From the Pastor

Daily Dose

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Second Sunday in Lent

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Peter Declares That Jesus Is the Messiah

27 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”

28 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”

29 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”

30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

Genesis 16:7-15-16 CEV

Hagar stopped to rest at a spring in the desert on the road to Shur. While she was there, the angel of the LORD came to her and asked, “Hagar, where have you come from, and where are you going?” She answered, “I’m running away from Sarai, my owner.” The angel said, “Go back to Sarai and be her slave. I will give you a son, who will be called Ishmael, because I have heard your cry for help. And someday I will give you so many descendants that no one will be able to count them all. But your son will live far from his relatives; he will be like a wild donkey, fighting everyone, and everyone fighting him.” Hagar thought, “Have I really seen God and lived to tell about it?” So from then on she called him, “The God Who Sees Me.” That’s why people call the well between Kadesh and Bered, “The Well of the Living One Who Sees Me.” Abram was 86 years old when Hagar gave birth to their son, and he named him Ishmael.

Psalms 22:23-31 NIV

You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help. From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows. The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the LORD will praise him— may your hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations. All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him— those who cannot keep themselves alive. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!

Friday, February 26, 2021

Romans 4:1-12 NLT

Abraham was, humanly speaking, the founder of our Jewish nation. What did he discover about being made right with God? If his good deeds had made him acceptable to God, he would have had something to boast about. But that was not God’s way. For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners. David also spoke of this when he described the happiness of those who are declared righteous without working for it: “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of sin.” Now, is this blessing only for the Jews, or is it also for uncircumcised Gentiles? Well, we have been saying that Abraham was counted as righteous by God because of his faith. But how did this happen? Was he counted as righteous only after he was circumcised, or was it before he was circumcised? Clearly, God accepted Abraham before he was circumcised! Circumcision was a sign that Abraham already had faith and that God had already accepted him and declared him to be righteous—even before he was circumcised. So Abraham is the spiritual father of those who have faith but have not been circumcised. They are counted as righteous because of their faith. And Abraham is also the spiritual father of those who have been circumcised, but only if they have the same kind of faith Abraham had before he was circumcised.

Genesis 16:1-6 NIV

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.” “Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.

Psalms 22:23-31 NIV

You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help. From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows. The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the LORD will praise him— may your hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations. All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him— those who cannot keep themselves alive. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Romans 3:21-31 ESV

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

Genesis 15:1-6 NIV

After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” But Abram said, “Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

Psalms 22:23-31 NIV

You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help. From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows. The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the LORD will praise him— may your hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations. All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him— those who cannot keep themselves alive. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Matthew 4:1-11 KJV

Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.

Proverbs 30:1-9 ESV

The words of Agur son of Jakeh. The oracle. The man declares, I am weary, O God; I am weary, O God, and worn out. Surely I am too stupid to be a man. I have not the understanding of a man. I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One. Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son’s name? Surely you know! Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar. Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.

PSALMS 77

The Consoling Memory of God’s Redemptive Works
To the Chief Musician. To Jeduthun. A Psalm of Asaph.
1I cried out to God with my voice—
To God with my voice;
And He gave ear to me.
2In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord;
My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing;
My soul refused to be comforted.
3I remembered God, and was troubled;
I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed.
Selah
4You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
5I have considered the days of old,
The years of ancient times.
6I call to remembrance my song in the night;
I meditate within my heart,
And my spirit makes diligent search.
7Will the Lord cast off forever?
And will He be favorable no more?
8Has His mercy ceased forever?
Has His promise failed forevermore?
9Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies?
Selah
10And I said, “This is my anguish;
But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
11I will remember the works of the Lord;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.
12I will also meditate on all Your work,
And talk of Your deeds.
13Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary;
Who is so great a God as our God?
14You are the God who does wonders;
You have declared Your strength among the peoples.
15You have with Your arm redeemed Your people,
The sons of Jacob and Joseph.
Selah
16The waters saw You, O God;
The waters saw You, they were afraid;
The depths also trembled.
17The clouds poured out water;
The skies sent out a sound;
Your arrows also flashed about.
18The voice of Your thunder was in the whirlwind;
The lightnings lit up the world;
The earth trembled and shook.
19Your way was in the sea,
Your path in the great waters,
And Your footsteps were not known.
20You led Your people like a flock
By the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

1 Peter 3:8-18a

Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing. For “Those who desire life and desire to see good days, let them keep their tongues from evil and their lips from speaking deceit; let them turn away from evil and do good; let them seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you;

yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil.

For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit,

Job 5:8-27 GNB

If I were you, I would turn to God and present my case to him. We cannot understand the great things he does, and to his miracles there is no end. He sends rain on the land and he waters the fields. Yes, it is God who raises the humble and gives joy to all who mourn. He upsets the plans of cunning people, and traps the wise in their own schemes, so that nothing they do succeeds; even at noon they grope in darkness. But God saves the poor from death; he saves the needy from oppression. He gives hope to the poor and silences the wicked. Happy is the person whom God corrects! Do not resent it when he rebukes you. God bandages the wounds he makes; his hand hurts you, and his hand heals. Time after time he will save you from harm; when famine comes, he will keep you alive, and in war protect you from death. God will rescue you from slander; he will save you when destruction comes. You will laugh at violence and hunger and not be afraid of wild animals. The fields you plough will be free of rocks; wild animals will never attack you. Then you will live at peace in your tent; when you look at your sheep, you will find them safe. You will have as many children as there are blades of grass in a pasture. Like wheat that ripens till harvest time, you will live to a ripe old age. Job, we have learnt this by long study. It is true, so now accept it.

PSALMS 77

The Consoling Memory of God’s Redemptive Works
To the Chief Musician. To Jeduthun. A Psalm of Asaph.
1I cried out to God with my voice—
To God with my voice;
And He gave ear to me.
2In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord;
My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing;
My soul refused to be comforted.
3I remembered God, and was troubled;
I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed.
Selah
4You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
5I have considered the days of old,
The years of ancient times.
6I call to remembrance my song in the night;
I meditate within my heart,
And my spirit makes diligent search.
7Will the Lord cast off forever?
And will He be favorable no more?
8Has His mercy ceased forever?
Has His promise failed forevermore?
9Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies?
Selah
10And I said, “This is my anguish;
But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
11I will remember the works of the Lord;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.
12I will also meditate on all Your work,
And talk of Your deeds.
13Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary;
Who is so great a God as our God?
14You are the God who does wonders;
You have declared Your strength among the peoples.
15You have with Your arm redeemed Your people,
The sons of Jacob and Joseph.
Selah
16The waters saw You, O God;
The waters saw You, they were afraid;
The depths also trembled.
17The clouds poured out water;
The skies sent out a sound;
Your arrows also flashed about.
18The voice of Your thunder was in the whirlwind;
The lightnings lit up the world;
The earth trembled and shook.
19Your way was in the sea,
Your path in the great waters,
And Your footsteps were not known.
20You led Your people like a flock
By the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Sunday, February 

Monday, February 22, 2021

Ephesians 2:1-10 NLT

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Job 4:1-21 NLT

Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied to Job: “Will you be patient and let me say a word? For who could keep from speaking out? “In the past you have encouraged many people; you have strengthened those who were weak. Your words have supported those who were falling; you encouraged those with shaky knees. But now when trouble strikes, you lose heart. You are terrified when it touches you. Doesn’t your reverence for God give you confidence? Doesn’t your life of integrity give you hope? “Stop and think! Do the innocent die? When have the upright been destroyed? My experience shows that those who plant trouble and cultivate evil will harvest the same. A breath from God destroys them. They vanish in a blast of his anger. The lion roars and the wildcat snarls, but the teeth of strong lions will be broken. The fierce lion will starve for lack of prey, and the cubs of the lioness will be scattered. “This truth was given to me in secret, as though whispered in my ear. It came to me in a disturbing vision at night, when people are in a deep sleep. Fear gripped me, and my bones trembled. A spirit swept past my face, and my hair stood on end. The spirit stopped, but I couldn’t see its shape. There was a form before my eyes. In the silence I heard a voice say, ‘Can a mortal be innocent before God? Can anyone be pure before the Creator?’ “If God does not trust his own angels and has charged his messengers with foolishness, how much less will he trust people made of clay! They are made of dust, crushed as easily as a moth. They are alive in the morning but dead by evening, gone forever without a trace. Their tent-cords are pulled and the tent collapses, and they die in ignorance.

PSALMS 77

The Consoling Memory of God’s Redemptive Works
To the Chief Musician. To Jeduthun. A Psalm of Asaph.
1I cried out to God with my voice—
To God with my voice;
And He gave ear to me.
2In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord;
My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing;
My soul refused to be comforted.
3I remembered God, and was troubled;
I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed.
Selah
4You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
5I have considered the days of old,
The years of ancient times.
6I call to remembrance my song in the night;
I meditate within my heart,
And my spirit makes diligent search.
7Will the Lord cast off forever?
And will He be favorable no more?
8Has His mercy ceased forever?
Has His promise failed forevermore?
9Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies?
Selah
10And I said, “This is my anguish;
But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
11I will remember the works of the Lord;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.
12I will also meditate on all Your work,
And talk of Your deeds.
13Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary;
Who is so great a God as our God?
14You are the God who does wonders;
You have declared Your strength among the peoples.
15You have with Your arm redeemed Your people,
The sons of Jacob and Joseph.
Selah
16The waters saw You, O God;
The waters saw You, they were afraid;
The depths also trembled.
17The clouds poured out water;
The skies sent out a sound;
Your arrows also flashed about.
18The voice of Your thunder was in the whirlwind;
The lightnings lit up the world;
The earth trembled and shook.
19Your way was in the sea,
Your path in the great waters,
And Your footsteps were not known.
20You led Your people like a flock
By the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

First Sunday in Lent

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Matthew 9:2-13

And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” —he then said to the paralytic—’stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

Blessed Are the Forgiven  — Psalm 32

1 A Maskil of David. Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. 3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up[2] as by the heat of summer. 5 I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. 6 Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him. 7 You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. 8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. 9 Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you. 10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord. 11 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

Psalm 25:1-10 ESV

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD! Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

Friday, February 19, 2021

2 Timothy 4:1-5 NIV

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

Daniel 9:15-25a

“And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand and made your name renowned even to this day—we have sinned, we have done wickedly. O Lord, in view of all your righteous acts, let your anger and wrath, we pray, turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy mountain; because of our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors, Jerusalem and your people have become a disgrace among all our neighbors. Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his supplication, and for your own sake, Lord, let your face shine upon your desolated sanctuary. Incline your ear, O my God, and hear. Open your eyes and look at our desolation and the city that bears your name. We do not present our supplication before you on the ground of our righteousness, but on the ground of your great mercies. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, listen and act and do not delay! For your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people bear your name!”

While I was speaking, and was praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God on behalf of the holy mountain of my God— while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen before in a vision, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. He came and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come out to give you wisdom and understanding. At the beginning of your supplications a word went out, and I have come to declare it, for you are greatly beloved. So consider the word and understand the vision: “Seventy weeks are decreed for your people and your holy city: to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. Know therefore and understand: from the time that the word went out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the time of an anointed prince, there shall be seven weeks; and for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with streets and moat, but in a troubled time.

Psalm 25:1-10 ESV

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD! Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

1 John 1:3-10

we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Daniel 9:1-14

In the first year of Darius son of Ahasuerus, by birth a Mede, who became king over the realm of the Chaldeans— in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to the prophet Jeremiah, must be fulfilled for the devastation of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. Then I turned to the Lord God, to seek an answer by prayer and supplication with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.

I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “Ah, Lord, great and awesome God, keeping covenant and steadfast love with those who love you and keep your commandments, we have sinned and done wrong, acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and ordinances. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land. “Righteousness is on your side, O Lord, but open shame, as at this day, falls on us, the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. Open shame, O Lord, falls on us, our kings, our officials, and our ancestors, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by following his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. “All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. So the curse and the oath written in the law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against you. He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers, by bringing upon us a calamity so great that what has been done against Jerusalem has never before been done under the whole heaven. Just as it is written in the law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us. We did not entreat the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities and reflecting on his fidelity. So the Lord kept watch over this calamity until he brought it upon us. Indeed, the Lord our God is right in all that he has done; for we have disobeyed his voice.

Psalm 25:1-10 ESV

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD! Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

ASH WEDNESDAY

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

1 Timothy 3:14-16 NIV

Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.

Job 19:23-27

“O that my words were written down! O that they were inscribed in a book! O that with an iron pen and with lead they were engraved on a rock forever! For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!

Psalms 110:1-4 NKJV

The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies! Your people shall be volunteers In the day of Your power; In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning, You have the dew of Your youth. The LORD has sworn And will not relent, “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.”

Monday, February 15, 2021

Hebrews 2:1-4 ESV

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Exodus 19:7-25 NLT

So Moses returned from the mountain and called together the elders of the people and told them everything the LORD had commanded him. And all the people responded together, “We will do everything the LORD has commanded.” So Moses brought the people’s answer back to the LORD. Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will come to you in a thick cloud, Moses, so the people themselves can hear me when I speak with you. Then they will always trust you.” Moses told the LORD what the people had said. Then the LORD told Moses, “Go down and prepare the people for my arrival. Consecrate them today and tomorrow, and have them wash their clothing. Be sure they are ready on the third day, for on that day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai as all the people watch. Mark off a boundary all around the mountain. Warn the people, ‘Be careful! Do not go up on the mountain or even touch its boundaries. Anyone who touches the mountain will certainly be put to death. No hand may touch the person or animal that crosses the boundary; instead, stone them or shoot them with arrows. They must be put to death.’ However, when the ram’s horn sounds a long blast, then the people may go up on the mountain.” So Moses went down to the people. He consecrated them for worship, and they washed their clothes. He told them, “Get ready for the third day, and until then abstain from having sexual intercourse.” On the morning of the third day, thunder roared and lightning flashed, and a dense cloud came down on the mountain. There was a long, loud blast from a ram’s horn, and all the people trembled. Moses led them out from the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. All of Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the LORD had descended on it in the form of fire. The smoke billowed into the sky like smoke from a brick kiln, and the whole mountain shook violently. As the blast of the ram’s horn grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God thundered his reply. The LORD came down on the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses climbed the mountain. Then the LORD told Moses, “Go back down and warn the people not to break through the boundaries to see the LORD, or they will die. Even the priests who regularly come near to the LORD must purify themselves so that the LORD does not break out and destroy them.” “But LORD,” Moses protested, “the people cannot come up to Mount Sinai. You already warned us. You told me, ‘Mark off a boundary all around the mountain to set it apart as holy.’” But the LORD said, “Go down and bring Aaron back up with you. In the meantime, do not let the priests or the people break through to approach the LORD, or he will break out and destroy them.” So Moses went down to the people and told them what the LORD had said.

Psalms 110:1-4 NKJV

The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies! Your people shall be volunteers In the day of Your power; In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning, You have the dew of Your youth. The LORD has sworn And will not relent, “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.”

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Luke 19:41-44 KJV

And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.

1 Kings 16:1–7

And the word of the Lord came to Jehu the son of Hanani against Baasha, saying, 2 “Since I exalted you out of the dust and made you leader over my people Israel, and you have walked in the way of Jeroboam and have made my people Israel to sin, provoking me to anger with their sins, 3 behold, I will utterly sweep away Baasha and his house, and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. 4 Anyone belonging to Baasha who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the field the birds of the heavens shall eat.”

5 Now the rest of the acts of Baasha and what he did, and his might, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? 6 And Baasha slept with his fathers and was buried at Tirzah, and Elah his son reigned in his place. 7 Moreover, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Jehu the son of Hanani against Baasha and his house, both because of all the evil that he did in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger with the work of his hands, in being like the house of Jeroboam, and also because he destroyed it.

Psalms 50:1-6 NIV

The Mighty One, God, the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to where it sets. From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth. Our God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages. He summons the heavens above, and the earth, that he may judge his people: “Gather to me this consecrated people, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” And the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for he is a God of justice.

Friday, February 12, 2021

1 Timothy 1:12-20 ESV

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

1 Kings 14:1-18 ERV

At that time Jeroboam’s son Abijah became very sick. Jeroboam said to his wife, “Go to Shiloh and see the prophet Ahijah. He is the one who said that I would become king of Israel. Dress yourself so that people will not know that you are my wife. Give the prophet ten loaves of bread, some cakes, and a jar of honey. Then ask him what will happen to our son, and he will tell you.” So the king’s wife did what he said. She went to the home of Ahijah the prophet in Shiloh. Ahijah was very old and had become blind. But the LORD said to him, “Jeroboam’s wife is coming to ask you about her son because he is sick. I will tell you what to say to her.” When she came to Ahijah’s house, she pretended to be someone else. But when Ahijah heard her coming to the door, he said, “Come in! I know who you are. You are Jeroboam’s wife. Why are you pretending to be someone else? I have some bad news for you. Go back and tell Jeroboam that this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Jeroboam, I chose you from among all the Israelites. I made you the ruler of my people. David’s family was ruling the kingdom of Israel, but I took the kingdom away from them and gave it to you. But you are not like my servant David. He always obeyed my commands and followed me with his whole heart. He did only what I accepted. But you have sinned worse than anyone who ruled before you. You stopped following me and made other gods for yourself. You made those statues to make me angry. So Jeroboam, I will bring troubles to your family. I will kill all the men in your family. I will destroy your family completely, like fire burning up dung. Anyone from your family who dies in the city will be eaten by dogs. And anyone from your family who dies in the fields will be eaten by birds. The LORD has spoken.’” Then Ahijah said, “Now, go home. Your son will die as soon as you enter the city. All Israel will cry for him. They will bury him, but he is the only one from Jeroboam’s family who will be buried. This is because he is the only one in Jeroboam’s family who pleased the LORD, the God of Israel. Soon, the LORD will put a new king over Israel who will destroy Jeroboam’s family. Then the LORD will punish Israel. The Israelites will be so full of fear that they will shake like tall grass in the water. He will pull Israel up from this good land that he gave their ancestors. He will scatter them to the other side of the Euphrates River. The will punish Israel. The Israelites will be so full of fear that they will shake like tall grass in the water. He will pull Israel up from this good land that he gave their ancestors. He will scatter them to the other side of the Euphrates River. The LORD will do this because the people made him angry when they built sacred poles. He will let the Israelites be defeated because Jeroboam sinned, and then he made the Israelites sin.” Jeroboam’s wife went back to Tirzah. As soon as she stepped into the house, the boy died. They buried him and all the people of Israel cried for him. This happened just as the LORD said it would through his servant, the prophet Ahijah.

Psalms 50:1-6 NIV

The Mighty One, God, the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to where it sets. From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth. Our God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages. He summons the heavens above, and the earth, that he may judge his people: “Gather to me this consecrated people, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” And the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for he is a God of justice.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

2 Corinthians 2:12-17 ESV

When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia. But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

1 Kings 11:26-40 ERV

There was also another person who became an enemy of Solomon. He was Jeroboam son of Nebat. He was an Ephraimite from the town of Zeredah. His mother was a widow named Zeruah. He was one of Solomon’s servants, but he rebelled against the king. This is the story about how Jeroboam turned against the king. Solomon was building the Millo and repairing the wall around the city of David, his father. Jeroboam was a free man. Solomon saw that this young man was a skilled worker, so he made him the supervisor over all the workers from the tribes that descended from Joseph. One day as Jeroboam was leaving Jerusalem, the prophet Ahijah from Shiloh met him on the road. They were alone out in the country, and Ahijah was wearing a new coat. Ahijah took his new coat and tore it into twelve pieces. Then he said to Jeroboam, “Take ten pieces of this coat for yourself because the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I will tear the kingdom away from Solomon, and I will give you ten of the tribes. I will let David’s family keep only one tribe. I will do this because of my servant David and because of Jerusalem, the city that I chose from among all the tribes of Israel. I will take the kingdom from Solomon because he stopped following me and began worshiping Ashtoreth, the goddess of Sidon; Chemosh, the god of Moab; and Milcom, the god of the Ammonites. Solomon stopped following my ways and doing what I say is right. He does not obey my laws and commands as his father David did. So I will take the kingdom away from Solomon’s family. I chose David because he obeyed all my laws and commands. So for my servant David, I will let Solomon be the king for the rest of his life. But Jeroboam, I will take the ten tribes away from his son and give them to you. I will let Solomon’s son keep one tribe to rule over. I will do this for my servant David, so he will always have someone to rule near me in Jerusalem, the city that I chose to be my own. But I will make you king of Israel. You will rule over everything you want. If you live right and obey all my commands as David did, I will be with you and make your family a family of kings, just as I did for David. And you will have Israel as your kingdom. I will punish David’s descendants because of what Solomon did, but not forever.’” Solomon tried to kill Jeroboam, but Jeroboam ran away to Egypt. He went to King Shishak of Egypt and stayed there until Solomon died.

Psalms 50:1-6 NIV

The Mighty One, God, the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to where it sets. From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth. Our God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages. He summons the heavens above, and the earth, that he may judge his people: “Gather to me this consecrated people, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” And the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for he is a God of justice.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

6 But Job answered and said,

Oh that my grief were throughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together!

For now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea: therefore my words are swallowed up.

For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me.

Doth the wild ass bray when he hath grass? or loweth the ox over his fodder?

Can that which is unsavoury be eaten without salt? or is there any taste in the white of an egg?

The things that my soul refused to touch are as my sorrowful meat.

Oh that I might have my request; and that God would grant me the thing that I long for!

Even that it would please God to destroy me; that he would let loose his hand, and cut me off!

10 Then should I yet have comfort; yea, I would harden myself in sorrow: let him not spare; for I have not concealed the words of the Holy One.

11 What is my strength, that I should hope? and what is mine end, that I should prolong my life?

12 Is my strength the strength of stones? or is my flesh of brass?

13 Is not my help in me? and is wisdom driven quite from me?

Psalm 102:12-28

12 But you, Lord, sit enthroned forever;
    your renown endures through all generations.
13 You will arise and have compassion on Zion,
    for it is time to show favor to her;
    the appointed time has come.
14 For her stones are dear to your servants;
    her very dust moves them to pity.
15 The nations will fear the name of the Lord,
    all the kings of the earth will revere your glory.
16 For the Lord will rebuild Zion
    and appear in his glory.
17 He will respond to the prayer of the destitute;
    he will not despise their plea.

18 Let this be written for a future generation,
    that a people not yet created may praise the Lord:
19 “The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high,
    from heaven he viewed the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners
    and release those condemned to death.”
21 So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion
    and his praise in Jerusalem
22 when the peoples and the kingdoms
    assemble to worship the Lord.

23 In the course of my life he broke my strength;
    he cut short my days.
24 So I said:
“Do not take me away, my God, in the midst of my days
    your years go on through all generations.
25 In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
    and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you remain;
    they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
    and they will be discarded.
27 But you remain the same,
    and your years will never end.
28 The children of your servants will live in your presence;
    their descendants will be established before you.”

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Acts 15:36-41 NIV

Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

The Shunammite Woman’s Land Restored

8 1  Now Elisha had said to the woman whose son he had restored to life, “Go away with your family and stay for a while wherever you can, because the Lord has decreed a famine in the land that will last seven years.” 2  The woman proceeded to do as the man of God said. She and her family went away and stayed in the land of the Philistines seven years. 3  At the end of the seven years she came back from the land of the Philistines and went to appeal to the king for her house and land. 4  The king was talking to Gehazi, the servant of the man of God, and had said, “Tell me about all the great things Elisha has done.” 5  Just as Gehazi was telling the king how Elisha had restored the dead to life, the woman whose son Elisha had brought back to life came to appeal to the king for her house and land. Gehazi said, “This is the woman, my lord the king, and this is her son whom Elisha restored to life.” 6  The king asked the woman about it, and she told him. Then he assigned an official to her case and said to him, “Give back everything that belonged to her, including all the income from her land from the day she left the country until now.”

Psalm 102:12-28

12 But you, Lord, sit enthroned forever;
    your renown endures through all generations.
13 You will arise and have compassion on Zion,
    for it is time to show favor to her;
    the appointed time has come.
14 For her stones are dear to your servants;
    her very dust moves them to pity.
15 The nations will fear the name of the Lord,
    all the kings of the earth will revere your glory.
16 For the Lord will rebuild Zion
    and appear in his glory.
17 He will respond to the prayer of the destitute;
    he will not despise their plea.

18 Let this be written for a future generation,
    that a people not yet created may praise the Lord:
19 “The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high,
    from heaven he viewed the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners
    and release those condemned to death.”
21 So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion
    and his praise in Jerusalem
22 when the peoples and the kingdoms
    assemble to worship the Lord.

23 In the course of my life he broke my strength;
    he cut short my days.
24 So I said:
“Do not take me away, my God, in the midst of my days
    your years go on through all generations.
25 In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
    and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you remain;
    they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
    and they will be discarded.
27 But you remain the same,
    and your years will never end.
28 The children of your servants will live in your presence;
    their descendants will be established before you.”

Monday, February 8, 2021

Acts 14:1–7

At Iconium

14 Now it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed. 2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and 1poisoned their minds against the brethren. 3 Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.

4 But the multitude of the city was divided: part sided with the Jews, and part with the apostles. 5 And when a violent attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to abuse and stone them, 6 they became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region. 7 And they were preaching the gospel there.

2 Kings 4:32-37 CEB

Elisha came into the house and saw the boy lying dead on his bed. He went in and closed the door behind the two of them. Then he prayed to the LORD. He got up on the bed and lay down on top of the child, putting his mouth on the boy’s mouth, his eyes on the boy’s eyes, his hands on the boy’s hands. And as he bent over him, the child’s skin grew warm. Then Elisha got down and paced back and forth in the house. Once again he got up on the bed and bent over the boy, at which point the boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes. Elisha called for Gehazi and said, “Call the Shunammite woman.” Gehazi called her, and she came to Elisha. He told her, “Pick up your son.” She came and fell at his feet, facedown on the ground. Then she picked up her son and left.

II Kings 4:8-17 NKJV

Now it happened one day that Elisha went to Shunem, where there was a notable woman, and she persuaded him to eat some food. So it was, as often as he passed by, he would turn in there to eat some food. And she said to her husband, “Look now, I know that this is a holy man of God, who passes by us regularly. Please, let us make a small upper room on the wall; and let us put a bed for him there, and a table and a chair and a lampstand; so it will be, whenever he comes to us, he can turn in there.” And it happened one day that he came there, and he turned in to the upper room and lay down there. Then he said to Gehazi his servant, “Call this Shunammite woman.” When he had called her, she stood before him. And he said to him, “Say now to her, ‘Look, you have been concerned for us with all this care. What can I do for you? Do you want me to speak on your behalf to the king or to the commander of the army?’ ” She answered, “I dwell among my own people.” So he said, “What then is to be done for her?” And Gehazi answered, “Actually, she has no son, and her husband is old.” So he said, “Call her.” When he had called her, she stood in the doorway. Then he said, “About this time next year you shall embrace a son.” And she said, “No, my lord. Man of God, do not lie to your maidservant!” But the woman conceived, and bore a son when the appointed time had come, of which Elisha had told her.

Psalm 102:12-28

12 But you, Lord, sit enthroned forever;
    your renown endures through all generations.
13 You will arise and have compassion on Zion,
    for it is time to show favor to her;
    the appointed time has come.
14 For her stones are dear to your servants;
    her very dust moves them to pity.
15 The nations will fear the name of the Lord,
    all the kings of the earth will revere your glory.
16 For the Lord will rebuild Zion
    and appear in his glory.
17 He will respond to the prayer of the destitute;
    he will not despise their plea.

18 Let this be written for a future generation,
    that a people not yet created may praise the Lord:
19 “The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high,
    from heaven he viewed the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners
    and release those condemned to death.”
21 So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion
    and his praise in Jerusalem
22 when the peoples and the kingdoms
    assemble to worship the Lord.

23 In the course of my life he broke my strength;
    he cut short my days.
24 So I said:
“Do not take me away, my God, in the midst of my days
    your years go on through all generations.
25 In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
    and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you remain;
    they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
    and they will be discarded.
27 But you remain the same,
    and your years will never end.
28 The children of your servants will live in your presence;
    their descendants will be established before you.”

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Psalm 147:1-11 NIV

Praise the LORD. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him! The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground. Sing to the LORD with grateful praise; make music to our God on the harp. He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills. He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call. His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of the warrior; the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.

NIV: New International Version

Isaiah 46:1-13 NKJV

Bel bows down, Nebo stoops; Their idols were on the beasts and on the cattle. Your carriages were heavily loaded, A burden to the weary beast. They stoop, they bow down together; They could not deliver the burden, But have themselves gone into captivity. “Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, And all the remnant of the house of Israel, Who have been upheld by Me from birth, Who have been carried from the womb: Even to your old age, I am He, And even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; Even I will carry, and will deliver you. “To whom will you liken Me, and make Me equal And compare Me, that we should be alike? They lavish gold out of the bag, And weigh silver on the scales; They hire a goldsmith, and he makes it a god; They prostrate themselves, yes, they worship. They bear it on the shoulder, they carry it And set it in its place, and it stands; From its place it shall not move. Though one cries out to it, yet it cannot answer Nor save him out of his trouble. “Remember this, and show yourselves men; Recall to mind, O you transgressors. Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’ Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it. “Listen to Me, you stubborn-hearted, Who are far from righteousness: I bring My righteousness near, it shall not be far off; My salvation shall not linger. And I will place salvation in Zion, For Israel My glory.

Matthew 12:9-14 NKJV

Now when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue. And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—that they might accuse Him. Then He said to them, “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other. Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him.

February 5, 2021

Psalms 147:1-11 NIV

Praise the LORD. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him! The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground. Sing to the LORD with grateful praise; make music to our God on the harp. He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills. He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call. His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of the warrior; the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.

1 CORINTHIANS 9:1-16

Paul’s Rights as an Apostle
1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? 2 Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
3 This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. 4 Don’t we have the right to food and drink? 5 Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas6 Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?
7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? 8 Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10 Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?
But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.
13 Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? 14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.
15 But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast. 16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 

Job 36:1–23

Elihu continued:
2 “Bear with me a little longer and I will show you
that there is more to be said in God’s behalf.
3 I get my knowledge from afar;
I will ascribe justice to my Maker.
4 Be assured that my words are not false;
one who has perfect knowledge is with you.
5 “God is mighty, but despises no one;
he is mighty, and firm in his purpose.
6 He does not keep the wicked alive
but gives the afflicted their rights.
7 He does not take his eyes off the righteous;
he enthrones them with kings
and exalts them forever.
8 But if people are bound in chains,
held fast by cords of affliction,
9 he tells them what they have done—
that they have sinned arrogantly.
10 He makes them listen to correction
and commands them to repent of their evil.
11 If they obey and serve him,
they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity
and their years in contentment.
12 But if they do not listen,
they will perish by the sword
and die without knowledge.
13 “The godless in heart harbor resentment;
even when he fetters them, they do not cry for help.
14 They die in their youth,
among male prostitutes of the shrines.
15 But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering;
he speaks to them in their affliction.
16 “He is wooing you from the jaws of distress
to a spacious place free from restriction,
to the comfort of your table laden with choice food.
17 But now you are laden with the judgment due the wicked;
judgment and justice have taken hold of you.
18 Be careful that no one entices you by riches;
do not let a large bribe turn you aside.
19 Would your wealth or even all your mighty efforts
sustain you so you would not be in distress?
20 Do not long for the night,
to drag people away from their homes.
21 Beware of turning to evil,
which you seem to prefer to affliction.
22 “God is exalted in his power.
Who is a teacher like him?
23 Who has prescribed his ways for him,
or said to him, ‘You have done wrong’?

August 27, 2020 – Reverend Taylor Freeman Coates

“I will exalt you, my God the king; I will praise your name for ever and ever.  Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever.  Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom” (Psalm 145: 1-3).

On the greatness of God…The hymn–“How Great Thou Art” was written one hot summer night around the year 1886, in the heart of Swedish countryside at a little place called, “Kronevbvack”.   The hymns author, Carl Boberg, relates that he along with a handful of other men had been invited to attend a ladies meeting where the women had gathered to sew for the benefit of missions.  Boberg recalled at first it was an absolutely beautiful day.  Almost as though Mother Nature herself was showing off her summer’s best.  The men, both young and old, enjoyed the hospitality of the home and exploring the large Swedish estate.

In the midst of the gathering a storm cloud was seen above the horizon and before long the sky became overcast, lightning flashed across the dark heaven.  The downpour soon followed and the men and guests were driven to seek shelter.   In due time the rain ceased, however, and on the sky was seen a bow of promise.  In the midst of it all, from a church across the bay, where a funeral was in progress, the bells pealed forth their cadence.

Enraptured with the wonders of it all, Boberg sat down that evening with pen in hand and gave expressions to his feelings in the writing of the poem “O Store Gud!”  Several years later Boberg was attending another meeting when out of the blue he heard the congregation sing his poem to the tune of an old Swedish melody.

“O Lord my God!  When I in awesome wonder

Consider all the works Thy hand hath made,

I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,

Thy pow’r throughout the universe displayed:

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee,

How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

When through the woods and forest glades I wander

And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;

When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,

And hear the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,

Sent him to die–I scarce can take it in;

That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,

He bled and died to take away my sin:

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation

And take me home—what joy shall fill my heart!

Then I shall bow in humble adoration,

And there proclaim, my God, how great thou art.”

In 1890 the familiar hymn, “How Great Thou Art” was published in Chicago.   Have you taken time this week to think about the awesomeness of God?  Take a moment this day to consider how mighty, wonderful, awesome, and faithful our God is.  When life gets stormy or cluttered with worries and frustrations that are beyond your control God is still the Great I am.   Recall the Psalmist who once said, “Hear me, O God!  Attend to my prayer.  From the ends of the earth I call to you, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. (Psalm 61:1-3)

August 20, 2020 – Reverend Taylor Freeman Coates

2 Corinthians 12: 9-10, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Many, many, years ago C. H. Spurgeon told of a time when he was on the way home from a really difficult and heavy day’s work.  He was feeling weary, worn, depressed, and drained.  When suddenly and unexpectedly the verse-‘My grace is sufficient for you’ came into his mind.  Immediately Spurgeon compared himself to a little fish, drinking so many pints of water in the river each day, it might drink the river dry, and heard Father River say to it, “Drink away, little fish, my stream is sufficient for you.

Next he thought of a little mouse in the granaries of Joseph in Egypt, afraid lest it might–by the daily consumption of the corn it needed–exhaust the supplies and starve to death; when suddenly Joseph came along and, sensing its fear, said, “Cheer up, little mouse, my granaries are sufficient for you.”  Or again, Spurgeon thought to himself as a man climbing some high mountain to reach its lofty summit, and dreading he might exhaust all of the oxygen in the atmosphere, when the Creator himself said, “Breath away, O man, and fill your lungs ever; my atmosphere is sufficient for you”.

“Grace when the sun is shining Lord,

Grace when the sky is black,

Grace when I get the unkind word,

Grace on the too-smooth track,

Grace when I’m elbowed into a nook,

Grace when I get my turn,

Grace when the dinner will not cook,

Grace when the fire will not burn.

Grace when my duties all go wrong,

Grace when they all go right,

Grace when it’s gladness, praise and song,

Grace when I have to fight,

Grace when my clothes are fresh and new,

Grace when they’re worn and old,

Grace when my purse is empty too,

Grace when it’s full of gold.

Grace when the saved ones don’t act saved,

Grace when they all blame me,

Grace when denied the good I’ve craved,

Grace when I get my plea,

Grace when the midnight hours I tell,

Grace when the morn is nigh,

Grace when I’m healthy, strong, and well,

Grace when I come to die.

Lord, Jesus, hear and grant the grace; my need to thy store I bring,

That, the proper one in the proper place,

I may glorify thee, my King.”  (Author Unknown)

June 2020

It’s hard to believe that June 2020 is already here!

Julia and I have enjoyed our four years of fellowship with First United
Methodist Church and count ourselves blessed to have served as your pastor
and as fellow pilgrims in the journey of our Christian faith.

Over these past years our goal has been to stabilize the church and establish a
few routines that lend support to the ongoing work of FUMC’s ministry.
None of the success we experienced could have occurred without you.

Because of the many people who have been actively engaged with the Church,
the message of God’s love in Jesus Christ has reached beyond our immediate
footprint into the wider community.

So many of you volunteered to do so very much for God’s Kingdom! From
cleaning the sanctuary to caring for parishioners, from multiple missional
outreaches to beautiful programs of music, from serving the young to assisting
the elderly, First United Methodist Church shines as a bright light to all who
have been impacted by your love.

Additionally, the FUMC Staff have superbly managed the daily activities of a
very busy church community and have done so with love, faith and conviction!

Thank you for making my time as your pastor so enjoyable, and for loving the
Lord as you do! Julia and I will continue in our prayers for you and your new
pastor, Reverend Taylor Coates, with fond remembrance and thanksgiving. In
closing this message, Julia and I echo the following encouragement taken from
the Apostle Paul;

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine
for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the
first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a
good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.
(Philippians1:3-6)

May our Lord’s good work continue in each of our hearts as together we take
the next step into a good, peaceable and prosperous future!

Mark and Julia Johnston

May 2020

The Heart in Transformation: The Life of David

Rev. Dr. Mark Raeburn Johnston

– one –

A Life Purposed by Divine Design

Later this month we hope to re-open our church for Sunday fellowship. Of course, we will observe the necessary protocols to ensure the safety, health and well-being of each congregant and those guidelines will be published in advance of our first Sunday meeting.

Because we will not have the privilege of worshiping together in our beautiful sanctuary over the next few weeks, I am posting a series of devotionals entitled; The Heart in Transformation: The Life of David. This series can be read on our Facebook and Web sites and I hope these messages will bring some measure of comfort and inspiration to readers.

I am calling the first devotional, A Life Purposed by Divine Design which is meant to reassure each of us that the living God knows us and has a wonderful plan for our lives.

When Michelangelo sculpted his magnificent 17 foot, marble statue of David, he claimed that he simply chipped away until David emerged from his stony captivity. Michelangelo believed that the image of David “had been trapped inside the block of marble.”

After three years of intense labor, that image was set free for all the world to view.  Concerning the move of the six-ton statue, Michelangelo wrote in his diaries “it took forty men five days to move it. Once in place, the statue was a warning…whoever governed Florence should govern justly and defend it bravely…

Michelangelo’s message in stone was that those who would presume to lead a people are accountable to both God and man.

This ties us into the larger story of David, a study of faith and accountability of a man who was a shepherd and king, a son and a father, a husband and friend, a warrior and a worshiper.

According to First Samuel, chapter 13 verse 14, ‘David was a man after God’s own heart’ which means that David looked to God for guidance on a daily basis. As a consequence, David’s life was a life purposed by divine design! The realization of divine purpose occurs within the framework of faith.

To better understand David we must remember the story of his great-grandmother, Ruth, a Moabite woman of faith.  Ruth teaches us that accountability to God begins by walking in obedience with the Lord, Who brings us from famine to feast, from failure to victory, from alienation to family.

We learn that faith in God shapes our futures with unimagined possibilities. We are liberated from the prisons of doubt, low self-esteem and uncertainty when the Sculptor of our destiny is the living God! We walk with the promise that God can do something wonderful with our lives when we place our trust in Him!

A friend once told me that the wealthiest place in any community is not the bank, not the stock-market, nor any other institution, but rather, the local cemetery.

Buried in every graveyard are the marvelous inventions, the wonderful cures and amazing discoveries that should have come into the world but were never realized because of a lack of self-confidence and reliance upon the Lord. How many of us have ‘buried’ our talents and gifts? Who among us has forgotten the inspired dreams that promised so much but never materialized because of some criticism?

May I suggest that no matter your age, level of education of social standing, “you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you” (Philippians chapter 4 verse 13).

In other words, those who actively seek the Lord are better postured to realize the divine purpose of God in this life. In this manner, shepherds have become kings.

Because the eye of the Sculptor sees something in each of us, what we might call ‘our potential’ or the ‘what could be’ factor, our lives are open ended with incredible possibilities that can honor God while blessing others!

However, this requires that His skilled hands chip away the unnecessary stone that so often traps and hinders our potential. Such processes are always difficult and sometimes painful.

But the polished result becomes a witness to the entire world!

From dust and stone emerges the eternal image of His grace! His Holy Spirit convicts, guides and counsels us while transforming our hearts as children of God.

As we search for Scriptural truths about this beloved shepherd king named David, let’s also search our own hearts and stand ready for the touch of God, our heavenly Sculptor! Then let’s commit our lives in service to God and others.

The most beautiful heart is the heart sculpted by God

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

(Second Corinthians chapter 3 verse 18)

April 2020

A Letter of Faith

Rev. Dr. Mark Raeburn Johnston

This April 12th we will celebrate our Lord’s victory over sin and death!

This may be the only time in the history of FUMC where the sanctuary has not been filled for worship on an Easter morning. However, we can ensure that our hearts our filled with the recognition and gratitude of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection and sing with the angels; “He is Risen!”

We can unite in the Holy Spirit with praise and thanksgiving. Together in Spirit, we can worship God with Scripture readings, hymns and meditation.

That this is our privilege is due only to the fact of the Resurrection in human history.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single most important event in the record of humanity. It is important for the following reasons;

1) Death is not the final answerwe are given an opportunity by the living God to be ‘born again’ through the power and grace of the Holy Spirit. As the old Church used to say; “We are either born twice or we will die twice.” This statement refers to the promise of spiritual rebirth and eternal life, or the rejection of Christ and the everlasting condemnation which leads to the second death (Revelation 21:8)

2) The Resurrection of Jesus Christ provides us with the evidence of a loving God who has purposed an eternal plan for any who believe in Him. History has meaning. You and I have real significance in life when we know the Lord as Savior!

3) The Resurrection of Jesus is the certification that evil has been overcome and that a day is soon coming when there will be no more evil of any kind! Think of it, no more tears, no more disease, no more death!

4) The Resurrection of Jesus has united us with the saints who preceded us and those who will follow us in eternity to come. We will forever enjoy the company of our loved ones because of God’s goodness and grace!

These are just four of the benefits that we possess because of this wonderful truth.

God has come into our world and taken upon Himself our sin and death. He has overcome all of this through His physical, bodily Resurrection, and He now sends the Holy Spirit to any who repent of sin and call upon His Name!

While, this year, we will not gather together as a Congregation in our beautiful sanctuary due to the pandemic sweeping the world, we can worship together in the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote something similar to the Colossian Church;

“For though I am absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.”

 (Colossians 2:5)

As we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, I encourage each of you to take the time to “bow the knee” in thanksgiving and praise for all the Lord has done for you and your family.

In so doing, we can enjoy Easter as it was meant to be enjoyed!

March 2020

The Kingdom Mile

     Rev. Dr. Mark R. Johnston

The Christian’s walk of faith is defined most often by the second mile, not the first!

Most of us recall the famous words of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter five, verse forty-one;

“If any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles!”

These words were meant to encourage believers in their witness of a loving God to an unbelieving and abusive world. This kindness translates as graciousness when it is freely offered to an otherwise undeserving people.

In fact, when Jesus gave this command to his disciples, Israel was under a cruel Roman occupation. It was a well known fact that Roman soldiers often abused their authority by compelling ordinary people to carry their heavy gear for short distances. That’s why the Living Bible says, “If the military demand that you carry their gear for a mile, carry it for two!”

But walking an extra mile doesn’t simply provide a surprising witness to others. It also shapes our own character as Kingdom people. It paves the rough and stony roads of our hearts to become highways for God’s Spirit! While the first mile may relieve the Roman of his burden, the second mile, the Kingdom Mile, has the potential to extend the reign of the Lord in our lives and the lives of others. Unexpected acts of kindness can soften the hardest hearts, including our own!

Even though the second mile may seem longer than the first, it promotes life through service. Walking the second mile points to a destination beyond this world. It is during the second mile that God’s Spirit begins to whisper the convictions of care and love.

A recent survey in Italy discovered that young people identified the late Mother Theresa and the late Pope John Paul II as true heroes and role models for our time.

Overshadowing rock stars, movies personalities and even political leaders, the survey revealed that they voted for Mother Teresa and the Pope because they admired their courage, honesty and devotion to charity. Theirs is a life of service. A life that says, “Let’s walk that extra mile!”

When we are willing to walk beyond the selfishness, beyond the egotism and the mean spirited ideologies of this world, we carry our cross in obedience to God’s word.

It has been pointed out by historians of the church that when our Savior stumbled as He carried the cross to Mount Golgotha, that a certain man named Simon was compelled to assist Jesus in that sacred journey.

In Mark chapter fifteen, verse twenty-one we read of this incident;

“Then they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross.”

It seems that Mark references Simon by virtue of his two sons Alexander and Rufus who were most probably known to the earliest Christian community. In other words, Alexander and Rufus were themselves followers of the Lord Jesus.

What historians have realized is that this Simon, an unsuspecting visitor to Jerusalem, encountered the Savior of the world at the very moment of His passion. Could it be that Simon’s sharing of our Lord’s burden had some impact on his life? Did this man curse and complain as he assisted our Lord to His execution and death? Or did Simon have some sense of heartbreak for the One who had already been beaten and bloodied by the hands of sinners?

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he greets a certain Rufus’ by name (Romans chapter sixteen verse thirteen). Could this be the son of Simon of Cyrene? If so, might we not wonder if Simon’s own life had been forever impacted and changed as he walked that long distance to Calvary with the Prince of Life?

It’s during that Kingdom mile that we begin to notice that Someone else is walking with us! Indeed, the Holy Spirit Himself accompanies us as we seek to follow God and obey His word! I am convinced that when we are instructed to carry our cross we are to carry the witness of Jesus to a lost and dying world. Let’s commit to walking the Kingdom Mile. In so doing, we’ll walk others into God’s Presence!

February 2020

Love Never Fails

Rev. Dr. Mark R. Johnston

Love is often expressed through giving. This is emphasized in John’s Gospel, chapter 3, verse 16, where we read that;

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life…”

A pastor tells the story of an American who visited an impoverished country. While waiting for a little puddle jumper of a plane to depart the remote region, he was suddenly approached by a woman carrying a malnourished baby.

The child’s swollen stomach and lethargy testified to the battle with hunger that kills nearly twenty million people a year.

She desperately cried, “Take my baby back with you to America and feed him and make him well!”

Trying to avoid her, he rushed toward the awaiting plane, but the poor woman followed pleading, “Take my baby back with you!”

As the plane began to move and pick up speed, she ran alongside holding her baby, and beat upon the fuselage.  Finally, the plane took flight.  On the ground, still crying, was the woman, holding the child aloft – “Take my baby with you so that he might be well!”

There was utter silence in the cockpit.  Finally, after a considerable time, he turned to the pilot and said, “I know who that baby was that we left back there.”  The pilot said, “Who?”  He said, “The name of the child was Jesus of Nazareth.”

At least one billion persons on Earth live in a state of absolute poverty.  Five billion souls live in urban ghettos, most without adequate food or housing or health care.  In Latin America alone, as many as sixty million children have been abandoned and are living on the streets struggling to survive!

Have we noticed?  Often our sin is not that we do anything wrong, but that so many of us do nothing at all. The sins of omission are just as deadly as sins of commission.

When we think of such overwhelming problems, we may be tempted to ask, “Can I really make a difference?” The answer to this question is a definite ‘Yes!’

When we offer a kind word, a helping hand, a welcoming smile or some of our precious time, we offer a gift that translates as compassion, care and love. Every single person you touch in this manner contributes to the betterment of our world.

When the great Apostle Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthian church, he penned what has become known as the ‘love chapter.’ This thirteenth chapter is instructional concerning real love. I quote it in part;

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love…”

The point of this incredible scripture is that many good things can be done in life, but when love is the basis of our actions, no matter how great or small those actions may seem, then something wonderful results.

Love never fails.

Let’s remember that the gift of love carries each of us through the most difficult trials, and with God’s help, we can change the world!

January 2020

When God Becomes Our Banner

Rev. Dr. Mark Johnston

And Moses said to Joshua, “Choose us some men and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.” (Exodus 17:9 NKJ)

There are many names for the Lord in Scripture.

One name, found only one time in the entire Bible, is the name Jehovahnissi, which means, “The Lord is my banner!” This name refers to the Lord as the evident sign given to the entire world of his provision, his power and his promise to those who place their trust in him!

This name was given to the Lord after Israel’s victory over Amalek. In the book of Exodus, chapter 17, Moses is said to have climbed to the top of a hill overlooking the valley where Israel battled with Amalek. Moses stretched his hands heavenward to invoke God’s favor and mercy during the daylong conflict.

While his hands were positioned heavenward, the battle swung in favor of Israel. But when his arms became heavy and dropped to his side, the army of Amalek prevailed!

We read that Aaron and Hur came to the assistance of Moses and they held his arms up for the duration of the conflict, and Joshua and his men utterly defeated their enemy! Is this not a picture of the Cross of Calvary worked out centuries earlier through the life and intercession of Moses?

A God fearing people who engage in military action should also recognize the importance of reaching their hands heavenward before extending forth the arms of war.

When Desert Storm darkened our world in 1991, the United States ordered 70,000 caskets for the estimated casualties expected within US ranks! But righteous people around America repented and prayed that God would forgive our national sins and bring the war to some hopeful conclusion.

At the end of the conflict, General H. Norman Schwarzkopf said it seemed miraculous because of the overwhelming victory and minimal loss of life that US Forces experienced. Of those 70,000 caskets, only 300 or so were actually used to carry the precious remains of brave Americans home! In fact, a few of the unused caskets were adapted as makeshift baptismals in the sands of the Middle East due to the heavenward reach of men and women who called out for God’s salvation!

In like manner, the spiritual victories that heaven grants us are often first won on the battlefields of prayer.

The Psalms of David are replete with examples of earnest prayer in times of trouble. Listen to his supplications from Psalm 28;

Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry to You, when I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary. Do not take me away with the wicked and with the workers of iniquity, who speak peace to their neighbors, but evil is in their hearts. (Psalm 28:2-3 NKJ)

Or consider David’s plea in Psalm 63;

“O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory. Because Your loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You. Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.” (Psalm 63:1-4 NKJ)

Like Moses and David, when we bow our knees to the God of heaven, we can be assured that he will take us by our outstretched hands and guide us through our troubles. We honor God when we humble ourselves in prayer, and God blesses us when “The Lord is our Banner!”

As 2020 unfolds, let’s commit to more prayer and intercession. Let’s remind one another of the promise and the power of our God, who is our banner and our hope!

December 2019

Full Term

Rev. Dr. Mark Johnston

She carried the promise of her baby beyond the understanding of her world. She
was engaged to a man who questioned the incredible story of her supposed conception,
deciding to “put her away privately” to avoid further embarrassment and shame.
Her journey of faith began with the awful prophecy that the child she carried
would somehow “save the world” through his own death.
What prevented the young maiden from terminating the pregnancy? What
caused her to hope amidst the disturbing realization that her reputation would be
marred as one who betrayed her marriage vows, and possibly have her life end with
death by stoning?
Today, we venerate Mary, the Virgin Mother, as one who bravely faced the
emptiness of this world and instead, filled it with the promise of God’s love and life!
Because she believed that God could do all things, Mary carried forth the
command to carry the babe in her womb!
God has called many of us to a special task, an important ministry, a demanding
job, that somehow brings Him glory while assisting others. But with that call comes the
price-tag that Mary was all too familiar with; the cost of a spiritual obedience and
discipleship that is often misunderstood!
The cost of discipleship, our commitment to follow the Lord, is a total cost
requiring a complete surrender of our personal rights in order to serve the King of
Heaven. It is a demand that suggests we lay down our privileges, our comforts, our
prejudices and our very lives for the sake of God’s Kingdom.
In this sense, we understand that the Gift of Christmas, the Christ Child, is a free
gift to anyone who will trust in His Name. However, while our salvation is a free gift, true
discipleship requires that we take up the Cross and follow Him. When we follow the
Lord we enter into the possibility of the supernatural. We engage the powers ‘on high’
with a testimony and witness of what God can do through an obedient heart.
With such commitment, we also often discover our weaknesses, our failings and
our needs. We sometimes feel that we do not have the strength to continue in our
journey of faith. We struggle with the skepticism of onlookers and wrestle with those
important questions that challenge our faith. Following God in this world requires
something more than our own strength, intelligence and ability. Walking after the Lord
requires that we walk with the Lord.
We do well to remember that our help doesn’t come from the mountain tops, nor
from the strength of man. Our help comes from the Lord God Almighty who created

heaven and earth, Who brings heaven’s light into our darkened world. The strong arm of
the Lord will enable us to walk by faith and carry out the commission of His work,
whatever that work may be.
When you’re feeling challenged about doing that which God has called you to do,
or discouraged in your walk of faith, remember that God can do “all things” as He did
with Joseph, whose heart was changed through heavenly dreams, as He did with the
Magi, who followed a special star, and as He did with the shepherds who heard the
angelic hymns of glory.
He’ll do the same for anyone who trusts in His Name!
This Christmas season, let’s remember God’s promise for each of us, and then,
let’s carry that child, that special commission of faith, to full term and bring God’s
blessings into our world!

November 2019

Thank a Veteran

Rev. Dr. Mark Johnston

In 1918, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month, the world rejoiced as the Allied powers signed a cease-fire agreement with Germany to bring World War I to a close. The following year, the United States remembered her veterans by observing Armistice Day.

In 1953, Emporia, Kansas dubbed the holiday ‘Veterans Day’ in gratitude for those who had so bravely served.  Congress then officially renamed the federal holiday Veterans’ Day, and today we recognize all veterans of all U.S. wars through ceremonies that honor and thank them for their selfless service.

Serving in the military of our nation is itself a tribute to a code of honor that can’t be obtained any other way.

In Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural address, he referenced the simple white grave markers in Arlington Memorial Cemetery. He said:

Under one such marker lies a young man—Martin Treptow—who left his job in a small town barber shop in 1917 to go to France with the famed Rainbow Division. There, on the western front, he was killed trying to carry a message between battalions under heavy artillery fire.

We are told that on his body was found a diary. On the flyleaf under the heading, ‘My Pledge’ he had written these words: “America must win this war. Therefore, I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone!”

Those who endured the World Wars, the frozen chill of Korea, the tropical heaviness of Vietnam and the sudden deployments into Panama, Granada and Somalia, are people who best understand the meaning of freedom.  The ongoing war against terror in Afghanistan and Iraq, continues to illustrate the heroic character and courage embodied by the American Veteran.

Let’s pause this November 11th at the 11th hour for a few minutes of prayer and reflection.

Then, let’s thank a veteran for serving our great nation!

October 2019

A Messenger of the Good News

Rev. Dr. Mark Johnston

The splendor of the vessel’s luxury knew no equal. The designer himself boasted, “Not even God could sink the Titanic!”

The ship took less than three hours to enter its watery tomb, taking with it 1517 souls. Only 706 people survived!

When John Harper boarded the ill-fated Titanic, in April of 1912, he was known as an evangelist. The word ‘evangelist’ is derived from ancient Greece, and describes anyone who shared ‘good news.’

A military messenger who ran from one encampment to another announcing the ‘good news’ that a battle had been won, or that a war had finally ended was called an evangelist! Harper shared the Good News of God’s victory over sin and death in Christ Jesus. As an evangelist, he ran from person to person with the message of grace and the victory of God over sin and death!

Little did he know that his voyage on the famous ship would end his life.

Four years after the Titanic went down, a young Scotsman testified to John Harper’s legacy as one who brought Good News. He said, “I’m a survivor of the Titanic. When I was drifting alone that awful night, the tide brought Mr. John Harper of Glasgow, also on a piece of wreck, near me. ‘Man,’ he said, ‘are you saved?’ ‘No,’ I said. ‘I am not.’ He replied, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved,’ and shortly after he went down; and there, alone in the night, and with two miles of water under me, I believed! I am John Harper’s last convert!”

In some sense this story illustrates the sacrificial death of our Savior, who ‘went down’ in the icy, dark waters of death that you and I might forever live.

The death of Jesus, followed by his physical resurrection, is the basis for our hope and salvation. The Good News for all who are adrift in despair and death is this; “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved!”

When the passenger list of the Titanic was posted, the names of those who perished were listed under the word “Lost” and those that were rescued were listed under “Saved.”

While Harper’s name was placed in the “Lost” column, his story tells us that he was eternally saved. He’d been rescued through the love of God and was a messenger of the Good News that saved others.

Let’s share God’s Good News with someone today! When we do, we offer the life boat that will never sink, and a victory that can never be lost!

September 2019

“The Why and the How”

Rev. Dr. Mark R. Johnston

He had just enough time to hide the important manuscript in the lining of his coat as the Nazi’s broke into his apartment and arrested him!

At the infamous death camp called Auschwitz, psychiatrist Victor Frankl seemed to lose everything.  Disconnected from family and friends, dispossessed of all worldly possessions, he questioned whether or not his life had become completely void of meaning, especially when he was stripped of all his clothing, including his coat. With that coat, the important research written over a period of years disappeared forever.

Sometimes we are severely challenged by forces outside our control.  We may feel trespassed upon, assaulted, imprisoned and even stripped of our identity.  Our sense of purpose is minimized or disappears.  The horrific attack upon the United States on September 11th, 2001, challenged the very identity of our Nation. But because the American people believe in cherished values such as liberty, human dignity, community and the pursuit of happiness, we overcame that dark moment in our national history.

The great Victorian preacher, Charles Spurgeon had a plaque hanging in his bedroom with Isaiah 48:10 inscribed on it:

 “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” 

It’s in the furnace that God reveals the mysteries of His choice and love for each of us. It’s by the fire that gold and silver are purified from the dross.

Victor Frankl was made to wear recycled clothing handed to him by the prison guards.  He soon discovered a piece of paper in one of the coat pockets. It was a single page torn out of a Hebrew prayer book, containing the most important prayer of Israel, called the Shema.

The Shema is the cornerstone for every Jewish household. It derives from Deuteronomy 6:4 and reads;

 “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one God. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

This inspired Frankl with the determination to overcome the awful challenges of that terrible death camp.  Years later he would write, “There is nothing in the world that can so effectively help one to survive as the knowledge that there’s a meaning in one’s life. He who has a why’ to live can bear almost any how’ in the things of life.” In other words, a person with a developed sense of purpose can endure the hardships of life better than a person who has no purpose.

This month we will begin a study of the Apostles Creed by utilizing the Bible to understand why we believe what we believe. By studying this great and ancient set of Christian beliefs, beliefs we confess every Sunday morning in our service of worship, we will be better equipped to live our lives with a sense of meaning and purpose. Such a confession of our faith points us to a future filled with hope.

Why not take time, beginning today, to examine the ‘why’ of your life, it will help with the ‘how’ and help direct you through your day!

August 2019

Making the Eternal Jump

Rev. Dr. Mark R. Johnston

In August, 1936, Jesse Owens competed in the Olympic Games held in Berlin, Germany, under the contemptible gaze of Adolph Hitler.  The competitions between athletes from differing nations that hot summer symbolized the competitions between conflicting ideologies and beliefs.

The Nazi ideology that condemned all non-Arians as sub-human and inferior was challenged when the African-American from Oakville, Alabama, won four Gold Medals in various events, including the 100 yard meter dash which he ran in just 9.4 seconds!

Nicknamed the “Buckeye Bullet” by his alma mater, Ohio State University, Owens later wrote that he was especially concerned about his second competition when he faced off in the long-jump against the well-known German athlete, Luz Long.

However, before the competition began, the famous German approached Owens and introduced himself and for the next few moments the black son of an American sharecropper and the representative of Nazi elitism spoke to one another.

As they discussed the games, a friendship began to grow. Long recommended that his American challenger adjust his mark several inches before the takeoff board to avoid scratching. Owens took Long’s advice and went on to set an Olympic record that would hold for another 25 years. After that historic jump, the first person to congratulate him was Luz Long — in full view and in spite of the German Führer.

Long, who was killed in World War II was never again seen by Jesse. But Owens never forgot the friendship that developed between the two of them on that hot August day. Two men representing two different ideologies, holding to differing beliefs and values, met on the level field of play and were able to walk away as friends.

Jesse Owens later wrote, “You could melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn’t be a platting on the 24-carat friendship I felt for Luz Long.”

This is similar to the grace and friendship extended to you and me by the Lord. We are called upon to take a ‘leap of faith’ in the acceptance of salvation. We are instructed by God’s Word to measure our steps and not ‘scratch’ or become disqualified due to sin. We are encouraged and congratulated with every spiritual victory, while the Führer of this fallen world angrily witnesses our triumph. And the One who befriends us, is Himself subject to the penalties of our judgment that we might enjoy the friendship of God. As the Apostle Paul writes;

For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.     (Romans 8:3-4 NKJ)

The children’s praise song entitled, ‘Jump Into the Light’ captures what our response to the Lord’s love should be;

Jump jump jump
Into the Light light light
Run run run
Away from what’s not right
Jump jump jump
Out of the dark dark dark
Run to Jesus
And give Him your heart!

This month, let’s remember the One who has made our eternal victory secure, and let’s show other’s how they can jump into God’s Presence! In so doing, we will build eternal friendships greater than anything this world has to offer!

July 2019

It’s Time to Speak the Truth
Rev. Dr. Mark R. Johnston

In 1932, President Franklin Roosevelt addressed the United States with a message that
could easily be applied to each of us today.

In his First inaugural address he said, “This is preeminently the time to speak the truth,
the whole truth, frankly and boldly.  Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today.  This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper.  So first of all let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance!”

He ended his inaugural speech by saying, “In this dedication of a nation we humbly ask
the blessing of God.  May He protect each and every one of us!”

Roosevelt understood that protection from the terrors of his time could be found through faith in God.  One of the reasons for such confidence is the fact that the Lord does not change, He remains forever the same, or as the author of the Book of Hebrews writes; “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forevermore!” (Hebrews 13:8).

Recently, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the 40-foot-tall Bladensburg
Cross, located on public land in Bladensburg, Maryland for nearly 100 years, could remain as a memorial to the efforts of brave men and women who died in the defense of our national freedoms during World War I.  In a 7 to 2 ruling in favor of retaining the Cross on public land, our Nation’s highest Court sent a message reminding us that our hope in God is a value all American’s can share.  In other words, faith is not un-Constitutional.

The 80 page ruling by the Court was contrary to the suit brought by the District of
Columbia-based American Humanist Association, whose membership is comprised of atheists and agnostics.  Their request to remove the Cross and replace it with an obelisk was soundly defeated.  Thankfully, the decision to retain the Cross points beyond the short-sightedness of such organizations who disbelieve in Providence.

When a Nation places its trust in the Lord there is a tendency towards civility.  That civility begins in our homes, influences our government and blesses our country as a whole.  Hope overshadows fear, kindness displaces cruelty and righteousness touches our communities.  A nation that honors the Lord discovers a certain prosperity where life is valued and respected.

If we displace God from our society, only tragedy can occur.  The eventual disintegration of human values becomes the norm in the culture where the Author of Life and Love is rejected.  The decision of the US Supreme Court curtails such tendencies and promotes the original intentions of America’s Founders.

As we celebrate the birth of our Nation, we need to be reminded of the courage of those men and women who initiated the American Revolution.  They faced their fears with a certain resolve to place their trust in God.  Let’s also resolve to proclaim God’s everlasting love and truth, and let’s thank Him for leadership that reveres His goodness and grace!

June 2019

Seven Ancient Questions for Today

Rev. Dr. Mark Johnston

There has always been some sense of despair concerning the existence of God.

Many people are often hard-pressed to explain the misfortunes of life through the lens of their faith, remaining uncertain and uncomfortable with the explanations they finally muster in any attempt to explain their circumstances. This is frequently due to an inadequate understanding of faith.

When faith is improperly formed, an imbalance can occur in the human psyche. People with an improperly formed faith are more apt to suffer depression, anxiety and fear in their normal daily lives. Such persons frequently leave the church and avoid any religious interaction. In contrast, persons who have a properly formed, or sound faith, are better equipped to face the challenges of life with optimism and hope.

This age-old problem has long been understood.

The famous Swiss psychoanalyst, Carl Jung commented about this predicament in European culture. Writing on the eve of World War II, Jung observed;

“Side by side with the decline of religious life, (human) neuroses grow noticeably more frequent … everywhere the mental state of European man shows an alarming lack of balance. We are living undeniably in a period of the greatest restlessness, nervous tension, confusion and disorientation of outlook.… Every one of them has the feeling that our religious truths have somehow or other grown empty” (Modern Man in Search of a Soul, pp. 246 ff.).

Because of an inadequate understanding of faith, many have surrendered to the consequences of a super-rational doubt, becoming practical atheists in their daily lives while often mouthing their adherence to some religious doctrine. These are the folks who might attend a church on Sunday but live with a sense of complete resignation and alienation from anything deemed Divine. These persons feel alone and abandoned in a world of religious symbol and ritual, gaining only temporary comfort within the company of other people who seem to be relationally connected to God. In other words, such persons do not think that there is a living, loving God.

Thomas Hardy’s famous poem, God’s Funeral, captures this problem with effect. Written between 1908 and 1910, Hardy pictured himself attending the funeral of God. For the author of this poem, God is nothing more than a “projection of human fears and desires,” and with that realization, is mourned as dead. The following verse summarizes Hardy’s sadness as he realizes that his faith is nothing more than a social and psychological manifestation of a futile hope;

‘O man-projected Figure, of late
Imaged as we, thy knell who shall survive?
Whence came it we were tempted to create
One whom we can no longer keep alive?

In other words, Hardy proclaims the death of his personal faith, and by extension, the death of God throughout this poem. His sorrow over the realization that there is no God focuses on the impoverished condition of his fellow man who vainly hopes in something or Someone who is but a deluded wish of the human mind, a wish that obscures the true reality of human suffering and cosmic loneliness.

The tension between a sound, properly formed faith and a deformed faith has nagged humanity from ancient times and continues to this very moment.

Questions regarding the existence of God, truth, the problem of evil and other crucial concerns remain vital to any possible understanding of the world and our personal and corporate world-views.

The answers we finally give to these questions provide us with an interpretive frame of reference for understanding reality. From such an understanding comes our belief systems and our practiced behaviors.

Over the next few Sundays in June, I will present a series of messages in our worship services entitled; Seven Ancient Questions for Today.

These messages will engage important questions we must ask and answer as Christians. We will interact with our culture and the teachings of the Church in the formation of a proper, biblical faith.  I hope you can attend. Bring your bible!  And invite a friend!!

May 2019

The American Dream

Rev. Dr. Johnston

At the conclusion of World War II, the brilliant and victorious leadership of the Supreme Allied Commander, General Dwight Eisenhower was applauded by the world. But remembering those who had died for freedom, he said, “Humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in the blood of his followers and the sacrifices of his friends.”

An unknown soldier has written;

“Soldiers carried P-38 can openers and heat tabs, watches and dog tags, insect repellent, gum, cigarettes, Zippo lighters, salt tablets, compress bandages, ponchos, Kool-Aid, two or three canteens of water, iodine tablets, and food rations. They carried flak jackets and steel pots, M-16 assault rifles and trip flares. They carried M-60 machine guns and grenades, rockets and bullets. They carried malaria, dysentery and homesickness. They carried the land itself as it hardened on their boots. They carried letters and pictures of their loved ones, and love for one another. They carried the traditions of the United States military and memories and images of those that served before them. They carried grief, terror, longing and their reputations. They crawled into tunnels, walked point and advanced under fire. They carried the emotional baggage of men and women who might die at any moment. They carried the weight of the world. They carried each other!”

President John F. Kennedy, echoing the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, said, “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Such are the words of service and sacrifice that have shaped the American Dream and the inheritance of freedom.

That freedom began with those brave Christian pilgrims who carried a vision for God’s Kingdom from the shores of Europe to the vast wilderness of the New World.

Within that wilderness, these devout people would build a ‘city set upon a hill’ to shine the light of the Gospel to the entire world. That witness is captured in our national motto; “In God We Trust.”

But where do we derive such a confidence? From where does this motto come?

When Francis Scott Key wrote his poem commemorating the tenacious spirit of the American people, he could see Old Glory flying through the intermittent flash and smoke of canon-fire during the British bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor. The ultimate victory of the Americans over their British foes gave special meaning to the very words found in the poem’s last stanza, “And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’”

Little did he realize that his poem would be set to music and become the National Anthem of the United States of America!

The flag that so inspired Francis Scott Key is the flag that was heroically planted atop Iwo Jima by six Marines during one of the most violent battles in all of World War II, signifying the hope of the American Dream as a hope to be shared with the entire world.

This same Old Glory was draped from the wreckage of the Twin Towers on September 11th, 2001 in testimony of America’s resolution to never succumb to terrorist ideologies, oppression and evil, but to fight for the justice and freedoms inherent to human dignity and worth.

This Memorial Day, countless cemeteries will have American Flags reverently placed by the headstones of men and women who have served our Nation in defense of those precious liberties we so enjoy today.

Men and women who carried the American Flag on their shoulders, the American Dream in their hearts, who are now buried in hallowed battlefields around the world must never be forgotten! And neither should we forget the goodness of the God Who invites our trust and worship.

This Memorial Day, let’s reflect on our American heroes. Let’s carry their memories in grateful recognition and thanksgiving. And let’s pray for God’s peace to touch our world and protect our great Nation. Together, we can carry the American Dream into the next generation!

April 2019

Paid In Full
Rev. Dr. Johnston

There’s a story of a young drifter who borrowed a large sum of money from an uncle he rarely visited.  He had no means of repaying the loan, but his uncle gave it to him anyway.   While handing the youth the money, he also told his nephew about the free gift of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.  He explained the meaning of Good Friday and the celebration Christians have on Easter morning.

Years later, the young man discovered the truth his uncle spoke about.

No longer a homeless drifter, he began building his life on the solid foundations of faith and responsibility.  One of his first decisions was to repay his uncle the borrowed money, and he mailed a check for the full amount owed with added interest.

Two weeks later, a letter from his uncle arrived and as the envelope was opened the young man’s un-cashed check fell out.  An attached note said the following:

“Your debt was paid in full by your father nearly three years ago!”

Unknown by the young man until that very moment, his own father had discovered the debt and had quietly repaid it on behalf of his son!

This is a picture of the grace afforded us by our Heavenly Father!  He paid off our debts to sin through the death of Jesus, his only begotten Son!  As scripture tells us, through repentance of our sins and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ our trespasses and debts are ‘blotted’ out and no longer charged against us!

And today, falling out from the holy letter of Scripture is the message that we are beloved children of the Most High!

As an old hymn puts it;

“He paid a debt he did not owe, I owed a debt that I could not pay,

I needed someone to wash my sins away!

And now I sing a brand new song,

Amazing grace!

Christ Jesus paid the debt I could never pay!”

The great Puritan preacher, Charles Spurgeon often said, “My hope arises from the freeness of God’s grace, and not from the freedom of the human will.”  He acknowledged the goodness of God who has paid the indebtedness of our past to secure the eternal blessings of our future!

If during this Easter you discover that your life is an unpaid I.O.U. with mounting interest, talk to your Heavenly Father.  You’ll discover He’s already taken care of it!

March 2019

Why Did Jesus Live?

Rev. Dr. Johnston

A few years ago TIME Magazine posed the question; “Why Did Jesus Have to Die?”

This question often surfaces around Lent and Easter, and we can be assured that we will hear it again from some news source that seeks to address the meaning of faith in American life.

However, to really understand the implications of this question, we should ask, “Why did Jesus live?”

Some follow-up questions might include; “What did Jesus stand for, teach and do?”

The answers we give to any of these questions will determine what we believe about Jesus of Nazareth.

It is commonly believed that Jesus fulfilled the Ten Commandments and taught the love of God. His ethic comprised that of forgiveness, truth, salvation and grace. Western culture can point to its success due to an accurate understanding and practice of those teachings.

But many believe we now live in a post-Christian era! Some have dismissed the teachings of Jesus Christ as arcane and irrelevant. An example is that of Scotland, now considered to be a pagan country!

Once the home to John Knox and the Scottish Reformation, so few people now go to church that researchers say Scotland can no longer be considered a Christian nation! Sociologists conclude the Church has lost its place in the national consciousness, that there is now “massive indifference” to organized religion and “an unwillingness to have it impinge on lives.”

On a larger scale, the European Union, when crafting their Constitution in 2004, struggled with making any reference to religious faith.  One observer wrote: “How the question of religion is handled could have serious legal implications…possibly influencing the outcome of future court rulings on such issues as euthanasia, abortion rights, and human cloning.” As a consequence, the document was never ratified and the EU is now struggling to maintain any cohesive identity amongst member nations.

This is perhaps the most important reason the man from Galilee matters! The teachings of Jesus redirect our attention to the most basic rights of what it means to be human beings, created in the image of God.

President Harry Truman acknowledged the importance of Jesus’ teachings when he referenced the Sermon on the Mount to political rule, saying, “If we don’t have a proper fundamental moral background, we will finally end up with a totalitarian government which doesn’t believe in the rights of anybody except the state!” How things have changed! We now have serious contenders for the 2020 Presidential nomination espousing a brand of socialism that reminds one of the failed Marxist ideologies of the former Soviet Union.

A society that looses sight of God eventually declines into chaos! But a culture that invites God to the public square safeguards her future. The dignity and worth of every person is endorsed through the message of God’s love and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is yet another reason for attending church as we are reminded of the love, life and light of the Lord and his ongoing importance in our world today.

Let’s continue to ask the question, “Why did Jesus live?” and let’s not ignore the answers! Then, plan to attend church, and invite someone to attend with you!

February 2019

Will We Stand?

Rev. Dr. Mark R. Johnston

This month marks a pivotal junction in the history of the United Methodist Church.

Meeting February 23-26 in Saint Louis, Missouri, a global gathering of United Methodists will debate and determine the future of the denomination. The single purpose of this special conference is to finally decide the matter of Methodist polity concerning homosexual practice.

According to the 2016 Book of Discipline;

“…the United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching…” (para. 161. G).

While committed to ministry that reaches all people with the love and message of Jesus Christ, the United Methodist Church has historically relied upon a traditional interpretation of the Holy Scriptures in its recognition that homosexual practice is a sin. However, an increasing number of voices within the denomination are arguing for the inclusion of practicing homosexuals in positions of leadership, to include the sacred office of the clergy. Accordingly, these persons do not recognize homosexuality to be sinful.

But as noted above, the Book of Discipline supports the biblical prohibition concerning the practice of homosexuality, an understanding that has historically earmarked Methodist beliefs and polity. The special conference in February will determine whether or not a rewriting of the Book of Discipline is required. The progressive contingent wants a removal of any prohibition that bars practicing homosexuals from leadership roles, while the traditionalists want to retain the wording presently found in the Book of Discipline as it follows the teachings of the Bible.

What is at stake in the upcoming conference is more than a possible rewriting of the Book of Discipline in matters concerning homosexuality. It is a matter of reinterpreting or dismissing those biblical texts that have long guided the Christian Church in its condemnation of any sin, including homosexuality. Proponents of the view that homosexuality is no longer a sin but is compatible with the Christian faith contradict the Bible’s teachings. In other words, the question regarding the authority of the Bible is at the epicenter of this Global Conference.

The departure of much Methodist leadership from the infallible teaching of Scripture has left a vacuum in Methodist polity concerning any moral authority to decide this most important cultural question, “Is the practice of homosexuality a sin?”

If we turn to the Bible, we discover both Old and New Testament readings that condemn homosexuality. The following two examples should suffice to clearly establish the biblical prohibition against homosexual practice;

If a man has sexual intercourse with a male as one has sexual intercourse with a woman, the two of them have committed an abomination. They must be put to death; their blood guilt is on themselves.  (Leviticus 20:13)

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals10 thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Some of you once lived this way. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.   (I Corinthians 6:9-11)

Because so many have opted to refute and deny the plain testimony of God’s Word regarding the sinfulness of homosexual practice, one can only conclude that either an ignorance of the Bible is at the root for a progressive rewriting of the Book of Discipline,  or that an arrogant willingness to rebel against God’s authority has crept into leadership choices. Either way, it is incumbent upon Christians to pray and to stand upon the absolute truth of the Bible.

Not to stand will permit the final corruption and demise of the United Methodist Church as a witness of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

Not to stand will encourage more confusion in the very society the Church is responsible for, allowing the tyranny of evil that denigrates the image of God in human beings to reign instead of God’s love, life and light.

Not to stand affronts the very love of the One who “gave His only begotten Son” to become sin that we might instead be made righteous in God’s sight.

And finally, not to stand invites the terrible judgment of God upon our Church and our Nation.

God’s judgment on rebellion and sinfulness is recorded throughout the Bible, and it is etched into the realities of human history. In fact, if one peruses the first three chapters of the last book in the Bible, the Book of Revelation, one easily recognizes the potential for judgment against the Church. Both the Church of Pergamum and the Church of Thyatira were guilty of sexual immoralities and were exhorted to repent (Revelation 2:14-17; 20-21). Not to repent would result in tremendous suffering. This judgment is captured by the idea of the Church being a candlestick of light before God and then being extinguished and removed from God’s presence (Revelation 1:20; 2:5).

Will the United Methodist Church have its light extinguished?

Let’s resolve to pray, repent and seek the mercies of our Savior. In so doing, we honor the Lord and minister His righteousness to a world that desperately needs Him! And we do this by choosing to STAND upon the faithfulness of God’s Word!

Stay alert, stand firm in the faith, show courage, be strong. I Corinthians 16:13

January 2019

A Touch of Grace

Rev. Dr. Mark Johnston

In Mark’s gospel, chapter 5, verses 25 to 34, there’s a wonderful story of incredible compassion that I believe can earmark our new year.

According to this story, a woman suffering and hemorrhaging blood for twelve long years comes to Jesus for help.

In accordance with the religious law of the Jews, this broken woman is designated as an unclean person and is “untouchable.”

In the Greek manuscripts the word describing her disease is also the word for a whip, and symbolizes such affliction as a scourge from God. Very often, we interpret our difficult circumstances from a perspective that places us outside the reach of others, including the reach of God. We envision ourselves as unclean and untouchable, as persons who can never come into the Presence of God.

But this woman believed that if she could just touch the clothing of Jesus, even the hem of his garment, she would be healed, and accordingly, she worked her way through the clamoring crowd and managed with an outstretched finger to touch the Lord’s garments.

At that very moment, she was immediately made whole!  A miracle had occurred! She knew instantly that something wonderful had transpired!

Jesus also perceived that this healing occurred.  According to Mark’s report, Jesus asked, “Who touched me?”  His disciples point out that everyone is touching him, but he patiently awaits the confession of the one who received the healing.

Finally, the woman timidly comes forward and tells of her miraculous healing in the hearing of the amazed onlookers. She’s no longer unclean! She’s no longer an untouchable, because as she reached out to touch God, God grasped her and affirmed her as a daughter of the Kingdom!

In modern-day India, the Dalits, or the “untouchables” are a people rarely accorded human dignity and worth. They are a part of the ancient caste system that regulates them to the very lowest strata of human concern. They are considered ‘sub-human’ by those social castes that are ‘above’ them.

In fact, the very name ‘Dalit’ literally means “broken people.”

There are numerous agencies working to relieve this social tragedy, but they’re discovering that one of the most difficult tasks is convincing the Dalits themselves that they’re fully and equally deserving of acceptance, dignity and respect. People born and raised a certain way have difficulty imagining the possibility of growing beyond social and self-imposed limitations.

In some sense of the word, we’re all Dalits when we’re outside the reach of God. We may disqualify ourselves from the fellowship of God’s forgiveness, mercy, grace and love due to a mistaken understanding of who God is.

However, our healing can begin when we, by faith, press through our crowded, broken lives, and stretch our hands out to touch His garments. When we recognize that God has come into our world to lift us up into His Presence, we can eagerly call upon Him for our healing and our salvation!

Upon reaching out to Heaven, we discover that God is reaching into our hearts and minds with the affirming message of His love through Jesus Christ!

It’s then that we experience real healing! And it’s then that we become true children of the Kingdom of God! As 2019 unfolds, I encourage you to take God’s hand, and then touch others with the message of His love and grace!

December 2018

Make Room for the Lord

Rev. Dr. Mark Johnston

“Who is this stranger from Nazareth?” The town was full of people who had come looking for lodging, and Joseph was desperate to find a place for himself and his pregnant wife.

Mary was so close to delivering her baby!

Door after door opened and closed as Joseph desperately searched for adequate lodging. Finally, he and Mary were allowed to occupy a small manger with a few animals. It was there that the Savior of the world would be born!

The late evangelist, Corrie Ten Boom, related how one very cold night, while hiding from the Nazis, people found refuge in a small apartment in an old building. Because space was limited, all personal possessions were kept in the building’s basement.

During the night, another stranger appeared at the door desperately seeking temporary sanctuary from the freezing blackness and the Nazi terror that hunted the streets.

Arguing began concerning what to do with this man who no-one knew. “There’s not enough room!” protested the one who had first answered the door. Others disagreed. They felt that they had to make room for the stranger, no matter how uncomfortable and cramped the little apartment would become.

He was only reluctantly admitted into the crowded apartment, and because of his shabby appearance, he was finally consigned to sleeping in the basement with all the baggage and personal belongings the refugees had stored there.

When morning came, people in the apartment awoke to the sounds of the most beautiful music they had ever heard. That music was coming from the basement!

Rushing down the stairwell to the basement they discovered that the stranger they had ordered to that cold, damp space, was playing a broken harp that had been brought by the one who had first answered the door the evening before, and who had insisted that this stranger sleep in the basement during the night.

“That’s my harp!” he said, “It was broken when my house was bombed. I thought it would never play again but I couldn’t part with it, how did you ever repair it?”

The stranger pointed his finger to the base of the harp and replied, “See those initials on the bottom of the harp. Those are my initials. I made this harp and when you make something, you know how to fix it.”

Sometimes the one standing at our door is not the person we think they are, and as Scripture reminds us, we’re to be kind to strangers, for in so doing, some have “entertained angels”!

Had the citizens of Bethlehem only known Who was standing at their doors, every convenience would have been afforded that little family from Nazareth!

This season we might take a moment to ask, “Is Someone knocking at my door?” when we encounter people we do not know, but who may need a friendly smile, a word of encouragement or perhaps, some practical assistance.

Let’s make room for the stranger and the alien! In so doing, we make room for the Lord!

Have a blessed and Merry Christmas, and invite someone into the House of God!

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November 2018

GOD’S SIGNATURE:  FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE

Considered the greatest artistic genius that ever lived, Michelangelo believed that his inspiration came from the awesome beauty of God.  He said, “Every beauty which is seen here below resembles more than anything else that celestial source from which we all come.”  He believed that the image of God in man was the essence of true beauty.  Faith and hope help to define this beauty.

This is reflected in the Vatican Pieta.  Cut from one large piece of white marble, and completed when he was only 24 years old, this masterpiece depicts Mary cradling a slain Jesus in her arms.  It is truly one of the great wonders of sculpture in the world!

In 1972, a 33-year-old Australian geologist attacked Michelangelo’s Pieta with a sledgehammer!  He removed the Virgin’s arm at the elbow, knocked off a chunk of her nose, and chipped one of her eyelids before he was restrained.

It took six months of concentrated effort to repair the sculpture.  It was then that a previously unknown secret signature of Michelangelo was discovered on the palm of the Madonna’s left hand.  It’s the only known signature of Michelangelo on any of his works! Michelangelo marked his beautiful creation to identify it as his own!

Scripture tells us that the beauty and true image of mankind is marred and broken through the violence of sin and death, but God has restored this beauty through the life, death and resurrection of his Son!

Through faith, God marks us as his people.  We are promised a full restoration from the brokenness that has shattered human history.  The problems we face are answered through God’s incredible and inexhaustible love.  We have a loving God who provides us with a Living Hope!  As Saint Peter wrote:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” (1 Peter 1:3 NKJ)

As we sift through the damage of a difficult situation, whther it’s a broken relationship, a financial loss, illness or some other problem, we need to look for the initials of the Lord.  Such a discovery is made through faith, believing that a loving God will restore us regardless of the situation.

His restoration may be different than what we expect, but we can trust our Creator who gives us this living hope.  With Saint Paul we can say, “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Romans 5:1-5 KJV)

This Thanksgiving season let’s pause and reflect on the work of God who has begun the restoration process in each of our lives.  Let’s remember that our thanksgiving, regardless of our difficulties, is an expression of a living hope and an active faith that testifies of God’s goodness and love!

October 2018

THE POWER OF ENCOURAGEMENT

It doesn’t always take an extraordinary person to make an extraordinary difference.  God often uses ordinary people to do great things.  The Christian’s secret to accomplishing something great in this world begins with a willingness to walk with God.  However, those who dare to obediently walk with the Lord may find that they are walking against the tides of popular opinion and culture.  G. K. Chesterton once said, “A dead thing goes with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.”

William Wilberforce was a man who spent his life going against the accepted culture of his time.

A small man with an unimpressive physical appearance, Wilberforce was a powerful advocate for human dignity and justice.

One writer who heard Wilberforce speak wrote, “I saw what seemed a mere shrimp… mounted upon the platform, but as I listened, he grew and grew till the shrimp became a whale.”

The size of the man was measured in the size of his message and conviction, not his physical appearance.

For years Wilberforce pushed Britain’s Parliament to abolish slavery.  When discouragement caused him to consider quitting, John Wesley heard of it.  From his deathbed, Wesley wrote Wilberforce these words of encouragement:

“Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils.  But if God be for you, who can be against you?  Are all of them stronger than God?  Oh, be not weary of well-doing!  Go on, in the name of God and in the power of His might, till even American slavery shall vanish away before it.”

Wesley died six days later but his letter inspired Wilberforce to continue and on February 22, 1807, Parliament finally banned all slave trade in England.

Emboldened by his success, Wilberforce continue his campaign another 26 years until Parliament decided in 1833 to abolish slavery throughout the entire British Empire.  News of the historic vote reached Wilberforce just three days before he died.  For a majority of his life, Wilberforce went against the tide of popular and social opinion and changed the course of history.

And it may never have happened if John Wesley hadn’t taken the time to write that simple letter of encouragement.

In Galatians chapter 6, the Apostle Paul encourages a discouraged church that, like Wilberforce, was getting tired of living godly lives that went against the tide of culture.  He writes, “…don’t get tired of doing what is good.  Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.”

Take time today to write, phone or visit someone in need of a little encouragement, and while you’re at it, invite that person to FUMC where Godly encouragement makes ordinary people extraordinary in the things of God!

September 2018

 At One with God
Rev. Dr. Johnston

Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year in the Jewish calendar and comes early this year on September 19th.

Yom Kippur, or “Day of Atonement” was a prescribed day of sacrifice whereby God forgave the sins of His people. According to the Book of Leviticus, chapter 16, verses 8-10, two goats without blemish were selected for this purpose. Lots were cast to determine the role each goat would have. One was chosen for sacrifice while the other was elected for freedom.

The High Priest sprinkled the blood from the slain goat on the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant, providing the substitutionary exchange between the sacrificial blood of the innocent animal and Israel. This exchange was an atonement for human sin whereby God’s forgiveness and grace triumphed over deadly judgment.

This was followed with the priest laying his hands upon the goat that would not be sacrificed, symbolically transferring all the trespasses of Israel upon that animal. This goat was then led to a wilderness place and abandoned, never to return to human society.

This goat became known as Azazel and is the basis for our word “scapegoat.” This action speaks of our sins being driven away to the uninhabited wilderness, forever forgotten by God!

The atonement is sometimes called our “at-one-ment” with God and is only possible when sin is properly dealt with because God is holy and will not permit sin in His presence.

According to Christian belief, Jesus was the spotless, sinless Lamb of God selected to become our permanent means for reconciliation with God.

You may remember the story.

Pontius Pilate presented Christ alongside another person named Jesus Barabbas (Matthew chapter 27 verses 15-25). A choice to release one of the prisoners was given to the populace. The one not chosen would be crucified, a death for the very worst criminals.

Barabbas was set free, and Jesus was crucified.   There is an ancient tradition that Barabbas wandered on the outskirts of civilization for the remainder of his days, haunted by the fact that an innocent man died in his place!

Indeed, Barabbas represents all of us because we’ve all been set free from the penalty of death through the death of God’s Lamb. But unlike the wandering scapegoat, Azazel, we are now invited into the society of God to be at one with Him!

Let’s honor this day with an acknowledgement of God’s incredible plan of salvation. Let’s invite those who are seeking at-one-ment with the Lord to FUMC where God’s grace and forgiveness are celebrated!
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July 2018

This past June, the 2018 Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church passed The Resolution in Support of Just and Inclusive Policy for Lay Volunteers and Lay Staff in Local Church Ministry after an amendment in the language was changed from “…we vow and formerly commit to employment and volunteer practices that are aligned with our Social Principles…” to “…we encourage all United Methodist Congregations to follow employment and volunteer practices that are aligned with our Social Principles…”.

This resolution was offered to affirm and support persons who openly identify as LGBTQ and who desire leadership roles in the UMC. The impetus behind the resolution concerns the supposed prejudice that many churches maintain in their hiring policies or in their use of volunteers, a prejudice that disqualifies the employment of those whose behaviors and conduct are inconsistent with the Book of Discipline (Paragraph 161G; Paragraph 304.3) and numerous Judicial Council Decisions (702, 708, 722, 725, 764, 844, 984, 1020).

This prejudice can be summarized as a maintenance of the traditional teachings of Methodism, that people who aspire to serve a local congregation practice the tenets of faith and holiness consistent and compatible with both the denomination and historic Christianity.

The result of this vote demonstrates a perceptive decline concerning an understanding of biblical authority in United Methodism.

Either people are unaware of the scriptural prohibitions concerning the practice of homosexuality, or they are in fact aware of these scriptural prohibitions but either do not believe such to be relevant and true or simply do not care what the Bible says concerning this important issue. In either case, the willful rejection of God’s word finally resolves itself into a rejection of God’s authority. And with a rejection of God’s authority, we can expect, as a Church, a subsequent rejection of God’s blessing.

Arguments that reason away the biblical precepts, rules and roles concerning human sexuality accentuate the willful decision-making of people against the eternal counsel of God. The incorporation of secular values over and against the teachings of the Bible displaces the authority of God with the authority of man.  In effect, those who selectively dismiss biblical teachings commonly held in the Christian faith eventually dismiss the Christ of faith, including the atoning value of the Cross. A church without the Bible can no longer be considered a church. A ‘Christian’ without the Cross is not a Christian.

If we are willing to dismiss certain biblical criteria as irrelevant to our present day culture, especially in the heated debate concerning human sexuality, where might we end such subjectivity in our decision making? How will we maintain a cohesiveness of doctrine when our culture drifts towards other tendencies that are destructive to the human family? Upon what basis can any of the sacraments be offered if we have dismissed even a small segment of holy writ as either outmoded and irrelevant or misguided and untrue?

Wesley was adamant in declaring his total reliance on the total Word of God. He was convinced of the divine authority found in scripture and believed it all to be true; “If there be one falsehood in the Bible,” writes Wesley, “there may be a thousand; neither can it proceed from the God of truth.”

His belief that the word of God was the final arbiter of our faith is well known; Try all things by the written word, and let all bow down before it.”

He expressed his fear that Methodism might come to the very point we now collectively face;

“I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.”

That we have departed from what was first ‘set out’ is ever more apparent with this past vote and resolution. Perhaps it is time to reconsider who we are, first as Christians, then as Methodists, and finally, as fellow pilgrims in a suffering world in need of God’s love and truth.

While the Book of Discipline disqualifies from leadership anyone who is in violation of its precepts regarding human sexuality, it does embrace everyone as being of ‘sacred worth’ and welcomes all to the spiritual and emotional care that Christian fellowship offers. The United Methodist Church believes that God’s grace is available to all people, and that churches should not reject or condemn any from receiving such ministry. This has been the traditional stance of the Christian faith since its inception. The ground is always level at the foot of the Cross.

If we can, by God’s grace, change our present course, we will rediscover the blessing of God in our churches alongside our ordained purpose. However, if we continue in the direction we are presently going, we will end as a proverb of shame. The choice is ours. Will we walk in agreement with the Word of God or will we wander upon the broad paths of a fallen culture that so desperately needs God’s forgiveness, mercy, love, light and life?