Today’s gospel passage makes it seem so simple! Ask God for what you want and you’ll get it; look for what you want and you’ll find it; just knock and doors will be opened to you. However, Jesus reminds us that God is a good father and will not give us what is wrong for us! When you were young, did you ever ask your parents for something that was just not right for you? Perhaps your children have done the same to you. You don’t give a baby a steak, nor do you give a toddler a 10 speed bicycle. You wouldn’t let your children look for milk in the cabinet where you keep your cleaning supplies. But sometimes we are looking for what we think we need in all the wrong places. Yes, Jesus tells us to keep asking for what we need and we will receive it, but he also expects that we will be asking for the right things. We are bombarded with ads that tell us what we need to do or own in order to be happy, but are those things truly what we need? Jesus tells us that we need hearts that are open to others, that we must be people of peace and forgiveness, and when we ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit, we will surely receive. When we pray, do we ask God to give us those things which He knows we need in order to be happy, or do we ask for what the media says we need? If we leave the decisions up to God, then we will always receive what we ask for; we will find what we are looking for; and doors will open at our knock.
Through Jesus Christ, we can have boldness in our speech as we speak about Him, and boldness as we live knowing that death is gain. Through Jesus, we also get access to the Father, whom we wouldn’t have access to without Jesus. Beyond that, we can come to the Father confidently in the name of Jesus because Jesus covers us. He puts on us His perfection and victory over sin. Through Jesus, by faith, we get great rewards.
Father in Heaven, I am so glad that I can come before You confidently. Thank you for sending Jesus so that through Him I would be able to approach You. You have given me great things, so let me live boldly. I have no one to fear but You, Lord. You are the only one who needs to be pleased with me. Make me confident as I live out my days for You – not for men. You are good. You are beautiful. I truly serve the God of all things who created all things. There is no evil in You. I come to You, Father, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
There is more to life than the food we eat, the money we make, and the clothes we wear. These are not things that should worry our minds. Set Your mind to the things of God which are always concerned about Your growth as a Christian and making sure that the lost in the world are brought to the light.
Today’s reading speaks of the hope and consolation we have in Jesus’ victory over death and the promise of eternal life. It’s hard for us to imagine eternity. We live in time. We complain that we haven’t enough time or that we have too much time on our hands! What would eternity look like? What is “being” without a body to be in? What we do know, is that we will be enveloped in the unconditional love of God. Most of us who are reading this know what it is to lose a loved one. For some it is a spouse, for some a child, for others parents or grandparents, or, perhaps a sibling. I know that there are times when I feel the presence of those who have gone before me. As in eternity time has no meaning, I wonder if we are already together for them. We know that those who have had near death experiences have described a place of warmth and love, of seeing loved ones, of not wanting to return to their earthly existence. Mother Teresa was asked if she was afraid that she might be putting herself in danger as she went about the streets of Calcutta picking up lepers and others who needed care. She answered that she had already died in baptism so what was there to fear. We, too, have died in baptism and have the promise that if we remain faithful and trust in the Lord, there is nothing for us to fear either. Jesus paid the price for each one of us and said that he does not intend to lose any that have been entrusted to him. Let us trust in the goodness of God and in the promise made to us by Jesus. Death has been conquered forever, and today is a day to rejoice.
Dear God, I pray that my priorities will always be in line with what you consider important too. Lord, if a time comes where I find myself worrying about earthly things, may you remind me of what is truly important. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Exodus: 32:26 – Then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, “Whoever is on the LORD’s side – come with me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him.
God gave the Bible to back up the science we see today. Wernher Von Braun was known as the father of the American Space Program.
“Put your money where your mouth is!” Have you ever heard that phrase? It is often said to us when we make a claim that others think we can’t back up. Sometimes we talk a good game, but can’t play it. We let our mouths get carried away and sometimes that leads to all kinds of trouble. When we make a habit of talk, talk, talk but can’t follow it up with do, do, do, then we lose credibility and no one will believe a word we say. This verse reminds us that if we are going to “talk the talk,” then we must “walk the walk.” When we talk a lot about being a Christian and how we pray all the time and how we read our Bibles all the time and how we go to church all the time, people have an expectation of how we should behave. When our behavior contradicts what we say about ourselves, people lose faith in us. And because we represent Christianity to them, they lose faith in all Christians. It is a terrible thing to mislead someone about Christ. We must be excellent ambassadors for Him, in word and deed.
Father, I ask You to help me to live the way You would have me to. Let the words of my mouth and the actions of my heart be the same. If I speak about love, let me be known for love. If I recite scripture, let me first live by that scripture. Help me to be able to match my “walk” and my “talk.” Amen.
“The LORD has hidden himself from his people, but I trust him and place my hope in him.”
Isaiah 8:17 (GNT)
It’s easy to worship God when things are going great in your life—when he’s provided food, friends, family, health, and happy situations. But circumstances are not always pleasant. So, how do you worship God then? What do you do when God seems a million miles away?
The deepest level of worship is praising God in spite of pain, thanking God during a trial, trusting him when tempted, surrendering while suffering, and loving him when he seems distant.
The writer Philip Yancey once noted, “Any relationship involves times of closeness and times of distance, and in a relationship with God, no matter how intimate, the pendulum will swing from one side to the other.”
That’s when worship gets difficult.
To mature your friendship, God will test it with periods of seeming separation—times when it seems as if he has abandoned or forgotten you. St. John of the Cross referred to these days of spiritual dryness and doubt as “the dark night of the soul.”
King David understood days like these. Even though God called him “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22 NIV), David sometimes complained about God’s apparent absence:
- “Lord, why are you standing aloof and far away? Why do you hide when I need you the most?” (Psalm 10:1 TLB).
- “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help?” (Psalm 22:1 NLT).
- “Why have you abandoned me?” (Psalm 43:2 GNT).
Of course, God hadn’t really left David, and he’ll never leave you. God has promised repeatedly, “I will never leave you; I will never abandon you” (Hebrews 13:5 GNT).PLAY today’s audio teaching from Pastor Rick >>
Talk It Over
- What practical steps can you take to help you worship God even when you’re in pain or in a difficult season?
- What do you think God might want you to learn during these times?
- What are some of God’s promises that can give you hope and encouragement?
Have you trusted God’s promise of salvation through Jesus Christ?
If you’re ready to commit your life to Jesus, then pray this prayer:
“Dear Jesus, you have promised that if I believe in you, everything I’ve ever done wrong will be forgiven, I will learn the purpose of my life, and you will accept me into your eternal home in heaven one day.
“I confess my sin, and I receive you into my life as my Lord and Savior. You have promised that if I confess my sin and trust you, I will be saved. I trust you when you say salvation comes by grace, through faith, and not by anything I do. Today I’m turning over every part of my life to your management.
“I’m grateful for your unconditional love. I want to use the rest of my life to love and serve you instead of serving myself. I commit my life to you and ask you to save me and accept me into your family. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”
Has someone ever said to you, “You just made my day!” and you wondered what you did or said? Just think for a moment how you feel when that happens. You just brought the Good News of Christ to that person! You made that person feel better about themselves or more loved or more accepted. This is what following Jesus and being a disciple is all about. We don’t always know what it means to someone to say that we will pray for them, or to tell them they’re special or loved. When we act as Jesus would act, we are bringing God’s love into whatever situation we are in. The world can get us down sometimes. We can wonder if it’s all worth it to do the right thing when we see others profiting from the unhappiness of others. We need to hear the good news of salvation. But someone needs to bring us that good news! Bringing someone else joy, gives us joy as well. In our Gospel passage today, the seventy-two disciples returned to Jesus full of joy and couldn’t wait to tell him about their experience of spreading the Good News of the Kingdom. The message of Jesus was and is “God loves you.” When we can look in the mirror, into the eyes of a friend, into the face of a stranger and be able to say, “God loves you,” we are bringing the Good News of Christ to all we meet and we will experience joy. So, this week, go make someone’s day!
We have a lesson to learn from John the Baptist. Many people had approached John wondering if he might be the Messiah. As we see in this passage from Mark’s Gospel, John made sure that they were mistaken, that there was “another” coming who was greater than he who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. Soon Jesus comes to John to be baptized. The lesson we should take from John is that WE are also not the Messiah. Our task, as was John’s, is to lead others to Christ, not to ourselves. I have seen many examples over the years, as I’m sure you have as well, of preachers who seem more interested in drawing attention to themselves rather than to Christ. Who appear to act as if they are the only ones who can save us. They can’t. Jesus has already done that! I once knew a woman who had emerged from a cult and who was engaged to marry a Methodist minister. Even though she had left the cult, she still had fears that by leaving, she was condemning herself to hell. The leader of the cult still held power over her, a power he never should have taken upon himself. Just as John understood that Jesus was the Messiah, the Savior, the promised one, we need to help others to come to know Jesus even if they never come to know us. Once John knew that Jesus had begun his ministry he declared that he, John, must decrease so that Jesus could increase. May we have the humility of John. There is nothing more lovely to see than a child reaching up to his/her parent in love and trust. It is to such as these that Jesus tells us we must be. Children have faith that they will be cared for by those who love them. When we were children, we didn’t really have any problems believing that God loves us, but as we grow older, we seem to become jaded by a world that lets us down, and so we can easily believe that God will do likewise. The early Christians knew what it meant to be church. They met in homes, gathered to share their memories of Jesus, or the stories they had heard, reading letters from Paul or other disciples and sharing a meal. On the Sabbath they would go to the temple to pray – until it became impossible. As time went by the spreading of the Good News was left to professionals. Today things must change if we want our children to know of God’s love for them. The emphasis now is on our role to reach out to others, to witness our faith in the home, the workplace, the neighborhood. No longer is it just the job of ministers and priests to bring others to Christ, it is our job as well. Change is difficult and personal responsibility is always a challenge. Faith, like any other relationship, needs to be nurtured and this is perhaps the greatest challenge of all. Let us take this year to grow in our knowledge of Christ; let us take more time for prayer; let us delve into the Scriptures and learn just how to truly follow Jesus. Just as we encourage our children to grow and provide opportunities for them, may we take advantage of the opportunities that will be offered to us this year, so that we may have enough faith to last a lifetime and beyond – into eternity.
Our relationship with God consists of us realizing the areas in which we need reformation, and following God’s guidance so that we can be healed, reformed, and transformed. Only the power of God can change our ways. We can’t do it without His help.
Dear God, I ask that you reveal to me any areas of my life that I need to do better in. Lord, I also ask that you help me improve in these areas because it is only through you that I can achieve such. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ and you live in America, then there is a glaring problem that we are faced with. Even though this problem might seem simple to identify, I am not sure if we are recognizing how much damage this problem is doing to the name of Jesus and to the hope of the message of the gospel.
The problem is the church is not one and is clearly divided. Now to be clear, there have been disagreements throughout church history – you can read about some of them in the book of Acts. Even Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement that caused them to part ways. However, even though they disagreed, it never interfered with the preaching of the gospel, and it never brought shame to the name of Jesus. I am not sure we can say that about the church in America today.
Wanted to remind you to get into this group with other pastors. There are over 3,000 members, with several hundred being very active monthly. It’s a really healthy group and there are lots of great ongoing conversations on topics I think you’ll find helpful.
One topic that is most pertinent is planning out your sermon calendar for 2022… and it’s not just because it helps you prepare your messages.
Small group curriculum can be shaped around a sermon calendar.
Giving initiatives can be incorporated into the sermon calendar.
Guest speakers and breaks for the preaching team (vacations) are included in the sermon calendar.
Volunteer and membership initiatives can fund support through sermon series.
Those are just four big benefits of getting your preaching calendar in order for the new year. There are countless more contextual benefits that will elevate ministry beyond the pulpit.
As I mentioned in my last email, you’re at the starting line for the new year and as important as it is to feel a sense of renewal to the call God has put before you, it is equally as important to be intentional in getting the work done, step-by-step.
To help you get started (or finish out) your sermon calendar, I have several links to share.
How to Create A Preaching Calendar (Article)
2022 Sermon Calendar Template (Spreadsheet)
Sermon Calendar Videos – Video 1, Video 2, Video 3
2022 Sermon Calendars – Topical, Expository, Lectionary, Acts
Workshop on January 26
It’s not abnormal to stare at your February, March, or April weekend dates hoping and planning to get some time set aside to fill them in. That’s pretty normal… not just for pastors, but people in general.
You tell yourself, “I’m going to get to this…” but it doesn’t happen.
Using the resources above, and especially the workshop I mentioned on the 26th, you can gain some insights, develop a little motivation, and before the end of the month, look at an excel spreadsheet with tentative sermon titles and even have guest speakers penciled in for weekends when you know you’ll be gone.
Don’t forget, you can still join the preacher’s group I mentioned above and in my previous email.
You won’t fail to plan for lack of resources or opportunity… it would be for lack of action… and you’ve got 6 different recommended actions in this email alone. Choose one and go!
As Christians, we should never forget that God is the source of all of our help. In times of need and distress, He will send us people and things to help us but we shouldn’t see the people as the source. They are just God’s vessels who are doing His work in our lives.
Dear God, I thank you that my help comes from you. In times of distress, no matter how overwhelmed I may feel, I know that I can trust in you, Lord. You are my guide and my strength. You keep me when the world tries to tear me apart. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Our world today has a surplus of displaced people – men, women and children alike. Today’s reading from Exodus discusses this and the problems of widows and orphans and in very direct terms. We are not always welcoming to immigrants and we often do not make life easy for widows or orphans. We have camps in many countries where families who are running from violence, oppression and extreme poverty are held. Often these camps are not places where children can learn, where adequate food or medicine is available and opportunities for work is limited. If it’s not in our neighborhood do we even give it any thought? We may react with generosity when there is a catastrophe in a part of the world, but once another issue comes along do we think about the people who are suffering still? I hear a lot about rescuing animals, but not about rescuing people. There are children all over the world who are homeless, hungry, without the opportunity for education or medical care. This happens in the most developed and wealthy countries as well as in developing countries. In fact, in some of the poorest countries families with little or nothing themselves will reach out to such orphans. I, myself, have been the recipient of the generosity of people in Haiti and in Tanzania. We are all told we must be neighbor to others. Let us not be the ones who feel God’s wrath when his children cry out for justice.
The sea of Galilee is the place where seventy percent of the early Jesus miracles took place. Not only did He stay at Peter’s house in Capernaum, but it was here that the multitudes of the sick, the blind, and demonically oppressed came for healing and deliverance. If the mountians surrounding the sea could talk we would have more books on all the testimonies of Jesus wonderful miracles, and compassionate heart He gave showed to everyone. He healed them all.
But are they? One of the gifts of the Feast of the Epiphany is the realization that Jesus came for ALL people. When we see representations of the Magi coming to worship the new King, we notice that they are of mixed races. We are aware that they are not Jews, but they seem to know that the star they noticed “at its rising” is a sign that the promised one has been born. At this moment in time, seem to be having difficulty seeing that we are all images of the one God, brothers and sisters regardless of race, nationality or religion. We have some choices to make in this New Year. We can follow the example of Jesus who welcomes all, or we can follow the example of Herod who wishes to destroy. The road to peace is a bumpy one and requires effort. It is a road of acceptance, compassion, forgiveness and taking responsibility for our actions. We can choose to fuel the fires of division and hatred, or we can choose love. As we count down the last few days of this Christmas season, let us decide how we want the world to look. What is the legacy of all our prayers during Advent and Christmas? Let us open our arms to receive one another in peace and love so that all may feel welcome in our churches, our neighborhoods and our community.
Do not be deceived by the party culture. Do not be lured by alcohol. While wine and beer and other alcoholic beverages are popular and promise a good time, more often these drinks make fools of us. Too much alcohol leaves one intoxicated. When someone is intoxicated, he/she does not make wise choices. When we listen to the crowd or the promise of fun or relief alcohol claims, we are being foolish. True relief only comes from faith in Jesus Christ. Ask him to help you resist the temptation today.
Dear God, give me wisdom to know when I am being led in a foolish direction. Help me to resist the temptation of alcohol today. I know it is not only leads to foolish decisions, it is also dangerous. Give me the courage to turn away from alcohol or anything offering false promises of happiness. You are the only thing that will bring me true fulfillment. Thank you for giving us refuge and courage to battle temptations such as these. Please use me to help others struggling with these temptations, Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Love did not begin with man. It is not a worldly human creation. It is a divine creation. Love came from God to us, not the other way around. This loving action gave us the opportunity to reciprocate this action to God and to others. In 1 John 4:9, John explains that Jesus was sent to us as an act of love, to show us the meaning. Live according to God’s love and we do not need to fear judgment, living and loving freely and truthfully.
Faithful and righteous God, forgive me for not always living according to your edicts. I know that you sent your son to earth as an act of love, one that I can never repay, but I ask that you help me honor this act of love through my own loving actions. I am inspired to be more like Jesus and more like you, heavenly Father, to honor the love you have for me. I pray this in your holy name. Amen.