September 17

  I have been thinking about Groveland Missionary Church and it’s faithful service to the Lord for the last 122 years.  Much has happened and much has changed in those years.  But one thing that has not changed is that God is Faithful and He has been so good to this church down through the years.  He has been with this congregation through the ups and downs, during the good times and the struggles.  Many people have come in and out of these doors.  Many souls have been forever changed.  Many seeds have been sown and many harvests have come and gone.  But I see great things ahead for this church.  The Law of the Harvest states that you reap what you have sown, that you reap only after you have sown, and that you reap more than you have sown.  I see a great harvest just ahead for Groveland Missionary Church.  But the harvest needs workers to bring in the harvest.  It would be wonderful if the harvest could reap itself, but that is not the case.  As one book says, “The Cross must be raised in the marketplace as well as on the steeples of the churches. We cannot hope to get our entire communities into our churches to hear evangelistic sermons (as valid and proven as this method of evangelism is). But we can hope to get our churches (born again believers; devoted disciples) out into every area of our communities.  Answering the Call to Evangelism: Spreading the Good News to Everyone (p. 32).  And as this book later explains, “These principles of evangelism worked for Jesus (John 4:39–42)! They will work for you too. But like all rules for success, they will not work unless you do. If you will cultivate the ground and plant the seed, you can expect to reap the resulting harvest for Christ. Evangelism is not optional. We are commanded to serve the Lord by reconciling sinful man with a holy and loving God. What are we doing about it?” (p. 39).

September 10

In preparing the message for Sunday, I came across two great sermons by Charles Spurgeon, “The Sinner’s Friend” and “The Very Friend You Need” and I used several long quote that were packed with goodness.  And since they were so long and so loaded with great material, I thought that I would use this space to share them with you again.  I think it will take you the rest of the week to digest these mouthfuls.
“His whole soul was filled with love to men while they were yet sinners and enemies to himself. It was this that made him quit his Father’s court, and all the royalties of heaven, to come and be born in a stable, and laid in a manger, and to labour in a carpenter’s shop, and to become the poorest of the poor, and the most despised and rejected of men. All this was because he loved men, not only as men, but as guilty men.”
Spurgeon, C. H. (1896). “The Very Friend You Need.” In The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons (Vol. 42, p. 460). London: Passmore & Alabaster.
“You do not find him standing at a distance, issuing his mandates and his orders to sinners to make themselves better, but you find him coming among them like a good workman who stands over his work; he takes his place where the sin and the iniquity are, and he personally comes to deal with it. He does not write out a prescription and send by another hand his medicines with which to heal the sickness of sin, but he comes right into the lazar-house, touches the wounded, looks at the sick; and there is healing in the touch; there is life in the look. The great Physician took upon himself our sicknesses and bare our infirmities, and so proved himself to be really the sinner’s friend.”
Spurgeon, C. H. (1864). The Sinner’s Friend. In The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons (Vol. 10, p. 110). London: Passmore & Alabaster.
“The Lord Jesus Christ was not “a friend of publicans and sinners” in the sense of being in the least like them. Our proverb says, “A man is known by the company he keeps,” but you could not have known the Lord Jesus Christ by the company he kept. It would be strictly true to say of him that he was “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners,” that even when he was present with them, and received them, and ate with them, yet still there was a grave distinction between him and them, so that you could never consider him to be of the same class with them. No, brethren, his bitterest enemies could not truly lay any sin to his charge; they had to hire false witnesses to make up an accusation against him, and when they had made it up, there was really nothing in it. The quick-eyed prince of this world, Satan himself, could find nothing sinful in him, and the princes of this world, whose eyes, through their malice, had become like the eyes of lynxes, yet could not discover anything for which they could blame him. He was not like them, he was not like any sinner, he was not like the drunkard, he was not like the adulterer, he was not like the thief, nor was he in the least like the hypocritical Pharisee, who, with all his attempts to appear righteous, was not really like the Saviour. So, Christ was not “a friend of publicans and sinners” in the sense of being like them.”
Spurgeon, C. H. (1896). “The Very Friend You Need.” In The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons (Vol. 42, p. 458). London: Passmore & Alabaster.
And here is another one that I did not have time to add into my message:
“Our Saviour proved his love to men in his very coming to this earth, as I have already said; but when he was here, he went about doing good. He never was invited to do good to any, and refused, however lowly—and, let me add, however polluted they might be; they were always welcome to his benediction. He went about preaching the gospel which could elevate those who were fallen, and comfort those who were despairing. And at the last he proved his love in the highest conceivable manner. If a good shepherd laid down his life for his sheep, and in doing so was proved to be good, did not Jesus do so? Let me quote those blessed words of the apostle Peter,—there is more music in them than in all Homer’s poetry,—“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree.” That we might live, he died. That we might be cleansed from our iniquities, the Lord hath laid them all on him. O sinners, Christ is indeed your friend, since, by his death, he has already done for you all that almighty love could suggest, and omnipotent love could carry out. Yea, and rising from the grave, and mounting to his throne, he made intercession for the transgressors, and he continues still to prove his love to sinners by daily pleading for them. The prayer he commenced on earth has never closed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Oh, yes, he is intensely, deeply affectionate within himself, but he is abundantly and practically the friend of sinners by what he does for them! How I wish that some of you would prove this by going to him, that he might exercise upon you all the matchless skill of his inimitable grace!
Spurgeon, C. H. (1896). “The Very Friend You Need.” In The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons (Vol. 42, pp. 460–461). London: Passmore & Alabaster.

September 4

Sunday we saw Jesus as a party animal.  And I showed a slide that included all the parties Jesus attended, spoke on, or mentioned in the gospel.  And the 20 different parties could not fit on one slide and were in small print on the two slides, so I thought about reproducing that list of parties here so you can check it out for yourselves.  I tried not to count the same party mentioned in multiple gospels more than once, so I cross referenced the parties from all the gospels. They are listed in gospel order since it is often difficult to do chronological among the gospels.
With Magi: Matt 2:11-12 With Matthew and other tax collectors and sinners: Matt 9:10; Mark 2:15; Luke 5:29-31 With 5000: Matt 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15 With 4000: Matt 15:29-39; Mark 8:1-13 Triumphal entry: Matt 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44 Parable of Party: Matt 22:1-14 Parable of 10 virgins: Matt 25:1-13 With Simon the Leper: Matt 26:6-13; Mark 14:1-9; Luke 7:36-50 Last Supper: Matt 26:17-35; Mark 14:12-26; Luke 22:7-38; John 13-17 With Shepherds: Luke 2:16-20
With Mary and Martha: Luke 10:38 With “Prominent Pharisee”: Luke 14:1-14 Parable of Feast: Luke 14:15-24 Parable of Lost: Luke 15 (actually 3 different stories/parables) With Zacchaeus: Luke 19:1-9 In Emmaus: Luke 24:30 After the resurrection: Luke 24:36-49 At Wedding: John 2:1-11 With Lazarus and family: John 12:1-11 After resurrection on beach: John 21:1-14
I defined “party” as an intentional group of people gathered for the expressed purpose fellowship, eating, and/or celebrating.  So I included both birth stories (wise men and shepherds) as well as the feeding of the 5000 and 4000.  I also added the triumphal entry (celebration) and the disciples on the road to Emmaus (eating).  I did not include the Jewish feasts mentioned in John’s gospel because even though Jesus came to Jerusalem for the feasts, it did not specify that Jesus participated in any of them.  It should also be noted that 13 of the 20 parties listed are in Luke’s gospel and that is even when I group the 3 parables of the Lost things in Luke 15 are grouped together as one. (And 8 of those 13 are only found in Luke).  I think Luke must have been a party animal too. :>)

August 27

This week I started a new series on Jesus as our example.  And I am looking at who Jesus was on the inside, what made him tick.  Because many of us know the stories of Jesus’ miracles and his teaching but not on who Jesus was on the inside.  And this week, I taught about Jesus as an Unbridled Lover.  Again, please disconnect the cultural perception of using this term Lover with sexual overtones.  Instead I used lover in the purest sense as a lover of people.  And as mentioned this love is unbridled — uncontrollable, unconstrained, unrestrained, uncurbed, unstoppable, runaway kind of love.  And that love brought him in contact with many “disreputables”- people who were ostracized and shunned by his culture.  He regularly showed his love to tax collectors, fishermen, women, Samaritans, foreigners, widows, and even children — all of whom were not welcomed by the religious elites.  And I could not help but think about people in our day and culture who are not usually welcomed by the religious elites (i.e. self-righteous churches) — people like minorities, foreigners (immigrates), LGBTQ, and others on the fringe.  It is as if we are afraid associating with others in the world will taint us or ruin our reputations.  But Jesus was not concerned about what people said about him, He just loved.  And we are called to do the same.  If you listened to the sermon, I issued some homework for our members: to think of one way we can reach out to the people in this area and report it back to me.  I hope that Groveland Missionary Church will take up the example set by our Lover Jesus and touch some of the people in our area that others might deem untouchable.

August 20

We we have reached the end of our series focusing on the Lord’s Prayer.  I trust it has been insightful to see how we should pray and pray effectively.  And I hope I cleared up some of the mystery of how and why are prayers go unanswered.  As a final devotion on this topic, I will again refer back to a wonderful book that has supplemented many of my sermons. While I came up with the general idea myself about unanswered prayer and preached a message 15+ years ago on the subject, John MacArthur added much to this broad subject.  In his book, Alone with God, he adds a list of sorts on what we can learn from the Lord’s prayer.
“An unknown author summarizes well the impact of this pattern for prayer:
I cannot say “our” if I live only for myself in a spiritual, watertight compartment.
I cannot say “Father” if I do not endeavor each day to act like His child.
I cannot say “who art in heaven” if I am laying up no treasure there.
I cannot say “hallowed be Thy name” if I am not striving for holiness.
I cannot say “Thy kingdom come” if I am not doing all in my power to hasten that wonderful day.
I cannot say “Thy will be done” if I am disobedient to His Word.
I cannot say “on earth as it is in heaven” if I will not serve Him here and now.
I cannot say “give us … our daily bread” if I am dishonest or an “under-the-counter” shopper.
I cannot say “forgive us our debts” if I harbor a grudge against anyone.
I cannot say “lead us not into temptation” if I deliberately place myself in its path.
I cannot say “deliver us from evil” if I do not put on the whole armor of God.
I cannot say “Thine is the kingdom” if I do not give to the King the loyalty due Him as a faithful subject.
I cannot attribute to Him “the power” if I fear what men may do.
I cannot ascribe to Him “the glory” if I am seeking honor only for myself.
I cannot say “forever” if the horizon of my life is bounded completely by the things of time.”
MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). Alone with God (pp. 116–117). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
I should note, MacArthur’s book deals with much more than just the Lord’s prayer.  However, it is the center piece of the book.  It should be read in its entirety if you want to learn more about prayer.  So as I close this devotional and this series, I will once again end with a wonderful quote.
“As you commit to following this pattern for all your prayers, your entire Christian walk will be revolutionized, not just your prayer life. No longer will you lack for something to say in prayer. Being alone with God will never be the same”

August 13

   I had a wonderful time preaching on Sunday.  It is always a pleasure to share God’s word that he has laid on my heart.  We are coming to the conclusion on the Lord’s prayer and how it answers some of the reasons why our prayers go unanswered.  And even though this week we saw that sin is one of the reasons why our prayers go unanswered, I want again to emphasize that sin (whether in our life, in our world, or in our prayer itself) is only one of the many reasons why God does not answer our prayers.  And if you have missed any of the previous sermons, click on the Media menu and then the Sermon link and you can listen to them. 
   Also, I must confess that yesterday’s sermon was not recorded.  So this morning, I preached the sermon a second time (this time to an empty auditorium), so it could be recorded and added to the other 5 sermons in this series.  It might not be exactly what was heard on Sunday, but I tried to make it as close as possible.  I hope that all the messages have impacted your life of prayer.  I know as I have worked through the Lord’s Prayer and seeing it’s connection to unanswered prayer, it has made a personal impact on my life.  I have read and heard many sermons on the Lord’s prayer in my life and saw many benefits that this prayer Jesus gave.  But until I started thinking about this series several months ago, I never connected it to unanswered prayers.  And while I admit, I had to twist one or two of the phrases very slightly to fit the “theme of the week”, most clearly applied themselves to the unanswered prayer theme I spoke on.
   There is one quote from John MacArthur’s book Alone with God that I would like to add before I close this devotion about the Pharisee Jesus condemns in Matt 6:5, “On the surface, Jesus’ condemnation of their practice of prayer seems unwarranted. Certainly there was nothing wrong with standing and praying in the synagogues. Standing was the most common position for prayer in New Testament times, and the synagogues were the most appropriate and logical places for public prayers to be offered. As long as the prayer was sincere, it was suitable. Even the practice of praying at the “street corners” was not wrong in itself—that was actually a normal place for prayer. At the appointed hour for prayer, devout Jews would stop wherever they were, even if they were walking along the street.  The real evil of these hypocritical worshipers, however, was not the location of their prayers, but their desire to display themselves “in order to be seen by men.” The Greek word for “street” refers to a wide, major street and street corner. The scribes and Pharisees made a point of praying where a crowd was most likely to gather. Whatever place might afford the largest audience, that’s where you would find these hypocrites.”   MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). Alone with God (p. 36). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

August 6

Forgiveness is an easy thing to get but much harder to give.  On Sunday, we talked about the need to forgive- to relinquish resentment toward others and the need to love other as God loves us.  If we cannot or will not our prayers will be soiled and our relationship with God will be tarnished.

One parable of Jesus the I did not include in my sermon (mainly because of time), but perfectly illustrates how God view forgiveness and unforgiveness is found in Matt 18:21-35, “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
  Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
  “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
  “The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
  “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
  “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
  “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.
  “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.   Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
  “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”
The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Mt 18:21–35). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
In his book that I have been using on prayer, MacArthur sums up what we have learned in the last two messages.  “What have we learned? We have an ongoing problem: sin. It interrupts our fellowship and usefulness to Him. God’s provision for that sin is continual forgiveness. We receive it by confessing our sin. And the prerequisite is that we forgive others. An unforgiving Christian is a proud, selfish person who has forgotten that his sins have been washed away. Learn to confess, and before you confess, learn to forgive. Then we can confidently seek God in the solitude of our hearts and ask Him to forgive us each day.”
MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). Alone with God (p. 110). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

July 30

We had another good service on Sunday.  I did not use much from John MacArthur’s book Alone with God, because I went in another direction than he did.  Some of his thoughts on forgiveness may appear in later messages.  However, he did have much to say on our daily prayer which was what I preached on last week.
“Jesus’ earthly ministry was remarkably brief, barely three years long. Yet in those three years, as must have been true in His earlier life, He spent a great amount of time in prayer. The Gospels report that Jesus habitually rose early in the morning, often before daybreak, to commune with His Father. In the evening He would frequently go to the Mount of Olives or some other quiet spot to pray, usually alone. Prayer was the spiritual air that Jesus breathed every day of His life. He practiced an unending communion between Himself and the Father.
He urged His disciples to do the same. He said, “Keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place” (Luke 21:36).
The early church learned that lesson and carried on Christ’s commitment to continual, unceasing prayer. Even before the Day of Pentecost, the 12 disciples gathered in the Upper Room “with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14). That didn’t change even when 3,000 were added to their number on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:42). When the apostles were led to structure the church so that ministry could be accomplished effectively, they said, “We will devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word” (6:4).
Throughout his life, the Apostle Paul exemplified this commitment to prayer. Read the benedictions to many of his epistles and you’ll discover that praying for his fellow believers was his daily practice. To the Roman believers he said, “God … is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers making request” (Rom. 1:9–10; cf. 1 Cor. 1:4; Eph. 5:20; Phil. 1:4; Col. 1:3; 1 Thes. 1:2; 2 Thes. 1:3, 11; Phile. 4). His prayers for believers often occupied him both “night and day” (1 Thes. 3:10; 2 Tim. 1:3).
Because he prayed for them so continually, Paul was able to exhort his readers to pray that way as well. He urged the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17). He commanded the Philippians to stop being anxious and instead, “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6). He encouraged the Colossians to “devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2; cf. Rom. 12:12). And to help the Ephesians arm themselves to combat the spiritual darkness in the world around them, he said, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18). Unceasing, incessant prayer is essential to the vitality of a believer’s relationship to the Lord and his ability to function in the world.
A Way of Life
As a child I used to wonder how anyone could pray without ceasing. I pictured Christians walking around with hands folded, heads bowed, and eyes closed, bumping into everything. While certain postures and specific times set aside for prayer have an important bearing on our communication with God, to “pray at all times” obviously does not mean we are to pray in formal or noticeable ways every waking moment. And it does not mean we are to devote ourselves to reciting ritualistic patterns and forms of prayer.
To “pray without ceasing” basically refers to recurring prayer, not nonstop talking. Thus it is to be our way of life—we’re to be continually in an attitude of prayer.
Famous nineteenth-century preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon offers this vivid picture of what praying at all times means:
Like the old knights, always in warfare, not always on their steeds dashing forward with their lances in rest to unhorse an adversary, but always wearing their weapons where they could readily reach them, and always ready to encounter wounds or death for the sake of the cause which they championed. Those grim warriors often slept in their armour; so even when we sleep, we are still to be in the spirit of prayer, so that if perchance we wake in the night we may still be with God. Our soul, having received the divine centripetal influence which makes it seek its heavenly centre, should be evermore naturally rising towards God himself. Our heart is to be like those beacons and watchtowers which were prepared along the coast of England when the invasion of the Armada was hourly expected, not always blazing, but with the wood always dry, and the match always there, the whole pile being ready to blaze up at the appointed moment. Our souls should be in such a condition that ejaculatory prayer should be very frequent with us. No need to pause in business and leave the counter, and fall down upon the knees; the spirit should send up its silent, short, swift petitions to the throne of grace …
A Christian should carry the weapon of all-prayer like a drawn sword in his hand. We should never sheathe our supplications. Never may our hearts be like an unlimbered gun, with everything to be done to it before it can thunder on the foe, but it should be like a piece of cannon, loaded and primed, only requiring the fire that it may be discharged. The soul should be not always in the exercise of prayer, but always in the energy of prayer; not always actually praying, but always intentionally praying (The Parables of Our Lord [Grand Rapids: Baker, reprint 1979], 434–35).”
MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). Alone with God (pp. 14–16). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

July 23

This week’s additional quotes from John MacArthur’s book that I have used in my sermons includes one that I read for you during the message.  Prayer is not something you do once a day or at a specific time of day, but a 24/7 time with God.  Here is what I read and you can feel free to look up the scripture reference.  If you do not have a Bible app, you can download a great one by clicking on the links icon in the main menu.
“At a pastors’ conference I attended some years ago, one man preached on the subject of morning prayer. To support his point, he read various passages that show people praying in the morning. As he did, I looked up all the Scriptures that show people praying three times a day (Dan. 6:10), in the evening (1 Kings 18:36), before meals (Matt. 14:19), after meals (Deut. 8:10), at the ninth hour (3 P.M.; Acts 3:1), at bedtime (Ps. 4:4), at midnight (Acts 16:25), day and night (Luke 2:37; 18:7), often (Luke 5:33), when they’re young (Jer. 3:4), when they’re old (Dan. 9:2–19), when they’re in trouble (2 Kings 19:3–4), every day (Ps. 86:3), and always (Luke 18:1; 1 Thes. 5:17).
Prayer is fitting at any time, in any posture, in any place, under any circumstance, and in any attire. It is to be a total way of life—an open and continual communion with God. After having embraced all the infinite resources that are yours in Christ, don’t ever think you’re no longer dependent on the moment by moment power of God.”MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). Alone with God (pp. 19–20). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
Here is another quote I like about what our daily bread is and more importantly, where it comes from.
“Our life, breath, health, possessions, talents, and opportunities all originate from resources God has created and made available to man. Everything we have is from God: It is He who brings the rain to make things grow, causes the seasons to change, produces the minerals that make the soil fertile, provides the natural resources we use to propel ourselves around, and provides the animals and plants from which we make our clothing and food. Our daily bread—the necessities of physical life—are all from God.”
MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). Alone with God (p. 91). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
Think about these things this week and come next Sunday to hear part 4 of the Mystery of Unanswered Prayer.


I have been reading the book Alone with God by John MacArthur Jr. for my sermons on Sunday.  But there is much more in this book than I can fit into the sermon each week.  Plus there is a lot of material that does not fit my focus on “Unanswered prayers.”  So I thought that I would add some additional quotes from his book about prayer.
This last weekend I spoke on God’s will verses our will.
“Prayer begins and ends not with the needs of man but with the glory of God (John 14:13). It should be concerned primarily with who God is, what He wants, and how He can be glorified. Those who teach otherwise are not preoccupied with the extension of Christ’s kingdom or the glory of God’s name but with the enlargement of their own empire and the fulfillment of their own selfish desires. Such teaching attacks the heart of Christian truth—the very character of God. (MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). Alone with God (pp. 43–44). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.)
We have been using the Lord’s Prayer as a guide to understanding unanswered prayer.  MacArthur says this about the Lord’s prayer that is always useful when teaching about it.
“This prayer, often called the “Lord’s Prayer,” when it could more accurately be titled the “Disciples’ Prayer,” is not a set group of words to repeat. When Christ said to “pray, then, in this way,” He didn’t mean pray with these exact words. His intention was to give them a pattern for the structure of their own prayers, especially since He had just warned them of the dangers of meaningless repetition. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t recite it, as we do with so many passages in Scripture. Memorizing it is actually helpful so you can meditate on its truths as you formulate your own thoughts. The prayer is mainly a model we can use to give direction to our own praise, adoration, and petitions. It is not a substitute for our own prayers but a guide for them. (Ibid p. 45).
Think about these things this next week and join us next Sunday for part 3 of the Mystery of Unanswered Prayer.  You can join us live at Groveland Missionary Church or download the message on our website