I am still excited from the service this past Sunday. It is so good to hear the stories of New Life in our midst. We are going to have another baptism on Sunday, September 9. I know the Lord is speaking to some in our church to take the step of baptism in their faith journey. Pray with me as we continue to grow together to be more like Jesus as we humbly walk as He walked.
I want to send out an invitation for you to come to our Front Row Ministry on Wednesday mornings at 6:30a – 7:30a. It is where the church gathers to pray for the needs of our Nation, our Church, our community, and our families. We will also pray through the prayer list and for the families of our church alphabetically. So if your last name begins with “N,” then we prayed for you this morning. Many have said that the strength of a church is based on how serious they are about praying. I realize that many people are traveling to work during the hours that we meet. Let me encourage you to pray with us wherever you are. If you can join us, you will be blessed.
This morning during our prayer time, I read Psalm 27. What stood out to me was the posture that we need to have when walking through life.
We pray often for the enemy to be bound and that he would not get a stronghold in our lives. In 2 Corinthians Paul focuses our attention on having divine power to destroy strongholds. Webster’ dictionary defines stronghold as “a place dominated by a particular group or marked by a particular characteristic.” The enemy will never give up trying to dominate our mind therefore impacting our responses to God.
In Psalm 27: 1 it says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?”
The Lord is the one whom I want to have a stronghold on my life. I believe the result of God being our stronghold is clarified in the 2 verses following.
“When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall” Psalm 27:2. Do you see it? You are not impacted at all. It is if no one is advancing against you.
“Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident” Psalm 27:3. That is the way I want to respond to any attack of the enemy as he tries to get a stronghold in my life. I want to wear a sign that says, “The Lord is my stronghold – nothing can get in or out without the Lord’s permission.” Ok, maybe that sign would be a little too big to wear. I think you get the picture.
Read Psalm 27 today and take your time as you read it. See if you can’t see a contrast between verses 1-6 and 7-14. The first half is filled with praise, confidence, victory, and even singing. The last half is filled with needs – a whole host of requests. But it ends with David saying to, “Wait!” Even in the midst of great confidence, the enemy still tries to strike us with fear. Fear is paralyzing. Don’t become overwhelmed with your circumstances. Give it to God and remember to wait on the Lord. His timing is always perfect.
Joy in Jesus!
“The Priests and the Levites stood to bless the people, and God heard them, for their prayer reached heaven, his holy dwelling place.”
2 Chronicles 30:27
If you were to read the preceding verse in context, you would quickly see that there was a lot of preparation happening in order for the final result of their prayer reaching heaven. They were celebrating joyfully. It reminds me of the book of Acts. The earlier followers of Jesus soon discovered that the most fruitful part of their ministry was prayer and the Word. It brought about tremendous results! The book of Acts is literally an account of a series of prayer meetings and what happened as a result of those prayers. When they prayed – things happened!
When the busyness of life began to press in upon the apostles they looked for help because they could not allow their prayer time to be crowded out. They knew the importance of the ministry of prayer and the Word. In Paul’s writings throughout the New Testament, it is evident that he counted time spent in prayer as time well spent. I am amazed at how often he mentions his prayer ministry:
“God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you.” - Romans 1:9
“I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. “ - Ephesians 1:16
“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy “ - Philippians 1:4
“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,” - Colossians 1:3
“With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. “ - 2 Thessalonians 1:11
“I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. “ - 2 Timothy 1:3
Notice how Paul says, “constantly,” “always,” “never ceasing.” In order to pray for all these people he had to spend a good time praying. The leaders of the early church counted prayer as their most important work. Prayer came before the ministry of the Word. This is the correct order.
Starting next Wednesday at 6:30am, we will be starting our Front Row Ministry back up in the Worship Center. There are plenty of things to pray for as we come together. In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit descended in power, a multitude came together, heard the Word and were saved. That is something the Spirit of God wants to repeat today. As a matter of fact, God wants to do that each and every Sunday as we gather together to worship. This Sunday is going to be a great day as we baptize many believers. God wants to do a brand new thing amongst us and He wants to begin with you.
Joy in Jesus!
4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. - 1 Peter 2:4-5
These verses start out by saying, “as you come to him…”. This is not referring to someone initially coming into relationship with Jesus, it is speaking about an intimate fellowship between a believer and Jesus. It is an ongoing relationship that continues to be built on a solid foundation. I love how Peter used a unique figure of speech. He moves from our living hope we experience through the new birth, then to being born again through the living Word, and continues by referring to Christ as the living Stone.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. - 1 Peter 1:3
For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. - 1 Peter 1:23
Peter is saying that this Stone is living. It has life in itself and gives life to others. We are in constant relationship with the living Stone and then it goes on to say that believers are identified with Christ by being like Christ (like living stones). Throughout the day we are to be mistaken for Christ. So everything that happens today is in a sense a divine appointment showing others the living hope through the resurrection of Jesus, the living Word that has transformed us, and the living Stone that lives in us.
What divine appointment will come your way today? People to respond to, problems to solve, places to serve: each one is an opportunity to display the servant heart of Jesus through your attitude, behavior, and words. Each one is an opportunity to catch a glimpse of how God is transforming your heart, and each one gives you an opportunity to be transformed by responding to the prompting of God’s Spirit. There are going to be things that happen that are meant to stretch, strengthen, and move you in ways that could determine the outcome of your spiritual fervor. What will divine appointments reveal in you today?
I am looking forward to the next two weekends as we focus on Baptism. We have called it, “I Have Decided.” It is going to be a great weekend and I pray that we will better understand the obedient step in going public with our faith. Come and anticipate the Lord speaking in a powerful way. Invite a friend to attend with you. Ask the Lord of the harvest to set up a divine appointment this week and make it obvious as to whom you will invite.
Joy in Jesus!
In the Hymn, “At the Cross,” there is a verse that describes the state we were in before God entered our life. We were nothing. Without God, we still are nothing. Look with me what Isaac Watts penned over 300 years ago, “Alas, and did my Savior bleed? And did my Sovereign die? Would He devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?”
This is a vivid illustration of sinful mankind – lost, undeserving, spiritually worthless, wicked within and without. Drawing from Job 25 and Isaiah 41, the hymnist painted such a picture, using the very term Scripture uses – worm. We are all worm-like before the righteousness of God overwhelmed our soul.
The chorus says, “At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light, and the burden of my heart rolled away. It was there by faith I received my sight, and now I am happy all the day!”
When I take the plunge and go all in, repenting of my sins and receive new life, my soul becomes happy. My faith and hope is now built on Jesus Christ and his shed blood on the cross. I can shed the worm-like existence and walk in newness through Jesus Christ. He sought me out and paid the price I could never pay. I am no longer a worm but a child of God.
In more recent years, Chris Tomlin wrote a song with the same title. Let me bring your attention to the second verse, “There’s a place where sin and shame are powerless. Where my heart has peace with God and forgiveness. Where all the love I've ever found. Comes like a flood, comes flowing down. At the cross, at the cross, I surrender my life. I’m in awe of You, I’m in awe of You. Where your love ran red and my sin washed white I owe all to You, I owe all to You, Jesus.”
Am I still undeserving? Yes I am. Can I be selfish at times? Absolutely. Am I useless or unimportant? Not at all. God declares us righteous when we are in Christ and Christ is in us.
1 I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. 2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him. Psalm 40:1-3
Praise the Lord that He set us on a firm foundation and we can continue to build on that foundation by making His Word a light unto my path each day. I can’t say it enough – saturate in the Word of God daily in order to walk where He is leading. Don’t let the worm mentality crawl back in your life. You are a child of God!
Just a reminder to put the church picnic on your calendar for Sunday, August 12 at 5:30pm. It will be held on the church lawn. Come and enjoy getting back in a good rhythm again. Now let the song fill your heart and mind today as you seek the Lord in all you do.
Joy in Jesus!
Rev. Mike McClurg
Senior Pastor, Findlay First Church of the Nazarene