Tuesday, March 31, 2009

2009 Lenten Devotional and Prayer Guide

March 31

 

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”   (1 John 5:13)

 

It used to be said: if one is unsure of their salvation, there must be a reason.  The standard answer became that the person had mistakenly put feelings in front of faith.  What if the real answer was in the separating power of sin instead of the sanctifying power that naturally accompanies salvation?  Continual sin will separate us from the experience of God’s love and eventually our assurance of salvation.  Continual sin will place us in the precarious position of not knowing.  I propose feeling the lack of assurance of salvation is “good.”

 

If or when we reach such a place, it is a good time to back off and look at ourselves from another perspective.  This view is difficult, because most of us have not had much experience with seeing ourselves objectively.  See, one of the problems of sin is that it makes us think we are right when we are not and keeps us from the pain of the surgery of truth.  At some point we were awakened from our sin and intellectually accepted the salvation provided in and through Jesus.  However, instead of spiritual growth we began to coast in a false sense of security.  We never achieved the transformation promised in salvation through sanctification.  Our lives were lived in constant carnality (NIV: “worldly”) rather than being instep with the Spirit of God.  It is a horrible place to be, living according to our desires instead of the will of God.  Yet, it can be a place of decision.  What is yours?  [Written by: Pastor Dan]

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Monday, March 30, 2009

2009 Lenten Devotional and Prayer Guide

March 30

 

This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.”  (1 John 3:10)

 

In 1 John we find suggestions regarding Christian living, focusing on love, purity, and eternal life. John claims that true Christians can be easily identified, because their hearts will be pure and they will show love for other. Would others be able to identify you as a Christian only by using these criteria? If not, what changes do you need to make?  [Written by: Tammy]

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

2009 Lenten Devotional and Prayer Guide

March 29

 

No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.”  (1 John 3:9)

 

John’s words present a lofty expectation. The idea that those who have accepted Christ as Savior will no longer be capable of sin seems a bit over the top. Yet, it is true that when God is in our hearts, we view the things of the world differently. Temptation will always be present, yet armed with the knowledge and love of God those temptations no longer seem as prevalent. [Written by: Tammy]

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Following God

Exodus 14

Following God's Lead

 

After the plagues came one of the more spectacular miracles in history.  Because of the blood they were freed from slavery.  Now they are on the move.  Which way do they go?

 

Before we start, we need to know one thing:  In Exodus 13:18 we are told that they left Egypt “armed for battle.”  In 14:8 we are told they were “marching out boldly.”  They were confident, they were armed, and they were like a swarm of locust with an army of 600,000+ soldiers.

 

I.          God does not always lead us the direction we think.

 

            A.        Sometimes the direction is “negative.”

 

                        1.         Pharaoh's heart was hardened.  [v 4]

                       

a.         We like to think of “love” and “grace” as opposed to God's glory or judgment.  Here is an example of not so much love or grace given for a purpose.

 

b.         God had a plan (like the plagues) to prove a point, develop a new nation, and bring glory to His name.

                       

                        2.         The Egyptians hearts were hardened. [v 17]

           

a.         Notice this was not on the individual level we often hear about when “the sovereignty” of God is mentioned.  Both this and the Pharaoh's heart were for a “big picture” historical event NOT a personal level.  (It is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to know the difference!)

 

b.         Notice they had the ability to understand and chose for themselves!

 

“And the Egyptians said, "Let's get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt." [Exodus 14:25b]

 

“Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea.” [Exodus 14:27]

 

Observation: Some choices come from emotional decisions.  Some choices come because our leaders take us in bad directions.  Some choices are made TOO LATE.

 

            B.        Sometimes the direction is “positive.”

 

                        1.         They were lead by the personal direction to Moses.

 

“Then the LORD said to Moses, [2] "Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon.” [vv 1 – 2]

 

a.         They were on the northern and most direct road to the Promised Land.

 

b.         Why “turn back?”  Sometimes these directions (that come through human leaders) do not make sense.

 

2.         The army was lead by “the angel of God” (a Christophany) and “the pillar of cloud/fire.”

 

a.         This is the visible manifestation of God.  Humans like human appearances of God… its one reason we are drawn to “idols.”

 

b.         In verse 20, God kept the Egyptian and Israelite army apart.

 

Observation: Sometimes God leads us backwards.  Sometimes God prevents us from putting our preparation into practice. 

 

II.        God does not lead us were we want to go.

 

            A.        God led them to a place they did not want to be.

 

“As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD.” [v 10]

 

                        1.         Doubling back put them between the Egyptians and the Red Sea.

 

                                    a.         They were terrified, even though they were armed for battle.

                                   

                                    b.         Their terror turned to anger against Moses.

 

“They said to Moses, "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?” [v 11]

 

                        2.         Even Moses was caught between God and the people.

 

“Then the LORD said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to me?” [v 15a]

 

a.        With confidence Moses had announced God would fight for them and told them to stand still. [See v 13]

 

b.         God corrected him… “Tell the Israelites to move on.” [v 15:b]

 

            B.        Faith is able to see beyond what is happening at the moment.

 

                        1.         Abraham demonstrated this dynamic…

 

“Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed…” [Romans 4:18a]

 

                                    a.         If you can see it or have the resources, then it’s not faith.

 

b.         God often puts us at the point where we have only two choices.  (Like the Passover, obey or die.)

 

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” [Hebrews 11:1]

 

                        2.         All they could see was what was happening.

 

a.         The Israelites saw the Egyptian army.  Moses saw the Angel of the Lord.

 

b.         One expected total annihilation; the other expected God to do something.

 

Observation: Faith is going to require us to follow God’s plan, even when it makes us uncomfortable and we don’t understand it.

 

III.       God puts responsibility on us.

 

            A.        Imagine being told to walk into the Red Sea.

 

                        1.         With water… or without water?  Either way is brave!

 

“The Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.”[v 22]

 

a.         Basically they were in a position where death was sure if the “wall of water” would come down on them.

 

b.         Passover delivered them through death, but the Red Sea delivered them through obedience.

                       

                        2.         The Egyptians followed them.

 

a.         The choices they made blinded them to what was happening.

 

b.         Its called a hard heart.

 

            B.        At some point, God tells us to “get moving.”

 

                        1.         To follow we must put what we know into action.

 

a.         Learning is one thing, but there is a point where we are expected to put what we know into practice.

 

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” [Matthew 7:24]

 

b.         Eventually something will throw you into a place where faith has to take over.

 

“The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” [Matthew 7:25]

 

                        2.         Maybe life will be like a riding bull or a curve ball. 

 

a.         Some things will not make sense… but at some point you have to trust that God is good and that God will take care of you.

 

b.         As we celebrate Lent, and observe what Jesus did for us, we also begin to invest our lives and obedience back to Jesus.

 

“And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.” [v 31]

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

2009 Lenten Devotional and Prayer Guide

March 28

 

He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work.”  (1 John 3:8)

 

By committing sin, we commit ourselves to the devil, for all who sin fall short of the glory of God and belong to the devil. Because of God’s infinite mercy, we are spared though His Son Jesus Christ who came to remove the stain of our sins and free us from the grasp of the devil. This is not something we can sit back and wait for though; we must work to end our sinful ways ourselves. While Jesus purifies us of our sins, He cannot stop us from sinning; the choice is ours. Choice led Eve to commit the original sin, and from that time forward it has been our choice whether or not we sin. So, we must work to end our sins and accept Jesus as our Savior and ask for His forgiveness to truly be free of the devil.  [Written by: Charles]

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Friday, March 27, 2009

2009 Lenten Devotional and Prayer Guide

March 27

Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”            (1 John 3:3)

 

Biblical hope is not “wishful thinking.”  It is confident expectation, sort of like waiting for Christmas.  It is in light of our future expectations that we behave.  If we expect the worst, we tend to act the part, sometimes causing the worst we feared.  If we expect something glorious, then we look forward with excitement and diligent expectation.  So here it is: Jesus will return (see v 2).  Is there anything that you are doing (or not doing) that might be found embarrassing when Jesus returns?  It’s time to clean house today. [Written by: Pastor Dan]

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

2009

March 26

 

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  (1 John 1:9)

 

Here is the “roadmap to restoration.”  When we confess our sins, we freely admit to them and take responsibility for them.  In the Garden of Eden responsibility was avoided by blaming someone else.  Adam said, “The woman you gave me…”  Eve argued “the devil made me…” This, gently put, is not helpful.  Sin is the result of our willful choices.  Notice this confession of sin is mandatory before the next step occurs.  As Adam Clarke said, “in order to get a clean heart, a (person) must know and feel its depravity, acknowledge and deplore it before God, in order to be fully sanctified.”

 

God then forgives and purifies.  Here is a “double cure.”  Forgiveness deals with the guilt; purifying (cleansing) deals with the pollution caused by sin in our lives.  Think of it as an oil spill.  The tanker is our sin nature that leaks pollution all over our lives.  Being free from the guilt of sin would be without purpose and temporary at best without a clean up.  Jesus once rescued a woman scheduled for execution.  After her accusers left, he stated that He did not accuse her but did not leave her “off the hook.”  His parting words to the woman were sobering, “go and sin no more.”   [Written by: Pastor Dan]

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

2009 Lenten Devotional and Prayer Guide

March 24

 

But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.”  (1 John 1:7)

 

By walking in the Light of the Lord we can have true fellowship with one another, and with Jesus. We are cleansed of our sins and pure before God and man, and as such we may live our lives in the open, not hidden in sin and anguish.  [Written by: Charles]

 

March 25

 

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”  (1 John 1:8)

 

People who deny their sin or need for Jesus are just deceiving themselves.  This is the worst kind of lie.  The person who denies the existence of their bent to sin is in essence mocking the love of God.  This “dare of God’s justice” places us in a very bad place, on a very bad road, at a very bad time.  It makes us, in the crassest sense of the word, ignorant.

 

The claim to holiness is not a claim to be without sin.  It is the untainted love for God that understands the potential for sin as it “crouches at the door.”  It is the singleness of mind and purpose to live above and beyond the control of known sin.  It is the humbleness of spirit to admit to our sins freely.    [Written by: Pastor Dan]

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Sunday's outline

Due to "technical difficulties" the outline for the March 22 sermon will not be available.  Ok, the computer at the office took its last gulp of electricity and sent the sermon into electronic oblivion Friday.  Since this is a packed week, I do not anticipate being able to post the sermon outline.  However, the good news is that you can LISTEN to it.
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2009 Lenten Devotional and Prayer Guide

March 23

 

This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.”  (1 John 1:5)

 

This message from Jesus to the people shows the pure and excellent nature of God. There is nothing dark or hidden; there is only glory and radiant beauty, pure and unblemished in any way. If we, as Christians, truly seek to be like God, we must leave the darkness of this world behind us and step into the light, living a pure life in the eyes of God and man. However, as long as we hold on to the dark things in our lives, the small vices and sins we think to keep hidden, we cannot live the pure life as Jesus would have us, and we live a life in darkness. There is no gray area in this world there is only light and dark.  [Written by: Charles]

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2009 Lenten Prayer and Devotional Guide

March 22

 

Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  (James 1:4)

 

James identifies “perseverance” as the key to perfection. In chapter 1, verses 2 and 3 he says, “When troubles come your way consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your perseverance has a chance to grow.” In contemporary society perseverance is a trait that is valued. We hold up those who have suffered from afflictions for all to see and commend. We measure men based on their ability to survive in a crisis. BUT—do we give God the glory? Do we humbly bow and acknowledge that without Him we are nothing? –OR—do we do take the praise as if we accomplished a great thing alone?  [Written by: Tammy]

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

2009 Lenten Prayer and Devotional Guide

March 21

 

Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.”  (Hebrews 12:14)

 

This verse offers two reminders: live in peace and be holy. Throughout the book of Hebrews, we are encouraged to reflect upon God’s expectations. While it often feels impossible to meet those goals, nothing is impossible when God is on our side. How many times has God proven that He is with us? Encouraging us? Sympathizing with us?  [Written by: Tammy]

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Friday, March 20, 2009

2009 Lenten Devotional and Prayer Guide

March 20

 

... Because by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”  (Hebrews 10:14)

 

Here we see the present and continual sense of our salvation.  One sacrifice provides for us to be “made holy.”  In some circles those are fighting words.  Some would like to see us as merely “sinners saved by grace.”  While that is correct on one level, we are also MUCH more than just what that expression would claim. We are made holy.  This holiness is ours right here, right now and not some distant future.  It is God’s present plan for every believer.  [Written by: Pastor Dan]

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

2009 Lenten Devotional and Prayer Guide

March 19

 

Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.”  (Hebrews 7:25)

 

What does it mean “to save completely?”  Wesley suggested it meant to be saved “from all the guilt, power, root, and consequence of sin.”  Forgiveness covers eternal consequences and guilt.  The blood of Jesus cures the root of sin.  However, the power of sin in our daily lives remains a constant and persistent problem for those who have not yielded to sanctification.  The problem of this constant irritation is that it eventually undermines the forgiveness and the cure.  We cannot continue on the same course that shipwrecked us in sin.  That course must be abandoned for a new way of life.  If we are saved “completely,” then we will live outside (or above) the power of sin controlling our daily lives.  [Written by: Pastor Dan]

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

2009 Lenten Devotional and Prayer Guide

March 18

 

Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God...”  (Hebrews 6:1)

 

Historically, the book of Hebrews was written to discourage Jewish Christians who were considering going back to traditional Judaism. In our own times, this verse serves as a reminder that we cannot allow ourselves to become stagnant. We must continue to cultivate our faith and grow in Christ.

[Written by: Tammy]

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

2009 Lenten Devotional and Prayer Guide

March 17

 

...While we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, [14] who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.”  (Titus 2:1314)

 

I believe in Jesus and that He suffered for me on the cross, and died that I may be saved and have eternal life with Him. None of us are worthy of such love and sacrifice. I can only try to be more like Him each day and show others that love.  [Written by: Dawn]

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Monday, March 16, 2009

2009 Lenten Devotional and Prayer Guide

March 16

 

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. [12] It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age...” (Titus 2:1112)

 

Let’s not get fancy in our ideals.  The Bible plainly teaches us that salvation is connected to saying “no” to sin.  Salvation requires righteousness.  It means the saved will not indulge in ungodliness.  It means the saved will resist worldly passions.  Another way to understand this would be that the saved can expect holiness to be experienced in heart and lived out in life on a daily basis.  [Written by: Pastor Dan]


March 15

 

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

 

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians in an attempt to provide comfort and encouragement in the face of extreme persecution. We can read daily about the modern persecution of Christians. Maybe we have faced persecution ourselves. The words Paul wrote in 51AD are still relevant today. With faith, our body and soul will be kept blameless and we can have an everlasting life.

[Written By: Tammy]


March 14

 

All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. ... [16] Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”  (Philippians 3:15a, 16)

 

The Apostle Paul sets himself as an example for the Philippians to follow. He reminds us that we need to be of one mind and to set our hearts on Christ if we are to work in harmony with other Christians. While working to keep our focus on Christ, we need to be able to put aside the differences we may have with others for the common good. All too often we tend to view other Christians by the small beliefs, such as the type of music in our services or the day of the week we call the Sabbath. We need to join together with our fellow Christians in peace to bring glory to God.  [Written by: Charles]

 


 


 

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

The day the manna stopped

Joshua 5:9 – 12

The day the manna stopped


What happens when God gives us what we want and what as been promised? It was God’s desire to form an new nation to preserve the knowledge of God and establish a historical and prophetic legacy for Jesus.


This is a picture of what happens when the manna stopped and the people had to “take the next step” and “grow up.”

 

I.         Circumstances change.

 

            A.        The new brought a physical shift.

 

                        1.         The people moved from the desert to a land of plenty.

 

                                    a.         Success is just as much a problem as poverty or failure.

 

                                    b.         The mind-set has to change to develop more success.

 

                        2.         The people had achieved the “Promised Land.”

 

                                    a.         What do you dream of after you have achieved your dream?

 

                                    b.         God had proved faithful and brought them to the Promised Land. How do you now depend on God?

 

            B.        The new brought a change in government.

 

                        1.         They moved from Moses control freak style to Joshua’s general style.

 

                                    a.         Moses sought God at every turn.

 

                                    b.         Joshua allowed the people to take their own responsibility.

 

                        2.         They moved from slaves to liberty.

 

                                    a.         Their parents had been slaves in Israel.

 

                                    b.         What would they do with their liberty. (Freedom is the ability to make your own choices. Liberty is having the choices to make.)

 

            C.        The new brought a change in standing.

 

                        1.         Gilgal means “to roll.”

 

                                    a.         Shame comes from slavery. God intended for Israel to control their own destiny.

 

                                    b.         The trouble with things that roll one way is they can roll back. We see Israel constantly in a cycle of sin, repentance, and restoration... not God’s ideal.

 

                        2.         Miraculous manna was needed to sustain Israel in the desert.

 

                                    a.         The nation was in its infancy, the people were forming the national identity.

 

                                    b.         Physical needs were necessary, and God provided both food and water. The food provision was called “manna” or “what is it.”

 

II.       Needs change.

 

            A.        Look at the list:

 

                        1.         The shame was gone. (This was how others viewed them.)

 

                        2.         The Passover was celebrated. (This was how God saw them.)

 

                        3.         They ate the produce of the land. (This was how they saw themselves.)

 

                        4.         The manna stopped. (It was no longer needed.)

 

            B.        Notice what happened:

 

                        1.         The absolute dependence on God for food was no longer necessary.

 

                                    a.         God had given them the resources to produce food for themselves.

 

                                    b.         Yet, they still needed to maintain the attitude of absolute dependence on God.

 

                        2.         They gained the responsibility for what they could control.

 

                                    a.         We call this being a teenager!

 

                                    b.         They moved from needing “unexpected mercy” to “ordinary grace.”


As a Christian matures there is less of a need of the “miraculous” because the presence of God is firm. There is steady growth that is deliberate regardless of circumstances.

 

            C.        Here’s the change:

 

                        1.         Before Christ Some things slow down“unrestrained indulgence.”

 

                                    a.         Conscious.

 

                                    b.         Circumstances.

 

                                    c.         Checks placed on us by others.

 

                        2.         After Christ we can have growth patterns. Sometimes they are similar.

 

                                    a.         Infancy is a time of not understanding but trusting.

 

                                    b.         Growth is critical because we can start to understand but then trusting becomes difficult.

 

                                    c.         Maturity comes as we learn to fulfill the function God has designed for us.

 

III.      Relationships change.

 

            A.        The new is not a revision or a rewrite.


“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. [22] And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.” [Mark 2:21 – 22]

 

                        1.         The problem with a revision or rewrite is that it is still based on the old.

 

                                    a.         When growth occurs the two will conflict.

 

                                    b.         When growth occurs everything will be damaged.

 

                        2.         Christianity is not about self-improvement. It is complete transformation.


“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” [2 Corinthians 5:17]

 

                                    a.         The promise has become the reality.

 

                                    b.         At some point we move from learning to being. (We are always learning which means we are always becoming what God wants us to be.)

 

IV.      Requirements change.

 

            A.        Questions:

 

                        1.         What place will God have in your life?

 

                                    a.         The people for a whole generation had neglected the basic rituals. Notice, when neglect is repaired, blessing follows.

 

                                    b.         Ritual was a way to “sign the contract” and bind themselves to God.

 

                        2.         What will be your priorities?

 

                                    a.         As God moves us from the total dependancy of spiritual infancy to the responsibilities of maturity you lose the need for God?

 

                                    b.         Will you do the work necessary to produce a crop or will you revert back to being utterly helpless?

 

            B.        What needs to happen:

 

                        1.         Stop neglecting the things God requires.


“In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, [12] having been buried with him in baptism...” [Colossians 2:11– 12a]

 

                                    a.         Circumcision was the mark of Israel under the old covenant.

 

                                    b.         Putting off the sinful nature is the mark of the Christian under the new covenant. (The ritual to bind us to this is baptism.)

 

                        2.         Start doing the things God requires.

 

                                    a.         For Israel, that was the first time that generation celebrated Passover (they were not circumcised so they were excluded from participating in the Passover).

 

                                    b.         There are two words to describe what God requires of us:

 

                                                1.)       Repentance: “feel or express sincere regret or remorse.” [Oxford]

 

                                                2.)       Mortification: “subdue (urges) by self-denial or discipline.”

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Friday, March 13, 2009

2009 Lenten Devotional and Prayer Guide

March 13

 

...to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”  (Ephesians 5:27)

 

Jesus desires a radiant bride, a church that is filled with the glorious things of God.  It is amazing how often that involves the absence of some things.  In the illustration of clothing, it would be stain, wrinkle, or blemish.  Jesus is at work in the church today for the purpose of making us holy and blameless.

 

Holiness is the distinguishing characteristic of God that sets God apart from all creation.  While most things are common, some things are holy.  We, as God’s people, are designed to be holy.  Blameless is probably not the best understanding of what this text means since “blame” is subjective in the eye of the accuser.  Probably the idea refers back to without stain, wrinkle, or blemish.  In other words, when the inside is clean, the outside will follow. [Written by: Pastor Dan]

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

2009 Lenten Devotional and Prayer Guide

March 12

 

... Know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”  (Ephesians 3:19)

 

How can we know something that surpasses knowledge?  One possible way may be through experience.  Have you experienced a sunrise or sunset so spectacular you are at a loss to explain it?  When I first saw the Grand Canyon, my perception of the world was completely disrupted.  I never imagined that it looked like “that!” The sense of depth was so far beyond what I knew that my brain could not process the color and distance of what I was looking at.  Trust me, no words or pictures can substitute for experiencing the real thing.

 

We can talk about the love of God all we want, but experiencing it is beyond description.  Being filled with the measure of ALL the fullness of God is also beyond description.  It is something you will have to experience for yourself.  Trust me on this, before having an experiential knowledge of God’s love and the fullness of God, life is sad and empty.  Today’s a good day to ask God to change that and let you experience what you can of that love and fullness. [Written by: Pastor Dan]

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

2009 Lenten Devotional and Prayer Guide

March 11

 

I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being...”  (Ephesians 3:16)

 

We admire “strength.”  We give trophies to winners as signs of strength.  We build hall of fames for those who have imposed themselves on others through their strength.  We glorify the strong and shun the week.  Wait a moment.  What is “strength” and “power?”  Is it the inward ability to force our will on the outward world, including other people? 

 

Biblically, strength comes from the power of God’s Spirit working in and through us.  A car engine needs gas, electricity, and air to work.  Cut off any of those and the system cannot work.  A computer needs to be plugged in or have a charged battery to be something more than an expensive paperweight.  We could operate on human strength and ideas, but that is all we will accomplish.  When we miss the divine working of God, we never achieve anything of eternal consequence.  [Written by: Pastor Dan]

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

2009 Lenten Devotional and Prayer Guide

March 10

 

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  (Galatians 2:20)

 

This has always been one of my favorite verses.  When we accept Christ as Savior, we accept his crucifixion and literally die to ourselves.  Our sin nature and temptation still sneak up on us, but when they do, we can remember that we are dead to the old nature.  The bad habits and sin no longer hold mastery over us.  We are gaining so much in our Christ-life. Our focus has changed from serving ourselves to living a new life - a life to glorify God.  Our new life in Christ isn't one of drudgery or sadness but one of love, joy, and peace.  We are living for the one who cared enough to die for us - and then rose again.  That's a wonderful life to live!  [Written by: Holly]

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Monday, March 09, 2009

2009 Lenten Devotional and Prayer Guide

March 9

 

Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”  (2 Corinthians 7:1)

 

Let us purify ourselves” means we are responsible.  There are some things God does, because we cannot.  There are other things God requires of us because the struggle does us good.  It’s like exercise.  We grow when we exert ourselves in the struggle.  The body is the outward, and the spirit is the inward.  We are required to “purify” ourselves from the things that contaminate.  Ask yourself, what are you putting into your mind and soul?  What music are you listening to?  What are you reading?  What desires do you feed into your heart?  [Written by: Pastor Dan]

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Sunday, March 08, 2009

2009 Lenten Devotional and Prayer guide

March 8

 

No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God.”  (Romans 2:29)

 

Circumcision” was the defining mark of the covenant.  It was intended to be the promise of an “outward sign of an inward grace,” much like baptism.  Trouble developed when the covenant became an external-only practice imposed on themselves and others.  Wesley defined this heart circumcision as “a right state of soul, a mind and spirit renewed after the image of Him that created it... it is that habitual disposition of the soul…” 

 

Does that mean a person can be a Christian outwardly but not have the reality inwardly?  Certainly.  We can be a “cultural Christian,” with every appearance of sounding like, claiming to be, acting like without the transformation brought by the Spirit of God.  How does this happen?  One possibility is we have accepted Christ as a child and never undergone the process of making our parent’s faith our own.  Others have just absorbed the externals of Christianity of their culture or people they spend time with, without transformation.  Today, be honest with yourself and take that “fearless moral inventory.”  Do you have both the outward and inward transformation, the habitual disposition that comes from knowing and being known by God?  [Written by: Pastor Dan]

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Where is God when you need Him?

Joel 2:12 – 17

Where is God when you need Him?



The context for these words is “the Day of the Lord.” (vv 1 – 2).


It is a day filled with fear. It is a day of darkness and gloom. The symbol of this day, for Joel, was an army of locusts. Maybe they were suffering from a massive swarm of locust that had moved in and was eating everything. God pointed this out and said, that’s how bad this is going to be. Locust are destructive, devour everything in their path, and leave nothing behind.


“The Day of the Lord” is a “type.” It reflects when God is on the move to bring His people back to himself or set all wrongs right. The images reflect the crucifixion (darkness), the second return of Christ (unstoppable army), and the day of judgement (wrath). Theologically they are all connected.


During Lent, it has been the historical practice of the Christian church to prepare for time of darkness and gloom as a purging of our sinful desires.

 

I.         God has a purpose for the gloom.

 

            A.        God wants His people to “return.” [v 12]

 

                        1.         “Even now” shows us there is a time frame for response.

 

                                    a.         Wesley’s idea of “awakening.” There is a point where we are aware that God is trying to get our attention. If we respond then we “awake” to God. If we do not then we go back to sleep in our sin.

 

                                    b.         “Limited time” offer: “So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice, [8] do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert.” [Hebrews 3:7 – 8]

 

                        2.         Hardship has its positive side: “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.” [Hebrews 12:7a]

 

                                    a.         Discipline can be punishment for sin, more often it is CORRECTION.

 

                                    b.         The idea is that God does NOT have our attention. Something has to happen to knock us out of our comfortableness. We tend to enjoy physical comfort and being free from financial worry. (God does not have our attention, we are not listening.)

 

            B.        God wants His people to really meant it.

 

                        1.         The theological word is “repent.”

 

                                    a.         Jesus demanded that “repentance” be preached FOR the forgiveness of sin. (See Luke 24:47 TNIV)

 

                                    b.         Theologically, you cannot have forgiveness without repentance!

 

                        2.         Joel suggests disciplines to help:

 

                                    a.         Fasting , weeping, and mourning [v 12]

 

                                    b.         “Rend your heart.” [v 13] (“Let your broken heart show your sorrow...” GNB)


“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. [11] See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.” [2 Corinthians 7:10 – 11]

 

            C.        God wants His people to prove it.

 

                        1.         “Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly.” [v 15]

 

                                    a.         Private sins come from social sins.

 

                                    b.         The way to deal with social sins is to do it publicly and deliberately.

 

                        2.         The idea is that NOBODY is left out, everyone is in agreement.

 

                                    a.         The elder to the nursing baby.

 

                                    b.         Even the bridegroom and the bride. Weddings are a time of joy. In the OT the bridegroom is exempt from many duties (such as military service).


II.       God extends the possibility of relenting.


“Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing.” [v 14]


            A.        God MAY turn.

 

                        1.         We are going to let God be right about everything, then we are going to have trust God.

 

                                    a.         Maybe, God will not “turn and relent.”

 

                                    b.         Why? Pity to one is cruelty to another. Some lines once crossed can only be purged.

 

                        2.         The choice is ours, but it is also God’s. True repentance throws itself on the mercy of God and does NOT demand (possibly even expect) forgiveness.

 

                                    a.         We cannot manipulate God to relent from planned or necessary purging.

 

                                    b.         (Ill.) When I had the flu, I became alarmed at the amount of fluids I was losing. I was disoriented, dizzy, and drifting in and out of being consciousness. I called the Dr. who told me to not take anything to slow down the body’s purge... or it would just extend my misery.

 

            B.        Not only may God turn but God may leave a blessing!

 

                        1.         This is dramatic... to go from the purge of God’s discipline to the blessing of God’s discipline.

 

                                    a.         Part of the difference between people who passively let things happen to them and people who do good things is how they handle adversity.

 

                                    b.         Are problems obstacles or opportunities?

 

                        2.         God’s blessing is not like what we might expect.

 

                                    a.         Jesus talked about “abundant” life. (See John 10:10)

 

                                    b.         “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” [2 Corinthians 4:17]

 

III.      God offers promises to those who respond.

 

            A.        God’s promise of restoration, AFTER, the locust have gone through.

 

                        1.         [v 23] God promised timely rain.

 

                                    a.         Even though it may have looked like there was no hope, not everything was gone.

 

                                    b.         The promise of the rain was the promise of a crop... fruitful abundance returned.

 

                        2.         [v 25] God promised repayment.

 

                                    a.         God is not bankrupt. God does not lack means. God is ready, willing, and able to restore and repay well beyond what was lost.

 

                                    b.         Here again is the issue of trust. Are we going to trust God or shake our fist at God?

 

            B.        God’s promise is also spiritual.

 

                        1.         [v 28] This comes in the form of the Holy Spirit.

 

                                    a.         Everyone is included: Sons, daughters, old and young.

 

                                    b.         This is the continual presence of God given to believers (the church) at the Day of Pentecost.

 

                        2.         [v 32a] This comes from salvation.

 

                                    a.         Everyone, yet there is a condition. “Call” reflects back to repentance. (We do not believe in a universal salvation.)

 

                                    b.         Here is the condition of the heart. If it is hard toward God, we will not respond positively. This salvation will be impossible for us if we harden our heart.

 

IV.      God reveals the passion for us during the gloom.

 

            A.        Consider the personality of God. [v 13]

 

                        1.         God is gracious. In other words, kind when we don’t deserve it.

 

                        2.         God is compassionate. Another word for this is mercy. Grace is getting what we do not deserve. Mercy is NOT getting what we do deserve.

 

                        3.         God is slow to anger. The idea is that God does not lose His temper.

 

                        4.         God is abounding in love. This love is “unfailing” and “extravagant.”

 

                        5.         God is eager to relent. The impression is that God is looking for any excuse, any way...

 

            B.        It starts with the mercy and justice of God demonstrated at the cross.



God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-- [26] he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” [Romans 3:25 – 26]

 

                        1.         Jesus took our penalty to satisfy the demands of justice.

 

                                    a.         Someone had to pay. We could not... our eternal destiny was eternal Hell.

 

                                    b.         We could not save ourselves by observing the law. Something more powerful and effective than the law had to intervene.

 

                        2.         Lent is the time we look forward to that sacrifice of atonement.

 

                                    a.         As we look forward to that sacrifice, something dawns on us... This was a heavy price to pay for OUR sin.

 

                                    b.         We become sorry for our sin, we mourn because someone completely innocent suffered and sacrificed himself for us.


(Ill.) Arlington. The first shock is to see the simple white crosses. Crosses as far as the eye could possibly see. As you read the names it starts to sink in that each cross was someone that someone loved. As you read the dates of the their deaths, it hits home. These people put someone else, us, above even their own lives.


Vietnam sundial in Kentucky. It is a sundial that will tell you the time of day and the time of year. As you walk over the bricks and figure out the date and the time, you notice, inscribed on various bricks names. These are the names of the people who died in that war. The day of their death and the time (if known) of their death is marked by the shadow of the sundial. Families will sit and wait for the shadow to cross the name of their loved one.


Where is God when you need Him? Trying to get your attention!


Before any of these existed, the cross of Jesus Christ was set up on a hill for all to see. Many people mocked Jesus that day, not realizing it would extend a shadow into all of history. As Jesus blood flowed that day to cover the penalty you and I justly deserve, just was done. The only question is do we have courage enough to throw ourselves on the mercy of God?

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