Better than the Promised Land

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

While Moses was on the mountain receiving instruction from the Lord, the people grew impatient. Their hearts turned to idolatry and they demanded that Aaron make images of gods for them to worship. God’s anger burned against Israel because of this rebellion, and as part of the punishment, he told the people, “Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people” (Exodus 33:3).

God would keep his promise, he would give them the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; but he was withdrawing his presence from them.

This grieved the people, but most of all it grieved Moses. So much so, that he went before God in prayer and plead on behalf of himself and Israel, saying, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here” (33:15).

The Promised Land was a great gift of God, but Moses knew there was something better, and without it he didn’t want a land flowing with milk and honey. Moses knew the best thing they could have was God himself.

For followers of Jesus, this is what makes eternity so wonderful. God hasn’t simply offered a Promised Land full of good things; rather, he promises his very presence.

In Revelation 21, John sees the vision of the heavenly Jerusalem coming down to rest on the new earth. As he marvels at the sight, a voice echoes from God’s throne: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (21:3-4).

Moses knew that the presence of God made Israel unique. John saw in eternity that God’s presence is the defining aspect of being God’s people. The land itself will be nice, but it’s God’s presence that produces the fullness of joy. This is why King David’s heart sang, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

landscape nature night relaxation
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
https://www.pexels.com/photo/landscape-nature-night-relaxation-36478/

All scripture quotations taken from the English Standard Version.

Even Prophets Have Doubts

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

I once had a young man say to me that he told a person at Bible camp that he sometimes felt doubt. The person responded to him, “Christians aren’t supposed to doubt.”

But the reality is, even if we are walking faithfully, following Jesus, and guided by the Holy Spirit and God’s word, we are still living in an imperfect world. We are on a journey with the finish line being the start of our eternity with Christ. It is then, Paul wrote, we will know fully just as we are fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12). For now, though, we are still works in progress, those who will arrive but have not yet done so.

That means that even for the most faithful follower of Jesus, doubt still sometimes happens.

Think of the life of John the Baptist. Luke’s gospel tells us that from the womb he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then, shortly before Jesus arrived on the scene, he preached the gospel in the wilderness as crowds came to him to be baptized. He even baptized Jesus and in that moment witnessed the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus and the Father’s voice boom from heaven, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.”

John was a prophet, messianic forerunner, and great man of faith. Jesus even praised John, saying, “I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John” (Luke 7:28).

Yet, in Matthew 11 we read:

Now when John heard in prison what the Christ was doing, he sent a message through his disciples and asked him, “Are you the one who is to come or should we expect someone else?” (11:2-3)

With everything John had experienced, you would think if anyone wouldn’t doubt it would be him. Yet, confined to prison and unsure about his own future, John had a moment of doubt. Jesus replied back with a gentle correction, because that is the grace that he gives in the face of doubt.

So, when doubt arises, we should not think that our faith is poor or that we’re failing Jesus. Even the most devout Christians experience times of doubt. Instead, let us through prayer cast our doubts upon the God who cares for us. Let us through God’s word hear the voice and feel the presence of our loving Father. Let us through other followers of Jesus bear one another’s burdens and help each other carry those moments of doubt. Let us experience the wonder of God’s grace.

All scripture quotes are taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

Sunday 2.3.19

Join us this Sunday as Jeremy Bridges shares from God’s word, filling in for pastor Mike. We hope to see you there! There will be no evening Bible study on the 3rd.

Schedule
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
**Evening Study Cancelled This Week

Songs for Worship
Better Is One Day
Speak, O Lord
A Selection of Favorite Hymns

Who’s Your One? (2019 Evangelism Challenge)

Jesus found Philip and said to him, “Follow me…” Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth.” – John 1:43, 45 (ESV)

JD Greear, current president of the Southern Baptist Convention, has issued an evangelism challenge in which he asks, “Who’s your one?” Greear explains:

Greear

(Image source: http://www.sbclife.net/article/2587/whos-your-one)

The “next year” he mentions is 2019, as he issued this challenge at the end of 2018. We’re a month into this new year, but we still have plenty of time to pray, share the gospel, and see the impact the gospel can have on the life of even one person.

While some will go and proclaim the gospel to hundreds if not thousands at the same time, all of us can be like Philip in John’s gospel—we have met Jesus, and we know someone else who needs Jesus, so we go and share with that one.

I want to challenge you to pray these things over the next month and then see where God leads:

Lord, place one person in my life who needs to know Jesus. Give me open eyes to see the opportunities to share as they arise, and give me boldness to tell them about Jesus and invite them to church.

God’s will is that people come to faith in Jesus. Prayers like this are prayers that he delights in answering. So, who will be your one?

Practical Forgiveness

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result–the survival of many people. Therefore, Don’t be afraid. I will take care of you and your children.” – Genesis 50:19-21 (Christian Standard Bible)

People use the phrase, “Forgive and forget.” It’s a phrase, though, that we can’t uphold. We might find ourselves being willing to forgive someone who has wronged us or hurt us, but we have a hard time “forgetting.” We can’t even control when a memory decides to pop into our thoughts.

In the life of Joseph, we see a more practical example of forgiveness. Growing up with ten older brothers, he irritated them and made them angry. Some of the brothers had the extreme reaction of wanting to kill Joseph. In the end, though, they sold him to traveling traders who took him to Egypt and sold him as a servant there.

As if this were not enough, Joseph faced false accusation and ended up in prison for several years. When finally released, however, he proved useful to Pharaoh by interpreting a dream and showing wisdom. The result?–though Joseph came to Egypt as a lowly servant, he rose into high ranks of political success.

Then, the day came, where he encountered his brothers again. From the time he first recognized them, he treated them with kindness, and he eventually moved his father, his brothers, and their families to Egypt with him. After their father died, his brothers grew afraid, thinking that Joseph might rise up to harm or kill them and their families in retribution for what they had done to him.

Joseph’s response to his brothers’ concerns shows a heart that had been walking in forgiveness. He still may have hurt because of what they had done to him all those years ago, but bitterness did not rule the day. The way that Joseph came to forgive is a good example for us.

First, he placed ultimate judgment into the hands of God. He assured his brothers that he was not in God’s place. This was his way of saying, “I’ll let God sort out anything that remains between you and me in the end.” Paul said something similar in Romans 12 when he told us to treat even our enemies with kindness and leave vengeance to God. God is the great Judge. Every wrong that we have done and every wrong that others have done, including against us, will either be covered by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross where he bore God’s wrath for us, or it will be penalized by God’s wrath in eternity to come. When we keep this truth in mind, we can offer others forgiveness and not seek our own retribution.

Second, he chose to focus on the good, not the bad. Joseph recognized they had done evil to him, yet he saw God having a greater purpose in the situation to bring about good. Again, in Romans, Paul wrote that God works all things for the good of those who love him (8:28). If another person chooses to harm us and do evil against us, God, by his sovereign grace, can bring good from the situation instead. In Acts 2, Peter spoke about this reality on ultimate display in Jesus’ cross. Jesus suffered and died because of the false accusations and the evil of sinful men. Yet, it was also part of God’s plan to bring salvation to the world. It might take days, weeks, and sometimes even years to see the good; but look for it, resting assured that God is bringing good.

Third, he chose to repay their evil with kindness. Having risen to a position of power, Joseph easily could have imprisoned or executed his brothers. He chose something better; he chose to love them and show them kindness. If we are truly walking in forgiveness, this is the choice we will make. Again, we see this attitude in Christ who extends his grace and love to us, even though our sin is responsible for his cross.

Following these examples, we can practice true forgiveness. It’s not always easy, but it is the best route. It is part of how we overcome evil in the world by doing good.

The Psalm of Life

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live. – Psalm 23:6 (Christian Standard Bible)

Psalm 23 often is read at funerals. Some versions even talk about the “valley of the shadow of death” in verse 4. This psalm, however, is not about death. It is a psalm of life. We see this in verse 6 where David spoke of God’s goodness following him all the days of his life.

The psalm is about God lovingly guiding his people through the ups and downs, twist and turns of life in a sin-corrupted world. Life has it moments where we enjoy green pastures and still waters (23:2) and it has it moments where we feel the gloom of the darkest valleys (23:4). In both cases, and everything in between, God is there.

He leads us beside the quiet waters and down paths of righteousness. And in the valleys of darkness, he shows his presence and provides comfort. And he does this all because he is the shepherd.

In John 10, Jesus spoke of himself being the good shepherd. As the Good Shepherd, Jesus feeds, protects, and guides. Jesus walks with us, and indeed through the Holy Spirit walks in us, all the days of our lives. He guides us through the calm and the storm, and he never leaves our side.

Then, in the end, he will lead us home into his joy-filled forever-Kingdom.

Sunday 01.27.19 (practicing repentance)

This Sunday we’ll continue our journey through the gospel of Luke and take a look at John’s ministry and message in 3:1-20. From it we’ll learn what it means to live a life where we practice true repentance. We hope to see you there!

Schedule
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@6pm Judges video study in youth room

Sermon Notes
Practicing Repentance ~ Luke 3:1-20

The sermon in one sentence: The gospel calls us to repent, to commit to a change of life as followers of Jesus.

  • The background of John, the son of Zechariah (3:1-6)
  • The gospel’s call to repent and practice repentance (3:7-20)
    • John preached the gospel or “good news” to the crowds as he pointed to Jesus (3:15-18)
    • The gospel warns us that certain things will not save us from our sin and God’s wrath (3:7-9)
    • The gospel calls us to the one thing that will save us from our sin and God’s wrath: Faith in Jesus and repentance of sin (3:10-20)
    • We repent when we first turn to Jesus in faith, and we continue to repent as we follow Jesus each day (3:10-14)

Songs for Worship
Change My Heart, O God
In Christ Alone
Have Faith in God
I Surrender All
Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus