Month: April 2020

The Right Group, those whose names are in the Lamb’s book of life

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Revelation 13

The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world. 

The Lord revealed to the John that there would come a day when a “beast” would rise out of the crowds of the earth and would gain world-wide power.  This “beast” is a man who rises with abnormal power and abnormal hatred against God and against God’s people.  God will give this man the authority to wage war against God’s people and will seem to conquer them by killing and dominating them.  While this will be a very dark time for the followers of Christ on this earth, we do know that this “beast” will not destroy Christianity.

Friends, there are powerful people in the world who hate Christianity and all that it stands for.  They despise the Bible and those who read and live it.  They are filled with their own lustful ways and prideful ideas and reject the grace of God at every opportunity.  Their hatred comes out in a heartbeat as they live for themselves, against any of God’s righteousness.  Know this, these haters of God will increase before the end of days.

But notice the bright spot here.  In these dark days of godless rulers and godless living, there are those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. This wonderful book has the names of all men and women that have given their sin to Christ and have received His righteousness from the Father.  The death of Christ, God’s eternal Lamb, took place, as God sees it, from the foundation of the world.  The blood of Christ is able to save all saints, Old Testament and New Testament, and today, who place their eternal faith in Him.  Furthermore, all whose names are in this wonderful book will not now nor ever bow down to any other except the holy God of heaven.  While all the inhabitants of the earth worship this awful beast, those who are known by God will refuse and will remain faithful to Him.

Come what may, we are in the right group. This group, those who names are written the Lamb’s book of life, will rejoice forever with each other and with our Savior, the Lord Jesus, the Lamb himself.

 

Pray for us today as we go to meet people in an impoverished community not far from our church.  This little community faces flooding often but they have no where else to go.  They have been flooded twice this week already.  We have gotten to know one of the men who live there and he has invited us to meet the other families there.  Our goal is to determine their needs and to see how, in love, we can care for them.  By the end of today, I expect our fund for food to be zeroed out.  By this time, we will have given out 47 sembako bags in the last three to four weeks. The need will continue.  If you would like to help us with this, contact the church office or go to the church website for transfer information.

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

The Mind of God is Beyond Our Understanding

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Habakkuk 1

5      “Look among the nations and watch—

Be utterly astounded!

For I will work a work in your days

Which you would not believe, though it were told you.

 

During these Covid days, we often ask God what He is doing. We wonder if God would have put a stop to this in Wuhan if that would have been so much better.  We wonder the point of all the pain and suffering and death and fear going on all around the world.  We are not the first ones to wonder what God was doing.  The prophet Habakkuk witnessed the revival of the nation under King Josiah then he witnessed the nation’s fall back into idolatry.  He wondered when God would bring judgment upon them for their sin.

God’s answer was that if the prophet knew all that God was doing, he would not believe it, he could not understand it.  This is where we are today.  For years we have known that the Holy God of heaven was going to one day bring His judgment upon a world that had utterly forsaken Him.  If we knew the mind of God, we would not be able to understand it.  God does bring His judgment upon sin; “the soul that sins, it shall die.”  (Ezekiel 18:20)  God’s judgment on sin comes in the form of death both in this life and in the next.  But sometimes, God brings His judgment to the people of this earth.

No, I am not saying that Covid is God’s judgment, neither am I saying that it is not His judgment.  What we do know is that God is in control and that God is doing His work and that we would not be able to comprehend it if He were to explain it to us.  We cannot claim that God is judging a certain part of culture or a certain type of sin as people of all cultures and all backgrounds are being affected.  What we do know is that God is at work.  Let us not lose that vision.  God is at work and He is doing all that He deems necessary.

At the end of Habakkuk’s prophecy, when God has explained that He is going to send the Assyrian army against Jerusalem and the southern kingdom, when God has given Habakkuk some understanding, note the words of the prophet:

Habakkuk 3

17    Though the fig tree may not blossom,

Nor fruit be on the vines;

Though the labor of the olive may fail,

And the fields yield no food;

Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,

And there be no herd in the stalls—

18    Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

I will joy in the God of my salvation.

19    The Lord God is my strength;

He will make my feet like deer’s feet,

And He will make me walk on my high hills.

Join with us in prayer today for the family of a dear friend. Cyril Syroteuk had a heart attack and went to be with the Lord.  Pray for his wife Lois and their family as they now must navigate these dark waters.  Cyril was a man who left a life he knew well to serve the Lord’s church.  For the past 22 years he and Lois have served the Lord in churches in Canada. Their service has been to smaller churches whose unique needs God used Cyril and Lois to meet.  Our lives have a piece missing today. 

Pray for the people of Indonesia as they will struggle with the new law keeping them from travelling home during Mudik, part of the Ramadan holy month.  Pray they will seek the God who hears during this time. 

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

Let’s think about Atonement

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Job 1:4–5

And his sons would go and feast in their houses, each on his appointed day, and would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did regularly.

In reading this today a thought crossed my mind that needs some more meditation; perhaps you could help with this thought today.

We read that Job regularly made sacrifices for his children in case they sinned.  Until this morning’s reading,  Job’s actions always seemed a bit strange.  But today, as I was thinking about how close Job was to Noah and Noah to Adam, the thought of atoning sacrifices was handed down from God to Adam to Noah to Job.  The next thought was that when Adam and Eve sinned, God made the sacrifice for them.  Noah made the sacrifices for his family.  After Moses received the Laws from God, the father brought the sacrifices for the sins of his family and the priest made the sacrifice.

Fast-forward to God’s sacrifice of Christ for us.  The pattern set by God was that someone else made atonement for the sins of another.  Here is where this gets interesting: neither Adam nor Eve, the children of Job, nor the Israelite children asked for their sins to be atoned.  Someone else who loved them made the atoning sacrifices on their behalf.  Since this was God’s pattern, God was setting the stage for our atonement.  We did not ask God to atone for our sins, and the Jews in Jesus’ day were preparing for their annual Passover sacrifices and did not think they needed a Savior.

John 3:16 makes it clear that it was God’s love that caused Him to send His Son to be our Savior.  In God’s plan, Jesus would be sacrificed by God for man’s sin.  Man did not and could not initiate this.  When we accept Christ as our atoning sacrifice God saves us by grace through faith.

All religions of the world have this one point backward.  They all teach that we must do something after we sin to “atone” on some level for our sin.  If this is Satan’s deception, it is his best one.  In guilt, we think we should do something.  In love, God already did something.  He made the atoning sacrifice just like He did in the Garden, just like Job did for his children.  This then makes us the grateful recipients of the Father’s atoning sacrifice of the Son on our behalf.

What are your thoughts?

 

We pray regularly for all of our friends to have and to know God’s grace, peace and strength.  In this strange times we must be turning more to God, increasing our faith, and learning the lessons God is teaching us.  This is not a time to be doubting our God.  He is in control, James 1 tells us this.  Sunday’s message was taken from James 1:2-8 as we looked at God’s purposes, our joy, and God’s wisdom.  You can find this message at www.jibc.or.id 

Have a great day in the Lord

PS

We must not join those who are running in fear

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Proverbs 28:1

The wicked flee when no one pursues,
But the righteous are bold as a lion.

Opening this proverb is a key truth of God that we need today.  People are running for their lives; they are fleeing something that they don’t understand.  The more people are infected and the more who die the greater the fear becomes. Someone has counted the words “Fear not” about 365 times in the Bible.  Yes, that is one for every day.  God knows our hearts and knows how quickly we can run to fear.  In a world filled with fear, we who follow Christ, who have His eternal Spirit in us, should not be running in fear. Remember the words of Philippians 1:21, “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.”

The second part of this proverb speaks to the attitude of the righteous.  The righteous are those who seeking the Lord enjoy His righteousness, live above the guilt of their sin, and know that Jesus already paid that debt.  Here we are taught that the righteous have a boldness, similar to the boldness of a lion.  In the movie Lion King, one character asked the young lion king what he was afraid of. The other character said, “He is not afraid of anything, he is at the top of the food chain.”  Since Jesus already defeated death, we don’t need to flee in fear.  Death is defeated for us as well.

As a pastor, I have done many funerals.  Those who know their loved one closed their eyes in death to open them in the presence of Jesus had a comfort unique to Christians.  I have been with Christians who breathed their last breath, they were peaceful, not fighting but relaxing in the arms of Jesus.  Yes, the righteous face the greatest fear with boldness.  But, those without Christ, the wicked hearted, selfish people of this world are running here and there in fear.  We should be people of such peace that those around us will wonder why we are not more like them.  This pandemic is growing, it might take some of us. While we will fight to live, let us not run in fear.  Let us rest in faith that God is with us from the cradle to the grave and then we will be with Him forever.  “Wherefore, comfort one another with these words.”

I trust your Easter Sunday, Resurrection Sunday, was as blessed as ours.  We enjoyed sharing the video of our service in Jakarta, and then Caleb called to talk about the sermon which he watched with us from China.  We had lunch, rested, and then reflected, sang, and waited for our son’s churches in the US to begin their services.  We watched all of Steve’s service, the music in Ben’s service, and the sermon in Justin’s service. We got in bed and then Stefani and Dwayne called us to enjoy some of their Easter Sunday with us.  Please understand, all of this was possible because Jesus rose from the dead.  If he had died like all other religious founders, we would not be following Him, there would not be an Easter Sunday, and as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15, above all men we would be the most to be pitied.  Yes, the Savior rose and promised to raise us like Him when the Father is ready. 

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

 

 

We really need God’s comfort today

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2 Corinthians 1

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

 

Are you struggling with all the mandatory changes taking place around us?  I certainly am.  I like routine, I like knowing what is happening next, and knowing who will be doing what.  In this time of forced change, I still want routine but find it increasingly difficult to maintain.  Furthermore, there is not an end in sight.  Yes, I still have time for my private devotions and sermon preparation and Zoom small group meetings, but so much is out of place.

As we turn to 2 Corinthians 1, we must turn to the true Source of all comfort, God Himself.  Our heavenly Father is “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.”  He is where we must go, where we must turn.  We must remember that God has never sat on His throne and wrung His hands in surprised amazement at the events on this earth.  God created this world, each of us, and the calamity that we now face.  This same God wants us to turn to Him for our comfort.

Having said this, I now must turn to the God of comfort today.  We acknowledge that this whole situation we live in will not get better soon.  Those of us who have the God of comfort in us and with us are the only ones with real and lasting hope.  Even still, we wake up struggling, let us quickly go to our heavenly Father, the God and Father of all comfort. He is in charge, He alone will keep us where we should be, at rest in Him.

John Piper has written a new book on Coronavirus and Christ. It is available as a free download from this link from Crossway.

 https://www.crossway.org/articles/coronavirus-and-christ-by-john-piper/?utm_source=Crossway+Marketing&utm_campaign=d30e376335-20200408+-+General+-+Free+Book+COVID-19+John+Piper&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0275bcaa4b-d30e376335-299223533

We will be posting our Good Friday service Friday night at 6:00 on the church Facebook page.  Since the government has now restricted all religious gatherings, we will no longer do livestream but will post a new video prepared each week for the service.  So, Resurrection Sunday’s service will be available 10:45 on Sunday. 

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

Priests Intercede in Prayer

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1 Peter 2:2 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
4 As you come to him, the living Stone-rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him-5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  (Revelation 1:4-6. 5:9, 20:6)
We are a kingdom of priests to God.  We have been saved by the blood of Christ, sanctified before the Father and set apart into His priesthood.  As such, we must pray, we must intercede to God to stop the spread of this deadly virus. Brothers and sisters, as followers of Jesus Christ, let us make spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ. May God hear our prayers and heal our land.

Pray with me today: 

Lord God of heaven and earth, Creator of all, and Savior, we come today to confess our sin and the sin of our nation.

 

We have become self-sufficient and have lived without dependence on you. We live our lives making our own plans and hoping you will agree. We have adopted many of this world’s ways and ideas and have left some of the clear teachings of your Word.

 

The world around us is filled with sin, with violence, covetousness, and with immorality of all types. The people around us worship everything but you. We often bow at the altars of money or recreation or comfort.

 

Father, your church, that you died to save, is no longer following your Great Commission, we are not personally carrying your gospel to others nor discipling others as you called us to do. We attend church on Sunday’s but are not a church family all week. We do not edify one another to love and to good works as you have called us to. Forgive us Lord for this sin.

 

Father, as we confess our sin we also turn from it. We have been deceived and now want to see your truth. We want to be drawn away from our sin so that we can love you purely. We repent and come to you with hearts wholly given over to call you “Lord;” furthermore, we want to follow you in every way you may lead us that we may be your holy body, your holy church.

 

We come to you Lord broken-hearted over the people, those made in your image, who are suffering from the COVID virus today. We grieve over those who are sick, those who have lost family and those who are going to die soon. Lord, death is our enemy, an enemy you have already defeated. Would you come down and save us from this enemy today. We intercede as we hold their hand and yours to bring them to you. Would you come to our city, as you stopped the death angel in David’s day, may you stop him again today. We understand that there is a normal cycle for this virus to run; we are asking you today, by your power and grace, to step in and to show us mercy. May you step in in such a way where all will know that you have worked. May no other religion claim that their deity helped but may all know that you have stopped this plague.

 

Father, we thank you for your mercy. Every one of us deserve the greatest disease possible for our rebellion against you. But in love, you sent your Son, Jesus Christ, to take the penalty of our sin. You provided the only answer to sin’s deathly chill. We thank you for your present and eternal mercy and grace given to us through the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We long, Father, to be able to point people to the God of love and grace who has already provided healing for their eternal souls. Thank you, God, for your perfect will. We submit ourselves to that will as we intercede for our friends, our neighbors, and our fellow countrymen.

 

Lord, save us today from this sickness we ask; and Lord, save this city and this country from their sin through the work, the death, burial, and resurrection, of the Lord Jesus. It is in Jesus name, and through His shed blood that we humbly and boldly pray…

We have precedent for asking God to deliver us from COVID 19

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Reading through the accounts of the Kings and Chronicles, we see that God responded to the humble and desperate cries of His people. We are in a similar situation. According to the models demonstrated, the next two weeks are going to be the worst in new cases and in loss of lives. Since these lives are souls that Christ died to save (John 3:13), we have biblical precedent to seek God for the destruction of this virus, this enemy of humanity.
The OT kings removed every form of idolatry from the land, Asa removed his own grandmother from the throne (2 Chronicles 1516). Jehoshaphat sent priests throughout the land to teach the people the word of God. When faced with a trial many years later, the people gathered around the king for confession of sin, repentance, and begging God to deliver them from certain death (2 Chronicles 20).
There is not a formula here, there are examples of great fear and of a united call out to God for deliverance. The emphasis is fasting and prayer, confession of sin and repentance toward God. I call brothers and sisters in Christ to examine your hearts and your lives and to be willing to put aside anything that has come between you and God.
When the kings of Judah cried out to God, their desperation was front and center. I read many posts calling us to faith and prayer but few calling us to confession and repentance from sin.
This goes without saying; however, if we don’t believe God can stop this virus from bringing greater death and destruction then we should not pray. It is because we believe that God can save that we cry out to Him.
1 Peter 2:2 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
4 As you come to him, the living Stone-rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him-5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Brothers and sisters, as followers of Jesus Christ, we are a holy priesthood to God. Let us make spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ. May God hear our prayers and heal our land.