Devotionals

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.

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