Middle School Devotions

our middle school bible teachers are sending daily devotions to the families of our middle school students. please feel free to use these devotions with your family. we are praying for you as you press on in the weeks ahead.

Road to Regret

May 13 – 14, 2020

The threshing floors will be filled with grain;
the vats will overflowz with new winea and oil.
I will repay you for the years the locustsb have eatenc (Joel 2:24-25)

Analysis
The dictionary defines the word regret as “a feeling of sadness, repentance, or disappointment over something that has happened or been done.” There are several accounts in Scripture of the devastating effects of regrets on the emotions of those in the experience. When Peter denied the Lord, his anguish deepened every time the rooster crowed. Mark 14 says, “he wept.” He listened to himself deny the Lord; how unbearable! Matthew 27 and Acts 1 recall that Judas, after he betrayed the Lord for money (Whoa!), tried to hang himself and fell to his death. He could not deal with what he had done.

Observation
The well of emotions can be deep! Climbing out of regret is equal to the regret itself. “I regret eating that hot pepper;” we laugh and move on! “I regret not doing my best in school this year;” this is a bit deeper so we don’t laugh. It actually hurts a bit! Regret is an emotion, not a wrong emotion but an emotion. “Emotions are gauges, not guides!” I don’t know who said that, but it is not original to me. It is true that emotions are gauges; they tell us something is wrong, but emotions are not guides, so they can’t tell you how to fix the regret. Emotions are warning signs like the red or yellow blinking lights in your car. Judas tried getting help from the people he bargained with in the betrayal, but they turned him away. He did the correct thing by seeking comfort, but he went to the wrong place.

Application
Reason (thinking) must guide our actions during very emotional times. When Moses died, Joshua was having a rough time because he had followed Moses for 40 years. It is then that God told him, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8). In those tough days, the LORD guided Joshua to the Scriptures. Let the head deal with the heart! Accept the gauge (something does not feel right) provided by the emotions but lean in on the difficulties with the truth of God’s word. The guide is God’s word. God promised Israel and Judah if they returned to him, “I will restore to you the years the locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25). Sometimes I feel regret like I have wasted the time the Lord has given me, and I often ask him to give me back the time I used in trifling.


z Lev 26:10; Mal 3:10
a See Pr 3:10; Joel 3:18; Am 9:13
b See Ex 10:14; Am 4:9
c See Dt 28:39

Analysis
The dictionary defines the word regret to mean “a feeling of sadness, repentance, or disappointment over something that has happened or been done.” The NIV Bible uses the word regret 7 times. Twice, God said that He regretted doing something; He regretted making humans (Gen. 6) and he regretted making Saul king (1 Sam.15). The apostle Paul sent a scathing (harsh) letter to the Corinthian church and he felt bad about it. He said, “I do not regret it. Though I did regret it” (2 Corinthians 7). I am avoiding the difficulties associated with “God and Regret” to identify a simpler observation. Regrets seem to be an emotional response to being let down. Paul seems to give the impression he let himself down.

Observation
We all have regrets. Try it! Ask someone today, “Do you have any regrets?” Some regrets are serious and some are not. Some are your own doing, some the doings of others. We all have them and they can wreak havoc on our emotional lives. Some we can make up for and some we can’t. The one thing I’ve noticed about regrets is that they come up over and over again on a loop like a comet swinging by every so often.

Application
Psychiatrists Schwartz and Gladding (2011) wrote about deceptive brain messages that cause us to believe things that are not true, which we then tend to act out. Face it! Some things we should regret because we were not thoughtful, faithful, or considerate, but some things are really out of our control and for those we should learn to not accept deceptive brain lies. Regret is a heavy word! How about this, “I regret having you,” a mother says to a child. A wife or husband says, “I regret marrying you!” Whoa!!!

the opposite of deceptive brain messages is the truth. jeremiah tells us in lamentations 3:22-23, “because of the lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” if you have the time to remedy a regret, do it. “i regret not playing the piano,” then start! you are still alive. the regrets you cannot remedy, accept that god’s compassion is new every morning; start over!

Regrets

May 11 – 12, 2020

Romans 14:10-12
Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, as I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Reflection
新皇冠APP下载 “Man looks at the outward appearance; God looks at the heart.”

What is the background?
新皇冠APP下载 Paul addresses the maturity of believers and their cultural differences. He identifies these believers as strong and weak brethren. Their fellowship was being divided over cultural beliefs. The Jewish believer held to a strict diet of clean foods. The Gentile believer had no regard towards this food restriction. The Jewish believers were legalistic and furious over the non-observant believing Gentile as he continued ignoring the Jewish diet. In closing, Paul reminds them that their faith should be greater than their differences towards diet. He addresses the judgmental attitude of the Jewish believers and reminds them of their final accountability and judgment before God.

What does it mean?
Spirituality goes beyond dietary law keeping. Judgment seeped into a relationship between believers. Keeping judgment over cultural differences shouldn’t elevate one’s status with God. Paul reminds both the Jewish and Gentile believer to live unto the Lord and not unto their selfish ways. He states that differences towards dietary laws shouldn’t supersede their belonging to God. Paul ends this spat by quoting Isaiah 45:23, which states everyone will bow and give an account before God.

How do I apply this?
新皇冠APP下载 At times all of us tend to fall towards a judgement state. We must examine ourselves not in the sight of men but in the sight of God. All of us know God is holy and we lay before Him our lives’ accounts. He will judge and award them accordingly. We must let our actions bring God glory as He so well deserves. Our eyes should be on the Lord and not on others’ accounts. The act of judgement that the apostle Paul talks about will be a regrettable act. We should stay on the road that does not lead to regret. We must examine ourselves knowing that we too will be accountable to God on that Judgement Day. The test for acceptability before God is not duty but right motivation.

新皇冠APP下载“none are more unjust in their judgements of others than those who have a high opinion of themselves.” charles spurgeon

Matthew 25:23
His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.

Reflection

  • What would you say is your greatest regret?
  • Keep a short account of what you’re doing for the Lord. (gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw)

What is the background?
新皇冠APP下载This verse comes from a parable written about servants and their master. Faithfulness and unfaithfulness surfaces from the parable. Responsibility and irresponsibility are the servants’ responses. The unfaithful servant refused to bring profit to the talent that was given to him. Not so with the faithful! They took their talents knowing their master intimately and brought a great return. The master describes these two servants as good and faithful. Their faithfulness over little caused them to have a greater reward. Their reward was to enter into the master’s joy.

What does it mean?
新皇冠APP下载Parables spoken by Jesus always had a spiritual meaning. The meaning to this parable is that Jesus sees the service of his servants. He expects them to be responsible and faithful. He knows those servants who are busy at work bringing pleasure to their Him. Jesus has given so much and not for the servants’ use but for their display of love for their master. The one servant buried his talent and let it remain dormant in profit. How do you think he felt when Jesus took the talent away him?

How do I apply this?
新皇冠APP下载Jesus wants us to work using our God-given talents being faithful to Him. It’s not just the use of the talents only but knowing the importance of working totally for our Master. Every talent, every bit of wealth, every successful outcome is because of our knowledge and love for Him. The relationship with Jesus, God’s gifts being fully put to use and the work done for him will be recognized/rewarded when we enter into our eternal residency. Paul reminds us that our true work will be manifested and tested in the end.

I Corinthians 3: 12-15
Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.

Fool

May 8, 2020

Proverbs 29:9
If a wise man contends with a foolish man, whether the fool rages or laughs, there is no peace.

Analysis
The Book of Proverbs has much to say about the “fool,” “foolish,” or “foolishness.” Most of the references (63 times) refer to the noun or person as a fool. He used “foolish” and “foolishness” 21 times. Most of the book is written to describe antithetical (opposites) themes. The book is about wisdom, so the reverse is foolishness. Out of the 84 times the word is used, about 18 different behavioral and psychic (attitude, dispositions) experiences are observed. There are four Hebrew words translated “fool” in the book, and they have a similar theme; the fool lacks “understanding.” He/she does not understand. To understand is “an individual’s perception or judgment of a situation.”

Observation
新皇冠APP下载 The “fool” is simple-minded. He/she is not a blessing to his/her family but is a constant emotional weight and disruption. Fools are erratic in their behaviors, so there is never any certainty, security, or consistency, except you do not know what will come next. They hate and mock doing the right thing, especially if an authority figure expects it because they trust themselves. The most common emotion is anger (rage). There is nothing praiseworthy in their behaviors or attitudes because they lack knowledge and understanding. The foolish person can understand or gain knowledge he/she hates it.

Application
It does not seem true “that what unites us is greater than what divides us.” What a person believes is what a person is ultimately going to live. The conflict over ideas is real, and it is a conflict over how we live. Modern beliefs about people are not the same as ancient beliefs about people. We will live out what we believe. Solomon says “the rod” (26:3), but modern parenting experts say humans are fragile (protect the inner child). Solomon says, giving honor to a fool is “binding a stone to a sling” (26:8), but modern thinking says, praise and reason are our methods. How we respond to foolishness is not a simple matter, but Solomon and the Bible take a hard view on human behavior while modern views take a soft view. The foolish person is this way by choice of habit. Foolish behavior is only cute when children are 2-3 years; by the time of middle school, it is “not so much.” As I write, I am thinking about my “Dogwood” in the yard that needs straightening; it is leaning to the west. I will need to put a stake in the ground and tie a string to pull the tree straight until the trunk has a new upright posture. It may take a long time, it may not, but if I leave it alone, I will have to cut it down eventually.

Themes for Life

May 4 – 7, 2020

Proverbs 1:8
My son, hear the instruction of your father,
And do not forsake the law of your mother;1

Analysis
The Book of Proverbs has a very fatherly/motherly feel. Thirty-one chapters!!! Solomon took the time to write this book as a letter to his son (1:8) and sons (4:1). The book references “my son” 28 times. Solomon’s tone is not authoritative but instructional. He wants his sons to be wise so he teaches them, not demandingly, forcing obedience. He appeals to an inner attitude that results in obedience. He uses words like, “hear, listen, do not forget, accept, keep, pay attention, do not despise” to encourage a focus on his instruction, decrees, or commands. Solomon wants his sons to be wise, gaining understanding and knowledge.

wisdom, which leads to willing obedience, is not “forced down your throat,” it is “swallowed willingly.”

Observation
1 Kings 12 recounts the story of Solomon’s son Rehoboam who replaced Solomon as king. Upon taking the throne, Verse 8 says, he “rejected the advice which the elders had given him, and consulted the young men who had grown up with him2新皇冠APP下载” What can go wrong with that? Ignore the elders, but take advice from your friends! Rehoboam thought that he could do whatever he wanted without reservation. Ten tribes abandoned him and chose Jeroboam as king.

Application
Rehoboam seemed to have been the kid given to resistance. Obedience did not come easily to him. According to 2 Chronicles, “it came to pass, when Rehoboam had established the kingdom and had strengthened himself, that he forsook the law of the LORD, and all Israel along with him.3” The essence of wisdom (understanding and knowledge) is obedience. Disobedience is self-reliance, and it seeks short-term gains, but obedience takes the long view by listening to the advice of those who know. Disobedience is a learned pattern of thinking of always giving in to your immediate desires and wants. The results appear as “stupidity” because you get good at what you practice. “First we make our habits, then our habits make us.” Rehoboam was not readied to be king lacking both understanding and knowledge.


1 The New King James Version. (1982). (Pr 1:8). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
2 The New King James Version. (1982). (1 Ki 12:8). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
a 2 Chr. 11:17
b 1 Kin. 14:22–24
3 The New King James Version新皇冠APP下载. (1982). (2 Ch 12:1). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Proverbs 13:4
新皇冠APP下载 The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.

Reflection
新皇冠APP下载Hard work and laziness are attitudes of the mind, which are lived out in habits.

What is the background?
The writer is reminding us that the sluggard has cravings but is unwilling to work to fulfill those God-given desires. He is content with laziness. He doesn’t recognize that God has placed in him an intrinsic value to work. He finds satisfaction in being a sluggard. Success for this sluggard is buried in his poverty. However, for the diligent, self-satisfaction and fulfillment is his life story. He realizes that the ability to work and the self-fulfillment of it comes from God.

What does it mean?
新皇冠APP下载The sluggard is habitual in his activities of life. He shuns his responsibility to provide for himself and family. He establishes a parasitic type of lifestyle living off the success of others. The consequences are dire for the sluggard as he lacks the action to change. The diligent is a totally different story. The diligent sees the value and responsibility to work. His needs are met because he is a person of action. He refuses to be sluggish in his lifestyle. He gives no excuses like the sluggard. The diligent knows the reward from his labor is God’s rich blessings.

How do I apply this?
新皇冠APP下载We have been gifted with the value and drive to work. Being diligent in work fills our responsibility to God. He commands us to go and work which is found in the book of Genesis. We must recognize the value that we bring to ourselves and others when we fulfill our job responsibility. Ultimately this endeavor can enrich others and bring glory to God. The outcome of our diligent hands rests in the purposes of God. His calling of work can bring tremendous fulfillment to the life of a believer.

“there is no substitute for hard work.” thomas a. edison

Proverbs 10:9
Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.

Reflection

  • Lying, cheating, and unfaithfulness destroy families.
  • Can your family survive deception?

What is the background?
新皇冠APP下载The writer is giving the reader a sure foundation for life. Integrity has sure footing and a strong base to live life from. The writer lets us know that integrity isn’t often the choice for some. The way of the crooked does not lie in integrity. Without integrity, others will see the display of a deceitful life. God sees and knows the ways of those with integrity and those without. The outcomes lead toward life and the other towards destruction.

What does it mean?
Integrity can give security to one’s life’s choices and ways. Integrity isn’t always popular. Like the saying, “What is always popular isn’t always right and what is right isn’t always popular.” Integrity will always lead one down the right path. It’s secure when someone leads a life in integrity. The ways are straight when integrity is applied. The crooked have crooked paths that are filled with self and deceitful ways.

How do I apply this?
A study was taken and found that more than 80% of those students lied within a week. What that means is 20 out of 100 people were found to be true. I wondered if the same study was applied to our lives as believers, what would be the outcome? We know that the devil is the master deceiver. He runs to and fro trying to get people on deceptive paths. God wants us to hold to the truth, live the truth, and fall in love with the truth. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and life.” In a relativistic world, where others are ignoring and resisting the truth, believers can live secure with the truth that God gives us. There is absolute truth contrary to what the world proclaims to us. Augustine gives us a truth.

新皇冠APP下载“where i found truth, there found i my god, who is the truth itself.” augustine

Proverbs 3:13-14
Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold.

Reflection

  • How do you know if someone is wise?
  • If wisdom is something that you seek, where do you look for it?

What is the background?
Solomon singles out that not everyone possesses wisdom from above. Godly wisdom is only for the seeking one. Solomon is not saying that wisdom is hidden but that it is available to the one who finds it as his possession. As a king, Solomon not only had wisdom but displayed understanding as he led his followers. Solomon mentions that eternal profits come from wisdom and understanding. What comes from this wisdom can’t be compared to the riches of this life.

What does it mean?
Solomon learned that wisdom is worth more than gold. He made some great decisions in his life through the use of godly wisdom. He understood that godly wisdom leads to great outcomes. He didn’t always apply this wisdom that was gifted to him by God. Later in life, he drifted away from this gift by following his own lust and pride. This opened the door for a kingdom that would later divide.

How do I apply this?
As believers, we have to always ask God for more wisdom. God promises to reward us if we ask, according to James. As we navigate through these days, we must possess the wisdom from above. All of us know that without this wisdom, we would become foolish and ignorant in our thoughts and decisions. The devil would delight if we took this path. The wisdom and understanding that we get from God is such a gift. Press on in godly wisdom to accomplish the purposes of God today!

“if thou art wise thou knowest thine own ignorance; and thou art ignorant if thou knowest not thyself.” martin luther

God in Difficult Times: The Book of Psalms

April 27 – May 1, 2020

Psalm 23:1-4

  1. The Lord is my shepherd; I lack nothing.
  2. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
  3. he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
  4. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
  5. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
  6. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Reflection
I grew up in a Hindu home but attended a public Catholic school. We said Psalm 23 as a tradition in school (and the Lord’s Prayer). I remember, as a Hindu kid, saying Psalm 23 to myself when I was afraid. It has had a lasting effective, meaningful place in my experience.

Background
新皇冠APP下载Absalom has committed treason against his father and king. David flees Jerusalem, crosses the Jordan and ends up in Mahanaim (about 40 miles). At Mahanaim, David’s men/soldiers turn the fight to Absalom’s men and Absalom is killed.

Analysis
新皇冠APP下载 In 2 Samuel 15-16, David leaves Jerusalem because some in Jerusalem had sided with Absalom. In 2 Samuel 17-18, David’s soldiers turn the tables on Absalom’s army and Absalom is killed. “Even though I walk through the darkest valley,” Some versions say, “Valley of death,” David says, “you comfort me.” David weeps for Absalom in 2 Samuel 18, wishing to take his place in death (as any good father would). Despite the enemies’ best attempts “I lack nothing.” Yahweh the shepherd is my provider (1-3a), my guide (3b), and my protector (4-6).

Application
新皇冠APP下载The full extent of the Shepherd metaphor is described in John 10. The image in picture books, a well-manicured green pasture with pearly white sheep, and a shepherd gently carrying a lamb on his shoulders, tells only a half-truth about the Shepherd. The other half is the extent to which the Shepherd will go to protect his sheep. John says, “…he lays his life down for the sheep.” When it concerns his sheep, the shepherd becomes ruthless. The staff is his weapon of choice, as observed in the story of Moses. He is not confused about protecting his sheep regardless of who the enemy is: a son, a giant, an army, a devil.

“the lord is my shepherd, i lack nothing,” this is a warning!

Psalm 23:1-4
The Lord is my shepherd; I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Background
In accordance with tradition, Psalm 23 reflects the period of the rebellion of Absalom (2 Samuel 15-18).1 David fled in fear for his life from Absalom, his third son who wanted to be King. Four years had passed in which Absalom had been trying to persuade the people of Israel to adopt him as the king and not David. It was a serious threat. Their armies clashed and Absalom was killed.

Analysis
新皇冠APP下载This was a prolonged period of difficulty for David, eventually leaving Jerusalem because of the threat. From Jerusalem, David would travel northeast to the Jordan River before crossing into the Arabah, a ten-mile stretch of desolate land. The journey’s geography plays a role in David’s emotional/spiritual state; deep rock cliff riffs, dry desert, the Jordan, to the river Jabbock. 2 Samuel 15 recounts him weeping as he and his family fled up the Mount of Olives headed to Hebron, and one of his servants bringing food on the way.

新皇冠APP下载it is in these circumstances he says, “the lord in my shepherd…” he was a sheep in peril on a perilous route. notice the similarities between the land and david’s description in ps. 23. there are green pastures, rest, a guide, dark valleys, etc. the sense of calm we observe in ps. 23 is david’s longing or need for the lord. he is not experiencing green pastures, streams of water, or rest like a sunday walk at the park. through his troubles he believes god to be his shepherd, because he knows what a shepherd does. ps. 23 is a psalm of willingness to see god with him in his troubles.

Application
It was not uncommon for Kings to consider themselves “shepherds of the people.” What David did was to claim that he had Yahweh (God) as his – deserts seem like “Green Pastures,” weeping seems like “rest,” and dark valleys seem like “paths of righteousness.” “The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.”


新皇冠APP下载1. (2008). a commentary on the holy scriptures: psalms (p. 181). bellingham, wa: logos bible software. 2. lange, j. p., schaff, p., moll, c. b., briggs, c. a., forsyth, j., hammond, j. b., … conant, t. j.

Psalm 1:1-3
新皇冠APP下载Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

Reflection

  • Consider the Spiritual Disciplines that are necessary for having a strong root system?
  • How are your roots holding up in the storm?

What is the background?
新皇冠APP下载The psalmist is writing in a blessed and contented state. He is right with God in the midst of the wicked. From the word “Blessed” comes from the Hebrew word “ashar” which in its root means “to be straight” or “to be right.” Before he expounds on the different goings of the righteous and wicked, the psalmist knows he is blessed because of the love, mercy, and the extended reach of the hand of God. His spiritual condition is secure. In this vertical relationship with God, like that of the analogy of the Vine and the branches, this psalmist with certainty cries out that he is blessed. The psalmist shares his godly character with his readers. His godly character is birthed in God’s salvation and with that he follows passionately after the Lord. The psalmist’s simile reminds God’s people that fruit can only be born through nourishing in mediation and obedience to God’s Word.

What does it mean?
God gives the relational position and condition to His followers. Through their salvation in Him, His followers can rest in contentment knowing that they are united with God’s plan of eternal life. Like a planted tree, His followers can daily mediate on God’s word and in God’s strength while resisting the advancement of wickedness. This dependency on God’s resources roots and blooms good fruit into the lives of His followers.

How do I apply this?
The foundation is firm in our relationship with Christ. Others have built on it and now they enjoy the fruit of their labors in heaven. As believers, we must acknowledge and without wavering know that we are rooted in Christ. In this secure relationship in Christ, we will never be uprooted by life’s conditions. As believers, we delight in God’s Word bearing good fruit in an evil world. The cares of this world must be placed in the hands of our loving heavenly Father who cares and tends to our needs. To God Be the Glory!

Psalm 42:1-3
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”

Reflection

  • Why do people have different responses to God in difficult times? Some people get angry and some people lean into God more.

What is the background?
新皇冠APP下载 The heading of this Psalm refers to the sons of Korah. Korah was a rebel that led 250 community leaders against Moses during the days in the wilderness (Numbers 16). God brought judgement to Korah and his leaders and they all died. The sons of Korah remained (Numbers 26:9-11) and became so grateful for God’s mercy that they were noted for praising God. The sons begin the Psalm with a simile comparing their desire for God to that of a panting deer. The deer is disturbed and in dying of thirst. The Psalm states that the desire isn’t for any trickle of water but for overflowing streams. The thirst from the sons of Korah was their communion with God. They knew that true satisfaction and fulfillment came from the living God. They compare it to going to the temple to meet with God.

What does it mean?
God brings true satisfaction! The wicked sees no point in turning to God. “Where is your God?” shows their ignorance of a need for God. The sons of Korah knew that quenching their spiritual thirst comes from knowing God. No other place for them to go but to the tabernacle/temple and meet with God. The presence of God satisfies their souls as they partake of his goodness, mercy and peace. Their longing for God reaches to the depths of their souls and the question of “When shall I come and appear before God?” occupies their strivings.

How do I apply this?
Our panting for deliverance from the COVID-19 can submerge our souls in the sovereignty God. Can there be contentment during this turbulent time? We know that the answer is “yes.” This Psalm gives us two answers. First, we can run to God daily and have our fill of God’s power, peace and presence in the midst of this life storm. Second, it’s okay to feel the fear, but we must remain steadfast in our faith in God. We know for certain that He brings sure footing and security! Not so with the wicked, they stand on their quicksand of self-sufficiency and pride. Let us daily turn our lives towards Christ and follow him. The words of Helen Lemmel give us our focus for the day.

“o soul are you weary and troubled? /no light in the darkness you see? /there’s light for a look at the savior/and life more abundant and free/ turn your eyes upon jesus/look full in his wonderful face/and the things of earth will grow strangely dim/in the light of his glory and grace”

Psalm 46:1-3
新皇冠APP下载God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

Reflection

  • What is a genuine Christian response to difficult times?

What is the background?
This psalmist addresses the trust in God’s power, providence, and gracious presence. The Psalm was probably penned upon occasion of David’s victories over the neighboring nations. In battle, David experienced and felt the taunts of his enemies as he relied upon the foundational truths of God. The psalmist uses figurative language to describe the safety and protection from God. His protection was certain as all around him gave away. The psalmist knew that the only thing certain was the sovereign throne of God.

What does it mean?
The psalmist gives us an apocalyptic state is which one looks to God, the stronghold of his life. A refuge requires foundational and unshakable strength to which the psalmist’s metaphor gives its’ description to God. The psalmist under the inspiration of the Spirit of God could not think of any other metaphor. He uses the word “very” to apply the exceeding presence and help in tribulations. More than that, God in his providence provides exceedingly for His children. After this provision, the only response that the psalmist gives toward God is “no fear.” The psalmist, even in his circumstance, applies his confidence in God. Luther gives out a song in this stressful season of the psalm.

新皇冠APP下载“luther, when in greatest distress, was want to call for this psalm, saying, let us sing the forty-sixth psalm in concert; and then let the devil do his worst.” (john trapp)

How do I apply this?
Being still before God is often foreign and difficult for us as believers. In our humanistic society, we want to command and control our paths and outcomes. It’s time for us to give over to the refuge that is found in our God. Enough worry and anxiety. Let our anxiety and fear be crushed underneath the sovereignty of our Savior. There’s nothing that can separate us from Him so rest and let it be. We might give our circumstances so much control that the love and plan of God in nowhere near our minds. The only thoughts that surface in our lives are the thoughts of uncertainty and hopelessness. Later, the psalmist tells to run to God in the knowledge that we have of Him and be still. Oh, how this is needed in the days of COVID-19. A song written  translated in 1897 gives us certainty of God’s wonderful plan for our lives.

“be still, my soul; the lord is on thy side; bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; leave to thy god to order and provide; in every change he faithful will remain. be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.”

Spiritual Disciplines

April 20 – 24, 2020

Psalms 19:14
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.

Joshua 1:8
新皇冠APP下载 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

Meditation: Usually associated with Hinduism, Buddhism, and other eastern religions, meditation also has a tradition in Christianity. If you have been paying close attention to the news, you have engaged in meditating that is an example of negative meditations. Monks during the Middle Ages practiced meditation daily. Europe was in chaos in the early Middle Ages; I can see why they would meditate to get their minds on other more peaceful thoughts.

Christian Meditation: A History: One form of Christian meditation that has been used by believers since at least the fourth century AD is the lectio divina. It has been traditionally used in monastic religious orders and is enjoying a resurgence today. Lectio divina means “sacred reading” and has four stages: lectio (reading), meditatio (discursive meditation), oratio (effective prayer), and contemplatio (contemplation). In the lectio (reading) stage, one finds a passage and reads it deliberately. The next stage, meditatio (discursive meditation), is where one ponders the text. In the oratio (effective prayer) stage, one talks to God about the reading, asking Him to reveal the truth. In the final, contemplatio (contemplation) stage, one simply rests in the Lord’s presence.

Christian Meditation: Is it Christian to Meditate? Christian meditation is rooted in the Bible. In fact, the Bible commands us to meditate. In Joshua 1:8, God says to meditate on His word day and night so we will obey it. The psalmist says “his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2). Actually, the Bible mentions meditate or meditation 20 times. In the Old Testament there are two primary Hebrew words for meditation: Haga, which means to utter, groan, meditate, or ponder; and Sihach, which means to muse, rehearse in one’s mind, or contemplate. These words can also be translated as dwell, diligently consider, and heed.

How do I apply this?
新皇冠APP下载Joshua faced a difficult situation himself in Joshua 1:8, Moses had just died. God told Joshua to meditate on the Book of the Law. Turn the page on anxiety, uncertainty, and fear for a few minutes by taking a passage or verse of Scripture and read it, memorize it, and repeat it to yourself. Sometimes it is necessary to stop, sit, and reflect, but not always as a means of meditation. Physically write the verse on a card and keep it with you throughout the day, glancing at it as needed to keep your mind on something peaceful and reassuring.

http://www.allaboutgod.com/christian-meditation.htm

Matthew 18:20
新皇冠APP下载 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

John 17:21
That they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

“we don’t come to church, to be a church. we come to christ, and then we are built up as a church. if we come to church just to be with one another, one another is all we’ll get. and it isn’t enough. inevitably, our hearts will grow empty, and then angry. if we put community first, we will destroy community. but if we come to christ first and submit ourselves to him and draw life from him, community gets traction.” c.s. lewis

“some christians try to go to heaven alone, in solitude. but believers are not compared to bears or lions or other animals that wander alone. those who belong to christ are sheep in this respect, that they love to get together. sheep go in flocks, and so do god’s people.” ch spurgeon

What does it mean?
Matthew informs us earlier that Christ finds no pleasure in the prideful brothers’ argument over greatest. His desire for these disciples is that they become like little children to reach heaven. Christ rebukes these brothers and challenges them to sever any cause to sin. He reminds them of his pursuit of his sheep as a shepherd. Christ ensures these believers and other followers that sometimes a brotherly confrontation is needed to restore unity among believers. The ultimate goal in all of these pursuits in Christ among them. In John, the disciple records Christ’s priestly prayer in chapter seventeen and it applies to us today. This prayer for unity compares the unity of believers with that of the oneness of Christ and His Father. This one accord should be so powerful that it gives evidence and belief to unbelievers about the sent one, Christ.

How do I apply this?
新皇冠APP下载The fellowship of believers is more than a gathering. It is the identification that Christ is with us. His presence supersedes any attempt to construct unity or anything else among us. Christ is the reason for fellowship and it is the habitation of Christ which brings unity to our fellowship. Our fellowship united with Christ and each other is like a living organism that brings life and physical/spiritual resources to the hurting. Now that we can’t meet, we can still fellowship through prayer and teaching online. We are the church with different parts sharing the hope of Christ in an epidemic world. Each one of us plays a part. (I Cor. 12:12) There is no time to waste seeking God, enjoying Christ and reaching out to those around us. Let us be the arms, ears, eyes, and feet of Christ. He is counting on us. To God Be the Glory!

新皇冠APP下载how does acts 13:2 fit with fellowship?

Psalm 139:23-24
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

“for now, do not worry about ‘proper’ praying, just talk to god. share your hurts, share your sorrows, share your joys—freely and openly. god listens in compassion and love, just like we do when our children come to us.”

“your prayer must be turned inwards, not towards a god of heaven nor towards a god far off, but towards god who is closer to you than you are aware.” richard foster

What does it mean?
新皇冠APP下载The psalmist gives a description of prayer as being relational and spiritual. This is not a self-righteous pursuit. It’s relational because it’s personal, “search me.” The Hebrew word for “search” means to penetrate and examine intimately. It has the idea of searching in the earth by digging. “Try me” is David’s second invitation towards God to refine his life like that of gold being tried in the fire. David is asking God to become acquainted with his heart and to test the activities of his mind. This prayer is spiritual because it includes the vulnerability of exposing the heart and mind before God. David goes onto in his prayer of examination by asking God to bring to light any grievous ways of living. David’s concludes by asking God to lead his life with eternity as its goal.

How do I apply this?
新皇冠APP下载Prayer has to be honest and vulnerable to be effective in our lives as Christians. We must never exalt our false spirituality before an all-seeing God. Like the tax collector in Luke 18, we must descend into our brokenness and look up to our Sacred Savior and cry for mercy. David’s vulnerable started with the word “search.” He refused to hide behind a religious posture, but instead he released his life into the care of a personal and loving God. So, must we turn to God and allow Him probe the depths of our lives for any hidden sins during prayer. Oh, the freedom that comes when we are honest with God! Our prayers must ascend towards heaven with such a sweet scent of humility and love towards God and not with a stench of self-righteousness. How condescending is our Lord to listen to the words of our prayers. We must alert and act on the gentle reveal that our Lord Jesus gives to us in our prayer time. The great puritan John Owens gives us this focus towards prayer.

“pray as you think. consciously embrace with your heart every gleam of light and truth that comes to your mind. thank god for and pray about everything that strikes you powerfully.”

新皇冠APP下载we should not worry about what we should be praying about.

Matthew 4:4
新皇冠APP下载 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

“if i were the devil, one of my first aims would be to stop folk from digging into the bible. know that it is the word of god, teaching men to know and love and serve the god of the word. i should do all i could to surround it with the spiritual equivalent of pits, thorn hedges, and man traps, to frighten people off… at all costs i should want to keep them from using their minds in a disciplined way to get the measure of its message.” j. i. packer

What does it mean?
新皇冠APP下载After the descent of the Spirit on Christ in his baptism, immediately the Spirit led him to the wilderness. Full of the Spirit, Christ begins to fast in the rugged terrain. The wilderness was known to some as a place of demons. Satan, the Father of Lies was waiting to launch his attack. It was during this warfare that Christ listen to the Spirit. The second Adam, Christ was alone and was about to be tested and tempted. By ending this fast Christ would ignore his Father’s will and care. In Satan’s attack, Christ turns to the Word of God that he had memorized as a child. Christ spoke to Satan about the priority and the authority of God’s Word. This quoted O.T. passage referred back to the Israelites wandering time in the wilderness. It wasn’t the fed manna that God wanted the Israelites to trust in. God wanted them to trust their lives to Him as their true provider. For the Israelites, God’s Word was to be lived out obediently without compromise. It was in this Satanic battle over His Will and Sonship that Jesus quoted and lived out the Word of God.

How do I apply this?
The Word of God was memorized by God’s Son and so we too as believers need our minds to be disciplined in the Word of God. The Word of God brings guidance, rebuke, teaching, direction, counsel and a light unto our paths. Our lives without the Word of God is like taking a trip to an unknown destination without a GPS. Reckless and without direction our lives get consumed by the lures of evil one. In our story the luring one, Satan, exposed to Christ his pride by twisting the Word of God. He tried to entice Christ with the lust of the flesh, lust of eyes, and the pride of life. By resisting these temptations, Jesus declared to Satan that He was God’s Son. This proclamation of Christ to the authority of scripture came while He was obeying God’s commands. He was resolved in his heart, using God’s Words not give in to the devil’s attacks. The Word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword and it must be allowed to examine our motives and our ways. God’s word brings to light what’s hidden in the darkness so it must always be planted and applied in our journey of life. As doers of the Word and not just hearers, we can live out the holy lives that God wants us to live. Like the Psalmist, may our minds and attitudes always be fixed on the Word.

Psalm 119:15-16
“I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word”

新皇冠APP下载the daily life of medieval monks was dedicated to worship, reading, and manual labor. in addition to their attendance at church, the monks spent several hours in reading from the bible, private prayer, and meditation. during the day the medieval monks worked hard in the monastery and on its lands. the life of medieval monks was filled with work and chores. the spiritual practices included several pray periods, scripture reading, attending services, meditations, and study. the life of a monk was described by the motto, “ora et labora,” pray and work.

a few years ago i was asked to defend the relevance of christianity: the topic by choice was the effects of christianity on europe. in the talk, the role monks played in the development of europe was one evidence that christian practices would settle a person’s life in the middle of the worst difficulties. while europe was in chaos between the warring tribes, monks carried out the daily routines in their monasteries, prayer, scripture reading, studying, meditating, and working. this pattern helped create a more secure and peaceful example for the poor of europe who started to build their huts surrounding the monasteries. the routine life did not insulate (keep them from) the monks from the troubles of europe; it steadied them during the raids, conflicts, and instabilities. isaiah (26: 3) says, “you will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

新皇冠APP下载the spiritual disciplines life of the monks was not a quick fix to the troubles of the day. it was a genuine pattern of the lives of men and women who removed themselves from the world to live a life of quiet contemplation. the result was a life of meaning, courage, and service. we busy our lives with so much that the things that matter most become a distraction from the things that do not really matter. europe developed because of the spiritual practices and simple lives of monks, who viewed spiritual disciplines as more valuable than _________. (fill in the blank)

April 7 – 10, 2020

John 11:25
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,”

Reflection
新皇冠APP下载What is the difference between the Christian’s thinking on life and death (John 11:25) and the non-Christian’s view on life and death?

Does this verse bring you comfort?

What is the background?
新皇冠APP下载After four days of Lazarus’ passing, Mary’s hope that Jesus wound heal her brother waned. Jesus waited days before beckoning to Mary’s cry. It’s wasn’t for naught that Jesus waited. He knew that the Father’s glory would be on display through the resurrection of Lazarus. Jesus would demonstrate that he possessed the power and authority to raise the dead not only in the afterlife but in the present life. This tremendous power in Lazarus’ resurrection affirmed to those around the tomb that Jesus was truly God in the flesh. Jesus reminded Mary that death was conquerable and apart from Him there was no eternal life.

What does it mean?
During his lifetime, Jesus performed many miracles in order that others would believe that He was the son of God. Jesus is the same today, yesterday and forever as written by one our New Testament writers. The same miraculous resurrection given to Lazarus will also be given to the followers of Christ. The grave is only a revolving door figuratively for the believer. “To be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord” is a promise that a believer can embrace when he closes life with his last breath. Eternal Life does begin at conversion and it doesn’t stop at the grave.

How do I apply this?
Jesus has lived every pain and suffering we have experienced or will experience. The suffering of death is never final for us. Because Jesus conquered all our enemies, even death, we can go on in life with the comfort, assurance, and peace knowing that we serve a resurrected Christ. He’s risen, He’s alive, isn’t that the real meaning of Easter? He’s resurrected and reigns over our lives, even in the midst of a pandemic. Sing praise to our risen Lord because we too were once dead, but now we’ve been made alive in Christ. Happy Easter! He has risen indeed!

John 12:32
新皇冠APP下载 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

Hebrews 12:2
Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

1 Corinthians 1:18
新皇冠APP下载 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Reflection

  • What can Jesus’ sacrifice teach us about our motivations?
  • Is there someone you can point to who demonstrates this spirit of sacrifice?

What does it mean?
In John’s passage, the crucifixion was not just a humiliation for Christ, but an exaltation. One that would draw every tribe and every nation near to Him. The shame of the cross also brought glory to the one so deserved, God’s son Jesus Christ. The author of Hebrews tells us to have a concentrated focus, one “looking unto Jesus” not as a glance and wandering away towards earthly pursuits. It is one of a vertical vision looking upwards towards Christ. The words of Corrie ten Boom give a picture of this vision.

“look around and be distressed; look inside and be depressed; look at jesus and be at rest.” this vision leads us to christ, the leader of all the believing host that would follow him in faith. in his accomplishment of heavenly father’s will, christ now sits as lord on his heavenly throne. for others, the perishing, the cross and exaltation of christ, god’s wonderful love and plan, holds no attraction to them.

How do I apply this?
新皇冠APP下载The cross brought such shame towards Christ and for the believer it brought salvation. Jesus endured the cross and figuratively so can we. Denying ourselves is the first step in following Christ. After our self-denial, we are to carry the cross of burdens and pain in our lives. This allows us to identify with some of the sufferings of Christ. Following Christ requires that we carry such a cross! In our weakest moments of our cross, we can press on in Christ. A.W. Tozer reminds us of this cross-bearing life.

新皇冠APP下载“in every christian’s heart there is a cross and a throne, and the christian is on the throne till he puts himself on the cross; if he refuses the cross, he remains on the throne. perhaps this is at the bottom of the backsliding and worldliness among gospel believers today. we want to be saved, but we insist that christ do all the dying. no cross for us, no dethronement, no dying.”

新皇冠APP下载what christ has done for us is a completed work on the cross, but it is also an example for us to follow.

Our Need

新皇冠APP下载“we think salvation belongs to the proper and pious, to those who stand at a safe distance from the back alleys of existence, clucking their judgments at those who have been soiled by life. “

“the kingdom is not an exclusive, well- trimmed suburb with snobbish rules about who can live there. no, it is for a larger, homelier, less self-conscious caste of people who understand they are sinners because they have experienced the yaw and pitch of moral struggle.” c.s. lewis

Reflection
It’s hard to look at our neediness and acknowledge that we’re broken. It’s only from this starting point do we begin to comprehend the vastness of God’s love and grace. The devils sneer when we place our lives in the presence of God’s unconditional love. In God’s presence, alone, we can acknowledge to him our sins and plea for help. God helps us crucify our judgmental, hypocritical and lustful selves through His Revelation from his Word. The story of the Pharisee and the Publican prayers in the book of Luke brings to remembrance of God’s response in our humble need for grace. In humility we go before an exalted Christ in order to see his mercy and love. Humility is the state where we can truly see Christ the best.

What does it mean?
C.S. Lewis speaks truth in the above quotes. It is when we wrestle with being the least that we often struggle the most. We hate staring in the face, the weaknesses of our lives. No one else sees them but us and God! Our struggles of battling for perfection often destroy any recognition to the work of Christ. When we finally surrender our weaknesses to Christ, that’s when sanctifying power of Christ continues to have its full work.

How do I apply this?
Grace is poured out over our lives when we come to the end of our righteous self. In closing, Paul Tillich gives a marvelous description and invitation to God’s wonderful grace

“grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. it strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life… it strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage. sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: ‘you are accepted. you are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. do not seek for anything, do not perform anything, do not intend anything. simply accept the fact that you are accepted.’” (if that happens to us, we experienced grace.)

Lent

Reflection

  • Why would Christ die to “to save a wretch like me”?
  • How do I personally understand God’s love for me?

What is Lent?
Lent is the six-week period that leads up to Easter. It’s important for many Christians around the world, especially for those of the Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox faith. Lent is a solemn observation and preparation which focuses on the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. It starts Ash Wednesday and concludes on Easter Sunday. For many, it is time for fasting, or to sacrifice/abstain from certain things. It is an invitation to make our minds and hearts experience the fragrance and the remembrance of our Lord’s sacrifice and resurrection.

What does it mean?
Lent is a time for the Christian to focus in on the work of Christ. His work on the cross and his resurrection from the tomb has supplied the believer with eternal forgiveness and grace. During Lent, the Christian can with thanksgiving see that his sins has been atoned for through the loving sacrifice our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ’s death satisfied God’s wrath. The sacrifice on the cross redeemed Christians from their past, present and future sins. The book of Philippians reminds the believer that Christ voluntarily took on the cross and emptied himself out. The only thing that the believer can bring to the cross is his humility, along with the sins that so easily beset him like hypocrisy and self-righteousness. Salvation from this bondage of sin was bought and paid for through the shedding blood of God’s dear Son. From the cross to the empty tomb, the believer can give his life totally to the victorious risen Christ who through His redemptive work conquered sin, death and Satan.

How do I apply this?
We can accept or reject this divine sacrifice given to us through God’s sovereign plan. God applied His love to us before we ever even acknowledged Him! Romans states it so beautifully.

romans 8:32 “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?”

we don’t deserve such a great price for our reconciliation! it was god’s will for his son to be crucified in order for us to obtain eternal life. it is impossible to comprehend this kind of love totally by our finite and fallen, minds. in closing, a story was told of a believer who was asked by a muslim friend, “why would god die?” in his response, the christian reflected on all his theological answers and only the words, “it was because of his radical love.” sounded forth. as easter nears, christ is so deserving of our lives! charles wesley’s hymn reminds of the undeserving love that is ours in christ.

“he left his father’s throne above—so free, so infinite his grace—emptied himself of all but love, and bled for adam’s helpless race: ’tis mercy all, immense and free, for, o my god, it found out me! amazing love! how can it be, that thou, my god, shouldst die for me?”

Responsibility

March 30 – April 6, 2020

Proverbs 6:6
Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.

Reflection

  • Why is it easier for us to put off our responsibilities even though we know it’s not in our best interest?
  • Which one do you identify with, the sluggard or the ant?

What is the background?
新皇冠APP下载Some of Proverbs stems from the peace and prosperity of Solomon’s reign. They express truths about human behavior and outcomes. Similes, metaphors and personifications are throughout the book which give the reader a more vivid picture of meaning. These proverbs are for guidance and for gathering wisdom to shape our lifestyles. The broad spectrum of topics in this book are patience, humility, generosity, self-control and diligence, just to name a few. The lesson of self-control births hard work is what Solomon is saying here. The sluggard is to be wise and follow the way of the ant through hard work.

What does it mean?
新皇冠APP下载Solomon saw the prosperity during his reign as king. He knew that prosperity, if abused, could lead towards sluggard ways. According to the wisdom of Solomon, the sluggard needed to observe and learn from the ways of the ant. The ant works as if his success is from his labor, but it knows that God is the ultimate provider of his existence. The sluggard ignores the God-given ability to work and through his laziness/ignorance comes to poverty. Solomon is saying to the sluggard, “Wake up, work and worship your God who provides for your needs!”

How do I apply this?
All of us have been granted and given the intrinsic value of work. The responsibility to work has been to given to Adam and has continued for generations. As believers, we must first consider our way as it pertains to work. The way can lead towards a sluggard or figuratively towards the ant. The sluggard refuses to work while letting opportunities and rewards escape his life. The believer who is like the ant gathers from the wisdom of God and wastes no time in getting to work. In closing, we have to be cautious of becoming independent and prideful in our work. The hands, the head, and the intrinsic value placed in our hearts for being responsible workers has been placed there by God. However, work is never meant to become an idol of worship in our lives. Work is a means of God’s provision to not only to meet our needs but to create an attitude of the thankfulness towards our gracious, giving God.

James 2:26
新皇冠APP下载For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Reflection

  • Why should we trust God at all cost?
  • As an American, shouldn’t I put my faith/confidence in myself?

What is the background?
新皇冠APP下载James, the brother of Jesus, was one of the leaders of the Jerusalem council. James questions his brother’s mission recorded in the book of John. (John 7: 2-5) James was a prominent member of the church and later died a martyr. Writing to the scattered, who fled after Stephen’s death, he writes that faith must be alive, active with works even in the midst of persecution and trials.

What does it mean?
新皇冠APP下载 Faith is never to remain dormant in the believer’s life according to James and other writers in scripture. Christ has made alive the believer through his death and resurrection. Faith, a gift given by God, is never meant to be without works. Works, though, can never bring salvation to the wayward. It is through Christ that these believers in their faith produced good works while living in times of persecution.

How do I apply this?
新皇冠APP下载 We must remain steadfast in our faith in God during turbulent times. Christ is our anchor as we walk by faith and not by sight. We may never see the fruit from our trials of faith; however, we can be assured that Christ stands with us in these tests. The Christian’s faith is meant to be hammered and tried as we press on in Christ. There’s a great cloud of witnesses recorded for us in Hebrews who left their doubts and walked on in faith. Doubt never became a crutch in their pursuit of God. So it can be with us; we can leave our doubts and uncertainties and continue on in faith trusting in the faithfulness of our God. May we never forget the words written by James for us to embrace for this moment in time.

新皇冠APP下载“…for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. and let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

1 Corinthians 3: 8
新皇冠APP下载He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.

Reflection

  • If we divide our lives between spiritual and our regular life, what do we think our role in the kingdom is and what do we think our role in our regular life is?
  • Why is it so easy to compare ourselves with what other people do?

What is the background?
The city of Corinth had the temple of Aphrodite (the goddess of love), the temple of Asclepius (the god of healing), and in the middle of the city the temple of Apollo. The Jews were able to establish a synagogue in the midst of all this temple worship. Widely known in Corinth was the Greek verb “to Corinthianize.” This phrase relates to the immorality of the day. Immoral practices had seeped into the church as well. Divisions and jealousy brought fractions within this body of believers. Out of this spiritual immaturity, Paul uses the analogy of gardening to preach that each follower has his or her part in the growth of the church. With this work, Paul states eternal rewards will be given for those laborers.

What does it mean?
Spiritual immaturity can be the worst enemy of the Christian life. This immaturity birthed the division within the church that Paul was so desperately trying to reach. Immaturity can invite some of the dirtiest sins into the life of a believer. One of these sins called jealousy started to tear apart the very unity of the Corinth church. Paul wanted to put a stop to this mess. He reminded them that the work of God must come from each believer exercising his or her gift for the purposes of God.

How do I apply this?
As believers, we need to recognize that jealousy is the demonic influence upon our lives. The devil basks in glory when a believer divides the very group that Christ prayed for as one. We must stop any of the devil’s work when he interferes with the unity of the church. To keep unity within the glorious work of God we must do the following together:

  • Know that God will sustain us in His faithfulness;
  • live a life that demonstrates God’s power;
  • preach the gospel by our humble lifestyles;
  • allow God’s spirit search the depths of our hearts;
  • enrich our minds with the thoughts of God; and finally
  • impart words from the Holy Spirit to those around us.

in the end, we will be rewarded for this diligent work in christ jesus.

Ezra 10:4
Arise, for it is your task, and we are with you; be strong and do it.

Reflection

  • Is school work a spiritual responsibility?
  • How does an irresponsible person affect the family?

What is the background?
An edict from Cyrus allowed those exiles who wanted to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. A revival began as the people constructed the altar, participated in the Feast of Tabernacles, and began building the foundation of the temple. Opposition arose, and the temple reconstruction came to a halt. The temple construction continued and was completed under the rule of Darius and Artaxerxes. The people celebrated by dedicating the temple and implementing again the Passover. With the temple established, Ezra began to bring reform through the teaching of God’s Word. Out of Ezra’s own weeping and confession that the priests confessed their own sins of intermarrying nations of abominations. With this verse the priests cried out to Ezra there’s continual work of reform that needs to be done.

What does it mean?
God wanted to restore the wayward and He would use Ezra as an instrument of His rebuke and mercy to do so. The people were in exile because they had forgotten their God. Basking in their prosperity, they forgot God and pursued their ungodly desires. Their lives and culture were broken, but God in his mercy didn’t forget them. He brought reform through His mighty word. His Word showed how far the people had strayed from his commands. Under the hand of God, Ezra’s humility, character and God’s word brought the people back to a holy lifestyle.

How do I apply this?
When we allow ourselves to get exiled from God’s Word then we are endangering ourselves with a tsunami of sinful desires and pleasures. Like God’s people in Ezra’s time, we can take advantage of the blessings of God. Before you know we can entangle ourselves with earthly, ungodly passions. There is work to do for God’s kingdom so it is time that we purify ourselves and commit ourselves to our holy God. As Christians we need to rise up out of our brokenness and finish the work God has given us. To God Be the Glory!

2 Corinthians 9:8
新皇冠APP下载And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

Reflection

  • Why is giving from what we have so difficult?
  • Why are Christians commanded to give?

What is the background?
This letter was addressed to the church in Corinth and to Christians throughout the Roman provinces. False teachers took to the task of attacking Paul’s integrity and authority. Paul visited Corinth to address the situation but returned back to Ephesus without accomplishing his purpose in Corinth. This letter mentions topics like the fragility of human life as “jars of clay,” the ministry of reconciliation to Christ as ambassadors and outcomes to generous giving. In these, God would receive tremendous glory and pleasure in the generous giving and representation of Christ. Paul is addressing giving when he says, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you.”

What does it mean?
新皇冠APP下载The church has always had the “gates of hell” attack its mission and purpose. False teachers always oppose the work of Christ in Corinth. They knew that their teachings would bring disunity, selfishness, and a distorted view of the Christian life. Paul, in his compassion wrote to restore the Christian worldview that was wavering in such a prideful culture. He reminded the Corinthians to rely on God’s grace and sufficiency when they radically gave to others cheerfully.

How do I apply this?
新皇冠APP下载Giving graciously or grudgingly are two options for the Christian. A cheerful giver of God gives out of the grace and sufficiency that he has found in Christ. Sometimes our lives are bankrupt spiritually and physically because we have taken ownership of all that God has given us.

Prayer for Today
May all that we do for others be crowned with grace and the favor of Christ as we press on in the ministry of giving. May we become cheerful givers, or as the Greek meaning “a Hilarious giver,” in our outreach towards others.

Colossians 3:23
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,…

Reflection

  • Why is it difficult to consider our work as something we do for God?
  • What does it say about my understanding of work when I complain about it?

What is the background?
This letter was written during Paul’s first imprisonment. Most evidence point towards Rome as the place where Paul penned these words. Heretical attack was rampant so Epaphras visited Paul in Rome, which resulted in Paul’s writings of Colossians. Some of the heresies of the day were ceremonialism, ascetism, angel worship and the depreciation of Christ. Paul combats these heresies boasting of the supremacy of Christ.

What does it mean?
新皇冠APP下载Paul experienced the supremacy of Christ from his own conversion. Paul’s message of Christ’s supremacy couldn’t be bound in prison. His words on Christ crushed the advancement of the heresy of the day. Paul wanted the Colossians to have a true religious life that wasn’t separate from their responsibilities of the day. Paul states that a Colossian works as unto the Lord but not for the glory of men.

How do I apply this?
“Whatever” doesn’t refer just to the religious activities of the Christian life, but without exception it refers to everything of life. There is no separation between the sacred and the secular in our lives. Heartily without complaint everything is to be done for the Lord and not for men. Complaint is the enemy of our lives when working for the Lord. We must bury any of our complaints in the duty and the desire for the Lord’s glory. This is a high Christian morality, to practice recognition of Christ in everything said or done. The difference between Christian beliefs and non-Christian beliefs is that Christian beliefs matter only if we practice them.


Obedience

March 23 – 27, 2020

in looking at the many obedient servants of god, amy carmichael comes to mind. amy was saturated with the love for god and with the love for serving the poor. born in 1867, amy carmichael was influenced by her mother’s commitment to christ. it was through her mother’s hymns that she felt a call to obedience.

新皇冠APP下载“i had felt the love of the lord jesus and nestled in his love just as i had nestled in her arms. but i had not understood that there was something more to do, something that may be called coming to him, or opening the door to him, or giving oneself to him.”

amy carmichael did give herself totally to god. she led bible studies for young girls and at times she sacrificed the comfort of life to reach the hurting. once she moved into rat-infested apartments to live among the poor in the slums. even in these conditions with her health failing obedience to god wasn’t an option. she stated that the most important thing was god’s will.

“nothing is too precious for jesus.”

新皇冠APP下载amy carmichael continued passionately following god’s call for her life. through the blessing of her mother and the influence of hudson taylor, amy set out for the missionary life. from japan to india she immersed herself in language, dress and culture to reach the lost for jesus. in india, she founded dohnavur fellowship which was a sanctuary for the abused and hurting who served in the hindu temples. to reach these children she would dye and stain her light skin brown with coffee or tea bags, wear the light blue sari to associate with the lowest caste system. she spent next the decades rescuing and raising these broken children.

later in her life, amy carmichael had a severe accident which broke her leg and injured her hip. along with her neuroglia and the injuries from the accident, amy was bedridden for the next twenty years of her life. during these years amy carmichael still directed the affairs at dohnavur fellowship. she wrote thirty-seven books, mainly poems, as well as sixteen additional books of the missionary work in india during that time. amy carmichael died peacefully at dohnavur fellowship at the age of eighty-three on january 18, 1951. she had served faithfully for over fifty-five years in india and she was able to see temple abuses outlawed in india.

For us:新皇冠APP下载 Stories like Amy Carmichael’s usually tell the high points of a person’s life. These selections of writings do not always tell the difficulties in their everyday lives. Reading about a person’s life can become romantic, there is nothing romantic about the Christian life. It is filled with the everyday decisions about being obedient, struggles with the old self, and the will to do what is right. Very few Christians are written about, but all Christians should work towards obedience.

Philippians 2:8
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Reflection

  • What does it mean to be humble?
  • Is obedience a task or a duty? Does love have anything to do with obedience?

What is the background?
Paul writes in this epistle to thank the Philippians for their provisions. He challenged these believers to identify with Christ in the face of persecution. Paul’s words like “same mind, same love, and full of accord” promotes unity needed for the church. In this book, Paul knows that through the humility and obedience of the Philippians, others’ needs would be met. The obedience and humility of Christ should be the lifestyle for these believers.

What does it mean?
Paul wanted believers to put Christ on display through their humility and services towards others. Paul knew that this could only take place through self-mortification, the dying to self. He states not to let self-ambition and conceit dominate their lives. Have this mind of Christ when ministering towards those in need around you. Paul states Christ’s example of obedience and humility should be the evidence to show that they were servants of Christ.

How do I apply this?
新皇冠APP下载 There’s no better way to exalt Christ than through our obedience. Christ in human form obeyed his Father in every decision and work. Through his humility, Christ displayed the obedience he had for his Father. Don’t we want that for our lives? Humble obedience towards Christ will bring Him glory. We must continually, in every circumstance, deny ourselves and rise up towards the heavenly duties of the day. Denying myself is an opportunity to exalt Christ, who is so deserving of the glory!

1 Corinthians 15:58
新皇冠APP下载“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

Reflection

  • What does it mean to be steadfast?
  • Why would you rather have someone who is steadfast than someone who is not as a friend, spouse, or a teacher?

What is the background?
Paul was writing to a church that contained all sorts of immorality. The culture of Corinth had infected the followers of their pursuit of God. Paul had an enormous job to do, but under the direction of the Holy Spirit he rebuked these followers in love. These believers were gifted but immature in their Christian lifestyle. They brought division, envy, abuses to the Lord’s Supper, and false teaching into the church. Paul addresses the false teaching on the resurrection prior with the evidence and power of a risen Savior and ends the chapter with these powerful words to remain steadfast in their obedience to Christ.

What does it mean?
The Corinthians were faced with all sorts of distractions from the truth. Temptations were daily present as they tried to live a life pleasing to God. They weren’t the perfect church, but God didn’t forsake them as Paul shepherded them. Paul’s words although inspired could be that of a coach “Don’t quit, keep fighting, obey and you will be rewarded!” Obedience is necessary especially when we don’t know what’s ahead of us. For example, parents often ask their children to obey because they know the future ahead through their own experiences.

How do I apply this?
新皇冠APP下载 The times might be tough, but know that you are loved and are being cared for and carried by God. He is the Rock, the Fortress, the Lord that reigned before the beginning and continues to reign even after the end. The Christian must resolve in his heart to never under any circumstances compromise his work for the Lord. “The Lord knows” means that we have His attention when we are wanting to throw in the towel and quit. Onward, we must go obeying Him in order to obtain the prize before us. Know then that our labor in the Lord is not in vain.

John 15:10
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

Reflection

  • What do you think it means to abide in Christ?
  • How is obedience and abiding in Christ the same and how is it different?

What is the background?
This is a continual discourse of our Savior as he begins to conclude his ministry here on earth. His audience would have known about vines and branches since vineyards were common in ancient Palestine. His focus is on disciples and their future. Christ adherers obedience of His commands with abiding in His love.

What does it mean?
新皇冠APP下载More fruit is the desire of Christ for his followers in his last days. Fruit could only come from their relationship with Him and nothing more. Their time with Him would produce an abundance of fruit. Fruit that displays the evidence of a relationship with Christ. Abiding in Him produces an obedience and love. Obedience and abiding are inseparable in this love relationship with Christ. Christ modeled this kind of abiding with His Father as He began looking towards Golgotha.

How do I apply this?
新皇冠APP下载This abiding with Christ isn’t natural. It is a decision that needs to be made every day. I will abide and follow Christ should be our cry as believers. Obedience to his commands is evidence that we are abiding in His love. We get to enjoy His inseparable love as we enjoy our time with Him. Just like a branch abides in the vine, we can abide in Christ getting everything we need for life and godliness. What peace and assurance to know that Christ will supply our needs today and, in the days, ahead. The picture for us today as branches requires us to hold onto the vine.

Ephesians 6:6
“Not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart..”

Reflection

  • Why do we try to win others’ approval?
  • What does it mean to please God and not to please people?

What is the background?
新皇冠APP下载Ephesians was written to explain some of the great themes and doctrines of Christianity.

some of the themes of ephesians make it highly praised and prized by commentators, pastors and christians. spurgeon on ephesians stated, “whosoever would see christianity in one treatise, let him ‘read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest’ the epistle to the ephesians.” the book displays the work of god in the community of believers. from the imprisoned paul come some of the most inspired words of god.

What does it mean?
This chapter is drenched with the command to obey and please God. Paul writes that obedience isn’t only linked to us, but to the will of God also. He addresses those followers who looked for approval from others. Paul states that obedience really comes from the heart not from the approval of men. The follower with a heart for God always pleases his Creator. Paul writes there are two ways. One way is “people pleasing” and the other way is to serve a holy God. Paul says that doing the will of God is often clouded by how others see me. The servant looks to God and surrenders his will as an offering. A servant with a heart soaked with love for God will always run towards God’s wonderful will.

How do I apply this?
新皇冠APP下载Obedience has to come from our enflamed love towards God. If that love for God is vacant, we will be carried away with our own will and our own way. We have no rights as servants of God except to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him. God desires that we follow him by trusting and obeying his commands. His commands are not burdensome. They are there so that can we can love Him and do his will. The Christian’s only response to God’s will should be “whatever, whenever, however, Lord.”


Fear, Faith, God and Circumstances

March 18 – 20, 2020

Fear, Faith and God

Psalm 91:1-2
新皇冠APP下载 “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Reflection

  • Why is it important to have time with God?
  • Why does it seem like spending time in God’s Word makes me fear less?

What is the background?
新皇冠APP下载The Psalmist’s poetic metaphor describes one who walks through the gates of a fortress of stone meant for protection from enemies both unseen and seen, unknown and known. The psalmist uses words like shelter, shadow, refuge, and fortress to remind the reader that difficult events arise in life. The response from the psalmist is to trust and dwell in the provided protection from God. For us, the metaphor for shelter would be like living in a bomb shelter.

What does it mean?
The psalmist is using a military metaphor to describe God as the ultimate shelter which can’t be overtaken by the threats of life. For the people living in the Middle East, the idea of rocky outcroppings provided shelter from the hot sun. The picture is one of the Almighty protecting the psalmist from any type of enemy. Even in the midst of possible harm, the psalmist remains under the care of the Almighty. For example, Moses and David faced extreme dangers by just dwelling in God’s providential protection.

How do I apply this?
Before we state a word to God, the psalmist reminds us to dwell in the “Most High.” God, who dwells high in His throne room, exists above all our fears and trials while dwelling with us. Dwell, abide, remain, inhabit the presence of God during these days. When we experience interruptions to our lives, God wants to use this to rest and lodge in Him. He will take up and defend our coming and going for evermore.

Fear, Faith, Circumstances

Joshua 1:9
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Reflection

  • How do you respond in difficult circumstances?
  • What does our faith in God give us when times are tough?

What is the background?
Where Deuteronomy comes to an end, the book of Joshua begins: the tribes of Israel are camped on the east side of the Jordan River ready to begin the plan of God to conquer the land. The book opens with God’s command to go forth and pass through the river on dry land. Then it relates the series of victories in central, southern and northern Canaan. Later, tribal allotments were distributed and the book ends with Joshua’s final addresses to the people. The theme of the book is the establishment of God’s people Israel in the Lord’s promised land. The conquered land would be of the Lord’s doing.

What does it mean?
新皇冠APP下载After the Moses’ death, God had prepared Joshua for such a time as this. Joshua had followed on the heels of one of the greatest, godliest, and most humble leaders of all time. Joshua took the weight of this responsibility in dire circumstances to listen to God. The words he heard from God burned within his heart. “Be strong and courageous” wasn’t an option for Joshua. He knew deeply the faithful God behind those words. He knew that God would keep His promises of conquering the land. He saw the miracles and the manifestations of God during Moses’ leadership. God was with Joshua every step and he followed God in courage.

How do I apply this?
Even though this was written hundreds of years ago, the same message applies: “Be strong and courageous.” If we attempt to ride out these difficult days in our own strength and courage, then our faith in God will waver. Fear will be the outcome of using our own strength. However, if we take the mantle of God’s strength, then God will be with us wherever we go. Joshua didn’t know what the future held, but he knew who held the future. All we have to do is follow God in these trying days knowing that God will go with us every step of the way.

Fear and Faith

Isaiah 41:10
“fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Reflection

  • What causes you the most fear?
  • What does it mean to have faith?

What is the background?
Isaiah wrote during the expansion of the Assyrian empire and the decline of Israel. Israel tried to pressure Judah into joining a coalition against Assyria. Ahaz chose instead to ask Tiglath-Pileser for help, a decision condemned by Isaiah (see note on 7:1). Assyria did assist Judah and they conquered the northern kingdom. Nevertheless, Isaiah warned Judah that her sin would bring captivity at the hands of Babylon.

What does it mean?
God didn’t offer His deliverance to His people at this time, but He did offer His precious presence. He let them know that “I am” is present. Here I am! He understood their physical, emotional and spiritual needs. “I am your God.” This statement brought confidence in God’s power and presence to restore. God didn’t want their eyes to turn away from Him by looking around. God wanted their eyes fixed on Him. He was their “Helper.” It was His hand that would uphold them like so many other times in their lives. The words of “I am with you” brought the needed comfort/confidence for this trial of their lives.

How do I apply this?
Rest in God’s presence like never before without wavering. Lean into Him and hear Him say, “I am here.” “I will strengthen you.” Like the Israelites, trust in God’s way, knowing that His hand will uphold you. God will maintain you, support you and He will hold fast to you. He hasn’t forgotten you. He wants to shepherd you as you walk through the trials of this life. Stay close to Him! All you have to do is follow as He leads.