We prepare the way for the Lord’s message

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Matthew 14

34 When they had crossed over, they came to the land of Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent out into all that surrounding region, brought to Him all who were sick, 36 and begged Him that they might only touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched it were made perfectly well.

 

Luke 8

38 Now the man from whom the demons had departed begged Him that he might be with Him. But Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you.” And he went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.

 

 

In sequence, the Luke passage was before the Matthew passage.  In Luke 8 we read about the first trip Jesus took to the land of the Gadarenes during which time he met a man possessed of a legion of demons.  Jesus cast the demons into the herd of feeding pigs who ran and drowned them in the sea.  The townspeople asked Jesus to leave but the man now cleansed of the demons wanted to go with Jesus.  Jesus told the man to stay and to be a witness to His power.  Apparently the man did just that for on Jesus’ return trip the people recognized Jesus and came to him for healing.  The second visit of Jesus was very different from the first and the man whom Jesus sent back was the human reason for the different response.

 

My friends, I am more convinced than ever that the power of the gospel flows through people who faithfully follow Jesus Christ.  The once demon possessed man could not help but tell the townspeople what happened to him how that Jesus did a miracle of freedom in his life.  We don’t know what this man did to bring in the demons only that Jesus did a miracle setting him free.  The man was so changed that his life clearly reflected the power of God.  We who claim to know the Savior, we who claim to have been set free from all of the sin of our lives, set free to live for Christ, should be similar walking billboards of God’s power and grace.

 

What would happen if all of those around us knew we are not the person that we were?  What if all of those who know us knew that we were set free from the sin that enslaves them?  What if the change in our lives was as dramatic as this man’s change was?  Let me tell you something, the change in us should be as dramatic as the change in him. We were lost, separated from God, bound by sin and lust, anger and bitterness.  We were filled with Satan’s ideas, the world’s ways and our fleshly desires.  Only the God of heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior could come in and make us new, and He did!  We are not the men and women that we neither were nor would be; we are new, totally new!  The change in our lives from the lives of those around us should be so different that when Jesus comes to the door of their hearts they should want what they have seen in us.  Are you living the “set free” life?  Are you set free or does your life show more of you than of Jesus?  Maybe, just maybe you still need to be set free to live for Christ and to openly prepare others to meet Him.   If you have lived the changed life, begin asking the Lord for unique opportunities to bring Him into the hearts and lives of those who know you.

 

This Sunday, Dave Smith, the director of Illinois Family Institute will be bringing the morning message.  He will probably be speaking from Romans 14 looking at our responsibility as Christians to human government.  This will be a timely message and one that will bring clarity to a cloudy subject. 

 

I am leaving today for a pastor’s conference in Manila.  This is a very interesting opportunity to meet men who are serving the Lord throughout Asia in an effort to network with them as they train men and women to serve the Lord. Pray with me for God to prepare the way for us to work toward establishing a training center/seminary in Jakarta. 

 

We are also praying for God to provide some more musicians for our church.  Sunday will be Stefani’s last Sunday as she leaves for college next week.

 

Pray for our many children who start school this week and next week as they are getting ready for the new year.  They face many challenges and some fears as they make this next step in their lives.

 

Last Sunday’ sermon will be on the App and on the website today.

 

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

Peter got out of the boat, can we?

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Matthew 14

25 Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. 26 And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear.

27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”

28 And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”

29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”

31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.

33 Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”

 

The final recorded thoughts of this event were the exclamation of those in the boat, “Truly You are the Son of God.”  I have to admit that I have often envied Peter, he walked on water.  I have run off of many piers and diving boards, legs running, in hopes of staying just a moment on the top of the water. I always sank. But Peter stepped out of the boat that night and stayed on the top of the water.  What a moment to remember!  He knew what happened when you went from land to water, you sank.  But here came Jesus on the top of the water and Peter asked if he could come out with him.  Jesus bid Peter to come out and join him and Peter, at the call of Jesus, stepped out on the water.

 

What an amazing moment of Peter’s life!  How the others must have wished that they had asked too.  But Peter alone took the moment to step out and be with Christ.  The boat was the place of safety.  The water was the place of danger and death.  I think we can draw some close parallels here.  In life we spend most of our days and nights in the boat, in the place of safety with others who think as we do.  Outside of our normal life we hear of people or read of those who did amazing things for God and stand in awe of what God did for them and through them.

 

Maybe the local church is the boat and everyone in it are those with us in the place we know and like.  Every so often someone hears the call of the Lord Jesus and steps out of the normal church activities to do something that requires more faith.  Those in the church, in the boat, encourage the one stepping out, pray for them, and might even give them money to help them, but like the others in the boat that night, they are not thinking of stepping out themselves.

 

If you had enough faith to do it, what would you do?  Whom have you admired because they stepped out of the boat into the unknown to follow Christ’s call?  As you admire their faith what is Christ calling  you to do?  How much faith do you have to do what he has called you to do?  Many Christians are afraid to take the step of faith to talk to someone else about eternal life in Christ.  They  see those who do share their faith as people with greater faith than themselves.  According to Matthew 28:19-20 we are all called to make disciples of all nations.  We had better get out of the boat and into the sea with Jesus.  We are all called to give of our money to the work of the Lord.  We had better get out of the boat and into the sea with Jesus. We are all called to live under the authority of the Word of God; you get the picture.

 

Peter was fine as long as he kept his eyes on Christ.  Again, the same is true today.  When we step out of our comfort zone to follow Christ we must keep our eyes on him and as long as we do we will walk on the “water” with him.  Do you believe this concluding statement: “Truly You are the Son of God.”?  If you do, then step out of the boat at the call of the Savior and enjoy the greatest day of your Christian life.

 

Please pray today for a friend who needs to decide to follow the Word and the hope of God. The cares of this life have left this friend feeling hopeless and believing this lie has led this friend into sin and greater darkness.  Pray for the light to fully penetrated this darkness.

 

On August 14, 1981, Bobbi and were married at the Oak Forest Baptist Temple.  My dad performed the wedding and Bobbi’s dad brought tears to every eye as he gave a speech to “give his daughter away.” It was a wonderful day amongst our family and friends.  Well, that was 37 years ago.  “Happy Anniversary Bobbi, my love. Thanks for putting up with me and loving me still.  I thank God for  you and for our marriage, our children and grandchildren and the many ways we have served God’s kingdom together.”

 

On a sad note, remember the family of my pastor friend Phil White who went to be with the Lord this time last year.  His wife, Diedre and their children Mia and Maleek are dealing with the anniversary of Phil’s homegoing.  The same God who keeps us together, in his timing takes us apart.  I am thankful for the memory of a friend who so loved the Lord and his family.

 

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

 

The Enemies of Our Communion with God

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There are two great enemies of our communion with God, the devil and our own flesh.  In this message, Pastor Steve addresses the realities of these enemies and exposes them for who they are and for what they want, our total destruction.  Let us commit to fighting these enemies so that our communion with God may be rich.

How do we fight the enemies of our communion with God?

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We have two enemies, the devil and our own flesh. Both of these enemies are evident from the first temptation to the last temptation.  These two can work apart from each other or in conjunction with each other.  Oftentimes we can see where the devil might use something of this world to get our attention and then our sinful flesh is aroused to that desire.

James said that every man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lusts and then enticed.  Lust gives birth to sin and sin then brings its death.

First of all, we are not tempted to sin by God.  James makes this clear.  “Let no one say that when they are tempted they are tempted by God for God does not tempt anyone.  Every one is tempted when they are drawn away by their own lusts and enticed.”    So, our enemies are the devil and our own lusts of our own flesh.

How then do we fight these insidious enemies who do not love us but only love themselves and care nothing for our success or failure only for their gratification?

  1. There is no silver bullet to beat all temptations.
    1. Some sins are stronger to one person than to another.
    2. Some sins have different triggers to different people.
    3. Some sins are more addictive than others, particularly if there is a chemical involved.
    4. Some sins are attached to our natural desires for food, sleep, relationships, and sex.
    5. Some sins are passed down through families by example.
    6. Some sins just show up and we are not sure how they came into our lives.
    7. Sin does not respect the age, the wellness, the emotions, the time of day, nor the Word of God. We see this in Satan’s temptations of Christ.
    8. Therefore, there is not one answer for all sinful temptations.

 

  1. There are several Scriptures that deal with sin’s presence and sin’s attacks on our lives. Sin in a serious issue of life not to be taken lightly.
    1. 1 Peter 5:8-11 Satan is like a roaring lion… whom resist steadfast in faith…
    2. 2 Timothy 2:22 Flee also youthful lusts… pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
    3. 1 Peter 2:11-12 Abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, have your conduct honorable
    4. Romans 13:14 but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its
    5. Galatians 6:7 Be not deceived, God is not mocked, whatever you sow you will also reap.
    6. Romans 6:12-23 We are set free from sin but we are enslaved by whomever we submit ourselves to. God has set us free to live for him. Though the wages of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
    7. 1 John 3:4-8
    8. We are to resist sin, flee from sin, abstain from sin, not make provision for sin, recognize that we still reap what we sow, have been set free from sin but can still come under its bondage, and we are not to consistently be living in sin. In the 1 Peter passage we are reminded that we resist sin steadfast in faith. This is not something that we get good at but something we must hold faithfully to God’s promises as our constant weapon.
    9. Ephesians 6:17 …and take the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. This is what Jesus did and we can do no better than to follow His example in temptation.

 

  1. There are teachings about God that will strengthen us in our temptations.
    1. God takes us into His presence, to His right hand to enjoy His pleasures:
      1. Psalm 16: 8 -11
    2. God save us, show us that we are important to Him, protects us, and He alone satisfies us:
      1. Psalm 17:6 -9 & 15
    3. Psalm 23, John 15 The Lord is my shepherd, ever with me, ever guarding me, ever protecting me.
    4. God is greater than our enemy: 1 John 4: You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
    5. The devil and all of his hosts are a defeated enemy, Satan was defeated at the Cross and at the empty tomb. The last enemy to be destroyed will be death, but even he will be defeated. 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that God will always make a way of escape for us.

 

  1. How do we cleanse our minds from the filth of our past, from the repetitive sins that we do?
    1. With the washing of the water of the Word of God – Ephesians 5:25-27, Hebrews 10:19-22
    2. By presenting your bodies as living sacrifices and by renewing our minds with the Word of God – Romans 12:1-2
    3. Romans 6 – by not yielding ourselves to our fleshly desires but to the Lord.
    4. By constantly putting off the old self and putting on the new self made in the image of Christ – Colossians 3
    5. By regularly gathering with God’s people – Hebrews 10:22-25

 

  1. Will we ever get ultimate victory over sin in this life? Will we ever have a time when sinful desires won’t be attacking us?
    1. We are to be putting off the old
    2. We are to be being sober and diligent
    3. We are to continually walk in the light
    4. We are to continue yielding ourselves to Christ – the verb forms are continuous action.
    5. Paul wanted to depart this life and to be with Christ, which would be far better. Philippians 1:23
    6. Paul called himself the least of all saints and the chief of sinners.
    7. We are called to war against sin, to wrestle against the spiritual enemies of this life. These are aggressive terms defining the actions we must take against the enemies of our communion with God.
  • 2 Corinthians 10:2-6
  • Psalm 19:7-11 The Word of God is perfect, sure, clean, true, righteous, enlightening to the eyes, making wise the simple, gives warning, brings reward; it teaches us what is acceptable to think about and what is acceptable to speak about.
  • 1 Timothy 1:18 This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare,
  • Ephesians 6:12 -13
  1. What benefits are there from fighting the enemies of our communion with God?
    1. Psalm 16:8 …gladness, rest for the soul, life, fullness of joy, pleasures forever.
    2. Psalm 17:6-15 speaks of several benefits in this life and full satisfaction in the presence of the Lord.
    3. Psalm 1 speaks of the one who lives the blessed life.
    4. Paul started every epistle with the greeting of grace and peace.
    5. 1 Corinthians 15:58 speaks to the live lived in the power of the resurrection knowing that their life was not in vain but had great purpose both now and forever.
    6. The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7
    7. In the kingdom parables, the ones who were prepared for their Lord’s return were always glad to see him.
    8. All of God’s promises are true. 2 Corinthians 1:20 22
    9. In contrast, what the benefits of walking in sin? John 10:10, the enemy comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy.  We are to resist this roaring lion by remaining steadfast in the faith of God, His word, the work of Christ, and the communion of God through the indwelling Holy Spirit.
  • A final reason to fight the enemies of our communion with God is the opportunity we gain to rejoice with the saints of all of the ages in praising and worshipping, having communion with, God.

Revelation 19:6 And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! 7 Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.”

1 Peter 1:3-9

Luke 10:18 -20

Revelation 3:1-17 is the call to the faithful church, the church of Philadelphia.  There were many promises given to this faithful church, promises for now and for eternity.

2 Timothy 4:6-8

Those who love the coming appearing of the Lord Jesus are those who are fighting the good fight of faith, enjoying communion with God, and never fully giving in to the enemies of this life.

There is no positive fruit that comes from sin.  The fruit of sin is shame and death.  Romans 6:21,23 Though we will never be fully free from sin in this life, in Christ we are able to battle against sin, enjoy victories, confess defeats, get help, get back up and continue in the battle for the glory of God and for the souls of those around us.

When a Christian battles Satan and the flesh, that Christian is a testimony of the grace and love of God.  When a Christian stops battling Satan and the flesh they become a reproach to the name of Christ and lose any influence in caring for the souls of others.  We are called to be faithful.  We can faithfully battle the enemies of our communion with God and enjoy His presence within us day after day until we find ourselves in His eternal presence where we will finally know fullness of joy and eternal pleasures at His right hand.

How do we treat others when we hear really bad news?

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Matthew 14

10 So he sent and had John beheaded in prison. 11 And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. 12 Then his disciples came and took away the body and buried it, and went and told Jesus.

13 When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself. But when the multitudes heard it, they followed Him on foot from the cities. 14 And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.

The setting of this event is the beheading of John the Baptist.  You know the story, Herodius’ daughter dances seductively before Herod and he promises her anything.  Her wicked mother wants the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Herod concedes and John the Baptist is executed.  Not long after the execution, the disciples of John come and tell Jesus what had happened.  According to the text, when Jesus hears of the death of his cousin he leaves the city and goes out to be alone for a while.  We would consider the actions of Jesus to be normal. He just heard of the brutal execution of the one who prepared the way for him, baptized him, and loved him.  Jesus wanted some quiet time in light of John’s death.

However, news got out that Jesus was on the move and multitudes of people, probably in the neighborhood of 15,000 or more, followed him. (That number might be conservative because we read in the next verses that Jesus fed the 5,000 but the number was just the men.)  You or I might have told the multitude to go away and to come back tomorrow, we just needed some time to grieve.  We just lost a dear friend and can’t deal with needy people right now.  If Jesus had said this we would fully have understood.  But this is not what Jesus did.

The heart of Christ was a heart of compassion.  So, when the multitudes came, Jesus put aside his own needs and once again cared for theirs. The lesson here is simple: regardless of how we feel, regardless of what we have just had to deal with, when people come by with a need we must take the time and energy to show them compassion. We find that Jesus taught them, healed them, and even fed them. When did Jesus take time to grieve?  We are not told; we just know that the Savior set aside his feelings to care for others.  The next time someone calls or comes by in their time of need see if you can’t put aside your struggles to show compassion and to care for them. They will be grateful and you will be blessed.

Tomorrow night is our outdoor movie night.  As we show the movie about the life and conversion of Steve McQueen, do take time to invite some friends to come.  The movie will keep the attention of anyone who grew up in the McQueen era.  We will start the movie near 8:00.  Bring lawn chairs or a blanket.  If it rains, we will be inside.

Sunday, I am planning to bring a third message on our communion with God.  This one will focus on how we overcome the enemies of our communion.  We will look at the Psalms and the Gospels and the Epistles as we study our plan for this battle.  In the end, we defeat the enemies of our spiritual life by faith in the Word of God and in the God of the Word.

Have a great day in the Lord,

 PS

Jesus, Too Commonplace to Be Great

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Matthew 13

54 When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, “Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? 56 And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?” 57 So they were offended at Him.

But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.” 58 Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.

Is Jesus too commonplace for you?  He was for those in the town he grew up in. Jesus, on his journeys, went back to his home town and taught again in their synagogues.  When the people who knew him from his childhood heard Jesus speak they wondered where he got his messages from, they certainly could not be his own messages for they knew his family and none of them were great.  While superimposing the commonplace on the Lord Jesus the people of his town missed his greatness, could not really believe him, and missed out on his miracles amongst them.

Is Jesus too commonplace for you?  Did you grow up going to Sunday school as a child?  Have you heard all of the “stories” and now have little awe and less interest in them?   When people get excited about their faith have you ever felt that you were missing something because you have never been that excited about yours.  Maybe Jesus is just as commonplace for you as he was for those in his home town.

The saddest part of this visit to his hometown was that they missed the mighty works of Jesus too.  Since the works of God require us to have faith that he can do what he says he can to, Jesus could not do many miracle healings there.  Those who knew him from a child could not put their faith in Jesus as God.  What about you?  Do you see Jesus as God, as the very Son of God who alone can save you, keep you, and do mighty works of God through you?  Or is Jesus just a Sunday school character of your upbringing? Have you enjoyed the mighty works of Christ or do you only see them in the lives of others?

Let us take time today to see Jesus as much more, multiplied times more than just a Sunday school person who loved children and calmed storms. Let us see the Savior as John did in Revelation 1, as the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the Lord God of heaven and earth.  Then, let’s ask the Lord Jesus to his mighty works through us since we are people of great faith in him.

Bobbi’s dad’s gall bladder surgery went well yesterday, he is just in much pain because of his arthritis.  Please keep Ed in your prayers throughout the day that he would know God’s comfort and healing.

 Tonight is our regular program of Bible study, prayer, and youth group.  Pray for our youth.  They are facing struggles of life and faith every day.  A few are in the middle of a great struggle right now. 

 This Friday night we are showing the movie, “Steve McQueen, American Icon” a story about McQueen’s life, successes, motivations, and his coming to Jesus Christ.  Invite a friend, post it on Facebook, do what you can to bring lost people to see this movie.  We are showing it outdoors starting around 8:00.

 Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

What Are You Learning and What Have You Learned From the Scriptures?

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Matthew 13

51 Jesus said to them, “Have you understood all these things?”

They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.”

52 Then He said to them, “Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.”

After one of the greatest days of teaching, Jesus asked his audience if they understood what he taught.  Their answer was a simple, “Yes, we did.”  Jesus then tells them that everyone who is a student of the Scriptures has truths that they know from the Scriptures and truths they are still learning.

This admonition should be indicative of us also.  We who have known the Lord a long time, who have studied the Word of God and have been taught it week after week, should have truths about God’s kingdom that we are very sure about.  There are truths of God that we are fully convinced of and should be able to bring those truths out in conversations and even be able to teach them. (I have to say that I am a bit shocked when mature believers tell me that they can’t talk about their faith. We can talk about things that matter much less.)

The nature of God’s word is that we not only have truths that we have learned and are secure in but there are many truths still to learn.  Imagine being a mature student of God’s Word and hearing the teaching of Jesus. The lessons He taught would agree with the truths you knew and would propel you forward into greater understanding. While you expect the pastor and the Sunday school teachers to study and be prepared to teach, it is my opinion that every follower of Christ should be studying (not just reading) the Scriptures and comparing them with the teachings of the Lord Jesus.  As we study God’s word, more than reading it, we will begin to overflow with the truths we learn. Then we will fulfill this parable of Jesus about the householder who from the treasure of his house brings forth valuable truths both old and new.

 

I am thankful for a great Sunday at Grace for Life. We pray for God to do His work in us and through us and Sunday was a blessed day for us all. 

 It was good to see Edna in church. Her back issues have become a great challenge to her life.  Keep her in your prayers that God would give her comfort and healing.

Pray for a pastor friend who is also a life-long friend.  Rick Dawson had a major stroke yesterday. His family is requesting prayer during this their dark hour.

On Friday our house was listed into the real estate market.  We had one showing Friday night. Pray for more showings this week and for the right buyer to come by.

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS