HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY! Growing up, and even for most of my adult life, I've always enjoyed Independence Day. Of course, I love our country and appreciate the sacrifice that so many have made, at the altar of freedom. We are not a perfect country, that is for sure, but people have more freedom today, than at any time is history. I believe this is, in large part, due to the influence of the U.S. That is my patriotic speech for the year!
I pray that everyone had a great day in the house of the Lord (yesterday). I had an interesting Sunday (to say the least). It was my first time not having anyone available to do worship. Of course, guess what I happened to be speaking on? The importance of worship! No one can tell me that God does not have a since of humor! On top of that, we had 3 guests show up. We got through it though, and enjoyed our time together as a family in Christ.
Today we are going to look at a verse I will be preaching on (this upcoming Sunday).
4 Then the people of the land [a]discouraged the people of Judah, and frightened them from building, 5 and hired counselors against them to frustrate their counsel all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.
This upcoming Sunday (July 10) I will be talking about discouragement and opposition. In this section of Ezra, the people were attempting to rebuild the temple. About 70 years prior, they were defeated in battle and taken as captives. The Lord provided them an opportunity to return to their homeland and rebuild. Not too long after construction started, opposition arose-which stopped the construction efforts.
Think about how often we begin to do something the Lord has laid on our heart, then we stop, either because we loose interest, or we become discouraged. Sometimes, we can be our own worst opposition-we do not need anyone else to discourage us, we are more than capable of doing it ourselves!
Everyone has times in which they feel discouraged and "beaten-up." Thankfully, we have a Father that is a great encourager! In the book of Ezra, the work eventually began again, and the temple was built. Rather than abandoning the dream of rebuilding, they got back to work, and completed the project. We MUST push forward when we are feeling discouraged. We MUST spend time with the ONE who can help us regain our confidence. I am not talking about merely "bootstrapping" here, that may work for some, but for others, it will not. We must rely on the grace and encouragement of our Father to get us through the tough times. The more time we spend with our Lord, the quicker we can get through the challenges.
Today I am going to post my midweek video, in preparation for Sunday. In this video, I read through Ezra Ch. 3 and Nehemiah Ch. 9.
I pray all of you had a good day in the Lord's house on Sunday. At OFA we are going through a series titled "The New Exodus," where we are looking at the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. However, today we are looking at a couple verses in the book of 2nd Peter.
2nd Peter 3:8-9
8 But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. 9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
These passages are pretty well known within the Christian community (for the most part). It's important that we always keep context in mind whenever we are reading God's word. For the most part, the 3rd chapter of 2nd Peter is about the hope of Christ's return. Peter is telling us to ignore those who mock the return of Christ.
I included vs. 8, but I really want to focus on vs. 9, where Peter says that "the Lord is not slow, as some count slowness, but is patient...not wishing for any to perish...".
To me, this verse is one of the best examples of the grace of our Heavenly Father. Peter is recognizing that we, as believers, are anxious for the return of Christ. However, the Lord is patient...and is waiting for those who do not know Him to come to repentance. The Lord does not wish for any to perish: what an amazing statement, that the creator of the universe is patiently waiting for our unsaved friends and family, so they have an opportunity to put their faith in Him, before He returns.
Our savior is not bound to our finite timelines, that is the point of vs. 8. The Lord knows the beginning from the end-sometimes this is difficult for us to comprehend. That said, the Lord is patient, waiting for us to shine His light, so that none may perish.
Happy Friday friends! I pray your week has been a good one, and you are making sure to spend time with the Lord daily. Of course, today is a big day in America-the Supreme Court has officially overturned Roe vs. Wade. I wanted to address this, as it's the headline on every new outlet. As a born again believer, I am happy to see the highest court make this decision. Most people are not aware of the details behind Roe vs Wade, or what overturning it means. If you listen to most of the media, you would think that the world is falling apart at the seams...except it's not. All the Supreme Court did was put the decision making back into the hands of the states. If you live in California, New York, here in Illinois, or many other states, you can still get abortions. Overturning Roe vs Wade will allow states to determine their own abortion policy, rather than the federal government. While this is a big win for those of us who consider abortion murder, and I agree with the overturning of Roe vs Wade, this decision may have some negative, unforeseen consequences. Newton's third law is true for every area of life: "every action has an equal or opposite reaction." This decision will likely make the political divide even greater. Certain states will certainly ban all abortions, while other states will keep pushing the boundary between abortion and infanticide.
As Christ followers, we must continue to pray. We must be careful of how we respond to those that believe differently than we do, and while we should all advocate for the unborn, we are not called to be abortion activists; We are called to shine the light of Christ, to be salt and light. Here is our verse for today...sorry for the long introduction.
Matthew 5: 43-48
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
For those who claim to be followers of Christ, we have 2 main goals in life: The Great Command and The Great Commission. One is to love God and to love our neighbor; The other one is to tell others how to do the first one. When we become so mired in a single issue, that we loose sight of the Great Command and the Great Commission, we have lost our way as Christians. There is a difference between advocacy and activism. Advocacy is looking out for someone else's best interest, while activism is trying to get what WE think is best. A good example would be the difference between Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X. MLK could be considered an advocate, while Malcom X was an activist. Jesus was an advocate while Mohamed was an activist.
Let's not forget, in this time of heated political rhetoric, that we should always approach people with humility and a non-confrontational spirit.
Hello friends and family, I pray you are well and enjoying the summer so far. For my family, summer is much different than the rest of the year. If you are a teacher or have a teacher in the family, you know what I mean. I always enjoy the time Laura and I get to spend together, but by late August, we are both ready for school to start! Let's go ahead and take a look at today's verse:
The Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in From this time forth and forever.
I think people tend to look at this verse and draw the conclusion that nothing bad can happen to those who follow Christ. Obviously, we know that to be untrue. Jesus says in
Matthew 5: 44-45
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may [ap]be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
When viewing the verse in Psalms, I think it's important to keep in mind that the poetry books (Psalms, Proverbs...etc.) speak in generalizations, rather than specifics. For example, "Train you child in the way they should go, and in the end they will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6). Generally speaking, this is true, but sometimes it isn't. For our verse today, we can look at it 2 ways:
1. The author is referring to our spiritual selves...that if we follow Christ, then we are protected (spiritually).
2. The author is speaking in general truths, stating a guiding principle that is generally correct.
Either way, it is true that the Lord is our protector, our Rock and Shelter from the storm. We can trust His will for our lives, even though we sometimes struggle with the details.
Happy Monday everyone! Another week down, and another week to go (whatever that means?). I pray you all are doing well and had a great time in the Lord's house on Sunday. Today, we are going to look at Mark 8:36.
36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?
My mom and dad have always been a great example to me in this area. As a young child, we were poor...very poor. The only reason we had a car was because someone gave it to us. The car had no defrost, plus, the glove compartment constantly buzzed-it would never shut up.
At one point, when my sister and I were toddlers, my dad decided to go back to school to get his degree. As a result, over time, my dad ended up receiving better employment opportunities. By the time I was a teenager, my dad had worked his way up the "corporate ladder," all the way to Vice-President of Human Resources for a very large company. Dad was making very good money, as was my mother. Both of my parents are great examples of what a good work ethic looks like. My dad could have easily continued in that position until he retired. He enjoyed the work and of course, enjoyed the money.
Yet, the Lord began to work on my dad, nudging him toward full time ministry. Dad had always served as a pastor wherever we lived-but always part time. Long story short: Dad ended up leaving his very well paying corporate job to work as an executive pastor in Bolingbrook, Illinois. As you can imagine, he took a HUGE pay cut in doing so-but that did not matter to my parents. Mom and dad held on loosely to the things of this world, so when the time came to let those things go-it wasn't a problem. What a great example for me to live up to!
Pastor Erik here, I pray you are doing well and are having a wonderful week so far. Today we are going to look at a portion of scripture that I will be preaching on this upcoming Sunday. It is from the book of Ezra. My sermon this week is all about the qualities of a Godly leader-whether that be in the form of a dad (since it's Father's day), a boss, pastor, or any other situation in which you may be leading other people.
Ezra Ch. 7:10
10 For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.
This verse talks about 2 important qualities of a Godly leader: learning and living. I love how this verse describes Ezra-that he "set his heart." To me, this means that Ezra was passionate about learning God's Word, then putting that knowledge into practice. This was not a self-serving pursuit at all-rather, Ezra was passionate about learning because he wanted to teach others; He wanted to pass on the knowledge and wisdom he obtained. A Godly leader must be a lifelong learner. We must become like Ezra, and set our heart to learning more and more about the Lord...then we must pass that on to those under our care. Of course learning is just half of the battle. What good does knowledge and wisdom do if we do not practice it in our own lives. Ezra wanted to set a good example: to "practice what he preached." This is (unfortunately) a rare quality in leaders these days. For example, I've seen my share of pastor's that could deliver a fantastic sermon on a Sunday morning, but did not live out the sermon in his or her own life. It's easy to preach or teach righteousness to our churches, kids, grandkids, or employees, but it's another thing to live it ourselves. Ezra is a great example for us to follow!
Hello all, it's Friday, the end of the work week for most people-I pray you have had a productive week and are looking forward to spending time in the Lord's house on Sunday. This week has gone by very quickly for me. On Thursday I was at the church all day trying to record a video for our new Sunday morning series: The New Exodus. While that may seem like a simple undertaking-it seems as though nothing I do is ever simple. I ended up doing a live video on YouTube instead. That video is today's blog entry. I encourage you to watch it all the way through, in preparation for the message on Sunday morning. God Bless.
Wow, it's great to be back! If you do not mind, before we get into our scripture, I need to "unpack" the many emotions in my heart. Most of those who might read this blog know that I have been out of town for my son's wedding. I was honored to be his best man. His wedding day was a very joyous day, but also very sad. I was overjoyed for Sam that God has blessed him with a great wife. Yet, I was sad, because Sam is not just my son, he is my best friend-but now that he has a family of his own, my role in Sam's life is now different. I understand that God designed it this way, but there is a part of me that grieves. Of course, Sam knows that I am always available for guidance and council, but he must now learn the responsibilities of having his own family. Sam is now accountable to the Lord for the condition of his household! It is important that Laura and I move aside; Affording Sam and Abigale the opportunity to learn for themselves how to deal with the difficulties that life will throw their way. There will be great moments, but there will also be tragic, heart-breaking moments. Both Sam and Abigale love the Lord-as long as they always put Him first, there is nothing that can break the holy bond of marriage.