Monthly Archives: November 2019

November 20; In Step

Galatians 4:8-6:18

Have you ever been awed by the precision of a marching band at half-time? You need to check out the Ohio State University marching band on You-Tube sometime.

In a military style marching band, each person takes an exact 30″ step, or 8 steps in five yards. No matter how big or small an individual is, their steps are exactly the same length. Knees are all lifted at exactly the same angle, no matter how short or tall the marcher is.

With all that precision, one person out of step sticks out like a sore thumb. One person marching right, left while everyone else is marching left, right ruins the whole effect of a precision marching band.

Paul is talking to the Galatians about precision marching. “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (5:25) In verse 22 he tells us what that looks like:

love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. Right.

So what happens if one of our number falls out of step? Paul tells us what to do in chapter 6. “Restore him gently.” Paul doesn’t say ignore it, or kick him out, or even to just pray for the one out of step. When a brother or sister is out of step, we who are in step need to address it with them.

Paul calls it carrying each other’s burdens.

I asked if you’ve ever been awed by the precision of a marching band at half-time. I wonder, have you ever been awed but the precision of a church fellowship in step with the Spirit?

I pray that each of us will be a part of an awe-inspiring fellowship of believers, walking in step with the Spirit, and making an eternal difference in the hearts of people in our communities. In a world where we are encouraged to “do our own thing,” let’s do the Spirit’s thing as we walk with Him in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Awesome!

 

 

November 19; Faith

Galatians 1:1-4:7

Does reading Paul’s letter to the Galatians thrill you as much as it does me? Salvation comes from placing my faith in Jesus.

I can’t be good enough, generous enough, even religious enough to earn what Jesus freely gives to those who come to Him. He bought the right to forgive all who believe. That in itself thrills my soul.

Receiving forgiveness is the same for you as it is for me, as it is for that murderer on death row or that sweet little old lady down the street. We all must be born again by placing our faith in Jesus, the One who loves us and gave Himself for us.

Consider Abraham; “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Understand, then that those who believe are children of Abraham. (3:6-7)

Abraham believed. Do you?

But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised (righteousness), being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. (verse 22)

Isn’t that thrilling? Believe, and receive. Then this:

So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. (4:7)

Oh, dear one, I pray that you have placed your faith in Jesus. There is no joy greater than having your sins forgiven, no blessing better than being a child of God, nothing more thrilling than knowing you are going to heaven.

I am praying for you.

November 18; Determination

Acts 13-14

When Paul and Barnabas entered a city and began preaching the Gospel of Jesus, one of two things generally happened. One is that people believed and were saved. The other is that people didn’t believe, and wanted to kill Paul and Barnabas. Even the city that wanted to worship the men as gods ended up stoning Paul and leaving him for dead.

What speaks to me about Paul and Barnabas is their steadfast determination to share Jesus, no matter the cost. Do you know what Paul did after the stoning? “…he got up and went back into the city.” (14:20) He left the next day, but the fact that he went back at all speaks to me.

It makes me wonder how many times I have shared about Jesus, only to be met with opposition or ridicule, then avoided that person the next time we were in the same vicinity. I wonder how steadfast is my determination to share Jesus with lost people, whatever the cost.

The truth is, most people don’t automatically become believers the first time they hear the Gospel. In fact, hearing they even need a Savior can make people very angry. Am I one and done? If they don’t drop to their knees and pray for forgiveness after hearing my testimony or my sermonette, too bad. Move on, Connie. Or run for your life. But don’t make the mistake of talking about God with them a second time. They might get mad.

I hope that isn’t true for any of us. We can learn from Paul who counted it joy to be persecuted for Jesus’ sake. Certainly we who know Him can count it joy if someone tries to hurt our feelings because we are sharing the Gospel, can’t we?

Let’s be determined to share the glorious truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with someone today, and again tomorrow, and the next day if it’s necessary. Let’s be determined to be obedient to God’s leading no matter the cost. People need to hear the truth. Let’s be determined to be the ones who will tell them, then tell them again.

November 17; He Is Coming

James 4-5; Acts 11:19-12:25

My pastor preached from I John 2 this morning. John warned that this is the last hour, that Jesus is coming again, and time as we know it will be no more. For those who know Jesus, it is a day to look forward to!

James, in chapter 5, is saying the same thing. Except he gives a different kind of warning. In fact, he says “weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you.” How could John tell us to look forward to Jesus’ return, and James tell us to prepare for misery concerning it?

James goes on to talk about those who are ok with life as it is, who live in luxury, who live by their own rules. The Judge is at the door, he warns.

I don’t pretend to know when Jesus will return. Anyone who says they do are lying. The truth is I might die before that trumpet sounds. Or the clouds may part and Jesus appear before I’m done typing this today. I don’t know. No one does because Scripture doesn’t say.

But Scripture is clear that I – and you – will one day face the Judge. Everyone who has ever lived will be held accountable for the lives we lived on planet Earth. Until the day we stand before God Almighty, we have choice.

We can either align ourselves with God through the blood of Jesus, or we can live by our own rules, then stand before Him on that day on our own. I can absolutely tell you what to expect, without being your judge.

The Bible leaves no room for interpretation on this subject. With Jesus, you will go to heaven. Without Him, you will go to hell. Standing before the Judge, wearing Jesus’ righteousness, will usher you into a glorious eternity with God. Standing before Him wearing your pitiful attempt at goodness (which is nothing more than used menstrual pads) will usher you into an eternity more painful than anything our minds can even imagine.

There is no third option.

Jesus is coming again. When He does there will be no time to change your mind, no time to accept what He did on the cross when He paid for your sin. Oh, you can pay for them yourself with an eternity of hell if you choose. But I can’t imagine why you’d want to, when that debt has already been paid.

Jesus is coming again. It might be today. It might not. You may die today and face the Judge before the sun sets on your town. Or not. But are you ready to meet the Judge? You need to decide right this minute, my friend. Because when it’s over, it is truly over.

November 16; Wisdom From Heaven

James 1-3

I will be honest. I haven’t been watching the impeachment hearing on TV. My blood pressure has it’s limits. I don’t know on which side of the aisle you are, but I think God has something to say to all of us through James this morning.

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you will find discord and every evil practice. (3:16)

I guess when I try to watch the proceedings I find discord and evil practices fueled by envy and selfish ambition. Did God give James a glimpse of the USA in 2019? It seems so. But the next verse is what I want to highlight today:

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (3:17)

Can you imagine the change that would come about in our country if God poured out the wisdom that comes from heaven onto Washington DC? Peace-loving? Considerate? Submissive? Merciful? Impartial? Sincere? I don’t care which side of this issue you are,  but can you say you wouldn’t want those things to be evident in all our politicians?

Let’s pray for the wisdom that comes from heaven for our political leaders. But let’s also pray the same for each of us. Our country can hardly be described as peace-loving, considerate, submissive, merciful, impartial, or sincere, can it? Can you be described in those terms? Can I?

We need the wisdom that comes from heaven.

 

November 15; Even the Gentiles

Acts 9:32-11:15

I am so thankful for the Jews. They were the ones through whom God chose to bring salvation to the world. God had stuck with them even when they disobeyed, protected them even when they put themselves in danger. They didn’t deserve His kindness, but God knew that He would come to earth through a Jewish woman. And in spite of the Jews who rebelled, Jesus was indeed born of Mary.

It’s no wonder the Jews felt Jesus was exclusively their’s. For centuries they knew they were chosen, set apart, and they felt superior to anyone not Jewish (known as Gentiles). The Holy Spirit had come to the Jews there in Jerusalem. Salvation through Jesus was their’s.

So Peter’s vision and subsequent encounter with Cornelius, a Gentile centurion, was met with criticism. “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.” (11:3)

What were you thinking, Peter?

But I love that when Peter explained his vision, shared what happened when the Holy Spirit was given to non-Jewish believers just as it had been give to them, the once horrified Jews “had no further objections.” Then this:

(they) praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.” (11:18)

Yes. Yes He did. Even Gentiles. Even me!

 

 

November 14; To Change or Not To Change, That Is The Question

Acts 7:54-9:31

Simon believed he was someone great. He wasn’t the only one. It sounds like he had quite a following. His sorcery must have been amazing, because people even thought he was divine.

That is, until they heard Philip preach the “good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus.” Many believed in Jesus, and were baptized – including Simon. Simon ended up following Philip around after that. Being a sorcerer, he was amazed at the miracles he saw Philip do.

Then when Simon witnessed Peter and John placing their hands on believers who then received the Holy Spirit, he wanted in on the action. He was willing to buy that ability. Peter recognized Simon for who he really was, and addressed Simon’s sin in no uncertain terms. “You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right with God.”

Simon had believed in Jesus. But Simon was still the same old Simon. His heart had not changed.

Saul, on the other hand, was not only NOT a believer, he had dedicated his life to destroying the church by getting rid of anyone who did believe in Jesus. But his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus changed him.

Completely.

Saul became Paul who then dedicated his life to sharing Jesus with everyone, in hopes that everyone would believe. Paul’s belief in Jesus didn’t stop with the knowledge that Jesus is the Savior. Paul’s belief in Jesus changed his heart.

Do you believe? Scripture tells us even the demons believe, and shudder. (James 2:19). Belief is the first step, but it isn’t the only step.

If accepting Jesus as your Savior hasn’t changed you, let me suggest you check your heart. Is your belief head-knowledge, or a heart-changing, person-transforming, sin-defeating relationship with God Himself?

Change, or no change? That’s the question. And the answer is the difference between being a child of God, and being someone who has no part in His ministry, His kingdom.

Let your belief in Jesus change you.

November 13; On Every Page

Acts 5:17-7:53

Many people find the Old Testament hard to read. It’s repetitive, long lists of hard to pronounce names, accounts of things that happened so long ago, who even cares?

Well, Stephen for one. His 53 verse sermon is an overview of Old Testament Scripture. He knew the Old Testament pointed to Jesus as the Messiah, and he wanted everyone to know it, too.

I hope you’ll read what Stephen had to say about the Old Testament, about how God worked in and through a nation of people to prepare the world for His Son. Then I hope you’ll turn to the pages of the Old Testament for yourself and read first hand what God wants you to know.

Don’t read it merely as a history book, but as God’s love letter to you. Get to know Him by reading about Abraham, Joseph, Job, David, Esther, Daniel… Put yourself in their stories and hear God tell you how much you are loved, how He longs to fellowship with you, and how He works in your life to bring about good. Understand that He is the same God today as He was back then, and He wants you to know Him.

And He wants you to see Jesus. The entire Old Testament is a beacon pointing the way to the Savior. I believe you, like Stephen, will see Jesus on every page.

November 12; Unschooled and Ordinary

Acts 3:1-5:16

Peter amazes me. The disciple had spent most of the three years he was with Jesus, with his foot firmly planted in his mouth. You can’t fault Peter’s enthusiasm for the Messiah. He just didn’t always think before he acted or said something. He seemed an unlikely leader.

But something happened to Peter. Acts 4:8 tells us what that something was:

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit…

Peter and John were known as “unschooled and ordinary men” to everyone in town. But, filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter could stand before the same church officials who had crucified Jesus, and boldly proclaim that Jesus is the Truth!

Peter, now filled with the Holy Spirit, wouldn’t back down, was willing to go to jail rather than deny Jesus. But this same Peter had very publicly denied Jesus three times just a few weeks earlier.

Here’s the thing: God uses unschooled and ordinary people who are filled with His Spirit to boldly proclaim that Jesus is the Truth. You don’t need a seminary degree. You need to accept Jesus as your Savior. You need to be yielded to the Spirit. He’ll take hold of you like he took hold of Peter, and who knows where that will lead?

Do you feel God is prompting you to talk to a neighbor or friend about the Lord? Maybe you hesitate because you think you wouldn’t know what to say.

Good!

You are in a perfect place to be used by God on behalf of that person for whom He died, and in whom He is preparing a heart to receive Him. Let Him fill you with His Spirit. Let Him use your voice to speak His words to that soul. He will if you let Him.

You may be unschooled compared to your pastor, but you are anything but ordinary when the Spirit fills you. Peter said in verse 20:

For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.

And neither will you be able to stop speaking about Jesus. When His Spirit fills you, it just naturally spills out, bubbles over, and touches everyone around you. Nothing ordinary about that!

 

November 11; It’s Thrilling

Mark 16:9-20; Acts 1-2

Yesterday’s Scripture had me reaffirming my belief in the resurrected Jesus. Today Peter reminded me of the Old Testament Scriptures, prophecies that were perfectly fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

It must have been thrilling to have been part of those first few days at the beginning of the Church; the dramatic coming of the Holy Spirit, 3,000 people accepting Jesus in one day, then boldly being baptized in a public declaration of their faith in Him.

That act of baptism in itself is amazing considering they were aligning themselves with the very Man the Jews had just crucified a few short weeks before. Talk about thrilling!

But it is also thrilling to be part of God’s Church in 2019. Sometimes we get caught up in the negative, we lament the sin in our world, and wring our hands at the seemingly weakening of the Church.

But God is reminding me today that He is still alive and well and working in the hearts of all men and women in every corner of the world. Jesus still lives! The Holy Spirit is still present! Hearts are still being changed, and eternity is won every day.

Now that’s thrilling!