Daily Devotional – If This Were Your Last Week on Earth…

Happy Sunday! It’s another week that we are not together. I do believe that God is teaching us how much we need our church family! I hope you are also learning this and are already looking forward to when we can be back together face to face. Let’s worship together this morning with these familiar songs:

Prayer by Pastor Sam:
God, we thank you for being able to mine the truths of your word.  Thank you that you are available to us every day in prayer, in your Word, and that even when we fail to come around, you are faithful to us every day.  Help us to grow to trust you better, to come to you quicker, to trust in ourselves less and to hope in you more. Help us to not try doing this life in our own strength, but in the power you provide.  I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

There are people in this world who will pass away this week; it may be from getting sick, it may be from age, it may be for any number of reasons.  Certainly, it is on the minds of some more than others, but the awareness is growing.  If this were my last week, I would hope that I’d done what I could to clarify the Gospel as best I could for the sake of others and that I’d know it well for myself.  When it all comes down to it, very little matters if eternity is on the near horizon, but certainly being confident in our salvation in Christ would be of great concern.  It’s been nearly a year now since my grandmother died, and she was the first person I’ve been bedside with who has been conscious and clear-headed as she lay in her death bed.  Nearly less than twelve hours before she’d passed, she commented that she thought she’d be going back to “that prison cell without bars,” the nursing home.  She had a good wit about her, but honestly she was one of the least Bible-educated people I’ve met (she visited church sometimes in her mid 80’s for practically the first time).  My wife was able to pray with her, as were my parents later on, as she had concerns about eternity but knew so little of the truths of God’s word.  Our hope is that she really did know Christ as her Savior before she passed.  She said she hoped she’d “dance with Jesus” someday, and I don’t exactly know what that vision looked like to her, but I hope she did.  Grasping salvation, for myself, has been a lifelong pursuit in clarification, not only for myself but for my loved ones and the various people whose paths God has put me in.  It means everything for eternity.

In a previous devotion, it was mentioned about the difference between relational knowledge and observational knowledge.  Relational knowledge is based upon experience and emotions and interaction, often far more impressing upon long-term memory than is observational memory.  Once again, we can sum it up to some degree by saying that relational memory is to know whereas observational memory is to know about.  John the Baptist begins this verse by saying that he does not know (observation)  Christ; that is, He doesn’t recognize (NASB uses this word) who the Messiah is.  God relayed to Him the way that the Christ would be identified: “Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.”  In verse 32, John the Baptist says this: “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him.” The word given to John the Baptist was fulfilled as the Holy Spirit visibly rested upon Jesus.  

Why did John the Baptist baptize in water to begin with?  It tells us in John 1:31, “I did not know (recognize) Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”  Prior verses will tell us that John the Baptist was preaching and preparing the way for the Messiah to come.  One simple explanation for the baptism of John the Baptist was a baptism looking forward to the coming Messiah, but John the Baptist identifies it even more in 1:31.  The word “that” in John 1:31 is a hina clause in Greek; it signifies purpose, result, or sometimes both.  It’s actually quite a rich word because it gives us reasoning, and that comes somewhat through the deduction of the passage at hand as to how to interpret purpose or result.  In this particular verse, we are speaking more to purpose, that John the Baptist’s purpose was to reveal the Messiah by God’s design through baptism, that person in particular being Jesus whom the Holy Spirit rested upon.

Notice that John 1:33 ends with this identifier regarding the Christ:  “this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.”  In translation, baptism is not the best word to use when we see the Greek word baptizo (the word we translate “baptize”).  The word is a transliteration and not simply a translation; it is taking the Greek to the letter and essentially making it English.  Baptizo is the Greek word for immersion.  It can mean to submerge or to immerse, and while we think of water typically when speaking of those words, we ought not limit it only to water.  Symbolically, water baptism is identifying publicly that one has personally been immersed completely into life in Christ as a new child of God.  The baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is with the Holy Spirit, indicates something different.  Jesus promised the Holy Spirit in great detail in the Gospel of John (16:7-14):

Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.

Francis Chan Quote: “The church becomes irrelevant when it becomes ...

When was the Spirit poured out upon the church?  Acts 2 is where we would see that take place.  John 7:39 says, “But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”  Shortly after His resurrection, and upon His ascension to Heaven in Acts 1, we find the Holy Spirit coming down at the day of Pentecost.  Jesus had been glorified and the Spirit was now being given.

Clearly, there is division over how we are to read the word “baptism” and its relationship to salvation.  Some may very well hold to a view of baptismal regeneration; that is, you are saved upon baptism, whether that be sprinkling, partial or complete immersion.  The most referenced verse for that particular view of salvation would be Acts 2:38, “Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” At first glance with our understanding of baptism being water baptism, we might conclude that repentance is one step and water baptism the next in the process of having sin cancelled (remission), upon which the Holy Spirit is imparted to us.  That is one way to read the passage, certainly. Nevertheless, were we to see repentance (literally “with the mind,” referring to turning away in mind, heart, moral direction) as the beginning point of life in Christ, we might see immersion not as one of water baptism but as the inclusion of a believer into the body of Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 1:4-5, we read:

And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; “for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:4-5)

Make a distinction between the types of baptism: the water baptism of John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus with the Holy Spirit.  When Jesus spoke of the Spirit’s baptizing them, He was referring to the happenings found in Acts 2:1-4:

“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” 

Clearly, there was a difference in baptisms, and what took place was a newfound immersion into the body of Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  It is my personal belief on the issue of tongues (glossa, or languages), that this was for signifying the church age, as well as the inclusion of Gentiles, who would speak in tongues as well later on.  More than anything, it validated the belief and inclusion of both Jews and Greeks in the very early New Testament believers.  I will refrain from going further at this time with that “can of worms.”  Now, going back to Acts 2:38, “repent…be baptized for the remission of sins…you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” compare with Acts 10:43-48 and note the way things are spoken (I’ll highlight some of the passage):

“To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.  For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

If Acts 2:38 is the prescription for belief today (repentance plus water baptism equals remission of sins), we have a problem in Acts 10:43-48.  Peter didn’t mess up his logic in v. 43 when he said “whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”  He didn’t include water baptism in that prescription. Secondly, the Holy Spirit fell upon these people in v. 44 and in v. 45 they had already received the gift prior to v. 47, water baptism.  They even spoke in tongues and acted like Christians prior to being baptized. Is there a distinction between the baptisms? Yes. Were they baptized with the Holy Spirit already when they were water baptized in this passage? Yes. Their sins were already cancelled before entering the water.  This was the baptism John the Baptist spoke of in John 1:33: He (Christ) baptizes with the Holy Spirit. A person believes, in their belief they repent, they are remitted of sin and they are immediately sealed with the Spirit upon belief (which is itself a gift of God).  Water baptism, therefore, is a public testament on the part of an individual in signifying that they are united with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. There is no rite of passage to being made alive in Christ other than by placing our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ; rest in this truth and let the Lord be magnified in your heart.  

How do you know if you’ve been baptized with the Holy Spirit today?  Look for the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23); look for continued conviction of sin and a desire to be pleasing to God, as well as being guided into truth and a desire to glorify Him (John 16:8-14).  I encourage you as well to read through the book of Acts to see how people change in character as a result of being made alive in Christ.

Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4)

Let’s worship again with this beautiful reminder of God’s love for us.

 

I am thankful for you! May your day provide many opportunities to serve God!

Daily Devotions – Light in the Darkness

John ‭1:14 | Loose Him and Let Him Go‬

The Word became flesh.  Already established in the beginning of John 1, the Word, Jesus Christ existed eternally prior to the creation of all things.  It is significant that the Gospel of John starts off with establishing Jesus Christ as the Word.  Consider what words are: extensions of who we are, expressions of thought and emotion, indicators of our intentions and exposure of what is within us (and we could certainly go on and on).  Words are like windows of the soul. Let’s briefly look at a few passages to shed light on words:

Matthew 12:35-37  “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. 36 “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.37 “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

James 3:2 ”For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.”

In John 3:31-34, John the Baptist would be recorded saying these words concerning Christ:

“He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. “And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. “He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true. “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.”

The BDAG Greek lexicon, in referring to “the Word,” clarifies this identification of Christ as “the independent personified expression of God.” (BDAG, Bibleworks).  Perhaps the running idea throughout the Gospel of John is that not only is Jesus the Son of God (a primary emphasis of the book), but also He is the expression of the invisible God.  How does the Father feel about sin, and how does He react to it? Look at Christ. Is God arrogant or humble? Look at Christ. Does the Father love people, and is He kind and generous?  Look at Christ. How much does He love you and me? Look at Christ on the cross. For all that people surmise about what God is “like”, there is no need to look any further than the recorded history of Jesus Christ.  He is not distant and uncaring; He dwelt among us.  

We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father.  What is this glory John refers to?  D.A. Carson says this regarding Christ’s glory:  “Jesus’ glory was displayed in His ‘signs’…He was supremely ‘glorified’ in His death and exaltation.  This does not mean He had no glory before He began His public ministry, for in fact He enjoyed glory with the Father before the incarnation, and returned to take up that glory again after His resurrection…(Referencing Ex. 33:19, additionally,) God’s glory, then, is supremely His goodness.” (Carson,D.A.  The Gospel of John, Pillar New Testament Commentary: Leicester, Eerdmans Publishing Company), 128,129.  Diy picture quotes about love - Our righteousness is in him, and ...  

John 1:14 is actually a tie between glory and being full of grace and truth.  The glory of Jesus is shown most in the fullness of grace and truth.  Jesus is exemplifying the beauty of the Father. He came and wasn’t fairly gracious or mostly truthful; He was completely gracious and completely truthful.  Those two qualities alone create an incredible model for every believer to seek conformity to: to be gracious and honest like our Savior. Jesus is the perfect example of both grace and truth, as He is the source of grace and truth.  

Grace, simply put, is unmerited favor.  It’s the crux of the Gospel message: Christ died the death we should have and offered us life freely at no merit of our own.  We simply believe in Him. Tim Keller says this: “The gospel is this: we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” An old acronym for grace is “God’s riches at Christ’s expense.”  Unearned, undeserved but given freely and immensely. Romans 5:20 says, “Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.”

In Jesus, we realize the fullness of God’s grace and truth, His love and willingness to forgive and to bless.  We have great hope because of Jesus Christ and only because of Him. Give Him honor and glory today by doing your best where He’s placed you today, by ruminating on the truths of the Bible, by showing grace to others as grace has been lavished upon you by God, and by living in the truth. 

Prayer:

Father, help us to give our attention to our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.  Help us to give you priority again today, grant us mercy where we fail you and grace to follow you.  Humble our hearts before you and make us lights in the darkness. Help us to be firm in your truth and to stand fast.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Questions for today to consider:

What is the difference between grace and mercy?

Where is God calling you to show grace to someone else today?

 

Keep Looking up!

Daily Devotional – Are You Born of God? What Does that Mean?

It’s Friday, and typically many of us have plans what with the weekend upon us.  Everything is different right now, isn’t it?  I encourage you to pray for the people going through great hardship today, especially the sick and those that may be dying.  God cares deeply for every person out there, including you.  The music today is probably going to be new for our church family, but there are beautiful truths found in these songs. We encourage you to listen and be encouraged:

A Prayer from Pastor Sam:

Father, show us your grace today in all that we do.  Help us to use this time in a way that would honor You and be useful to You in our lives and the lives of others.  Make your name hallowed in the hearts of many more people. Perhaps you will use this time to have people slow down and listen, cry out to you, hear a sermon or lesson or pick up a Bible for the first time or the first time in a long time.  Give grace to the hands that are tending to the lives of others and be with their families as they spend much of their energy. Help us to be calm and confident in You and may Your name be praised today around the world. Be with our brothers and sisters in Christ in great need today.  Thank you, Lord. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Born.  The term generally means “to cause something to come into existence, primarily through procreation or parturition” (BDAG, Bibleworks).  There certainly is a bit of humor in starting off this lesson describing birth that way, because typically the response is couched in deep, familiar emotions and never described in such black and white terms.  A mother speaks of the birth of her child even decades later with mixed emotions; the pain of childbirth but even greater, the joy of bringing a child into the world.  Sometimes it’s easy for us to forget that God also highly anticipates the spiritual birth of His children, rejoicing at that first instant of newfound faith in Christ. As Jesus spoke of the parable of the lost sheep, he said these words:  

“And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. (Matthew 18:13)

Luke records the parable of the lost sheep with these additional words:  

“And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them,`Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’“I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:6-7)

When we get out of the habit of caring about the souls of other people, or if we’ve never cared, we fail to not only carry that joy in our own hearts, but we also fail to rejoice in that which God Himself rejoices in.

Born also gives us some kind of clue as to the nature of salvation. There is not a person out there who could say, “I chose to be born.  I wanted to be conceived and to come into this world and to do this or that.”  While many people may at times wish they’d never been born (see Job 3), it’s not something we have control over in being conceived and born, is it?  There is certainly an elective nature to the statement that we are born of (the will) of God.  Consider two of the various passages relative to this concept:

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. John 6:37

“Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:4-6

Salvation is both active and passive.  Active, in that I express real, legitimate faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sin and the acceptance of God; passive in that I am acting in accordance with His predestined plan for me to save me, keep me, work through me and glorify me.  When it comes to salvation, God takes center stage for our story; it is because of Him that we respond at all to the message. Were He not the one opening our eyes, convincing our hearts, making us alive, sensitizing us to sin and to righteousness, we would not budge no matter how clear the Gospel message was.  We would not respond favorably without His favor being established in eternity past.  

Now, let’s consider the three avenues John says people do not become believers through:

1.Not of bloodSalvation is not transferred by family ties.  This especially would speak to Jews, having a heritage of being the people of God (v. 11, “He came to His own”).  No one ever got a personal exemption from placing their own faith in the Messiah, whether it was faith in the Messiah to come, faith in the Messiah at hand, or faith like we have today, which is in the Christ (Messiah) who came.  Belief is non-transferrable and it’s no guarantee that even the godliest parent, alive in Christ, will have children who grow up to follow suit. Evangelism is necessary just as much in the home as it is in the inner cities or jungles of Africa.  Familiarity can at times be a great vulnerability overlooked, whether it’s in the home or the church.  We have to be careful that we don’t raise people who simply look the part and talk the talk; we want to encourage true faith at the core.  

2. Nor of the will of the flesh.  The term “sarx” is used here (Greek for “flesh”), and in its usage, actually refers to the source of sexual, physical desire in a person.  What this is speaking to is desire or decision for acceptance with God. We hear that terminology a lot in American evangelicalism.  D.A. Carson says this:

“another way of describing those who receive the Word is suggested by the ‘children of God’ metaphor: they are children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (Carson, D.A. The Gospel According to John, Pillar New Testament Commentary, Leicester:  Intervarsity Press 1991), 126.It is a good thing God chose me before I was born, because he ...

Interestingly, on the will of the flesh, we can say this: Christians are not born again spiritually because of their desire foundationally.  Yes, we respond to a message calling us to believe often with desire, but we are not made alive because of desire.  The foundation of belief, therefore, is not that a person wants to be saved, but that God has chosen them to be saved, and at His particular timing, they want it as He works the want in them.  You may refer to salvation in this fashion: faith itself does not save you, but you can’t be saved without faith. How can I say that? Faith itself can be placed in any number of people, objects, idols and false gods.  That is the reason why sincerity cannot be the guideline for whether or not someone is saved, but rather, the object of their faith.  You must entrust your life to Christ in order to be saved, but Christ must fulfill His word to you to be shielded from the wrath to come.  

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6

3. Nor of the will of man.  The will of man may at first sight look like a rehashing of the phrase “the will of the flesh”, but they’re not the same.  Various commentators will note that we are speaking here of a man-made system. Is there a system whereby we can create believers, perhaps a series of “hoops to jump through” or steps to take to churn out Christians?  The answer is no. Even evangelical, Bible-believing Christians need to be careful that they don’t put so much stock in something like a plan of salvation or Roman’s Road that it would be regarded as foolproof. Certainly systems can be of help in laying out a line of logic, but they can’t guarantee a genuine understanding of spiritual truths and they can’t guarantee that a person’s faith is truly in Christ rather than trusting in the system itself.  “Did you do X, Y, or Z?” is reason for caution when examining the genuineness of our faith or any other’s for that matter. As was mentioned regarding verse 12 in yesterday’s devotional, belief is not simply a “Have you done?” but a “Do you still?”  Do you still believe?  Do you still obey?  Do you still place your hope in Christ for acceptance with God?  (Have you ever?)

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. 1 John 5:1-2

Here are some questions to consider for today:

Can you think of at least one missionary today you could pray for right now?

How can this passage be used to bring us to worshiping God?

How does receiving Christ (1:12) relate to being born of God (1:13)?

Let’s finish up with a song of praise of the goodness of God!

Be blessed,

Your Greatest Need Supplied – and it’s not TP!

Good Thursday morning! Are you losing track of the days like we are? Each day feels the same without seeing your smiling faces throughout the week. Let’s turn to God today and worship Him…

Prayer from Pastor Sam:

Lord, help us to evaluate our walk before you today.  Grow us through strong stewardship of the blessings you give us and patient character through the adversity you allow.  Make our hearts soft to you, our ears open to hearing you, and our minds filled with thoughts that would honor you. I pray for our country and our leaders and the wisdom that they need to make the right decisions.  I pray for our missionaries, especially those in places such as Italy, for protection and for many open doors of opportunity with the people they serve. Draw our minds to you today, Lord, and help us become all the more clear in our understanding of the Gospel for ourselves and others.  I pray especially for those who are serving in the medical field, that you’d protect them and give them a lot of grace and strength as they help others. I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Image result for john 1: 11-12

He came.  We saw in John 1:10 that “He was in the world.”  He came: that is a powerful statement in itself. Romans 3:11 says, “There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God.”  No one sought Him; He came to seek. He came to make things right and we sinful humans certainly never were going to do it. John 3:16 tells us that because of God’s great love, the Father sent the Son to the world.  Whatever you’re facing right now, I want you to know that all the hope you could have already showed up when Christ came to this world. You may have concerns or fears, uncertain plans, frustrations, etc., but the greatest need you have has been fulfilled: He came.  He gave His life for you and me; He overcame sin and the grave. The truth for every believer is that the pains and problems of life between right now and glory are very temporary, and to paraphrase the apostle Paul from 2 Corinthians 4:17, our afflictions are light in comparison to the eternal weight of glory yet to be revealed.

He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.  Perhaps the most significant word in this verse is the word receive.  The word comes from paralambano, which is referring to agreement and approval.  The antithesis, obviously, would be rejection. The Jews on a mass level did not accept Jesus as the Messiah; many still look for a coming Messiah.  This isn’t to say that all of them rejected Him, but the vast majority did. Why? Well, sin is the easiest answer, but let me just give another insight here.  Jesus spoke in parables as a veil to the unbelieving. There was a veil as He did miracles, as many would only want to be amazed more but would fail to see the point of the sign, that He was and is the Son of God. Yet another way Christ was veiled was that he looked just like the rest of the people. He had a humble birth, grew up in Nazareth (hear Nathaniel’s disdain towards Nazareth in John 1:46) and was not what the people were expecting.  He did not bring down the Roman oppression as they’d hoped he would. He was fully God and yet He was also fully man. For many reasons, the Jews had a hard time accepting that He could be the Messiah.  

But as many as received Him.  The claim that all people are children of God in the sense that everyone is merrily on their way to heaven is simply not true.  Who has been given the right to become children of God?  Let the verse speak for itself: as many as received him; no less, no more.  Whereas His own did not receive Him, those who have received Him or will receive Him claim the right (exousia) to become God’s children.  The word right is referring to capability or power.  If we read it differently, we might say that those who don’t receive Him consequently lack the capability to claim the rights of children of God.  There are many privileges that come with being a child of God: eternity with God in heaven living in the fullness of His grace and mercy; preservation from the coming wrath of God; the ability to grow in our relationship with Him and to have confidence in our future.  Additionally, we can accomplish pleasing works done in faith that have been prepared beforehand by the Father (Eph. 2:10).  The self-preserving efforts often on display, especially right now given the global pandemic, evidence where we place our hope and confidence: is it in God’s plans, or is it in the preservation of our own?  

Image result for 1 Cor. 15:19-20

What does it mean to receive Him?  John gives a parallel in the text: to those who believe in His name.  The word “believe” carries a couple thought-provoking caveats to it in this particular verse.  First, the word believe here means “to entrust oneself to an entity in complete confidence with the implication of total commitment to the one who is trusted” (BDAG lexicon, Bibleworks).  Clearly, many definitions of belief out there do not add up to the Scriptural model of saving faith.  Can you say that your belief in Christ could be described this way? Consider this illustration: if I have a chair and claim that I believe it will hold me, I haven’t really proven it until I have firmly sat in the chair.  I may go on and on about how I believe it can hold me, sing about it, tell others about it, even learn extensively about that particular chair, but have I put myself in a place of vulnerability should the chair fail?  Trusting Christ means completely resting in His finished work on the cross and not in our religious performance.  

Finally, the word is written as a present active participle in the Greek.  What that means is that belief is not momentary but rather is an ongoing activity.  Yes, I believed years ago, but entrusting my life to Christ didn’t stop at that point; it’s something I also do presently.  There is cause for concern over salvation testimonies that have an orientation only towards the past (I decided, I gave, etc.) for this reason: while justification happens the moment one believes, the ongoing work of sanctification is never an option in the redeeming work of Christ.  A belief firmly rooted in Christ that endures the test of time is one of the elements of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.

If you can confidently claim to be a child of God today, why not take a moment to thank Him once again for your rich salvation?

Image result for Since no man is excluded from calling upon God the gate of salvation is open to all. There is nothing else to hinder us from entering, but our own unbelief. - John Calvin

Questions to ponder today:

Who is going to heaven?

What does it mean to receive Christ?

How confident are you in your understanding of the Gospel?  How clearly do you think you could articulate the Gospel to someone else?

Finally, let’s worship through the ministry of this song…

Today we are doing our essentials shopping trip. If you are in the high-risk category and would like us to pick up some things for you, please contact myself or my wife before 3pm today!

Be blessed!

Daily Devotional – Does the God you know do things like this?

Thank you so much to everyone who has been so kind with your encouraging words about these devotionals. Many churches are doing video sermons and while we are not pursuing that, we are pursuing the endeavor of helping those who read these to focus on God, His Word and His power on a daily basis, which was truly laid on my heart as your Pastor. Let’s worship Him through music:

Prayer from Pastor Sam:

Lord, help us to know you better and to become better accustomed with who you are.  So much of our time is spent learning about things that aren’t inherently bad, but may very well be robbing us of the best.  Help us to not only learn more of who you are, but as we get to know you more personally, transform us by that relationship. Let it be obvious to others that we’ve spent time around you and let the effect be winsome as we come in contact with family, friends, and complete strangers.  God, let others not only hear a message of hope from our minds and mouths but also from our character when we receive blessings and when we endure trials. Keep our confidence in you today; not in jobs, not in health, not in economic strength, not in government, but in you. All these things will pass and fade away, taking their place in history and memory.  You, Lord, never change. I pray that you’d help us to be gripped by the truth of your control today. Thank you, Lord. In Christ’ name I pray, Amen.

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In 1 Samuel 21:10-14, these words are recorded:

Then David arose and fled that day from before Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. And the servants of Achish said to him, “Is this not David the king of the land? Did they not sing of him to one another in dances, saying:`Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands ‘?”
Now David took these words to heart, and was very much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. So he changed his behavior before them, feigned madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva fall down on his beard. Then Achish said to his servants, “Look, you see the man is insane. Why have you brought him to me?

When David fled from Saul to the Philistine city of Gath long ago, it’s hard to tell whether or not he had any inkling that he’d be recognized—but it wouldn’t be far-fetched to think that he certainly hoped he wouldn’t! Upon being identified, David did everything he could to make them believe he wasn’t who they thought him to be. By feigning madness, he was quickly dismissed and safe for the time being.

The moral dilemma need not be discussed regarding David’s deception, but it does provide a good segue into John 1:10. When Jesus came into this world, He didn’t try to hide who He was; that being said, He also didn’t bend over backwards trying to convince people who He was. He came and He spoke truth and life, performed many miracles, forgave sin, condemned self-righteousness and eventually died on a cross and rose again. Evidence of His identity was never the issue; the hardened hearts of sinners, stuck firmly in their disbelief, was the issue and still is. It’s no less a work of God today for someone to believe in Christ in their heart of hearts; many may subscribe to Him for a season, but to have your heart taken captive by Him in legitimate faith is never anything less than the redeeming work of the Holy Spirit in the conviction of sin and the work of sanctification that courses throughout your remaining days on this planet.

He came into the world, and the world was made through Him. Isn’t that interesting? The Maker of this world was here, the one sustaining the whole existence of everything, walking among humanity. You would think there would some ounce of recognition that the Sovereign Lord was with them, but it just wasn’t so. Why is that?

“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:44)

More than any other reason, it is the sin of the heart. Sin is blinding and makes people not only fail to see what is true, but also works to convince them that what isn’t so ought to be. Listen to this verse:

“For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns– broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13)

God was calling out the Israelites for the sin that we still commit today: prideful rejection of a fulfilling God in exchange for the madness of embracing lesser things that will always leave us wanting more yet never having enough. Generally speaking, people don’t pursue bad things so much as they pursue good things that are lesser than God—which completely taints the waters of the heart with the poison of idolatry.Image result for “Religion makes us proud of what we have done. The Gospel makes us proud of what Jesus has done.” Tim Keller

The world did not know Him. He made the people of the world, He walked among them, He’s been recorded in Scripture so we could see Him and hear His words on the written page, and yet the world did not know Him. The word for “know” here is ginosko (pronounced ghin-oh-skow) from the Greek, and it’s significant because the primary alternative would be oida (pronounced oy-duh). Ginosko is a relational type of knowledge, one that is drawn through a growing awareness of another through experience with them, whereas oida is an observational knowledge, something more from sheer study and comprehension. We have both in this life; you might know a lot about someone like Abraham Lincoln, and yet you don’t know Abraham Lincoln. You couldn’t. The verse is saying that the world doesn’t know Him in a relational way. They may know about Him, or have their own judgments and perceptions drawn as to who He is, but few really know Him.

Thankfully the line of thought doesn’t stop there. The message we proclaim today is that anyone can know Him, because He came to make Himself known. Through faith in Jesus Christ, the separation that exists between man and God is removed. No matter how much we may have learned about Him, that knowledge will never be a suitable substitute for knowing Him personally. We can pray to a God who hears and cares; we can read His word and let the truth speak to us; the Holy Spirit bears fruit in us and helps us as we walk towards Him.  The track record of building that relationship over time is how we gain relational knowledge.  When we point to the various times we’ve seen God’s hand at work, providing for our needs and guiding us in decisions and so forth, the relational knowledge solidifies.

If you’ve only narrowed Christianity down to doctrine and rites of passage like praying a prayer, making a decision, getting baptized and joining a church in membership, even serving and sacrificially giving, but you’ve missed the relationship with Christ through it all, you’ve missed the point. My theology teacher in seminary said on a least a few occasions, “Don’t put your trust in your trust.” For all the actions a person might take in church, all the boxes they might be able to check off, if they’re relating to all of their Christian “merits” as reasons for acceptance, they’re missing the point.  Have faith in Christ’s word to you, not your sincerity, not your longevity, not your sacrifice, not your trust. Trust means taking Him at His word: that He’ll keep the promises He made in Scripture and that our hope is not in found in the keeping of our word to Him, but in His keeping His word to us.  As He keeps that word, changes within us will come as He calls us to become what He is also making us to be.

Image result for “Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life's problems fall into place of their own accord.” ― J.I. Packer, Knowing God

Time to close with some questions to contemplate and another song of worship as a prayer to God!

You know about Jesus, but how well do you know Him?  What could you do to know Him better?

How does relational knowledge impact observational knowledge?

Have you exchanged the relational knowledge of Christ for the textbook observational knowledge of Him?  Both are important, but don’t confuse the two as the same!

We have heard some prayer requests from you and we ask that you join us in praying for the overall health of our church. Immune systems are down with other sicknesses for many of our people! God bless you today!

Daily Devotional – Who Sent YOU?

It’s Tuesday and time for some worship! Whether you sing along or are experiencing this song for the first time, we hope that it is an encouragement to you and a reminder of the One who does indeed, hold you fast.

Prayer from Pastor Sam:

Father, the times we are in evidence a great need for your grace and mercy, and a great need for the salvation of the souls of men and women all across this continent and all around this world.  Lord, help us to grow in our understanding of the Gospel and in the clear articulation of it to those we might find opportunity with. Help us to think beyond the immediate and to see eternity, that we not lose sight of what people really need when the common needs are what they, or even we, cry for today.  Lord, bring us in line with you; help us to have hearts that beat in tune with yours; help us to love others more than we love ourselves. Transform our words, our behaviors, our values and our hopes to be more and more what you’d have them to be. You are good to us; help us to live like children of a good heavenly Father.  I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

A man sent from God.  Many folks are looking for a calling, a cause, a passion, or a goal in our society.  It seems that to be an American is often to entertain visions of personal grandiosity, a deep purpose and a fulfilling career of some sort.  Person after person may be “sent” by their own ambition, driven towards the attainment of ideas of success, whose definition often comes from culture and personal ideals.  Many people are sent in this world to complete a vast array of tasks with good intentions. The question, though, is whether they are sent by, or from, God. 

Jesus says in Matthew 7:21-23:

“Not everyone who says to Me,`Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. “Many will say to Me in that day,`Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ “And then I will declare to them,`I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ 

How do we know if someone is sent from God?  God is sovereign, so He makes no mistakes, but certainly there are people, ministries, beliefs, and religions that don’t line up with Scripture. The solution is not to negate biblical claims or to take a subjective, postmodern approach to beliefs.  Syncretism, the blending of belief systems, has grown leaps and bounds within even the evangelical church as people have taken humanistic views and coupled them with a growing biblical illiteracy. The placement one gives to Christ and to the gospel message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone is of utmost importance.  

A witness.  The word for witness in the Greek is martureo (pronounced mar-tur-eh-oh).  You may have heard the term “martyr” especially if you’ve been in church for any length of time.  John the Baptist was sent as a witness to the Light, to point to Christ with the purpose that all through him might believe.  John himself would become what we tend to think of as a martyr: a person who has died for their faith in Christ as a result of persecution.  He would later be beheaded under the direction of Herod and have his head brought in on a silver platter. Typically, when we think of martyrs either in the Bible, the early church, or even today (there are many), few want the honor of being a martyr.  Give me Jesus…but don’t forget money, security, ease, and a helmet and knee pads.  Give me Jesus…just don’t let this involve blood! It takes a lot less to make most of us chicken out, though, doesn’t it!?

Image result for “What an incredible witness it is to a lost and fearful society when the Christian acts like a child of God, living under the loving sovereignty of the Heavenly Father.” Henry Blackaby

Witnessing has often been reduced to the communication of the Gospel message in an oral presentation, but I’d remind you that that is far from all witnessing is.  Witnessing is transformation before others; it’s what you value in the sight of men while claiming a risen Savior rules your life. Witnessing is kindness to the stranger and preferential thoughtfulness of others.  It’s your priorities and your love for God (or lack thereof) and a willingness to let Him take the reins of your life. A message of forgiveness of sins is never given from a vacuum! It comes wrapped in a package, and that package oftentimes is you or me, the bearers of the message.  If you’re a believer, just remember that you are not the hope of your message—you’re imperfect, you fail, you still have your struggles with sin and also doing what’s right.  We aren’t calling people to ultimately be followers of us; we’re calling people to follow Christ.  

We are each giving testimony today to what we think ought to be valued.  We are each giving testimony today to a version of what being a Christian is all about.  We are each telling others, perhaps through mixed messages at times, of what the whole point of this life is.  Your spouse, your children, your parents, your friends, your neighbors, the cashier at the store, you name it, we are witnessing all the time to some message we inherently believe.  Take it back to Christ and put everything you do in check under the light of Scripture.

Here are some questions for you to think about as you go through the rest of your day in light of this study today:

Have you had a limited view of what witnessing means?

How do Christians bear witness to the gospel?

How did John the Baptist bear witness of Christ in this Gospel?

Have a blessed day! And remember, we are here if you need anything! A listening ear, a delivery of groceries, we can help!

Family Devotions – John 1:4 : The Life and Light of Men

Welcome to our second day of church family devotions. It is our prayer that God will use them in your life to point the way to Him. Let’s start with some worship to get us in the spirit of focusing on Him.

 

Image result for “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” St. Augustine

Prayer by Pastor Sam:

Lord, thank you for the life and light you offer freely as a gift from your loving hands.  Help us rest in the truth and to live our lives in relationship to your truth rather than the lies our hearts so often entertain.  Lord, help us to carry this light in our lives amidst the people you’ve placed us.  Put your life and light in the hearts of many more of our fellow countrymen and those around the world.  Give grace and courage to those serving you in various cultures and contexts.  Give them clarity as they point to Christ through the preaching and teaching of your word, and help them to walk blamelessly before those you have called them to serve.  Call forth men and women who may even be just boys or girls today and prepare them in Scripture and in character to call others unto yourself.  Thank you that we don’t have to live in darkness and we don’t have to look at eternity with uncertainty, but rather great hope.  Lord, you are good and every promise you make we believe you will fulfill.  Help us when we doubt that and encourage us in resting in you even today.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen. 

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Light is a theme within the Gospel of John.  As you go through this particular book of the Bible, you will notice the many ways Jesus identifies Himself, light being one of them. Alfred Barnes once wrote, “It (the Gospel of John) contains more about Christ, his person, design, and work, than any of the other Gospels. The other evangelists were employed more in recording the miracles, and giving external evidence of the divine mission of Jesus. John is employed chiefly in telling us what he was, and what was his peculiar doctrine….The other evangelists record his parables, his miracles, his debates with the scribes and Pharisees; John records chiefly his discourses about himself” (Barnes Notes on the New Testament, Introduction to John, pg. 171).

Let’s consider today’s verse and think about what it’s conveying:

  • “IN HIM was life.” Christ is the source of life, the giver of life, the means of life, the sustainer of life, and the definition of life at its core.  What does it mean to live?  I’m sure if you asked 100 people, from their own perspective, they might give you a broad range of answers.  I think from the Scriptures you could go no further, no deeper, than to say that life is summed up in Christ: what it means to be alive, as well as what it means to live eternally.

  • “In Him WAS life.” As mentioned in the devotional for John 1:1, the term was ought not be misunderstood as though this was a temporary matter.  We would be absolutely wrong to say that life was but no longer is in Christ; equally, we’d be wrong to say life was in Him exclusively at creation only to branch out with other sources of life through the passing of time.  One of the beauties of the truth regarding Jesus is that all truth comes from Him, and all truth regarding Him is not time-sensitive (nor is truth time-sensitive to any matter).  Time itself is subjugated to the sovereign Lord; what was true 2,000 years ago was true in eternity past and will be true 10,000,000 years from now! Sinners may shift their perspectives and certain views may take center stage for brief or extended periods of time, but this has no bearing on what is objectively true.  I encourage you to love the truth that in Him was life at the time of creation; in Him was life as He walked upon the earth; in Him is life today; in Him will there be life always and in no way is there life in its fullest meaning outside of Him.

  • “In Him was LIFE.” John’s words give us clarity in our own day and age to speak objectively to the idea of being spiritually alive and what, or whom, is the source of that life.  Notice the words not only present but also absent here:  not “in Him was a source of life” but “in Him was life.”  The wording is claiming exclusivity.  Do you ever get tired of being patted on the head by those who disagree with this by saying, at best, that Christ essentially is nothing more than one source of life?  Or perhaps to depreciate what He is the source of?  Some may go so far as to say, “He’s a source of inspiration, a model of character.”  It would seem we hear this unspoken belief most often around Christmas and Easter.  At worst, He is simply dismissed altogether.  John’s claim is not ambiguous; rather, in Him was (and is) life.

  • “The life was the LIGHT of men.” Light is a wonderful analogy of Christ, because light brings clarity and exposure of an environment to see what is, not what one might imagine there to be.  Let’s imagine we walked into an abandoned house in the dark.  We’re not sure if it’s safe, where the walls are, or what fills the room we’re in.  We find a light switch, turn it on, and immediately we become aware of the room and its contents, the walls, hallways, etc.  Our awareness causes us to respond appropriately to our surroundings.  Unfortunately, in a world filled with spiritual darkness, there are many voices telling us what is in the room, our level of security, and how we ought to live in light of our perception.  Often, people operate in relationship to their paradigm so long as it seems to serve them well enough for their intended purposes.  When Christ gives life to us, He gives us light as well.  We begin seeing things for what they truly are, and we see them best when wearing the lenses of Scripture.  I note, too, that we don’t always like what the light may reveal to us, but I’d rather know I was a sinner in need of Christ than have false confidence on a path leading to destruction!Image result for ephesians 2:1-7

  • “The life was the light of MEN.” Here’s a thought: the life Christ gives through faith in the gospel, that He came and died as a perfect sacrifice for sin on the cross and rose again, is only for people.  It’s not for animals (who do not bear the image of God) or even for angels!  The gospel is exclusively for men, and even more specifically, for the people who are alive today.  There is no preaching of the gospel in hell, as there is no salvation in hell.  The message and offer of life in Christ is time-sensitive as it is a faith-based response to a life-giving message given within the context of a dying world.  We can’t bestow this salvation upon future generations by wishing it for them or somehow earning it for them, nor can we do that for those who have passed (remember the acronym for grace: “God’s riches at Christ’s expense”).  It is personal, it is a faith-based response to a message, and that message has not changed nor will it.  It doesn’t just stop us from our eternal destiny, either; when we are made alive in Christ, the process of change begins on a journey all the way until meeting Him through death or His return.  As it relates to life, I remind you as I remind myself that the salvation Christ offers is three-fold in orientation: I am saved positionally, justified with the righteousness of Christ; I am being saved progressively, changed into His image; and I will be saved completely at glorification, the full hope of my salvation.

Here are some questions to contemplate as you go through the rest of your day today:

  • How is your life different today as a result of Jesus saving you?

  • Have you noticed your hopes changing as you’ve grown in Christ?

  • What are your greatest fears today, and how can the truth speak into them?

 

Find rest in Him today! Once again, if you are in need of prayer or of any other needs, please contact us and let us know how we can lift you up.

 

 

Introducing Daily Church Family Devotions!

Welcome to the first daily devotional for First Baptist Church of Littleton! We want to be an encouragement to you and help you focus on God in this time when we cannot gather as a church family. Watch and sing along with these worship videos!

 

Prayer from Pastor Sam:

Lord, I praise You for the truth that You are Sovereign over all things created, all people, all circumstances, all time.  Thank you that though You are transcendent over all, you are also personal and near.  You offer love and friendship, you’re faithful and true, and I thank you that though we can’t always see the good today, I know from your word that you work all things together for good—and I thank you that one day I’ll know that truth through and through when I stand in your presence.  Please give us wisdom with the events unfolding, health if you would have it, minds that are set on you and voices that are quick to praise and point to you and slow to blame or complain.  Help us to preach the Gospel to those around us as opportunity arises and to preach its truths to our hearts each day, especially in moments that we fail you.  Thank you, Lord, for being the source of eternal life and hope, which you promise to never take away from your children.  In Christ’s name I pray, Amen. 

It’s time to get in the Word together! Let’s focus on God to give us hope for the day.

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Sometimes it’s the small things that can mean a lot. When we look at John 1:1, one of the most simple words that pops up three times is the word “was.” This word is incredibly significant to setting up not only this verse, obviously, but the rest of the passage as well as the whole Gospel. Let’s consider some things regarding “was”:

1. In the beginning, the Word (speaking of Jesus) was. That is, in the beginning, just as in Genesis 1:1, we have the same parallel implication: Jesus Christ existed prior to the beginning of all things created. Having no beginning Himself, He has existed eternally in the close unity of the Trinity, being self-sufficient, self-contained, self-fulfilled, holy and righteous, and yet creating for His glory.

2. The Word was with God. John is establishing that the Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has existed eternally with the Father (and the Holy Spirit). It differentiates from the last part of the verse because it is highlighting His personhood within the Godhead. This is significant itself because there have been heresies long-standing, often reused down the road in history, of Jesus being the first created being. Some certainly teach that Christ, if He is the Son of God, must be a creation of God, but this is not so, and John makes that clear right here in the first verse of his Gospel. Jesus has existed forever as a person of the Godhead, “who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” (Phil. 2:6-7)

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3. The Word was God. Perhaps to simply state the obvious, declaring that Christ was God doesn’t mean that He stopped being God. It’s simply to say that at the time of creating all things in existence, from which He is set apart in His uniqueness (one aspect of holiness), Christ was completely God in essence. Three persons, one God. So John establishes that Christ has always been God, He did not become God at some point in time; He did not stop being God at some point in time; He will always be God and He will always have particular roles in His personhood within the Godhead. We ourselves can never become God, as we are distinct creations created by Him for His glorious purposes. We can never ascend to His level of authority or detach from Him as though we could exist apart from His continual sustainment of our lives and paths, even after the grave. Praise Him that He made us, keeps us, came to save us, offered forgiveness, and if we are believers, is transforming us into His image on our way to an eternal home with Him in Heaven.

Quote for today:

Image result for “My evidence that I am saved does not lie in the fact that I preach, or that I do this or that. All my hope lies in this: that Jesus Christ came to save sinners. I am a sinner, I trust Him, then He came to save me, and I am saved.” Charles Spurgeon

Let’s finish this out with one more worship video and a few thoughts to think about through the rest of your day:

Why would John start out his Gospel with these claims about Jesus?

How do the truths of John 1:1 bear on the world and its circumstances today?

How is God presently calling me to serve Him and honor Him? 

Have a blessed day! Please contact us if you have any prayer requests, concerns, or if you just want to check in!

Fear is Rising

Pastor Sam felt led to deviate from the normal 1 Samuel study this week in light of the Covid-1 pandemic. As believers, we are called to not fear because of the hope we have in our Savior. Matthew 14:22-34

God Will Take Care of You

1 Samuel 19 we look at how God has preserved David in contrast to Saul’s demise.