True Love by Pastor Ted Stahl

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Today’s Passage – Matthew 27 – 28 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 76 – 80; Proverbs 16)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – Isaiah 40:31

Read the “1016 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

True Love

As the people cried out, “His blood be on us, and our children!”; the soldiers took Jesus to scourge Him. The pieces of bone, broken pottery, and metal attached to the nine strands of the whip dug deeply into his skin. And the blood flowed. True love. In the true spirit of hatred, the soldiers stripped Jesus and dressed Him in a scarlet robe: they did this to the Creator of the universe. With cruel mockeries they bowed down saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”  With every ounce of hate, our Lord was crowned with a crown of thorns that pierced His scalp. And the blood flowed. True love. Then came the crucifixion. Our Lord Jesus Christ was beaten so badly that Simon of Cyrene was ordered to carry the cross. Long spikes were driven through the hands and the feet of our Lord as He was nailed to the cross. They sat down at the cross to watch Him die. And the blood flowed. True love. The mockings continued as chief priests, scribes, and elders breathed out their hatred. And the blood flowed. True Love. And then He was dead. The Lord had given up the Ghost. The payment for sin had been paid because the blood flowed. True love.

Joseph of Arimathaea, and Nicodemus lovingly wrapped the body of Jesus and placed it in a cold, dark tomb. There lay the body for three days, and three nights.

“In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.  His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:  And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.  And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.  He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.  And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.  And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.  And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him” (Matthew 28:1-9)

True love.

To God, love has always been an action word. Him loving us caused Him to shed His blood paying the price for our sins. We love Him because He first loved us. When they saw the risen Lord, they held Him by His feet and worshipped Him. True love. 1Peter 1: 22 says, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently…”

That’s true love. Having that love in us, calling ourselves Christians, how can we kick our brothers and sisters when they are down. How can we destroy families, and cause fellow believers to leave the churches. How can we discourage and not edify Is that true love? Even when we are to rebuke someone who wronged us, it’s to be done in love and only between you and that person. Proverbs is full of wisdom about the tongue. “The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom: but the froward tongue shall be cut out” (Proverbs 10:31).  “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit” (Proverbs 15:4). “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof” (Proverbs 18:21).

Remember the scourging. Remember the thorns. Remember the spitting, and pulling out the beard. Remember the cruel mocking. Remember true love. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another ” (John 13:34-35).


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Just Me and God

Just Me and God

Today’s Passage – Matthew 26 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 71 – 75; Proverbs 15)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song –  Proverbs 27:15

Read the “1015 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Read a previous post from this morning’s reading passage – “Who Me?”

“Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.” (Matthew 26:38)

This was no doubt the worst night in the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was in the process of being betrayed by one of the twelve. He knew also that Peter was going to deny even knowing Him, not once, but three times. The rest of the disciples were going to scatter and follow afar off, all of them distancing themselves from their leader in His time of need. In the midst of this agonizing night, Jesus desires that three of His closest friends spend some time in prayer with Him. Though it was very late, the Lord was obviously not going to get any sleep, and He asked Peter, James, and John to stay up with Him in prayer. Unfortunately, the men were weary and could not stay awake through the prayer meeting. It appears that Jesus was to go through this trial alone. It was just Him and His Father.

It is human nature to desire the company and encouragement of other people when we are going through our trials. However, in the end, it will only be God that will be with us throughout the darkest days of our lives. Our friends can’t possibly understand completely the pain that we are experiencing; they have their own concerns and troubles that plague them. Friends and family can be helpful at times, but we need to learn to wean ourselves off of dependence upon man for comfort and encouragement and instead turn to God. People can not possibly meet the spiritual needs that only God can meet. If you are going through a trial right now look to God. Don’t be too hard on your friends. Though God may use them to edify and encourage you partially, they are severely limited in their ability to help.

Having said that, let me now speak a word to those of us who may have some friends who are going through a difficult trial. Don’t try to be a replacement for God in their lives. You cannot meet their spiritual need: you can only point them to God, and encourage them to feed upon the Word of God. Don’t preach to them, and don’t promise them things that you cannot deliver: you are not God. Just try to be there for them as much as you can while continuing to point them to the Lord.


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Inside, Then Out

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Today’s Passage – Matthew 22 – 23 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 61 – 65; Proverbs 13)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – Psalm 121

Read the “1013 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

“Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.” (Matthew 23:26)

Matthew chapter 23 contains a harsh rebuke by the Lord to the Pharisees. The Pharisees were the fundamentalist of their day. They had the right doctrines. In fact Jesus admonished the disciples to do what the Pharisees taught, but He was careful to warn them not to follow their example. They were hypocrites: they portrayed on the surface a godly lifestyle, yet on the inside they were anything but godly. They were a cold and judgmental bunch. They were quick to point out the flaws of others, but they never looked within themselves to see if their own lives were right. They had all kinds of inward problems themselves, yet they focused on pointing out the flaws of others.

Unfortunately, today we see far too often Christians who we thought had “all of their ducks in a row”, only to discover that they are hiding some dark sin in their lives. They looked good on the outside, but they were filthy on the inside. Don’t misunderstand, we all struggle with sin, but we must be careful that we come clean with the Lord through confession, and then do our best to forsake the things that displease Him. God forgives and cleanses from sin. More importantly though, we must not try to appear to others in a self-righteous way.  As fundamental Christians today, we must be very careful that while we take our stand for all of the right doctrines, and as we preach the truth about sin; that we make sure that we don’t portray ourselves as above sin. We are sinners just like everyone else. While we try to live our lives as righteously and separated as we can, we are still a people who struggle with sin ourselves. Most importantly, we must not think ourselves to be any better than those that are without. If it wasn’t for the grace of God we could certainly find ourselves involved in some of the vilest sins. We must have a genuine compassion for people who are struggling. We must never compromise the truth, but we should preach the truth with a tear in our eye.

Jesus was very hard on the religious crowd, the ones that didn’t think that they needed any help. However, you will find that though He never once compromised in either His living or His preaching, He always treated the lost sinner with compassion. He loved them to Himself. We must do the same thing. While we strive to live a holy, separated life let us also demonstrate love and compassion to the lost world around us. If they get upset with us for our position, so be it; but let them never be able to find fault with our disposition.


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It’s Not Fair!

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Today’s Passage – Matthew 19 – 21 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 56 – 60; Proverbs 12)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – James 4:10

Read another post from this passage – “The Ministry – Not What I Expected

Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?” (Matthew 20:15)

In the passage referenced above we have the story of the man that hired a number of laborers to work in his vineyard. He started hiring first thing in the morning and promised those early workers a penny for their toil. Throughout the day he would find more people who were idle, and he offered them “what is right” in exchange for their labor. When the day was finished and it was time to pay the workers, each man, regardless of the length of time they labored, received a penny. The men who were hired early in the morning worked longer hours yet received the same wage. They complain that the man who hired them was unfair, but he reminded them that they received exactly what they agreed to work for; and that he had the right to pay anybody else whatever he chose to pay them.

The primary interpretation of this verse, I guess, would involve Israel. They are probably a little envious of the church who is a late arrival to the service of God. After all the Jews have had a long relationship with him, and who did these Gentiles think they were coming in and claiming that they have a claim to Heaven. I believe we could also see this attitude among those in the church. Let’s say for example that a man grows up in a Christian home and is saved at an early age. He goes to the same Heaven that another man would go to who trusted Christ on his deathbed.

The thought that grabbed my attention this morning, however, as I read was that we often think God to be unfair because He deals with us uniquely, and it seems sometimes that he treats others better than He treats us. There are two things that we can learn from this passage. The first is that God will always do what He says He will do; and secondly He will always do that which is right. So for us to become envious about how God blesses others, or uses others is to say that God is making mistakes, or is acting like men.

Sometimes as a pastor, I see the way God is blessing other ministries. It seems that some churches and pastors just have victory after victory. Sometimes I want to cry, “unfair!”  But I need to remind myself of a couple of things that I am sure of:

1  God loves me just as much as He loves anybody else.

2  God will fulfill every promise and principle in my life, family, and ministry just as He will with anybody else.

3  God has a unique plan and purpose for my life and ministry, which is different from His plan for others.

4  I may not have had the same upbringing, training, and equipping that others have had. I just need to be faithful to do the best I can with the training that I have received; and I need to learn and grow as much as I can so that I can be more effective in ministry.

5  My vantage point of others in the ministry is limited. I can only see a small part of the picture. Even though it may seem that there are no burdens or problems at the other ministry, I know that there are. That pastor in the large ministry is probably paying a much larger price than I am paying.

In John’s gospel there is an interesting story that took place after the resurrection where Jesus is restoring a very discouraged Peter. Peter had denied the Lord prior to the crucifixion. Here Jesus tells peter to “feed His lambs”. Peter, however, was not satisfied with just being restored to the ministry: he wanted the top post. He asked the Lord (referring to John), “and what shall this man do”. Jesus replied, “what is that to thee?”. The Lord basically told Peter to mind his own business. God had a purpose and plan for Peter, and He also had one for John. He has a plan for me and you too. I don’t need to worry about what God is doing with you, and you don’t need to worry about what God is doing with me. We both just need to be faithful.


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Pardon Me

Torn piece of paper with the word "Forgive" in the woman's palms.

Today’s Passage –Matthew 16 – 18 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 51 – 55; Proverbs 11)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – Ephesians 4:32

Read another post from this passage – “The Coin is in the Fishes’ Mouth”

“Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.” (Matthew 18:27)

Many years ago, I was caught and convicted by a man that I owed a staggering debt to. He had the power to have me locked away forever with no possibility of any kind of parole. What can I say, I was (and am) guilty. I had broken just about every law that this man established and I deserved whatever punishment He decided to give me. I was worthy of the eternal death penalty. Then a strange thing happened: I asked Him for mercy, and He granted it. He not only forgave me; He paid the debt for me and adopted me into His family, and I became both His child, and His brother. At first, I was overwhelmed with joy and thanksgiving. I learned that there were many others that had sinned against Him, and that He was willing to pardon them as well. I wanted to tell everybody about Him and His forgiveness. Thinking back on those days, I can’t recall one person on the planet that I was upset with; that I had a beef with, because I was too consumed with the forgiveness that I had received. But as time went by, I began to forget about the mercy and grace that I had received, and slowly developed a mindset where I subconsciously thought that I somehow deserved the pardon that I received. I began to think that my debt wasn’t as bad as others: that somehow the One that pardoned me needed me to help Him run His kingdom. I started thinking about others that, to me, were less worthy of forgiveness than myself. After all. I deserved it: they did not. This was all a slow, and subtle development in my mind. I then began to pick and choose who I would allow myself to forgive. Some did not deserve my forgiveness as I deserved the forgiveness that I received. I began to put people away in my own “debtor’s prison”.

Eventually I began to move farther and farther away from the One who had given me the pardon in the first place. I began to think, say, and do things that had already condemned me. Something inside of me bothered me, and I began to be grieved about my life; but at the same time, I gave some second thoughts to the ones that I had locked away. I reasoned, “what right do I have to hold people in my prison, when I have been given a complete pardon for the same things.” If He was willing to forgive all of my past, present, and future debt, ought not I be willing to pardon some people myself.

I have been saved a long time, and through those years I have been hurt countless times by many different people. Unfortunately, however, I have also hurt just as many people as have injured me. I have given up the mind game of trying to somehow justify that my sins weren’t as bad as their’s were. I didn’t (and don’t) deserve God’s forgiveness; and I don’t deserve the forgiveness of the people that I have wronged. They don’t deserve it from me either; none of us do. However, I accept it. I have received forgiveness, therefore I must give forgiveness. If you have wronged me, I forgive you. If I have wronged you, please forgive me. Once both of us are released from prison we will be free to serve the One who pardoned us in the first place.

“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

“And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.” (Luke 11:4)


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Keeping Your Focus in the Storm

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Today’s Passage – Matthew 14 – 15 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 46 – 50; Proverbs 10)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – Psalm 89:1

Read the “1010 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

“But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.” (Matthew 14:30)

Just a quick thought this morning from today’s passage. The disciples were traveling by ship in the Sea of Galilee without the Lord. The Lord had stayed behind to get alone and pray. The Lord saw them through His omniscient eyes, and saw that they were struggling and frightened in a severe storm on the sea. He went to them, walking on the water. Peter sees the Lord walking on the water and he decides that he would like to try it as well. He asks the Lord’s permission to venture out on top of the waves. The Lord bids him to come, and he Peter does well for a short time until he loses his focus. While his eyes were on the Lord, he stayed afloat; but when he took his eyes off of the Lord and focused on the storm and the waves, he began to sink. Finally, he cries out to the Lord for help.

In the Christian life, there will be many storms. Some of these storms will be physical, some financial, some relational; but we will all go through the difficult days as we serve the Lord. Some of these storms will be self-inflicted, while others will be caused by others, and still others are beyond explanation. It really matters not where the blame lies as to the storm itself. The key to staying afloat in the storm, however, will be keeping our focus on the Lord Jesus. He allowed the storm in our lives for a purpose. It may be for our good; it may be for His glory; it may be for both. We need to trust the Lord and allow Him to see us through the storm.

I have seen this principle in action many times in my life. Each time a storm would appear in my life, I would spend a lot of time and energy trying to figure out how the storm started and who was to blame for the storm. Surely, it couldn’t be my fault, could it? God has shown me, however,  that most of the storms that I have experienced  were at least partially of my own doing. He also has shown me that the purpose of the storms was to teach me and grow me. I must confess, I always wanted to sink. I wanted to just throw in the towel, blame everybody else for my troubles, and move on in bitterness. Instead, I have learned to cry out to the Lord for help. He has always lifted me up, and helped me to make my way back into the ship. I thank the Lord for his mercy, grace, and patience with me.


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Good Ground

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Today’s Passage – Matthew 12 – 13 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 41 – 45; Proverbs 9)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – Psalm 61:1 – 3

Read the “1009 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

“But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.” – (Matthew 13:8)

I have always enjoyed studying these parables in Matthew 13. The Parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3 – 9; 18 – 23) in particular has helped me to understand many things about the nature of people. I have been a Christian now for a long time, and I have observed many people come and go through the years. It grieves me when people fizzle out spiritually; some even turning their backs completely on the Lord. This parable sheds a lot of light as to why that happens.

In this passage, Jesus uses soil to illustrate the four different kinds of life situations that the seed of the gospel comes in contact with. My goal in this short devotional thought is not to discuss in detail each of these different types of lives that is impacted by the gospel seed; but I would like to make some observations about the “good ground”. After all it is the good ground that produces the most fruit, isn’t it? So what are the characteristics of good ground?

1  Good ground is well watered and fertilized. It contains all of the nutrition that it needs in order to be healthy. I have never been a gardener, but I have heard many say that when they fortify the soil with plant food (like Miracle Gro), the plants will produce much more fruit, and the overall appearance of the plant will be that of health. Christians need to be nourished and watered daily by spending time with God in His Word. The spiritual nutrition that we receive from the Word of God will yield much fruit in our lives. We will starve to death spiritually without it.

2  Good ground does not contain a lot of rocks and debrit that will hinder the root system. Rocks will also hinder the retention of water. Jesus says that this illustrates the person who never allows the Word of God to take root in his life. Many Christians make professions of faith, but never get grounded in the Word through a a discipeship program in a good local church. As a result, they never develop a strong root system that will help them get established. They do well for a while, but they cannot survive any stress that may come their way.

3  Good ground is weeded regularly. Now, I do know a little something about weeds. This year, all of the flower beds at the church were overrun with weeds. It became a huge project to dig them all up. Weeds will steal all of the nutrition and water that the plant needs to survive. This scenario pictures the Christian who allows a lot of the world’s distractions to get into his life. He becomes too busy, and often too carnal to produce fruit anymore in his life.

As you can see from this passage, there is not a lot that we can do to change the fact that some people will continue to grow and produce fruit throughout their life, and some simply will fizzle out or fall away completely. However, we can do something about the soil of our own hearts. We can make sure that we are maintaining the “good ground” by keeping well-watered and fertilized with the Word of God; by removing any rocks or impediments that will hinder our root system; and by removing any weeds (distractions, weights) that may steal away the nutrition that is necessary for a healthy and fruitful life.


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Rest

Rest

Today’s Passage –Matthew 10 – 11 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 36 – 40; Proverbs 8)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – Matthew 6:33

Read the “1008 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – (Matthew 11:28-30)

Ah, rest! Rest is a wonderful thing. The older I get the more I cherish a Sunday afternoon nap, or perhaps an early evening where I can climb into bed and fall asleep reading a good book. Rest is one of those wonderful necessities of life. We do not function well without enough of it. God commanded that His people take one day out of seven in order to rest and refresh their tired bodies:

“Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou.” – (Deuteronomy 5:13-14)

I think America was a much better place when we used to all take the day off on Sundays so that we could go to church, eat an afternoon meal with the family, and rest.

However, physical rest is not what Jesus was talking about when he promised to give rest in Matthew 11:22. The rest spoken of there is not Sabbath rest, nor was Jesus speaking here of the eternal rest that awaits the child of God in Heaven. The rest referred to in this verse is the rest that we receive when we stop trying to work our way into Heaven, and simply receive the free gift of eternal life that Christ wants to us to have. But it goes beyond just salvation itself. Christ continues to give us rest as we yield our lives, our wills to Him and His will. We do not have to figure it all out for ourselves. We can simply let Him guide and direct our lives. It is certainly a lot easier to know that God has an awesome plan for our lives, and we simply need to follow Him, instead of trying to work out the way for ourselves.

“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.” – (Hebrews 4:9-11)

One more thought. Be careful that as a Christian you don’t get so absorbed in the work of God, that you don’t take the necessary time that you need to rest. There are a lot of Christian workaholics out there who feel the church will die unless they are personally giving every minute of their time serving. We need to remember to get enough physical rest, as well as spiritual refreshment, which comes through time spent with God in meditation, study, and prayer. Don’t get too busy with the work of God that you forget to spend time with the God of the work. Don’t forget about your family, either. Your spouse and children need some of your free time as well.

“And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” – (Luke 10:41-42 )


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Quit Worrying!

Quit Worrying

Today’s Passage – Matthew 5 – 6 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here  to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 26 – 30; Proverbs 6)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – Psalm 47:1

Read the “1006 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

“Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” (Matthew 6:34)

Beginning in Matthew chapter 5 we have recorded what is known as the Sermon on the Mount. These verses teach us the rules for the Kingdom. These are not verses that deal specifically with the church, nor are they principles that deal with salvation. However, these passages do show us how a Spirit filled people will live during the Millennial Kingdom. Having said that, I think these verses should also describe how a Spirit filled people should live today. These principles go way beyond the bare minimum; and they surpass the minimum requirements of the law. God’s people should be second milers. They should be a people who are willing to go beyond just the law in their relationship with God, and men.

The last section in chapter 6 deals with worrying. Many of us are consumed with worry. We stress over what might, or might not, happen tomorrow. God says that we should be able to trust him with tomorrow and just content ourselves with serving Him today. God gave us provision and protection today, and He is well able to do the same tomorrow. I am not a doctor, but I am pretty confident in saying that worry and stress are contributing factors in many health problems; but we don’t have to live that way. Worry is really nothing more than a lack of faith. If our faith is strong, we know that our God will take care of us and guide our path; so we don’t have to stress over life. We worry and stress because we have taken our lives into our own hands; and we realize that we are not able to control all of the situations that will come our way; and we will not always make the right decision. However, if we put our lives and our families in the hand of God, we can be assured that God will do right by us, and He will take care of us.

These verses are not teaching, however, that we should not carefully prepare for our tomorrows. It is not wrong to make good decisions, under His guidance regarding future planning. If you think about it, salvation itself is decision that ensures a safe future. I realize that salvation entails much more than “fire insurance”, but many of us were saved because we were concerned about a future judgment. So it is not wrong to spend some time today considering tomorrow. However, when we get to the point where we are so stressed about tomorrow where we cannot serve Him today, we have taken planning well beyond the healthy limits. It is not wrong to put some money away for a rainy day, but if we get so consumed with hoarding our income today to the extent where we won’t give our tithes and offerings, we have gone well beyond mere planning.

The bottom line is that if we can trust God with our eternal destiny, can’t we trust Him with all of the little details that comprise living for Him in this world. God took care of us yesterday; He is feeding us today, and He will continue to do so tomorrow. We can trust Him. Stop worrying.


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It Is Written

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Today’s Passage –Matthew 1 – 4 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 21 – 25; Proverbs 5)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – Isaiah 51:11

“But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” – (Matthew 4:4)

“Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” – (Matthew 4:7)

“Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” – (Matthew 4:10)

In our reading passage today in chapter 4, we have the account of Jesus being tempted by the devil in the wilderness. The devil made three attempts here to get Jesus to yield to his will, but Jesus stood strong through all that the devil threw at him. Jesus proved that He is Who He claimed to be by resisting the devil. Theologians have argued through the years about whether this was a genuine temptation. In other words, they say that since Jesus is God He cannot be tempted. I guess that is true, but it didn’t stop Satan from making the attempt. I once heard an analogy that illustrates this point pretty well: it is possible for a rowboat to attack a naval fleet; the attack would be real, but the probability of success is not very great. Satan’s attempt to seduce Jesus was real, but because Jesus is the omnipotent God, Satan could not possibly win. Consider what God said through the writer to the Hebrews:

“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

The thing that I find very interesting about this account is that Jesus quoted from the Word of God each time that He was tempted by the devil. Now I hasten to say that everything that came from the mouth of Jesus was the Word of God, because He is God. However, in our passage, Jesus quotes from something He previously said in the Old Testament: something that was already recorded in the Scripture. I believe the main reason that Jesus did this was because He was giving us the formula; the secret to resisting temptation, which is memorizing and quoting Scripture. Consider these verses:

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also makea way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” – (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Notice the phrase, “a way to escape”. God’s way to escape is quoting Scripture. And you cannot quote Scripture unless you have it in your heart:

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” – (Psalm 119:11)

This is why it is absolutely critical for us to be in the Word of God all of the time. We need to saturate our minds with the Scripture through our daily reading, writing, studying, meditation, and memorization of the Bible. We are now even learning how to sing the Scripture (see Scripture Memory Songs), which also helps us to keep God’s Word in our heart and mind.

The sad truth, however, is that most believers do not know enough Scripture to resist the devil’s tempation. What a shame. There is no excuse for it. I believe that this is one of the greatest needs for the people of our church today. We need to strengthened and fortified by the Word of God so that when the flesh, the world, or the devil try to get us to yield, we can stay inside the perfect will of God.

One final thought. You will notice from this passage that Satan also said, “It is written”, but it is important to note that while Satan “quoted” the Scripture, he conveniently left out part of the O.T. verse. He is still using that same method today by re-writing the Word of God in all of these modern versions. He changes words, and leaves out words as it suits his purposes. Stick with the old King James!


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Wasting Talents

26

Today’s Passage – Matthew 24 – 25 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 66 – 70; Proverbs 14)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – Proverbs 3:5 & 6

Read the “1014 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Read a previous post from today’s Bible reading passage – “Where Lord?

But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.” (Matthew 25:18)

The context of the chapters which we read today really has to do with Israel and the Tribulation Period, but we can certainly make some good, practical applications to ourselves for today. In the parable referenced in Matthew 25:14 – 30, we have the story of the man who left with his stewards some money (talents) for them to invest in some way and make a profit for him while he went away. (Note – a talent was actually a weight of measure, thus a talent of gold would be approximately 75 pounds of gold; etc.) He gave each of the three stewards a different number of talents, and expected each one to bring a return proportionate to the number of talents that they received. In other words, he did not expect as much from the guy that was given less talents as he did from the guy that received more talents; but he expected each man to give him a return on his investment.

The traditional way that we interpret and apply this passage is to use the secondary meaning of the word talent, which is a gift. We say that the Lord has given us each certain gifts. Some have been given more gifts than others. God expects us to be faithful and profitable with the gifts and talents that he has given us. We are not to waste our gifts by not using them, like the guy in our text who buried his talent in the ground. We are also not to misuse our gifts for sinful or selfish reasons. Our gifts are to be used to bring a return to the Saviour, and to glorify Him.

We could also make an application of this parable to the subject of stewardship which is what the passage is really dealing with anyway. However, today we no longer deal in talents, but in dollars. God supplies each one of us with a certain amount of income, and He expects us to be faithful and profitable with the money that he gives us. When we give our tithes to support the local storehouse, and we give our offerings so that worldwide missions can go forth, we are bringing the Lord a return on His investment in us. Conversely, when we hoard our money or misuse it, it is like the man who squandered the talent that the Lord gave him.

The bottom line is that we are to use whatever the Lord gives us for His Kingdom and His glory. We are only here on this earth as His ambassador anyway. Are you using your finances and talents for the Lord’s glory, or are you burying them in the sand? There is still time to get it turned around. You’re not dead yet. Dig that talent back up and invest it for the Lord. Find ways to invest yourself in God’s ministry to this lost world.


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What Do You See?

Man-looking-through-binoculars-600x256

Today’s Passage – Matthew 7 – 9 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 31 – 35; Proverbs 7)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – Psalm 48:1 & 2

Read the “1007 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Read a previous post from this morning’s passage – “What Is Your House Built Upon?

“And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?” (Matthew 9:11)

In our reading today we learned about the conversion and calling of Matthew. Matthew was at his work of collecting taxes when the Lord approached him and called him to follow. The Bible tells us that Matthew immediately left his job to follow the Lord. He didn’t even give two weeks notice! Shortly after this, Matthew invites the Lord to his house to dine with him and his friends. Now this was not the crowd that hung out down at the synagogue. These were a rough bunch of “publicans and sinners”. The kind you would tell your kids to stay away from. Jesus saw this as a tremendous opportunity to minister, and to shew mercy to these folks. The Pharisees, on the other hand, saw an opportunity to criticize. They found fault with Jesus, wondering aloud as to why he would associate with such a group of “rabble rousers”.

A few years back, our church was running a “Kid’s Club service on a Wednesday Night. I remember one particular night there was an extraordinary number of kids that got on the church bus to come to the service. As we were driving through the complexes, we were amazed! The kids just kept getting on the bus. Some of them I had never seen before. I was excited because I knew that this was a tremendous opportunity to reach some of them with the gospel of Christ. Jesus loves these kids and gives stern warnings to those who would try to hinder them from coming to Him.

As the kids service came to a close that night and we were getting back on the busses to bring the children home, many of our church families were arriving for the adult Bible study and prayer meeting. I could not help but wonder what some of them were thinking. Were they as excited as the Kid’s Club workers were? I don’t know. I am sure that some were happy to see what God was doing, but I am also concerned that some may have not looked at it the same way. Some may not have been happy to see all of the “snotty nosed bus kids” on property. After all, they don’t act right, and most of them do not dress right. I had to tell one teenager to pull up his “droopy drawers” a couple of times. Take it easy on him though. He was brand new, just got saved; and he hasn’t missed a service since.

It is amazing that two people, both Christians, can look at the very same thing, and yet see something totally different. But what do you see? Do you see the multitudes out there in the world as your enemy, or an opportunity for you to demonstrate and distribute the love of Jesus Christ? And, while I’m at it, why aren’t you helping us reach and serve these kids? They need somebody to mentor and love them.


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The Coin Is In The Fish’s Mouth

Today’s Passage – Matthew 16 – 18 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 51 – 55Proverbs 11)

Scripture Memorization for August – Revival Verses

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song –  Psalm 92:1

Read “Getting Out of the Gospel’s Way” by Cary Schmidt.

Watch Growth Points Video by Pastor Paul Chappell – “Characteristics of a Healthy Church

Read the “1011 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Read a previous post from this passage – “Pardon Me

“Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.” – (Matthew 17:27)

There are so many great truths in these passages that it is hard to decide what to write about, but I have chosen to share a few thoughts from Matthew 17:24 – 27. In this story, Jesus is returning to Capernaum with His disciples, and the tax collectors asked Peter if the Lord paid taxes. Peter immediately told the men that the Lord did pay taxes, but later the Lord pulled Peter aside and had a talk with him about it. He asked Peter if the children of kings were required to pay taxes. Of course, in these Bible days, the King’s family was certainly exempted from paying any kind of tribute money. Jesus is not only the “King of Kings”, but He is also the Son of God, and should surely also not be asked to pay any taxes. After all, all of the silver and gold belong to Him anyway. However, Jesus agreed to pay the tax so as not to “offend” the tax collectors. There is a lesson to be learned here in that it is better to yield sometimes, especially when it comes to disputes regarding money. People get into a lot of trouble fighting over money. Jesus wasn’t going to fight about it.

My main thought this morning, though, is about the source for the tax money. Jesus told Peter to go fishing, and that he would find a coin in the first fish’s mouth. Jesus miraculously provided the money, His own and Peter’s taxes through a fish. Fishing in the Bible is symbolic of soul winning. Jesus told the disciples, “…Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” – (Matthew 4:19).  I believe Jesus is trying to teach us a great lesson here. If we want to be blessed of God financially, we must be about the Father’s business of fishing for men. The coins that we need are also in the fishes’ mouths; only the fish that we are after are the souls of men. Jesus wants to see people saved. He has given us the commission of winning souls and training soul winners. It is His business. He came “to seek and to save that which was lost”. He is still seeking lost souls through us, and He will gladly finance our efforts. I believe that God will financially prosper both the church and the individual Christian that is busy winning folks to Christ. Are you struggling financially? Why don’t you try going fishing.


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Who Me?

Today’s Passage –Matthew 26

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 71 – 75; Proverbs 15

“And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I? (Matthew 26:22)

“But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.” – (Matthew 26:56)

After reading this morning’s passage, I was determined to write a new blog post in defense of Peter. I can certainly identify with Peter. In this passage we see Peter at his worst. In v 35, he self-righteously declares that he could never deny the Lord. Did you ever have that “not me” attitude? I have. Later in the passage we see Peter following afar off, and then finally we see him swearing while he vehemently denies even knowing the Lord. I am guilty of these actions as well. Peter, forgive me for ever saying anything bad about you in a message, for I am no better than you are – in fact, I have been worse. I am just thankful that all of my sinful actions aren’t recorded in the Book for all to see.

But like Peter, I can’t even watch and pray, one hour with you, And I bet, I could deny you too.” (from “Grace By Which I Stand” – Keith Green)

The remainder of this blog is a re-post of what I had written previously regarding thoughts from Matthew 26:

Bear with me for a moment while I tell you a little bit about my morning so far. My alarm clock went off as it does every morning at 5 AM. I am supposed to actually get up at that time in order to take my morning “walk with the Lord”. This morning I didn’t actually get out of bed until close to 6, and then I had to rush over to the church for our corporate Saturday morning prayer meeting. During the prayer meeting, I read an excerpt out of Leonard Ravenhill’s book, “Why Revival Tarries”. Ravenhill states in his book:

“The tragedy of this late hour is that we have too many dead men in the pulpits giving out too many dead sermons to too many dead people.”

“By our attitude to prayer we tell God that what was begun in the Spirit we can finish in the flesh…. Yet ministers who do not spend two hours a day in prayer are not worth a dime a dozen, degrees or no degrees.”

I was already feeling pretty bad about my lack of spiritual character and then I came home and read chapter 26 from Matthew’s gospel. If ever there was a passage of Scripture that demonstrates our utter helplessness without the Lord, it is this chapter. When I have morning’s like this, and read chapters like this, I am reminded that I am indeed “but dust”. The problem is that most of the time I actually convince myself that I am God’s gift to the ministry. I often like to look at other people and think about all of their flaws and weaknesses, but most of the time I can’t think of any of my own. Oh, how clever and deceitful our flesh is. In this chapter, we will see how some of the greatest Christians that ever lived failed in their flesh as well. By the way, I am not trying to find comfort from the fact that my weak flesh has some good company. We are not supposed to compare ourselves amongst ourselves anyway; but I do find comfort knowing that our Lord continues to love this bunch of spiritual losers (myself included), in spite of all of their failures.

Consider some points from this passage:

1  “But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?” – (Matthew 26:8)  When the disciples observed a woman who worshipped the Lord by pouring a very expensive ointment on Him, they were angry. Why should any of us be angry when someone else expresses their love and devotion to the Lord. Who are we to judge anyone else’s motives, even when we might not agree with their particular action.

2  “Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples. … But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled. … Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.” – (Matthew 26:35, 56, 74) Notice in these verses the pride of, not only Peter, but all of the disciples. They all boasted about their ability to stay true to the Lord. Unfortunately, we also see that when their faith is tested that it fails miserably.

3  “Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. … Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. … And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?” – (Matthew 26:36, 38, 40) Notice in these verses that the disciples could not even stay awake and pray with the Lord for one hour; and this was when the Lord could really have been blessed by their support.

4  “Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him.” – (Matthew 26:48-49) Here we see the ultimate act of the flesh – a complete betrayal of the Lord.

I want us now to go back and consider the question all of the disciples asked themselves in v 22, when the Lord stated that one of them would betray Him – “Is it I?” The disciples knew that they all were weak enough to betray the Lord, and they all thought that it was a real possibility that they might be the one. I want to ask the question to myself as well, and then answer it.Yes it’s me. Yes, I have gotten indignant and jealous because of what others have done to express their love and worship to the Lord. Yes, I have been proud and self-righteous, and confident in my own flesh as Peter was; and yes, I have certainly denied the Lord more than once by either an action or attitute, or a lack of action. And yes, I have slept when I should have been praying, studying, preparing, soulwinning, counselling, etc. And, Yes I know that my flesh is capable of even betraying the Lord. It’s me, it’s me, it’s me Oh Lord; and I am certainly standing in the need of prayer. “Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death.”

Lord, deliver me from this self-righteous, proud, boastful, and always failing flesh. Help me to completely put my trust in You, and help me to never try to steal any of your Glory. Strengthen me through Your Word and through a personal, quiet time of fellowship, prayer and worship.  And most of all help me to be faithful to you, and to never deny You or betray You again.

Thank the Lord that even though we are often unfaithful to Him, HE WILL NEVER LEAVE US OR FORESAKE US!


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Where Lord?

Today’s Passage –Matthew 24 – 25

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 66 – 70; Proverbs 14)

“Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” – (Matthew 24:40-42)

For many years I have misunderstood the above verses. On the surface these verses seem to be speaking about the rapture of the church, which is an event yet in our future, when the Lord Jesus Christ will return and take His Bride (the Church) from this earth, and bring her back to Heaven with Him. Consider the following verses that refer to the rapture of the church:

“Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” – (Acts 1:11)

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” – (John 14:1-3)

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” – (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

“After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said,Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.” – (Revelation 4:1)

Note regarding the above verse in Revelation 4 – Revelation chapter 1 deals with the Apostle John’s vision of the Lord in Heaven chapters 2 & 3 are all about the Church Age. When you get to chapter 4, there is no longer a mention of the Church again. The Church (the Bride) has been brought up to Heaven (“come up hither”).

All of the these (not including Matthew 24:40 – 42) passages deal with the Rapture of the Church, but there is another wonderful picture of this event taken from the tradition of the Jewish Wedding. In Bible days when a marriage was arranged, the Groom first came to the Bride’s home and paid the price for the Bride. Then the Groom would return to his father’s home and prepare a home for himself and his new bride. When all of the preparations were finished, the Groom would return to pick up the Bride and take her to the new home. By the way, the Bride never knew when the Groom was going to come, so she had to be ready all the time. A celebration would take place for several days back at the Father’s house, and then the whole procession would return to the Bride’s parent’s home. All of this is a wonderful picture of Christ coming to earth (the Bride’s home), and paying for our sins. He is now back in Heaven preparing a place for us, and someday soon He will return for us and bring us to our new home in Heaven where we will celebrate for seven years (Marriage Supper of the Lamb). At the end of the seven years, we will return to the earth with the Lord.

There is a lot more that could be said about this event called the rapture, but I just wanted to briefly explain what it entails. However, the verses above from Matthew 24 do not deal with the rapture of the Church. The entire context of Matthew chapter 24 deals with the Tribulation Period. Now the Tribulation Period is what will take place on the earth after the church has been taken away via the Rapture. The purpose of the Tribulation Period is to awaken Israel from their spiritual slumber and have their eyes opened to the Truth about their Messiah.  Notice Matthew 24:15:

“When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)” – (Matthew 24:15)

This is obviously a reference to the Tribulation Period.

Now this brings us back to our original text verses at the top of the page (remember them – I know it was a long time since you looked at them). I said at the beginning of this post that for many years I was confused about these verses. On the surface they certainly seem to be talking about the rapture, meaning that the people that were taken away were raptured by the Lord to go to Heaven. However, the context simply does not support this interpretation. What then do these verses refer to, and where are these folks taken to? The answer to that question can be found in Luke 17, which is a parallel passage to Matthew 24. Notice what it says in vv 31 – 37:

“Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.” – (Luke 17:30-37)

The disciples ask the Lord where they will be taken. He tells them that they will go where the eagles (vultures) are gathered together. This is a reference to Armageddon:

“And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.” – (Revelation 19:17-18)

I just thought that I would try to clear up a common confusion regarding these verses. I must confess that I do not understand a lot about these future events, but I think that I have the proper interpretation of these verses.

This was more of a Bible study than a devotion this morning, but that’s OK – we love to study the Bible, don’t we?


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Today – Would We Be In The Prison Or At The Party?

This is a second post from this morning’s passage. Scroll down to view the other post – “Thankful for the Crumbs”, or click here.

There were so many great stories from today’s reading, that I decided to offer a second post. This one was from the account in Matthew 14:1 – 12

“But when Herod’s birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod. Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask. And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger.” – (Matthew 14:6-8)

In this story, we see King Herod hosting a big party at his palace. No doubt, all of the important and influential people of Judaea were there. The politicians were all present, along with the wealthy businessmen, famous actors, and superstar athletes. I bet the press was even there snapping pictures of all of these socialites who were dressed in their best robes.

As the evening went along, however, and the people began to loosen up from all of the wine and strong drink that was being consumed, Herodias’ daughter began dancing before the crowd.  By the way, Herodias was Herod’s brother’s wife, but Herod took her for himself.  Herod was so pleased with this young girl’s lewd dancing that he promised to reward her with anything she desired, up to half of his kingdom. The girl conspired with her mother, and asked for the head of John the Baptist.

Why would the girl and her mother want John the Baptist dead? Because John the Baptist was the only one that had enough guts to speak out against the adulterous relationship that Herodias had with King Herod.

The thought that I got this morning from this passage is this: Would the Christians of today be in the prison with John, or at the party with Herod? I fear that most of us are so enamored with this worldly crowd that we would be right there with them. Where are the John the Baptist’s today that boldly speak out against the wickedness that is rampant in the world today? We are so afraid to stand out – apart from the crowd. Shame on us.

“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,” – (2 Corinthians 6:17)


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Thankful for the Crumbs

Today’s Passage –Matthew 14 – 15 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 46 – 50Proverbs 10)

Scripture Memory for October – Matthew 5:1 – 16

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – Ephesians 4:32

Read “Characteristics of a Healthy Sunday School Class” by Pastor Chappell

Read another post from this passage – “Keeping Your Focus in the Storm”

“But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.” – (Matthew 15:26-28)

What a great truth from the Scripture this morning. While Jesus was walking with His disciples in the area of Tyre and Sidon, a Gentile woman persistently begged the Lord for help with her devil-possessed daughter. Jesus at first ignored the woman, and then told her and the disciples that he was sent only to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel”. The woman would not give up, but continued to seek the Lord’s help. He finally told her that it wasn’t meet (suitable, right) to take the children’s (meaning the Jews) meat and cast it to the dogs (meaning the Gentiles). The woman then made a remarkable statement. She basically told the Lord that she recognized that she was totally unworthy of His help, but she knew that it would be a very small thing for an all powerful God to slip a scrap of help under the table. Jesus commented on the woman’s great faith. There was another similar incident in the Bible, where another Gentile (the Centurion in Matthew 8 and Luke 7) recognized the power of the Lord. The Lord also remarked about his faith, saying that it was greater than any He had seen in Israel. It is very interesting that these strangers to the faith of Israel could see something that many of the Jews could not.

I would like to pull a couple of thoughts about this woman’s faith. First, I like the fact that she recognized her unworthiness. The Lord actually called her a dog. I do not think that the Lord was trying to hurt this woman. He knew exactly what He was doing, and He knew exactly what the woman would do. He was using this event to teach the disciples and us a very important lesson. This woman gets an A for Humility 101. She recognized her unworthiness. The fact of the matter is that the disciples were also totally unworthy and undeserving of all that the Lord had done for them; and we are also undeserving. It is amazing to me how pompous we are. We think that we somehow are entitled to all that we have. The truth is that we really deserve Hell and nothing more. It is only by the grace of God that we are blessed the way we are.

The other thought that I want to bring out is that because this humble woman recognized how small she was, she was able to see how big Jesus is. Until we deflate our egos, we will never fully understand the power and magnificence of God. This woman knew that she was asking the Lord to something miraculous, but she also understood that the miracle that she was asking for would be nothing for an omnipotent God to perform. How big is your God? What problem do you have that only God can fix? Why not make yourself small, and come to a big God and ask him to throw down a few crumbs from His table.


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What Is Your House Built Upon?

Today’s Passage –Matthew 7 – 9 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 31 – 35; Proverbs 7)

“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” – (Matthew 7:24-27)

I so enjoy reading these familiar passages from the New Testament. Frankly, there are so many great truths contained in these passages that I have a tough time deciding what to write about. I opted this morning to jot down some thoughts about the concluding verses in “The Sermon on the Mount”, where Jesus likens the wise man to a man that builds his house upon a rock. He goes on to explain that a foolish man will build his house upon the sand.

The simple principle being taught here by the Lord is that we need to build our lives and our families upon the solid principles found in the Word of God. God knows what is best for us. When we listen to Him, and yield our lives to His will and His Word, we will live fruitful, blessed, and abundant lives; enjoying the marvelous protection and provision that only He can give. There are so many other Scriptures in the Bible that support this truth, but I will just share one other passage with you:

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” – (Psalm 1:1-6)

Why is it that so many of God’s people don’t ever get a hold of this truth? I am not talking now about lost people: they don’t know any better. But, why is it that so many Christians choose to build their lives on the sinking sand produced by the philosophies of this world? Years ago, when my wife and I first started out in our Christian life, we determined that we were going to do the best that we could to build our home according to the principles found in the Word of God. Many of our friends thought that we were a little extreme with some of the things that we did, but I can honestly say that we have no regrets. As the song says, God has blessed our lives “beyond measure”. In fact my only regrets are that there were times that we could have followed the Lord a little more closely.

How about you? Are you building your house upon the rock of the Lord Jesus Christ? Are you daily tuning in to the broadcast from Heaven; or are you content to listen to all of the babble coming from the talking-heads of this sin cursed world? I choose God. He has never done me wrong yet; and I know that I can trust Him to keep my house standing until until I have finished all that He has for me to do here on the earth.


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True Love by Pastor Ted Stahl

Listen to Sunday Morning’s Message preached by Pastor Erickson, “Thankful for the Crumbs”

Listen to Tonight’s Message – Is It I?

Today’s Passages – Matthew 27 – 28; Proverbs 16

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 76 – 80; Memorize – Daniel 12:3)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture Song – Proverbs 27:15

Read this great article by Cary Schmidt, “15 Ways To Affirm Your Kids”.

Today’s Reading: Matthew 27-28

As the people cried out, “His blood be on us, and our children!”; the soldiers took Jesus to scourge Him. The pieces of bone, broken pottery, and metal attached to the nine strands of the whip dug deeply into his skin. And the blood flowed. True love. In the true spirit of hatred, the soldiers stripped Jesus and dressed Him in a scarlet robe: they did this to the Creator of the universe. With cruel mockeries they bowed down saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”  With every ounce of hate, our Lord was crowned with a crown of thorns that pierced His scalp. And the blood flowed. True love. Then came the crucifiction. Our Lord Jesus Christ was beaten so badly that Simon of Cyrene was ordered to carry the cross. Long spikes were driven through the hands and the feet of our Lord as He was nailed to the cross. They sat down at the cross to watch Him die. And the blood flowed. True love. The mockings continued as chief priests, scribes, and elders breathed out their hatred. And the blood flowed. True Love. And then He was dead. The Lord had given up the Ghost. The payment for sin had been paid because the blood flowed. True love.

Joseph of Arimathaea, and Nicodemus lovingly wrapped the body of Jesus and placed it in a cold, dark tomb. There lay the body for three days, and three nights.

“In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.  His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:  And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.  And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.  He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.  And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.  And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.  And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.”(Matthew 28:1 – 9)

True love.

To God, love has always been an action word. Him loving us caused Him to shed His blood paying the price for our sins. We love Him because He first loved us. When they saw the risen Lord, they held Him by His feet and worshipped Him. True love. 1Peter 1: 22 says:

“Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently…”

That’s true love. Having that love in us, calling ourselves Christians, how can we kick our brothers and sisters when they are down. How can we destroy families, and cause fellow believers to leave the churches. How can we discourage and not edify Is that true love? Even when we are to rebuke someone who wronged us, it’s to be done in love and only between you and that person. Proverbs is full of wisdom about the tongue:

The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom: but the froward tongue shall be cut out (Proverbs 10:31).

A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit (Proverbs 15:4).

Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof (Proverbs 18:21).

Remember the scourging. Remember the thorns. Remember the spitting, and pulling out the beard. Remember the cruel mocking. Remember true love. Jesus said:

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:34-35).

Peace (John 14:27).


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Yes, It’s Me.

Today’s Passages – Matthew 26; Proverbs 15

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 71 – 75; Memorize Acts 1:8)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture Song – Psalm 55:17

Read “Stewarding Life” by Dr. Paul Chappell.

Read last year’s post from this passage, “Just Me and God”.

“And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I? (Matthew 26:22)

“But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.” – (Matthew 26:56)

Bear with me for a moment while I tell you a little bit about my morning so far. My alarm clock went off as it does every morning at 5 AM. I am supposed to actually get up at that time in order to take my morning “walk with the Lord”. This morning I didn’t actually get out of bed until close to 6, and then I had to rush over to the church for our corporate Saturday morning prayer meeting. During the prayer meeting, I read an excerpt out of Leonard Ravenhill’s book, “Why Revival Tarries”. Ravenhill states in his book:

“The tragedy of this late hour is that we have too many dead men in the pulpits giving out too many dead sermons to too many dead people.”

“By our attitude to prayer we tell God that what was begun in the Spirit we can finish in the flesh…. Yet ministers who do not spend two hours a day in prayer are not worth a dime a dozen, degrees or no degrees.”

I was already feeling pretty bad about my lack of spiritual character and then I came home and read chapter 26 from Matthew’s gospel. If ever there was a passage of Scripture that demonstrates our utter helplessness without the Lord, it is this chapter. When I have morning’s like this, and read chapters like this, I am reminded that I am indeed “but dust”. The problem is that most of the time I actually convince myself that I am God’s gift to the ministry. I often like to look at other people and think about all of their flaws and weaknesses, but most of the time I can’t think of any of my own. Oh, how clever and deceitful our flesh is. In this chapter, we will see how some of the greatest Christians that ever lived failed in their flesh as well. By the way, I am not trying to find comfort from the fact that my weak flesh has some good company. We are not supposed to compare ourselves amongst ourselves anyway; but I do find comfort knowing that our Lord continues to love this bunch of spiritual losers (myself included), in spite of all of their failures.

Consider some points from this passage:

1  “But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?” – (Matthew 26:8)  When the disciples observed a woman who worshipped the Lord by pouring a very expensive ointment on Him, they were angry. Why should any of us be angry when someone else expresses their love and devotion to the Lord. Who are we to judge anyone else’s motives, even when we might not agree with their particular action.

2  “Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples. … But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled. … Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.” – (Matthew 26:35, 56, 74) Notice in these verses the pride of, not only Peter, but all of the disciples. They all boasted about their ability to stay true to the Lord. Unfortunately, we also see that when their faith is tested that it fails miserably.

3  “Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. … Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. … And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?” – (Matthew 26:36, 38, 40) Notice in these verses that the disciples could not even stay awake and pray with the Lord for one hour; and this was when the Lord could really have been blessed by their support.

4  “Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him.” – (Matthew 26:48-49) Here we see the ultimate act of the flesh – a complete betrayal of the Lord.

I want us now to go back and consider the question all of the disciples asked themselves in v 22, when the Lord stated that one of them would betray Him – “Is it I?” The disciples knew that they all were weak enough to betray the Lord, and they all thought that it was a real possibility that they might be the one. I want to ask the question to myself as well, and then answer it. Yes it’s me. Yes, I have gotten indignant and jealous because of what others have done to express their love and worship to the Lord. Yes, I have been proud and self-righteous, and confident in my own flesh as Peter was; and yes, I have certainly denied the Lord more than once by either an action or attitute, or a lack of action. And yes, I have slept when I should have been praying, studying, preparing, soulwinning, counselling, etc. And, Yes I know that my flesh is capable of even betraying the Lord. It’s me, it’s me, it’s me Oh Lord; and I am certainly standing in the need of prayer. “Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death.”

Lord, deliver me from this self-righteous, proud, boastful, and always failing flesh. Help me to completely put my trust in You, and help me to never try to steal any of your Glory. Strengthen me through Your Word and through a personal, quiet time of fellowship, prayer and worship.  And most of all help me to be faithful to you, and to never deny You or betray You again.

Thank the Lord that even though we are often unfaithful to Him, HE WILL NEVER LEAVE US OR FORESAKE US!


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Where Did They Go?

Today’s Passages – Matthew 24 & 25; Proverbs 14

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 66 – 70; Memorize – Acts 1:8)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – Psalm 121

Click here to view last year’s post – “Wasting Talents” from Matthew 25

“Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” – (Matthew 24:40-42)

For many years I have misunderstood the above verses. On the surface these verses seem to be speaking about the rapture of the church, which is an event yet in our future, when the Lord Jesus Christ will return and take His Bride (the Church) from this earth, and bring her back to Heaven with Him. Consider the following verses that refer to the rapture of the church:

“Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” – (Acts 1:11)

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” – (John 14:1-3)

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” – (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

“After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.” – (Revelation 4:1)

Note regarding the above verse in Revelation 4 – Revelation chapter 1 deals with the Apostle John’s vision of the Lord in Heaven chapters 2 & 3 are all about the Church Age. When you get to chapter 4, there is no longer a mention of the Church again. The Church (the Bride) has been brought up to Heaven (“come up hither”).

All of the above passages deal with the Rapture of the Church, but there is another wonderful picture of this event taken from the tradition of the Jewish Wedding. In Bible days when a marriage was arranged, the Groom first came to the Bride’s home and paid the price for the Bride. Then the Groom would return to his father’s home and prepare a home for himself and his new bride. When all of the preparations were finished, the Groom would return to pick up the Bride and take her to the new home. By the way, the Bride never knew when the Groom was going to come, so she had to be ready all the time. A celebration would take place for several days back at the Father’s house, and then the whole procession would return to the Bride’s parent’s home. All of this is a wonderful picture of Christ coming to earth (the Bride’s home), and paying for our sins. He is now back in Heaven preparing a place for us, and someday soon He will return for us and bring us to our new home in Heaven where we will celebrate for seven years (Marriage Supper of the Lamb). At the end of the seven years, we will return to the earth with the Lord.

There is a lot more that could be said about this event called the rapture, but I just wanted to briefly explain what it entails. However, the verses above from Matthew 24 do not deal with the rapture of the Church. The entire context of Matthew chapter 24 deals with the Tribulation Period. Now the Tribulation Period is what will take place on the earth after the church has been taken away via the Rapture. The purpose of the Tribulation Period is to awaken Israel from their spiritual slumber and have their eyes opened to the Truth about their Messiah.  Notice Matthew 24:15:

“When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)” – (Matthew 24:15)

This is obviously a reference to the Tribulation Period.

Now this brings us back to our original text verses at the top of the page (remember them – I know it was a long time since you looked at them). I said at the beginning of this post that for many years I was confused about these verses. On the surface they certainly seem to be talking about the rapture, meaning that the people that were taken away were raptured by the Lord to go to Heaven. However, the context simply does not support this interpretation. What then do these verses refer to, and where are these folks taken to? The answer to that question can be found in Luke 17, which is a parallel passage to Matthew 24. Notice what it says in vv 31 – 37:

“Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.” – (Luke 17:30-37)

The disciples ask the Lord where they will be taken. He tells them that they will go where the eagles (vultures) are gathered together. This is a reference to Armageddon:

“And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.” – (Revelation 19:17-18)

I just thought that I would try to clear up a common confusion regarding these verses. I must confess that I do not understand a lot about these future events, but I think that I have the proper interpretation of these verses.

This was more of a Bible study than a devotion this morning, but that’s OK – we love to study the Bible, don’t we?


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Inside Then Out

Last Night’s Bible Study from Matthew 22

Today’s Passages – Matthew 22 – 23; Proverbs 13

(Second Milers also read – Psalm 61 – 65; Memorize – Acts 1:8)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – Proverbs 3:5 & 6

“Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.” (Matthew 23:26)

Matthew chapter 23 contains a harsh rebuke by the Lord to the Pharisees. The Pharisees were the fundamentalist of their day. They had the right doctrines. In fact Jesus admonished the disciples to do what the Pharisees taught, but He was careful to warn them not to follow their example. They were hypocrites: they portrayed on the surface a godly lifestyle, yet on the inside they were anything but godly. They were a cold and judgmental bunch. They were quick to point out the flaws of others, but they never looked within themselves to see if their own lives were right. They had all kinds of inward problems themselves, yet they focused on pointing out the flaws of others.

Unfortunately, today we see far too often Christians who we thought had “all of their ducks in a row”, only to discover that they are hiding some dark sin in their lives. They looked good on the outside, but they were filthy on the inside. Don’t misunderstand, we all struggle with sin, but we must be careful that we come clean with the Lord through confession, and then do our best to forsake the things that displease Him. God forgives and cleanses from sin. More importantly though, we must not try to appear to others in a self-righteous way.  As fundamental Christians today, we must be very careful that while we take our stand for all of the right doctrines, and as we preach the truth about sin; that we make sure that we don’t portray ourselves as above sin. We are sinners just like everyone else. While we try to live our lives as righteously and separated as we can, we are still a people who struggle with sin ourselves. Most importantly, we must not think ourselves to be any better than those that are without. If it wasn’t for the grace of God we could certainly find ourselves involved in some of the vilest sins. We must have a genuine compassion for people who are struggling. We must never compromise the truth, but we should preach the truth with a tear in our eye.

Jesus was very hard on the religious crowd, the ones that didn’t think that they needed any help. However, you will find that though He never once compromised in either His living or His preaching, He always treated the lost sinner with compassion. He loved them to Himself. We must do the same thing. While we strive to live a holy, separated life let us also demonstrate love and compassion to the lost world around us. If they get upset with us for our position, so be it; but let them never be able to find fault with our disposition.


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The Ministry – Not What I Expected

Today’s Passages – Matthew 19 – 21; Proverbs 12

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 56 – 60; Memorize – Acts 1:8)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – 1 John 3:1

“But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” – (Matthew 20:26-28)

If you were to ask me 22 years ago, at the time of my salvation, what the ministry entailed, I would have told you that it involved preaching from the pulpit, and perhaps visiting some sick folks in the hospitals. Oh, and I guess that even back then I knew that the minister had to do a few weddings and funerals along the way. Boy, was I wrong. I wish somebody would have showed me passages like this in the Bible so I could have better understood what to expect. It seems that the sons of Zebedee also misunderstood what the ministry was all about. The ministry is all about being a servant. In fact, the word “minister” here in our text comes from the same Greek word that is also translated into the English word “deacon” in other passages. The word “servant” here literally means to be a slave. It is funny that we often picture the minister to be someone who is lifted up; someone who is praised, and even served by others; but we do not commonly view the minister as a servant. My eyes were certainly opened to what ministry was really all about; and it is all about serving people.

I remember when I was in Bible College, I worked a bus route picking up boys and girls for church from the city of Texarkana, Texas.  We had a young man on that route that was profoundly handicapped, and one time he had gotten sick at the church and made a mess all over (and inside of) his clothes. We had to clean him up, and then go to the “clothes closet” and get a whole new outfit for him, and help him get dressed. It was a very humbling experience. That situation taught me a very great lesson, perhaps greater than any lesson that I learned in the classroom. I learned that day that true minister of God will be willing to do whatever needs to be done in order to serve the people that God has given him. God used that experience, and others like it, to train me for the ministry that I serve in today. I have had to do every type of menial task imaginable since I have been a pastor, but these things have never bothered me. In fact, I have gotten to the place where I rather enjoy serving behind the scenes, doing things that others might not want to do.

There is an interesting account from the life of Missionary Hudson Taylor that illustrates this point very well. The following was taken from Paul Chappell’s book, Guided by Grace.

An account of missionary statesman Hudson Taylor, pioneer missionary to inland China, mentions two young missionaries newly arrived on the field. To their dismay, there was a backup of the sewer line on the mission compound where they lived, and the problem was becoming serious. The two younger missionaries stood over the pit, looking at the refuse and arguing with one another. The first man pointed to his credentials to excuse him from the dirty task, while the other tried to pull rank, citing that he was older. Their contention grew as they armed themselves with increased reasons why they should not descend into the pit of sewage to remedy the problem, which was becoming worse with each passing moment.

In their preoccupation with themselves and their rights, they didn’t notice when Hudson Taylor himself climbed into the pit of sewage and removed the matter that had created the problem. He then climbed out and went back to work. This account illustrates well that immature leaders will rationalize to excuse themselves from hard ministry, while mature leaders see the need and then take the lead.


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The Coin Is In The Fish’s Mouth

Today’s Passages – Matthew 16 – 18; Proverbs 11

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 51 – 55; Memorize – Acts 1:8)

“Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.” – (Matthew 17:27)

There are so many great truths in these passages that it is hard to decide what to write about, but I have chosen to share a few thoughts from Matthew 17:24 – 27. In this story, Jesus is returning to Capernaum with His disciples, and the tax collectors asked Peter if the Lord paid taxes. Peter immediately told the men that the Lord did pay taxes, but later the Lord pulled Peter aside and had a talk with him about it. He asked Peter if the children of kings were required to pay taxes. Of course, in these Bible days, the King’s family was certainly exempted from paying any kind of tribute money. Jesus is not only the “King of Kings”, but He is also the Son of God, and should surely also not be asked to pay any taxes. After all, all of the silver and gold belong to Him anyway. However, Jesus agreed to pay the tax so as not to “offend” the tax collectors. There is a lesson to be learned here in that it is better to yield sometimes, especially when it comes to disputes regarding money. People get into a lot of trouble fighting over money. Jesus wasn’t going to fight about it.

My main thought this morning, though, is about the source for the tax money. Jesus told Peter to go fishing, and that he would find a coin in the first fish’s mouth. Jesus miraculously provided the money His own and Peter’s taxes through a fish. Fishing in the Bible is symbolic of soul winning. Jesus told the disciples, “…Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” – (Matthew 4:19).  I believe Jesus is trying to teach us a great lesson here. If we want to be blessed of God financially, we must be about the Father’s business of fishing for men. The coins that we need are also in the fishes’ mouths; only the fish that we are after are the souls of men. Jesus wants to see people saved. He has given us the commission of winning souls and training soul winners. It is His business. He came “to seek and to save that which was lost”. He is still seeking lost souls through us, and He will gladly finance our efforts. I believe that God will financially prosper both the church and the individual Christian that is busy winning folks to Christ. Are you struggling financially? Why don’t you try going fishing.


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Thankful For The Crumbs

Today’s Passages – Matthew 14 – 15; Proverbs 10

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 46 – 50; Memorize – Acts 1:8)

This morning’s Scripture song – 1 Timothy 1:17

Message Preached Sunday Morning at Jersey Shore Baptist Church

Message Preached Sunday Night at Jersey Shore Baptist Church

“But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.” – (Matthew 15:26-28)

What a great truth from the Scripture this morning. While Jesus was walking with His disciples in the area of Tyre and Sidon, a Gentile woman persistently begged the Lord for help with her devil-possessed daughter. Jesus at first ignored the woman, and then told her and the disciples that he was sent only to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel”. The woman would not give up, but continued to seek the Lord’s help. He finally told her that it wasn’t meet (suitable, right) to take the children’s (meaning the Jews) meat and cast it to the dogs (meaning the Gentiles). The woman then made a remarkable statement. She basically told the Lord that she recognized that she was totally unworthy of His help, but she knew that it would be a very small thing for an all powerful God to slip a scrap of help under the table. Jesus commented on the woman’s great faith. There was another similar incident in the Bible, where another Gentile (the Centurion in Matthew 8 and Luke 7) recognized the power of the Lord. The Lord also remarked about his faith, saying that it was greater than any He had seen in Israel. It is very interesting that these strangers to the faith of Israel could see something that many of the Jews could not.

I would like to pull a couple of thoughts about this woman’s faith. First, I like the fact that she recognized her unworthiness. The Lord actually called her a dog. I do not think that the Lord was trying to hurt this woman. He knew exactly what He was doing, and He knew exactly what the woman would do. He was using this event to teach the disciples and us a very important lesson. This woman gets an A for Humility 101. She recognized her unworthiness. The fact of the matter is that the disciples were also totally unworthy and undeserving of all that the Lord had done for them; and we are also undeserving. It is amazing to me how pompous we are. We think that we somehow are entitled to all that we have. The truth is that we really deserve Hell and nothing more. It is only by the grace of God that we are blessed the way we are.

The other thought that I want to bring out is that because this humble woman recognized how small she was, she was able to see how big Jesus is. Until we deflate our egos, we will never fully understand the power and magnificence of God. This woman knew that she was asking the Lord to something miraculous, but she also understood that the miracle that she was asking for would be nothing for an omnipotent God to perform. How big is your God? What problem do you have that only God can fix? Why not make yourself small, and come to a big God and ask him to throw down a few crumbs from His table.


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Good Ground

Message Preached Sunday Morning at Jersey Shore Baptist Church

Message Preached Sunday Night at Jersey Shore Baptist Church

Today’s Passages – Matthew 12 – 13; Proverbs 9

(Second Milers also read – Psalm 41 – 45)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – Micah 6:8

Read “Small Seeds Bear A Big Harvest” by Dr. Paul Chappell

“But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.” – (Matthew 13:8)

I have always enjoyed studying these parables in Matthew 13. The Parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3 – 9; 18 – 23) in particular has helped me to understand many things about the nature of people. I have been a Christian now for a long time, and I have observed many people come and go through the years. It grieves me when people fizzle out spiritually; some even turning their backs completely on the Lord. This parable sheds a lot of light as to why that happens.

In this passage, Jesus uses soil to illustrate the four different kinds of life situations that the seed of the gospel comes in contact with. My goal in this short devotional thought is not to discuss in detail each of these different types of lives that is impacted by the gospel seed; but I would like to make some observations about the “good ground”. After all it is the good ground that produces the most fruit, isn’t it? So what are the characteristics of good ground?

1  Good ground is well watered and fertilized. It contains all of the nutrition that it needs in order to be healthy. I have never been a gardener, but I have heard many say that when they fortify the soil with plant food (like Miracle Gro), the plants will produce much more fruit, and the overall appearance of the plant will be that of health. Christians need to be nourished and watered daily by spending time with God in His Word. The spiritual nutrition that we receive from the Word of God will yield much fruit in our lives. We will starve to death spiritually without it.

2  Good ground does not contain a lot of rocks and debrit that will hinder the root system. Rocks will also hinder the retention of water. Jesus says that this illustrates the person who never allows the Word of God to take root in his life. Many Christians make professions of faith, but never get grounded in the Word through a a discipeship program in a good local church. As a result, they never develop a strong root system that will help them get established. They do well for a while, but they cannot survive any stress that may come their way.

3  Good ground is weeded regularly. Now, I do know a little something about weeds. This year, all of the flower beds at the church were overrun with weeds. It became a huge project to dig them all up. Weeds will steal all of the nutrition and water that the plant needs to survive. This scenario pictures the Christian who allows a lot of the world’s distractions to get into his life. He becomes too busy, and often too carnal to produce fruit anymore in his life.

As you can see from this passage, there is not a lot that we can do to change the fact that some people will continue to grow and produce fruit throughout their life; and some simply will fizzle out, or fall away completely. However, we can do something about the soil of our own hearts. We can make sure that we are maintaining the “good ground” by keeping well-watered and fertilized with the Word of God; by removing anything rocks or impediments that will hinder our root system; and by removing any weeds (distractions, weights) that may steal away the nutrition that is necessary for a healthy and fruitful life.


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What Is Your House Built Upon?

Today’s Passages – Matthew 7 – 9; Proverbs 7

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 31 – 35; Memorize Mark 16:15)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – Psalm 119:105

Read last year’s post on this passage – “What Do You See?”

“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” – (Matthew 7:24-27)

I so enjoy reading these familiar passages from the New Testament. Frankly, there are so many great truths contained in these passages that I have a tough time deciding what to write about. I opted this morning to jot down some thoughts about the concluding verses in “The Sermon on the Mount”, where Jesus likens the wise man to a man that builds his house upon a rock. He goes on to explain that a foolish man will build his house upon the sand.

The simple principle being taught here by the Lord is that we need to build our lives and our families upon the solid principles found in the Word of God. God knows what is best for us. When we listen to Him, and yield our lives to His will and His Word, we will live fruitful, blessed, and abundant lives; enjoying the marvelous protection and provision that only He can give. There are so many other Scriptures in the Bible that support this truth, but I will just share one other passage with you:

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” – (Psalm 1:1-6)

Why is it that so many of God’s people don’t ever get a hold of this truth? I am not talking now about lost people: they don’t know any better. But, why is it that so many Christians choose to build their lives on the sinking sand produced by the philosophies of this world? Years ago, when my wife and I first started out in our Christian life, we determined that we were going to do the best that we could to build our home according to the principles found in the Word of God. Many of our friends thought that we were a little extreme with some of the things that we did, but I can honestly say that we have no regrets. As the song says, God has blessed our lives “beyond measure”. In fact my only regrets are that there were times that we could have followed the Lord a little more closely.

How about you? Are you building your house upon the rock of the Lord Jesus Christ? Are you daily tuning in to the broadcast from Heaven; or are you content to listen to all of the babble coming from the talking-heads of this sin cursed world? I choose God. He has never done me wrong yet; and I know that I can trust Him to keep my house standing until until I have finished all that He has for me to do here on the earth.


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Chip Off The Old Block

Phil Jr. and Jaxon

Today’s Passages – Matthew 5 – 6; Proverbs 6

(Second Milers also read – Psalm 26 – 30; Memorize Mark 16:15)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – Psalm 121

Listen to last night’s Bible Study from Matthew 22 – “Don’t Take The King’s Invitation Lightly”

View last year’s post on this passage.

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” – (Matthew 5:44-45)

Yesterday, my wife and I were listening to my daughter Hannah singing very loudly in another room. She wasn’t just singing, she was making all kinds of strange noises; just acting silly. My wife made the comment, “she is exactly like you”. She is a chip off the old block, so to speak. In fact, I can see myself and my wife in all of my children. Unfortunately, however, I can see some of my bad attributes in my children as well.

In our passage today, Jesus is telling the disciples in this famous “Sermon on the Mount” to love their enemies; and even to go beyond just loving them in thought or word, but actually going the extra mile of praying for them and being a blessing to them. Jesus goes on to say that by doing so we will be the children of our Father which is in heaven. Now, He was not saying that we become the children of God by loving our enemies. The Scripture teaches very plainly that we become the children of God by receiving Christ as our Saviour. (see John 1:12) What Jesus was saying is that we will resemble our Heavenly Father when we love our enemies, just like an earthly child might resemble his earthly father in appearance or in actions.

Our job on earth is to represent the Father (and the Son) to this lost world around us. According to 2 Corinthians 5, we are His ambassadors. In the flesh, we may want to be bitter, and even hateful to those who do not love us; but by doing so, we are really just being a representative of this fallen human race. If we want to be a good representative of the Father, however, we had better take our love up another notch. Do you want people to see God in you? Then you had better start loving, not just your friends, but your enemies as well.

By the way, we are also supposed to love our brothers and sisters in Christ; and by doing so we also demonstrate that we are disciples of Christ:

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” – (John 13:34-35)


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It Is Written

Today’s Passages – Matthew 1 – 4; Proverbs 5

(Second Milers also read Psalm 21 – 25; Memorize Mark 16:15)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture Song – Psalm 34

“But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” – (Matthew 4:4)

“Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” – (Matthew 4:7)

“Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” – (Matthew 4:10)

In our reading passage today in chapter 4, we have the account of Jesus being tempted by the devil in the wilderness. The devil made three attempts here to get Jesus to yield to his will, but Jesus stood strong through all that the devil threw at him. Jesus proved that He is Who He claimed to be by resisting the devil. Theologians have argued through the years about whether this was a genuine temptation. In other words, they say that since Jesus is God He cannot be tempted. I guess that is true, but it didn’t stop Satan from making the attempt. I once heard an analogy that illustrates this point pretty well: it is possible for a rowboat to attack a naval fleet; the attack would be real, but the probability of success is not very great. Satan’s attempt to seduce Jesus was real, but because Jesus is the omnipotent God, Satan could not possibly win. Consider what God said through the writer to the Hebrews:

“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” – (Hebrews 4:15)

The thing that I find very interesting about this account is that Jesus quoted from the Word of God each time that He was tempted by the devil. Now I hasten to say that everything that came from the mouth of Jesus was the Word of God, because He is God. However, in our passage, Jesus quotes from something He previously said in the Old Testament: something that was already recorded in the Scripture. I believe the main reason that Jesus did this was because He was giving us the formula; the secret to resisting temptation, which is memorizing and quoting Scripture. Consider these verses:

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” – (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Notice the phrase, “a way to escape”. God’s way to escape is quoting Scripture. And you cannot quote Scripture unless you have it in your heart:

“Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” – (Psalm 119:11)

This is why it is absolutely critical for us to be in the Word of God all of the time. We need to saturate our minds with the Scripture through our daily reading, writing, studying, meditation, and memorization of the Bible. We are now even learning how to sing the Scripture (see Scripture Memory Songs), which also helps us to keep God’s Word in our heart and mind.

The sad truth, however, is that most believers do not know enough Scripture to resist the devil’s tempation. What a shame. There is no excuse for it. I believe that this is one of the greatest needs for the people of our church today. We need to strengthened and fortified by the Word of God so that when the flesh, the world, or the devil try to get us to yield, we can stay inside the perfect will of God.

One final thought. You will notice from this passage that Satan also said, “It is written”, but it is important to note that while Satan “quoted” the Scripture, he conveniently left out part of the O.T. verse. He is still using that same method today by re-writing the Word of God in all of these modern versions. He changes words, and leaves out words as it suits his purposes. Stick with the old King James!


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