February 4

   A song popped into my head this morning as I was starting to think about what to write in this devotion this morning.  As you know, if you attended service yesterday or listened to the podcast of the sermon (2/3/19 Sermon) we talked about the battle we are in against Satan.  Well the song “The Battle belongs to the Lord” came to me.  It is an upbeat song by Jamie Owens-Collins that talks about how we can rely on God and His strength when we do battle against Satan and his forces.  “In heavenly armor we’ll enter the land, The battle belongs to the Lord. No weapon that’s fashioned against us will stand, The battle belongs to the Lord.  When the power of darkness comes in like a flood . . . He’s raised up a standard, the pow’r of His blood . . . . When your enemy presses in hard, do not fear . . . Take courage, my friend, your redemption is near. The battle belongs to the Lord.”  And the refrain is a praise, “And we sing glory, honor, power and strength to the Lord. We sing glory, honor, power and strength to the Lord”  And as I said a couple of times in my message, we need to trust and rely on the Lord and the power he has given us when we are out in the world – Satan’s world – spreading the life changing message of Jesus.  Satan may be more powerful than us, but “greater is He who is in us than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4)

January 28

  I had a lot of information that I read this last week about the Sabbath and how we are commanded to keep it.  But “keeping” it means different things to different people.  Here is a quote from one of the commentaries I looked at this last week.  “In our culture we have lost this gift of a day when we can reconnect with the holy and recharge our spiritual batteries. Our daily struggles may produce economic triumphs but can make our lives a spiritual wasteland. Lily Tomlin said the trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you are still a rat. We need time for ennobling our souls and must enjoy this gift. One must be cautious, however. The incident recorded in Mark reveals how a gift can be nullified by rules that saddle others with additional burdens rather than unchaining them from their load. (Garland, D. E. (1996). Mark (p. 124). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.)  It goes on to say, “The observance of days (like Sundays) and seasons is not to be the sole element that distinguishes Christians from others. What Jesus affirms is that the Sabbath is for doing good. Jesus never criticizes the law that requires the Sabbath to be treated as holy. He simply affirms that the Sabbath can become an occasion to do good rather than simply a time to refrain from work. (p. 124).  I hope that our “Sabbaths” are not just days of rest, but also days of work . . .  doing God’s work.

January 21

  As usual, I am writing this blog on Monday morning.  And this Monday morning is the Monday on which our nation celebrates the great man Martin Luther King Jr.  And ironically as I was reading my personal devotions this morning (which includes reading through the Bible in one year), the passage I was “assigned to” was at the beginning of Exodus.  And I could not help but think of all the parallels between this passage and the civil rights movement that Dr. King led for many years.  He helped to bring about some of freedoms and liberties that some Americans were denied.   And just as Moses led the people out of their land of slavery, King did too.  So today, I wanted to pay honor to the legacy that Martin Luther King Jr. left for us and for the message that he delivered to all of us.

January 14

We did not have any services on Sunday due to the snowy weather.  However, I thought I would write a quick jot to keep this weekly blog going (or should it be a weakly blog?)  Either way, I look forward to writing these things and it gives me something to look forward to on Mondays.  I was all set to start a new series this week on the book of Mark.  It is a fun book and I hope that you will attend or tune in with us each week for the next 12 as we dig in to this gospel.
I came across something in my daily devotions today that kind of builds on the faithfulness of God I preached on a week ago.  Talking about all the people in the 11th chapter of Hebrews (faith chapter), “All of these expressions of faith were made by those anticipating a hope that would be fulfilled by God in whom they had place their faith.”  God is Faithful.

January 7

  I am sitting in my office this morning looking forward to the new year.  I have not had a time to set aside in this last month or so to plan out my next six or so months of sermons.  I have fallen behind.  I try twice a year to set aside a day or two or even a weekend when I can prayerfully consider what to preach on for the next six months.  It sometimes come easy and at other times, I wonder what direction the Holy Spirit is leading me and this church.  I know some pastors do not plan ahead like this and pick their sermon/passage of scripture week by week.  I think they think that the Spirit will inspire them on what He wants them to preach about using the “hot topic” of the week or some other recent event that will trigger a response on which they can base their sermon.  I figure, if the Holy Spirit can direct a pastor to a particular topic or passage of scripture for the next Sunday during the previous week, He (who knows the future far in advance) can guide me month by month on what I can preach on.
   I have experienced first hand how this takes place.  Several years ago, I put together a six month plan for my sermon series relying on the Holy Spirit to guide me on what to preach on week by week.  Then 9/11 hit.  Three months before, had planned on preaching from a particular passage the Sunday following that traumatic event in our country.  That week, I questioned whether I should change what I had written down months earlier or change it. But as I saw the scripture and message that the Spirit had laid on my heart months before, I realized that it was exactly what the church needed to hear that Sunday and I knew that with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, I did not need to change.  God knew far in advance that 9/11 would take place.  And He knew the message, He wanted me to bring the Sunday following.
  So as you read this, pray for me that God would lead and direct my thoughts this next week so that His messages for these next months would come upon my heart and impress them on my spirit as I plan accordingly.

December 31

Just a couple of thoughts on this New Years Eve.  I found these this week before I finished writing my sermon so they do not have much connecting them to my message, but good thoughts anyway for this new year.  The first is from Charles Swindoll’s book Come before Winter.  “When the wrappings and ribbons are in the trash can and the manger scene is back in the attic and the friends and family have said good-bye and the house feels empty and so to you . . . there is One who waits to fill your heart and renew your hope.  He was there on December 24.  He’ll be there on the 26th.”
The second thought comes from the Advent devotional Good News of Great Joy.  “Many of you are pondering some changes in the new year, because you have fallen into sinful patterns and want out. You want some new patterns of eating. New patterns for entertainment. New patterns of giving. New patterns of relating to your spouse. New patterns of family devotions. New patterns of sleep and exercise. New patterns of courage in witness. But you are struggling, wondering whether it’s any use. Well here’s your [final] Christmas present: Christ not only came to destroy the works of the devil—our sinning— he also came to be an advocate for us when we fail in our fight.  So I plead with you, let the freedom to fail give you the hope to fight. But beware! If you turn the grace of God into license, and say, “Well, if I can fail, and it doesn’t matter, then why bother fighting?”—if you say that, and mean it, and go on acting on it, you . . . should tremble.  But that is not where most of you are. Most of you want to fight sinful patterns in your life. And what God is saying to you is this: Let the freedom to fail give you hope to fight. I write this to you that you might not sin, but if you sin you have an advocate, Jesus Christ.”

December 24

It’s Christmas Eve.  Before I start this devotional, I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and pray God’s blessings on all who read this blog.  I have been doing this weekly blog for about 6 months now and going through it again brings back some fond memories on how God has worked and a lot of incites that He has revealed to me the second half of the year.  And this last month, I know I have been doing many quotes from an Advent book about the hymns of Charles Wesley Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Advent and Christmas with Charles Wesley and again I found an interesting thought in it this morning.  I have always taught and preached that Jesus was born a King, but that his kingship was not to be a conqueror on the earth the first time.  But I believe I have that wrong now.  Because while, yes, Jesus came “not to conquer nations, rulers, or people [the first time]; rather he [came to] destroy the power of death” (pg 65).  And if you think about it, that was the world’s greatest enemy: Death.  Jesus came to conquer death and the power it had over our lives.  And once that greatest of enemies was conquered, all the rest is a piece of cake (or pie since it is Christmas Eve).  Jesus’ victory over death gives us victory over nations and rulers and people even though we are still under their “power”.  But because of Jesus’ life, we now have greater power.  I hope this give you strength during this holiday season.  And again MERRY CHRISTMAS

December 17

   I stated in my sermon this week what many of you came as a surprised.  I briefly touched on the fact that there is very little evidence in the Bible that angels sing.  According to the Bible, the only place that suggests that angels sing in the Bible is a poetic reference in Job 38:4-7.  All the other places angels are mentioned have them speaking their messages and not singing.  Now certain modern translations do use the word singing, but it is a mistranslation of the word for speaking.  They translated it in this way because down through the years and in all manner of art forms and music, we have come to believe that angels sing.  I again want to clarify.  I am not saying angels do not sing or that they cannot sing.  I am just saying all the biblical passages about angels do not report them singing (with the possible exception of Job 38, which also has non-angelic interpretations).
   Let me give you a quote from David Jeremiah’s book What the Bible says About Angels.  He is quoting from W. A. Criswell, “Music is made up of major chords and minor chords.  The minor chords speak of the wretchedness, death and sorrow of this fallen creation (Romans 8:22).  Most of nature moans and groans in a plaintive and minor key.  The sound of the wind through the forest, the sound of the storm, the sound of the wind around the house, is always in a minor key.  It wails.  The sound of the ocean moans in its restlessness, in its speechless troubles.  Even the nightingale’s song, the sweetest song of the birds, is the saddest.  Most of the sounds of nature are in a minor key.  It reflects the wretchedness, the despari, the hurt, the agony, the travail of this fallen creation.  But the angel knows nothing of it.  An angel know nothing of wretchedness, nothing of despair, nothing of the fall of our lost race . . . Our sweetest songs with deepest sorrows are fraught.  Somehow it is the sorrow of life, the disappointment of life and the despair of life that makes people sing, either in the blackness of its hour or in the glory of its deliverance.  That is why the redeemed sing and angels just speak of it.  They see it, they watch it, but they know nothing about it.  For it takes a lost and fallen man — who has been brought back to God, who has been forgiven of his sin, who has been redeemed — it takes a saved soul to sing!”
    So maybe the reason why the Bible does not expressly say that angels sing is because they are unable to know and express the feelings we as redeemed people have that cause us to sing.  Think about it.

December 9

I have been reading for my personal devotions this Advent season a book titled “Good News of Great Joy” by John Piper and there has been several places that add to the sermon I preached Sunday, but I felt I did not need to include in the sermon. When talking about power (and the power of Rome, he writes, “Have you ever felt, like me, little and insignificant in a world of seven billion people, where all the news is of big political and economic and social movements and of outstanding people with lots of power and prestige?  If you have, don’t let that make you disheartened or unhappy. For it is implicit in Scripture that all the mammoth political forces and all the giant industrial complexes, without their even knowing it, are being guided by God, not for their own sake but for the sake of God’s little people—the little Mary and the little Joseph who have to be got from Nazareth to Bethlehem. God wields an empire to bless his children.
  He goes on to say the next article, “Now you would think that if God so rules the world as to use an empire-wide census to bring Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, he surely could have seen to it that a room was available in the inn.
Yes, he could have. And Jesus could have been born into a wealthy family. He could have turned stone into bread in the wilderness. He could have called 10,000 angels to his aid in Gethsemane. He could have come down from the cross and saved himself. The question is not what God could do, but what he willed to do.  God’s will was that though Christ was rich, yet for your sake he became poor. The “No Vacancy” signs over all the motels in Bethlehem were for your sake. “For your sake he became poor” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
  I like the idea that even though God used His power to bring about His purposes according to His will and plan, but then withheld his power when He came to be born so that He could live His life like ours.

December 3

This last week, I came across this in my devotional time.  It is about waiting on the Lord and in this season of advent as we wait and prepare for the birthday of Jesus, I think this is an important reminder (as well as other times in our lives when we feel God’s calling for us to wait on Him).  “How do we wait for the Lord? In the early years of the Wesleyan revival, this question surfaced with force. Some, convinced that there was nothing they could do to obtain salvation since it was God’s gift, advocated doing nothing at all. “Be still,” they argued. “Do nothing, or you will rely on what you do for your salvation. . . .This disturbed the Wesleys tremendously. Against these advocates of “stillness,” they admonished their followers to immerse themselves in the means of grace. Wait, in other words, in those practices where God has promised to meet us. Pray. Read the word of God. Join in fellowship. Receive Eucharist. Over against a passive approach to waiting on God, they advocated an active spirituality (Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Advent and Christmas with Charles Wesley (p. 12-13))  So let’s wait actively expecting God to break into our lives as He broke into time 2000 years ago.