September 21

Quickly, this week there is a large focus on prayer.  I am taking part in a prayer conference Monday and Tuesday.  Wednesday is See you at the pole school gathering (as well as prayer meeting).  And I am meeting with a pastor on Thursday and praying with him.  So my encouragement for you this week is to be Men and Women of prayer too.

September 14

Prayer has been the subject of my thinking this morning.  A zoom call had it as a subject of discussion and my devotion was about the time Daniel prayed for wisdom.  Plus my desk calendar had this quote from Charles Swindoll, “Think before you pray . . . Draw your prayer out of real life.  Don’t lapse into mechanical muttering or convenient religious jargon.  You’re not just ‘saying a blessing,’ you’re talking to your God!”  It reminds me about that last several nights praying with my kids.  Every night when I put them to bed, I ask them, “What would you like to pray for tonight?”  And, knowing this pattern, my three sons usually answer the same thing every night- something to the effect “For the great day I had”. And I wonder sometimes as I close their door if that is all they pray for or if after I leave they pray silently to themselves things that are too embarrassing to pray with their father about.  I hope that is the case, but it might be they have just settled into muttering the same thing without thinking about who they are praying to.  Then I think sometimes we as adults sometimes do the same think.  Next time you pray, think about who you are praying to.

September 7

Fall is here and the weather here in central Illinois is making it feel that way.  This week in my personal devotional time, I have been reading through Ezekiel and I have come to the dry bones chapter (37).  The question God asks is, “Can these dry bones live?”  The answer comes when God does cause the dry bones to come to life through the breath of his Spirit.  We all have times in our lives when we encounter dry bones.  Whether that be personally or in someone else’s life.  And the question we often ask is, “Can these dry bones live?”  The great news is the same spirit that caused Ezekiel’s bones to live can breathe new life into our dry bones and bring new life.  But just like Ezekiel, we need to ask that Spirit to come into our dry bones.  Ask.

August 31

One of the stories in Billy Graham’s sermon was about the juggler who lost it all because of haughtiness and pride.  And the idea of juggling away our souls.  We cannot leave anything to chance.  We need to be sure that Jesus has changed our life.  Because without that assurance, it all can slip through our fingers.  What opportunities have slipped between your fingers and how are you going to make the most of the opportunities God gives you?

August 24

As I was thinking about what to write this week, I came across a quote from Bill Hybels that adds a bit to the sermon from John Wesley I preached this week.  “Service that pleases God is a heartfelt response for all that He has done.  Authentic servers realized that they are sinners deserving eternal condemnation.  They can do nothing to earn God’s favor.  Only Jesus’ death on their behalf buys their entrance into heaven.”

August 17

Some of you who listened to this week’s message may have thought this was an easy sermon to prepare and preach.  After all, all you need to do is open up a Bible and read.  But I wanted to do more than that.  As I mentioned in my introduction, these messages were not written down right away and so the actual words and order of the topics may have been slightly changed or remembered a bit differently.  Plus Matthew gives no transitions between the topics which I am sure Jesus (as the ultimate communicator) would have added in order for his audience to understand.  So I knew I needed some editing and some adding of transitional kinds words to transform it from a message into a sermon.  I just could not read it straight from a translation.  And if I could what translation would it be?  These words have been read hundreds of times and are topics of many lesions, so most people know what they say, but do they know what they mean?  I wanted these words to be heard with fresh ears just as they were to the people in that day who heard Jesus preaching them for the first time.  So it was a bit difficult in that aspect as well.  And finally, the last chapter has several topics that seem to be mixed together as if they were summaries from various sermons.  And so I tried to organize the similar topics and ideas together instead of the way they are placed in our Bibles.  For an example Jesus talks about seeking the kingdom of God in two groups of verses but there are verses in between that talk about misjudging others, were as there are two ideas of not judging others and judging them by their fruit that are also separated from each other.  So I did change the order of the verses from what we have recorded and grouped them together under one subject heading.  I hope in the end this message of Jesus was delivered in a way that was both fresh and understandable.

August 10

This post is late again this week.  Since I took a vacation last week, it took me a while this week to catch up on all the stuff that I took a break from last week.  The message from Andy Stanley we watched Sunday asked a powerful question.  It was not “Are you a Christian?” which is easy to answer because it is not defined in the Bible.  But the question he suggests we ask ourselves is “Are you a Disciple?”.  A disciple is defined in the Bible and it is much easier to ask.  The hard part is answering it.  Because a disciple is someone who follows the teaching and the example of another person, in this case, Jesus.  How well are you following Jesus?  This is a question that we will be looking at further this coming Sunday as we look at the Sermon on the Mount.  I cannot wait to see you there.

August 3

It is hard to preach on the wrath of God and the reality of hell.  Hell is a horrible place and unfortunately according to Jesus many are on the wide road to it.  And it is even more frightening is that one day, every believer will see (at least for a moment those who are suffering in hell.  This is what the last verse in Isaiah seems to say (as was mentioned in the sermon).  “And they (the righteous) will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched (a picture of hell)”  It is something I had never thought of before.  But we might actually see our friends and loved ones who never accepted Jesus as their Savior, suffering in Hell’s fires.  I hope this inspires everyone of us to tell them about Jesus.  You may even have to use ideas like this sermon expressed to convince them that hell is not the place they want to end up and that their time is short and there is no guarantee that they have time to spare.

July 27

The year is going by fast with August starting this week.  School will be starting and students will return to classes to do their best.  The idea from Sunday that we need to do our best is not a new one.  God not only deserves our best but he also expects it.  By giving our all in everything we say and do, we show God how much he means to us and in turn God promises to bless us when we do.  Again, the passage from Malachi about testing God is the only time God makes this declaration.  If we are faithful in giving to God what he asks, he will throw open the heavens and we will be blessed.  I would add giving cheerfully and with a heart for God but that is what we are promised.  I hope you are going to test God this week by giving him your best.

July 20

Got back from vacation yesterday and I enjoyed relaxing and getting renewed.  Everybody needs to get away every once and a while.  In fact, it is biblical to do so.  The Old Testament has several festivals that are intended for people to get away from their day to day work and take time to spend with God.  The feast of booths is one example (also called feast of tablernacles) in Leviticus 23.  So make sure to take time away from your schedule and spend it with God.