Devotionals

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.

Be a Sharpening Friend

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Proverbs 27

17 As iron sharpens iron,

So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.

The gathering of brothers and sisters creates a sharpening of one another.  When we get together as brothers and sisters in Christ there is intentional edifying through words of love, encouragement and even correction.  I have sharpened my own knives for as long as I can remember having knives.  A dull knife is pushed against a sharpening stone at a certain angle; the movement of the knife blade against the stone cleans off small burrs and grinds the two edges of the knife until it sharpened.  The steel of the blade is actually changed at the edge of the knife.

Many times I have had burrs on my life and the edge of life has become dulled.  Friends and family have come at those times and have worked to restore the sharpness that my life needed.  As Christians, we need to keep our faith sharpened, our confidence in God’s word sharpened, and our ability to love others sharpened.  A dull knife can cut some things, but it is not an effective tool.  For us to be as effective as God would have us to be, the spiritual edge of our life needs to be maintained.

While we have more time on our hands, let us work at sharpening our own spiritual edge and let us consider one another to provoke to love and to good works.  Whom can you love right now?  Whom can you edify right now?  As we sharpen our own lives we will be able to sharpen those around us.  Let us be people who care enough to edify, to sharpen others in our conversation, in our texts, in our time together.  Be a sharpening friend.

 

During yesterday’s sermon, a thought came to me that made the current workings of God crystal clear to me.  God is our good Shepherd and as our good Shepherd He is leading us to green pastures and to still waters.  He is guiding our lives as He sees fit.  Picture the Good Shepherd lovingly guiding us, His sheep, to green pastures and to still waters.  God has always led His people well.  God is leading His church as He sees fit today.  Yesterday I brought a message from Isaiah 45:5-8 that teaches us God brings both peace and calamity.  Satan brings confusion; God brings calamity.  God uses calamity to accomplish His ordained purposes.  Yes, the Good Shepherd is leading His people to His places. 

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

Living above our blind-spots, living in the blessings of God’s promises

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1 Chronicles 28:8–10

“So now I charge you in the sight of all Israel and of the assembly of the Lord, and in the hearing of our God: Be careful to follow all the commands of the Lord your God, that you may possess this good land and pass it on as an inheritance to your descendants forever.

“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. 10 Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house as the sanctuary. Be strong and do the work.”

When you read this does your mind take you to Solomon’s foolish end?  Do you think about how both David and Solomon had a spiritual blind-spot regarding their sexual desires?  Do you then think about how susceptible each of us are to sinful blind-spots in our lives?  Before I think too much of David and Solomon’s failures, the mirror turns into my own heart.  The promises that God gave Solomon, in a similar way He has given to me. If these great men could not control those blind-spots but let them bring such great pain to their otherwise amazingly blessed lives, what hope of purity is there for me?

I am reading a book now by Kevin DeYoung entitled, “The Hole In Our Holiness.”  DeYoung reminds me of the constant call of God to His people to continually walk in His holiness, to increase in it, and never to stray from it.  Yes, great men failed; that does not mean that we have to.  Because of their failure we must be more diligent, more watchful, more aware of our blind-spots and fight against them.  God promises to be with His people.  Jesus Christ promised that He would be with us always.  Colossians 3:1-3 tells us to set our minds, our thoughts, our affections on things above. Let’s live there. Let’s enjoy the blessings of God for life and for eternity.

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

Better is a friend who is near, their friendship is sweet to us

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Proverbs 27

9      Ointment and perfume delight the heart,

And the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel.

10    Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend,

Nor go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity;

Better is a neighbor nearby than a brother far away.

We, here at JIBC, lost a dear friend yesterday.  Miles would have turned 30 today, he went to be with the Lord yesterday.  (His death was not Corona virus related.)  For the past two Sundays, Miles braved the COVID 19 threat and came to church with me to lead music for our livestream programs.  As one who understood the sound board, he also set that up for me.  This past Sunday, after the service, we went to a local South American restaurant where we were the only customers and enjoyed a couple hours of really good food and sweet fellowship only as brothers in Christ can enjoy.  We knew the sweetness of a man’s friendship as we talked heartily back and forth about life, about God, and about living for Christ.

Both my family and his are back in the US so Miles would have considered the people of JIBC as neighbors that are near.  Many of us had serious life-conversations with Miles for his passion was to point people to Christ.  It was easy for Miles to move from talk about work or motorcycles, or drones, or music to talk about Christ, what He was doing, and how He was using us here.  In so many ways, Miles was a neighbor that was near to us.  He lived far enough away, in Tangerang, that the trip here could take anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour and a half. On his motorcycle, Miles often got here wet from the rain. Last Sunday, his shoes were so wet that he took off his shoes and socks for the service, but never did he complain about any of that for he was happy to serve the Lord as a part of this church.

No one is perfect so this is not to say that our friend had no faults; this is only to say that he was an example of a friend whose sweet counsel many of us enjoyed and he made himself to be our close neighbor even when our physical brothers are far away.  We need men and women who because of Christ in them are our close neighbors.  We need close neighbors who provide us their sweet counsel and comfort and service.  We need those neighbors who loving Jesus serve even when that service is inconvenient and even a bit risky.

Because of the Corona restrictions in Jakarta, there will only be a few at Miles funeral tomorrow.  We plan to livestream the funeral over Facebook so more of you can participate.  Pray for Miles wife, now widow, her name is Ella.  Pray for her to know the Lord’s great peace in the valley of the shadow of death.

Be careful and be safe. Share the love of the Lord with one another in new and creative ways.

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

Looking ahead avoids regrets

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Proverbs 27

11    My son, be wise, and make my heart glad,

That I may answer him who reproaches me.

12    A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself;

The simple pass on and are punished.

The call for wisdom is great in every generation and is especially great now.  As we look at the escalation figures of COVID 19, the world crisis is only beginning.  What wisdom do we need and how do we live without exposing ourselves to this virus?  How do we minister God’s love and grace in the midst of this?  Two Sundays ago, I recommended that when we go shopping that we should buy extra food to put aside for others who will be coming to us for food.  As jobs dry up people are going to get hungry; we as Christians should be prepared to give out food.  I am reminded of God’s warning to Egypt and God’s preparation of Joseph as the one who would prepare the country for a time of famine.

Acting with wisdom now will give us opportunities to show love and care in the near future.

A prudent man is one who looks carefully at the situation before him and acts with caution to prepare himself for what is ahead.  We need this quality in our lives.  There is spiritual and physical evil around us all the time.  As one of my mentors said, we are all 3-4 bad decisions from moral failure.  We must consciously be aware of this and live with careful wisdom all the time.  Before we act, before we jump into a situation, in prudence, we must look ahead a few steps and see where it might lead.

In the end, we are trusting the Lord and living by faith. Yet, we are called to move with a careful looking ahead throughout our lives.  In talking to my parents last night, we were talking about their lives and how God has used them. During that conversation I told them that they should be thankful that they do not have a “box full of regrets.”  When each of us get old, which we will, may we be able to look back at our lives and not see a “box full of regrets.”  With prudence, let us look ahead and avoiding the evil move wisely through life.

 

Keep one another in prayer.  More than ever, we need the loving prayer of one another.  Some of us are going to get sick, it is inevitable.  Please respond to this email with prayer requests for us to share.  We pray because God hears and answers when we do. 

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

A true friend tells you the difficult truths that you need to hear

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Proverbs 27

5     Open rebuke is better

Than love carefully concealed.

6     Faithful are the wounds of a friend,

But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

One thing about growing up in a pastor’s home is that there are certain truths that you hear all the time, and you hear them in real life situations.  I well remember my dad telling how the wounds of a friend are faithful but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.  If you have lived very long, you have known people who only told you what you wanted to hear while you knew they were against you.  These are people who at first you think will be great friends but in the end stab you in the back.  They never were your friend, they probably have never been anyone’s friend.

The other side of this proverb is that the wounds caused by a friend are faithful.  This happens when someone loves you enough to tell you something difficult about you, something that hurts when they tell you.  You know the conversation, it’s the one you work up to because it is so difficult to have.  Your dear friend, your brother or sister, your husband or wife, or even your parents have a way they do something or say something that always brings hurt to you and they seem oblivious to your hurt.  You don’t want to hurt them back nor do you really want to walk away, what do you do?

In this proverb we are called to open rebuke and faithful wounds.  We are told that these are acts of love, acts of true friendship.  Jesus taught us to take the beam out of our own eye before we seek to remove the telephone pole out of our neighbors’ eye, so the first step of confrontation is to carefully examine our own hearts.  Study the Scriptures, pray over your own faults, confess them to God and to others, then humbly confront the one you love about their faults.  Be faithful with your wounds, be loving in your approach, your friend or family member may be upset at first, let the Lord work on them. Be a faithful friend.

 Yesterday’s message was on a Theology of crisis. As Christians, children of God, we should know enough about God and about His workings with mankind to carry us through any crisis at any time.  I have posted this message on YouTube and trust it will help you think about the Coronavirus and our response to it with a biblical basis.  Here is the link to that message: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7boMKpjLiAw

We are well here in Jakarta.  Just like each of you, our lives have been changed as our governments and health officials seek effective ways of protecting us from spreading this virus.  I am definitely praying more and for more people that God would keep them during this time. If you have any specific requests, people you are praying for, please let me know and we will add them to our prayers also. 

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

A Time to Pray, Not a Time to Sleep

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Matthew 26

36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. 38 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”

39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”

40 Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” 43 And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy.

44 So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. 45 Then He came to His disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”

Our Lord knew what was next, He has spoken of it to His disciples and even to the crowd. As we consider the humanity of Christ, we see the frailty of human flesh for just knowing what was next did not prepare the Savior, He needed to pray. Do you find it interesting that Christ in flesh even asked His disciples to watch and pray with Him? This was the most important moment in history and the disciples missed it because they gave in to sleep instead of watching in prayer. Christ’s rebuke of them is stunning. He gave them a specific moment of watchful prayer and they slept.

My friends, the world is in another defining moment. Over 100,000 people who were well one, two and three months ago are terribly sick, some have recovered, many have not. Hospitals are filling up, supplies are running low, and medical professionals are weary. Financial markets are collapsing and fortunes are being swept away. Major corporations are facing the reality of bankruptcy putting untold amounts of people out of work. People are coming to grips with their humanity. Let us remember the call of Jesus to His disciples to watch and to pray.

God has never lost control of this world. It is His creation and He is not a distanced deity waiting to see how it all works out. In times of God’s judgment He always calls His people to pray. Are you praying more? Are you gathering for prayer? Is your pastor calling you to greater prayer? Are you calling your pastor to more prayer? Though written to Israel, the principle of 2 Chronicles 7:14 is timeless. God told His people that when they strayed from Him and found themselves in great affliction that when they called out to him and confessed their sins with humility that God would hear their prayers, forgive their sins, and heal their lands. Our sins, on a world-wide basis, are great before God. Let’s lead the parade here and confess our sins and then the sins of others as we cry out to God in a time where watchful prayer is so desperately needed.

Our son Justin and his wife and four sons are with us here in Jakarta. It is a joy from God to have them with us. They bring so much energy and life to every waking hour. We are taking them on a short trip next week and they are quite excited in anticipation.

 Have a great day in the Lord,

PS