We trust you had a good Sunday, and are spiritually equipped and ready to face a new week in the world. Yesterday at Dogwood was preparation for me, with some good music, a special song from Eliza, a great communion mediation from Steve, and another powerful message from Anthony out of Acts 21. As our pastor has said before, when preaching a series of messages from a book of the Bible, and difficult subjects come up, they cannot be avoided, as was the case yesterday with facing persecution. Paul went through much as he served the Lord, and was able to endure it, I believe, because he lived so close to Jesus, and had crucified the world to himself, and crucified himself to the world.
"Nothing between, like pride or station;
Self or friend shall not intervene;
Tho' it may cost me much tribulation,
I am resolved, there's nothing between.
Nothing between, e'en many hard trials,
Tho' the whole world against me convene;
Watching with prayer and much self-denial,
I'll triumph at last, with nothing between."
May the Lord Jesus bless you and yours today, and throughout the day, please remember that you are loved!!!
"Keep not back." Isaiah 43:6
Although this message was sent to the south, and referred to the seed of Israel, it may has some spiritual application for us today. We are naturally backward to good things, and need to learn through grace to go forward in the ways of God.
This thought is first to the unconverted: Do you desire to trust in the Lord Jesus? Then keep not back. Love invites you, the promises secure you success, the precious blood prepares the way. Let no sins or fears hinder you, but come to Jesus just as you are. Do you long to pray? Would you pour out your heart before the Lord? Keep not back. The mercy-seat is prepared for that one that needs mercy; a sinner's cries will prevail with God. You are invited, no, you are commanded to pray, come then with boldness to the throne of grace.
Second, to the Christian: If your are saved, then keep not back from union with the Lord's people. Neglect not the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper. You may have a shy personality, but you must strive against it, or else it will lead you into disobedience. There is a good promise made to those who confess Christ--by no means miss it, or else you will come under the condemnation of those who deny Him.
Thirdly, in your Christian service: If you have talents keep not back from using them. Hoard not your wealth, waste not your time; let not your abilities rust or your influence be unused.
Finally, consecrate all, surrender yourself completely: Jesus kept not back, imitate Him by being foremost in self-denials and self-sacrifices. Keep not back from close communion with God, from boldly claiming covenant blessings, from advancing in the divine life, from prying into the precious mysteries of the love of Christ. Never be guilty of keeping others back by your coldness, harshness, or suspicions. For Jesus' sake go forward yourself, and encourage others to do the same. Hell and the great bands of superstition and infidelity are forward to the fight. Christian soldiers of the cross keep not back.
"I beseech you herefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your resonable service." Romans 12:1
God bless each one today, and please never forget that you are loved!!!
Another dictator has fallen, but is that area of our world any closer to peace or farther from it? The soul that is resting in God's presence can have an internal peace and rest in spite of the external troubles and disturbances.
When John Paton was translating the Bible for a South Pacific island tribe, he discovered that they had no word for trust or faith. One day a native who had been running hard came into the missionary's house, flopped down in a large chair and said, "It's good to rest my whole weight on this chair." "That's it!" exclaimed Paton. "I'll translate faith as resting one's whole weight on God."
"And the peace of God, which transcends all our powers of thought, will be a garrison to guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus" Phil. 4:7
There is what is called the "cushion of the sea." Down beneath the surface that is agitated by storms, and driven about with winds, there is a part of the sea that is never stirred. When we dredge the bottom and bring up the remains of animal and vegetation we find that they give evidence of not having been disturbed in the least, for hundreds of years. The peace of God is that eternal calm which, like the cushion of the sea, lies far too deep down to be reached by any external trouble and disturbance; and he who enters into the presence of God, becomes partaker of that undisturbed and undisturbable calm.--Dr. A. T. Pierson
"Yes I've noticed all the bad news in the paper
And it seems like things get bleaker everyday
But for this child of God it makes no difference
Because it's bound to get better either way"
May the Good Lord bless and keep you today as you rest all of your weight on Him, and never forget that you are loved!!!
"The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.' Luke 19:10.
Just a week or two ago a man became lost while hiking in the Washington County hills behind Elk Creek Lake. This area has thousands of acres of State Forest land. Have you ever been lost? While squirrel hunting when I was younger, looking for hickory trees, hickory trees with cuttings on the ground, trying to find squirrels, I became lost. I guess I forgot it was more important for me to be able to find my way out of the woods, than it was to find a squirrel.
But Jesus is talking about a different lostness. In what way are they lost? They are lost to life's best purpose; lost to life's highest joys; to be doomed to eternal torment "hell" and separation from God, His holy angels and all the bliss of Heaven, cut off for all eternity. What loss! What grievous loss! Yesterday we talked about the Christian's personal peace, but how is this possible when we know there is a real hell waiting for some lost love one, the one that rejects His free gift. Our inner peace should be a witness to our loved ones, as we share Jesus' love, mercy and grace with them. He was broken hearted for the lost, mentioning the word "hell" at least 16 times, and all the time displayed perfect peace.
Many today shun the preaching and teaching of "hell". I have a friend who picks and chooses of what he wants to believe in the Bible, and he and his wife refuse to believe in hell. He likes to base his belief on what Jesus said, what's in red letters, and we know that Bible students tell us that Jesus talked more about hell than anyone else, and more about hell than He did any other single subject. Though one chooses not to believe in "hell" it is still there and always will be. The teaching on "hell" cannot be shunned, but "hell" itself can be shunned.
'But the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.' Rom 5:21b.
We that have been found (saved) must share this. His consuming passion was this mission: to give His life on the cross, a ransom for sin; to reconcile men to God (1Tim 2:5-6; Col. 1-19-20) With this reconciliation comes a real purpose, real belonging, real joy, and meaning to life. So much is waiting for the sinner who will repent. With our new Sunday school class we hope to become more effective for the Lord in ways to help the lost get into the wonderful family of God. Let this little poem direct our efforts today, over the week-end and the weeks ahead.
'Lead me to some soul today.
Teach me, Lord, just what to say.
Friends of mine are lost in sin,
And cannot find the way.
Few there are who seem to care,
Few there are who pray.
Melt my heart and fill my life-
Give me one soul today."
Be sure to join us in this new class at Dogwood Sunday morning at 9:30, and invite someone to come with you. Have a great week-end, and always remember that you are loved!!!
Three weeks ago, an Iranian court was prepared to execute Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani for his faith, and almost no one would have known about this brutal atrocity. Today, three weeks after his execution could have been carried out, Pastor Youcef is still alive, and his case has been sent to Iran’s Supreme Leader. Since the Christian world's prayers have gone up to the Lord, and because of the public exposure of this case to the world, Pastor Youcef's life has been spared to this point. Continue to prayer for his life, and for his peace in the Lord through this atrocity.
Many things in our world have changed over the past few decades, but many things have remained the same. During the German occupation of Norway in World War II, Bishop Berggrav experienced the truth of the peace found in our verse for today. He was at his home with a friend when he heard a knock at his door. He opened it to find a German officer and a guard. They informed him that he was under arrest. He quietly put on his overcoat and followed the soldiers to their waiting car. Just before it sped away to a future unknown to him, his friend called out to him, "Remember 1 Peter 3:13!" Recalling that experience, the bishop said he immediately reached into his pocket, pulled out a small Bible, and read the passage. Bishop Berggrav later testified that in that moment, the reality of Christ's presence and peace came alive in him through this one verse.
When we ponder these two situations, and also realize that there are many in Pastor Youcef's position right now with families secretly being put to death; our financial situation, or a relationship with someone at work, seem small. But to us they are not small, and maybe you are facing a greater tragety right now that has shattered your peace. Consider these two stories, and look to Jesus who is the only one that can bring the peace we need in these times.
"Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good." 1 Peter 3:12
Have a wonderful Thursday, let the Lord bless you today, and never forget that you are loved!!!
At Dogwood we are starting a new video study series in our adult Sunday school class from "The Way Of The Master". It is designed to equip us with what we need to come out of our comfort zone and reach souls for Christ; to seek and save the lost. It's not threading in any way, not hurtful, but it just nudges us along, which is what I really need to do what we all want to do, and that is to help our loved ones find salvation, and escape the torment of an eternal hell. It is so easy for us to become complacent in the comfortable world we live in.
There is a tiny harbor town on the ocean shore where a lot of ships have crashed on the rocks in heavy storms. This town became well known because of the dedicated rescue team which aided mariners in distress. The rescue team would rally to the sound of the siren and rush to the scene of the accident, risking life and limb to save the sailors from drowning. As time went on, the citizens of that tiny town raised enough money to build a rescue station close to the shore. While this was a great benefit to the operation, it softened the dedicated team as well. As time went by, they added some of the comforts and conveniences that other rescue stations had. Through the years the rescue station became a social club, where the town's people gathered to have fun and relax. Ships would still crash upon the rocks; the alarm would still sound; but eventually no one responded. They were reluctant to leave their comforts, because their commitment to rescue the miserable mariners was no match for their complacency.
"O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away."
I for one, am so grateful to the Lord, that I am surrounded at Dogwood by people who are broken hearted over the lost sinners on their way to hell. Let's all make sure that our commitment will last. A commitment to never becoming so complacent that we fail to even show up at the rescue station, "that's church Sunday morning," to be trained and equipped for the task, which comes from not just the Sunday school, but the powerful preaching of the gospel each week. We, as Christians, never want to become so soft and comfortable, that we fail to see those around us that are morally shipwrecked, and then fail to rush to them with help.
Begin to pray, purpose in your heart, and make plans now to attended this new Sunday school study, and it will also give your kids a chance to be in a good Sunday school class. May the Good Lord bless and keep you and yours today, and always remember that you are loved!!!
We are so thankful for our church, and we had another wonderful Sunday. It seemed to me that so many people were in a good mood yesterday morning as soon as we got there. Kids were laughing, and the older ones were smiling. This was before we heard that great message about "Live Simply, Laugh Often, Love Deeply. You hear me talk a lot about our church, and I know there are many other people who have a wonderful church as well. Our church is nothing special, just a store front building, which is very adequate, but of course the people are what makes up any church. And we are surely thankful for those good people at Dogwood. Like Paul, I want to make it clear to who I am thankful.
"Giving thanks unto the Father, who hath made us meet [fit] to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son" (Col. 1:12,13).
"Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift!" (II Cor. 9:15).
"Thanks be unto God, who giveth us the victory!" (I Car. 15:57).
"Thanks be unto God, who always causeth us to triumph!" (II Cor. 2:14).
It is our prayer that all that read all who read this may be especially thankful for "the gift of God [which] is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord" (Rom. 6:23).
The Lord Jesus' blessings on you today, and always remember that you are loved!!!
Anthony and I were scouting for deer one fall day, looking for an area to place a deer stand, when I took one of the hardest falls I can remember. Many old fence lines in the area have fallen and now lay flat on the ground, under the cover of leaves. Just as I started down a steep bank I caught my toe under one of those sneaky fence lines. What a fall! I should have been more careful, but in our thought for today, Proverbs and Ephesians are talking of a different caution.
"Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established" Proverbs 4:26
If you are a Christian today, I'm sure you are concerned about making the right impression on the unbelievers around you. However, if we are a Christian parents, we must be asking the Lord to help us live very cautiously before our kids.
Because of the subtle works of darkness and the importance of being a witness for the Lord in this world, and especially to our kids, Paul said, "See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise" Ephesians 5:15. The word translated "see" means "to look, to consider, to take heed." It was as if Paul were waving a sign before them that said, "Stop, look and listen." Paul wanted believers to make a thorough check of the way they were living to be sure they were walking as they should be.
Paul wanted them to make sure they were walking "circumspectly," which means "looking around" or "being cautious." The Greek word Paul used means "accurately" or "exactly."
This way of life should never bring us stress or frustration, if we are abiding in Christ. It can be very natural for us, when He is leading our ways.
What a wonderful gift from the Lord our friendships and our fellowships are. Dogwood enjoyed a great day yesterday, starting with the Sunday school hour, and followed by the worship service. Then several hours in the afternoon and evening were spend with a great many friends at our annual October-fest, at Lonnie and Sally's. For our thought for today, let's look at relationships.
In our relationships here on this earth we run into all kinds of situations. Have you met people that surprised you with such comments as: "From the first time I met you, I really liked you and knew that we would be good friends." It seems that this happened without a cause. In the same way I'm afraid there are people in our lives that would say: "From the first time I met you, there was just something about you that made me take a disliking to you. I just did not want you to be part of my life." And again that seems to have happen without a cause. The truth is that the cause was not within you in either situation, but within the person who liked or disliked you. We have a High Priest in Jesus Christ that has faced everything in this life, that we face.
God tells us in His Word that believers are "justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:24). The word "freely," here, does not mean "without cost," but "without cause." The same original word is also translated in John 15:25, where we find the words of Christ: "They hated Me without a cause."
Therefore, we see that sinners hated Christ "without a cause," yet God justifies sinners "without a cause." How can this be? Let's see:
What had Christ done to earn the enmity of men? Nothing whatever. He had been kind and good, had helped those in distress, had healed their sick, had made the dumb to speak, the deaf to hear, the blind to see, and the lame to leap for joy. Why, then, did they hate Him: The Bible says they hated Him "without a cause, i.e., without any cause in Him. The cause of their hatred lay in their own evil hearts.
But on the other hand, what have sinners done to merit justification before God? Again the answer is: Nothing whatever. They have broken His commandments every day, lying, stealing, and committing hundreds of other sins. Yet in love God gave His Son to die for them on Calvary "that He might be just and [at the same time] the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus" (Rom. 3:26). He loves and justifies believers "without a cause", i.e., without any cause in them. The cause is to be found in His own compassionate heart, for "GOD IS LOVE."
Thus those who trust in Christ, who died for our sins, are justified without a cause, by God's grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
"God commendeth His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8).
"By this man is preached...the forgiveness of sins, and by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which He could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:38,39).
May the good Lord bless you today, and always remember that you are loved!!!
The next great event on the program of this world is the return of our Lord. He who came once is to come again. The first reason why He must be expected is because of His own words: "I will come again" (John 14:3). The second reason is that it is the declaration of angels: "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). Third, it was the glorious theme of apostles and prophets: "The Lord Himself shall descend" (1 Thes. 4:16); "Looking for that blessed hope" (Titus 2:13); "Behold, He cometh with clouds" (Rev. 1:7).
Bev can become very frustrated with me when I seem to not be listening. But honestly, if my mind is on a number of other things, I don't even hear her. Sometimes she will wake me up to tell me something, or she thinks she woke me up just because I answered: "What". But honestly I was still asleep and did not hear a word she said. It's very easy for us to drift into complacency concerning the return of Jesus, which can lead one to drift into sin.
Are we failing to listen to the scriptures above from Jesus himself, the angels, and the apostles, and not watch for Him, because of earthly concerns or just the very comfortable lifestyle we have. Billy Graham said: "I want to live as if Jesus died yesterday, rose from the grave this morning and is coming back today." When is the last time you looked out your window to the skies in the east and asked: "Jesus, is this the day you're coming back."
Satan doesn't want you to be expecting Jesus to return any moment, and he uses different means to accomplish this, such as, ignoring the scriptures about, or misunderstanding the scriptures. But it is very simple, if you have a New Testament that shows Jesus words in red letters, you can see how Jesus spoke to the seven churches in Revelation 1, 2, and 3, and then at the beginning of Chapter 4, He is silent throughout the next seven years, the "Tribulation Period". What a horrible time that will be on earth without a word from the Precious Savior; but what a glorious time that will be in heaven as the Church is gathered around the throne of God the Father, and the throne of the Lamb, the Son of God.
The bottom line is, we must be waiting, watching and ready for His return for us at any moment, and to also help as many others as we can to be ready. Next week will be the beginning of a new video study series in Sunday school to help us do that very thing; an eight week training course to better equip us to bring our lost family members and friends to Jesus.
Praise the Lord, for He is still speaking today as is evidenced by what Jesus says to His Church at the close of Revelation 3: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches."
May the Lord bless you today as you share your faith and your love for Jesus with the lost. Invite that lost person to church this week-end, and always remember that you are loved!!!
Henry D. is from Southern Indiana and writes these wonderful daily devotionals to encourage those at the Dogwood Community Church located in Paoli, Indiana. Henry has graciously agreed to share these wonderful devotionals here at Without Excuse Ministries to encourage you our valued guest!