Month: July 2018

Communion with God, Lost, Endured, Restored, Imagined – 1 Corinthians 6:2-12

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God’s purpose of creating man was to have communion with his people. Satan came along and through sin separated mankind from God and communion with God ceased. But God still had his intended purpose and sent Christ to pay for our sin so that we could again commune with him. In this message, Pastor Steve brings our minds and hearts back to God’s intended design and invites us to daily communion with God. (The message is only 35 minutes long, the recording wasn’t stopped until much later.)

Jesus taught us about Heaven and about Hell

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Matthew 13

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, 48 which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, 50 and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”

We live in a world that often accepts who Jesus is and that he died for our sins.  However, we also live in a world that denies a place called hell and the eternal punishment that goes along with it.  In the teaching ministry of Jesus, some three and half years, he taught more on hell than heaven.  Jesus is the one who made the doctrine of hell most clear to us.  No, I personally don’t like the Bible’s teaching on an eternal hell but I just can’t read it any other way.

In this parable, Jesus speaks of life, of opportunity, of death, of eternal life and of eternal judgment. We have to remember that he is speaking using a common illustration of his audience.  While most of us don’t know what a “dragnet” is, the original audience knew exactly what it was.  From a boat, a team of professional fishermen would extend a net from a boom off of the side of the boat.  As the wind carried them across the lake, fish would get caught in the net.  When the net was full the fishermen would bring the boom over the side of the boat and pull or winch up the net filled with fish.  In this method of catching fish you had no idea what kind of fish would be in the net.  The fish market would have certain fish that were of value and certain fish that were of no value.  The fishermen would then separate the fish, the ones with value from the ones with no value, sell the ones they wanted and discard the ones of no value.

So, Jesus said, is it going to be at the Day of Judgment.  In life, God collects people of all kinds. In the day of God’s judgment he will make the determination of the people he will keep with himself and the people who rejected him and will not have any heavenly value.  Those accepted will join God in heaven, those rejected will be cast from God and will find themselves in hell, the furnace of fire, where they will find the pain causing them to wail and gnash their teeth.

If you had heard Jesus teach this, what would it have caused you to do? What does reading this today bring to mind and what are you going to do about it?

 

Thank you for your prayers this week.  Our service at Sunrise was well attended and the people were attentive to the Word of God from Psalm 3.  At youth group last night we had ten teens and are thankful for the opportunity to touch their hearts.  Andrew and Stefani prepared a lesson on depression and taught that “depression is a loss of hope.”  Their peers receive them well.

 Edna has a doctor’s appointment next Tuesday. They have her on anti-inflammatory meds and hope to be able to give her a cortisone shot.  Pray for her continued healing.

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

God’s Opportunities, the Enemies, and Sleep

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Psalm 3

1     Lord, how they have increased who trouble me!

Many are they who rise up against me.

2     Many are they who say of me,

There is no help for him in God.”   Selah

3     But You, O Lord, are a shield for me,

My glory and the One who lifts up my head.

4     I cried to the Lord with my voice,

And He heard me from His holy hill.   Selah

5     I lay down and slept;

I awoke, for the Lord sustained me.

Do you have people or circumstances that are troubling you today?  I do. The task before me in the time allotted seems impossible.  When I focus on it I am overwhelmed.  1 Corinthians 16:9 says, “For a great door of opportunity is opened before me, and there are many adversaries.”  God is the one who opens doors of opportunity for us to do his will; Satan and the world and the flesh are against God’s open opportunities and fight against them.  We feel like we are in the middle of the opportunity from God and the opposition of the adversaries.

David was running for his life from his son, Absalom.  David was God’s anointed king of Israel. Absalom and all of his counselors became David’s enemies to doing God’s will.  He said that his enemies increased and his enemies told him that there was no help for him in God.  Yes, the enemies of our souls and of our opportunities would love to sow seeds of doubt into our hearts telling us that even God can’t help us with this one.  Just as David knew better, “But You, O Lord, are a shield for me… I cried to the Lord with my voice and He heard me from His holy hill,” so should we.  Though we may feel like there is no way to get to God’s opportunity for us, though we may feel like the enemies have won, God is the difference maker for his people.

Notice with me what happened for David and can happen for us.  As David was well aware of his enemies and of their desire for his death, he looked to the Lord in prayer and then David knew that God was in control so then David slept.  He what? Yes, he was able to sleep and to wake up refreshed and sustained in the most vulnerable part of his day because he knew that God was with him and for him.

When our situations are overwhelming, God wants us to lay them before Him so that He can give us His rest in our souls. Instead of worrying all night we will be able to sleep and to wake up refreshed both physically and spiritually.  Are you sleeping well when your enemies are mounting up against you?  Are you at peace knowing that God is in control and that He is going to accomplish His will through you?  Let us learn from David today, cast our cares upon the Lord, rest in Him and even be able to sleep.  Psalm 23:2

 

Pray for us as we minister at Sunrise Assisted Living this morning. Pray for God’s word to be an encouragement to the hearts of those who attend the service.  Week after week we share in fellowship with music and the Word loving these dear  people for Jesus’ sake.  We all leave refreshed. 

 Pray for our church to know the plans of God for us.  We are certain that He has a plan, at this point it is still behind the clouds, unclear to us all.  We would like to have a church prayer meeting where we would all be able to gather for the express purpose of seeking the Lord. 

 Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

The Great Commandment, Are We Living It?

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Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment of the law was.  The lawyer of the Pharisees who asked it knew that there were over 600 commands either to keep or to avoid and he wanted to trip up the Lord Jesus by this tricky question.  The Lord pushed through any fog of confusion telling the lawyer that the greatest command was to love the Lord with all of his heart and to love neighbors as self.

In this message, Pastor Steve addresses Christians in general and Grace for Life specifically.  He looks at God’s nature as a nature of love, God’s actions of love, and how we are to show love through our actions of giving to one another.

Identified with Christ, Are We Eating at The Table of God or the Table of Demons

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We are called to identify with Christ in our actions. We are called to partake of the Lord’s Table when we are identified with Christ. In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul addresses the issue of those who would partake of the demons table and then come to the Lord’s Table. The absurdity of this is obvious. Yet in this world people do try to sit at both tables. In this message, Pastor Steve opens up 1 Corinthians 10 to seek clarity from the Scriptures.

The Great Commandment Reviewed

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1 Corinthians 16

13 Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done with love.

22 If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed. O Lord, come!

23 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. 24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.

After yesterday morning’s message, I read these verses in my personal reading this morning. Notice the call to “let all that you do be done with love” and “If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed” and “my love be with you all in Christ Jesus.”  The final words of a letter will wrap up the writers emphasis.  It seems that Paul was emphasizing the love of Christ in them and in him.

To have the love of Christ and to live the love of Christ was the answer of Christ when he was asked what the greatest commandment of the law was. His answer, yesterday’s sermon, found in Matthew 22 was that we are to love God with all of our hearts and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Yesterday we studied that God is love, God’s love shows us how to love, and that we are to love with the action that God showed in his love to us.  Of course, God’s action of love is that he continually gave to those that he created in his image and that he gave of himself when he sent the Lord Jesus to become the sacrifice for our sin.

So how do we “let all that we do be done with love?”  The opposite action of love is taking, a selfishness that always thinks of self first.  The action of love then is a selfless giving that gives to those in need and does so at all times.  Galatians 6:10, “Let us do good to all men, especially those of the household of faith.”  We are also taught in Galatians to “bear one another’s burdens and to so fulfill the law of Christ.”  To whom are you doing good things?  Whose burdens are you helping to bear?  If you are not actively showing the love of God to someone, ask God who you can show his love to.  Ask God to open your eyes to someone’s need and then reach across your insecurities and do what you can to meet their needs or to help them carry their burdens.  Then we will be heeding Paul’s final words in 1 Corinthians, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.  My love be with you all in Christ Jesus.”

 

Last week I was in class and the week before I was preparing for class.  It is good to have the class finished and to be back into my work schedule.  Thanks for your prayers for me during that time.  God enabled me to get everything done and I am thankful. 

 This week and next week, we are finishing some things at the house.  If you like to paint or to clean carpet or do other things, we could probably use your help.  Getting the house ready to sell is a HUGE job.  We have appreciated those who have already helped us.  There is still much to do.

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

What is of Greatest Value to You?

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Matthew 13

44 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, 46 who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

These have to be some of my favorite parables of the Lord Jesus.  The pictures that he drew to explain the value of his eternal kingdom are vivid and bursting with meaning.  In his series, The Treasure Principle, Randy Alcorn has enacted the parable of the treasure in the field.  It is worth watching. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dd29Dmba1k4

My imagination runs wild with these parables.  I imagine walking through a deserted field and stumbling on a treasure of immense value.  Its’ been hidden and forgotten maybe for centuries but I cannot take it out, it belongs to whoever owns the field. My life just changed. Whatever was on my to do list just got erased.  Whomever I was supposed to meet just got cancelled.  I need to find out who owns the field and then find a way to raise the money to buy it.  There is no limit to what it will cost me for the treasure far exceeds what I will spend to get it.

Then Jesus tells the same story of a pearl merchant.  All of his life he is searching for valuable pearls to sell to his rich clients.  One day he sees the pearl of a life-time.  He knows that this pearl is of greater value than all of the pearls he has ever owned.  He has to have this pearl for whoever has this pearl will be wealthy beyond measure.  He goes home and takes every pearl of his valuable collection, the ones he has saved and the ones he has kept; he gathers them all and goes to his customers to sell his life’s collection.  He knows that whatever it costs, owning this one pearl will set him up for life.

Jesus used these great stories to define the gospel. The gospel has no equal in this life. There is nothing in our lives that is of greater value than the gospel. The gospel is worth selling all that we have; it is worth changing our lives to get. When we understand the value of the gospel nothing will get in our way to get it and hold on to it.  The gospel is a treasure and a pearl beyond price.

I am so thankful to God for giving me the gospel.  I am so thankful to possess the gospel as that which has enriched my life beyond any human treasure or any human value. I won’t trade it for anything; it means everything to me.

Of what value is the gospel to you?

 

Between getting ready for my class next week and working on the house my days begin early and end late.  I apologize for not getting to the devotionals as I have in the past.  Hopefully, in August, we will slow down to a more normal life. 

 This Sunday we will be observing the Lord’s Table and I will be bringing a message from 1 Corinthians 10 on the table of the Lord and the table of demons.  This is an amazing passage that has some wonderful truths and some striking challenges. 

 Tomorrow, Illinois Family Institute is using our church building for a conference on Radical Islam.  The conference starts at 10:00.  Go to https://illinoisfamily.org/event/panel-of-experts-on-responding-to-islam-2/ for more information.

 Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

The Smallest Ingredient has the Greatest Effect

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Matthew 13

33 Another parable He spoke to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”

 

This parable of our Lord was given to encourage us as to the power of the gospel.  I remember as a child watching my mom make bread. While I don’t remember all of the ingredients I specifically remember her small yeast packets that she would add to the other ingredients and then I remember watching the bread rise in the pan before she baked it.  It did not take much yeast to effect the entire loaf.  There have been times that bread made not rise and either the yeast was bad or the yeast was forgotten in the mix.  In a very short parable, Jesus uses this simple example to explain how the gospel works.

 

We live in a big world with billions of people. How much of the gospel does it take for the entire world to be affected?  According to Jesus, just a little bit of gospel seed can affect a great amount of people.  There were 120 in the upper room, only 120.  Sometime later, a mob in Thessalonica accused this small group of turning the world upside down!  (Acts 17:6) When people are filled with the Holy Spirit and the gospel, this good news of salvation spreads throughout the culture like yeast spreads through a loaf of bread. We can testify to one person in a family coming to Christ and before long the entire family is saved by God’s grace.  My mother-in-law heard the gospel as a young teenager, today her entire family of children, grand-children, and great grand-children know the Lord and continue spreading the gospel.

 

Consider this, yeast is the smallest ingredient in the mix and we often feel like the smallest influence in the room.  But the power is not in us – it is in the gospel. The yeast only needs to be released into the dough for it to be effective. We only need to release the gospel for it to bring men and women under conviction of their sin and their need of the Savior.  The yeast does its work all by itself and so does the gospel; it just needs to be released.  Paul asked in Romans 10 how people could be saved if they never heard and concluded that they could not.  It is therefore our responsibility to release the yeast, the gospel message, into the culture; it is God’s job to make it work.

 

When we get to heaven we will understand this parable better.  There will be people who will thank us for our witness but we will have no recollection of ever telling them. Simply because we released the gospel to someone they released it to someone else and the spread of the gospel from our efforts won’t be fully known until eternity. The travelling pastor who preached in several rural churches in West Virginia, has no idea how far the yeast he planted in young Jean Harris went. It is still spreading.

 

In a day of continual bad news, what a joy to hear of the rescue of the twelve boys and their coach from a Thailand cave.  The testimony of this rescue is that at the core of who we are, we are lovers of life. This is a testimony of how we are made in the image of God.  Satan could care less if these boys lived or died in that cave. Satan is the destroyer. In the image of God is the love of life for He is the creator and sustainer of all life.  I thank God for putting into mankind a love for life and a determination to save life.  Part of this story is the farmers whose rice fields were flooded to the destruction of their crops while salt water was pumped out of the cave.  The farmer said that the lives of these boys were of greater value than his crop. Take note today that all of us, made in God’s image, are lovers of the life. Our talents and abilities are to ultimately be used to save lives for God’s glory and for His kingdom.  May these rescued boys one day hear the gospel of God and know that their salvation was from Him.

 

Please pray for Edna and her pained back.  They need great medical wisdom to find God’s plan for her healing.

 

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

Apparent Insignificance is Very Temporary

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Matthew 13

31 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, 32 which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”

When a mustard seed is compared to other seeds, you might think that it just won’t do very much. That was the point of this parable of Jesus.  It just seems like an insignificant little seed. But in that little seed is the potential for a great tree that will provide wonderful shade  and a home for many birds.

Jesus then compares this little, seemingly insignificant seed, to the kingdom of God, to the working of the message of the gospel.  In comparison to the “great world religions,” the gospel of Jesus seems small and insignificant.  In fact, any message that required the death of God on a human cross must be a really weak religion.  A gospel message that calls its hearers to give away wealth, leave family and friends, walk away from good jobs, and to live lives of poverty while spreading the “good news” just doesn’t make good human logic.  It appears to be an insignificant message in the sea of humanity that is crying out for significance.

But the opposite is true here. (Thanks Dave for the riddles)  The seeming insignificant message of the Cross is the seed of every man’s eternal kingdom.  As the rich man and Lazarus discovered, it isn’t our significance in this life that matters.  One moment after death what matters is the significance of the gospel seed.  What is significant to you?  Only when we make the seemingly insignificant gospel message of Christ important do we really understand why we are here and what our future really holds.

 

Yesterday morning I prayed and asked the Lord to give us some help on our house projects.  It is overwhelming us at times.  Joey was coming over to tile the downstairs bathroom but I did not know that he was bringing his uncle Tony along.  Tony plumbed the sink, did the trim in the bathroom and the trim on our landing.  I told him that he was an answer to my prayers.  Last night we emptied my parent’s apartment and got that room ready for carpet.  Whew. 

Tomorrow is our prayer breakfast at Denny’s at 7:30 and then Stefani’s graduation party at 1-5. Please feel free to drop in at any time for her party, it is an open house for her. 

Sunday morning I will be bringing a message from 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 on foolishness and power in the church.  Read the passage before you come to help you be ready for the message.  We have a church meeting after the reception for Pastor Bill and Kit.  The church meeting will be discussing the immediate future of our church and is an important meeting for all members and regular attendees. 

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

The Enemy of the Seed of the Gospel

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Matthew 13

24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ”

The last devotional came from the parable of the sower and emphasized the need to wrestle for the souls of those who hear the gospel.  In this parable, Jesus emphasizes the enemy of our souls with greater clarity.  We who know and love the gospel of Jesus Christ seek to plant the seed of the gospel into the hearts of those we know and those we don’t know. We care for their souls by planting the gospel seed into their lives.  Satan, the great enemy of the souls of men, plants seeds of weeds and tares into the very same souls.  As the seed of the gospel grows in the lives of men and women, they will find that those into whose souls the tares were sown are going to struggle against them their whole Christian lives. Some who hear the gospel will reject it and receive the seeds of Satan instead.

For a while, the wheat and tares grow together and you cannot tell them apart.  But before long, the core of who they are becomes very clear and God’s children can be seen to be different from the seed of Satan.  Let me make a clarifying point here: Satan does not care about anyone; Satan only cares to damn souls away from God. Satan may come across as a good drinking buddy or a good fishing buddy, or a friend at work who just seems to have it together, but Satan’s goal has nothing to do with people having a good time, no, his end game is damnation.  So when Satan sows seeds of weeds and tares into people’s lives, he is sowing seeds of destruction.  At the end of this parable, the tares are gathered and burned.  Do not be deceived by Satan’s smile, his end is your destruction.

As we care for the souls of those around us, remember this, in God’s field of this world, tares can become wheat, lost people can be saved, evil people can become righteous, and Satan’s children can be adopted into God’s family.  We long to see the tares of this world be transformed by the grace and love of God.  Pray today for someone you know who needs to be saved and ask God how you can sow the seed of the gospel into their life.

This Sunday there are two events taking place at church.  We will be having a cake reception for Pastor Bill and Kit, thanking them for their years of service here.  (While we will try to get them back for Sunday services, it is going to get harder to do so now that they live in Rolling Meadows.)  Please bring a card with a written testimony of how they have ministered to you or a memory you have of them.  At this point in their lives a written comment is better than a spoken one. 

After the reception, we, as a church, will gather again in the East Room and have a church meeting looking forward to the future of the church.  These meetings are going to be important for the decisions that need to be made in the very near future.  Your input in these meetings is vital.

Saturday morning is our men’s prayer breakfast at 7:30 at Denny’s. Join us for an hour of food, Word, prayer and fellowship. 

Saturday afternoon we are having Stefani’s graduation party here at the house.  All are invited. If you have time on Friday to help with setup, we could use your help.

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

Evidences of God in Us – 1 John 3:19-24

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The Apostle John gives us many evidences of Christ in us. In this passage Pastor Steve brings out some more evidences of who lives within. When we live within we cannot bring out the evidences of God. But when God, in his Holy Spirit, lives within, there are definite changes that take place from the inside out of our lives.