Encouraging, Living, Reaching

May 18, 2017

Scott Duncan

Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 1 Corinthians 1:10

The fact that Paul is pleading with the saints at Corinth should have gotten their (our) attention.  As saints we all have the same Spirit indwelling us and conforming us to the image of Christ.  The more we are conformed to Christ the more we’ll be of the same mind by striving to receive truth from the Word of God whenever we disagree on a matter.  Disagreements are inevitable but divisions are not only unnecessary but contrary to the will of God for all true believers.  May we endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace by striving to stay unified with one another.  When we “put on Christ” we’ll recognize our need of humility and the greater good for our brother or sister enabling us to be perfectly joined together in the same mind and judgement. 

May 16, 2017

Shane Johnson

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called…  Hebrews 11:17,18

From time to time, God will test us.  Through experiences, He will test us to allow us the opportunity to grow, know and show how much we love Him.  We may be called upon to give up a lucrative career, a dream house, a lifelong spouse or even a beloved child.

Studying this passage, Paul Copan observed that in Genesis 12 Abraham was called to surrender his past, leaving his family, his country and his home; in Geneses 22, Abraham was called to surrender his future.  In the maturity of his faith, God asked him to surrender Isaac.  At that moment, on the altar of worship, the whole nation of Israel, and every promise, lay under the power of Abraham’s knife.

We must not view these “tests” as only confusing disappointments of our faith but also as powerful opportunities to worship.  With David we should resolve, I will not offer to the Lord “that which costs me nothing” and be ready to give anything and everything up, if called (2 Sam. 24:24).  And with Job we should say, “the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).

May 15, 2017

Shane Johnson

…God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.  Hebrews 11:16

Have you ever planned a birthday party or a baby shower for someone and no one showed up?  I have, and when only three or four people showed up, it was pretty embarrassing.  Even though it wasn’t my fault, I still felt ashamed that no one had showed up.

Or have you ever run out of food at a wedding or a party because too many people showed up, or one too many people ate too much?  The shame that ensues tends to never be forgotten.

But God will never feel that way.  He has prepared a city for those who trust in Him and He will not be ashamed when the time comes.  Jesus said, “I go and prepare a place for you” (John 14:3) and He will not fail in His promise.  In the end, in due time, “the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,”  will appear “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev.21:2).

May 12, 2017

Shane Johnson

By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. Hebrews 11:11

Faith has to do with judging, with discernment.  Each trial we face we are faced with a dilemma: do we judge Him to be faithful to help us in our predicament, or do we judge Him unable or unwilling to help us in our trial?  Sarah faced an impossible situation but she finally figured out that God was greater.

Do you judge Him faithful who has promised?  He has promised He will provide for all your needs – what you will eat, what you will drink, what you will wear.  You need not worry about all these things if you are judging Him faithful who promised.

Do you open your mouth and speak to others about the gospel, about Jesus Christ?  If you judge Him faithful who promised to be “with you to the end of the age,” then you will receive strength and conceive words to say, words that you never thought were possible.

May 11, 2017

Shane Johnson

…he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.  Hebrews 11:10

This world has no foundations.  In fact, the world is passing away (1 Cor. 7:31).  This world may seem like it will last forever, with its continual cycle of seasons, with its immovable mountains, with its continual march of time, but it is only an illusion.  The world, and all its lust, will one day perish.

For the meantime, we live in it.  But we live with a lifestyle of waiting.  Like soldiers on furlough, we know the call for service could come at any time.  Like a doctor on call, we do not settle down in this world.  Like a woman in the last trimester of her pregnancy, our bags are packed and we are ready to be delivered at any moment.

Do you live like that?  Do you have an “any day now!” mentality?  If you do, you are pleasing to God.  He takes pleasure in those who diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6) who live in this world as in a “foreign country” (Heb.11:9). We are like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, stuck in this dystopian land.  Our hearts long for our true home, our Kansas, for “there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.”   Earth is not where we belong.  Soon He will click His heels and call us home.

May 10, 2017

Shane Johnson

By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise.  Hebrews 11:9

The world should not feel like home.  If it does, it is a pretty good indicator that we are not living by faith.  Like an animal trapped in a zoo, limited by bars of sin and gawked at by people who think we are a spectacle, we do not belong to this world.  We are in the world, Jesus said, but we are not of the world.

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob lived here, but only temporarily.  Abraham was a rich man with many herds and cattle.  He could have built a mansion, founded a city or conquered lands.  Instead he chose to dwell in tents and only owned a funeral plot to bury his dead.
How much do you own?  Is the world your oyster or your thorn in the flesh?  A temporary furlough or your permanent vacation spot?

Those who live by faith use the world without possessing it (1 Cor.7:30).  Those who live by faith dwell in the world but do not love it (1 John 2:15).  Those who live by faith live in tents as did Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

May 9, 2017

Shane Johnson

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.  Hebrews 11:8

Real faith operates in the unknown.  Real faith functions in the dark where your eyes can’t see, where your foot can’t touch the bottom.  How many times, in the movies or in real life, have we heard the phrase, “Trust me,” as someone strides forth into the unknown?  God asks us for nothing less.

Abraham did not know where He was going.  But He did know who was calling him to go.  That is what really matters.  If you know God is calling, you can trust your feet will be firmly planted – whether He calls you out to the middle of the Arabian desert, like Abraham, or out onto the crashing waves of Galilee, like Peter.

By faith Abraham left everything he knew.  By faith James and John left their father’s fishing business. By faith Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea quit the Sanhedrin.  What about you?  Have you left anything behind in order to follow Jesus into the future?

May 8, 2017

Shane Johnson

By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household… Hebrews 11:7

From Abel we learn that faith agrees with God and brings the right sacrifice for sin.  From Enoch we learn that faith seeks to please God.  But from Noah we learn that faith moves with godly fear and prepares for the coming future.

What motivates you?  Is it fear, guilt, worry, or faith?  While worry and fear motivate most – what will we eat, what will we drink, what will we wear? – faith motivates those who see beyond the immediate needs of today.

Noah was motivated by fear, not fear of eventual tomorrow but fear of Eternal Tomorrow.  By faith he knew the future and by faith, he prepared for it.  The real question is, If we are not busy preparing for the future, can we really say we believe in the future, the future God has revealed to us?

May 5, 2017

Shane Johnson

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:6

The Greek word euaresteo is translated in this verse by the English word please.  But it is a bit stronger than that.  It means to thoroughly gratify.  To please Him would be aresteo but to fully please Him is eu-aresteo.  Is it your goal in life to fully gratify the God that saved you?

Do you remember what God the Father pronounced when Christ was baptized?  “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” said the voice that spoke from heaven (Matthew 3:17).  He is our example, so we should make it our goal to please the Father like He did.

To please an earthly father you will only need one thing: success (typically).  But to please our heavenly Father we will need much more.  We will need to pioneer a life of faith.  Success is nothing in our Father’s eyes if it is not motivated and fueled by faith.

Our Father is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, not of those who just work diligently.  Be sure to be living before His eyes, and His eyes alone.

May 4, 2017

Shane Johnson

By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, ‘and was not found, because God had taken him’; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. Hebrews 11:5

To please God is the true longing of those who have faith.   From Enoch we learn that His pleasure, and His pleasure alone, should be the pupil of our eye.  Enoch knew it, lived it, and died with it as his testimony.  His tombstone, if he had one, would simply read: “He pleased God.”

Enoch’s testimony in Hebrews 11 is very insightful and highly instructive, not because of what he did but because of what he did not do.  He did not build an ark.  He did not defy a Pharaoh.  He did not knock down the walls of Jericho.  He really didn’t do anything at all.  But he did the one thing that counts: he walked with God.

Anyone can walk with God.  Therefore, each one of us can please Him.  You don’t have to be a Moses, an Abraham or an Elijah to do it either.  Those who walk by faith always capture His attention, though the world may not take notice.  But take heart, you may in fact be very well known in the halls of heaven!

May 3, 2017

Shane Johnson

By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain…  Hebrews 11:4

Faith has got to agree with God.  Man has a thousand ideas –  some good, some bad.  But only God’s ideas matter.  All things must bow to God’s point of view, whether it be culture, science, wisdom or tradition.  To borrow and old saying, let us say God is right all the time; all the time, God is right.

Abel agreed with God; Cain didn’t.  God told Cain to bring the right kind of offering and he would be accepted.  Cain refused.  The same is true for countless millions.  They want to come to God their own way, with good works or wisdom or love.  They want to worship God as they see fit by taking care of the environment, the unfortunate, or the animals.

But God will have none of it.  God’s dictionary is the accepted standard.  He only has the authority and right to dictate, determine and define things.  If you will agree with Him, He will give you everything.  Defy Him and you will be thrust from His presence to wander forever.

May 2, 2017

Shane Johnson

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen are not made of things which do appear.  Hebrews 11:3

Carl Sagan is famous for saying, “The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.”  But he was wrong.  God said the things which are seen are not made of things which do appear.  We agree with Him.  Such is the nature of faith – it agrees with God, wholeheartedly.  Unbelief, that defiant spirit, disagrees with Him every time.

Way back in the 1700s, Thomas Hobbes said something very similar to Mr. Sagan and most of the Western world has been duped ever since: “All that is real is material, and what is not material is not real.”  But he was wrong too.  Their eyes see but their minds are blind.  These men, Sagan and Hobbes, professing to be wise have become fools (Rom. 1:22).

In history, there was another Thomas, called the Twin, one of the Twelve, and he too would not believe unless his eyes could see.  But he changed his mind.  When the risen Christ appeared to him showing him His hands and His side, he fell to his knees and recanted his words, saying of the Christ “My Lord and My God!”  One day all men will do the same.

April 27, 2017

Scott Duncan

So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.  Exodus 33:11

The thought of speaking to almighty God face to face as a person speaks to their close friend almost sounds impossible or too good to be true.  But here is just one example of a person having a close relationship with God.  May we take advantage of our relationship with the One who redeemed us and cleansed us from our sin and seek to get intimate with Him daily!

April 20, 2017

Scott Duncan

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”  Luke 4:18-19

As disciples of the Lord Jesus we have the sweet privilege of sharing our relationship with God to others. Therefore we should encourage one another in our gatherings to fulfill our Lord’s commission to preach the gospel and witness for Him.  We can be bold since we have the same power in us that was working through Jesus as He: 
1. Gave hope to the poor 
2. Healed the brokenhearted 
3. Freed the captives & oppressed 
4. Provided light for the path of those that were lost and without God.
We don’t need to perform the miracles that our Lord Jesus did, we can simply point those in need to the One that met our need.  May we never take for granted that the Spirit of the Lord that is within us desires to declare the love and power of Jesus and proclaim Him as the true Son of God and only Savior of mankind!  

April 18, 2017

Mike Dilione

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.  Romans 2:-2 (ESV)

Have you ever caught yourself judging someone else? I know I have plenty of times. Paul makes a very good point when it comes to judging one another. When I judge someone it is because I am practicing the very same thing. Paul says there is no reason for you to be a judge.

It kind of made me think of it this way. If we both rob a bank how can I be the judge at your trial? It would make no sense. I can’t judge you for robbing the bank and condemn you, I was right there by your side robbing the bank with you.

I am convinced that if we spent more time judging ourselves and our own works we would grow closer to the Lord because we would recognize how much more room there is for growth. The more we look at others and judge them, the further we will fall away from the Lord.

Satan uses this often, “At least I am better than that person.” We must pray daily that we would not judge others, but judge our own works and grow in our relationship with the Lord. My prayer for each of you today is that you will become less like yourself and more like the Lord Jesus.

April 17, 2017

Scott Duncan

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” Jude 24

Our Lord Jesus is able to keep us from stumbling and to present us faultless before the presence of God’s glory. There is so much rich truth contained in this verse to expound upon, but to just sit and contemplate how the Lord presents us faultless is amazing!

When we begin to think about our own failures or sins we’ve committed against God, it’s almost unbelievable that such a claim can be made about us being presented before a holy and righteous God.  As we grow and learn more of what the Lord Jesus has accomplished through His finished work at Calvary, we see that He can rightly present us faultless since the Lord Jesus became sin that we might become righteous (2 Cor. 5:21).  He has also removed our transgressions as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).  The Scriptures continue by likening us to Abraham since he believed God and He accounted to him for righteousness (James 2:23).

How thankful and joyful we should be when we who used to be considered sinners and enemies of God can now be presented faultless before His glory.

April 11, 2017

Mike Donahue

 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. Romans 1:14-15 NKJV 

Paul had a debt he owed the lost, and not because he had done anything to the lost. One way to get into debt is to borrow money from someone. But that is not what Paul is talking about. The other way to get into debt is to be given something to deliver to someone else. If I order a pizza online and pay for it, the pizza delivery guy owes me a pizza until he delivers it. God had given Paul the greatest message the world would ever hear, and told him to share it with everybody. Paul owed the world the message until he delivered it.

The world needs the gospel, we owe it to them.

April 7, 2017

Janice Nicholson

And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment Hebrews 9:27

I had a conversation recently with someone once about the death of a believer and how peaceful it was. The person then told me that they had witnessed a few deaths and the difference between a believer’s passing and an unbeliever’s passing was vastly different. They then told me about the look of terror on the face of the unbelievers, people who did not prepare themselves to meet God and for that judgment.

As believers, are we thinking about the lost enough?

We can spend a great deal of time contemplating the blessings of our rich inheritance when we die, but in so doing are we forgetting that there are people out there who will spend an eternity in torment?

Just to refresh our memories on what we have been freed from, here are a few words in Scripture to describe hell: fiery lake of burning sulfur, second death, eternal punishment, realm of the dead, blazing furnace, shut out from the presence of the Lord.

Let us rekindle our love for the lost. Let us think often of those who need the Saviour and not hold back in sharing with them the good news of the Gospel.

Time is running out, the Lord is coming soon!

April 6, 2017

Scott Duncan

But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?”  Mark 4:40

Faith in the Lord Jesus and fear should not coexist.  The fears of tomorrow should vanish once we realize we are fully depending on our gracious Savior to carry us home to glory.  It’s easy to get scared or discouraged with the boisterous waves that come with life.  So whenever you begin to feel overwhelmed or frightened with what lies ahead, simply look to the Lord Jesus to deliver you from the surrounding storm since He has the power and desire to calm the elements affecting your daily life.

April 5, 2017

Shane Johnson

For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. Hebrews 11:2

No life of faith can be lived in a vacuum. People are bound to take notice. Most importantly, God Himself takes notice. By faith the men and women of the Old Testament obtained a good testimony, and by faith you and I are encouraged to do the same. First of all, we obtain a good testimony from God – and His is the testimony that matters. Listen carefully to what was said of Abel: through faith
he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts …͟(Heb.11:4). God vouched that Abel was righteous and His vote is the only vote that counts.
Secondly, the obtained a good testimony in the eyes of men. Even though the ancients are dead, they, like Abel, still speak to us today (Heb.11:4). The way they lived their lives counted for all eternity. Not only their own generation but how many other generations have been inspired to live lives of faith because these men and women lived out theirs?
May God use our lives to speak to those around us – to our children, our peers and to those who will live an hundred years from now.