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11-23-20 – Pastor Jordan

I have been looking forward to beginning the Book of Romans in our daily Bible reading plan. The words we find in Verse seven will set the stage for the important theological truths that will unfold in the days ahead, “Grace to you and peace from God.” Throughout this book, Paul will explain, in great detail, how to experience the grace of God in order to have peace from God. 

We’ve all heard the word, shalom, the Hebrew word for peace, at some point. This isn’t just talking about the absence of challenges or conflict, necessarily. This is the kind of peace that gives assurance in the midst of challenges and conflict. In other words, this peace that Paul is talking about is sort of a trump card. Once we have the grace and peace mentioned here, we have everything we need for all of life and eternity.

If you have experienced the grace of God, you will have peace from God. But, we don’t always remember that we have this peace and we need a reminder. We need to preach the gospel to ourselves regularly. In his book The Discipline of Grace, Jerry Bridges says, “To preach the gospel to yourself, then, means that you continually face up to your own sinfulness and then flee to Jesus through faith in His shed blood and righteous life. It means that you appropriate, again by faith, the fact that Jesus fully satisfied the law of God, that He is your propitiation, and that God’s holy wrath is no longer directed toward you.”

We have a tendency to “lose heart” as Paul reminds in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. When we lose heart, we are forgetting about the peace of God that we possess as children of God. Today, are you living in the peace of God? Dear brothers and sisters, don’t lose heart. Remember, you are a redeemed child of God and, because of God’s grace, you can follow Jesus faithfully and even endure the suffering of this life.

11-22-20 – Pastor Gene

You may have noticed the Lord often commands His people to remember. He knows our propensity for amnesia, our tendency towards forgetfulness, and the dangers of falling into spiritual apathy.  Remembering what the Lord has done fosters a heart of thanksgiving and gives us faith for what God will do in the future.  While He commands us to remember, He does not command us to dwell in the past. 

Recently, Carole and I have been doing a great deal of remembering. In 2008, we resigned from EBC with the intent of taking a position with Lifeway in Nashville, TN. It was an agonizing and difficult decision, and just a few days after the Sunday resignation, we recognized we had made a mistake. The following Sunday, EBC allowed us to return, and within six months, you affirmed us to lead the student ministry. 

Over the last 12 years, the Lord has allowed us to lead the student ministry here at EBC. We are so grateful that we did not miss out on the incredible opportunity the Lord afforded to us. The Lord has worked in our hearts through the students and leaders above and beyond anything we could have imagined. That’s what the Lord does. He exceeds even our wildest imaginations. I am the same guy who, when the Lord called me into full-time ministry back in 2000, brokered an agreement with the Lord, “Yes Lord, anything other than student ministry.” 

We don’t have the words to express the joy, love, and blessings we have received leading the student ministry. Our hearts for these students have not changed. They are such a joy, and they are such a blessing to spend time with, to invest in, and to grow with. We are so grateful we did not miss out on what God had planned.

We look forward to seeing how the Lord will work through Dylan and Holly in the coming years. The Lord has His hand on this precious couple. We know the Lord will continue to amaze and exceed our wildest expectations. Afterall, that’s what He does. Remember, but do not dwell in the past. We don’t want to miss what God will do next. Thank you EBC.

11-21-20 – Pastor Ben

A Season for Sharing

Are you ready to share Christ with family and friends this holiday season? With Christmas and Thanksgiving coming soon, we will surely have some focused opportunities to share Christ this year. In today’s Bible reading, we get some exemplary training from the Apostle Paul! We may not be standing before governors and kings anytime soon, but here, Paul shows us how to make the most of every opportunity. We will be speaking with family and friends in the coming weeks, and we can be just as prepared and prayed up as Paul was!

In Acts 24-26, we see Paul in the middle of some high-profile witnessing opportunities before governor Felix and King Agrippa. Paul fully accepted his place in this world as a disciple and ambassador of Jesus. This meant that he would be detained at times and that he would be put on trial to stand before officials to give an account for His preaching of Christ. Jesus promised His disciples that during persecution, the Holy Spirit would give them the words they would need to say (Luke 12:12). The Lord enabled Paul to share his own testimony, articulate his beliefs, and prove his goodwill toward all people in preaching the gospel.

What Paul experienced in large scale, we do also at special times of gospel opportunity in our lives. Paul shared the mission Jesus had called him to with Felix. He knew he had been sent “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Jesus, Acts 26:18). As we as a church gather and scatter the rest of this season, this mission remains the same for us today.

During the next two holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, we will have opportunities to testify about the truth and life we have in Jesus. Whether over a table with family and friends, over zoom, or over the phone, we will have opportunities. He will empower us to tell what we are most thankful for, and also to speak of the greatest gift God has ever given to mankind. I imagine Paul would not have wasted these opportunities to share with everyone in the household! By his example, we see a man who made the most of every situation to preach the gospel in season and out of season. Let’s be faithful to do the same!

11-20-20 – Pastor Chris

By all human standards, things are not going well with Paul. As he bids farewell to the Ephesian elders, he declares that he is never to see them again. He tells them that he is compelled by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem where the Spirit tells him that suffering and persecution awaits. Paul responds, “But I consider my life of no value to myself; my purpose is to finish my course.” (Acts 20:24)

Now, having ignored pleas from God’s people to avoid Jerusalem, Paul arrives, meets with the elders, executes a plan to abate the rage of the Jewish zealots, and finds himself beaten in a riot. He is taken into custody by the Roman Army and is about to be scourged as an interrogation technique when Paul tells the guards that he is a Roman citizen. He faces the crowds and the accusations of the Sanhedrin only to see the fury of his opponents grow.

Paul has done everything he was assigned to do. He knew of danger and proceeded anyway. He endured the beatings, the humiliation, the inquisition, and the anger of his own countrymen. Now, in his cell at night, the Lord offers encouragement. [paraphrased] Precisely. Good work. Now you will get the opportunity to do it again in Rome. (Acts 23:11)

This manner of encouragement seems lacking. Where is the apology? Where is the consolation? Where is the admission that things had spiraled uncontrollably into suffering? The Lord did none of these things. Furthermore, Paul did not seem to desire them. The Lord’s encouragement was simply this: You’re right on track. Keep moving forward. You will fulfill the purpose that I gave you.
 
Suffering is not evidence that we have missed the will of God. Suffering is always temporary for the Christian and is often the means by which God delivers His redemptive message to others. In a comfort-obsessed culture, this seems incomprehensible. However, if Paul is an example to us in any measure, we must understand that he desired to fulfill his purpose more than to embrace the fleeting pleasures of comfort.

May we feel likewise.

11-19-20 – Mark Stauffer

Virtual education is – how can I say it – challenging. For many reasons, it obviously cannot replace face-to-face instruction. There are many frustrated students, parents, and teachers out there, some of whom may be reading this right now. Consider this: most children have not seen their friends and classmates now for eight full months. They have likely not made many trips or visits to see family. They may spend more time than ever alone. Their activities schedule, family schedule, even their sleep schedule may be, at best, irregular. And, do you remember how time seemed to move slower when you were young? Eight months was a long time when I was eleven!

My message to my teacher colleagues has been something like this, I know you may be spending more time than ever, yet not getting the attendance, feedback, or results you want in your student’s progress, but consider the value of the service you are providing. A Zoom meeting may be the only sense of normal a student has. Virtual school may be the only social interaction they get, the only thing keeping their mental and emotional health together right now. It’s valuable, it’s important, it’s ministry!

Most of you are not teachers, so what’s my point? There are so many needs out there right now! Just like some students, people can feel isolated, discouraged, without purpose, and forgotten. People need encouragement. People need hope. People need help. People need Jesus.

We just heard a fantastic sermon Sunday morning on the essence of the Christian life. We are to glorify the Lord in all we do, to use our lives in service to others in a way that will make the grace of God tangible to them. You know, this could start with things as simple as texts, phone calls, or Facebook messages. I can now say from personal experience how much it means to get a text that says, “I haven’t see you in a few weeks, how are you doing?”

It won’t be hard to answer the question, “Who do I know that I could encourage today?” What about that neighbor you don’t see out as much anymore? Or that family with the elementary school children that just went back to school 2 weeks ago? Or that member of our congregation you’ve only seen once since March? Remember this thought from Sunday morning written by Paul, “Convinced of this I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith.”

 

11-18-20 – Dylan Anderson

“Burn It All!”

As I was reading Acts 18-19 today, I was reminded of a story.
 
While Holly and I were serving in international missions, I was afforded the opportunity to travel to Africa to be a part of training indigenous pastors. In this particular part of Africa, many people identified as Christian, but the prosperity gospel was and is rampant. God’s Word is being distorted to be used for great gain for “church” leaders, and thousands of people are being misled and taken advantage of.
 
During the week, pastors from the US taught the basics of pastoral ministry and preaching to a group of about 25 African pastors. Many of these pastors immediately began to realize that what they were preaching and living was contrary to Scripture. Some of them got angry at first, but by the end of the week, every man present had repented of sin and recommitted themselves to Christ, His Word, and His church.
 
These pastors had decades of notes from sermons that they had preached that were contrary to the Word of God. After we left, they decided to all gather together with their families and burn all of their notes from years and years of false teaching! What a testimony!!!
 
This is exactly what we see happen in Acts 19:18-20. Many who realized that they had been teaching and believing things that were false, burned those lies in the sight of all, and the Word of the Lord went forth!
 
Englewood family, what do you need to burn in your life? What have you been listening to, trusting in, or even proclaiming yourself that is contrary to God’s Word? What better time than right now to recommit that area of your life to the Lord and to burn (literally or figuratively) those things that are contrary to truth?

11-17-20 – Pastor Charles

Wow! As we read through our Daily Bible Reading Plan, there is so much in Acts 16-17! We see Paul meeting Timothy, and Timothy joining the team to encourage and check on the believers and to take the gospel to other people and places. We see Lydia and her household saved and baptized. We see the demon cast out of the slave-girl. Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into prison, and then, we see the Philippian jailer and his household saved and baptized. And, that is just Chapter 16.

In Chapter 17, we see the Apostles in Thessalonica, Bera, Athens and the sermon on Mars Hill. Throughout these two chapters, we see so many people, men and women, turning to Christ as their Lord and Savior as they hear the good news! We see the gospel being shared no matter how difficult it was for the disciples of Christ!

But, all this activity started with the Holy Spirit telling Paul and his team, “No!” Yes, the LORD tells us no at times, and learning to hear and obey His “no” takes being filled with His Spirit. The Holy Spirit stopped Paul and his team from going into certain places because the Father had His plan for Paul and his companions. Intimacy with the Father in the Word and prayer and allowing the Spirit to lead us will enable us to discern whether we should change directions or push forward. Remember, the Spirit lives in us if we belong to Christ to help “lead us in paths of righteousness for His namesake”! So, stay close and clean, and follow the Spirit’s leading today!

11-16-20 – Pastor Jordan

A man who could not walk had just experienced the miraculous, healing power of the One True God. Paul and Barnabas were used by the Lord to bring healing to this man and it did not go unnoticed by the crowds in the area. The people of Lystra, witnessing these events, assumed that Paul and Barnabas were the embodiments of false gods. This caused great disappointment for the apostles since their desire was to bring attention to Jesus and help these people realize Zeus and Hermes were false gods.

Paul pleaded with the crowds saying, “We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.” (Acts 14:15). Do we realize that we are surrounded by people every day who are caught up in vain or useless things and need to turn to the true and living God?

I know this is a message we hear often, and I even think as I write this, “They’ve heard this a thousand times.” But, how are we doing? How are we handling our God-given task to share the gospel with lost people? God has placed people in our lives and we are His plan. We are the people they will hear the good news from if they are going to hear it at all. 

Today, let’s take good news to someone that has only heard bad news. Let’s take a message of hope to someone who is hopeless. Let’s take the message of salvation to whomever will listen. Don’t be discouraged, and don’t buy into the lie that you don’t know enough to share the gospel. If you know enough to be saved, you know enough to tell someone else how to be saved! The power comes from Him anyway. We just need to be faithful to start the conversation with someone. Let’s see what the Lord will do through us this week and let’s celebrate together when people around us follow Jesus and their lives are changed!

11-15-20 – Pastor Gene

In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk. When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!”  – Acts: 14:8-11

Among the more notable outcasts of the culture, in the days of the early church, were the lepers, the blind, and the lame. The culture placed little value on their existence. Often, they were homeless beggars with no access to a safety-net of government social programs. These people seen as no more than discarded trash, Jesus regards in His Kingdom as treasure to be cherished. Paul speaks to the man and he is healed. The name and identity of the healed Lystran is not revealed. His reaction to the healing is not disclosed. He fades from the picture in Acts 14 as quickly as he entered.

However, Paul and Barnabas are promptly hailed as gods for the miracle performed upon the lame man, and the people act accordingly. They quickly come and offer a sacrifice to their newest gods. Paul and Barnabas, taken aback by this newfound popularity, attempt to squash the misunderstanding post haste! Miracles can get folks riled up and lead to false assumptions.

Just a few verses later, the same people who insisted on worshipping Paul and Barnabas are the very ones who stone Paul and leave him for dead outside the city. Certainly, this is no way to treat your god. What the mob is willing to embrace and practice today can quickly become unacceptable and an offense worthy of cancellation tomorrow. Right and wrong become no more than “might makes right” shifting sand that ebbs and flows with the tide. The crowd is a ludicrous and dubious foundation to construct any framework for moral imperatives. The Word of God which remains the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow is the only firm foundation that stands the test of time.

The crowd may ebb and flow, however Paul and Barnabas never lose focus. After Paul was left for dead, v.20 records, “The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.” Even a severe beating could not take Paul and Barnabas off task! As the crowd scurries about looking for the next outrage or their next god, let us too remain on task. We don’t seek out new truths, and we don’t bow to the will of the mob. We stand with Christ, our Firm Foundation.

11-14-20 – Pastor Ben

How often do you step into the culture of someone else? Many of us have taken mission trips to lands very different from our own. We have delighted in vibrant images and videos of new believers coming to Christ in exotic places. Hearing reports from the field gives us a good feeling. We are for it! We support the cross-cultural progress of the gospel! But, when it comes to our own discipleship, do we engage in this ourselves?

In our Bible reading plan today, we focused on Acts 10-11. God’s view on cross-cultural reconciliation through the gospel is clear from the book of Acts. Also, God’s view on race and evangelism is no clearer than in these two chapters. When Peter and the Apostles realized that God was pouring out His Spirit on Gentiles who heard their preaching as well as Jewish believers, the obvious question was, “Can anyone withhold water from baptizing these people?” God had affirmed the “outsiders” and set His seal on them! This demanded a drastic worldview shift in the life of the early Church.

For so long, these Jews had been taught – and had believed – that non-Jews were unclean, unacceptable, and less-than. But,- God’s heart had always been to bring in His own redeemed people from every ethnic group everywhere.

What followed was the unfolding of a new chapter of God’s eternal plan. The Jewish believers would not only baptize these Gentile believers but would come to fully receive them, eat with them, and live life intentionally obeying Christ as one. In the church in Antioch, God’s heart was displayed in the conversion of many believers from all over. This was a diverse and dynamic church! The challenges of full integration would certainly have been uncomfortable at first (see ch. 15). But, whatever cultural differences they encountered, the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and the supremacy of Christ prevailed in the Church, and the whole world was set ablaze in gospel witness.

11-13-20 – Pastor Chris

We do not like suffering. Never. Full stop. If you find someone who enjoys suffering, you take them to a therapist.

There are times when we choose to suffer. You go to the gym and suffer. You begin to diet and suffer. You donate resources to a charity, choosing to do without in order that others may have. This is suffering as well, even if it doesn’t feel like it. The reason relates to the motive.

Victims of crimes suffer. They may endure trauma and physical violence. No one signs up for this kind of suffering. Soldiers also endure trauma and physical violence. They, however, are not victims because they willingly embraced suffering to obtain a greater good.

Both ideas are present here in the predictive suffering of Paul. He did suffer. He suffered at the hands of people who sought his life. He suffered dangerous events of nature. He suffered false imprisonment. However, much of what Paul experienced did not feel as suffering to him. He had a purpose. God had called Paul to preach the gospel where it had not yet been preached. He called him as a witness. He called him to bear the name of Christ before others. The cost in doing so was often high but always worth it.

As we continue to serve the Lord, may He help us not to see the costs as a debt to be paid or a consequence to endure, but as a privilege to bear.

11-12-20 – Mark Stauffer

Today we read in Acts 6 & 7 about Stephen, recognized as the first Christian martyr.  What a testimony this man’s life and death are to all Christians through the ages.  He truly followed the example of Christ like the verse above describes.  Here are a few reflections:

First, Stephen was a servant.  Though he was ‘known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom… full of faith…. and full of God’s grace and power, performing great wonders and signs,’ he was willing to serve in a role of distributing food to needy and overlooked widows.  God loves a humble spirit and contrite heart!

Second, Stephen knew the scriptures.  When confronted with false charges, Stephen launched into one of the most detailed and pointed sermons in the entire New Testament.  He skillfully lays out the faithfulness of God alongside the failings of the people and concludes with a true and compact accusation against his accusers, while also addressing the specific issue of the temple that was central to the original charge against him.  He boldly proclaims truth and leaves the results up to the Lord.

Third, Stephen embraced suffering; he bore his cross.  He had to see the fury and murder in their eyes, yet he looks up and sees something far better!

Lastly, Stephen lives out the ultimate example of forgiveness.  Christ himself said something very similar to Stephen’s last words, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

What a testimony.  What an example.  I find I only know very little about these traits and experiences when I reflect on this great martyr of our faith.

Prayer – Lord, develop in me the faith and character of Stephen.  Grow in me a heart to humbly serve, a keen mind to know Your Word, a submissive will that will find joy even in suffering if and when You allow it, and an ability to forgive when forgiveness is not deserved.

One final thought.  We never know how events in our lives may be used by God in the lives of others.  There is no way that Stephen could have known that a young, antagonistic man who was watching would later follow in his footsteps as an evangelist, preacher, servant, and martyr after coming face to face with the Lord, Jesus.  I wonder how often Paul reflected on this last sequence of Stephen’s life and testimony!

11-11-20 – Dylan Anderson

“What Do You Want To Be Known For?”

Englewood Family, as I sat down to read and meditate on Acts 4-5 today this verse continued to stick out to me. 

“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”  – Acts 4:13

Whether we realize it or not, how we live our lives reflects our desires. Said another way, our outward self reflects our inner self. Have you ever thought about what you would like to be known for? If so, what do you want to be known for? Does your life reflect your answer? 

Look at that verse and what was said about the lives of Peter and John. Now, I doubt that they aspired that people know them as common and uneducated but that last sentence, that was the desire of those two apostles. They wanted to be recognized as people who had been with Jesus! Is that your desire? Does your life reflect that? As followers of Christ, our first and utmost desire should be that people would know us as someone who has been with Jesus. However, it is easy for us to get our priorities out of whack and to live our lives in such a way that people around us would never be able to tell that we had been with Jesus. 

11-10-20 – Pastor Charles

Today we start reading through the book of Acts also known as “The Acts of the Apostles.” Today, our Bible reading is Acts 1 – 3, and we will be in this book through November 22nd. So, please take time to read, meditate, and pray while you go through these 28 chapters for the next 13 days.

There are so many passages and thoughts that really grab my heart as I prayerfully read through these chapters, but Acts 1:8 really stands out like a high tower in the middle of a forest for me every time I read the book of Acts, “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

Today, I am asking the Lord to once again fire up on the inside a fresh desire to be His witness. I am also making this request for every member of Englewood Baptist Church, that following and obeying Jesus our Lord would be our top priority. Dr. Ted Traylor wrote this about verse 8, “Acts 1:8 speaks of the power and plan of the Holy Spirit in mission work. As you are filled with the Spirit, you become a witness for the gospel. The geographical outline of Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the world suggests we are to be active in each simultaneously-we have neighbors, regions, and people groups to give witness to. The church must have have all of these targets on her radar. Begin where you are. Witness today.” I say amen to that Dr. Traylor.

While Covid-19 has made it difficult to go to other lands, nothing is stopping us from praying except sin. So, let’s turn our hearts and eyes to Jesus afresh and anew today for the glory of HIS name!

11-9-20 – Pastor Jordan

There were some men in a boat that had been fishing all night. They didn’t have a single fish in the boat with them. If you’re a fisherman, or if you know someone who is, you know that is called getting “skunked.” After tossing the net on the other side of the boat, at the command of Jesus, the disciples caught 153 fish. There has been much speculation over the meaning of that number. But it isn’t very complicated. They caught a bunch of fish and wanted to know how many were in the net! In fact, they caught so many large fish, seven grown men weren’t able to haul the net into the boat (verse 6). 

After this, Peter saw a man standing on the shore and quickly realized that it was Jesus. He quickly put his shirt on and swam to shore to be with him, leaving the six others to get the boat to the shore, dragging the net full of fish behind them. Here’s the part of the story I want us to pay attention to today. In verse 10, Jesus told the disciples to bring some of the fish they caught so he could cook them for breakfast. So, Peter ran back into the boat and hauled the net full of fish onto the shore by himself.

Did you catch that? The net full of fish was so heavy that seven men couldn’t haul it into the boat, including Peter. But, when Jesus said to bring some fish to him, Peter hauled the net in by himself! Here’s the application. Jesus’ commandment is Jesus’ empowerment. 

Jesus commands some pretty big things from His people. Sharing the gospel is a big command. Giving to the needy is a big command. The list could go on and on, but this truth remains: When Jesus commands something of His people, He empowers us to do it, by His strength, not ours. Oftentimes, we hear a command of God from the Bible and don’t take the necessary steps of obedience. What is that thing you are struggling to obey God in right now? Take the first step of obedience and He will do it through you. We live by His power, not ours!

11-8-20 – Pastor Gene

Christmas 1974 was a valuable time in my life to experience and encounter the incredible power of marketing. There it was on every television show I enjoyed watching, – the product that every American boy needed in his bedroom. When you were not outside playing football, you could be at home playing football on a game rightfully called “Electric Football.” They even had my favorite team, the Miami Dolphins. The kids on television make it look so easy and fun, and certainly, they wouldn’t deceive a fellow kid.

On Christmas morning, it was under the tree. We couldn’t wait to get this game open so that we could satisfy all of our at home football needs. But alas, we quickly realized we had been hoodwinked. The game was no more than a metal field with a motor that vibrated the field. The players just spun in circles. The players could not kick or throw the football. I remember feeling so let down. The product did not live up to the hype. They rarely do. Today, we market practically everything – even Jesus.

When Jesus encountered Pilate, Jesus had a grand opportunity to present to Pilate clearly and unequivocally who He was and what He could do for him. Essentially, Jesus could have marketed His ministry.

You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” – John 18:37

Pilate questions Jesus in John 18, clearly looking for an out. Rome is pushing on him to keep the peace, yet the Jews are looking for blood. Pilate desperately desires to release this innocent man. Jesus could have marketed to Pilate a number of perfect solutions to remove Pilate from this tight spot. Jesus could have asked Pilate to pray a prayer of faith, and this would all go away. Jesus could have asked Pilate to plant some “seed money” into the “Disciples of Jesus” traveling ministry. Certainly, Jesus only desires that Pilate is happy! Jesus does none of that. This is the plan for Pilate before the foundations of the world. 

Too many have walked away from the church based on a false concept of Jesus. What do we do when a product fails us? We walk away from it. Jesus is not a product. He is “the way, the truth and the life, and no man comes to the Father accept through Me.” He promises joy, and He promises that you will not walk through the good or the bad alone. Don’t be hoodwinked by the marketing of Jesus. You will be let down.

11-7-20 – Pastor Ben

The Promise of the Spirit

When I was younger in my faith journey, I would often get frustrated that God, during some intervals of time, felt distant to me. I would find myself asking Him why He wouldn’t show Himself in more tangible ways more often. Have you ever asked Him things like this? We see Jesus speaking to His disciples and preparing them for a future where He would no longer physically walk with them but would return to the Father. He offers them an interesting consolation that is so helpful to us as well.

While the disciples certainly did not want Jesus to leave, this was always a crucial part of the mission – that He would change sinful human hearts and place His own Spirit within His people (Ezekiel 36:27). Having Jesus continually physically present would not solve the problems of humanity, because the core of all problems is sin. Jesus’ physical mission on earth was to die as our substitute for sin, and be the forerunner for our salvation. Then, He would multiply His mission through His Spirit in the life of the Church. While we long for the day when our faith will be sight, we are promised His presence here and now in the current age.

Think about all the things the Holy Spirit has been actively doing in our lives since we first believed. Some of these things include:

  • At the moment of salvation, we were sealed by the Spirit as belonging to God. (1 Corinthians 1:22)
  • The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. (Romans 8:16)
  • We have the “earnest of the Spirit” as a pledge or promise of our future salvation. (1 Corinthians 5:5)
  • He guides is into all truth. (John 16:13)
  • He helps us to pray and fellowship with the Lord. (Romans 8:26-27)

What assurance, comfort, and joy the believer can experience with God through His Spirit! And, in the fellowship of the Church, we share these things in a multiplied display as we gather and live life in community with Him!

11-6-20 – Pastor Chris

Eight-year-old Johnny got up from the table and took his plate, cup, and utensils to the sink. He left his sister’s dishes right where they were. He did all that his parents required but ignored that which love demands.
 
Our life as followers of Jesus is not defined by the letter of the Law but by the connection of the heart. Any person can choose not to murder, but the choice to love is a Spirit-empowered undertaking. I said last week that the defining characteristic of a Christian is not Bible knowledge, moral behavior, or your political party affiliation. The defining characteristic, as Jesus defines it, is our love for one another.
 
What does love require of us? Doesn’t it cover a multitude of sins? Doesn’t it lay down its life for its friends? Doesn’t it seek the benefit of others ahead of its own? Doesn’t this love seek to confront a brother or sister exhibiting good behavior in order to exhort them to best? Doesn’t love put away envy? Doesn’t love demand…
 
In a real way, love demands all of these things, and it demands none of them. It demands none of them in that your love for others cannot rise up from adhering to the “demands” of a checklist. Love rises up from a heart that values others as Christ does and chooses to act on their behalf in His Name, drawing on the resources He provides for the benefit of the one to whom love is shown.
 
Someone said it this way, “When you don’t know what to do, ask what love demands of you.”  

11-5-20 – Mark Stauffer

The ‘help’ we need from the Lord can take many different forms. I have spent more than a usual amount of time these past weeks focused on healing and prayer for healing. It reminds me of a few truths that give all glory to God. Let me encourage you with these thoughts.
 
First, all healing is from the Lord. This is not just physical healing; it is emotional and mental healing as well. It is healing for the family, for the church, and for the nation. It can be healing of our faith, our self-esteem, or our trust of others.
 
Second, God uses people all the time as implements in healing. Words of encouragement and helpful deeds are often an integral part of what someone needs to push through adversity. Obviously, doctors and other healthcare workers are of tremendous benefit in all sorts of ways! But, where does all the science and compassion ultimately come from? After all, we are made in His image. Praise the Lord for the ways He uses people in our lives!
 
Third, God has put things in His creation that aid in our healing. Medications and vitamins don’t just appear in a lab out of thin air. Ultimately, everything we use and develop started as an aspect of God’s imaginative work. And remember, you are fearfully and wonderfully made – God has made your body to heal much from within. You can even ascribe glory to God for the comfort of that pet that lays by you on your bed when you don’t feel well!
 
Lastly, God has eternal healing in store for all who believe in His Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. It can be difficult to celebrate a loved one’s eternal healing when it brings such a keen sense of loss and new need for earthly healing to our own heart.
 
No matter the healing you have experienced or may be praying to experience, give the glory to God! Our help is in Him and Him alone! Give thanks and praise to Him, and share your stories that His name may be glorified among all peoples!
 
I hope this song will encourage you. The ‘help’ you may presently need may not be healing, but this psalm speaks of protection, guidance, and redemption as well. (We’ll sing it some day when an arrangement is released!)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QeFa6iSP_XQ

 

11-4-20 – Dylan Anderson

A little spit, a little mud, and a lot of Jesus

Jesus spits in the mud, rubs it on the eyes of a blind man, and heals him. What a miracle! This guy was blind from birth, and now with a little spit, a little mud, and a lot of Jesus, he can see! What happens next in this man’s life can teach us so much about how we are to respond to Jesus’ healing us of our spiritual blindness and saving us from our sins!

  • Everyone noticed a change in the man. (9:8-9)
  • There was a visible, undeniable change in the man as a result of his experience with Jesus. 
  • He only told what he knew. (9:11-12, 15, 25, 30-34) He did not try to speculate and was not afraid to say, “I don’t know!” He knew one thing, “I was blind, now I see.”
  • He faced opposition. (9:13-34) In the midst of opposition by the Pharisees, the man held his ground and responded with truth.
  • He learned more and worshipped. (9:35-38) The man encountered Jesus again, learned of His true identity, and worshipped Him.

11-3-20 – Pastor Charles

I am so grateful we have the opportunity to read the Bible together by participating in the “Cover To Cover 2020 Daily Bible Reading Plan.” Today’s reading is John 7-8. As I was reading and meditating on this passage, John 7:5 really stood out to me today. Yes, Jesus’ brothers at this time did not believe that Jesus was God and the Savior of the world. Just think about it, these guys were raised with the Son of God and were witnesses to all that Jesus said and did, but they still did not believe.

Today, you may have family and friends who have not believed and put their trust in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Today, I want to say to you – Don’t give up! Keep praying, keep telling (as much as you can), and keep living a life of faith before them.

Jesus gave His brothers every opportunity for them to believe, but they had to make the choice. They had to make the decision for themselves. Again, just think about it, the very Son of God lived among them and did life in front of them, and they still rejected Him as Savior!

But, that is not how the story ends. We do not know exactly the time, but there definitely came a time when Jesus’ brothers did believe and put their trust in Him as their Lord and Savior. After Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the whole world including His earthly family, rose from the dead, and then was taken back up to heaven, we have this verse in Acts 1 – “These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” (Acts 1:14) 

Yes, in the upper room with the disciples of Jesus, were all the others mentioned in verse 14, devoting themselves to seeking first His kingdom and His way for their next steps! Yes, Jesus’ brothers are included in that group! Wow! So today, don’t lose heart for those in your circle of influence and your family that have not yet trusted in Christ Jesus! But, I do want to say if you have given up on your loved ones, ask the Lord to help you regain the passion and desire to see them come to Christ! Don’t give up! Keep praying, keep telling, and keep living a life of faith to God your Father and Savior! Call out the names of your family and friends! Write them down! Be intentional! “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” (Galatians 6:9)

11-2-20 – Pastor Jordan

As we continue in our Bible reading in John 5-6 today, it’s important that we take pause at John 5:18. I want us to consider carefully the phrase “equal with God.” If we don’t have a correct understanding of this phrase, we will be easy prey for the teachers of several heresies that have plagued the church in the past as well as today.

First, we must realize that Jesus is a distinct person of the Godhead. There is false teaching, called modalism, that is still around today which claims that Jesus is not a distinct person of the trinity but is, rather, God changing modes. This is the idea that God changed forms like a chameleon does, but the Bible is clear that God is unchanging. Malachi 3:6 says, “For I the Lord do not change.” God does not change forms, He is unchanging.

Second, we must realize that Jesus is fully God and fully human. This has been true from all eternity, it was true at His birth, it was true on the cross, and it is true today. Think back before the birth of Christ to the story of the fiery furnace. Remember when King Nebucadnezzar looked into the fiery furnace and saw not only three men but four? There was Jesus! 

John 1:1-3 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”  Jesus was there, in the beginning, as the Agent of creation. There was never a time in history that Jesus was simply a man that needed to become God. He always was and always will be God the Son.

These truths were radical to the people of the Bible. Many knew the prophecies of the Old Testament, yet they were filled with unbelief when the Messiah walked among them. What about us? How do these truths affect us in November, 2020? They are crucial for our understanding of the Gospel. They are crucial for our understanding of Scripture and they are crucial for our worship.

Today, as we think about Jesus, eternal and unchanging, let’s be filled with joy overflowing into worship. If these things are true, our countenance will show it, our attitude will show it, our selflessness will show it, and our joy will show it. Since we know who Jesus is, walk in joy today, brothers and sisters!

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11-1-20 – Pastor Gene

He has a lot to lose but everything to gain. His reputation and his identity within the community could all be in jeopardy. That might explain why Nicodemus, an elite religious scholar, comes by night to gain an audience with this up and coming Teacher. Nicodemus spends a great deal of time with the religious elite discussing God – How to please God. How to reach God. What God demands. They debate the big questions, consider the dilemmas, and attempt to resolve the major issues. It’s what the Pharisees do, but Nicodemus perceives there is something distinct about this Jesus that separated Him from the Pharisees

Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” – John 3:3

Nicodemus is left stunned and confused. Who wouldn’t be? How can a man be born again? Can a man enter the mother’s womb a second time? A man gets a second chance? The paradigm of Nicodemus in a second is turned upside down. He comes from a system where rule keeping is an Olympic sport. Those who keep the most rules win the gold medal. God draws close to those who work the hardest, look the most polished, and act the most pious. Jesus says no, your best is not good enough. In fact, your best will not even allow you to get a peek at what God is doing. You must be born again.

Born Again. It’s not a repeat of the physical birth. It’s the new birth initiated by the Holy Spirit; the Spirit comes and works and brings life to the spiritually dead. The new birth comes from above. It’s a miracle that was made possible by Jesus and fueled by the Spirit. We don’t “try” harder hoping that this time we overcome our propensity for rebellion. No, we don’t need more human fortitude and moxie. We need a miracle from God.

Nicodemus, in spite of his credentials as one of the premiere teachers of Israel, had missed the central point. It would be akin to missing the big “E” on the eye chart. All his works, all his rules, and all his discussions had left him separated from God. Nicodemus, the teacher, did what all good teachers do. He became a student and sat before the greatest teacher. The lost are not always the drunkards, the adulterers, or members of the wrong political party. Sometimes, they just might be the most religious folks in the room. You must be born again.