“Be Careful with Your Time”

“I can’t wait for this pandemic to end!”  

 

Finally, I said it!  With all of the profound effects this situation has been having on life here on earth, I began pondering what has actually made enduring this pandemic difficult.  It is restrictive.  It is limiting.  It is stressful.  People have lost family and friends, jobs and income, physical security, and financial stability.  The normalcy of our old routines has been replaced by prolonged uncertainty.  Life for no one has remained unaffected.  I was thinking about the frustrations of the day, and realizing that I’d essentially had the same frustrations for the past couple of weeks.  Then it dawned on me that, as I took account of the weeks and months we have been under this pandemic, time has continued to pass.  Despite things slowing down and even grinding to a halt across the world, God’s gift of precious time has not slowed down even one second! 

 

Time.  It is essentially irrelevant to God.  He is not bound by it at all.  As 2 Peter 3:8 says, “…with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”  Yet, as human beings, we mark the passing of time with birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, New Year observations, and more!  As time continues on, we make future plans for ourselves sometimes giving little thought to the significance of every precious minute.  

 

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. –James 4:13-14 (NIV)

 

“What will happen tomorrow?”  We have no real control over what happens today OR tomorrow!  This truth is even more apparent these days!  Many of us had big plans for this year when the pandemic upended things.  All we actually have is the present moment with its opportunity to do what God would have us to do.  Even for those who live lengthy lives, our time here on earth is still relatively short.  This makes the warning in Ephesians 5 as important as ever.

 

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. –Ephesians 5:15-16 (NIV)

 

At the start of this pandemic, after the initial shock wore off, the extra free time was a treat!  Those of us not serving on the frontlines found time to connect with others in our homes, to cook more at home, to pick up those long-delayed projects, and to take better care of ourselves.  We’ve had more time to pray and connect with God as well.  As the time under this pandemic has continued to pass, we have begun to tire of the extra free time.  Most of us just want things to return to normal.  We want to make money.  We want to get busy working and living our regular lives again.  We want to entertain and to be entertained.  Perhaps, God, being in control of everything, wants us to take this lesson about time to heart.

 

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. –Titus 3:3-8 (NIV)

 

Great people of all statuses have passed away in recent months, and their time on earth is now done.  Some lived long lives, and some lived rather short lives.  Some were famous, and some were not.  Some of these great people, no doubt, cause us to reflect on the way we have lived our own lives.  I heard someone say, “I think I’m too old now to do anything more with my life.”  I heard someone else say, “I’ve already gone too far down this path.”  But the Word of God frees every one of us to take advantage of the opportunity we have right now!  That should give us all some hope right now!  God doesn’t want us to worry about the opportunities we may have missed when we were being foolish and disobedient.  God doesn’t want us to waste any more of our time looking back over what we should have done with our past opportunities.  God wants us to be mindful of the time we have now—right now—to make a choice to live for Him, and to simply do good! 

 

I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. – Ecclesiastes 3:12 (NIV)

 

It does not matter whether you are young or old, rich or poor, famous or not, or what.  We each have only 24 hours a day at our disposal.  One day, every one of us will have to give an account for how we used our time here on earth, so we must be careful.  Let us all devote the time we have remaining, no matter how long that may be, to live for the glory of God!  Do good while you can!

 


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“Don’t Let Down Your Guard”

Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. –2 Peter 3:17 (NIV)

 

There have been over 21 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with over 760,000 deaths.  My news feed around the pandemic continues to recount the varied stories of those who have been directly affected by the coronavirus.  One such writer explained how vigilant she had been at the start of the pandemic.  For months, she followed all of the guidelines until one day, she let down her guard “for just a few minutes” and contracted the coronavirus.  She shared her story to warn others.  With thousands still contracting the virus every day, the resounding message throughout each story is this:  “Don’t let down your guard!”  

 

When you put that phrase into a search engine, countless sites will show articles and posts relating to COVID-19 and how best to protect yourself from the coronavirus. Tip sheets, checklists and a variety of other things to warn and guide us around the coronavirus are posted just about everywhere.  “Stay safe, because the virus is still out there,” they’ll warn. But then there are those who downplay the threat or even call the whole thing a hoax.  Some work to discredit any credible information that goes against what they feel is true or acceptable.  Regardless, the knowledge shared by scientists and doctors makes us all personally responsible to do our part to protect ourselves and others, and not be deceived.  As we grow weary of enduring this pandemic, we are at risk of letting down our guard.  I encourage you to stay on your guard!

 

The warning, “Don’t let down your guard”, is important for all of us during this pandemic.  But, this same warning for us as Christians is even more important than that!  Peter was one of the disciples who had endured trials and tribulations as a follower of Jesus, and he understood the struggle to endure—to not let down his guard.  He, afterall, was that very disciple who had denied Jesus three times, even though he had been forewarned about it.  “Be alert…resist the devil” he had forewarned in 1 Peter 5, because he had firsthand experience with letting down his guard. 

 

When he issued the warning in 2 Peter 3:17, there were religious leaders intent on enforcing the religious law.  They were more comfortable using the confines of the Law, even if they failed to adhere to it themselves.  The idea of a saving grace that fulfilled the Law didn’t fit well with them.  They were intent on disproving and discrediting the idea that a crucified Jesus would return as he said he would.  Afterall, if he was going to return, why hadn’t he already done so?  While the religious leaders simply did not believe in Jesus Christ as Savior, those early church believers who did still faced the potential of growing weary or losing heart while struggling against sin (Hebrews 12:4).  Thus, Peter warned them to be on their guard.  It’s as if he was saying “Stay safe, because Satan is still out there!”

 

As Christians, each of us is personally responsible for knowing the truths in God’s Word so as to not be deceived.  We should have a working knowledge of what it is we believe as it governs how we live our lives.  Colossians 2:8 tells us to “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ”.  It is an important note for us today.  “See to it…,” Paul writes!  That tells me that it is a personal responsibility of every Christian to know what the word of God says.  This makes every activity and opportunity where we can learn very important, whether it be Bible Study, Sunday School, Worship Service, or any personal study.  This is how we keep ourselves from being misled by false teachings or logical philosophies that sound good but do not align with the word of God. 

 

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. –Matthew 11:29 (NIV)

 

Enduring life without Jesus is exhausting.  When Jesus spoke these words from Matthew 11, he was calling us to live a life of grace instead, and to learn from him…to become his disciples, like Peter.  As we strive to live an enduring life in Christ, let us accept our responsibility to know what the word of God says, to understand the Gospel truth, and remember this key message today:  “Don’t let down your guard!”


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“The Key to Contentment”

The Key to Contentment

 

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. –Philippians 4:12-13 (NIV)

 

When Paul wrote Philippians 4, he was writing the Philippian church from prison.  He was thanking them for their gifts.  He made a point to explain that while he was indeed grateful, even if they did not send him any support at all, Christ was enough.  How many of us want to agree with Paul that regardless of any circumstance, Christ is enough?    

 

Contentment—the state of happiness or satisfaction—is a somewhat elusive goal for most of us.  We do things that we expect will meet our need for contentment, then we realize that nothing on this earth will provide the infinite stream of happiness and satisfaction we desire on a daily basis.  Contentment, for us as Christians, is actually better defined as being at peace with the will of God.  It is a matter of the heart that trusts God to govern our worldly affairs, and even though we may go through trials and troubles, we are at peace with his sovereignty.  Contentment does not mean we don’t feel pain or suffering.  Our faith in God does not eliminate our human emotions.  But it should thoroughly affect how we react under circumstances and how we relate to God and others as a result all throughout every experience. 

 

In recent weeks, I have heard a number of people commenting about how well things were going financially, relationally, and otherwise, “and then the pandemic hit”.  Now, we are forced to assess this lingering situation under special circumstances.  The dictionary defines “circumstance” as a “condition, detail, part, or attribute, with respect to time, place, manner, agent, etcetera, that accompanies, determines, influences, or modifies a fact or event”.  In simpler words, a circumstance is a modifying or influencing factor.  This pandemic has definitely presented as a modifying factor!  Yet, if we look to the example set by the Apostle Paul, this pandemic would not matter.  You see, whether times were good or bad…regardless of any circumstance (or modifying or influencing factor), as long as he had Christ, he was content.  The idea of being content, regardless of any circumstance, is a worthwhile goal for every Christian.  What is the key to achieving this Paul-like contentment, though?

 

While we may want to agree with Paul that Christ is enough, the key to being content isn’t giving lip service to this matter.  Saying “Christ is enough” is not enough.  You must truly believe it to be so.  Paul believed it to be so.  His relationship with God through Jesus Christ served as the strong basis for his contentment. Here are the key factors Paul realized as he achieved this contentment we all desire:

 

Paul was grateful to God “in ALL circumstances”:  Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. —1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)

 

Paul trusted that God was working everything out for his good:  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. —Romans 8:28 (NIV)

 

Paul understood, as he wrote in 1 Timothy 6:6, that godliness with contentment is great gain, and he learned to stay focused on his purpose in God despite his suffering:  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. —2 Corinthians 12:10 (NIV)

 

Paul was committed to living for Christ. He realized how earthly cares could interfere with this and he was careful to rely on God’s help to avoid the pitfalls. He specifically addressed this in Hebrews 13:5 when he wrote, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” 

 

Paul was thoroughly convinced that any life was better with Christ than without.  He was so grateful for his life in Christ, and he trusted God to strengthen him to endure whatever circumstance he experienced.  He kept his focus on the most important thing, which was God, and he shared the Gospel with others so they might also benefit from the promises of God.  And therein lies the key to contentment!

 

When times are good and our pockets are fat, it is much easier to think and to behave appropriately as Christians.  But when times are hard and our pockets are lean, we can find ourselves exhibiting unchristian-like behavior and excusing our less than faithful attitudes.  We can express discontentment, a lack of trust in God, and outright disobedience.  Prophetess Smith has urged every one of us to consider our ways, to assess where we are in Christ, and to make preparations for the end of days.  Instead of attempting to justify ourselves in any way, we should appreciate the revelation of our true status and take whatever steps are necessary to resolve anything that hinders our commitment to Christ.  It is a very personal matter for each one of us.  Discontentment, especially during these uncertain times, must be overcome.  As we await what God will do next, let us not miss this opportunity to discover the key to contentment for ourselves.  

 

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  –Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

 


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“Encouragement for the Church”

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. –Romans 12:12 (NIV)

 

Every one of us has to deal with the daily issues that can sometimes become overwhelming.  Even the most mature Christians face difficulties in managing the issues of life without daily reminders of God’s promises.  As I was reading through the scriptures and landed on this familiar passage in Romans 12, I thought about its meaning.  In one of my bibles, this verse is in a section of Romans 12 labeled as “love in action.”  Why did God speak through the Apostle Paul about love in action and then add the words of verse 12 in the middle of these instructions?  What does being “joyful in hope, patient in affliction” and “faithful in prayer” have to do with love in action?  

 

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. –Romans 12:9-13 (NIV)

 

Let me deal for a moment with “love in action.”  In Romans 12:9-13, Paul is reminding us about one of the driving forces for our faith in God and service to the Lord.  Love is not just something you say you feel.  Love, if it is indeed sincere, should move us to act.  “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son…”  (John    3:16)  And in this instance, the reflective nature of God’s love for us should spur us to act out of love for others.  Then, regardless of how people respond to our efforts, love will continue to compel us to act.  Love and kindness and gentleness are crucial to winning others over to Christ.  This is how we can be more effective as a church and as individual Christians. 

 

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. –2 Timothy 2:24-26 (NIV)

 

Paul wrote this second letter to Timothy, as well as the book of Romans (his letters to the church there) and 11 other books in the New Testament.  As an apostle, he wrote letters to groups and individuals with the distinct purpose of telling followers of Jesus Christ what they should know and what they should do.  Paul’s writings were divinely inspired by God, and as scripture, we must consider them heavily as Christians.

 

Now, when Paul wrote to “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction” and “faithful in prayer,” he likely included these words because of his experiences.  You see, before his conversion, Saul was a staunch opponent of the Gospel, persecuting and punishing followers of Jesus.  After his experience on the road to Damascus, Paul was converted and subsequently began to experience persecution.  He spent a number of years imprisoned as a result.  Despite all of the difficulties he was experiencing, Paul remained committed to the cause of Christ.  He was absolutely certain of his redemption through Jesus.  That makes this verse an especially encouraging point for us to remember today.  God knows that daily life continues to happen even while we strive to follow Jesus and to share the Gospel with others.  God knows the difficulties we face.  God knows that we can become overwhelmed if we lose sight of Him. 

 

As Paul is telling the Roman Church some things they should know and some things they should do, his words speak to us today.  Again, in this discourse on “love in action” from Romans 12, Paul is urging us to do something more than our human selves would ordinarily choose, especially when things are tough for everybody.  Still, we are to be joyful in hope, which means to rejoice because we know that our hope is built on the promises of our reliable and trustworthy God.  No matter what the circumstances suggest, we are not to doubt God.  We are to be patient in affliction.  We must hold on and wait on God in times of trouble so that we don’t act unwisely and out of step with the Holy Spirit.  Then, we must be faithful in prayer, communicating with God regularly and often, and not just when we feel like it.  These instructions are for our benefit, to encourage us to never lose sight of our eternal status in Christ even in times like these.  Let us, then, continue to be compelled by love for God and others.  And while we are acting out of this love, let us be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.

 


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“Put God First While You Can”

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33 (NIV))

 

Around 536 B.C., there was a remnant of about 50,000 Jews who had returned from Babylon to Judah under the decree of Cyrus, King of Persia. Upon their return, they immediately rebuilt the altar and began offering sacrifices to God. Two years after that, they laid the foundation to rebuild the temple. After rejecting the Samaritans’ offer of help, the Jews were so threatened by them and the pressures all around them that it brought the work to a halt. More than a decade later, the people had gotten so caught up in the routine of life that they were no longer primarily concerned with rebuilding the temple. Even Zerubbabel, the governor, and Joshua, the high priest, had gotten comfortable. But God was not pleased.

 

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.” (Haggai 1:7 (NIV))

 

Haggai 1:1-15 tells this story. When God is not pleased with his people—those who claim to be committed believers—He will do what is needed to set things straight. This happens on an individual basis as well as collectively. In this instance, these committed believers had slid into a routine that allowed their personal priorities to put God on the back burner. They had gotten comfortable making sacrifices at an altar with an unfinished temple. And instead of outright finding fault with God, they made time an excuse. With everything going on to hinder them, who could disagree that the timing must not be right to resume their work? “Wait”, they decided. Wait until things were better and easier. Wait until their personal concerns were under control. Wait.

 

Our church has a comfortable sanctuary, so Haggai’s warning to God’s people might seem like it doesn’t apply. But the warning is more than a call to continue rebuilding the temple. It is actually a call to straighten out our priorities and put God first!

 

In these trying times, we find ourselves with easy justification for the choices we might make to tend to our personal concerns. We are in the midst of a pandemic where our man-made directions tell us to make our own choice about whether or not to do this or that. Who can blame anyone during such uncertain times? God knows our hearts…and our motives.

 

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33 (NIV))

 

The people to whom Haggai prophesied were not terrible people. They had just allowed themselves to make excuses to the point that God was not the priority. When God sent the leaders and these people the warning, they responded appropriately. They repented and did what God commanded. They resumed the work! But what if they had not?

 

There are many instances throughout the Bible where we are warned to live righteously and to put God first. Prophetess preached a sermon years ago, and one of the points to remember was around the thought “Should’ve, Could’ve, Would’ve”. In other words, “When you could have, you didn’t. Now you want to, and you can’t.” This is all about regret and remorse. It’s the outcome of the unrepentant. The rich man and Lazarus from Luke 16:19-31 comes immediately to mind. The rich man cried out from Hades begging that Lazarus be sent from heaven to warn his family to repent. Abraham’s reply in verse 31 is this: “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

 

…Even if someone rises from the dead?

 

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (NIV))

 

I urge you to be compelled by your love for God and your devotion to Christ Jesus with the help of the Holy Spirit to keep your priorities straight—even in these uncertain and difficult times. Put God first while you can!


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“A Modern Day Denial of Christ”

Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. —Matthew 26:69-74 (NIV)

 

We usually talk about Peter’s denial of Christ in and around the weeks leading up to Easter. The message, or rather the lesson, in these verses of scripture are important at any time, though. I remember thinking when I first heard this story as an adult that I wouldn’t dare be as weak and as scary as Peter. I mean, I’m a Christian! I wouldn’t dare deny Christ! I felt as certain as Peter when he said in Matthew 26:33, “Even if all fall away on account of You, I never will.” But he did.

 

I have learned in the many years since that there is so much more meaning in Peter’s denial of Christ than just a simple set of obvious circumstances. Additionally, if in the same exact situation, I’m not really certain at all how I would have responded. After all, Peter was one of Jesus’ closest followers. As one of his strongest disciples, Peter was the rock upon which Jesus built the church (Matthew 16:18)! What was it, then, that allowed Peter to deny Christ?

 

Even after Jesus warned him of his pending denial, he could not imagine it. Peter had been so certain of his loyalty to Christ!

 

Peter replied, “Even if I have to die with You, I will never deny You.” And all the other disciples said the same thing. —Matthew 26:35 (NIV)

 

The disciples were all in the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus predicted Peter’s denial. Twice Jesus had awakened the disciples. He had urged them all to stay alert, to stay on guard, and to pray. He knew his arrest was coming. He knew it was going to be difficult for them. He knew they would need to be strengthened and on guard, so he urged them to watch and pray…to get prepared. And they meant to do just as Jesus had instructed.

 

Jesus had been arrested and brought in for questioning. It was a very hate-filled and evil scene. Can you imagine? Peter had stayed outside in the courtyard where he had hoped no one would recognize him. He realized he might suffer the same trouble Jesus was experiencing if the high priests recognized him, so he hung back, outside of where they could see him. When he was recognized and called out by a servant girl, he responded immediately out of fear for his own wellbeing. He denied knowing Jesus. He denied being one of his disciples, and he sought to seal his denial by outwardly demonstrating sinful behavior. Peter was afraid, so he denied Christ with his words, behaviors, and actions. Fear, of course, was one reason for Peter’s denial of Christ.

 

Later that very night, when the going got tough and all of the other disciples had fled…when presented with the crucial opportunity to demonstrate his commitment, Peter denied Christ! As scripture points out, Peter’s spirit was willing but his flesh was weak! Peter, like many of us, was unprepared for this test of his faith. By the time the rooster crowed, Peter had realized what he had done, and he was immediately ashamed. The weakness of Peter’s sinful flesh was another reason for his denial of Christ!

 

For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. —Romans 7:19 (NIV)

 

Just like the disciples in the garden, we mean to do just as Jesus instructs in scripture. Like Peter, we cannot imagine denying Christ. It is easy to assess ourselves as faithful when the testing is easy. When not much is required outside of our routines, we can feel like we’re doing pretty good as Christians. Before the tornadoes and pandemic upset our usual and customary patterns of ministry and service, it was easier to be certain of our loyalty to Christ. We had gotten into the habit of weekly worship. We knew our ministry responsibilities. We were attending our ministry meetings. For the most part, we were fulfilling our ministry duties. Now that our routines have been upset for an extended period of time, and fear and weakness are taking hold, are we also guilty of denying Christ in some way? After we professed our faithfulness to God and our commitment to the ministry work we had at the beginning of the year, what are our words, behaviors, and actions now revealing? Are we demonstrating a modern-day denial of Christ?

 

Looking back at Peter, after his denial of Christ, the rest of the book of Matthew carries us through Peter’s shame, repentance, and subsequent restoration. Along with Christ’s resurrection, the 11 disciples are restored and commissioned to spread the good news of the Gospel! If we have denied Christ in any way during this season of uncertainty, we can repent, like Peter, and God will forgive and restore us. Then, as Romans 8:26 reminds us, God’s Holy Spirit will help us to overcome the fear and weakness of our flesh, so that we may go on to complete our ministry work.

 

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. —Philippians 1:6 (NIV)


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“The Phenomenal Gift of Fathers”

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. —James 1:17 (NIV)

Every good gift AND every perfect gift is from above… Did you catch that?

Back in Genesis 1:26-27, when God made mankind, he blessed both male and female and gave them their directives, one of which was to become fathers and mothers. By the end of the first chapter of Genesis, we learn that God looked on everything he had made and declared it was good.

 

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. —Genesis 1:31 (NIV)

After all of that, when He was finished creating everything, God rested on the seventh day. God didn’t go back and recreate anything in his creation. Everything was good, including fathers. Many of us can easily agree that godly parents are a gift from God, especially when they fulfill their roles exactly as God designed. But notice that scripture makes a distinction between perfect and good. We cannot expect anybody to be perfect, because no man is perfect. Yet, a father, even in his imperfect state, is a gift from God.
 
God designed the family from the days of creation! He was intentional in creating a deep need in children for both their mother and father. Psychologists understand that fathers are as significant as mothers in the development of healthy children from start to finish. Accordingly, an article in Psychology Today specifically stated a father’s input into the lives of their children is “a complex and unique phenomenon with huge consequences“. A phenomenon…a remarkably inexplicable occurrence that no child should do without! Yes, fathers are a phenomenal gift from God!

 

Biologically, fathers are irreplaceable. In every other way, they remain vital. Fathers love differently. Fathers guide differently. Fathers discipline differently. Fathers participate differently. Even the most inadequate father is still a gift. And when he is a godly father, the benefits to his children are great!

 

For the godly father, God promises that his grace is sufficient! God’s power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9) The godly father can rely on God every moment of the day to help him be what his children need. In light of everything going on in the world, the time is now for fathers to be the heads of their households, the covering for their wives, and the gift their children deeply need. Be encouraged, all men who are fathers and those with the blessing of fatherhood to come. Yours is truly a vital role. I thank God every time I remember the phenomenal gift of fathers! (Philippians 1:3)


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“Run the Race To Win”

“Let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

Many scriptures, like the verses found in Hebrews 12, compare our journey as Christians to running a race. I used to be a distance runner in high school. I didn’t join the track team until my senior year when my best friend challenged me to join her in trying something new. I ran the 880, 2-mile relay and mile. I recall one of my teammates joking me that I ran so slow and long that “they called the track meet on account of darkness.” (That still cracks me up today!) You see, I wasn’t very good but I never quit. This endurance running came in handy when I joined the military! I needed to be able to run the long race and not quit. I needed to be able to run no matter which way the race twisted and turned. I needed to run with confidence and certainty (1 Corinthians 9:26). No matter the path, the key is in the mindset.

 

“He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:29-31)

 

The race that is set before us may be easy at times, and we can become so accustomed to that, yet we have to be able to endure things when they become difficult and tough.

We must know that God is our strength and our power. As Philippians 4:13 reminds us, “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.” In the same vein, God strengthens us and makes us be able to handle whatever path is set before us. We must claim this truth for ourselves!

 

“God is my strength and power: and he maketh my way perfect. He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet: and setteth me upon my high places.” (2 Samuel 22:33-34)

 

Today, we are rounding the curve of a prolonged state of turmoil peppered with tornadoes, a pandemic, and ongoing civil unrest. Rounding that curve in any race is when my old track coach used to teach me to look out for that “monkey”! The first time I ran, I figured out right away what he was talking about! That burning in my throat and chest, and that stitch in my side as I struggled to get through the warmup lap, was undeniable! My coach not only warned me, but he also taught me how not to let that “monkey” jump on my back and weigh me down or make me quit. The first thing was to make up my mind not to give in to it. The second thing was to push through it so that I would improve in endurance. The third thing was to pace myself. These three things didn’t make the race itself easy, but they did make the running easier afterwhile.

 

In the home stretch of any race, runners might get a fresh burst of energy, otherwise known as a second wind. For us as Christians, we believe God gives us this second wind. Scripture promises tell us “he will renew our strength” (Isaiah 40:31). Whenever the race becomes difficult, and it will, remember how to deal with the “monkey.” Remember to throw off any weights like the writer of Hebrews said in chapter 12, pace yourself, and look to catch your second wind!

 

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24)

 

With all of this in mind, be encouraged today as you run your race, and run it to win!!!


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“In the Meantime, Live Godly Lives”

So that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. –Colossians 1:10-12 (NIV)

When I awakened this morning, I had gone to sleep with many thoughts on my mind as to what the day might bring.  I recalled seeing a movie recently where chaos suddenly broke out.  The scene was filled with one image after the next of what we might imagine happens when all of the laws of nature collide with man’s loss of self-control.  When I paused the movie, it could have been a news report in the aftermath of a tornado.  This morning, the aftermath of the riots across the nation looked eerily similar.  My children looked to me and asked, “What would you do if you were in the middle of this?”  “We ARE in the middle of this,” I exclaimed.  We are in the middle of a pandemic, political and economic instability, cultural disruptions, racial division, civil unrest, lawlessness, and so much more!  With everything going on all around us, it feels a lot like a merry-go-round ride where just as it’s about to slow down so we might get off, someone comes along and spins it anew! 

I thought of Queen Esther, and Mordecai’s rebuke in Esther 4:14:  “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance…will arise from another place.”  Then I contemplated 2 Chronicles 7:14, where the chronicler urged an entire nation to return to God to save itself.  I also considered the letters to the churches in Revelations 2-3.  I searched many applicable scriptures throughout the bible to the various issues we face in these current times trying to reconcile things in my mind!  I also thought of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s writings, as well as Prophetess Rev. V. B. Smith’s, that favor godliness and the power of love over hate and of hope over fear.  We face many issues today, and it’s not easy knowing which one takes precedence or where to focus our energies.  It’s one crisis after the next!  What in the world is going on?!  This teachable moment revealed how complex this time is for us as individuals, as community members, and as a nation.  As I looked to God for the answer, I was immediately reminded of this one thought that rises up over every one of our worldly concerns today:  Jesus Christ is coming back! 

What does God want us to do in the meantime?  Like Prophetess Smith reminds us, “It’s going to get worse before it gets better!”  We cannot just wait it out.  There are three things we must do in the meantime:

1.)  Watch for Christ’s return.  (Luke 12:37)

2.)  Be ready for Christ’s return.  (2 Peter 3:11-14)

3.)  Work until Christ’s return.  (Luke 12:43)

The truth is that God wants us to live the same way regardless of whether times are easy or hard.  God wants us to live holy and godly lives.  While this may sound too simplistic, and perhaps not decisive enough for those focused on any single one of the issues of this day, it is imperative that we keep a kingdom focus.  We must watch, be ready, and work until Christ returns!

In this chaotic moment, just like it is with a merry-go-round, we must find something secure and stabilizing so we don’t fly off the ride!  We must reach out to Jesus Christ— the one who stabilizes everything—and wait for His return.  But in the meantime…

Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. –Hebrews 9:27-28 (NIV)


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“Keep Bearing Fruit”

I am the vine, you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. –John 15:5 (NIV)

 

I was driving across town after the recent storms, and I noticed a large branch laying alongside the road.  It was large enough to stick out a bit into the roadway, and I had to change lanes to pass by it.  A couple of weeks later, I passed by that same branch.  It was no longer sticking out into the roadway.  Someone had pushed it aside.  The leaves were now brown and shriveled.  As I drove past this dying branch, I glanced up at the tree it was ripped from and saw how vibrant the tree looked, with all of the other branches still attached.  Apart from the tree, that dying branch was doing nothing.  In John 15:5, we learn from Jesus that, like the brown and shriveled branch, we, too, will shrivel up if we are apart from him.  We must be connected to God through Jesus to bear fruit. 

 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” –Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

 

Our behaviors and actions are a direct result of our inward condition and the depth of our relationship with God.  The battle between our flesh and our spirit goes on every day, and if we aren’t working to deepen our relationship with God, our flesh will have its way.  As Galatians 5:16-24 warns, we will demonstrate either the fruit that is in keeping with our sinful flesh or the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  The only way we can overcome our selfish evil desires is to abide in Jesus Christ.  Abide means to “remain”.  In John 15:4-5, Jesus urges us to abide in him…to remain in him and he in us so that we can bear fruit.  It goes further than our initial confession of faith and demands that we continuously seek a relationship with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Like the branches of a tree, our connection to God through Jesus Christ is vital to the fruit we bear.  And when the Holy Spirit is at work in us, the fruit of the Spirit, rather, the outward demonstration of the inward condition of our hearts will be “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”.

 

I was reading an obituary the other day, and towards the end where it lists the names of family members, it also indicated “and devoted friend…”.  This suggests a pretty close relationship there.  The friend likely spent time with the person, probably talking, listening, and sharing together.  This was obviously a connection that made an impact.  Developing a deep connection to God is similar in that it requires spending time with God, talking and sharing with God, and listening to God.  In practical terms, we deepen our connection through reading the Bible, praying with God, and being obedient to His Word.  How well we bear fruit depends on the depth of our connection to God through Jesus Christ.

 

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. –John 15:8 (NIV)

 

Bearing fruit means producing positive results.  Disciples are followers of Jesus Christ who win others to become followers and so on and so on!  As John 15:8 confirms, the fruit we bear as disciples of Jesus Christ should be producing positive results for God’s glory.  We should be making disciples (Matthew 28:18-20)!  That is the fruit we should be bearing! 

 

For those of us who have been quarantined at home, we have had more time than ever before to catch up on our work, our housework, and those DIY projects we used to dream about.  We’ve had more time to cook all sorts of dishes, and more time for spring cleaning and even deep cleaning.  We’ve had more time to develop relationships, including our relationship with God.  But, if you’re like many people I know, even with all of the extra time, you still have important things left undone at the end of every day.  You still have to decide every day where you’re going to focus your time, energy and attention.  For those of us interested in bearing fruit, we must understand how important it is that we have a deep relationship with God, and how important that is in governing what we do with all of our time every day.  The pandemic did not remove our calling to make disciples.  It simply forced us to work around new constraints.  

 

As the nation begins to reopen, and we look towards returning to our physical church fellowship very soon, be encouraged regarding the ministry work we still have to do.  I welcome you to get connected to God through Jesus Christ, and join with us in this work.  If you already have this connection, the challenge I give you today is to assess whether or not you’ve been bearing fruit.  Brothers and sisters in Christ, seek a deeper connection to God, keep reaching out to others, and keep bearing fruit!


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“We Need Your Opinion”

As the church leadership is planning for the reopening of the church,  we would like your current feelings about returning to regular church activities when the local government lifts its ban on public gatherings.

Please click the link below. The survey consists of 10 questions that will take no more than 2 minutes to complete. Thank you. Your opinion is essential. 

 

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/KBZYGS9


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“Hold On A Little While Longer”

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair.

–2 Corinthians 4:8 (NIV)

 

Paul challenged the Corinthian believers to consider the greatness of their calling as disciples of Jesus Christ.  In these early days of Christianity, the disciples faced many difficulties.  Paul encouraged them to not lose heart.  We are surely hard-pressed and perplexed these days!  Not many people would argue against this ancient description of our present circumstances.  Every day, news of the numbers affected by the coronavirus highlights our primary concerns around a highly contagious disease.  Out of the more than 7.7 billion people in the world, there are over 4.5 million confirmed cases with a 36% recovery rate.  Out of the more than 4.5 million cases, over 93% are still residing on this side of heaven.  Praise God!  Yet, virtually every single one of us is dealing in varying ways with the prolonged threat to our mental/emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.  When we factor in all of the other headline news plus the other issues and concerns affecting our daily lives, Paul’s declaration still makes sense to us today as we strive to heed the call in Matthew 4:19 to follow Jesus.  We must not lose heart!

 

A young man who is a member of our church asked me just the other day, “When do

you think we’ll get to go back to church?  I miss church.”  With weekly church services and activities providing many people of all ages one of their key opportunities for regular connection and community, it is easy to see how desperate we might begin to feel by this time.  “Hold on,” I told him, “just a little longer.  Eventually, we will get back together, but not yet.”  As this young man went on to explain his anxiety over the interruption to his plans, his boredom, and an entire myriad of personal concerns, it was apparent that he couldn’t easily see past these current circumstances to muster up much hope for the future.  Worrying wasn’t doing him any good.  As Matthew 6:30-34 will confirm, “tomorrow will take care of itself.”  Still, like most of us today, he needed a bit of encouragement—a reminder to hold on just a little while longer.

 

“Hold On Just A Little While Longer” is an old negro spiritual where people entrenched in slavery were encouraging themselves and one another to look forward to a time when their unbearable situation would change.  As history confirms, “a little while longer” took hundreds of years.  It’s a present-day reminder that your perspective…your mindset…how you look at the whole matter makes a tremendous difference on how you come out on the other side of it.  It is an encouragement to take this thing one day at a time. 

 

 “Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap; for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth. –Luke 21:34-35 (NIV)

 

There is a trap Satan would like us to fall into during this time.  As the weeks go by, Satan would like us to lose all sight of our calling as disciples of Jesus Christ and become consumed by the worries of this world.  Be on guard, friends, and rely on our faithful God to help you cope with our present situation.  There are so many questions and so many uncertainties, and we just don’t have the answers.  But, glory to God, we as believers can rest in the knowledge that we know the one who does!  The Word of God is here to remind us that not only should we hold on through these uncertain and unsettling times, but, also, that we have a certain and a settling God to hold onto.  So, you see, we can, and we must hold on!  Hold on to our hope!  Hold on to our faith!  Hold on to God’s unchanging hand!  Jesus is coming back soon!  Be encouraged today!  Hold on just a little while longer!

 

I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. –Revelations 3:11 (NIV)

 


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“A Mother’s Love is a Reflection of God”

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. -2 Corinthians 3:18 (NIV)

References to the attributes of God, particularly those that relate to the roles we understand as mother and father, are all throughout the scriptures.  Interestingly, we must understand that God is neither male nor female.  God is a spirit.  This is an important distinction, because we must also understand that it is we who are made in the image of God and not the other way around. (Genesis 1:27)  That being said, every good thing about humankind is in some way a reflection of our good God.  By design, then, a mother’s love is a reflection of God.

We love because he first loved us. –1 John 4:19 (NIV)

As the coronavirus pandemic overshadows yet another special day of observance, we continue to take stock of what is most important.  Today is Mother’s Day in America, a day when we honor our mothers and thank God for them.  Whether we are with our mothers or separated by social distancing, we can meditate on the goodness of God reflected through our mothers. The ideal experience of a mother’s love was to be our first earthly exposure to the essence of God’s love for us.  God’s love provides security, especially during times like these.  It is no coincidence that whenever we are feeling a need for nurturing and comfort, we often seek out our mothers.  Even God himself describes that aspect of his personality in these terms:

As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you… –Isaiah 66:13

God designed mothers to be a special earthly representation of his lovingkindness.  In his great love for us, God provided a way for us, as his image-bearers, to be born AND a way for us to be reborn!  No matter how the sins of this world serve to damage the image of God on every one of us as his children, God still finds us worth redeeming.  For every mother and for every child—especially those struggling with profound brokenness—there is a renewal awaiting you. (Colossians 3:10)  This is for every father, too!  God, our creator, says you are still his image-bearer.  God’s saving grace is available to you today.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. –Ephesians 2:4-5 (NIV)

 

On this Mother’s Day, we honor our mothers and give thanks and praise to God for the earthly reminder of his wonderful love.  We also thank God for his saving grace.  May you be profoundly aware of this truth today and be blessed!  Happy Mother’s Day!


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“Remembering Jesus Until He Comes”

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. –1 Corinthians 11:23-26(NIV)

On yet another Sunday, the coronavirus pandemic has kept us from meeting together.  It is the first Sunday of the month, and we usually observe communion—the eating and drinking of the symbolic bread and wine that represent the body and blood of Jesus Christ.  Although we cannot do communion together at this time, we can still reflect on the significance of the Lord’s Supper and remember Jesus Christ. 

Each of the four Gospels contains an account of the Lord’s Last Supper.  Up until that time, the Passover Meal was held annually in remembrance of what God had done for the Jews in Exodus 12. But as Jesus sat with his 12 disciples, he was establishing a new covenant—one that would be for all believers.

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. –Luke 22:19-20 (NIV)

When we remember Jesus Christ through communion, we remember the gift of salvation.  God sent his Son to be the sacrifice for us so that we could be saved from death and instead inherit the gift of eternal life.  When we remember Jesus Christ, we must take it personally that he died for our individual sins.  I am the benefactor of God’s grace and mercy and so many blessings every day that I cannot help but remember!  What Jesus Christ did for me deserves my remembrance, my gratitude, and my obedience.  What about you?

Having recently celebrated Resurrection Sunday, Jesus’ crucifixion is still rather fresh in our minds.  As time goes on, that imagery can fade and soften, and we can begin to take the gift of salvation for granted.  But Romans 6 and Hebrews 10 urges us not to do that, but rather to lives in obedience to Christ.  When we remember someone, we establish their significance in our lives.  We take the time to celebrate special days of observance, like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, because these people are important to us.  We remember them on birthdays and even in memoriam.  We think about how these people impacted our lives in very personal ways—the lessons they taught us and the values they shared.  Likewise, when we remember Jesus Christ, we must also remember everything he commanded us to do.  The Bible is full of reminders for us on how Jesus Christ expects us to live as Christians.  This is one reason why remembering Jesus Christ is important to us as Christians.  We must establish Jesus Christ’s significance in our lives on a regular basis so that we remain ready for his return.

Today, I encourage you to remember Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:8).  Remember the significance of his sacrifice.  Take it personally, but not for granted.  Remember his lessons throughout the scriptures, and get ready for his return.  Remember Jesus Christ until he comes!  Get ready, because he is surely coming back!

So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. —Matthew 24:44 (NIV)

 


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“Be Still”

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” –Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

 

Perhaps it was rather easy at first to pace ourselves through this season when we had no idea it would go on for this long in this way!  With the pandemic sweeping across the nation, life as we had comfortably come to know it has been interrupted in most every way.  Many of us have been forced to slow down while all of the frontline workers have been called to keep pace with the demands.  It is indeed a time of trouble.  Like wandering in the wilderness, the longer this season goes on, the more difficult it becomes for people to remain patient and faithful.  Yet God’s Word contains many reminders for us to do just that.  I recalled today the many times throughout scripture where God’s divinely calming directive was spoken:  “Be still…”

Wherever you find these words, “Be still”, in the scriptures, God is essentially reaching down from heaven to remind us of his sovereignty, his glory, and his power. 

 

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. –Mark 4:39-41 (NIV)

 

Jesus demonstrated his power when he calmed the storms right before the terrified disciples’ eyes!  It is interesting to note that as the disciples sought Jesus’ help, it was their lack of faith that had them wake Jesus terrified that they were going to perish.  This scripture is not only a reminder of us God’s power and glory, but it also challenges us to be mindful of our lack of faith during trying times.

 

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. –Psalm 37:7a (NIV)

 

It is believed that King David wrote Psalm 37 in his old age as an encouragement to discouraged believers during trying times.  He wrote “be still” in response to the problem and presence of evil to remind us that any ground gained by evildoers is temporary.  It is an encouraging reminder that trouble does not last.  We must be patient and wait.  And in our waiting, we must keep the faith.

 

There are many assurances throughout the scriptures of God’s precious promises for us as believers.  Zechariah, a Hebrew prophet, wrote in this second chapter about God’s promise to punish the enemies of God while blessing his people.  As the 11th verse confirms, this includes all of us joined to God’s kingdom through faith in Jesus Christ!  This promise tells us that God will dwell among us in a powerful way.  What a reason to rejoice!  This was his third vision.  By this 13th verse, however, Zechariah writes “be still”. 

 

“Be still before the Lord, all mankind, because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.” –Zechariah 2:13

 

This directive suggests that we will be filled with surprising awe and reverential fear at what God does in that day!  Right now, these scriptures should remind us of our security as believers.  So, stop worrying.  No matter what things may look like, you must trust God.  Stop letting the world news distract you, and listen instead to the Lord.  Keep your faith in God as you wait patiently for this pandemic to end.  As Psalm 46: 1-2 says “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…”! 

 

Be still and know that God will defend His Name, His Word, and His people!  Hallelujah!


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“Persevering Through COVID-19”

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. –James 1:2-4 (NIV)

 
Enduring through any uncomfortable and unpleasant situation is not something most people welcome.  We tend to look for shortcuts, a faster way around the issue, a quicker cure, and an easier solution to whatever issue we face—something…anything more comfortable.  There are numerous instances, though, when there is no shortcut or easier solution, and we just have to go through it.  It is in these times, especially, that God calls us to persevere!

 

Perseverance is that determination to persist no matter the difficulty.  It is steadfast.  It doesn’t give up.  It fulfills its purpose.  Regardless of the challenges, perseverance gives us an opportunity to strengthen our faith.  Whenever our faith is tested…whenever we suffer through something, you see, it produces perseverance (James 1:2-4).  That perseverance must then finish its work.  That work, my brothers and sisters, is the development our godly character!  

 

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. – Romans 5:3-5 (NIV)

 

I was giving in to the idea that I’ve heard so many others say:  “I am so ready for this pandemic to be over!”  I found myself wishing for the shortcut and the quicker solution.  People are still getting sick.  People are still dying.  The pandemic is still going on.  The more I thought about this entire ordeal, the more anxious I began to feel.  Dwelling on the pandemic and my own personal circumstances threatened to overtake me and take my focus off of the things of God.  It is a scriptural truth that if we intend to endure any circumstance, we must keep our eyes on Jesus (Matthew 12:28-31).  1 Chronicles 16:11 urges us to “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.”  In so doing, we must know that God has a manifold purpose for our current circumstances, one of which is to let perseverance finish its work. 

 

God knows this has been an undoubtedly difficult time for many.  He knows it may even seem overwhelming.  The headlines paint a pretty consistent picture.  There is a lot we still do not know or understand about the Coronavirus.  As we sit in the midst affected in a variety of ways, with our lives impacted and our routines interrupted, we don’t know how long this pandemic will continue.  The pandemic has been happening on top of all of our ongoing personal matters—the good ones and the bad.  Whether we are fearful and faithless or faith-filled and fearless, our character is showing.  How are you enduring this pandemic? 

 

It is our choice whether or not we LET perseverance finish its work.  The process is laid out in Romans 5:3-5 through which we can develop the godly character needed to get through COVID-19 and all of the trying times we may face in life.  Faith is a prerequisite to pleasing God (Hebrews 11:6), and it is the testing of our faith that produces the perseverance required.  There is no shortcut or quicker way to develop it.  Perseverance produces the godly character we need to endure these trying times in a way that brings glory to God.  Godly character then produces hope, praise God—a confident expectation in the good our loving God has promised all who believe!  We may not understand exactly why this pandemic is happening, and we certainly don’t know how long it will continue.  Still, God wants us to persevere through COVID-19!  


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“What More Do You Need To Believe?”

If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” –Romans 10:9

Easter without gathering for church?  No Easter speeches?  No Easter parade?  No Easter Sunday’s best attire?  No, because our traditions are not important to God.  God is more concerned that we believe in His Son, Jesus Christ, and that we spread the Good News of salvation!  The ongoing situation around the pandemic has Christians all over this nation, observing this significant season in different yet meaningful ways. 

As our family sat together and watched the Passion of Christ movie on Good Friday, at one point, it felt like a horror movie.  The scenes were definitely horrific!  Our family doesn’t watch horror movies.  Those dark stories sometimes end with evil, somehow winning over good, and we just don’t agree with that.  But we watched, and we took in the full awfulness of this dramatic reenactment of Jesus’ crucifixion from the scriptures.  And as we watched, the scenes took hours to go through what we typically read through in minutes.  We were forced to slow down and dwell on what happened over the days and hours between Maundy Thursday through Good Friday to Resurrection Sunday!  I recall from both the movie and the scriptures how those all around Jesus urged him to save himself. 

“He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.  He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”  In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him. –Matthew 27:42-44 (NIV)

He had already demonstrated his power and authority as the Son of God!  For at least three years before, he had been healing the sick, raising the dead, calming the storm, and preaching the good news that was to come.  Many had testified about his miraculous power, yet the people all around Jesus still needed him to demonstrate that he was who he said he was in order for them to believe in him!  Did they really need just one more demonstration to believe?  Do you?

Had Jesus come down off of that cross to save himself, what would we be believing in today?  You see, Jesus knew the prophecy had to be fulfilled in the way that it was written.  He knew that demonstrating his power and authority by saving himself would abort his mission.  He stayed on that cross, glory to God, to save not himself, but to save you and me!  As the movie continued, Jesus’ suffering seemed to go on and on, then finally it was over.  The last scene of the movie showed Jesus Christ emerging from the borrowed tomb—fully resurrected!  Praise God!  Good won over evil! 

He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. –Matthew 28:6 (NIV)

Jesus’ death and resurrection gives us hope today, despite the current state of this world.  God is still in control, just as He was when he sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins.  The scriptures tell us Christ lives!  What more do you need to believe?

“In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” –1 Peter 1:3

 

Copyright ©2020 New Cedar Grove Baptist Church. All rights Reserved.


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Resurrection Sunday – “Praying Through The Holy Week”

Excerpt from Crosswalk.com’s “Praying through the Holy Week” guide.

 

We hope that your faith and hope has grown this week, Praise God, its Resurrection Sunday.

 

Lord God,

You loved this world so much that you gave your one and only son that we might be called your children too. Lord, help us to live in the gladness and grace of Easter Sunday every day. Let us have hearts of thankfulness for your sacrifice. Let us have eyes that look upon your grace and rejoice in our salvation. Help us to walk in that mighty grace and tell your good news to the world. All for your glory do we pray, Lord,

Amen.

BIBLE VERSES FOR REFLECTION

Matthew 28 Revelation 5:11–14 Psalm 118:1–2 Psalm 118:14–24


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Holy Saturday – “Praying Through The Holy Week”

Excerpt from Crosswalk.com’s “Praying through the Holy Week” guide.

 

Grow your faith and hope as you pray each day leading up to Resurrection Sunday.

 

Lord God,

On the Sabbath, Jesus rested. He was in the grave. He had finished his work. To most people’s eyes, it looked as if it were all over. He was dead and buried. But only as a seed dies when it is planted in the earth. Not to decay, but to spring to new life. Teach us to take refuge in you when we are afraid. Teach us that death is not our end. Teach us to hope always in you and in the resurrection, the making of all things new. Through Jesus Christ our Lord,

Amen.

BIBLE VERSES FOR REFLECTION

Matthew 17:1–6 Lamentations 3:1–9 Lamentations 3:19–24


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Good Friday – “Praying Through The Holy Week”

Excerpt from Crosswalk.com’s “Praying through the Holy Week” guide.

 

Grow your faith and hope as you pray each day leading up to Resurrection Sunday.

 

Lord God,

Jesus cried out to you on the cross, “Why have you forsaken me?” You seemed so far from his cry and from his distress. Those who stood at the foot of the cross wondered where you were as they saw Jesus mocked and shamed and killed. Where were you then? Lord God, we, too, ask where you are when there is trouble and suffering and death and we cry out to you for help. Be near to us and save us so that we may praise you for your deliverance. Lord God, we wait on Friday for the resurrection of Sunday. Sometimes our lives seem a succession of Fridays and we cannot see what is “Good”. Teach us to call your name as Jesus did. Make us to trust in you like little children. In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

BIBLE VERSES FOR REFLECTION

John 18–19 Isaiah 52:13–15 Isaiah 53 Hebrews 10:16–25 Psalm 22


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I Thank God I Don’t Look Like What He Went Through!

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” –1 Peter 2:24 (NIV)

 

Before his last week on earth, Jesus ministered powerfully for at least three years.  Mark 5 contains the story of the demon-possessed man who, by verse 15, sat near Jesus looking nothing like he did when he was roaming the tombs, cutting himself, and out of his mind.  Because of Jesus’ healing power, this man didn’t look like what he had been through!  During Jesus’ earthly ministry, he healed and cured people.  He drove out demons and resurrected the dead.  He exercised control over nature.  He taught the truth, and he preached the gospel.  He did every one of these things on purpose with his mission on his mind.  Everywhere he went, lives were changed!

 

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” –Luke 4:18 (NIV)

 

As important as every single miracle is to the ministry of Jesus Christ, the most important purpose for his time on earth was to complete his God-given mission—to redeem all of mankind (Galatians 4:4-5)!   On Good Friday, nearing the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, we remember the passion of Christ—the time before his crucifixion, his suffering on the cross, and his death.  The four Gospels give separate accounts of this time that each of us should read:  Matthew 26:36–27:56Mark 14:32–15:41Luke 22:39–23:49; and John 18:1–19:37.  Oh, what he went through to redeem mankind! 

 

As we read about the what, the when, the where, the how, and the why of Christ’s passion from over 2000 years ago, we reflect on the significance of Good Friday.  We don’t celebrate Christ’s suffering or take lightly what he went through to fulfill the law.  We remember it.  Jesus carried that cross bar up Golgotha’s Hill.  He was nailed through the flesh and between the bones of his wrists and his feet with three thick long iron stakes.  He was hanged in excruciating pain and agony until his death on the cross.  Oh, what awful price he paid for our sins!  I thank God I don’t look like what He went through!

 

They spit on him.  They mocked him.  They struck him on the head.  They stripped him of his clothes.   He was denigrated and humiliated.  He was beaten and bruised.  He was treated like a criminal and a slave.  All of this was before he was even crucified!  THEN they crucified him!  After hanging there in increasing agony, with the weight of his body pulling against those three iron stakes, and the pressure on his diaphragm making it difficult to breathe, Jesus was given sour wine, pierced in his side, and left bleeding and hanging to die a death he did not deserve.  I thank God I don’t look like what He went through!

 

I am being intentionally redundant here, because it is important that we do not gloss over what Jesus experienced on Good Friday.  As the innocent Jesus died a substitutionary death, he bore the sins of the world and suffered through a method of torturous execution usually reserved for the worst criminals.  The manner and method was necessary.  Only Jesus could have satisfied God’s demand.  Nobody else could have fulfilled the law but Jesus!  Only Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6)! 

 

On this Good Friday, I thank God I don’t look like what He went through!  I also thank God that He went through it!  Without a Good Friday, Easter would not have its same meaning.  Without a Good Friday, there would be no Resurrection Sunday.  Without a Good Friday, we would surely be lacking in love, in hope, and in peace.  We would not have been saved! 

 

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace. –Ephesians 1:7 (NIV)

 

As we reflect on the life-changing event that happened on Good Friday, we must take it personally that Christ died on the cross for each one of us.  Let’s remember the cross, and thank God for Good Friday.  Because of Christ’s completed work on the cross, we are redeemed!  Thank God!
 
Copyright ©2020 New Cedar Grove Baptist Church. All rights Reserved.

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Thursday – “Praying Through The Holy Week”

Excerpt from Crosswalk.com’s “Praying through the Holy Week” guide.

 

Grow your faith and hope as you pray each day leading up to Resurrection Sunday.

 

Lord God,

You sent your son into the world and before his hour had come he washed his disciples’ feet. You had given all things into his hands. He had come from you and was going to you, and what did he do? He knelt down on the floor and washed his friends’ feet. He was their teacher and their Lord, yet he washed their feet. Lord God, help us learn from his example. Help us to do as he has done for us. The world will know we are his disciples if we love one another. Strengthen our hands and our wills for love and for service. Keep before our eyes the image of your son, who, being God, became a servant for our sake. All glory be to him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Amen

BIBLE VERSES FOR REFLECTION

John 13:1–17 John 13:34–35


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Wednesday – “Praying Through The Holy Week”

Excerpt from Crosswalk.com’s “Praying through the Holy Week” guide.

 

Grow your faith and hope as you pray each day leading up to Resurrection Sunday.

 

Lord God,

We tremble to think that it was one of Jesus’ own friends who betrayed him. One who sat by him, who broke bread with him. Give us strength, we pray, to walk faithfully with Jesus, even when the road we walk is rocky, even when the message of the cross seems like foolishness, and even when we feel betrayed. You, Lord, are always faithful. We stumble. We become lost. But you are steady and sure. Give us the grace to endure our troubles, and reveal to us the glory of your kingdom. Through your son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

BIBLE VERSES FOR REFLECTION

Matthew 26:27-56 1 Corinthians 1:18


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“COVID-19” Update from Prophetess Smith (April 8th)

Greetings,

Like my initial “COVID-19 Response,”, I am still primarily focused on communicating hope and encouragement along with specific guidance on how our church will operate under the circumstances.  As time has progressed and the Coronavirus pandemic has continued to prevent our usual activities, we are using all of the tools and resources available to us to stay connected as a church family and engaged with the Word of God.  In addition to the bond we have through the Holy Spirit, we are fortunate to have many technological resources that help make this happen.  I have been able to get a word to each of you despite not being able to gather together in person.  With all of the information about the pandemic being broadcast over the airwaves already, I will not repeat that here, but instead offer the following points:

 

#1:  Let’s not lose our focus!  It is Holy Week, and as Easter quickly approaches, we cannot let the significance of this week get lost amidst the continuous flow of serious news around this pandemic.  While the loss of our routines has caused many of us to lose track of days and time, we must remember to keep our focus on the main thing, and that is Jesus Christ and salvation.  We are still the body of Christ, called to worship God, to spread the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, and to make disciples.  Let’s remember this and not lose our focus.

 

#2:  Follow the directives set forth by the government as much as it does not contradict the laws of God.  The current directive now requires we stay home, avoid all non-essential travel, practice social distance, and wear masks when out in public.  This is all designed to keep us from serving as vectors and to slow down the spread of the virus.  In loving our neighbor as ourselves, we are serving their greater good by following the directives and not gathering as a congregation.  With this in mind, all services and group activities continue to be postponed until further notice.

 

#3:  Contact one of your deacons.   The Family Ministry Plan is still in effect, and it is even more crucial in these current times.  When everyone is impacted by this pandemic, we realize that many of you are facing more potentially overwhelming difficulties than before.  The deacons are called to serve and have committed to doing as much.  If you need prayer or assistance, the Family Ministry Plan is in effect.  Please reach out to your assigned deacons or minister. Click here for your assigned family ministry team. 

 

#4:  Update your contact information.  One of the ongoing issues we contend with regarding church membership is maintaining accurate and up-to-date information on our members.  It is important that you provide your current contact information so we can stay connected with you and your family.  This allows us to keep you informed of church activities and resources.  It also helps us to reach out to you when we haven’t seen you at church for a while.  This pandemic is one such time where we want to stay in touch with all of our members.  If your information has changed in recent months, or if you are not sure we have your current contact information, please submit it to us today.  You may do so through our website by clicking here

 

#5:  Know that we are praying for you.  Your church leadership, including the entire Council of Ministries, is praying for you.  The Watchmen on the Wall ministry members are praying for you.  I am praying for you. If you have a prayer request, please feel free to submit it on our prayer wall. Click here to go to our prayer wall.   

 

In light of the state requirements and our desire to act out of wisdom and love, we have established the following schedule that you may adopt in your own homes and with your families for the remainder of this week leading up to Easter.  I hope you will participate:
 

 

Please continue to visit newcedargrovebaptistchurch.org for resources to encourage you to remain connected to God, His Word, and your New Cedar Grove family. Follow us on social media – Facebook & Instagram. Download the church app to get the quickest updates and information. 
 

As 1 Corinthians 12:13, 27 reminds us, we are each connected to one another by the Holy Spirit regardless of physical distance and time.  Until we can gather again in person, may the love of God, the grace of Jesus Christ, and the sweet communion of the Holy Spirit rest, rule, and abide with us all now and forever. Amen.

 

Love,

Prophetess Smith


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Tuesday – “Praying Through The Holy Week”

Excerpt from Crosswalk.com’s “Praying through the Holy Week” guide.

 

Grow your faith and hope as you pray each day leading up to Resurrection Sunday.

 

Lord God,

The message of the cross is difficult to take. How can death give way to life? How can weakness be a strength? Yet your word says that Jesus, being God, took on human flesh and suffered the worst kind of death. How can this be? This message is indeed difficult to take. But your foolishness is wiser than our wisdom. Your weakness is greater than our strength. Help us to know that none of us can boast before you. It is only in Christ Jesus that we can boast. In his name, we ask you to help our unbelief, that we may love you, and walk in the way Jesus taught us.

Amen.

BIBLE VERSES FOR REFLECTION

Matthew 26:36–46 Hebrews 5:7–9


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Monday – “Praying Through The Holy Week”

Excerpt from Crosswalk.com’s “Praying through the Holy Week” guide.
 
Grow your faith and hope as you pray each day leading up to Resurrection Sunday.
 
Lord God,
 
Six days before his death, your son sat with Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead, and ate dinner with his friends. Once again, your gospel tells us, Martha served and Mary knelt at Jesus’ feet to anoint them with costly perfume. The disciple who was about to betray him said that it was a waste. He didn’t care about the poor, really—he just wanted to fill his own pockets and make Mary feel ashamed. Lord God, often we cannot discern what is best: When to pour out costly perfume for your sake, even if the world thinks it a waste. When to be busy serving, or when to rest at your son’s feet and learn. Give us ears to hear you and
eyes to see. For the sake of your son, Jesus Christ.

Amen.

BIBLE VERSES FOR REFLECTION
Matthew 21:10–17 John 12:1–8

 
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“Praise God! We Are Saved!”

The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” –Matthew 21:9 (NIV)

This time last year, many churches were handing out palm fronds for their Palm Sunday service.  The idea that this season would be spent in various stages of quarantine throughout the nation was the farthest thing from our minds.  Despite wishful thinking that we might be back to our somewhat normal routines by Easter, we are not.  We are entering Holy Week, and we are as entrenched in our homes as ever—maybe even more so since the pandemic statistics continue to rise. Nevertheless, we celebrate on this Palm Sunday.  But why?  How?

 

That day, scripture tells us, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, and as he entered the city, a multitude of people waved palm leaves and tree branches and shouted praises at him.  The donkey, the palm leaves, the shouts of praise…these all had deeper meanings that connected the scriptural prophecies from the Old Testament to the divine promises in the New.  The crowd of people who shouted “Hosanna!” were declaring “Praise God, we are saved!”  They recognized Jesus as messiah as he made his triumphal entry into the city that day.  Our faithful God had kept his promise!  Today, when we as Christians celebrate Palm Sunday, we are still praising and worshipping God for his faithfulness.  For in the week ahead, we shift our focus to the suffering of Jesus on the cross through which he became Christ our Savior.  This is WHY we celebrate Palm Sunday….even in the middle of a pandemic…especially in the middle of a pandemic!

 

How, though, can we worship and celebrate in the middle of this pandemic when we can’t gather for our customary activities?  While the pandemic upsets and threatens our health, our way of life, our livelihood, and even our happiness, it should not affect our joy.  The welcome arrival of Jesus that we celebrate on Palm Sunday reaches back to a Jewish festival called the Feast of Tabernacles, where all of Israel was to “rejoice before the Lord…for generations to come” (Leviticus 23:40-41).  Israel acknowledged God’s provision during this feast, as well as his faithfulness for delivering them out of Egypt.  Despite any trials or troubles ahead, this feast was a time of rejoicing.  Thus, this is HOW we should celebrate Palm Sunday!  We must REJOICE!

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

Rejoice always?  Yes!  God is aware that we are all facing this pandemic in various ways.  He is not looking for us to pretend that we are happy in the middle of so much devastating uncertainty.  God is expecting us to live like we understand who He is to us as believers.  If we are in right relationship with Him, we know the most high God to be our strength, our comforter, our provider, our protector, our healer, and our peace through these trying circumstances.

 

No matter how close to home this Coronavirus hits, we must rejoice on this Palm Sunday!  Regardless of our circumstances, we must rejoice because God is faithful!  Whether you wave a branch from a tree outside your home, a scarf or a towel from inside, the God-given palms on the underside of your own hands, and even if you are unable to wave anything at all, let your worship and celebration on Palm Sunday stem from a heartfelt shout of “Hosanna!”  Because, no matter when or how this pandemic ends, every believer can rest in this promise:  “Praise God!  We are saved!”

 

Copyright ©2020 New Cedar Grove Baptist Church. All rights Reserved.


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” Jesus Christ – The Solid Rock”

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. —Matthew 7:24-25 (NIV)

 

In the Parable of the Wise and the Foolish Builders, Jesus teaches us that we can endure the trials of life if we build on the rock.  In Matthew 7, we find the rest of the lesson:  The foolish builder who builds his house on sand will see it all fall away when the storm comes.

 

When surveying the damage from the recent tornadoes, just like so many times before, the haphazard nature of the storm’s path is puzzling.  Why this building and not that one?  Why this home gone but this one left standing?  One of the survivors who had his home all around him blown away, recounted how his family clung together in their tub, hoping and praying to God, and then he was sucked away.  He lived to share in their account of what happened, and both he and his wife have no explanation other than “but God”.  We know that some perished, and we cannot explain it.  The full answer to why it happened the way it did remains in the domain of our sovereign God. 

 

Then the Coronavirus Pandemic arrived.  Why this person infected and not that one?  Why this person gone but this one recovered?  Enduring a trial or hardship, by design, is not easy.  One trial after the other is a lot to bear.  It becomes increasingly difficult when they overlap.  We have more questions:  Why this pandemic now?  How do we survive it?  When will it end?  What do we do?  As the death toll continues to rise, we have no good choice but to trust in God.  Prophetess Smith preached a message about the name of Jesus as the answer to every question and every problem we face!  In preaching about the name of Jesus, she reminded us of the power, the peace, and the hope we have in the person of Jesus Christ. 

 

Every earthly thing we rely on is being exposed for its vulnerabilities.  Houses fall.  Jobs go away.  Money gets scarce.  Health becomes shaky.  We are in a crisis.  Like the family who survived the tornado, we must find a safe and sure place to hold on through this storm.  The heroes of faith throughout scripture show us the benefits of building our lives on a firm foundation in Jesus Christ—one that will endure through any storm.  Job lost everything, but he held on to his faith and God restored everything he lost and more. (Job 42:12, James 5:11)  The Prophet Jeremiah maintained his hope in the face of a hopeless struggle.  He knew God would deliver him! (Jeremiah 29:11)  King David endured great trials.  He had to run for his life, but he still gave God glory! 

 

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.  Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.  My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him… –Psalm 62:5-8 (NIV)

 

Generation after generation has lived with this message of hope centered on the idea of Jesus Christ as the rock.  Way back in 1834, Pastor Edward Smote wrote a well-known hymn declaring “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”  In this hymn, “The Solid Rock”, he goes on to declare:

 

On Christ the solid rock I stand

All other ground is sinking sand

All other ground is sinking sand

 

We are going to have pain, grief, struggles, and trials in life.  What matters in times like these is whether you have been a wise or a foolish builder…whether your hope is built on the things of this world or on the solid rock, Jesus Christ.  For me, “On Christ, the Solid Rock I stand!”
 

Copyright ©2020 New Cedar Grove Baptist Church. All rights Reserved.


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“God’s Shelter, Rest, and Refuge”

Directives to stay home and “shelter in place” are making their way across the country during the Coronavirus pandemic.  A shelter is meant to provide protection from danger or harm.  No matter what is threatening, we hope the shelter we choose will provide us protection.  Many years ago, Psalm 91 became my favorite reminder of the kind of shelter you can only find in God.  I was deployed to the Persian Gulf.  I was physically fit, well-trained, and suited up in protective gear, but I knew better than to face a threat of any kind without the protection God provides!  

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.   I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” –Psalm 91:1-2 (NIV)

These first two verses of Psalm 91 remind me that I can find “rest in the shadow of the Almighty”, praise God!  And while I am resting, God is taking care of everything all around me!  My faithful God is saving me from any danger that threatens me as a believer and from any deadly disease or plague.  I won’t fall into any trap, and I won’t succumb to any pandemic, as long as I am in the shelter of the Most High God.  That’s what Psalm 91 is telling me today.  God is my refuge and my fortress!  No matter how many deaths I read about happening in China or in Italy or even in the United States, Psalm 91 says “it will not come near you.”  I pray for those who are suffering through this disease.  I pray for those who are serving on the frontlines.  I pray for mercy and grace, and I praise God for his shelter, rest, and refuge.  You ought to do the same.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways… –Psalm 91:9-11 (NIV)

 
Declare that the Lord is your refuge!  Seek the Lord God and pray.  I know God will answer.  Trust that no harm will overtake you, because God has commanded his angels concerning you.  Oh, glory to God!  We are able to lean on the promises of God throughout scripture, because God has never failed to keep every one of his precious promises!  

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” –Psalm 91:14-16 (NIV)

In John 14:15, Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commands.”  I love the Lord, and Psalm 91 tells me the Lord my God will rescue me and protect me in the midst of these very trying times.  You must believe God will do the same for you!  Psalm 91 is a reminder of the kind of rest, shelter, and refuge only God will provide, but we must trust Him.  While these uncertain times can test your faith in a variety of ways, let me encourage you to remain faithful—seek God’s face, pray, repent as needed, and trust that God will keep his Word.
 

Copyright ©2020 New Cedar Grove Baptist Church. All rights Reserved.


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“COVID-19 Update”

We have been monitoring the situation around the Coronavirus (COVID-19) for the past few weeks.  Up until this point, our church has continued to operate as usual, with a few reasonable adjustments.  After much prayer and considering the global recommendations, we have made the decision to suspend all church services and activities through March 22, 2020.  We have done so with our most vulnerable church and community members in mind.

 

We will continue to monitor the situation and make a determination on all of our services and activities on a weekly basis, so be sure to stay connected and informed.  As this situation progresses and conditions continue to change,

–  We will post information and calendar updates on our website and on social media.

–  We will push notifications about any updates out to those who have downloaded the church app.

–  We will continue to provide an opportunity for study, prayer, and worship through tools and resources on our website; stay tuned for more information about ‘Sermon-On-Demand’.

–  We will continue to utilize the Family Ministry plan for the benefit of the congregation.

–  We will remain available to assist, where possible, those in our community impacted by recent events. 

 

As a loving fellowship of believers concerned with our whole community, we recognize that we have an opportunity and a responsibility to respond during this crisis in a way that demonstrates the love of Jesus Christ accompanied by a confident faith in God.  We will not be overcome by fear and we will not lose heart.  This Coronavirus pandemic is disrupting routines and threatening lives in ways we have never experienced before.  If ever there was a time for the church to serve as an encouraging beacon of light, it is now.  We will be praying for the world, those serving on the front lines of this crisis, government and health authorities, and all those directly affected by this virus.  Please return regularly to this website for more information and updates. 

 

With sincere love,

Prophetess Rev. Venerria B. Smith
 

Copyright ©2020 New Cedar Grove Baptist Church. All rights Reserved.


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“Keep Your Eye on God”

My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare. –Psalm 25:15 (NIV)

In a Zora Neale Hurston novel, two characters took shelter from a storm and waited for it to end.  In their waiting, Hurston writes, “They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God.”  In the midst of a storm is when the two characters suddenly realize they have little control over their lives and what ultimately happens to them; they will only be spared through the storm if God sees fit to save them.  Like these characters, we too have little control over our lives.  We are of limited power and might under the control of a sovereign God.  It is in the knowledge of God, and through our relationship with God that we find comfort and peace through the storms of life. 

 

In you, Lord my God, I put my trust. –Psalm 25:1 (NIV)

Amidst rising fears and concerns, government leaders worked to communicate their plans around the Middle Tennessee tornado disaster and the coronavirus pandemic.  During one of the many press conferences on the coronavirus, these leaders struggled to respond to questions in a way that might create certainty and a feeling of security.  Some in the audience remained unconvinced.  For perhaps the first time in a long while, these leaders did not have all of the answers.  They didn’t even have most of the answers.  “It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” one leader has suggested.  While watching the ongoing news this past week, Prophetess Smith’s words became glaringly relevant yet again:  Pray and trust God. 

 

It is easier to declare trust and faith in God when there is no natural disaster overlapping a pandemic threatening to upend life as we know it.  Yet, the God we serve in times of peace and normalcy is the same God we must continue to serve and honor in times of chaos.  Surely we will feel fear, but we must not succumb to it.  We must remind ourselves of the promises of God throughout scripture.  We must lean and depend on God, just as we have heard preached time and time again. 

 

Who, then, are those who fear the Lord? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.  –Psalm 25:12 (NIV)

As we continue to pray and trust God, we anticipate God’s guidance to help us know which way to go, how to operate, and what we must do over these coming weeks.  All of the issues we face are no match for our all-wise, all-knowing, all-powerful God.  In moments of catastrophe and chaos, we often crave stability and security.  That is how our God made us.  Fortunately for the believer, that stability and security comes through our reliance on God.  We must keep our eyes on God!

 

Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.  Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. –Psalm 105:3-4 (NIV)
 

Copyright ©2020 New Cedar Grove Baptist Church. All rights Reserved.

 


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“Helping Jesus in the Aftermath”

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  –Matthew 25:35-40 (NIV)

 

In Matthew 25, in the parable of the sheep and goats, the righteous seem a bit confused as to when they had tended to a hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, and sick Jesus.  “When did we…?” the righteous asked.  Then Jesus enlightened them and explained, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). In the aftermath of the Middle Tennessee Tornadoes, and with the Coronavirus spread looming on the outskirts of our community, how do we respond as a church?

 

In the hours shortly after the disaster struck, Prophetess Smith issued a directive for us to follow in fulfilling our call to serve the community through our effort at ministering to the total man.  After the call to corporate prayer that night, she told us to begin gathering donations of needed items and for those physically able to volunteer in the community.  We set about organizing a small effort from within our church family to gather donations of much-needed supplies to help with disaster recovery.  With the idea that there is so much going on to create fear and panic and threat to man’s faith in God, the church has the important opportunity to serve as a beacon of hope and refuge.  We thank God for all of the generous donors!

 

While manning the donation site one night, news of the impending arrival of the Coronavirus sparked a lively conversation about just what we need to do to protect ourselves and to continue living through however long this pandemic endures.  Prophetess Smith previously spoke on this topic instructing us as believers to pray and trust God no matter what.  Still, we discussed protective gear, safe habits, and all sorts of ideas through which we hoped we might arrive at the solution.  By the end of the discussion, none of us had come up with any better overall directive really than to pray and trust God.  It’s an important piece of instruction when chaos comes, because so many people will give in to the overwhelming feeling of “too much going on” if not for a consistent reliance on God. 

 

So, as we continue to gather donations to help disaster recovery, and as we continue to hear of news around the disaster as well as the Coronavirus, let us not retreat within the protective barriers of our homes without insuring that we remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 25.  This is the time for us to remember our role as Christians—to pray, to trust God, and to serve the least of these!  Praise God! 
 

Copyright ©2020 New Cedar Grove Baptist Church. All rights Reserved.

 


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“Let Our Light Shine”

“Put a locked gate at the entrance and keep out all the riffraff!”

 

This was a general idea around one way to insure the church’s property remained secure, particularly when no one was in the building.  Stray people using the parking lot for their own personal use, like skateboarding, mopedding, or something much less appropriate, was an aggravating nuisance.  Yet the image of a church set apart for the exclusive use of the members leaves no room for outsiders.  It would effectively close us off from our community.  A locked gate would set us up as an unwelcoming picture of Christ.  Fortunately, our pastor was sensitive enough to the Holy Spirit to immediately remind us of our purpose in the community.  Sure, we are a peculiar people, but “a locked gate is not the answer.  We want to be a welcoming presence in our community”—a church that is both a refuge and a place of worship.  We want to be a church where people can come, meet God, and be transformed!  Hallelujah!

 

It is easy for a church to become secluded within the walls and within the relationships inside the church.  We declare we are a family, and that probably feels very warm and inclusive to the members.  However, the process it takes to become a part of that family can seem daunting—even moreso for those who haven’t been in church all of their lives.  If we’re not careful, we can end up sending a “keep out” message to outsiders.  The church will come across as exclusive instead of inclusive.  We don’t want that!  Instead, we want “whosever will” to feel welcome. 

 

…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:16 (NIV)

 

Every member has a responsibility to get involved in the ministry work and help us reach out, engage, and evangelize to our community members.  We must let our lights shine!  How limited is our impact in ministering to the total man if the extent of our ministry is barely outside of our church walls, or hardly inclusive of anyone we don’t already know?  Love, compassion, and a genuine concern for others is crucial to our church’s ability to fulfill the Great Commission.  We are called to be involved and engaged in our community!  May God get the glory as we heed this call!
 

Copyright ©2020 New Cedar Grove Baptist Church. All rights Reserved.

 


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“The Communion Checklist”

And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you:  This do in remembrance of me.  Likewise also the cup after supper, saying,  “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” —Luke 22:19-20

 

As the tray of communion crackers passes by a little boy, he reaches in and grabs one like everybody else around him. His granny pops his hand, and he drops it back into the tray. “Why did you pick up that cracker?”  He answers her, “Everybody else is grabbing one.”  “Yes, but everybody else is baptized.” 

 
How many of us use this as our barometer on whether or not we get to partake of communion?  Of course, we understand that our status as baptized believers is important regarding communion, but it is not the only factor we should consider.

 

So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. –1 Corinthians 11:27-28 (NIV)

 
It is often pointed out how we should examine ourselves and be careful not to partake of communion in an unworthy manner. What does that really mean?  In the instance where Paul issued this warning, there was an attitude problem in the church at Corinth. There was disunity and discord. There was a lack of regard for the sacrifice of Christ, and a lack of respect for the significance of the common elements used to symbolize the body and blood. They’re attitude was unworthy.  They lacked humility and gratitude. They could not possibly identify with Christ and therefore, could not appropriately share in his suffering and death. 

 

Before you take communion, be sure you are in the right position. Do you respect what the bread and juice represents? Are you repentant? Are you humble?  Are you grateful? Nobody but God truly knows who among us is about to take communion in an unworthy manner. Communion is a vitally important sacrament, and making sure we are taking it in a worthy manner is relatively simple. I encourage you to check yourself against these tips:

 

o   Be repentant.  Seek forgiveness of your sins and seek God’s help to avoid temptations in the future.  You can utter a prayer as communion is served, if you haven’t already done so.

o   Be present.  Don’t just go through the motions of communion, but actually think about the suffering and sacrifice of Christ that the bread and juice symbolizes.  Respect the bread and juice, and stay focused on the entire communion service.  It’s not very long anyway.

o   Be humble.  It is important to recognize that we are all sinners in need of salvation through Jesus Christ.  Nothing in our human ability can bridge the gap between God and man.  Not even the most talented or richest or smartest person in our congregation is able to enter heaven without Christ as his or her savior.  We must remember this, and stay humble.  

Towards the end of the service, it is tempting to lose focus and think about everything else going on afterwards. Communion is too important for this. Instead, always be very deliberate about the manner in which you take communion.
 

Copyright ©2020 New Cedar Grove Baptist Church. All rights Reserved.

 


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“The Power of Love”

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails. —1 Corintians 13:1-8a (NIV)

Have you every stopped to think about why 1 Corinthians 13, the love scripture, was written?  Well, the Christians in Corinth had trouble getting along, and Paul wanted them to understand their value to one another so they might work together more effectively. It matches with God’s call to all of us even today—that we have unity amongst the brethren as we are on one accord with Him. Yet, as the Corinthian Christians struggled to get along, Paul had to play the Love Card!  Paul had to remind them to love one another! Paul had to teach them that they needed to show one another the kind of love God showed them—an unconditional, undeserved, unending love!  God is still showing us this kind of love today, and we are under the same kind of call to love one another!

Those of us who are in any kind of relationship—whether it’s a friendship, a co-worker, a neighbor, a romantic interest, or a spouse—know that love and showing love towards one another takes work!  As 1 Corinthians explains, love is patient and kind, it honors, it rejoices, it protects, and it forgives.  Whew!  Obviously, this takes work and it is not easy!  But, neither was the cross!  None of Jesus’ experiences leading up to the cross was easy!

Christ’s suffering and death on the cross reveal the true nature of God’s love for us.  As Romans 5:10 reminds us , Jesus paid the price for our sins before we even thought about salvation! The power of love is all wrapped up in the power of the resurrection, and through this sacrificial demonstration of love, God gave us all the opportunity to share this power with others! 

The power of love is redemptive!  The power of love is reconciliatory!  The power of love protects!  The power of love honors!  Oh, the power of love is awesome!  The power of love is a gift that keeps on giving!  AND IT NEVER FAILS!  Praise God!  As 1 Corinthians 13:7 says, “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

When we have nothing else to give—no flowers or expensive trinkets…when we have no great abilities to share—like preaching or some other powerful talent or skill…we all have this one thing we can give, and that is love!  My prayer today is that everyone of us thinks on these scriptures and allows the gifts of love to flow freely through us from here on out!  We are called to love one another, my brothers and sisters.  There is perhaps no greater fuel for ministering to the total man than love!  Let this spur each of us on towards the ministry work before us at this time.  By the way, I love you! 

 

Copyright ©2020 New Cedar Grove Baptist Church. All rights Reserved.


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“Love One Another”

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” —John 13:34-35 (NIV)
 

The Gospel of John is widely accepted as the Apostle John’s record of the events that occurred on the last night before the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  In his account, he emphasized love.  (Interestingly, we understand that it was God’s love for us that even had Jesus facing the cross on that night!)  John relayed Jesus’ love for His disciples, and recorded how Jesus showed this love by washing the disciples’ feet.  John recorded Jesus’ commandment that they love one another in the same way.  In this particular scripture, Jesus’ commandment to “love one another” had a dual purpose.  Not only was it to be done out of obedience, but it would also serve to let others know that they were Christians.  John recognized the significance and the power of love as he recorded this commandment.  John went on to author another epistle, 1 John, where he, again, emphasized love: 

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.” —1 John 4:7(NIV)

 In 1 John 4:7-14, in line with Jesus’ commandment, John encouraged true believers to “love one another”.  When John wrote this epistle, some of the Jewish converts still held some of their ancient prejudices.  They still considered it their duty to hate the heathen, even including those ex-heathens who had accepted Christ!  John’s repeated stress of Christian love throughout this chapter is likely due to the need to remind these believers about God’s love.  We don’t want to be guilty of the same type of high-mindedness where we look down on ex-heathens today!  Every one of us is guilty of something for which God has forgiven us.  Thanks be to God that we had the opportunity to receive the gift of salvation.  And thanks be to God that we are now counted among the fellowship of believers. 

That love Jesus talked about then, which was re-emphasized by John, is the same love we are to show one another even now.  This Christian love is a love known only “in Christ”! This type of love is the gift of God himself that helps Christians to do the work of God here on earth!  We are striving to minister to the total man, and in so doing, we must be unified under the umbrella of love.  

So, let me remind you of this today:  Brothers and sisters, love one another as Christ commanded.  And remember, the world will know that we are Christians by our love.  In this month and in this season of love, read over these verses in John 13 and in 1 John 4.  Revisit Jesus’ commandment that we love one another.  Then do it!
 

Copyright ©2020 New Cedar Grove Baptist Church. All rights Reserved.

 


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“Do it All for the Glory of God”

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” –1 Corinthians 10:31

 

What is the difference between 4-wheel drive and 2-wheel drive?  The primary and most obvious difference is that a vehicle with 4-wheel drive has all four wheels mechanically linked to the engine working to pull it, while the other type has only two wheels doing the bulk of the work. 

 

As a church family, we are determined to work towards fulfilling the Vision for our church.  That is a collective effort.  But do we have 4-wheel drive or two?  In other words, are we all linked to the “engine” that empowers us to do what we are purposed to do or are just some of us engaged in doing the bulk of the work?  Sure, all 4 wheels turn and the whole vehicle ultimately gets to its destination, but why not have all four wheels linked to the power and sharing in the work?  Our impact on behalf of God would be even greater!

 

We want to minister to the total man here at New Cedar Grove.  Fulfilling this church’s mission has many elements—some that involve bringing people to the church and some that require us to go out into the world.  The Great Commission makes it necessary for us to do a bit of both.  Either way, we want to help connect people to Christ!  While we acknowledge that this Vision 2020 theme of ministering to the total man is a church-based effort, it must happen in conjunction with our individual efforts. 

 

Each one of us has individual talents and skills that we can use to the glory of God!  Each of us must be working to be engaged and empowered to do this ministry work.  This idea of being engaged in the work of this church and being empowered by the Holy Spirit to do this great work must permeate our lifestyles if we are to be individually effective.  Our individual effectiveness will impact the whole ministry effort!  Imagine our impact if more of us were doing all for the glory of God! 

 

We must be individually linked to the “engine”, and we must be aligned with the church’s ministry efforts.  Like a 4-wheel drive vehicle, the ride is smoother when all four wheels are in alignment.  Without this alignment, we might be lamenting our ineffectiveness this time next year!  Each of us should be seeking to answer these questions:  “What is my individual role in ministering to the total man?  How can I be linked to the “engine” that powers the drive of this church’s ministry effort?  What do I need to do…today…right now?”

 

As you seek answers to these important questions, remember the challenge for today:  “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God!” 
 

Copyright ©2020 New Cedar Grove Baptist Church. All rights Reserved.

 


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“Who is WE?

He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.    –Colossians 1:28 (NIV)

 

Colossians 1:28 is our theme scripture for this year.  Along with the  annual theme, “2020 Vision – God’s Plan for the Total Man”, this scripture gives us a focus for our ministry efforts in this new year.  When reading the theme scripture, it should be altogether as a church family, and we should all be in agreement with it from start to finish!  “He is the one “WE proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom so that WE may present everyone fully mature in Christ.”  The “WE” in this scripture means all of us! 
 
All of us is every member of this church, and we should operate in agreement with this scripture.An interesting thing happens when we read scriptures like this.  Some quickly realize that we all have a role to play.  The “WE” includes you, and you, and me.  But others read this scriptures as if they pertain only to the time and context in which they were originally written.  And this frees them from the responsibility that the scripture suggests is ours.  Let me encourage you to connect with this annual theme.  There is ministry work to be done to minister to the total man, and we need all of our members helping to do this work.

 

“All of us”…Read the scripture again with that phrase substituted for the “WE”:

“He is the one ALL OF US proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that ALL OF US may present everyone fully mature in Christ.” 

 

Now, how do we go from being aware of this focus to actually implementing this focus?  How do we position ourselves to minister to the total man?  Here are three things we must do if we are to be found doing our individual parts:

 

#1.)  We need to get connected to the church through its various ministries.  Each member should be involved in at least one ministry at this church in order to participate in the ministry work.  There is no other way to make this happen.

#2.)  Once we are involved with at least one ministry, we must actively participate.  This means contributing time, energy, and resources to that ministry.  This means working with others to achieve ministry missions, to fulfill ministry purposes, and to meet ministry objectives.  This means commitment.

#3.)  Always adhere to the same admonishments and teachings that we share with everyone else as we strive to achieve this goal of presenting everyone fully mature in Christ!  Studying the Word of God, learning of God and praying to God are vitally important if we are to do this.  These will naturally lead us into fellowship with God and with other believers!  We will be in position!   

 

Who is “WE”?  “WE” is all of us!  Whether new members or old members, we should be seeking out ways to get in position to do this great work.  There is much work to be done.  Time will go by quickly, so we must get to it!
 

Copyright ©2020 New Cedar Grove Baptist Church. All rights Reserved.

 


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“A Responsible Church Will Help You Grow”

He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.    –Colossians 1:28 (NIV)

 

     Would you start a baby out in life then just sort of stop guiding them shortly thereafter?  Would it be better if you still loved on the baby over the years?  How about if you still fed them and clothed them through to adulthood?  While these are all very good things to provide a baby, an important part of parenting is guiding and teaching that baby as it grows towards maturity.  It would be irresponsible to start a baby out in life and not provide as much as possible to help them develop properly.  The goal of parenting is to raise children into mature adults with certain morals, values, and beliefs.  And so it is with the church.

     This year’s theme scripture gives very clear directions for us to “present everyone fully mature in Christ”.  As a responsible church, we must complete four actions designed to make sure we reach the ultimate goal of ministry this year and fulfill the Great Commission of making disciples.  These four actions are: 

  1. Proclaim
  2. Admonish
  3. Teach
  4. Present
    
#1.  Proclaim— “He is the one we proclaim…”  Paul is talking about proclaiming Christ!  Proclaiming means to declare publicly and with specific emphasis.  If we are to do like Paul and proclaim Christ, we will preach the Gospel, whereby we understand that we are sinners who need a Savior, and that Savior is Jesus Christ—the one who was born of a virgin, Mary, was crucified, died, was buried and resurrected to grant salvation to all who believe.  Proclaiming Christ is declaring this:  It is through his sacrifice and resurrection that our sin debts are forgiven, and it is through Christ that we are able to enter into the kingdom of heaven.  Proclaiming Christ makes his authority clear.

 

#2.  Admonish— When we admonish, we warn firmly and advise strongly.  In this instance, we are to warn others in an attempt to make every man aware of his fallen state and advise them on how to pursue a life that glorifies God. When the alternative is judgement and an eternity in hell, it is a crucial admonishment and critical advice.

#3.  Teach— Teaching everyone with all wisdom involves insuring everyone understands how to live in line with the scriptures that define the Gospel, outline the Ten Commandments, and dictate all aspects of how we should operate as believers in community with one another and with God. 

#4.  Present— The goal of our church ministry is to “present everyone fully mature in Christ”!  When we present something or someone, we make a ceremony out of offering something or someone up for review, consideration, and acceptance.  Our goal as a Church is to help believers to develop into mature Christians acceptable to God.  It is a process to grow from a new convert into a mature Christian!  How involved you are with the ministries of this church has a lot to do with how you grow towards Christian maturity.  Attendance at church services, bible studies, Sunday School, and ministry meetings are all a part of the activities designed to help with this whole process. 

     We’re going to feed you at this church.  We’re going to show you love.  We’re also going to guide and teach you!  As a responsible church, the leadership must strive to “present everyone fully mature in Christ”.  We are a responsible church!  We will continue to focus on this goal through our ministry activities.  Get engaged and GROW!
 

Copyright ©2020 New Cedar Grove Baptist Church. All rights Reserved.

 


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“Why Ministering to the Total Man Matters”

He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.  –Colossians 1:28 (NIV)

 
In our efforts at ministering to the total man (body, soul, and spirit), we should understand why this is important to God.  When I look at Colossians 1:28 in the NIV bible, it comes up under a section with the heading of “Paul’s Labor for the Church” in a letter written to the church at Colossae.  This body of believers was threatened with heresy from outside the church. The traditions and beliefs of the surrounding community were not Christ-centered, and this letter was meant to encourage these converts.  (See Colossians 1:24-29.)  The goal was to bring them to maturity in Christ.  And so it is the same for us today!

 

We use Colossians 1:28 as the scripture in conjunction with our annual theme of “2020 Vision – God’s Plan for the Total Man” and recognize that it is an incredible responsibility for our church to serve God in this way!  It is a serious opportunity for every one of us to build one another up in the faith, and to do the work of this ministry.  Somebody cared enough about each one of us to minister in a way that brought us to Christ.

 

Over 25 years ago, when I was sorely in need of a savior, an elderly woman befriended me in a grocery store parking lot. She was so taken in by my son’s smiling face that she invited us over for dinner on the following Sunday.  I was low on money and low in spirit. How did she know? When that Sunday came, I went to this lady’s house. She ended up ministering to my body through the food she served. She ministered to my soul through the encouraging conversation. She ministered to my spirit through the prayers she prayed for us, and the constant reminder that God was ever-present. This went on for months.  I think back to that experience and recognize the impact she had on my life at that time. Remember, ministering to the total man, by definition, will “provide something necessary or helpful” to the spirit, the soul, and the body of man. This lady did that for me, praise God! She let God use her, and I am incredibly grateful for God’s intervention at that time. 

 
God uses faithful believers to minister to the body, soul, and spirit of people to bring them to maturity in Christ.  Think about your own conversion. Can you see the evidence of God at work in your life?  Can you understand the impact that “ministering to the total man” can have on a person’s life? There is someone out there in need of a savior where your willingness to minister may make the difference. There is someone who knows Christ but needs your encouragement to continue growing towards Christian maturity. I encourage everyone, as committed believers, to take an active role in the work of this ministry. This is an awesome opportunity to serve God, and it is going to take all of us working together to impact our community.
 

Copyright ©2020 New Cedar Grove Baptist Church. All rights Reserved.

 


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“Ministering to the Total Man”

He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. –Colossians 1:28 (NIV)

 

The full scope of kingdom building can easily become overwhelming.  There is so much that needs to be done!  People have all sorts of needs.  What is most important?  Which areas do we focus on first?  How do we begin to determine what ministry work we should be doing?  On our own, this is easily so overwhelming that we end up spinning our wheels and having little or no impact OR we try to do it all and burn ourselves out.  One of the reasons an annual theme matters is that it helps us to hone in on which area of ministry work should be the focus for this year.  This year, we are refocusing on the Vision!  Having 20/20 vision suggests that we see clearly.  So, it is important that we understand the Vision and put our ministry efforts to work to help fulfill the Vision. 

 

The Vision involves ministering to the total man, which includes man’s spirit, soul, and body.  (See 1 Thessalonians 5:23.)  Ministering means “attending to the needs of…, or providing something necessary or helpful.”  In order for us to minister to the total  man, our ministry work should attend to the needs of or provide something helpful to the spirit, the soul, and the body of man. 

 

Our body has these five senses:  taste, touch, hearing, sight, and smell.  Ministering to the body should effect at least one of these sense in order to impact the body.  It’s one reason why food fellowships make good sense in our church!  Our soul concerns “our minds, our emotions, and our will”.  Things that impact our intellect, activities that are encouraging and uplifting, and opportunities to pursue our purpose here on earth—these affect our soul.  Participating in various ministries can minister to our soul.  Singing in the choir, serving as an usher, attending Sunday school and bible study are all important.  Our spirit is at the core of our being, and anything we do to experience God is important to our spirits.  Activities that minister to man’s spirit include worship, prayer, reading and meditating on scripture.  When we give a bible to newly baptized Christians, we equip them to both study and meditate on God’s Word.  There is so much that we can do to minister to each part of the total man!  Many ministry activities will overlap and impact multiple parts of the total man. 

 

Ministering to the total man is an awesome Vision with a tremendous mission!  We are already doing many things that are in line with the Vision, yet we have opportunities to do more and to impact more people.  As this new year begins, we need everyone doing their part to help  us minister to the total man.  Let’s get a renewed desire to do the work of this ministry—starting today! 
 

Copyright ©2020 New Cedar Grove Baptist Church. All rights Reserved.

 


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NEW YEAR’S THEME: 2020 Vision – God’s Plan for the Total Man

He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. –Colossians 1:28 (NIV)

 

Since before we moved into the new church edifice, back when the Vision was given to me, and as I began to reveal to our congregation the dynamic personality of this ministry, one crucial aspect has been the idea of ministering to the total man.  According to 1 Thessalonians 5:23, God created man with these three parts:  a spirit, a soul, and a body—each with its own characteristics and function.  Our body has five senses that allow us to exist here on earth and to experience life here on earth.  Our soul includes our minds, our emotions, and our will, which gives us our personality.  Our spirit is that deepest part that allows us to experience God.  John 4:24 confirms this by saying, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truthfulness.”  God created us with these three parts, and it is therefore, crucial that our ministry efforts consider all three.  We strive to pattern our ministry efforts after Jesus’ earthly ministry in an effort to impact the total man.

 

Evangelizing, discipling, ministering, fellowshipping, and worshipping—these are the hallmarks of Jesus’ ministry here on earth. With these five key elements— (1) preaching the good news of the Gospel, (2) teaching people how to live obediently in the will of God, (3) ministering healing to their brokenness with the grace and power of God, (4) connecting believers with other believers so they can build one another up, and (5) revering and acknowledging the supremacy of God at every turn—our ministry mimics the authenticity of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  Authentic ministry always involves these elements, and this gives us a better opportunity to be effective at kingdom building.  Under the variety of ministries here at New Cedar Grove M. B. Church, we label these elements as (1) evangelism, (2) discipleship, (3) ministry, (4) fellowship, and (5) worship, and every ministry works to conduct activities that address all five.  These five elements together help us to gauge our ministry effectiveness.  We have so much ministry work yet to do!  If you have not yet gotten involved in a ministry here at New Cedar Grove, let me encourage you to make this next year your year to do just that!  Ministry of good works and fulfilling God’s vision for our church family is going to take everybody doing their part. 

 

As we enter into a new year in Christ, may we build on the power of our unity, especially in corporate prayer, so that we may make a difference in our community.  May we begin to discover more opportunities to minister to the total man with these key elements of ministry.  Let our individual ministry efforts create more effective ministry opportunities for our entire church family, and may we have renewed strength and increased power to do greater works in the lives of people of all ages.  2020 Vision… May we see even more clearly than ever before just how to fulfill the Vision God gave me for New Cedar Grove Missionary Baptist Church!  May God be glorified in all that we do! 

Happy New Year and God bless every one of you! 

—Prophetess Smith
 

Copyright ©2020 New Cedar Grove Baptist Church. All rights Reserved.

 


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“How would Jesus spend New Year Eve?

When I was a little girl, New Year’s Eve was a time to celebrate the ending of one year and the beginning of a new one.  We’d be around family and friends, and we’d have some sort of family gathering/party.  Many in the neighborhood would be shooting fireworks, and my dad would pull out his rifle and give us each a chance to shoot it off the back balcony into the sky.  Mom would make us all eat a bite of black-eyed peas…for luck.  We’d go to sleep at some point and reawaken into a brand new day in a brand new year!  As time went on, and as my mother began to heed God’s call on her life, our family traditions began to change.  Praise God!  Nowadays, the thought of missing New Year’s Eve Watch Night service at New Cedar Grove doesn’t even feel right on any level.  Gratefully, my own children understand the significance of our Watch Night service.  It’s not just being in church, though.  It’s the idea of focusing on God that is important.  With gratitude for the old year’s experiences and a healthy reverence of God as we enter into the new year, it’s just a very good way to start the year.  This got me to thinking:  How would Jesus spend New Year’s Eve?

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:38-40)

Jesus’ purpose was to fulfill the will of God.  Everything Jesus did was in obedience to God.  With that in mind, this is most likely how Jesus would spend his New Year’s Eve:

1) Interceding for us:  “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus…” –1 Timothy 2:5 (NIV)

Jesus prayed for people.  Jesus healed the sick.  Jesus set things back in right order.  Jesus wouldn’t ignore these needs on New Year’s Eve to focus on celebrating the start of a new year.  Jesus always prays for us and always intercedes for us. 

2) Preaching the Good News:  After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” –Mark 1:14-15 (NIV)

Yes, Jesus would most likely remind us of God’s love for us that carried us throughout the past year.  Jesus would call for genuine repentance, and urge us to do so quickly. 

3) Reaching out to the unloved:  Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. –Matthew 8:3 (NIV)

Jesus would spend time with those less fortunate.  Jesus would reach out to those most people would turn their noses up around.  He would visit the unwanted.  He would be open to all those nobody wanted to engage, even those privileged people who had earthly riches but needed a savior.  Jesus would reach out and extend to grace to every one of them—even those who simply got off track and left the church for no good reason.

4) Making disciples of all nations:  Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” –Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)

Jesus always does what God commands.  The Great Commission is surely something Jesus might be found doing on New Year’s Eve! Oh, but wait!  That’s what WE are supposed to be doing!  WE are the ones who should be doing God’s Will here on earth!

 

Jesus Christ is now seated at the right of God the Father in heaven, and on this New Year’s Eve, He will be sitting on the throne as we worship at our Watch Night service.  Jesus Christ will be continue to draw men unto himself, but it will continue to be our job to lift Him up! 

“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” (John 12:32)
 

Copyright ©2020 New Cedar Grove Baptist Church. All rights Reserved.

 


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“Christmas According to the Gospel of Mark”

There are no angels, no shepherds, no wise men, and no manger in the Gospel of Mark.  Mark 1 starts out this way:  “The beginning of the good news of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God…” (Mark 1:1 NIV). 

 

The Gospel of Mark is the shortest of all the Gospels, and it does not include the traditional Christmas story.  But it does label Jesus as the Messiah—the promised deliverer, the savior.  Christmas was not something celebrated in the early church.  The early Christians were focused on the coming Messiah.  They realized that they were very much in need of a savior, and they were rightly concerned about this moreso than our traditional Christmas celebrations of today.  Mark points us to Jesus. 

 

There is nothing wrong in celebrating Christmas, because of what it all means to us today.  We include the angels, the shepherds, the wise men, and the manger.  We set the Nativity Scene, and we celebrate Christmas.  We celebrate Jesus at Christmas because he is the promised Messiah, the one prophesied in the book of Malachi, and also in Isaiah as he who would come to save us from the eternal consequence of our sin.  If you read the accounts in the other three Gospels (Matthew, Luke and John), you will find more of these traditional details.  The most important point of all of the Gospels is Jesus Christ as Savior!

 

Yes!  The Good News of the Gospel is all about Jesus Christ!  Jesus came to the world as a baby, born of a virgin Mary.  Most of us know the rest of this story.  We know what happens 33 years after Jesus was born.  We understand that the Christmas story is a reminder that God sent his Son to earth for our benefit.  This is why we celebrate Christmas—because of the Good News of Jesus Christ! 
 

Copyright ©2020 New Cedar Grove Baptist Church. All rights Reserved.

 


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“We are the Light of the World”

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  –Matthew 5:14-16

 

As Prophetess and I were talking recently, she remarked to me how our being the light of the world meant so much more than we might actually imagine when we first read Matthew 5:14-16.  Light dispels darkness.  Light is of God, and the darkness…well, we have an idea that darkness is sin and of satan.  It is ignorance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and typically means something negative.  Light, on the other hand, usually refers to godliness, goodness, righteousness—everything that sin is not.  Light is having knowledge of the hope of salvation. If we are to be the light of the world, then we must understand more about our responsibilities as light-bearers.  It pricked my ears and my heart when Prophetess explained this fascinating thought about this scripture!  “That light will draw them to Christ,” she said.

 

There are many people who are wandering around lost and in darkness.  What will draw them to Christ if not our light?  That light comes out as love and caring guidance.  It is firm but not harsh.  It is certain but not judgmental.  It does not drive people away.  It draws them, and over time, God does his work on the inner man.  Our responsibility is not to save people, but to let our light shine before them—for the glory of God!  Hallelujah!

 

I recall a song I learned in elementary school many years ago!  It’s an interesting song that highlights the Beatitudes while including Matthew 5:14-16.  The original lyrics have long since been changed by the author, but I still recall them.  (If you look up the song by Jean Anthony Greif, you will likely only find the updated words.)  I have listed the original chorus as a reminder for every one of us about why we are to be the light of the world. 

 

We are the light of the world;
may our light shine before men,
that they may seek salvation in Christ,
and give glory to God.

 

As this Christmas season quickly approaches, and as all of the colorful bright holiday lights shine all around us, be sure you are letting your light shine!  As disciples of Christ, we should be drawing others to Christ so they might seek salvation.  Let your light shine brightly during this holiday season, and help draw others to Christ. 

 

Copyright ©2020 New Cedar Grove Baptist Church. All rights Reserved.


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“Peace”

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. —John 14:27 (NIV)

 

The disciples had walked with Jesus through his three years of ministry up to this point, and they had seen Jesus’ peace in action!  To the disciples, Jesus was never afraid or overcome by fear. Jesus never retaliated against those who wronged him.  Even when he was moved by the circumstances, such as at the death of Lazarus, during the storm, or when falsely accused by the council, Jesus still exhibited his peace.  What on earth is this peace Jesus gave his disciples?

 

Jesus’ peace is the assurance of the Gospel, a certain confidence in God that no situation or circumstance or man or institution on earth could affect.  Jesus knew his purpose and his mission.  And as his time of death drew near, he encouraged the disciples with his peace.

 

Jesus’ peace is all a part of God’s plan.  From the time of Christ’s birth through today, peace has been crucial!  In these trying times, unless we have Christ’s peace, we will puzzle over things and our faith will waver.  We will  become overwhelmed, without Christ’s peace, and we will go under.  But this is why Jesus made his peace which “surpasses all understanding” available to us, to help us endure difficult times…to help us have firm confidence in the hope of the Gospel.

 

God knew that we would benefit from the peace of Jesus Christ even today.  As Christmas approaches, remember the gift of Jesus’ peace.  Praise God with the angels as you take hold of the peace of Jesus Christ!

 

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” —Luke 2:14
 

Copyright ©2020 New Cedar Grove Baptist Church. All rights Reserved.

 


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“Jesus gave thanks”

And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you:  This do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying,  “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” —Luke 22:19-20

 

We observed the Thanksgiving holiday with a big family dinner.  We traveled out of town to be with family and friends.  And when the hour for the dinner had come, I found myself hungry and wondering when we would actually get to start eating!  Then, I was reminded of my desire to be both thankful and full of praise for God this time around.  As I refocused on that idea, I thought about the Last Supper.  I thought about today—first Sunday…Communion Sunday, and what it might have to do with Thanksgiving.

 

Scripture tells us that at the Last Supper, when Jesus knew the hour of his death was soon to come, He gave thanks!  Jesus knew why he had come to earth.  He knew his purpose at that time.  He demonstrated to all present at this supper how he was to be the Passover Lamb—the one to die for the atonement of our sins!  Jesus understood who he was and what was about to happen to him and why.  He was to be our redeemer, the one who would be tortured and beaten, and he gave thanks! 

 

These days, when we celebrate Thanksgiving, many of us make a point to express our gratitude.  We often say grace and give thanks before our meals, but the Thanksgiving meal is especially marked by thankfulness.  It is the Last Supper that serves as the historical example for how we as Christians give thanks, especially every Thanksgiving. 

 

So, today, with thoughts of Thanksgiving still fresh in our hearts and minds, remember to be thankful for the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  Remember to give thanks for your salvation.  Remember to give thanks for God’s Holy Spirit.

 

Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever.  —Psalms 136:26

 


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“Thanksgiving and Praise”

Now, our God,  we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.

—1 Chronicles 29:13 (NIV)

 

In 1 Chronicles 29, King David reminds a great assembly that everything he has and everything he had become was because of God.  King David goes back to his humble beginnings all the way through the years and down a long list of blessings to lay out a pretty comprehensive list of reasons to thank God, and he praised God greatly out of his gratitude.  Out of sheer gratitude for all that he had acquired and accomplished in his life up to that point, King David gave God great praise!  It was King David’s gratitude towards God that made his praise of God so fitting. 

 

What, then, is the difference between thanksgiving and praise?  We praise God for his attributes…for who he is apart from what he does for us.  We thank God for what he has done for us—for his blessings and for his gifts.  And the two, thanksgiving and praise, go hand in hand. 

 

Most every Thanksgiving, our family gathers around, usually holding hands in a circle to pray together just before we eat dinner.  We usually go around the circle with every person mentioning at least one thing he or she is thankful for.  I recollect many answers from the past, including family, jobs, financial blessings, and good health.  We are all grateful and eager to begin eating, but we never let the opportunity pass to thank God specifically.  But this year, I will suggest we add an extra does of praise for God, out of sheer gratitude for all that we have acquired and accomplished in our lives because of who God is! 

 

Yes, thanksgiving and praise go hand in hand.  Both gratitude and praise are important to God.  Our praise should match the value we place on whatever it is we are grateful to God for, because God didn’t have to be a loving God.  God didn’t have to show us mercy or bless us for our obedience.  But because of who God is…GLORY!!!  You see, just like an appraiser establishes the value of an item— such as a diamond or a work of art, for example— so we establish the value of God’s blessings in our lives through our praise of Him who gave.  So, as Thanksgiving approaches, think not only about all of the reasons you have to be grateful, but think also about all of the reasons you have to praise God! 

 

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. —Psalm 100:4

 


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“Don’t Give Up”

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.  —Galatians 6:9

I worked with an older kindly gentleman some years ago—a very intelligent and skilled doctor who had been so tainted by his experiences in medicine that he professed himself to be an atheist.  This topic came up on a fairly regular basis, especially whenever we were discussing a case of terminal illness.  One day, I decided to press him further.  “Why is it that you don’t believe in God, Dr. T?”  He explained, “If you had seen what I’ve seen in my many years of practicing medicine, you wouldn’t believe either.  So many sick people, many through no fault of their own, suffering illnesses that I could do nothing about.”  Needless to say, I knew better than to invalidate his perspective, but over time, I made it my business to try to help him rediscover his faith in God.  He was a very nice gentleman with a gift in medicine who had become so overwhelmed with discouragement that he’d lost all heart. 

It is understandable that we might begin to feel discouraged if we have been struggling with something for a long time and we do not see the breakthrough we’ve been praying for.  And when it happens over and over and over again, and the sovereignty of God totally escapes our understanding, any of us might begin to feel greatly discouraged.  And if we aren’t careful, we might lose all heart like Dr. T. 

There are many Dr. T’s out there who gave up under the weight of discouragement while doing good!  If that is you today, don’t give up!  Galatians 6:9 encourages us not to grow weary while doing good.  Sure, sometimes you won’t get the thanks you deserve for your good works.  But keep on doing good!  Sometimes, things won’t go the way you hope and pray they will go.  But keep on doing good!  As Galatians 6:10 goes on to insist,  “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men.”  Take advantage of every opportunity to do good to all men!  Yes, keep on doing good!   Don’t give up!

What better time than the fast-approaching holiday season to do good?  Consider Galatians 6:9-10 during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.  When discouragement tries to wear you down, remember this:  Don’t give up.  Keep doing good.  Don’t lose heart.  Do good to all men every chance you get! 

 

Amen!

 


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“A Warning Against Distractions”

My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises. —Psalm 119:148 (NIV)

 

The Psalmist understood the danger of distractions. According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, 9 people die every day as a result of accidents caused by distracted drivers! Distracted drivers are the leading cause of preventable accidents. It is a costly epidemic that continues to grab the headlines today! These drivers are mostly on their cell phones, but there are many other distractions. Even with the many laws and awareness campaigns that portray ghastly images of horrific accidents, many of us are still driving distracted!

 

The dictionary defines ‘distraction” as a thing that prevents someone from giving full attention to something else. Distracted people, therefore, have allowed a thing to prevent them from giving their full attention to something else.  Distracted people tend to live distracted lives. Whenever anyone is distracted, they are unable to focus and concentrate. Mistakes happen. Responsibilities get overlooked. Bad decisions are made. There is a danger in being distracted! 

 

Every Sunday, many of us struggle to focus on worship and everything going on during the worship service, myself included. Distracted worship is just one symptom of a distracted Christian probably living a distracted life. Many of us are mostly on our cell phones, but there are many other distractions…illnesses, financial concerns, problems with our children, our spouses, our jobs, and the list goes on! While it doesn’t seem nearly as deadly as distracted driving, I suspect God sees it more significantly than we might care to realize. The Greatest Commandment in Matthew 22:37 reminds us to love God with all of our heart and soul and MIND! God wants our undivided attention, and for good reason. Distracted Christians are not as effective as they should be! Distracted Christians are unable to focus and concentrate on God and the purposes God has given. They make mistakes, overlook responsibilities, and make bad decisions. Satan loves to distract us so we fall short of our purpose. There is no way to avoid all distractions, but we can definitely be more mindful of things that prevent us from giving God our full attention! 

 

Like distracted driving, distracted living is an avoidable epidemic. Scripture warns us of the consequences as Christians—against getting caught up in the cares of this world (Mark 4:19). There are many scriptures that warn us against distractions that keep us from doing what matters most. We must keep our focus on God and continue to trust Him. If we do this, we won’t be easily distracted. We’ll live more intentionally, and we’ll be more effective as Christians.

 

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. —Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)

 


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“Prayer in the Fellowship of Believers”

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. –Acts 2:42 (NIV)

On Sunday mornings, our church is filled with people who probably agree that prayer is an important part of what we do as a church.  Along with sharing a set of doctrinal beliefs around fellowship, communion, baptism, and worship, praying together is perhaps the most significant and powerful activity we do.  We know that unity is powerful.  Unity in prayer is definitely powerful.  In the fellowship of believers, corporate prayer is very important to the church.  We must pray together.

 

Hearing the issues and needs of others prayed aloud reminds us that we are a part of a fellowship…a family.  We are members of the body of Christ, and this reminds us that it’s not just about us.  We have our own needs and concerns, surely.  Then we hear of others’ needs and concerns and our hearts are stirred.  We pray for one another.  We pray for the physically and mentally ill.  We pray for the victims of crimes on the news, locally and abroad.  We pray for those who are homeless and in need of employment, etc.  We pray for those suffering through “acts of God”, like hurricanes and tsunamis…in Puerto Rico and Texas.  We pray for those struggling to survive the wildfires in California.  We pray for those living in brokenness of all kinds.  We pray for those in power, who have opportunity to effect the lives of people in the community and throughout the world.  We pray for all people, and not just ourselves.  We encourage one another.  We become more sensitive to God’s will here on earth.  When we pray together about the needs of the people, our communities, and the issues of the world around us, we are edified and unified through our common faith in God. 

 

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching. –Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)

 


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“The Greatest Joy”

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” —John 14:26

 

One of my greatest joys in recent years is the discovery that the Holy Spirit is in fact leading and guiding me.  It is He who whispers truth to me. We each have a God-shaped void.  What fills that space is the Holy Spirit of God who mysteriously and miraculously takes up residence within us from the moment we believe for salvation.  That divinely-created need for a relationship with God the Creator is met by His Holy Spirit.  He is the One who guides, speaks, corrects, teaches, comforts, counsels, and reminds us of everything Jesus said.  But a “reminder” is only really useful when it’s something you’ve read or seen or heard before.  That means we must read and take in the words of Jesus from the entire Bible, if we want to hear the Holy Spirit speak “reminders” and more.

 

Like any deep relationship, recognizing the Holy Spirit…the tones, knowledge, meanings, and subtle nudges…takes significant time.  Think about this in terms of our earthly relationships.  God states, “my ways are higher than your ways,” so we must learn the gentle manner of His Spirit’s intimate communication to be able to hear what He truly says.  Yes…developing this type of deep relationship with the Holy Spirit is a life-long process.  No matter how old (or young) you are, it can become a delightful aspect of your comfort and joy to pursue a deeper relationship with God through His Holy Spirit.  I pray this will be your desire and your goal, and that it will lead to your greatest joy all the days of your life!

 


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“Where Are the Others”

Luke wrote the story of Jesus walking one day toward Jerusalem, hearing ten lepers shouting at him from a distance, “Master, have mercy on us!” Jesus instructed them simply but plainly to “go and show yourselves to the priests.” As the men obeyed, walking toward the synagogues, they discovered they had been healed. Imagine their happiness, their wonder at seeing their now clean, smooth, perfect skin. Immediately, one of the men turned back and ran to Jesus, fell on his face at His feet and gave Him thanks. And Jesus said, “Were there not ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?” (Luke 17:11-19).

Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” —Luke 17:18-19 NIV

I can’t imagine not returning to thank Jesus for the gift of healing. But then I realize I too fall short of maintaining an attitude of gratitude for the many every day gifts He gives. It’s easy to slip into a negative mindset when faced with so much trouble and chaos in the world around us. Life is filled with ups and downs. I have to stop and think about how much grace and mercy I have been granted up to this point in my life.  When I do this, I feel so much gratitude towards God.

As Christians, being thankful is tied to trusting God—to believing all He does is good and for our good. By showing our gratitude, it is also a way to please God. Gratitude begins in the heart. Children learn it best from moms and dads who demonstrate a grateful heart as a way of life.

As recipients of His abundant kindness will you purpose to be more grateful?  For His grace and unmerited favor, will you teach your children to give thanks also?  Let us resolve to please God with an attitude of gratitude. It will make our lives that much better.

 


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“Uniting Voices to Glorify God”

The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang:  “He is good; his love endures forever.”  Then the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud…  —2 Chronicles 5:13 (NIV)

According to the Master Plan for Ministry here at New Cedar Grove, “The purpose of the Music Ministry is to facilitate the worship and praise of God through song, as well as readying the hearts and minds of the congregation to hear the word of God.”  The Mass Choir is an integral part of the Music Ministry, and the objective is to play a vital role in facilitating worship.  The choir is to sing in unison and in harmony, as the director dictates and in accordance with all of the musical support.  The choir’s role in worship matters to God.  But why? 

 

There are more than four hundred references to singing in the Bible!  Fifty times, we are commanded to sing!  The book of Psalms is a book of songs that contains 150 chapters with over 2,400 verses!  Singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs matters to God for a variety of reasons.  We obey God when we sing.  We praise God when we sing.  We are edified and strengthened when we sing.  We illuminate the scriptures and spread the Gospel when we sing.  All of this happens when the choir sings!

 

I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.”

—Psalm 9:2

 

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. —Colossians 3:16

 

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart… —Eph. 5:18-19

 

When we see the theme, “Uniting Voices to Glorify God”, we see that the choir has identified a most important reason why singing matters to God.  It brings Him glory!  When the choir unites their voices to glorify God, it is so much more impactful.  Unity comes from God’s Spirit as we follow Jesus. In John 17, Jesus prayed for the unity of believers so that the world would know that God sent him into the world as his Son.  We want to be united so that our praise can bring glory to God.  Unity is a process through which the world learns of Jesus. At the same time, we glorify the Father who sent Jesus to save us. Leading others to Jesus and glorifying God — what better goal is there for a choir than this?  Romans 15:6 says “…so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Praise God today for a mass choir whose members have devoted themselves to fulfill their ministry mission.  Glory to God!  Amen!

 


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” The Law and The Gospel”

Many people read the Bible a bit selfishly…as if it were fundamentally all about us: our improvement, our life, our victory, our faith, our holiness, our godliness. We treat it like a disconnected series of timeless principles that will give us our best life now if we simply apply them. We read it as if it were a heaven-sent self-help manual including a divinely delivered “do not do” list. But by reading the Bible this way, we risk missing the whole point. Unless we stay focused on Jesus, even devout Bible reading can become fuel for our own self-absorbed self-improvement plans. God’s goal in speaking to us in the Bible is profound. We can say that all of God’s Word comes to us lined up under two key Words:  the Law and the Gospel.

 

The Law is given because we need to be reminded that there is something to be forgiven even when we are doing our best works and during our proudest achievements. The Gospel comes to tell us of God’s grace which says again and again that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

 

     The Law is God’s word of demand, and the gospel is God’s word of deliverance. The Law tells us what to do, while the Gospel tells us what God has done. The law can crush us, but not cure us. The Law can kill us, but not make us alive. The Law can defeat us, but not deliver us. The Law illuminates sin, but is powerless to eliminate sin. The Law points to righteousness, but can’t produce it. Nobody can live up to the Law, and nothing but the grace of God can take away our sin.” The Law is God’s first word, but the Gospel is God’s final word. The Law forces us to face our sin, but only the Gospel can forgive us our sin. The Law accuses us, while the Gospel acquits us. The Law exposes, but only the Gospel exonerates. The Law may curtail bad behavior, but only Grace can transform the heart of the behaver.

What if we keep the Ten Commandments, though? A low view of the Law makes us think that its standards are attainable, its goals reachable, its demands doable. A high view of the Law, however, demolishes all such confidence.  Only an inflexible picture of what God demands reveals the depth of our ongoing need for the Gospel.
     Only when we see that the way of God’s law is absolutely inflexible will we see that God’s grace is absolutely indispensable. A high view of the Law reminds us that God accepts us on the basis of Christ’s perfection, not our progress. A high view of the Law produces a high view of Grace. A low view of the law produces a low view of grace. God’s good Law reveals our desperation; God’s good Gospel reveals our deliverer. If “Law” was the final word of God– if the Bible were basically a book of instructions– we would be doomed. Jesus announced that He came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it, and He did. The Bible is one long story of God meeting our rebellion with His rescue, our sin with His salvation, our guilt with His Grace. The overwhelming focus of the Bible is not the works of the redeemed but the work of the Redeemer. The primary message of the Bible is this: The law-maker became the law-keeper and died for me, the law-breaker!  Glory to God!   (adapted from CT Online)

 


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“Keep Hope Alive”

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. —Romans 15:13 (NIV)

A very well-known journalist is hosting a special documentary on the justice system in America.  A trailer around the show highlighted an inmate’s comments on his perspective as to why the justice system needs reform.  He didn’t talk about the unfairness of any punishment, or racial disparity amongst the imprisoned.  He spoke about hope.  He made a simple statement about how powerful hope is and how damaging it is to have no hope.  “Hope is everything,” he said.  And it really resonated with me.
 
Prophetess Smith hosted bible study the other week and she focused that Tuesday night’s teaching on “hope”.  Hope is defined as a confident expectation of something that is to come.  We reviewed a number of scriptures that reinforced the significance of hope in the lives of Christians!  And we discussed how hope and faith work hand in hand.  Faith is “now” while hope is involved with the future. 

 

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. —Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)

In these days and times, we hear and see a lot in the news that challenges our hope (and faith).  Some dreadful things happen when hope fades away.  When contentment gives way to disappointment and discouragement, marriages fail, families break down, companies fold, communities suffer, and people give up.  As a nation, hope is vital.  As Christians, hope is vital.  Hope fuels our dreams for the future—here on earth and for our eternal state. So I must encourage you to maintain your hope! 

 

History reveals how powerful hope has been in transforming nations.  It’s more than just optimistic thinking.  Hope is a very powerful force when anchored in God and unleashed in the life of a believer!  When discouragement is turned into hope, the impossible becomes possible.  Defeat turns into victory.  Despair and fear fade away.  So search the scriptures about hope and get anchored!

 

A college classmate of mine usually ends every conversation with this declaration: “Keep hope alive!”  So, I’m going to take a page from his book today and tell you this very same thing:  KEEP HOPE ALIVE!

 


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“Happy 10th Anniversary”

“…and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. —Matthew 16:18b (NIV)

It was during the week leading up to Sunday, August 30, 2009, that Pastor Smith led us into the new church building.  Those of us who were here during that time should recall the zeal and excitement we felt.  God had favored our pastor and our congregation.  Since that time, God has continued to show us favor.  He has continued to sustain us.  He has continued to bless our congregation in many ways, starting with our pastor!  Praise God!

 
As it should be with any church building, this building is just a part of the vision God gave for our local church family of believers.  Prophetess Smith has shared with us on a number of occasions how the vision for our church includes ministering to the total man.  Where are we on this? 

All around us there are people who are hurting and defeated. There are people who are discouraged, sad, lonely and depressed. These people will continue to live this way until we demonstrate to them a much better way.  We must show them the hope of life in Christ Jesus!  It is for those who are still lost and in need of a Savior that we have to find continued zeal for ministry.  And that’s why the Pastor’s vision is about more than a building!

 
Where are we on the Pastor’s Vision?  According to Matthew 16, Jesus built a church upon a rock that would withstand “the gates of Hades”!  That sounds like a pretty strong church!  You see…in addition to reaching the lost, a strong church will weather the storms of the day and serve as protection, shelter, and a place of refreshing for its members.  A strong church will build the people up, so much so that when others come into the people’s presence they should feel the love, acceptance, strength and security of the God we serve.

 

Our prayer today must be one of thanksgiving, for God has surely done a marvelous thing in the building and sustainment of our church.  Let this day also include a call to continue the work of the ministry.  Let us all do our part in helping this church to fulfill the vision of ministering to the Total Man.  Ask your ministry leader how you can help?  And if you are not actively involved in a ministry here, that should be your next step. 

 


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“The Most Important Person on Earth”

Who is the most important person on earth?  There are many important people on this earth—some with power and authority and personal influence that makes them come to mind as soon as the question is asked.  When you need provision, perhaps the richest man on earth comes to mind.  When you need a healing, perhaps the most talented and skilled physician comes to mind.  The first answer to that question for most of us depends on our greatest human need at a given point in time.  However, for the Christian, there is only one answer that makes sense.  The most important person on earth is the Holy Spirit! 

Many of us are familiar with the idea of the Trinity—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, but we sometimes forget that Holy Spirit is a person.  Taking nothing away at all from God the Father or God the Son, God the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity at work on this earth in the lives of believers—helping, leading, guiding, and empowering us.  God is a triune being, and the three persons of the Trinity are unified, yet unique…three persons with three distinct personalities that each pklay a vital role in our redemption.

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38 KJV)

We know this to be so, but do we understand what the Holy Spirit does?  Here are some work the Holy Spirit does here on earth in the lives of believers:

1.)  The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin.  When we first come to Christ, it is the Holy Spirit that helps us to recognize our need for a Savior.  It is the Holy Spirit that continues to helps us recognize sin. | When [the Spirit] comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” (John 16:8 ESV)

 

2.)  The Holy Spirit guides us.  The Holy Spirit helps us to understand the scriptures and to recognize what is truth and what is not, and also what is sin and error to help us navigate around it. | But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” (John 16:13 KJV)

 

3.)  The Holy Spirit fills us.  The Holy spirit fills us and empowers us to do the work God has purposed us to do. | “And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 13:52 NIV)

 

4.)  The Holy Spirit works through us, bearing fruit.  The Holy Spirit constantly helps us to bear the fruit of the Spirit throughout our lives. | But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no


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“You Are the Church”

…On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.  —Matthew 16:18b

It has been thousands of years since the church was first established, and directions have been given in the scriptures regarding various

aspects of the church as the body of Christ, the people of God, and the Bride of Christ.  Even with all of this, we can sometimes get confused about what a local church actually is.  So, let’s take a moment to

consider these interesting thoughts about church:

  • Church is not a building, though this lovely building can house a church and its ministries.
  • Church is not a denomination, yet a set of beliefs is important to our church.
  • Church is not about Sunday, still we should not forsake meeting together.
  • Church is not about one person or personality, however we recognize that our pastor is a gift to our church.
  • Church is not about size or growth, though we are all called to make disciples.

As such, we must not focus too much on the address or location of our church, but think about the church as something dynamic and mobile.

  • Don’t think of the church as something built to stand in one place, but think of it as something established to be sent.
  • Don’t think of the church as where you go a few hours each week, but rather what you are every day of the week. Because the church is the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.  Feet shouldn’t sit still.  Hands shouldn’t be idle.  Feet go.  Hands do.
  • Don’t think of the church as something you’re sitting through right now, because…

YOU are the church.  Now GO, and BE the church, then DO what the church was established to do in the Great Commission:  spread the Gospel and make disciples.  (Matt. 28:16-20)

 


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“5 ways to build up God’s Kingdom”

The Great Commission is the call for disciples to make other disciples:  “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” –Matthew 28:19-20 

As Christian disciples of Jesus, we are supposed to help in building up the Kingdom of God. We all intend to do it, but often talk ourselves out of it with a variety of excuses.  The number one excuse is that we don’t have time.  Another excuse is that we just don’t know how to really go about doing it.  Evangelizing is bringing others to Christ.  It is not the same as making disciples, but it is an important first step.  See, a person can be saved by God‟s grace without becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. Discipleship means you are personally dedicated to the life to Jesus Christ.  That’s why The Great Commission requires two actions:  1.) baptizing them…, and 2.) teaching them… 

Here are the 5 areas where you can get to work fulfilling the Great Commission:

  1.  In Your Own Life: Strive to set a holy example to your family and friends. People notice whether are not you walk the walk of a Christian disciple. Check whether or not you line up personally with the scriptures.  Start with the 10 Commandments.  Assess how the fruit of the spirit shows up in your life.  Do you have a prayer life?  Do you study the scriptures?  People are watching.
  2.  In Your Home: Who are you at home? Does your family see you living up to the standards of a Christian Disciple?  Whether you are a child or a parent, your family should see you setting the example, and demonstrating Christian values in our home.
  3.  At Your Job: I recall a soldier walking up to me while serving in the Persian Gulf, and he told me he noticed that I was straight-laced and figured I was a Christian. I had never had the opportunity to talk one-on-one with this solider about religion or faith, but his comment made me realize that people at work, even in a wartime environment, notice your behavior and pick up on whether or not you demonstrate Christian values.  Your, customers, clients, co-workers, and supervisors should be able to see light of Christ shining in you!  And when given the opportunity, that measure of credibility will make it even easier to do deliberate kingdom building.
  4.  In Your Community: We often talk about outreach, and undertake annual projects around the holidays. These are important opportunities to do kingdom building in the community.  It is so important to consider that there are probably people living within a mile of our church who have needs the church can address.  Do they know we are here to help?  Do they see us reaching out beyond our church walls?  More importantly, has God laid on your heart any idea or project that could help where you talked yourself out of speaking up because it seemed like too much to handle?  Giving to a charity, participating in outreach, or hosting your own project are all great ways to do your part in some kingdom building. 
  5.  At Your Church: Every member of our church has at least one gift. Everybody here should be serving here at church in some capacity.  We have a variety of ministries where every member should be able to find a place to help in the church’s efforts at kingdom building.  We should all be doing our part to fulfill the Great Commission.  Remember that the Great Commission requires us to baptize believers and teach them to become disciples.  We must be about doing what we’ve been called to do. 

 


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“Prayer Still Works”

Storms come in all shapes and sizes.  They can be personal, like health crises, financial burdens, or relationship problems.  They can involve public interests, like politics and social issues.  Storms are looming all around us, and these days, its no surprise to feel overwhelmed by all that is going on.  It seems that there is no area of life unaffected by some negative force,  Some are even considering that the godless condition of our nation adds to that storm to create a feeling of hopelessness.  What, then, can we do? 

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people…” — 1 Tim 2:1 (NIV)

In 1 Timothy 2:1-8, Paul set some priorities for the church when he gave Timothy directions regarding prayer.  Prayer would make a difference in the early church, for the nation, and in the lives of the people.

As the terrible weather forecast is playing out in real time in Louisiana, I found myself thinking back to a time many years ago when I was caught driving on the interstate in extremely high winds and extremely low visibility. I had slowed down from 60 mph to about 20mph.  Suddenly, I could barely see anything but leaves and debris hitting the windshield.  It felt like a tornado was coming down on top of us.  I glanced over at my son riding in the passenger seat, and his eyes were closed, his hands were clinched together, and he was praying.  A few more seconds, and the wind calmed down enough for me to be able to see the cars all around ours.  It was somewhat of a miracle that we hadn’t been hit!  I often think about that time, and how it reminded me of the power of prayer.  Prayer is useful in every situation.  No matter what, prayer still works!

All throughout scripture, we can find evidence of the power of prayer.  It’s not that there is a magical formula to prayer that forces God to answer in the way we demand.  The power in prayer comes from the measure of faith we have when we approach God, matched with the right motives and a humble attitude.  There is power in corporate and individual prayer!  When what we seek from God lines up with his word, and when we truly believe that we can have what we ask, our prayer has power.  In reality, any power in prayer is directly related to the power of God who can do anything and everything as he so chooses. 

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.—Heb. 4:16 (NIV)

As long as we live, we will continue to face storms.  The important thing is to face them with confidence that God is with us…to help us in our time of need.  No matter the circumstances…when all else fails…prayer still works! 

 


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“God Said So!”

…because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” –Hebrews 13:5b-6

We say we have faith. We say we trust in God.  Yet we have fear.  Fear of what man can do to us.  Fear that our boss will terminate us from our job.  Fear that the bill collector will take our house.  Fear that the crook will steal our property.  Fear that the judge will rule against us.  Fear.  But we say we have faith, and that we trust in God.  What then can we do in these instances when we find ourselves giving in to fearfulness?  We can remember the point of these verses from Hebrews 13:  The Lord is with us!  God said so!

In Psalm 118, David gives a similar declaration in verses 5, 6 and 7: 

“When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?  The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies.”

At times, when fear begins to overwhelm us, we can lose sight of this fact. But the scriptures are here to remind us of God’s attributes—one of which is that He will never leave nor forsake us.  The scriptures remind us that we need not fear any man.  The next time you find yourself in a situation where you begin to feel fear rising up inside of you, take it as a nudge to pray to God as David did and seek the scriptures for reassurance of this comforting truth:  No matter what man tries to do, if you are a born-again believer, God has got your back.  No matter what the circumstances say, trust God.  No matter how bleak things look, trust God.  Even if things don’t go your way, trust God.  No matter what, trust God. 

At the end of the story, when our time on this earth has passed, no matter what man may or may not have done to us whilst we were on this earth, God will still grant us the eternal life He has promised to all who accept the gift of salvation.  So, do not worry about mere mortal men.  Live with confidence knowing God will never leave nor forsake us. Remember, God said so.

 


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“An important role in the process of worship.”

Ushers & greeters play an important role in the process of worship in the house of the Lord . These gatekeepers and doorkeepers originated from amongst the Levites.  In 2 Chronicles 8:14 and 23:18-19, you can find a reference to the role of ushers as gatekeepers. 

Old Testament ushers were the overseers that David had assigned for service at the gates in the Lord’s temple. Some of their duties as keepers of the temple gates are well known, such as literally being in charge of who gets to enter in and handling disruptions.  Other duties are less known, like going in before high-ranking people to clear the way and literally striking down those who went beyond their rightful place in the temple. Ushers in scripture had many duties, and they sometimes had to wield weapons to carry them out.  It was the ushers’ responsibility to make certain proper reverence was used in worship of the Lord upon entering the temple. Can you imagine one of our ushers brandishing a sword as you tried to enter the sanctuary unprepared for worship?

David and Nehemiah relied on the Levites as gatekeepers to serve the Lord in all of their many duties, much like our Pastor relies on the ushers and greeters today.  Ushers today still have a hefty task of helping the worship leaders set the atmosphere for worship and to carry out certain other responsibilities. (Just watch them in action today.) Although the various duties have changed somewhat, the essence is still the same.  Worshippers arrive at church in all sorts of conditions.  I, myself, am guilty of arriving at church in a rush—all busy and unfocused—and it takes me a few minutes to shift my mindset off of my tasks and into worship.  But we should all think about the usher’s role in our church and also about how we hinder or help them in the discharge of their duties. 

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds — Hebrews 10:23-24

God’s Word tells us to “spur one another on”.  When we approach the Lord’s house ready to worship God, we help make the Usher’s job a bit easier.  More importantly, we glorify God when we approach His presence with a healthy reverence and ready for worship.  Let us encourage our ushers and greeters, as God-ordained servants, to continue serving the Lord.  God will get the glory when we do.

 


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“Gratitude for our Fathers”

“For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” (Gen. 18:19 NIV)

Father Abraham…I recall singing a song as a child about this great father of many nations.  The blessings on this man of great faith can be ours as heirs to the promises of God.  This scripture speaks to us today, especially the fathers. 

From Genesis and the time of Adam, God has given men great responsibilities.  Fatherhood is one of them.  As citizens of the kingdom of God, we all have certain rights and obligations.  But it is men, especially fathers, who God chose and gave the responsibility to “direct his children and his household”.  God expects godly fathers to direct them in the ways of the Lord.  And there is a blessing for fathers who fulfill their responsibilities.

Fathers, along with their mothers, have a role in making sure that what goes on in their home honors God.  It begins with their decision to serve the Lord.  Joshua understood all too well that he had a great responsibility as the father and head of his household.  He didn’t try to pressure people outside of his house, but he was clear that his entire household, which included his wife and children and all of his servants, had to serve the Lord.

“But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Josh. 24:15b NIV)

As we learned from Genesis 18, a good father who directs his household well will enjoy the promises of God.  So, fathers, be encouraged.  Becoming a father is easier than being a father.  Did you catch that?  Becoming a father is easier than BEING a father.  Fathers have all sorts of concerns!  They have to provide and protect and guide and lead.  The father’s job is difficult.  But God’s Word is full of promises that should give fathers wisdom and strength for their great responsibility. 

To all of the fathers, we acknowledge your hard work and your desire to lead your children in the right way.  We appreciate you for the roles you play in our families and in our church.  We love you and we are praying for you.  Happy Father’s Day!

 


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“What is Pentecost Sunday?”

Question: “What is Pentecost Sunday?”

Excerpt from Gotquestions.org

Answer: Pentecost Sunday is a commemoration and celebration of the receiving of the Holy Spirit by the early church. John the Baptist prophesied of the first Pentecost when Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matthew 3:11). Jesus confirmed this prophecy with the promise of the Holy Spirit to the disciples in John 14:26. He showed Himself to these men after His death on the cross and His resurrection, giving convincing proofs that He was alive. Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Father’s gift of the Holy Spirit, from whom they would receive power to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:3-8). After Jesus’ ascension to heaven, the men returned to Jerusalem and joined together in prayer in an upper room. On the Day of Pentecost, just as promised, the sound of a violent wind filled the house and tongues of fire came to rest on each of them and all were filled with the Holy Spirit. They were given the power of communication, which Peter used to begin the ministry for which Jesus had prepared him. After the coming of the Holy Spirit, the disciples did not stay in the room basking in God’s glory but burst out to tell the world. This was the beginning of the church as we know it.

Today, in many Christian churches, Pentecost Sunday is celebrated to recognize the gift of the Holy Spirit, realizing that God’s very life, breath and energy live in believers. During this service, John 20:19-23 may be the core of the message about our risen Savior supernaturally appearing to the fear-laden disciples. Their fear gave way to joy when the Lord showed them His hands and side. He assured them peace and repeated the command given in Matthew 28:19-20, saying, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Then He breathed on them, and they received the Holy Spirit (John 20:21-23).

The celebration of Pentecost Sunday reminds us of the reality that we all have the unifying Spirit that was poured out upon the first-century church in Acts 2:1-4. It is a reminder that we are co-heirs with Christ, to suffer with Him that we may also be glorified with Him; that the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7); that we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body (1 Corinthians 12:13); and that the Spirit which raised Jesus from the dead lives inside believers (Romans 8:9-11). This gift of the Holy Spirit that was promised and given to all believers on the first Pentecost is promised for you and your children and for all who are far off whom the Lord our God will call (Acts 2:39).


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“Do you truly believe”

Easter was just a little over a month ago.  We celebrated our risen Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.  Those of us who have professed a hope in Christ agree that we BELIEVE!  We believe that God sent his son, Jesus, to die a substitutionary death for our sins.  We believe that Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried.  We believe that he rose on the third day with all power in his hand.  We believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to eternal life.  We believe that our salvation and eternity depends on our faith in Jesus Christ.  We truly believe. 

Or do we?

Our lives were changed once we believed.  The old things we used to do, we don’t do anymore.  Sure, we struggled for a moment with temptation (and still do sometimes), but our new nature won over the old sinful nature, and we began to mature in Christ.  But, if that is true, and we truly believe, why does our faith in God stop short of what we seek Him for in our daily lives?  Why do we believe in such an ancient and miraculous event as the resurrection, but falter on things we need today?  Perhaps it is a matter of faith.

We start out with a measure of faith, as Paul suggests in Romans 12:3.  But when the issues we face are seemingly too hard to imagine in our human minds, we begin to waver.  How, then do we grow this measure of faith into that strong, unwavering faith?  There are at least four things we can do:

1.) We can HEAR God’s Word.  If “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17), then we need to hear God’s Word.  I remember getting a call from a good friend at the sudden passing of her young husband.  She said she called, because she wanted to talk to someone who would “speak life” to her.  You cannot listen to all the naysayers and grow your faith!  You have to hear those promises in God’s Word that will encourage you!

2.) We can CHOOSE to believe God’s Word.  Sounds silly, perhaps, but just like we can choose to forgive, or to trust, or to love, we can choose to believe.  Finding a promise of God to stand on can help us with this.  There’s an old song, “God said it. I believe it” which reminds us to make the choice to believe every time doubt tries to creep in.  And every time you make that choice, your faith grows!

3.) We can TAKE HOLD of God’s Word.  This is a deliberate decision to keep our focus on God’s promises, no matter what the situation looks like.  It’s not easy, but it’s crucial to growing our faith.  “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” (Heb. 10:23). 

4.) We can ACT on God’s Word.   We know that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17), but it is even harder to act out what we hear, choose, and take hold of.  But if we want that strong unwavering faith, it’s what must happen.  “Unwavering faith is to count those things that be not as though they are, (Rom.4:17; Mark 11:22-24). 

There is no need for us as believers to be trapped in fear, weakness, poverty, or despair during any situation. We must grow our faith.  We must truly believe!

 


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“A Message to Our Graduates on Choosing Wisely”

Graduation is a busy time.  After years of making choices about everything to get to this point, you spend time finishing up studies, and fulfilling all of the requirements for graduation!  Before you know it, the time comes to move to the next phase of life.  Whether it is going off to college or pursuing a career dream, every graduate is faced with choices—before, during, and after.  Making choices never ends.

One choice, though, is very important to every Christian graduate. 

And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” —Joshua 24:15 (NIV)

I once read a story about a young Christian who went off to college.  After spending his whole upbringing seated every Sunday morning in church with his parents, he had decided to exercise his newfound freedom of choice.  He was out on his own and away from home.  He and his college roommate had decided to spend their first Sunday morning in the park—just hanging out with friends and having fun.  On his way to the park, he heard a church bell ringing the start of the morning service.  He tried to ignore it, but that nagging voice would not leave him alone. 

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” –Isaiah 30:21 (NIV)

Without much more thought, the young Christian suggested to his friend that they stop by a church– just to see what it was like– and, then, head on to the park.  They did, and both continued serving the Lord throughout college and even afterwards.

As Joshua said to the Israelites, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

Every one of us must make that decision.  Nobody can make it for you, and you can’t make it for anybody else.  Sometimes the decision isn’t easy.  Because of our sinful nature, we all get tempted to do our own thing.  So, it really comes down to this: Do you really want to serve the Lord?  If you do, then God will give you that resolve.   When the Lord came to Moses and spoke to him through the burning bush, Moses basically said, “I can’t do this. I don’t know what to say. I stumble over my words.”  But later in Exodus we see him facing off with the most powerful man on the face of the earth at that time. That is because God gave him the strength. 

In this same way, God will give you the strength to do what you need to do to serve the Lord and to live a life pleasing to Him.  It won’t be too hard, and you will find that you still have time to do things outside of church.  As we recognize our graduates, let us also urge every one of them to make a good choice to be completely committed to Jesus.

 


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“Psalm 39: Put Your Hope in the Lord”

I said, “I will watch my ways
    and keep my tongue from sin;
I will put a muzzle on my mouth
    while in the presence of the wicked.”
So I remained utterly silent,
    not even saying anything good.
But my anguish increased;
    my heart grew hot within me.
While I meditated, the fire burned;
    then I spoke with my tongue:

“Show me, Lord, my life’s end
    and the number of my days;
    let me know how fleeting my life is.
You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
    the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Everyone is but a breath,
    even those who seem secure.

“Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom;
    in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth
    without knowing whose it will finally be.

“But now, Lord, what do I look for?
    My hope is in you.
Save me from all my transgressions;
    do not make me the scorn of fools.
I was silent; I would not open my mouth,
    for you are the one who has done this.
Remove your scourge from me;
    I am overcome by the blow of your hand.
When you rebuke and discipline anyone for their sin,
    you consume their wealth like a moth—
    surely everyone is but a breath.

“Hear my prayer, Lord,
    listen to my cry for help;
    do not be deaf to my weeping.
I dwell with you as a foreigner,
    a stranger, as all my ancestors were.
Look away from me, that I may enjoy life again
    before I depart and am no more.”

 


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“God’s Motherly Love”

“As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” — Is. 66:13

 Mother’s Day is a man-made holiday, but mothers are part of God’s design for the family.  But why?  God is intentional.  Everything he does is deliberate and with a long-range, inside and out view of each of our individual lives.  Nothing that God does is accidental or coincidental. 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Rom. 8:28

God was intentional when He created mothers.  God even had Mary, the mother of Jesus, present at his crucifixion.  Perhaps it was so we would see the tenderness of God’s love even while His Son was dying on the cross.  God had a plan to redeem the soul of man.  And in that process, God imparted principles that work right alongside the Gospel message —principles around hope and love.  In His intentional way, we can see God’s motherly love for us.

During Israel’s exile and the overwhelming feeling of despair, God had to remind them that He had not forsaken them.  God used the example of a mother to let Israel know He had not forgotten them!  God, who we know as “Our Father”, uses the imagery of labor and childbirth, a mother nursing a child, and a child being comforted by a mother all throughout Isaiah 66 to bring out the concept of hope.  A disobedient nation could have hope because God, our Father, also has the capacity to exhibit what we understand as motherly love.

Mothers are as different as each of our unique personalities suggest.  Some are soft and gentle, while others are firm and hard.  Still, there is something about a mother’s love.  It’s almost indescribable!  We honor our mothers today, not only because God’s Word tells us to do so, but also because we recognize the many unselfish and sacrificial ways that mothers have poured into our lives.  We are grateful to God for our mothers.  And we are grateful to God for His motherly love!

 


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“Living with Eternity in Mind”

I’ve been to several visitations and funerals over the past 7 days, and I found myself thinking about the very different ages and stages and stories of each person’s life.  While their life stories were very different, every one of these precious people had professed a hope in Christ.  At some point, each one had made a decision with eternity in mind.

The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. — 1 Peter 4:7-11

God’s word encourages us to have an eternal perspective—to think beyond the daily routine of our obligations and earthly pleasures and to consider eternity.  Having an appropriate view of eternity should affect how we live, how we handle life’s ups and downs, and how well we prepare for the end that will surely come. 

This could seem sort of dark and sad, however, it is actually appropriate.  It should give us hope.  Christ lived his life with “the end of all things is near” mindset.  He knew he would endure great suffering as part of God’s plan for mankind.  He had a healthy view of eternity. 

None of us knows the day when Christ will return, but we do expect that he will.  None of us knows the exact number of our days either, but those of us who have confessed a hope in Christ expect to go to heaven when we die, and we expect to live eternally.  That is our hope. 

We must live purposeful lives—according to God’s will.  And we must not get overly concerned about the when and the where of Christ’s return, but determine to heed the words from 1 Peter 4 and live our lives with eternity in mind.  No matter what life may bring, love deeply, be hospitable, serve faithfully and graciously…“so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

 


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Trust God

I heard someone say the other day, “If you don’t know it is NFL Draft weekend here in Nashville, you must be living under a rock!”  Yes, the NFL Draft festivities started this past Thursday!  32 teams were selecting athletes from a crowded field of hopefuls!  I did my research and learned that there are about 3,500 eligible players for about 254 spots plus a few free agents.  If you caught any of the draft rounds, you saw the excited athletes surrounded by an entourage of cheering fans and family as their names were called.  For these athletes, the years of hard work, training and preparation, topped off by their performance at the NFL combine, has caught the attention of the decision-makers for at least one of these teams.  With all of the fanfare, even with those who give God praise and thanks for being drafted, there are over 3,000 athletes who don’t get chosen.  What about them?  And what about those aging out of the NFL at the ripe old age of 30?  Both of these groups are impacted right in the midst of the excitement of this draft weekend. 

For the undrafted, they ask “What now?”  For those aging out, they also ask “What now?”  Fortunately, the answer is the same for all:  “Trust God!”  Or as the scripture so eloquently teaches, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)

There are times when we have to face the truth of whether or not we truly trust God.  This applies to everyone involved and affected by the NFL Draft Weekend events.  It applies to all of us, too!  We all can probably recall a pivotal moment in our lives where we had a similar draft weekend-like experience, and our faith was tested.  Maybe it was receiving an admissions letter from a college…or a denial letter.  Perhaps it was an audition, or a job interview, or a promotion—and whether or not we got what we were going for made all the difference to us.  In moments of great joy and in moments of uncertainty and insecurity, we are called to trust God…either way. 

Some of us are in the midst of our Draft Weekend-like experience, and we are waiting for our names to be called.  Some of us see it coming in the near future, and our faith will be tested.  Whichever it is for you, and  whichever way it works out, remember this one important lesson:  Trust God.  No matter what it looks like in the moment, trust God.

 


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Let Your “Hosannas” Ring True!

The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” –Matthew 21:9 (NIV)

Today is Palm Sunday—a significant day for the Christian in this the season of Bright Sadness where we mourn and celebrate all at the same time. On this day, scriptures tell us the Prince of Peace triumphantly entered Jerusalem, the “City of Peace”, as the crowd of people lined the roads and cheered, “Hosanna!” meaning, “Save!” Ironically, these were some of the same people who days later would cry “Crucify him!” 

But even then, Jesus had foretold of his own suffering and death.  While the crowd was crying for him to save them from the Romans (Acts 1:6), Jesus had entered the city to save them from something even more significant—eternal death. Jesus knew he would soon have to endure great suffering and shame to save all of mankind.

Can you imagine the confusion that followed the first Palm Sunday?  Towards the end of this same week, the joyous cries would give way to fear and doubt. The disciples—those who had followed Jesus and sat under his teachings—would fall asleep on him, betray him, deny him, run away in fear, fall into despair, and essentially fail…at first. Can you imagine what it was like for them during this next week’s events over 2000 years ago? (As Jesus’ disciples today, we should put ourselves in their shoes and think about this for a moment.) When Jesus was crucified, the people had no idea of Easter back then. The disciples watched Jesus, their king and savior, be arrested and whipped and humiliated and crucified. What hope of resurrection did they have then? It hadn’t happened yet!

We, however, have the good fortune of hindsight.  Because of the scriptures, we can see the happenings of Palm Sunday in a more meaningful light. We can think about the events of this next week already knowing about the resurrection—not only that Jesus died, but also why he died and that we are the reason. Our cries of Hosanna today are because we know Jesus to be a savior! So as we enter into Holy Week, let us praise God for who he is and for what he did in sending his son, Jesus, as a sacrifice for our sins. Let us honor Jesus as the one who saves!

As disciples of Christ who really get what this whole Easter season represents, let our “Hosannas” ring true!

Hosanna!  Hosanna!!  Hosanna!!! 

 


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A message for the Youth – “Trees of Righteousness Planted by the Lord”

A seed is an interesting creation of God’s.  It is wildly amazing when you compare the size of a seed to the plant or tree that grows from it.  And that’s how we tend to think about our children!  The youth in our church are seeds in one sense of the word, where we guide, nourish, and encourage them to reach their full potential.  They are also striving to be the seeds in the sense that their ministry theme declares: spiritually enlightened and empowered disciples—SEEDS.  (See the front of this program.)  We give the Youth Ministry members opportunities to participate in the Sunday services.  We support their ministry efforts and their development.  We want our S.E.E.D.s to become full-grown “Trees of Righteousness”, and they must pursue it!

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither — whatever they do prospers” (Ps. 1:1-3).  

Righteousness is “the state of moral perfection required by God to enter into heaven”. The Bible tells us that we can never be righteous apart from God.  We must rely on God.  We must trust in the Lord to help us strive for this perfection.  Nobody’s perfect—our children aren’t and neither are we!

But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jer. 17:7-8).

We are well aware that trials and tribulations will come.  Our youth are not immune to their own share of trials and tribulations.  We would do well to remind them of who they and whose they are.  We would do well to keep these S.E.E.D.s firmly planted in the rich soil of God’s Word, watered by the Lord, and basking in the warmth of the Son.  When our young people are tested, we all need to remember what is declared over them:  They are SEEDs destined to grow into trees of righteousness planted by the Lord.  (And a tree planted by the Lord is not easily moved!) 

Youth:  It won’t always be easy, but keep your trust in God, pursue righteousness as you grow up, and let your lives bring glory to God!  We are praying for every one of you!

 


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“Only One Way”

What would you think of a doctor who, instead of telling you the truth, told you what you wanted to hear?  “Oh, I see you’ve gained a little more weight.  Even though belly bulge is a risk factor for heart disease, you will probably be alright.  You seem as healthy as an ox otherwise.”  And if believing that doctor’s softened diagnosis, you suddenly dropped dead, what would you think then? 

Most of us would prefer the hard truth in a situation like that.  “C’mon, doctor.  Give it to me straight.  What’s going on with me?  What do I need to do?”  But when it comes to the Gospel, some of us prefer to share a watered down version that is easier for the unchurched to accept.  But like the doctor, when we don’t tell the whole hard truth, people will miss the fact that they are in danger of dying without the promise of eternal life.

And so the doctor tells you that if you don’t drop 50 pounds and change some of your lifestyle habits, you are most assuredly going to have a heart attack or a stroke.  You could even die.  You listen to the hard truth and strive to make the changes necessary so you might live. 

How would you feel if you had to complete a very difficult task, but someone told you there’s a shortcut that will save you time and effort?  How would you feel when you found out that the shortcut, while a much easier way, actually places you on a path to nowhere?  So, imagine how disappointing it will be to those with which we share the Gospel when they discover we gave them a shortcut to salvation that doesn’t actually save them!

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  (John 14:6)

The hard truth of the Gospel—the one way to God—is extremely important to share with the unchurched.  Every one of us has to understand how wretched and lost we are without Jesus as our Savior.  We must resist the urge to try and soften the truth to make it easier to hear.  We must not try to create a shortcut to God just to make it easier for people.  It won’t work. 

Springtime is here!  As the Easter season quickly approaches, remember there is only one way to God, and that is through Jesus!  Share this truth and help someone come to Christ today. 

 


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“The High Cost of Forgiveness”

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us. –Eph. 1:7

Like most mothers, I think my children are “the world’s greatest, bestest, most well-behaved, precious, loving, and all things good in the earth” children in the whole wide world.  Even still, because nobody’s perfect (ha!), I had to try to teach each of them a very important lesson around relationships, trust, offenses, and forgiveness.  See, I believe that the art of forgiveness is a value that can be taught.  When it is based on the scriptures, it makes it easier to learn, especially when we are a family of believers.  Nevertheless, there is a vital difference between us and God.  While God’s word teaches us that God will forgive us when we repent and ask for it, humans are not always that easily receptive to an apology.  So I wanted my children to understand this difference when it comes to human relationships.  Once you offend a person, all you can do is try to make reparations and ask them to forgive you.  You can’t make them forgive you.  While I also teach them that it is right for us to forgive, we all have a free will.  You can’t make people forgive you and you can’t make them reconcile.  It is in these moments when people can begin to seriously consider the high cost of forgiveness. 

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. –Romans 6:23

Forgiveness is essentially covering someone else’s debt.  Forgiveness is not making an excuse for the offense or pretending it didn’t happen.  Our all-knowing, all-seeing God doesn’t do that either.  God made a way for our sins to be forgiven.  God made a way for our sins to be covered by the blood of Jesus!  Man broke God’s heart when we chose to sin against him, and his forgiveness definitely came at a high cost!  It cost Jesus Christ his life!

When we think about our sin, and how God sent his only Son to be the sacrifice to make a way for us to be forgiven, it is very important that we think long and hard about it.  Around Easter, we are able to take the time to think about the agonizingly cruel death Jesus suffered on the cross.  Most of the time, though, we tend to gloss over it without dwelling on how awfully gruesome crucifixion actually was.  And Jesus was innocent.  That makes it worse, doesn’t it?  Yes, forgiveness comes at a high cost!

Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.

–Luke 11:4

Praise God for his Son, Jesus Christ!  I am so grateful that God is not like us humans!  I praise God because of his lovingkindness and his grace and his mercy!  God sent his Son to save us from our sins, and it comes at a high cost.  Remember that.

 


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“Never Stop Praying”

Never stop praying.  —1 Thessalonians 5:17

Yes, that is essentially what that verses says.  Other translations say “pray continually” or “pray without ceasing”.  The point is the same…never stop praying! 

Now that probably seems like an obvious command.  Then again, when you try to actually do it, you begin to think it’s an impossible command.  Why would God lay out such a seemingly impossible directive for his children…for us to keep our heads bowed and eyes closed all day long?  Well, that’s not what the scripture means.  (I know you knew that!)  It means that we are to resort to prayer as our first and last activity of the day, our primary ongoing response to every situation, and a consistent part of our regular routine throughout the day and night.  With this in mind, we are actually able to follow the command as God designed.

“Never stop praying” means we should have an awareness of God’s power and sovereignty all of the time.  We must become so keenly in tune with how actively God is involved in our lives that we immediately turn to him in prayer for all of our issues and concerns.  Essentially, the minute we encounter issues, we automatically go to God in prayer. 

But it’s not just about going to God only when we have problems.  It’s also about having that ongoing relationship with God before, during, and after a problem.  We’ve previously established that prayer is communicating with God.  We’ve established that prayer is indicative of our relationship with God.  We’ve established that prayer is important for many reasons, including whether or not we are relying on God as opposed to ourselves.  Prayer is key to our Christian walk.  It’s for our good! 

If you already know this, then check yourself against the ideal.  Do you pray without ceasing?  If not, why not?

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul commands us to depend on God and to commune with God through prayer—non-stop.  So…NEVER STOP PRAYING!

 


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“What happens when we look back?”

As I sat down to write today’s meditation, one question kept demanding to be answered:  What is the real purpose behind our looking back at our history?  Over the years, I have known there is no good reason not to look back, but I needed to answer this question clearly so that the deeper significance of our annual activities would come to light.

 

There are several things that happen when we look back at our history:  1.  We reflect on how far we have come as a people.

  1. We honor our ancestors who made sacrifices and who accomplished great things that benefit us still today.
  2. We consider where we are today, and with a hopeful heart, we determine to continue striving towards freedom and equality and reward.

 

Interestingly, each of these things has a spiritual benefit.  When we reflect on how far we have come as a people, we must acknowledge God’s presence in our story.  The Gospel truth was never far removed from the cries for freedom in those old days!  When we look back, we can see the bigger picture and better understand God’s plan at work for all of humanity.  When we honor our ancestors for their sacrifices and accomplishments, we have no choice but to also honor God!  We find examples of God’s love, and deliverance, and blessings.  We know that everything we are and everything we have is because of God.  And when we consider where we are today, hope arises in us anew.  We know that all things work together for our good.  Our history teaches us about unity, about faith, and about sacrifice in a way that should help us to better understand the principles of our Christian beliefs. 

 

From the beginning of man, since Satan entered in and had his way, there has been a people bound up in sin in some fashion.  Oppression and all of its ugliness has been a problem for many centuries.  Even today, some ugly situation makes the headlines and a new movement is spawned to take it on.  Some of you will sit here and dwell on the many issues we all face and become overwhelmed.  But let me caution you against that.  We have a future hope that should turn all of the present-day evil on its head.  Hope is the one ingredient we must nurture—in ourselves and in those we have an opportunity to affect.  We must maintain hope.  Hope is the reason we are here today.  Hope is the reason we look forward to tomorrow.  Hope is the reason we keep going.

 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. —Rom. 15:13  

 


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“Called to Prayer”

As Christians, we have been called to pray.  Prayer is one of the most important aspects of the Christian life. You cannot live the Christian life without prayer, and you cannot live the Christian life well without praying well.  How we pray says something about our relationship with God.  So, to pray well, you must have a good relationship with God.  This means you pray according to scripture, and you do it often. 

 

When you pray, you are actually talking with God.  That sounds simple enough yet many Christians struggle with prayer. Many Christians are not satisfied with their prayer life.  They feel awkward approaching God.  They feel apprehensive praying out loud and with others.  They feel a need to develop a better prayer life.  How do you feel about your prayer life?

 

We have been called to pray, so there are three things about prayer we should all think about:

1.)  Prayer is a privilege.  If prayer is communication with God, then what an awesome privilege it is for us to be able to talk with God…to make our requests  before the creator and ruler of the world and have a reasonable expectation that He hears us and answers us. 

2.)  Prayer is a discipline.  Scriptures tell us things about the importance of prayer, and also how to pray.  As we learn to pray according to Scripture, our prayers can be transformed from a one-way monologue to a two-way dialogue with God. 

3.)  Prayer is a responsibility.  One key reason to pray is because God has commanded us to pray. If we are to be obedient to His will, then prayer must be part of our life in Him. 

 

We pray to God because we can.  It is a vital part of our relationship with him.  We understand it is important, so we must strive to develop a solid prayer life.  We also realize that it’s purpose often extends beyond ourselves. God has called us to prayer. Prayer is a divine privilege, a worthy discipline, and an awesome responsibility.  As Colossians 4:2 commands us, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” 

 

When God calls, we must answer.  God has called us to prayer.  We must respond.

 


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“Don’t just pretend to love others”

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. – Romans 12:9

 

Every once in a while, one of my girls will exclaim “Fake love!” It’s usually because I had a particularly busy day and was especially slow in responding to their texts. Of course they’re joking with me. Of course they know I am especially fond of both of them. Of course they know my love is not fake. With Valentines Day approaching, I thought it was a good time to focus on love…real love.

How often do you really love other people? This verse talks about not pretending to love others, but to really love them. What does real love look like?

Real love looks out for what is best for the other person. It doesn’t just say and do what makes other people happy. Real love stays the same. It doesn’t change based on how someone treats you or how you feel. When you love someone with God’s love, it doesn’t matter how that person responds, rather what matters is how you respond.

Real love, the God kind of love, isn’t always easy to live out. It takes guts. It takes putting aside what feels right at the moment and responding to that person in love. When you choose to love, it makes a difference, especially to those who don’t know Christ. So, here’s your challenge: Choose to demonstrate crazy love today to someone who might be hurting. You never know who you might win for Christ by choosing to love!

And if nobody told you today… I love you! (Smiles to Bro. Tony Henderson!)


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“If My People….Seek My Face”

If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.–2 Chron. 7:14 (NIV)

 

Throughout the scriptures, God’s people are encouraged to seek God’s face. When we seek God’s face, we are actually seeking His presence. The call to seek God’s face was issued to Israel because they had abandoned Him and needed to return to Him.

A person’s face reveals much about his or her character and personality. We see the inward emotions of a person expressed on their face. We recognize a person by looking at his or her face. When you think about it this way, one’s face, with all of the characteristics and expressions, is representative of the whole person. For the writers of the Bible, the human face could represent the entire person.

In Psalm 105:4, God’s faithful ones were called to “seek his face always.” Even if we have not totally abandoned God, there are times when we don’t always seek God’s face. We allow God’s face to be obscured by our human condition and fleshly desires. But still we are urged to seek God’s face!

Have you ever been at a movie or at some other event with a stage where someone or something was in front of you blocking your view? We might get frustrated with the obstruction, but we will usually situate ourselves—craning our neck, leaning over, and doing whatever we can—to see whatever is going on onstage. When life events obstruct our view of God’s face, we should situate ourselves and do whatever it takes so we can still experience the face of God!

“Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god. They will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God their Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob” (Psalm 24:3–6).

How, though, do we really seek God’s face? How do we actually enter into God’s presence? It is through prayer, praise, and worship that we can enter into God’s presence. And the true worship of God requires a redeemed heart that desires God alone—one that

continues to build itself up in the knowledge of God. As Christians, this should be a part of our daily walk—to humbly and trustingly seek His face in our prayers and in our times in His Word. And we won’t be able to hold back the praise we offer up as we become increasingly aware of how awesome and powerful and gracious and merciful God is!

“O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory. Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you!” (Psalm 63:1–3, NLT).

Seeking God’s face means desiring to know His character and wanting His presence more than any other thing He can give us. Remember, it is an important element to receiving the promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14.

 


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“If My People….Pray”

If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.–2 Chron. 7:14 (NIV)

In the Old Testament, the prayers of many, praying together consistently emphasize these pleas: that God would act for the sake of his great name, that he would glorify himself, and that he would do this by saving Israel through the judgment of their enemies.  These prayers sometimes included fasting.  The important point is that God answered the prayers of many!

In the New Testament, under a new covenant with God, many praying together is still significant.  Throughout the scriptures, people are taught to pray.  The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6 starts with “Our Father”!  “Give US this day our daily bread… Lead US not into temptation… Deliver US from evil…”.  Many praying together…just as Jesus taught…always done in a way that builds up the church (1 Cor. 14:16-17). 

People pray to God because they believe that he is able to forgive their sins, mighty to save, able to change the course of events, and willing to respond to the prayers of his people. These prayers of many, also called corporate prayers, usually call on God to do exactly what he has promised to do. When the Bible records the prayers of the people of God, it records them asking him to do what he has promised to do for the sake of his name. God has always intended for his people to pray for HIS glory and THEIR good.

Whenever God’s people pray together, the prayer of a mediator to which a repenting people can come up under is a clear sign of God’s rich mercy. Christ Jesus, who sacrificed his life for us, is our greatest intercessor (Rom 8:34)!

As part of our group of many praying together at New Cedar Grove, we should listen intently to the person leading prayer, and really pray along.  And if we are leading the prayer, we must not be so vain that we worry too much about our ability to articulate big words.  God hears our prayers, and he is much more concerned with our hearts than our eloquent sounding speech.  The Holy Spirit will help us (Romans 8:26). 

The more you pray, the easier it becomes to talk to God.  Interceding for many people is an important responsibility.  As Christians we may approach God boldly to intercede for others, knowing that Christ’s sacrifice has sufficiently cleared the way to the Father.  But we should always approach God with careful reverence, preparation, study, earnestness, brokenness, and thanksgiving. 

Through the prayers of many together, God’s people will become what God designed—united in Christ.  Praying together, after all, teaches us to be united in faith, united in hope, and united in love. 

Let’s pray…together.

 


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“Hard Times: A Reason To Be Grateful”

Hard times can be unbelievably taxing.  Depending on what is actually causing you heartache, you are no doubt feeling a lot of emotions—from sad, exhausted and energy-depleted to angry, bitter, regretful and more.

That makes it more important than ever to be grateful for the good parts of your life as they have the incredible power to help guide you through any difficult experience. Here are three things you can do that will help.

Recognize the Good:  Trouble has a way of making us forget that there is anything good going on in our lives. That’s why you must take time out of each day to recognize the good parts of your life. Some people call it “gratitude”. It is important to think on the good things, no matter how ordinary they might seem. Consider buying yourself a journal or notebook and make a point to write down the things in your life for which you are grateful. Writing them down makes them real. The number of things on your list might even surprise you once you write them down.

Refocus on the Good:  God created us with a wide range of emotions. It is important to give yourself the permission to be sad, angry or upset when times are hard, but don’t linger in it too long. Make a point to quickly re-center yourself and refocus on the good parts of your life. I call it “processing” things. Once you have let yourself feel the emotions, though, refocus. That way you are never sad or upset for too long. Spend time with people you love, and who love you. Spend time with God, and allow him to help you.

Create More Good:  Once you have allowed yourself to process emotions and have come to a point where you can be more easily grateful for the good in your life, it’s incredibly important to pay it forward so you can help others going through hard times in their lives. It can help you to gain some perspective when you can come to a point where you realize that others might be worse off than you. No matter how hard times get, you can begin to create more positivity in your life going forward.  

 

The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ – eternal and glorious plans they are! – will have you put together and on your feet for good. –Peter 5:10 (MSG)

 


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Together on our knees in 2019

 
As the new year begins, what is it that we can do to really make an impact. Where is our greatest need? Is it in our homes, in our communities, in our nation, or in the world?  Or is in in all of these places? There is so much going on all around us, that we can easily get overwhelmed by the idea of doing anything at all and throw up our hands and do nothing. As Christians, we must ask: Are we going to sit by and watch our culture fall apart and our families disintegrate and do nothing? Or are we going to do something to help turn America to God?

The future of our culture is in the hands of Christians because the cause of our cultural demise is innately spiritual. And if a problem is spiritual, its cure must be spiritual as well. If we Christians are going to help turn our nation to God, we must fall on our knees and our faces before God and pray. We must not only talk about prayer, but pray. Not only agree on the importance of prayer, but pray. Not only preach on the power of prayer, but pray. As Billy Graham once said, “To get our nation on its feet, we must get on our knees.”

Second Chronicles 7:14 contains an awesome promise: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” In this hallmark passage, God calls a nation to pray.

Prayer is an earthly request for heavenly intervention. But we can’t enjoy this kind of divine intervention of healing in our land with just a little prayer tossed toward Heaven occasionally. The kind of prayer that will reclaim lives, families and a nation for God must take high priority in our schedules. In fact, if you look back at Nehemiah 1:4, you see that Nehemiah prayed and fasted for days when he heard about the conditions in Jerusalem.

In the face of his nation’s ongoing cultural demise, Nehemiah’s first reaction was to pray! He fasted and prayed and sought God. As he did so, God revealed His strategy—and reversed years of deterioration in just 52 days. This is because prayer saves time.

We could save a lot of time and worry if we spent time praying first. That’s because God’s divine influence makes light work of the issues we face. When we might spend weeks and months trying to resolve an issue in our own power, God can make all the difference in a much shorter amount of time.  Let’s make prayer our priority in this new year, and let’s pray TOGETHER!

 


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A Very Strong Message for Sharing the Gospel

“Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples.”                                                                                                                                                         —-Psalm 96:3

Have you ever been driving and then pass by a policeman with his speed gun pointed at the traffic coming from the opposite direction?  Have you ever flashed your lights so people would slow down and avoid getting a ticket?  If so, you were essentially warning them of something to come that would not go well for them.  Most of us would do that without thinking twice about it.  Why are many of us more concerned about a traffic stop than people’s potential for eternity in hell?! 

We have to remember that life comes to an end for everyone. One thing is clear: We all will die and eternity some place. Ecclesiastes 3:1–2 tells us, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die.”

Jesus spent more time talking about Hell than anyone else. Of the forty parables He told, more than half of them relate to God’s eternal judgment of sinners. Hell is a real place for real people. It is as real as heaven!  Therefore, one of the strongest motivations for out getting out there to share the gospel should be so people won’t go to Hell. That is the bottom line. If we tell people they will have fulfillment, peace, and joy if they believe in Jesus, while that is true, it isn’t the most significant part of the message.  The greatest aspect of the gospel, which means “good news,” is that we don’t have to go to Hell. Instead, we can go to Heaven.  Where would you be headed if nobody had shared the Gospel message with you?  If you know people who aren’t Christians, then they are headed to Hell. The question is what are you doing to reach them? 

“It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment”. Hebrews 9:27

The Great Commission requires that we do more than share the Gospel message.  We are to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples, and so on and so forth.  But as we grow into a better understanding about discipleship and what it really means to make disciples, we must consider how important it is for us to share the Gospel.  In other words, while we are learning and growing into disciples who make disciples, we should continue to share the Gospel message. 

 


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Making Disciples

Have you ever gone into a store while they were restocking the shelves?  If what you wanted was out of stock, and you saw a pallet of that inventory waiting to be restocked, wouldn’t you get a little bit anxious waiting for the stockboy or girl to open up the boxes and get the item back on the shelves?  You’d probably be anxious for that stockperson to do their job.  Waiting 10 minutes would probably frustrate you.  Imagine how God feels while he waits on you to make disciples.  Depending on how long it has been since your conversion, God has probably waited more than 10 years for you to do your job!  This just reminds us that it is past time for us to figure out how to do our job.
 

A gallop poll confirmed that people who have friends at work are more engaged employees.  They are usually more involved and more productive as much as their capabilities allow.  The alternative is an employee who would rather be some place else, any place else even.  This same thing is important in church.  Think about it.  People who have friends at church are more engaged members.  They are usually more involved and more productive as much as their capabilities allow.  The alternative is a church member who comes sparingly or just stops coming altogether.  Wow.  Think on that for a moment and consider a recent sermon by Prophetess Smith where she showed us one of the problems:  We are failing in our mission.  We aren’t making disciples.  We are sharing the Gospel message, and we are getting people to accept the Lord Jesus as their Savior.  However, we aren’t very successful in getting them from conversion to discipleship.  One of the reasons is we aren’t spending enough time building a relationship with these new Christians.

 

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… (Matthew 28:19)

 

Most of us probably know how to make converts.  We share the Gospel, and if someone responds to the Good News, there is a rebirth and a new Christian is made.  But until that person is reading God’s Word daily, praying with his or her spouse, obeying God, and sharing his or her faith at every opportunity, you haven’t yet made a disciple.  A disciple should be showing the Fruit of the Spirit and growing more like Jesus Christ every day.  

 

So what do we do to make disciples out of new Christians?  The most essential elements in disciple-making are relationship and time.  You’ve got to share one-on-one time with a person to make a disciple.  Classes and teachings are good, but caring for the person and talking to them directly have proven to have more impact.  That’s exactly what Jesus did!  The next most important thing is modeling discipleship.  You can’t make a disciple if you aren’t living as one.  Preach what you practice.  Encourage, love, pray with, study with, and be there for people and you will make disciples.  Jesus did all of this, and he made disciples!

 

The Great Commandment is our mission.  Go, and do your job!

 


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The Value of Woship

So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. —Acts 2:46-47

Just as something wonderful happens when God’s people get together and study His Word, something extraordinary happens when God’s people get together and sing His praises. Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Now this verse is not saying that God only shows up when people worship, because God is omnipresent. But He manifests His presence in a special way when His people lift up His name in praise and worship.

The early church was a worshipping church. Acts 2:46–47 tells us, “They ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people.” The phrase “gladness and simplicity of heart” literally means “with unaffected joy.” There was joy in the early church. There was vibrancy. But there also was reverence. A few verses earlier, we read that fear came upon every soul, and wonders and signs were done through the apostles (verse 43). There should be joy and reverence. Those are elements that should be in our worship. The Spirit-filled church will be a worshipping church, and the Spirit filled Christian will be a worshipping Christian.

Someone might say, “Well, I just don’t always feel like worshipping.” Do you think the first-century believers always felt like praising God? They were harassed. They were beaten. They were mocked. These Christians faced persecution on a massive scale, but they were thankful to God.

The Bible doesn’t say, “Give thanks to the Lord when you feel good.” Rather, it says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!” (1 Chronicles 16:34). That is how Job was able to worship God after calamity came knocking at his door (see Job 1:20).

Sometimes worship can feel like a sacrifice, still God is deserving of our honor and praise. No matter what, we must worship God.


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A Test of Faith

The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the LORD. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.” Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?” “Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a little oil.” Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. –2 Kings 4:1-3(NIV)

Have you ever felt hopeless? Overwhelmed by the pressures of daily life and all of its circumstances? Well, the woman in these verses had all but given up hope. Her husband had died, and left her with a ton of debt. She had no income. Creditors were threatening to take her sons as payment for her bills. In a moment of despair and helplessness, she cried out to the prophet Elisha.

There are times when the faithful will fall into financial difficulty, among other things. It does not necessarily mean anyone has been unfaithful or does not have faith. There are times when the difficulty comes as a test of faith. As the hopelessness overwhelmed her, this widow asked the prophet of God, Elisha, what to do. Elisha asked her what she had left.

Sometimes we only have a little for God to work with, but He can do a lot with a little. If we are willing to demonstrate our faith by putting that little bit into His hands, He multiplies it. Do you remember the fish and loaves and the widow who fed Elijah? What do you have? Whether we have a little or plenty, are you willing to put it in God’s hands?

Elisha told her to borrow as many jars as she could from her neighbors. And thus, she did. She poured the little oil she had left into one jar and it kept coming out of that jar. It continued to flow until every last jar she had on hand was full. What a way to pass a test of faith!

When you expect God to move, prepare in a big way. The oil the widow collected was sold to pay their debts with enough left over to sustain them. Sometimes, the solution will come in a most unexpected way. All God asks is that we trust Him. How you handle the difficulties you face can indicate whether or not you really truly trust in God.

Remember this:  Though the righteous fall into difficulty, God will provide when they place their trust in Him.

 


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We can give God joy

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2 NIV)

Jesus knew the purpose for his life on earth. One of the key ideas about Easter is the fact that his death, burial, and resurrection is the whole reason he came to earth. The purpose of Christ’s life was to offer himself as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind. The Bible says that Jesus became sin for us so that we could be forgiven and found righteous in God’s sight (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus endured the cross with that purpose in mind. Jesus was so certain of his purpose that he predicted when and how he would die (Matthew 26:2). Jesus looked beyond the suffering, shame, punishment, and death. Christ knew the joy that was yet to come, so he focused on the future.

What, then, is our purpose? Some would answer that our purpose is to love God, and to serve God. Others might say that our chief purpose is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. These descriptions are true. But let me also suggest that our purpose is to bring God joy!

The Bible says that there is great joy in heaven whenever a sinner repents (Luke 15:10). Likewise, the Lord rewards good works and there is joy in hearing him say, “Well done good and faithful servant.” This means Jesus anticipated the joy that would take place when each person would repent and be saved. He also looked forward to the joy that would result from each good work done by believers in obedience to God and motivated by love.

The Bible says that we love God because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). Ephesians 2:1-10 tells us that by nature we are rebellious towards God and are born spiritually dead. It is by his love and grace that he brings us to faith and reconciliation. God has even planned our good works (Ephesians 2:10).

As Easter approaches, think of this amazing thought: Our Father rejoices and experiences joy as we respond to him in repentance, love, and good works that brings him glory. We can give God joy! Remember that aspect of your purpose. God is looking forward to it.

 


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The Power of the Holy Spirit

For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you. —2 Corinthians 13:4

Spiritual power is the divine energy God is willing to express in and through us and the divine authority needed to carry out the work God has called us to do victoriously.

We cannot “harness” the power of the Holy Spirit. This power is not just for preachers, evangelists, or people who work in special ministry; rather, it is available to every believer who willingly surrenders moment by moment in submission and obedience to the Holy Spirit.
 

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Do Not Lean on Your Own Understanding

Read part 1 first, Trust In The Lord.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

 

Don’t Lean on Your Understanding

The verse involves a positive–something you must do. But it also involves a negative–something you must not do. Don’t lean on your own understanding. Basically, the verse is telling us that we ought not to be self-reliant. We cannot pursue a course of action, a financial decision, a business move, a relationship, or an educational choice, simply based on our own understanding. It must be founded in our trust in God.

Self-reliance is such a deceptive trap. We begin to pride ourselves in something–our savvy, our looks, our intellect, our spirituality, our family, whatever. And when we do, it takes away our trust in the Lord. It has become trust in self. The result is a dangerous compromise that will lead to destruction.


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Trust in The Lord

 

It’s simple. It’s short. Yet it’s incredibly powerful. Proverbs 3:5-6 is one of the most familiar passages in the Bible–with good reason. It sets forth a life-changing truth that is worthy of our attention. Spend three minutes reading this article, and see if you agree.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Trust in the Lord.

It starts with trust. Any real relationship has to start with some level of trust. It’s the only way a friendship will endure. It’s the only way a marriage will work out. It’s the simple reason why an employer hires workers, or why the workers stay employed. It’s all about trust. Trust in the Lord, however, takes on an entirely new dimension. This is our trust in an eternal, all-powerful, all-wise, all-loving God. He is worthy of our trust. The trust is important, not just because of who God is, but because of the way in which we must trust him: with all your heart. It involves every fiber of your being. That’s the kind of trust we can have in God–a complete, unshakable, deep, abiding trust.

 

Read part 2, Don’t Lean On Your Understanding


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