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Daily Devotionals

March 31, 2018: Hopes and Dreams Abandoned?

Luke 24:21 (NIV)
21  but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.

 

The evidence was all in, he was gone.  He was not coming back.  They were now left alone.  All their hopes they had pinned on him were dashed on the rocks of reality, no one ever comes back from the dead.  It would be a long walk home but they had nowhere else to go so they turned toward Emmaus and walked with their heads down and hopes dashed.  There was no other place to turn now, the only one who had ever given them even the slightest bit of hope was now dead and buried and what is more, there was a Roman guard stationed at the tomb to add to their despair.  They were now seen as foolish unlearned and ignorant to have believed in such a wild idea that God could actually become man and die and then rise again from the dead.  The guards posted at the tomb only added to their embarrassment.

I wonder how many of us are like these disciples on the road ot Emmaus?  You have followed Him for a while but now when he does not do what he promised on your timetable you find your hopes abandoned and your dreams dashed.

When will God show up in your life again?  Was it all for nothing that you left everything and followed him?  I would like to answer these questions but there are times when answers are not what we need so I will leave you to consider why it was you followed Him in the first place some time ago. If you would like to have the answers to these and many more questions join us tomorrow in the SIU Student Center Ballroom D as we join with one other area church and two different campus ministries to see just how it is that God will reveal himself to us when we most need him.

Hope to see you tomorrow for a great time of worship and hearing from the one who knows how ot reveal himself to us when we most need him.

 

See you at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow

 

Pastor Phil

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Daily Devotionals

March 29, 2018: The Power of the Early Church

Acts 12:5 (NIV)
5  So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.

If you were looking on the outside of this situation you might have concluded that the church was in desperate times. The evidence would have all pointed to that being the truth.  There would be no detractors from that conclusion.

This would be true if it were not for a few who believed otherwise.  James had already lost his head at the hand of Herod and now Peter was next.

Take a good long look at how the early church responded to the evidence.  Did they throw up their hands and say, “Well it was good while it lasted?”

Did they all just go home and go about their ways they had known before they met Jesus?  What did they do when all the evidence pointed to their certain defeat?

Consider our text, “So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to for him.” The question I want to ask is, “Who was keeping Peter in prison?”

The answer is certainly not the Roman guards.  It did appear that way but it most certainly could not have been. How can I say this?  Who was it that let him out of prison?  None other than an angel of the Lord.  If it was an angel of the Lord who let him out then who was it that put him in there? Great question don’t you think?

God put Peter in prison to teach the early church something about his power.  Who was more powerful than Rome?  Who could do what he wanted with sixteen guards guarding one of his chosen vessels?

I see something very interesting here in this account.  When Peter is in prison awaiting his certain execution chained in a Roman jail surrounded by sixteen guards what do we see him doing?

Sleeping soundly.  How can this be?  How does one sleep soundly while you are waiting for your execution?  What did Peter know that the others may not have known?  Back in Acts chapter five, we read of another time when he was in prison when an angel appeared and released him from prison.

Did he have any assurance he would be rescued again?  Probably not, he had just witnessed James execution but he slept deeply anyway.

Meanwhile, the church was praying for him.  But note how they were praying for him, “earnestly.” God often moves in the hearts of his people to pray in accordance with his desire.  Did the church not pray for James while he was in prison?  You can sure they did pray.  Did they pray for his release?

Perhaps, but the answer came back to be a no.

Now they were faced with a similar circumstance but the outcome was vastly different, Peter was released.

In both cases, God was glorified.  In the death of James God was glorified by how James refused to compromise his message and gave his life as a witness to all those looking on.  This time God would be glorified by demonstrating through the prayers of the church that Rome was impotent before the prayers of a purified, trusting church.

When you look over the situations in our world do not let your heart become defeated or depressed, God will work out his own glory in each and every situation and he has determined to move his saints to accomplish his will through their prayers.

Let us look at the world and then fix our eyes on Jesus and plead for the glory of God to be seen in our day.

Join the gathered church today as we cry out for the glory of God to cover the earth as waters cover the sea.

 

 

Pastor Phil

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Daily Devotionals

March 28, 2018: The Time is At Hand.

Matthew 24:15-22 (NIV)
15  “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel–let the reader understand–
16  then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.
17  Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house.
18  Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak.
19  How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!
20  Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath.
21  For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now–and never to be equaled again.
22  If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.

 

If you are looking for a religion that will make your life better here and now I certainly do not suggest the Christian life.  Just a quick read through the Bible and one discovers that the people of God never really had a lot of great peace and quiet.  Most of those who followed the Lord throughout Biblical history and even modern Church history did not have things go very well for them.

Our Lord even tells us beforehand that the coming of the Son of Man will be accompanied by all sorts of signs and wonders, many of which will be used by the enemy to deceive the elect if that were possible.

Let us take a lesson from the animal kingdom as to how to prepare for hard times ahead.  One of the ways you can tell there is hard winter ahead is when the squirrels work overtime gathering as many nuts to bury and store up before the hard cold days of winter arrive.  So we must be like the squirrels, we too should be about gathering as much of God’s Word in our hearts and minds so that when hard times arrive we will have a continual feast.

Our Lord has done his job to warn us by saying, “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive . . .” Look around and you will notice there is a storm that is gatheirng, may we be found ready when it arrives.

 

Pastor Phil

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Daily Devotionals

March 27, 2018: Situation desperate, Church Asleep.

Acts 5:40-42 (NIV)
40  His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
41  The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.
42  Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.

 

Vance Havner, a popular preacher of the twentieth century, used to say, “The problem is the situation is desperate but we are not.”

Our cities are places where violence runs free, political and spiritual leaders are living in a sea of wickedness and our schools are places where violence seems to be the daily news.

Rare it is to be out in the marketplace and hear anyone speaking the name of Jesus in a way that brings him honor.  Every hour in our world 25 believers lose their lives for the sake of the gospel around the world.  They live in nations where it is against the law to proclaim Christ and they still speak up.  We will stand in line next to them one day and I can imagine the conversation we might have.

“You lived in the United States where you were free to talk about Christ out in the open.  You must have spoken to thousands upon thousands of people about Christ.”

I can only think of their response when most of those who claim the name of Christ will have to answer, “I am sorry but I was afraid of offending someone so I rarely if ever spoke up for Jesus.”

What will that day be like when we have to admit to those who gave up earthly possessions for the sake of Christ?

God forgive our silence, forgive our lack of concern for those without Christ.  Holy Spirit come and open our mouths that the name of Christ might be heard in our nation’s schools and halls of government and homes.

May many hear your name through our voices in the coming days,

 

 

Pastor Phil

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Daily Devotionals

March 26, 2018: What Can I Do?


Mark 14:8-9 (NIV)
8  She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.
9  I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

It was one week before her Lord would be crucified.  She had been listening at his feet for months and she heard him talk about his death.  The disciples never got it but she did.  While the disciples were arguing about who was going to be the greatest in the coming kingdom she sat at his feet and listened and took in every word.  As she sat at his feet the Holy Spirit gave her insight the others did not get.  She understood he was going to Jerusalem to die.

How could she minister to him in this extremely difficult season?  What could she do that would demonstrate her love for Him?  She had heard him talk about a new kingdom where he would be king.  What could she give to her King that might help others know who he really was?  It did not take her long to get the answer.  She had a pint of pure nard, the kind of ointment that was reserved for special guests.  This ointment was reserved for royalty or wealthy people.

Jesus was reclining at the table after dinner and she knew what she had to do.  She ran quickly to get the jar of precious ointment and she poured it out over his head and the ointment ran down over his beard and onto his robe and some of it made its way down to his feet.  It was not long until the fragrance of the perfume filled the entire house. She had done it.  She had broken her entire jar of nard and poured it out on him.

The others in the house were indignant.  This radical act of love convicted them. They had been arguing over who was going to be the greatest and she had busied herself so that her love for her king was the only thing that filled the room.  She did not care what position she would have in the kingdom she only cared that her love for her king was made known.  It was a costly act.  She had “wasted” a year’s wages on this one act of devotion.  The others began to criticize her for such waste.

When the words of criticism were heard by Jesus he put a stop to it. “Leave her alone!”  With these words, there was a silence in the house.  All eyes were turned toward Mary and Jesus.  “What she has done has been done to prepare my body for burial.”

Wait just a minute, Jesus, what is this talk about dying, no way that is going to happen.  No one else got it that evening, but Mary did.  and listen to what Jesus said about her, “Wherever the gospel of the kingdom is preached her story of this one act of devotion will be told as a memorial to her.”

Note the phrase, “She did what she could.” What is it that you can do today that will display your devotion to your king?  What do you have to give to King Jesus that will serve as a memorial of your love for Him?

Why not start this week of remembrance of what Jesus has done for you with some act of love that will serve as a reminder of his love for you?

Let it be said of us, “They did what they could”

May your love for Christ be on display for all to see this week

 

 

 

Pastor Phil

 

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Weekly Messages

Agonizing in Prayer

Agonizing in Prayer

Luke 22:39-46

 

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Daily Devotionals

March 23, 2018: The Only Place of Help

2 Chronicles 28:20-23 (NIV)
20  Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria came to him, but he gave him trouble instead of help.
21  Ahaz took some of the things from the temple of the LORD and from the royal palace and from the princes and presented them to the king of Assyria, but that did not help him.
22  In his time of trouble King Ahaz became even more unfaithful to the LORD.
23  He offered sacrifices to the gods of Damascus, who had defeated him; for he thought, “Since the gods of the kings of Aram have helped them, I will sacrifice to them so they will help me.” But they were his downfall and the downfall of all Israel.

 

Ahaz tried to find help outside of God and he soon discovered there is no help but in the Lord.  He turned to Assyria because Assyria was the most powerful nation at that time but we they brought only trouble. Ahaz attempted to buy protection from Assyria with the temple vessels but they did not help him.

Ahaz was what we could call a very slow learner, actually, we could say he never learned, so he was not a slow learner, he was a no learner.  When things went from bad to worse he could have repented and turned back to the Lord but he refused.  Instead, he went off looking for anything or anyone who could save him from his plight but he only ran into more trouble.

Not one to give up easily he saw that Assria and her king were unable to deliver so, he thought to himself, which is not a great idea, that possibly the gods of Damascus could help him, so he offered sacrifices to them as well but only found more confusion and hardship.  They eventually led to his complete downfall.

You might be tempted to criticize King Ahaz but take a look at your own life.  How often do you turn to other things besides the Lord? Let us not be like Ahaz, let us return to the Lord for he will abundantly pardon and restore.

Forgive me for being too much like Ahaz,

 

Pastor Phil

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Daily Devotionals

March 22, 2018: Danger! Danger! Danger!

2 Chronicles 26:21 (NIV)
21  King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in a separate house–leprous, and excluded from the temple of the LORD. Jotham his son had charge of the palace and governed the people of the land.

Seventy courageous priests followed Uzziah into the temple to warn him not ot burn incense because it was not his job.  he had a huge group of courageous leaders that were willing to risk his anger to warn him not to do what he was about to do.  Uzziah had been faithful to God for almost twenty years.  God had blessed him more than most kings in Judah, but it seemed that the blessing of God was now becoming more of a curse. Somehow Uzziah reached the conclusion that he accomplished what he had done in his own strength.

The folly of thinking that we have what we have by our own effort.  What do you have that you have not received from God?  Perhaps you think you have worked hard so you deserve what you have. Really?  Who was it that supplied you with food to eat and gave you health to be able to accomplish anything?  Who was it that has kept your heart beating up to this very moment? Who controlled the weather so you could have the food to eat that you have?  Who ordered the steps of those who deliver all the goods and services you enjoy?  Did you keep the truck drivers alert so they could deliver the goods and services you enjoy?  Who has prevented other nations from invading your nation so you enjoy some sense of peace and rest?

The Apostle James says it well in  James 1:16-17 “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

Everything you have is a gift from God, everything. Take a good look around and turn to the God, who had given all things richly to enjoy, and express your praise and gratitude to him.  Praise and gratitude expressed to God is the best way to root out the sin of pride.

Thank you, God, thank you, God, thank you, God,

 

 

Pastor Phil

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Daily Devotionals

March 21, 2018: The Downward Path to Destruction

2 Chronicles 26:16 (NIV)
16  But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the LORD his God, and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.

A great saint I have known for over three decades told me early in my walk with Christ that no one can handle fame or fortune.  His words to me were, “Don’t ever seek to make a name for yourself.  Do your best to make sure your name is not mentioned in the same sentence with Christ.  If you will see to it that Christ is made much of while you remain in the background you will fare well in this life.  If you start having your name on signs and ministries and people know you but know little of the Christ you preach be very very careful.”

Uzziah was king and it was not the job of the king to burn incense in the temple.  One day he decided that he could do this act of worship by himself, he would not need the priest as a go-between so he set out to do something that God had very specifically written out that kings could not do.  It was just a little thing, this burning of the incense, surely this would not be that bad.  After all, he was trying to express his worship to God.

This is precisely where Uzziah missed it.  It is not a little thing to disobey any known command of God.  God is holy and he is looking for those who will obey him even if the commands seem frivolous to us, it is not to God.  When we set aside any command as unimportant we set in motion the downward spiral that will lead to our demise in the end.  Pride is the root of sin. Right in the middle of the word the letter “I” is what causes most of our problems.

If we refuse to confess our pride and turn from it in trusting obedience to God, God will then slowly take his hand of protection and strength off our life and the downward spiral will only speed up our demise.

Is there any command you have neglected to obey?  Turn and confess your need for cleaning and forgiveness and lean again into his promises that he will give strength to the weary and increase the power of the weak. (Isaiah 40:30)

My only boast is in the Cross of my Lord, I am nothing without him.

 

 

Pastor Phil

 

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Daily Devotionals

March 20, 2018: A Dangerous Strength

2 Chronicles 26:15 (NIV)
His fame spread far and wide, for he was greatly helped until he became powerful.

King Uzziah was a great king who had lived in confident trust in God for the greater part of his reign but then something happened that ruined him for the rest of his life.  A little phrase that wrought great havoc in Uzziah’s life is in our text for today. “He was greatly helped until he became powerful.”

How often do we make the mistake of praying that we might be strong and able to handle all that comes against us.  There are many saints who experience great grief trying to be strong in their walk with God. Little do they realize that it is our weakness that God’s power is made perfect.  If you can stand on your own two feet you have not yet learned the art of leaning on the Lord.

The Apostle Peter made the great proclamation that even if everyone else would deny Christ he would not.  He even went so far as to say he would willingly die with him.  O how little as saints we grasp the mystery of our strength in Christ.  It is not in our own strength that we will stand, it is only as we lean on him that we will be able to wage war effectively.  May the phrase be said of us, “He was greatly helped because he remained weak and leaning on Christ all of his life.”

Boasting in my weakness that the power of Christ may rest upon me,

 

Pastor Phil