May 27

Heroes come in all shape, sizes, and genders.  This Sunday we celebrated the hero in Esther.  And on Monday we celebrated and remembered the heroes who have died for our freedoms.  In many ways, Esther’s heroic story is very similar to the story of our country.  Esther chose to stand up for her people and for freedom to fight to survive.  And down through the ages, men and women had stood on front lines for our freedom to survive.  So as we honor Esther, we honor them.

May 20

It has been a busy week last week here at the church with the Region Conference being hosted in our building.  And I could have been overwhelmed with the details and my hosting duties.  However, one of my prayers just before conference began was that the Lord would allow me to put aside a some time that I would be able to listen to the reports and encouraging messages from around the region and that the Lord would speak to me and give me a word or two for me to take away from the conference.  And as I have experienced time and time again, God was faithful and answered that humble prayer.  I was busy and could not focus some of my time on the speakers, God did quiet my heart and allowed me to focus on Him and His message for me.  You must understand, I am a task oriented perfectionist.  I could have easily and happily focused my time and energy on other things that would have distracted me from hearing God’s voice.  But God is faithful.   What might God tell you if you too would ask Him to quiet your heart and soul from the busy schedule that you have and spend some time listening to His voice?

May 13

Calling all warriors.  You know who you are.  Especially if you listened to this week’s sermon.  God has given us all the strength we need to fight in the battle He has given each of us.  Not battle is too great for him.  So trust Him for your warrior strength and accomplish the task God has placed before you.

May 6

It looks like I missed last week with a devotional thought and it is already Friday of this week.  Our church is hosting a major conference in another week and I ma running here and there trying to get the building ready and all the details put into order.  However, I have been trying to keep current with my personal devotions.  I am not sure if I have mentioned this recently, but every morning I like to spend 15-20 minutes reading a devotional book and a few chapters from the Bible.  The devotional I use is titled “Our Daily Bread”.  I think I have posted a link to it under the “Links” tab. (if not it will be soon).  After that, I am doing a “Read through entire the Bible in one year” goal.  So I am reading the English Standard Version from cover to cover (on my Logos app).  The reason I am telling you all this is that not only did I preach on Nehemiah but this week in my read through the Bible, I am up to the book of Nehemiah in my devotional time.  It is fun to reread the same thing I just read, studied, and preached on the week before.  And no matter how many times I read the Bible I find something new.  What is something new you read today?

April 22

Easter.  The Resurrection.  What a wonderful day that changed the world.  Without the resurrection, Jesus probably would have been written off by historians as just another messianic movement that failed like countless before.  Jesus’ disciples were not going to carry on Jesus’ mission.  “The witness of the four Gospels is unequivocal that following the crucifixion Jesus’ disciples were scattered, their hope shattered by the course of events.  [The only thing that] halted the dissolution of the messianic movement centered in Jesus was the resurrection. (Lane 585)  As I said in my sermon, the women were so distraught over the death of Jesus, they forgot the most basic task needed in order to anoint Jesus’ dead body . . . how to get to the dead body with the stone in the way.  Yet the resurrection changed all that.  These scared, uneducated fishermen and common men stood up boldly to proclaim a message no one would believe without faith . . . a dead man is now alive.  Who would do something like that?  Only one who who was touched by the resurrected Christ.  Are you proclaiming it?  Maybe it is time for you to be touched again by the resurrected Christ.

April 15

  I got choked up on Sunday listening to Stuart Townshed’s song, “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.”  The thought that it was for me that Jesus had to suffer so much pain and agony is bringing tears to my eyes even now as I write this.  “It was my sin that held him there, until it was accomplished” is a sobering thought.  That kind of love was shown to someone so unlovely as I sinned and rebelled against him.  That is the only kind of love that could reconcile one like me to a Holy and Righteous God.  I could to nothing.  As another hymn reminds me, “Not for sins could I atone, Thou must save and Thou alone.”  And He did on that cruel cross at Calvary.  “Jesus was not murdered; He willingly laid down His life for us.  He was not a martyr [so we should not blame the Jews nor the Romans]; He was a willing sacrifice for the sins of the world” (Wiersbe 149).  Has He made a difference in your life?

April 8

Mark 14 has a lot in it.  And I hope you take the encouragement I gave Sunday to read and reread this important chapter that Mark has written.  Much of what Mark has been writing has its climax in this chapter.  His messianic claim is finally verbalized because now is the time for the fulfillment of God’s purpose and plan to take place.  No need to “hide” His identity.  The teachings about his betrayal and death are coming to fruition.  Jesus gives his disciples his last words of encouragement and warning.  The gospel message (loving extravagantly) is seen in one last example from an unnamed woman.  And Jesus speaks and embodies living sacrificially.
  There are some quotes that I loved from the commentaries I read that I just could not fit into the message that I want to to think about as you read this chapter again.  Garland remarks in connection with the disciples sleeping in the garden a good connection with us, “Followers of Jesus who do not pray and try to follow on their own power will collapse.”  I like what Kernaghan has to say about the disciples in the garden as Judas approaches, “Jesus’ followers were prepared to die for him, but they were not prepared to die with him.  On this night salvation would come to God’s people not through defeat of their enemies but through the death and resurrection of the Savior” (306)  Later when Jesus was before the high priest Lane says, “It is evident from Mark’s Gospel that Jesus had carefully avoided calling himself the Messiah [up to this point].  It was not his desire to arouse the nationalistic and political hopes which clustered around the figure of the Messiah in popular thinking. . . . [But now] to the question whether he claimed to be the promised Messiah, he replied clearly, ‘I am'” (536).  And finally from Garland again, “While Jesus was under fire inside, Peter warms himself by the fire outside.  As Jesus confesses under immense pressure and hostility that seals his fate, Peter capitulates under the gentlest of pressure and lies to save himself.” (566)  Hope you have a good week.

April 1

Today is April Fools Day.  However the sermon I preached yesterday was not foolish.  We talked about the end times.  And while it is important to know the signs leading up the the last days, we also need to be careful on how we walk during the last days.  This is why I focused (as I believe Jesus did in Mark 13) on preparing followers of Christ on how He wants us to behave during the end times.  He wants us to watch and be aware of the events surrounding us.  Because in those last days, there will be imposters trying to lead us astray.  There will be persecution and hardship.  There will be cosmic struggles.  There will be false Christ who WILL deceive many.  And Jesus does not want us to be unaware.  Keep watch-keep on your guard.  Do not let them trick you.  Many Christians in America have it good as far as being persecuted for Christ. Our brothers and sisters around the world are not so lucky.  But I am not sure when our luck here in America will run out.  When it does, we need to trust in God. Trust in His Word. Trust that He is in control.  Trust that He will not leave us.  And when that time comes we need to Stand. Stand firm in our faith. Standing combines our watchfulness and our trust in God.  It will not be easy. But that is why Jesus spoke the words to us in chapter 13.  If you do these three things, you will be no fool.

March 25

Wow, Sunday’s message had a lot in it.  And yet, there was still more I wanted to touch on but couldn’t because of time.  Here are a few more quotes from various commentaries I look at on a weekly basis in preparing my message.  Kernaghan says, “The fig tree than is an enacted parable about the temple. When Jesus denounced the temple as a den of robbers, drove out the merchants and customers, overturned the tables of the moneychangers and stopped the offering of sacrifices, he was not trying to purify the temple. His actions amounted to a curse (on the temple).  And if the fig tree, which he also cursed, had withered away to its roots, what would become of the temple?”  Later, “it is impossible to love your neighbors as yourself when you are constantly seeking to put yourself in a position above them”  Wow, so good!
   I did not have time to explore the widow’s mites at the end of chapter 12.  It like Bartimaeus serves as an positive example of the teachings before it.  Lane has several insights into this that I was unable to bring out.  This account of the widow “serves to sharpen the contrast between the sham righteousness of the scribes and that wholehearted devotion to God which characterized an unnamed widow whose poverty was absolute. . . . The fact that the woman gave two coins was significant, for she could easily have kept one for herself.” Wow, so good!
  I will leave you with those two great thoughts.

March 18

As I was doing my devotions this morning, I was reading through the book of Ruth and a phrase caught my attention.  Boaz is described as “a man of standing”.  This phrase is actually two words in the Hebrew (Gibbor Chayil).  These are the same two words that are used in Judges to describe Gideon (Judges 6:12) only there they are translated “Mighty Warrior” (NIV).  I like translation “Mighty Man of Valor”  I know that in a couple of months, I am going to preach on Gideon and so I did a bit of research on this phrase.  It is used 41 times in the OT and is used to describe notables like Jephthath (Judges 11:1), Saul (1 Sam 9:1), David (1 Sam 16:18), Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:28), and Naaman (2 Kings 5:1).  Over 63% of this combination are used in 1st and 2nd Chronicles (26 times) mostly of random tribes/peoples.  There is one woman who this attribute is connected with combining “Isssaw” (Hebrew for “woman”) and “Chayil” (i.e. woman of valor) and that is Ruth. It has a rich meaning that I will expand upon when I preach.  But today, in light of these verses, I am calling you to be men and women who are Mighty Warriors.