Month: February 2017

Diligently Adding To Your Faith

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2 Peter 1

But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.

While we could take time talking about faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love, that is not what the focus of this devotional is.  If you have a Bible dictionary or a Strong’s concordance you can look up these words and see how these character traits added to your life will be a benefit to you and to those around you.  You will see how living these qualities must be done by a Spirit-filled person who longs to shine the light of Jesus Christ wherever they are.

But I want to look at two other words in this passage today. The first word is the word “diligence.”  Growing anything requires diligence. Keeping my grass green requires diligence on my part.  Growing her flower garden requires diligence on Bobbi’s part.  When either of us stops being diligent in caring to grow these things from the dirt, they don’t look as good as they could and eventually don’t look good at all.  Our Christian lives require diligence.  Church attendance, by itself, is not enough diligence. If you are to be a man or a woman of God you must be diligent nearly every day in your Bible study and prayer.  It cannot be something done by rote but must be something you enjoy and look forward to thus increasing its value in your soul.

The second word here is the word “add.”  We like adding to our savings account.  We like adding to our refrigerator, but how often do we intentionally add to our faith?  Do you listen to Christian radio?  Do you play Christian music?  Do you watch Christian videos?  Do you read books about great Christians or books that open up the Bible to you? Again, coming to church alone is not sufficient adding to your faith. I pass out sermon notes so that you can take it home, study it, understand God’s word better, and thus add to your faith.

I have known too many “Christians” who were happy to be saved and happy for the changes at salvation but stopped diligently adding to their faith.  Their spiritual plateau became a dead end and they became un-submissive to any new growth; they lived fairly cold Christian lives. Their faith was not attractive to their children and their friends never asked about it.  Christ was a one-time fire escape but nothing to continually and diligently add to their lives.

 “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith…”

Today is another opportunity to shine as lights in a dark world.  I am praying for you that you will have a light-shining opportunity.  When God gives this to you please send me a note and tell me what happened.  I’d love to hear from you.

I will be speaking at Sunrise Assisted Living today at 10:30 and as always, covet your prayers for this service. 

Remember our sister, Kim Lavryk in your prayers.  She is in a bad way and can use our love.  She is at: West Suburban Rehab, 311 Edgewater Dr, Bloomingdale, IL 60108   You could really encourage her with a card and a note. 

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

The Ministry of the New Covenant People

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We all have a ministry, a service to do for God because He has given us His grace. In this message from 2 Corinthians 4:1-7 we will see how we, the New Covenant people, are to minister to those in spiritual darkness.

 

The Bible is what we need to know

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2 Peter 1

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

 

Throughout my life as a follower of Jesus Christ, an adopted son into His family, one whose sin was washed by the Father in the blood of the Son, I have found the Word of God, Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, sufficient for my life and eternity.  Many self-help books have come and gone during my life but I could always go to God’s word for the wisdom and guidance that I needed. This is what Peter is teaching us here.

God, by His divine power and trough His knowledge has given us His precious and very great promises in His holy Word, the Bible.  These precious and very great promises are all that we need for life present, life eternal, and godly living.  Some people live to read the next book that comes out; as followers of Christ we must fill ourselves with God’s words.  There are books that help us understand God’s word, those always have value.  But before you give a book too much time check out how many biblical references are in it. If it is just the author’s opinion on life it does not have much authority.

If we want to understand God’s divine nature and grow into greater godliness and Christ-likeness, we will find how to do that in the Bible.  It is God’s words that have caused us to escape the corruption that is in this world with all of its sinful desires.  Spend time in the Bible.  Pray as you read it.  Ask God to teach you about life from its pages.  Fill yourself with heavenly wisdom.  As you do this you will be able to discern truth from error, right from wrong, and be filled with God’s joy regardless of what is happening around you.  I know our world is a mess, but I have also read the last chapter and I know who wins in the end.  You will be more secure, less anxious, and a stronger light for God as you fill yourself more and more with His very great and precious promises.

Satan is attacking us all the time.  The world encroaches upon us with its pressures and desires.  Our own flesh often screams with selfish lusts and passions.  Our children have the same attacks.  Join me in prayer every day for the children and teenagers of our church.  We see our children as the next generation of church members and leaders.  In order for them to rise to this they must become redeemed followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Knowledge of God is not enough.  Pray for our kids to come under conviction of sin, a realization of Christ’s work on their behalf, and in humility and faith to become life-long followers of Him. 

Tomorrow night we will be having a youth activity at my house.  “Pastor’s Place” used to be a monthly event and we are re-establishing it. Bring your junior high and high schoolers over around 6:00 and pick them up around 9:00.  We eat the food they bring so have them bring either pop or chips or cookies. 

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

Multiplied Grace and Peace

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2 Peter 1:1–2

1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

In most religious systems the leaders of the system have enviable positions and those who find themselves looking up to those leaders will either strive to attain that position or will accept their own inferiority. Peter debunks that idea when it comes to Bible Christianity. Since we don’t have a system of religion but a relationship with God by faith in His grace, Peter makes it clear that all who have obtained this faith are on equal standing with the Apostles, the very leaders of the movement.

No, we are not Apostles nor do we believe in apostolic succession. Peter wants us to know that all who come to God through faith in the righteousness of Jesus Christ are on equal standing. James told the rich to be humbled and the poor to step up. When men and women come to the Cross of Jesus Christ they will find that the ground there is level. There are no superior Christians and there are no lesser Christians. The rich rejoice in their humility and the poor rejoice in their exaltation. All are equal when it comes to repentance of sin and acceptance of grace.

In verse 2 Peter uses a word that I want to emphasize today. Peter wants those who have come to Christ to have grace and peace multiplied to them in the knowledge of Jesus our Lord. God grants us His grace and His peace at salvation then He wants to multiply His investment in us. Saving grace and peace is amazing but the grace and peace needed to continue living for Christ is a multiplied grace and peace. God never saves us just to get us by; no, God saves us to continue giving us the grace and peace needed for every day of our lives.

Peter had enjoyed this multiplied grace and peace over and over in his life and now wants us to know and enjoy the same. Whatever situation you find yourself in, look to your Lord and Savior and cry out to Him for the grace and the peace that you need to get through it. God, who has deposited saving grace in you, wants to multiply that grace to carry you all the way to His glorious presence. Look to Him in your moment of need and find Him granting you multiplied grace and peace for every day of your walk with Him.

Saturday night I came down with a head cold and it has primarily affected my sleep. This has caused me to be unable to get up as usual. Consequently, I have not been able to maintain writing the devotionals. I appreciate your prayer for my health that I might quickly get back to “normal.”

Tonight is our midweek prayer and Bible study time. I am going to ask those of you who do not normally join us for prayer to do so tonight. Come at 7:00 and if needed leave at 7:45. We are praying together for God to open hearts of men and women both in our church and in our community this year. If we want God to know that we are serious about this matter then we must gather together as a church body in prayer for this cry of our hearts.

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

Be sober-minded

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1 Peter 5:8–9 (ESV)

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

 

While studying this passage I was drawn into the word, sober-minded.  Whenever I am attacked by a temptation that goes against God and seeks to draw me into its sinfulness I need a sober mind.  A sober mind is a mind that is under its own control and not controlled by anyone or anything outside of it.  The opposite of being sober-minded would be to be drunk, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, out of control.

Satan’s desire for my life is that his temptations would catch me at and take control of my mind causing me to jump into sin without any self-control.  As a Christian, my self-control is guided by the God’s indwelling Holy Spirit who shows me the right path.  But sin wants me to act without control. For in a controlled moment I would not choose sin therefore I must remain in control of my mind, my heart and my body so that when tempted to sin I am able to clearly see the sin for what it is and respond with control instead of succumbing to it and going out of control.

1 Peter 1:13–16 (ESV)

13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

 

I am looking forward to seeing you this Sunday.  It has been a busy week but a good week and one in which we have seen the Lord at work in our hearts and lives.

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

The same place of salvation for all

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James 1:9–11

9 Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation,

10 but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away.

11 For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.

At salvation, the rich and the poor must meet at the same place. While this act of humility is not difficult for a poor man, it is very difficult for a rich man. Even for the poor humility is a challenge. The poor must acknowledge their life sin and the emptiness of their religious efforts to come to God. Coming to God is always an act of humility for in coming to God we must leave all of our own efforts and sin aside trusting Christ alone to save us.

 

The rich man must come to the exact same place. The rich man has a harder time for he or she has lived in their success, their opulence, even their own religious ideas and leave all of that to come to Christ. In essence, the rich have more to leave behind to come to Christ. It is therefore more difficult for the rich to be saved as Jesus Himself taught that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it was for a rich man to come into God’s kingdom.

 

James makes a necessary point in verse 11. For while the rich of this world think themselves better than the poor of this world, the rich will fade as the grass and will come to the same place of nothing at death. In death all share the same weakness, the same corruption, and the same dishonor.

 

So be concerned for both the rich and for the poor in this life. Pray for both to come to Christ before it is too late. Do not envy the rich, especially if they in their pride are against God. Look to the poor of this world who are rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom of God for those are the ones you will be with forever.

 

Thank you for your prayers for our trip. It was a wonderful time with family. We played, we sang, we prayed, we played, we ate, we hiked, we ministered, we talked, we loved, we rejoiced in the blessings of God upon us. God has chosen us to bless us and He has. Oh how I long for all of my friends in Christ to enjoy the fullest blessings that come from the hand of God to those whom He saves to bless.

 

1 Peter 3:8–12

8 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;

9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.

10 For “He who would love life And see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit.

11 Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it.

12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

As I read these verses this week I thanked God for giving us His blessings and prayed that all of you would know the same blessings that we have come to enjoy in Christ.

 

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

 

Act always with godly wisdom – it is available

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James 1 (ESV)

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

 

The act of asking for wisdom by faith is and should be a daily prayer of every follower of Jesus Christ. We live in a world that is devoid of godly wisdom.  Everyone wants to know how you feel, or how you think about a given situation. Pardon me, but how I feel and think has gotten me into trouble more often than not.  No, you don’t want to know how I feel or think about a given situation, you want God’s wisdom on that situation.  If you come to me for counsel, we will pray together, open the Bible together, and seek God’s wisdom together.

James lets us know that when we ask God for wisdom we are asking the One who can give wisdom generously and without holding back.  God wants us to act with His wisdom in all areas of our lives.  For instance, is it godly wisdom to go to church or to miss church?  Is it godly wisdom to speak in harsh truthfulness or to speak with gentleness and meekness giving His truth?  Is it godly wisdom to stay up late and get up early or would God have us take better care of our bodies, His temples?  Godly wisdom needs to be sought every day by every child of God.

James also tells us that this plea to God for wisdom needs to be by faith without doubts in our minds that God will give us the wisdom that we need.  When we doubt God’s ability or God’s wisdom we are like the waves of sea driven wherever the wind takes them.  When we follow the wisdom of the world instead of the wisdom of God we too are tossed to and fro by the winds of change and chance.  We become double-minded and unstable in all that we do.  God’s wisdom is the key to unlock the stability that we long for.  Seek His wisdom by faith today and then fully follow the wisdom that He gives to you.  In fact, if you are not sure what to do, wait on God to show you His wisdom in the matter.

Bobbi, Jared, and I are going to California today to see Ben and Anna’s new baby girl, our newest granddaughter.  We are so looking forward to seeing little Emilia Grace!  I will be sure to send pictures of our time with her.  We will be staying with our son Justin, his wife and their four boys.  It is always a blast to be around our California family. 

Mike Sell is bringing the message this Sunday so be sure to be there to support Mike.  I am not sure how many devotionals I will be able to get out while I am gone.  There are a thousand on the website if you want to scroll down a few months and find one that fits your need any day, please do.  That website is www.graceforlifebc.com

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

Joy in trials?

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James 1 (ESV)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

 

I have just finished the book of James in my personal reading.  As I am going through the Bible in the ESV this time I  will be using it for this book.

This verse of Scripture has been one that has been used often in times of trials, and rightfully so.  James is writing to the believers of the early church who had been scattered from their homes because of persecution. They were living in trials every day on account of their faith.  (Please do not consider a cold or the flu or something trivial as the trial of your faith. These were life-altering, never go back to normal trials that James is addressing.)

To these who had lost much on account of Christ James tell them to count the loss that that trial brought as joy.  How can great loss be counted as joy? Great loss is just that, it is great loss.  We grieve over great loss, we do not take joy in great loss. But this is exactly what James is teaching them and us.  When God brings trials of great loss into our lives, He is doing so to strengthen our faith in Him and to develop our steadfast confidence in His goodness.

What have you lost that God used to strengthen you?  At the end of the trial after you had been strengthened and made more steadfast in your faith, after you saw how the trial perfected you as a Christian and as a person, were you thankful for the lesson?  Could you have learned the lesson apart from the trial?  The old saying “hindsight is always 20/20” is true here.  When the trial is past we can see what God was doing through it.  God wants us to realize in the middle of the trial that He is in full control and that He is using this very trial of our faith to produce within us a steadfast faith and confidence in Him.  Therefore, count the trial as a joy before it ends.

What a great time we had in church yesterday.  I am thankful for our church and for those of you who come and make Grace for Life an important part of your week.  The service exalted the Lord, the Lord’s Table drew us to the Savior, and the message brought us again to Mount Zion God’s heavenly home for all who come to Him through Christ. 

We had fun with the McNiffs and the Schroeders during the Super Bowl last night.  Our house loves people and we had a great time watching one team get way ahead and then fall behind. 

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

 

Outside of the city

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Hebrews 13

10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. 12 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. 13 Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. 14 For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.

 

You are going to have to think with me on this one.  When the sin offering was brought to the temple and the sin of the people was symbolically transferred from the people to the sacrifice lamb, that lamb, filled with the sin of others, was to be taken outside of the camp and burned.  It was not to be eaten by the priests but taken out away from all others.  In this passage today we learn that Jesus, once filled with our sin, was taken outside of the city suffering apart from others.

The writer of Hebrews then makes a careful analogy for us: As Jesus did not belong in the city because of our sin upon Him, so we bearing the reproach of Christ do not belong in the city of this world.  Those crucifying Jesus did not want Him crucified inside their city; crucifixion was a nasty work to be done outside of their “fair” town.  Jesus suffered away from the crowds He cared for as He bore their reproach and ours.  In essence, Jesus did not belong in the city; He did not fit there.  He was too righteous for them and they wanted Him out.

We, those who have given Christ our sin, now bear His imprint upon our lives.  We no longer fit in the city of this world.  Our lives, imitating Christ, are a reproach to the people of this city. We are OK with this because we are looking forward to a heavenly city, our eternal home with Christ.  Are we OK with not being a part of the city of this world?  Are we OK being outside of the mainstream of society as we identify with our Savior?

Pray for a neighbor of the church who is having cancer surgery this week.  Pray for my friend Tom who is undergoing cancer treatment.  Pray for the souls of those around you who need the Savior.  We must, as light-bearers, be aware of the darkness in other’s souls and care for them. 

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

Our Lord never changes, we are secure

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Hebrews 13

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them.

What great confidence we have in the unchangeableness of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Every attribute of Him always has been and always will be. When we go to our Lord we know what to expect because in His holiness, He never changes.  In this Christ is always truth, He is always just, He is always merciful, He is always forgiving, He is always kind and gentle, He is always light to show us the way. Jesus never changes.

As such, the Word of the Lord Jesus never changes neither is it open to man’s freedom of interpretation.  The Word of God means what God meant when He gave it.  It never changes. The truths found in its pages are timeless and don’t need to be made relevant for they have always been relevant.

The religions of man morph with society.   Edicts come down from the top, the leaders of the religions, with new allowances, new interpretations or new revelations.  That which was dogma can be set aside for  new dogma. Not so with Jesus Christ.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  I find far greater security in a Lord/Leader who never changes.  Therefore, we are not carried about with various doctrines establishing foods and days to make us more spiritual. No, we are established by grace, the grace of our Lord Jesus who never changes and desires that all be saved and brought to the truth.  Be secure today in the unchangeableness of our God.

Be aware of the louder voice of the minority.  Realize that in a pure democracy, the rule of the people, the mob can be wrong.  Remember that one day a mob decided to crucify an innocent Man and the mob overruled the wisdom of the authority in charge.  I am not in favor of the mobs of people thinking that they represent the majority of the country nor of all of our values.  Be a person of wisdom who thinks above the mob. 

Ken’s mom went to be with the Lord last night.  The last time he was down to see her she gave Ken a clear testimony of having trusted the Savior.  Pray for Ken and his family as they work through the grief and the funeral. 

Join us in church tonight for prayer.  We are storming the throne of God to give us men and women and young people this year who leaving their sin will come to the Savior. 

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS