One Master, not Two

Jesus said that no-one can serve two masters, and He was right (Luke 16:13). The problem is that often we don’t like like we believe Him to be right.

You may not be rich, young, or a ruler, but Jesus comes to us as He came to the Rich Young Ruler (Matthew 19:16-22) to confront the things or people that we serve.

Like the rich young ruler, we are prone to serve two masters instead of Jesus. The first master that we are prone to serve is ourself. The rich young ruler asks Jesus what good he must do to be saved and confidently declares that he has kept all of the commandments. Later (Matthew 19:26) Jesus declares that it is only possible for man to be saved with the power of God, not with mans power. The second master that we are prone to serve are the things of this world – like money. Money was the rich young rulers master. He was not willing to give up earthly treasures, which are like worthless trinket toys compared to the glorious riches of Heaven. Examples of these earthly toy trinkets are: financial security, the stock market, fame, popularity, being liked, success in our jobs, status in society, possessions, health, food, a spouse, a future spouse, children, grandchildren, or a host of many other things. In response to these earthly trinkets Jesus says, “If you want to be perfect go sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Essentially Jesus says to us, exchange your earthly trinkets for Heavenly treasure and follow me.

What earthly trinkets capture your attention more than the treasure of Jesus Christ? What or who do you follow above Jesus Christ? Confess and repent of these things to Him today.

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Anxiety Attacks

Your breathing and heart rate quickly speed up. Usually when those two things happen it is a result of running or strenuous activity, like exercise. But, not this time. This time as you feel your chest tighten, heart rate escalate, and breathing become quick you are sitting still in your most comfortable chair. You are having an anxiety attack.

I know this to be true because I have personally experienced more anxiety attacks this year than in a long time. On the outside, to everyone else, you can look completely normal. But, on the inside you are a complete mess. Often, in a moment of high anxiety or stress, my mind will go down a road of negative “what if’s” and simultaneously speak logically as to why those “what if’s” are not absolutely. Normally the logic would help me calm down, but not in moments of high anxiety and stress. Often these moments paralyze me to where all I want to do is go to bed.

It’s no secret that the events of 2020 have caused many to experience anxiety or stress. So, what can we do to help ourselves?

First, we can choose to look to Christ for security. Seek Him. He is near to the brokenhearted and He can sympathize with our weaknesses. Often God wants to work through our anxiety to reveal things that we are placing our security in instead of Him. For me, I’ve realized my security is far to often placed in my work, successes, and achievements. Things that cause me anxiety can be things that threaten my ability to achieve and succeed. This reveals my need to give up successes as my source of security and to place my security in Christ.

Second, we can choose to talk to someone we know that is trustworthy, kind, and compassionate. Internalizing our anxiety and stress only leads us to greater isolation. Also, when we choose not to talk to a trustworthy, kind, and compassionate person give up the chance to have someone walk with us through the struggle. We also give up the opportunity for someone to help us. This person may be a friend, counselor, pastor, or therapist.


Third, remember that it’s not always that simple. Often working through anxiety and stress takes time. It takes more than one conversation with a friend or session with a counselor. It takes multiple times of meeting with your pastor or repeated appointments with a therapist. Multiple conversations with God are a must.

I want to encourage you to not give up and to seek help.

Here is my prayer for you, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

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2 Ways to Have Hope in the Midst of Suffering

If hope were a rain cloud sometimes it feels like we live in the desert. 

When life feels like this we look up to the sky for any sign up hope.  

Our Scripture for tonight gives us reason to praise God even in the midst of life in the desert. 

Peter writes this letter to Christians living in a whole new world where persecution ran rampant.  Similarly, it sure feels like we are living in a whole new world – a world of social distancing, a world where businesses have had to close, a world where churches are met online only instead of in person, and a world where our normal routines have been turned upside down. 

Peter tells the Christians that they will experience trials.  But trials are an opportunity to live out their faith.  Peter also provides a reminder of the living hope that we have.

We need hope in our current Corona Virus crisis.  I know I’ve needed hope. Many, including myself, have felt high anxiety, fear, and uncertainty. Many of us, myself included, have needed hope.

Also keep in mind, while the current Corona Virus crisis will pass, we are guaranteed to experience persecution due to our faith in Christ in the future.  There will be future trials.  Therefore, I believe we have a chance to not only live out our faith in the current situation but also to learn ways to live in hope to prepare ourselves for future trials.  

Here are two ways from 1 Peter 1:3 that we can have hope now and in future trials:

  1. Jesus gives New Life (1 Peter 1:3)

God’s great mercies cause us to be born again.  Therefore we bless God.  This is how this section of Scripture begins.  This is how the letter that Peter writes begins.  Peter begins by blessing God.  

New Life is given through Jesus Christ.  How do we know this?  Of course there are other Scriptures that tell us this, but this verse tells us as well.  Because of new life we bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Why would Peter describe God this way, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?  It makes me think of 2 Corinthians 1, another passage on the topic of hope and comfort in the midst of suffering.  In that passage, Paul speaks of God with the same title.  

John 5:18 where we are told that the Jews were seeking to kill Jesus because He claimed to be equal with God and claimed that God was His Father.  

So, we bless God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Being a Christian is synonymous with blessing God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Designating God as Father of Jesus makes you a believer because you are declaring a belief in the truth that Jesus is God.  And because Jesus is God He is able to give us new life! 

You see, 1 Peter 1:23-25 tells us that, we are born again through the living and abiding Word of God! This Word of God is the Good News, it is the Gospel.  Hope doesn’t spring up out of nowhere.  Hope comes from the everlasting Word of God.  It comes from the Word of God which is itself alive! To find true hope we must look to the Word of God.  

It is in the midst of dark times that the Good News of the Gospel shines brightly to give us a living hope! 

People hear the gospel preached on the radio, through the internet, through online worship services like Facebook Live or a church’s app or website, or through someone speaking the gospel to them in a conversation between friends or family between co-workers or acquaintances.  

However people hear the gospel, when they respond with belief, God’s great mercies cause us to be born again! 

The result, is praise God.  This is why Peter begins this letter with soaring praises to God.  We will soar with praise to God when we see that we cannot accomplish, that we could not accomplish, our salvation and we are born again because of God’s great mercy! 

  1. Jesus gives us Living Hope (1 Peter 1:3)

What is the difference between someone who is born again and someone who is not born again?  Faith and Hope.  Living Hope.  Faith is the substance of things hoped for.  So, our living hope produces faith.  

Why would Peter specifically say that we have a living hope.  Think about it…he just got done speaking about being born again.  When a baby is born, he or she is alive.  We ourselves, because of the mercy of God move from death to life.  Therefore our hope is alive! It is a living hope! 

This is not a hope grounded in successful careers, people, money, financial security, stock portfolios, retirement accounts, good health, physical security, a spouse, children or grandchildren, vacations, or anything else.  

It is a living hope grounded in the Word of God made possible by the living God.  

Again think about new birth.  A baby doesn’t stay a baby, but he or she grows up.  Because our hope is living it grows and grows and becomes greater and greater.  

Most hopes are destroyed by time.  The longer we wait for most things the dimmer our hope becomes.  But we have a living hope that becomes brighter. 

It is possible, through Christ, to simultaneously experience suffering and hope.  And as our hope grows brighter and brighter in the midst of suffering the world will truly see the light of Christ that cannot be blown out. The world will see the church (God’s People) as a city set on a hill.  

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Encouragement from Lamentations

I read the book of Lamentations this morning in my time with God and was very encouraged and wanted to share some of it with you in hopes of encouraging you. You might have read the title of this blog post and thought “how can I get encouragement from Lamentations?” That would be common, it is for me anyways. But it is there.

Overall the book of Lamentations is basically a difficult conversation with God. The conversation is full of honesty about the authors struggle to gain hope in the midst of great difficulty. But even in the midst of the pain the author finds hope. One of the most important words in the book is the word “yet” found in Lamentations 3:21.

“Yet I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lords faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! I say, “The Lord is my portion, therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the person who seeks him. It is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:21-26, CSB)

There is pain, difficulty, doubt, discouragement, loss, hurt, grief, and more. This has been a difficult year for everyone on the planet. All have been impacted by the global pandemic called COVID-19. And all have experienced pain and hut beyond the challenges that the virus has brought us. I know I have.

Yet, I remember this – the Lord is faithful, His mercies never end, His mercies are new every morning, His faithfulness is great, He is my portion, He is good to those who wait on Him. I pray that you can remember this today as well.

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Unhindered Access to God’s Presence

This morning I read several Psalms, and as I read them I was struck with the beauty, the power, and the safety that He offers us from our distress.

The verse that I highlighted was Psalm 27:4, which says, “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that I will seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.”

So much around us vies for our attention.  Much of it is greatly distressing.  The Corona Virus has the attention of all of us today.  There are a whole host of worrisome questions you could be thinking regarding our current situation.

Today, on Sunday, I am reminded how the Corona Virus has changed how we connect in community with one another.  Because of this our church is worshiping together online.  Like me, you miss the physical gathering of our church to bring worship to our God.  As I read Psalm 27:4 and meditated upon the idea of dwelling in the house of the Lord forever my desire to dwell in the church building of my church with my church family grew. In this moment, the Spirit of God reminded me that as much as I desire to worship with you in the house of the Lord at 4777 Alben Barkley Drive, I ought to desire more to worship with you in the house of the Lord in Heaven.  While the Lord turns our attention to Him to gaze upon His beauty in the gathering of the local church on earth, how much more will we gaze upon His beauty in Heaven! Though it may be remotely, through technology, we still have the ability to worship our Lord together on this Lords day.  What we do not have the capability to do at the moment is worship the Lord together in His presence in Heaven.

So, gather with your church online today.  But, may we also find our selves today longing for the greater gathering of the church in the eternal presence of God in Heaven.

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2019 Advent Reading #24: Victory

12/24/19

Scripture:

Genesis 3:1-7; Matthew 4:1-11; Ephesians 6:10-20

Highlighted Verse:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Ephesians 6:10 & 13, ESV

Devotion:

Jesus faced the same temptation that Adam did. Jesus, the new Adam, defeated sin and Satan’s attempts to deceive and distract Him. Therefore, we know that the only way for us to live with sin defeated, and to have help when distracted, is to stand firm in Christ. You see, there is one aspect of the Christmas story that is almost never talked about. War. The Christmas story is apart of a greater story, a war story. Jesus came as a warrior to battle Satan. He won that battle! Praise the Lord for His victory because we could never gain the victory in our own strength. We could never do it on our own. Adam battled with Satan and lost but, Jesus battled with Satan and won! When we face spiritual battles, temptations, are confronted with false teaching, and are given opportunities to be distracted we can win to. But only through the power of Jesus Christ.

Think about the hope that you have through Jesus Christ. Commit to look to Jesus next time you are in the heat of a spiritual battle.

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2019 Advent Reading #23: Singing at Christmas

12/23/19

Scripture:

Psalm 95; Ephesians 5:18-19;  Colossians 3:16

Highlighted Verse:

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Psalm 95:1

Devotion:

God commands us to sing.  Now, why would singing be so important that God would command us to do it?  The act of singing helps us focus our hearts.  When we sing we can focus our hearts on what makes us happy, sad, and mad.  We can focus our hearts on what is truly important to us and what we treasure.  If singing is important enough for God to command us to do it (Eph. 5:18-19; Col. 3:16), why wouldn’t we sing at Christmas?

Think about what your favorite Christmas songs are and sing them throughout the day today.  Sing them with your family and friends.  

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2019 Advent Reading #22: Guarantee

12/22/19

Scripture:

Romans 8:18-39

Highlighted Verse:

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32

Devotion:

Today’s advent reading provides us a special guarantee. A guarantee is a pledge or promise to do something for someone. Guarantees are special pledges or promises. They are seen as unbreakable. They are a sure thing. Gods guarantee above brings us much comfort. God, who shows His grace to us by sending Jesus to be born at Christmas also showed His grace to us when Jesus died on the cross. The promise of Romans 8:32 reveals that God continues to show us His grace. Because Jesus died on the cross how will He not also continue to graciously provide what we need? The Christmas story serves as a guarantee that God will continue to give us everything that we need. Since God gave us Jesus, we can be sure that He will give us everything else that we need so that we can be shaped to be what He wants us to be and do what He wants us to do.

Bring your needs to the Lord this morning in prayer.

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2019 Advent Reading #21: Self-Righteousness

12/21/19

Scripture:

Luke 18:9-14; Philippians 3:1-11

Highlighted Verse:

and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh. Philippians 3:3, ESV

Devotion:

Self-righteousness plagues us all.  Self-righteousness is the tendency to think that we are better than we actually are.  When we sink in to self-righteousness we begin to excuse the wrong things that we do, we believe that we do not need any help, and we believe that we are superior to others.  It is our sin that separates us from God. But our sinful attitude of self-righteousness blinds us from our need for Him.  In the Christmas story our arrogant attitude of self-righteousness is confronted.  Jesus’ worth far surpasses anything that we have (Phil. 3:8). Jesus came, in His surpassing worth, in order that we might count all things as rubbish in order to gain Christ.  Praise the Lord that He knew we were needy and that we could not help ourselves.  Let us celebrate the birth of Jesus this year and allow Jesus to meet our needs.  Glory in Jesus Christ this Christmas.  Ask Him to do a miraculous work in you this Christmas –  that you would put no confidence in your flesh.

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2019 Advent Reading #20: Christian Schizophrenia at Christmas

12/20/19

Scripture:

James 1:22-24

Highlighted Verse:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22

Devotion:

Our reading today reveals that followers of Jesus can often live in a state of Christian Schizophrenia.  Schizophrenia involves a breakdown of the relationship between emotion/feeling and behavior.  Christian Schizophrenia happens when we hear and know the Word of God yet we walk away without applying it to our life.  We often live in this state of Christian Schizophrenia at Christmas.  How do we do this?  We  celebrate the birth of Jesus without connecting the knowledge of who Jesus is and His incarnation with their daily lives.  One example of this is how we can easily sing the words of Christmas carols without applying them to our life.  The root cause of this is our ability to easily convince ourselves that we do not need the rescue that Jesus was born to bring.  In doing this we minimize our sin.

How do you minimize your sin?

Celebrating Christmas includes confessing our sin and our need for forgiveness.  Take a few minutes to do that now.  

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