Tuesday, December 31, 2019

New Year's Eve Message - New Year and New Life

Each new year brings with it hope and the desire to make things better or to improve. Most of us will make resolutions and work to keep them throughout the new year. Studies show that only twenty-five percent of people stay committed to their resolutions past thirty days. Only eight percent actually accomplish their resolutions. In short, a vast majority start out with a bang and fizzle rather quickly in just a few weeks. 

We all start out with the resolve to do something that we have been meaning to do for a long time. But, for whatever reason, we have pushed those desires to improve to the backburners of our lives. Most of us share the same reasons for not improving ourselves. We don’t have the time or it’s not the right moment. Maybe it isn’t the time. It could be our resolve. Is it that we tend to procrastinate and avoid the difficult things we need to do to reach our goals? We know that we need to improve, but, for whatever reason, we just push it aside and wish that we could be better.

When we make resolutions, we often don’t qualify them. We just leave things in broad, undefined tasks we need to do. For example, many will make resolutions to lose weight. But, there are no set specifics to accomplish. If you set a goal of exercising three times a week for fifteen minutes and cut three mocha lattes a week from your diet, you now have something to accomplish. If you exercise more and eat less, you will lose weight. By setting a goal of acting on specific tasks that are measurable, you have a plan to achieve not only those things but also the added benefit of accomplishing the thing you want most.

Our spiritual lives are the same way. Many Christians will make resolutions to read the scriptures daily. Within just a few days, our Bibles remain closed and our resolutions fall by the wayside. If, however, you begin a reading plan that is guided with the goal of learning rather than just reading words, you will soon find yourself growing spiritually. Instead of plowing through the Bible, set aside time to read the scriptures and to think and pray over what you just read. 

As a minister, I don’t set aside time to just read scripture. My focus remains on what the Lord is saying to me through His word. I sometimes read just one verse in a book or chapter and spend days and even weeks praying over it and listening to God as He speaks to me through the Holy Spirit. There have been countless times when I have read a scripture over and over only to realize that there was a deeper message for me. When I stop and take the time to understand the deeper and, often, more personal message, I then feel that something significantly changed in my life.

When that impactful change has occurred, I know that God has given me a very special gift to share with others. My prayers become more focused on God and looking for His will and plan in my life. With just one verse or chapter, my life has changed for the better. For me, my goal is easy and very simple, but it is the hardest to do. I ask the Lord for that one lesson for the year. My wife describes her goal as “God’s One Word” for her. God gives her one word that becomes the focus of her daily walk with the Lord. 

For me, I look for the lesson for the year. It is that profound moment when I realize that I had been missing something big in my life. Sometimes it takes most of the new year for me to see and understand the lesson. Other times, it is obvious, but it requires that I work very hard to truly understand its meaning. In either case, for me it starts with prayer.

In the fifty-first Psalm, the author writes, “Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you.

I ask God to clean my heart and prepare it for the lesson He has for me. When I have truly gained a full and complete understanding of it and apply it to my life, I ask God for the opportunity to share that lesson with others in order to help them grow spiritually.

The next step is for me to cleanse my mind of the thoughts of this world. I work to keep my mind clear of its darkness and ugliness and concentrate on the light and beauty. Listening to hymns helps to clear my mind and become more receptive to the thoughts that He wants me to have.

In chapter twelve of his letter to the Romans, Paul writes, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

When you allow the world to encroach into your time and relationship with the Lord, it is so very easy to fall in line with its chaos and darkness. When you listen to, read or watch things that pull you back into this world, your mind, heart and soul will be cluttered with the wrong things. As a Christian, your goal is to seek God’s will in your life which is good, pleasing and perfect to the Father.

Once your heart, soul and mind are cleansed, look for God’s will in your life. Study the scriptures with the desire to seek knowledge and understanding rather than just reading words. Be in prayer as each word works its way not only into your mind but also your heart and soul. Spend time alone thinking about the scriptures and how they apply to you and can help you to be better in your daily walk with the Lord. When you take time to do more than just read, you will soon find that you have grown spiritually.

As you approach not only a new year but also a new decade, dedicate yourself to more than just reading words in the Bible. Do more to be more. By studying, praying and learning, you are able to be what God desires for you to be and are able to stand firm in His grace.   

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Daily Word of God - Romans 2:1-4

Romans 2:1-4 New International Version (NIV)

God’s Righteous Judgment

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

Daily Word of God - Proverbs 16:1

Proverbs 16:1 New International Version (NIV)

To humans belong the plans of the heart,

    but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Daily Word of God - Numbers 30:1-2

Numbers 30:1-2 New International Version (NIV)


30 [a]Moses said to the heads of the tribes of Israel: “This is what the Lord commands: When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.


  1. Numbers 30:1 In Hebrew texts 30:1-16 is numbered 30:2-17.

Daily Word of God - Isaiah 33:5-6

Isaiah 33:5-6 New International Version (NIV)

The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high;
    he will fill Zion with his justice and righteousness.
He will be the sure foundation for your times,
    a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;
    the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.[a]


  1. Isaiah 33:6 Or is a treasure from him

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Daily Word of God - Proverbs 20:24

Proverbs 20:24 New International Version (NIV)

24 A person’s steps are directed by the Lord.
    How then can anyone understand their own way?

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Closing of the Year

As we take our final steps toward the end of the year, we all have an opportunity to reflect upon the events of 2019. I, like most of you, experienced great moments and a few I would like to forget about. No matter what happened to each of us in the past year, we all are looking forward to a new year and decade and hoping and praying it will be a sight better than the last.

Although we do not know what 2020 will hold for us, we are optimistic and look towards this new year with a sense of hope. The new year may hold a new job or opportunity. It may have a new relationship in store for those looking for that special someone. For others, they hope that their medical conditions will improve and that they can move on in their lives. We all hope and pray that 2020 will be our year for victory and success.

Before you move on to the new year, stop for a moment and really look hard at the not-so-great moments of 2019. Were they really that bad? Did you learn something from those moments and experience something new? Were you surprised that you were able to get through those events?

If there is one thing I have learned in my life, it is that we sometimes have to go through a wall of fire in order to truly test our mettle. Our lives are like a rich tapestry or, if you prefer, a quilt. Each panel or segment tells a story and an experience. Some of them detail great victories in our lives while others contain the story of a setback. As we look back on all the moments, we see the richness of learning something. It is easy to say that we learned something when we are victorious. It is harder to find the lesson in a setback.

Someone once told me that there is a big difference between failure and setbacks. Setbacks happen. They are just a part of life. But, what keeps a setback from becoming a failure is the lessons learned from them. If we do not learn anything from our setbacks and accept them as final, then we have truly failed. Setbacks test us to see if we are truly ready for something bigger in our lives.

In his first letter to the believers in Corinth, Paul, in chapter thirteen, writes, “Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ. Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.

As we live our daily lives, we continue to build upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. However, we have the choice of materials. We can choose to build with strong and durable materials like gold and silver or we can choose to use wood, hay or straw. When it comes time to put our work to the test, which do you believe will withstand a fire? Will a strong foundation of gold and silver truly show others that you have the mettle to withstand the worst conflagration imaginable? Or, will your foundation just burn up and disappear and leave nothing in the path of the fire?

Those moments in 2019 that almost took you to the brink of falling tested you and, most importantly, your faith. Each time you experience something devastating, you learned something more about yourself and your faith. You learned that you alone cannot face the world. It is only through God’s will and His undeserved grace that you are able to face tomorrow.

I cannot tell you what tomorrow will hold for me or for you. But, I can remind you of this one thing.

A rich man asked Jesus what he must do to have eternal life. Jesus replied that he must obey all of the commandments. The man said that he was already doing that and asked what else must he do. Jesus told him to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor and then follow him. The man left sad.

Jesus told his disciples in chapter nineteen of the Gospel of Matthew, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!

The disciples were astounded and asked Jesus, “Then who in the world can be saved?”

Jesus tells them, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.

If we rely only on our own strength, intelligence and abilities, we are unable to achieve the impossible. If, however, we build upon the foundation of Jesus using strong material, as Paul stated, and realize that we are nothing without the Father, we can achieve the impossible, weather any storm and withstand the hottest fires.

I want you to think about those setbacks of 2019 using this new lens to view them. Did you make it through each one with God’s grace? Did you learn something about your faith? Did those events strengthen your faith and give you the courage to be bold? Are you ready for the challenges of 2020 knowing that God will be there with you leading the way?

Do not let setbacks become failures. Build a strong foundation with strong and enduring materials based on the one true foundation of Christ Jesus. Know that you must give yourself over to God completely and totally. Don’t chase after the things of this world. Know that all things are possible with God. 

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, writes in chapter eight while talking about the future glory that will be given to the chosen of the Father, “What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

As long as we remain faithful, obey the commandments, follow the example of His son, Christ Jesus, and build upon him, we can withstand all the storms knowing that there is nothing that can be against us. When we do all those things and remember that failure is not an option, we can stand firm in His grace.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Daily Word of God - Jeremiah 10:23-25

Jeremiah 10:23-25 New International Version (NIV)

Jeremiah’s Prayer

23 Lord, I know that people’s lives are not their own;
    it is not for them to direct their steps.
24 Discipline me, Lord, but only in due measure—
    not in your anger,
    or you will reduce me to nothing.
25 Pour out your wrath on the nations
    that do not acknowledge you,
    on the peoples who do not call on your name.
For they have devoured Jacob;
    they have devoured him completely
    and destroyed his homeland.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Daily Word of God - Matthew 2:13-18

Matthew 2:13-18 New International Version (NIV)

The Escape to Egypt

13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”[a]
16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
    weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
    and refusing to be comforted,
    because they are no more.”[b]


  1. Matthew 2:15 Hosea 11:1
  2. Matthew 2:18 Jer. 31:15

Daily Word of God - Joel 2:1-2

Joel 2:1-2 New International Version (NIV)

An Army of Locusts

 Blow the trumpet in Zion;
    sound the alarm on my holy hill.
Let all who live in the land tremble,
    for the day of the Lord is coming.
It is close at hand
    a day of darkness and gloom,
    a day of clouds and blackness.
Like dawn spreading across the mountains
    a large and mighty army comes,
such as never was in ancient times
    nor ever will be in ages to come.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Daily Word of God - 1 Samuel 7:10-12

1 Samuel 7:10-12 New International Version (NIV)

10 While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. 11 The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar.
12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer,[a] saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”


  1. 1 Samuel 7:12 Ebenezer means stone of help.

Daily Word of God - Deuteronomy 34:9-11

Deuteronomy 34:9-11 New International Version (NIV)

Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit[a] of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the Lord had commanded Moses.
10 Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11 who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land.


  1. Deuteronomy 34:9 Or Spirit

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Daily Word of God - Proverbs 19:21

Proverbs 19:21 New International Version (NIV)

21 Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
    but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

Daily Word of God - Isaiah 26:7-9

Isaiah 26:7-9 New International Version (NIV)

The path of the righteous is level;
    you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous smooth.
Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws,[a]
    we wait for you;
your name and renown
    are the desire of our hearts.
My soul yearns for you in the night;
    in the morning my spirit longs for you.
When your judgments come upon the earth,
    the people of the world learn righteousness.


  1. Isaiah 26:8 Or judgments

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Christmas Day - Evening Scripture Reading

Luke 2:8-19 New Living Translation (NLT)

The Shepherds and Angels

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.