait for Him”! Ask Him to help us to make Him and His Word known where He has planted us so that people can see His surpassing worth and glory and turn to Him.

Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence – as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil – to make your name known among your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.

Isaiah 64:1-4

Monday, November 2

Pray that God will grant us the mercy and grace that we so desperately need. Ask God to give us strength to “hold fast our confession” and be faithful to Him. Thank Him for being our example. Thank Him for taking care of us in our weaknesses. On behalf of those in this nation who do not know Christ as Lord and Savior, “draw near the throne of grace” and intercede on their behalf. Genuinely ask God to save people. Pray for lost people you know by name and ask God for the opportunity to share His Word with them.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:14-16

Tuesday, November 3

Pray that God grant you peace no matter the outcome of this election. Thank Him that, no matter who sits in the Oval Office, He is on His throne now and forevermore. Ask Him to come quickly and that our hearts will find more joy at His coming than in the returns being counted from a ballot box. And ask Him to give you an opportunity to share Him and His gospel today so that you will have cast an effort that will last longer than four years, showing that our hope is truly in Him.

Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.

Psalm 33:22
Categories
Refresh & Restore

Refresh & Restore – 10/1/2020

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.

Acts 4:13-22

Greetings, Sojourners!

Last week, I heard back from one of my readers, and they referred to the devotion as “R & R”. That typically refers to rest and relaxation. While those are good things – and definitely things that I crave, it is much better and fulfilling to be able to rest in the presence of Jesus and be refreshed in our time spent with Him.

I find myself often returning to the verses that sparked the idea for the Refresh & Restore devotions:

“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.

Acts 3:19-21

We have talked at length over the last month about repentance. We have looked at how we have sinned against God and need to turn away from our sin to Christ our Savior. Now, I want us to see some examples of what it looks like to have been in the presence of Jesus.

Our passage today connects with these verses; they are part of the same event. Peter and John happened upon some people carrying a “man lame from birth” to the Beautiful Gate where he would beg for money (Acts 3:2). That man found more than he bargained for when he encountered Peter and John. Peter introduced him to the One who would change his life forever – Jesus. He told him:

“I have no silver and gold, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”

Acts 3:6

And, just like everyone who has ever encountered Jesus, his life was changed thereafter.

Peter and John would proceed to have the opportunity to preach the gospel to a multitude of people at the temple because of this event and that man’s testimony. They testified to the amazing and miraculous salvation that takes place when people put their faith and trust in Christ. That same gospel still applies today for you and me! If we turn from our sin and put our faith and trust in Christ, we can find salvation as well!

Peter and John’s message travelled all the way to the Sanhedrin (Israel’s Supreme Court at the time). The powers-that-be were “greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:2). They set out – and succeeded – in arresting Peter and John. Their annoyance led to anger. But the gospel preached led to “many of those who heard the word [believing]” – “about five thousand” (Acts 4:4)!

The Sanhedrin felt that they had a duty to the status quo to keep Peter and John quiet. They tried the same thing with Jesus when they crucified Him. But, they were about to find that they could not stifle or silence the gospel. As Big John often says, “Preacher’s gonna preach!” Rather than being put out or discouraged by their arrest, Peter and John found themselves with a captive audience to hear their plea before the court. I can almost picture them smiling at the opportunity to testify!

I find it amazing that the people who failed to kill Jesus (well, they succeeded in killing Him for a few days) would ask as foolish a question as they did to Peter and John. They wanted to know “By what power or by what name did you do this?” For people who wanted them to stop proclaiming the name of Jesus, they sure went about it foolishly! Those who arrested Peter and John to quiet them just invited them to preach in the court!

It would have been easy for Peter and John to take credit for the healing of the lame man. It would have been easy for them to claim some sort of power and use it to manipulate the court into freeing them. They could have complied with the order to stop preaching. Or could they? There are many places in the world today that the powers-that-be have ordered that people stop preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. In those places, they would not care that good had come from people being saved, healed, or otherwise. They simply will not abide with the name of Jesus being proclaimed.

But the Bible is clear on the subject. The gospel must be proclaimed:

  • Jeremiah 20:9 – If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary holding it in, and I cannot.
  • Amos 3:8 – The lion has roared; who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken; who can but prophecy?
  • John 15:27 – [Jesus said] And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.
  • 1 Corinthians 9:16 – For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

When one is saved by faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone, they cannot help but proclaim it! And that is just what Peter and John did in response to the question of the court:

“Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead – by Him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Acts 4:8b-12

Instead of seeking to free themselves from arrest, they sought to offer opportunity through the gospel for lost people to be freed from their sins and saved by Jesus!

The response of the court is that they were “astonished” that these “uneducated, common men” were able to preach with such “boldness” (v. 13). And their astonishment fell beyond Peter and John. The powers-that-be “recognized that they had been with Jesus”! May that be our testimony today – that people will recognize that we have been with Jesus, that we have been in His presence!

Spending time with God is always a noticeable thing. I know that I can tell a difference in myself and my own attitude when I spend time with Him in His Word and prayer. I also find that I cannot share what I have not experienced. Just as the lame man could not wait to run and tell everyone once he had been healed, Peter and John could not but tell people about the influence that Jesus had made on them – the impact of moving from death in their sins to life in Christ (Ephesians 2:1, 4-5)!

The Sanhedrin were afraid for the gospel to continue because they had witnessed first-hand that it is “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). It is quite a statement that the people who wanted to stop the preaching had a genuine belief that its preaching would cause the Way of Christ to continue and permeate their community. Do we believe that?

Are we spending time in God’s Word and in prayer and seeing it carry over into our lives? Are people looking at us and recognizing that we have been with Jesus? Unfortunately, we often just blend into the crowd. Our powers-that-be are not crying for us to cease preaching. But maybe we have yet to begin! May we think back to what Christ has done for us and proclaim it to any who will listen. Or else maybe we look and find that our lives have not yet been changed. What good news it is that Jesus specializes in just such a situation. “…[C]onfess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, [and] you will be saved” (Romans 10:9) Then, and only then can you rest and be refreshed in His presence!

Categories
Songs for Sunday Uncategorized

Songs for Sunday – 9/27/2020

This Sunday at Christ Community we get to celebrate new life! We celebrate the Life – our resurrected King Jesus! It is a blessing to get to be a part of what He is doing!

Speaking of what God is doing, we will get to celebrate believers’ baptism Sunday afternoon! I have always found that baptism Sundays are the most exciting ones in every church I have served, but there is only one party that outdoes Christ Community’s baptism services – when the angels rejoice over saved sinners (Luke 15:10)!

It is no less miraculous to see someone born again than seeing someone born the first time! You see, a lost sinner – dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1) – repenting of their sin and putting their trust in Christ – being raised to life in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5) is a miracle. I mean, how often do we see the dead raised?

Baptism – as Paul describes it in Romans 6 – is a beautiful picture of this miracle:

We were buried therefore with Him in baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Romans 6:4

When a new believer is submersed under the water, it symbolizes the death of the old self, the flesh. It represents the death we deserve that was earned by our sin (Romans 6:23). But, typically, the grave is a one way trip. Gravediggers only dig entrances.

Jesus makes a Way for us. He died for our sins and rose from the dead. He invites us to have faith – believe and trust – in Him. And, if we do that, the Bible teaches that we share in His Life, His resurrection:

For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.

Romans 6:5

That’s good news that’s worth celebrating! And that’s what we’re singing about this Sunday morning! It’s my prayer that, if you do not know Him, that you see the surpassing worth that is in Jesus (Philippians 3:8)and trust in Him!

These verses were on my heart as the worship set came together this week:

Here are our songs:

I hope to see you with us, whether you gather in person, in the parking lot via speaker, or on Facebook or YouTube live!

If gathering in person, please remember that masks are recommended and that we need to remain vigilant in our social distancing measures. Continue to pray for those who are sick – not just our members but all those around the world.

Categories
Refresh & Restore

Refresh & Restore – 9/24/2020

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. 14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. 15 O LORD, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. 18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;  build up the walls of Jerusalem; 19 then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar. 

Psalm 51:13-19

Greetings Sojourners!

I cannot speak for everyone, but I have struggled through our study of repentance. I have struggled because, ultimately, repentance is not something that comes naturally to me. I have struggled because I like to believe that I have no need to repent. I have struggled because I am a sinner. But, sometimes, it is good to struggle – at least if you make it through to the other side!

We have been looking at the example of King David, seeing how repentance is an act of worship. David’s song of repentance, Psalm 51, has been our guide as we have discovered that we have sinned against God and are in need of Him alone as Savior. And, last week, we moved to some good news by discovering what it means to be restored to the joy of salvation. Today, as we wrap up our study of repentance, it is my prayer that we can look once again at the example of David and see how sweet it is to return to serving the Lord.

Even though David sinned against God – coveted, committed adultery, conspired to murder, and so on – he was still the king of Israel. When Nathan the prophet confronted him in his sin, he was the king. When he wept bitterly on the floor over the sickness of his child, he was the king. And when sat down to write Psalm 51 – you guessed it; he was the king.

Now, through most of this he was not in right standing with the Lord. Through most of these events, he was not worshiping the Lord. He was, for the most part, serving his own evil, sinful desires and not the Lord. And it is the same for us in our sin. We cannot serve ourselves and the Lord. We cannot succumb to temptation and seek Him. One excludes the other, just as the one act compromises the other.

But, while we would all most assuredly want to be restored to joy in salvation, we seem to lack joy in serving the Lord. I speak from experience in this area. I absolutely love that I get to serve the Lord today, but – not too many years ago – I literally begged God to let me not have to keep preaching and leading in worship. I hatched a grand, orchestrated scheme to leave ministry behind and get a regular job (or so I thought). I wanted to find joy in anything else, but I just did not want to serve.

I wish that this were untrue. I also wish that this did not show the sinful selfishness of my own heart. In those moments, I was more like Satan than the Jesus I claimed to serve. In John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost, he depicts Satan in a similar light. There is a line in that poem that reads: “better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.” I absolutely hate the fact that these words echoed my sinful heart!

In Psalm 103:2, David says, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits….” We want to be forgiven of our sin and have our diseases healed (103:3). We want to be rescued from “the pit” and crowned with the love and mercy of God (103:4). We want to be full and have our “youth…renewed like the eagle’s” (103:5). We want this, that, and the other. But what about wanting Him? And, in that wanting, serving.

This is where David is at the end of Psalm 51. Verse 13 shows us that once he had been restored he would “teach transgressors” the ways of God – and that those “sinners will return” to God! His reasoning for being cleansed is so that he have the opportunity to “sing aloud of [God’s] righteousness” (v. 14). David saw the opportunity to get to return to the service of his God and King as a privilege. He understood that he messed up.

It is good news for David – and for us – that our God specializes in sinners and mess ups! David, even though these words had not yet been written, knew and could testify to Jesus’ words in 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Praise God for that truth! It is in these truths that we can echo David’s words in Psalm 51:15: “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise”!

You see, God is not interested in keeping the status quo. He is not worried about appearances. Last Sunday, my pastor, John Goldwater, made the statement (while talking about God’s response and attitude toward sin in Jeremiah) that God is not an enabler.  An enabler is one who – through their own inaction – ends up encouraging (enabling) bad or dangerous behaviors in a person. An enabler sees the negative things that happen and does not intervene. No, our God is not an enabler. Instead, he grants us the opportunity to repent of our sin and turn back to Him (2 Timothy 2:25).

For David and Israel at the time, keeping with the status quo would have been the ceremonial acts of worship and sacrifices. David makes it clear in v. 16 that God had no desire to receive a sacrifice or burnt offering from him in his sinful state. Instead, God preferred the sacrifice of “a broken spirit” (v. 17). God knows that we are good at keeping up appearances. He knows what is in our hearts. And it is for that reason that he delights more in “a broken and contrite heart” than in the sacrifice of a whole herd of bulls. He delights more in repentant hearts broken over sin than a thousand sermons. For he knows that, if we truly love Him, our heart will show it; for it was God, Himself, who said, “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34).

For me, those years ago, I had to come to a place of genuine repentance before I realized that I was not truly serving the Lord. I had to quit to begin working. I had to be humbled before I could serve. And, while I would not recommend the process, I am immensely thankful for it now.

I had to realize that I was not a sufficient Savior (Psalm 51:1-2). God did not save me so that I could be a major workhorse for Him. His Kingdom was not lacking in anything and in need of me. I was lacking and in need of the King (Acts 17:24-27)!

I had to be broken and find myself in despair before I could seek after the joy found only in Christ (Psalm 51:3-6, 11-12)! I had to be torn down and laid low before Christ would heal me and lift me up (Psalm 51:7-8)!  I had to look into the mirror of His Word and see the filth of my sin that covered me before I ever sought to be washed clean (James 1:22-23, 1 John 1:9, Psalm 51:9-10)!

But part of the journey is the perspective that it brings. I dare say that, if David had it all to do over again, he would have gone out with his troops to battle and stayed away from high vantage points above where beautiful women bathe (2 Samuel 11:1-2). If only going back in time were to be an option! Alas, it is not. But going back to God in repentance and relishing in his everlasting, steadfast love and mercy is!

I wish I could talk to my younger self. But that is not an option either. So, I rejoice that I get to talk to you now. I share what God has done in His Word and how He has blessed me. Where I once hoped to never have to serve again, I am now blessed with second-third-fortieth chances that I am not worthy of. I get to serve my King. And, while I am most assuredly not worthy of such a gift and opportunity, He loves me. And He loves and offers the same to you, as well.             Know that you are loved and prayed for. May you heed the call of Isaiah 55:6 and “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near….”

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Refresh & Restore

Refresh & Restore — 9/17/2020

7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Psalm 51:7-12

Greetings, Sojourners!

I am excited to bring you some good news today! That is, after all, what the gospel is – good news.

Over the past few weeks, we have been diving into what repentance is and how it fits into our walk with Christ. Part One showed us the example of King David. We saw how sin occurred in his life and how God uses David’s situation and the repentance that followed to teach us that repentance is a part of worship. Part Two helped us to realize that we need to acknowledge that our sin is against God and that we need a Savior.

The reality of our sin and our role in committing it is definitely bad news. My pastor, John Goldwater – who loves good news more than bad news, said in a sermon a couple weeks ago that we need the bad news to help us see and appreciate the good news. I agree. The reality of our sin and our realization that we need to cry out to our God and Savior Jesus Christ help us see the good news in the gospel. And, through the gospel, we can begin this week in looking at the good news regarding repentance.

As we journey through David’s song of repentance in Psalm 51, I hope that we can see what it is to be restored to the joy of salvation. I want to highlight the verses in today’s passage by looking at them in sections. As we walk through these verses, it is my prayer that you seek the Lord. Maybe you are missing the joy of His salvation in your life. It is my hope that you find yourself restored in your relationship to Him through the working of His Spirit in the reading of His Word!

vv. 7, 9

Verses 7 and 9 point to our need for cleansing. This carries over from last week’s passage, acknowledging our sin and need for salvation. The language that is used here – to be “purged” or “purified” with hyssop – brings up some Old Testament images. The priests used hyssop branches to sprinkle blood in various sacrifices. The biggest sacrifice was on the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, when the priest would make a sacrifice on behalf of all of Israel and sprinkle the blood on the Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant. That day was very important in the life of Israel. It was a day that represented removing sin. But the priest would have to repeat it every year; in fact, Yom Kippur is coming up on September 28th.

The good news for us is that Jesus’ sacrifice takes away our sin forever! Hebrews 9:26b says, “But as it is, He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” When we cry out to be cleansed, purified, and have the stain of our sin removed, we can rejoice because Jesus handles it once for all time! We can trust that God, through the finished work of Jesus, removes our sin “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). We can praise the Lord that He has “compassion on us”, tramples “our iniquities underfoot”, and casts “all our sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19). You see, when Jesus cleanses from our sins, we are clean!

v. 8

If, at first glance, you find this verse to sound crazy, you are not alone. It defies logic and typical human thinking. Why would someone rejoice over being broken? Broken bones will certainly make someone cry out, but in praise? It is unheard of!

It is tempting to try and excuse this verse or glaze over it, but to do so would be to weaken what it is to repent. You see, repentance can only come out of a place of brokenness. Unless we reach that place in our lives where we truly understand our need to be saved, we will never submit to Christ. And, since our sin is against the holy, righteous God of the universe, the brokenness comes out of being chastised by Him:

  • Psalm 44:19 — …yet You have broken us in the place of jackals and covered us with the shadow of death.
  • Psalm 32:3-4 – For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me, my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

But God does not break us to hurt us. He breaks us so that we find healing and Life in Him alone. There is good news because of the bad. The same hand that chastises us is reached out to pull us out of the muck and the mire, into His Fatherly embrace. 1 Peter 5:6-7 tells us to “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.”

Many people complain about old injuries and formerly broken bones aching when it rains or when bad weather approaches. For the believer, storms are going to happen in life – this much I can promise you. Jesus said it this way in Matthew 7:25: “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the Rock.” If you have your faith and trust in Christ, the wind and rain will not make the bones that He has broken ache; they will remind you of the grace and mercy He has already shone. They will remind you that His hand is outstretched to help you again and again and again.

v. 10

It is easy to forget that our hearts so often lead us astray. So much advice is spent trying to tell us to follow our hearts that we forget that God’s Word tells us that “the heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9). And, while Jeremiah’s warning about our hearts is true, God also uses Him to bring us good news about our hearts: “I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be there God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart” (Jeremiah 24:7). And how do we return to Him? By repenting of our sin and turning toward Him!

Through repentance and a relationship with Him, the reality is that He does create a new heart within us. Not only that, but He gives us His Spirit! I love these verses from Ezekiel because they give such vivid imagery for the change that occurs within our hearts:

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit will I put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

Ezekiel 36:26

That’s good news! A heart of stone is dead, but praise God He, “being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us…made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5)!

vv. 11-12

Our true fear is revealed in this portion of the song. We are afraid that God will abandon us, banish us, or stop loving us because we sin against Him. Everyone has felt this way as a child. I can remember a time in each of my kids’ lives where – when being punished – they asked if I still loved them. I can remember that it broke my heart when they asked. But do you know what I cannot remember? I cannot remember what they did to be punished. And the reason I cannot remember is because it has long since been forgiven.

We fear that God is going to abandon us because it is human nature to want to discard things that cause us pain. Part of repentance is acknowledging the pain that we cause our Father when we sin against Him. But the good news is that He will “never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Nothing will “be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).

We can trust that He will not remove His Spirit from us because He is Emmanuel – God with us (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23), and He has promised to be with us “always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 20:28). And it is because He will never leave us – because He will keep His Spirit with us – that we can rejoice! As painful as the process of repentance can be, it is – in and of itself – evidence of God’s Spirit at work in our lives (2 Timothy 2:25). So, if you feel the need to repent, rejoice! God is not done with you!            

I do not know where you are in your journey, but, I assure you, God is not done with you! Maybe you are cast down in your spirit. Maybe you feel like you are far away from the Lord. But let me encourage you to “draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8a). Turn away from your sin and toward the Savior. Find joy in the comfort of His mercy and grace.