Watson Baptist Church
Watson, IL

Devotionals

Monday October 25, 2021

October 25

God Speaks through His Activity

Look at the nations and observe—

be utterly astounded!

For something is taking place in your days

that you will not believe

when you hear about it.—Habakkuk 1:5

Christians habitually seek God's voice through prayer, through His word, or through His messengers. Yet sometimes we fail to hear God speak through His activity, even though He is working all around us. Unbelievers see God's activity without understanding what they see. God encourages His people to watch for His activity so they will know how they should respond and adjust their lives.

The disciples discovered much about God's power by witnessing Jesus calming a raging storm with a command. Seeing Jesus dine with the notorious sinner, Zacchaeus, taught them a poignant message about God's love for sinners. Watching Jesus hang upon the cross communicated a compelling message of what God was willing to do to free people from sin. Discovering the empty tomb revealed an astounding truth of God's victory over death. To those with spiritual discernment, God's activity is a significant revelation about His heart and His will.

If you are sensitive to what God is doing around you, He will clearly speak to you through His activity. You will know that God is at work, because what you see will astound you, and human power and wisdom will not explain it. If things happen that are direct answers to your prayers, God is speaking to you. When you experience events that surpass your understanding and ability, it may be that God is communicating a critical message to you.

If you want to hear God's voice, look around you to see what He is doing. When you are watching for God at work, what you see will reveal His character, and you will have a fresh understanding of how to respond to Him.

Old Pastor Van
Sunday October 24, 2021

October 24

I Will Rejoice!

Though the fig tree does not bud

and there is no fruit on the vines,

though the olive crop fails

and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen

and no cattle in the stalls,

yet I will triumph in the Lord;

I will rejoice in the God of my salvation!—Habakkuk 3:17–18

At times it seems that everything around you is collapsing. Endeavors you invested in may fail. People to whom you minister may disappoint you. The business or career you worked hard to build may crumble. These times, as difficult as they are, are opportunities to stop and examine what is truly important to you.

Habakkuk witnessed the collapse of most of what mattered to him. Yet through the loss, failure, and disappointment, he was able to distinguish between what was precious to him and what was transitory and empty. He came to the point where he could sincerely say that even if everything around him failed, he still would rejoice in God. If the fig tree bore no fruit; if the vine produced no grapes; if the flocks and herds stopped reproducing; he would still praise God. His praise might not come easily, as he watched everything fall short of his expectations, but he would praise God nonetheless. Habakkuk could not make fig trees produce figs. He could not control the productivity of the flocks and herds, but he could control his own response to God. He chose to praise the Lord.

Do things seem to be falling apart around you? You can still praise God. Your praise for Him does not depend on the success of your endeavors but on God's nature and His love and faithfulness to you. Ask God to help you look past worldly concerns to understand the reasons you have to praise Him.

Still praying for you MJ

Old Pastor Van
Saturday October 23, 2021

October 23

A Second Time

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time:—Jonah 3:1

Jonah didn't like the assignment God gave him. God directed him to leave his homeland and go to the enemy city of Nineveh, a hostile and evil center of idol worship. There Jonah was to warn the people of God's impending judgment and urge them to repent. The Hebrews hated the people of Nineveh, so the rebellious prophet fled in the opposite direction, hoping for a different word from God that was more to his liking. Instead, God was determined that his word to Jonah would be obeyed (Isa. 55:11). He spoke to Jonah again. His second message was the same as the first. However, during the interval, Jonah had been buffeted by storms and had traveled in the stomach of a fish for three days. This time, he was prepared to hear God again and do His bidding.

God also spoke to the prophet Jeremiah two times (Jer. 33:1–3). But Jeremiah accepted God's word to him the first time. The second time God spoke to him was to give him a fuller revelation of what He had first told him.

What God says to us next will depend on how we responded to His previous word to us. If, like Jonah, we disobeyed His earlier instructions, God will give them a second time. If we obeyed His first directive, as Jeremiah did, He will give us a fresh and deeper expression of His will (Matt. 25:23).

If you have not received a fresh word from God, return to the last thing God told you and examine your obedience. Is the Lord still waiting for your obedience? Seek to be like Jeremiah, and properly respond to your Lord's instructions the first time.

Old Pastor Van
Friday October 22, 2021

October 22

Hidden from the Wise

In that same hour He rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and the learned and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, because this was Your good pleasure.”—Luke 10:21

One hindrance to hearing a word from God may be our own wisdom. Wisdom, like success, can delude us to think we should take the role of teacher rather than student. Our knowledge lulls us into thinking we have sufficient wisdom to meet any challenge. Believing we are wise tempts us to evaluate the shortcomings of others yet be unaware of how much growth is still required in ourselves.

The Pharisees were the religious experts of their day. They possessed much information about God, but they had no personal relationship with Him. Their knowledge clouded their view of their condition before God. Jesus thanked His Father that it was not to these “experts” that the Father had revealed spiritual truth, but rather to those who were humble and who recognized their need for God's revelation.

When religious leaders experience spiritual failure, their downfall is often met with surprise. It shouldn't be. Religious people with the most knowledge are sometimes the ones least responsive to God's Word. Knowledge can easily lead to pride, and pride impedes us from seeking God.

How do you know if you are a “Pharisee”? When you do not have a teachable spirit. When you become defensive if a fellow Christian shares a concern about your spiritual condition. When you do not seek to hear from God, believing you already know what He thinks. When you feel that you are capable of helping others in their spiritual lives, but no one can teach you anything. Don't allow the limited knowledge you now have to blind you to the great truths God still wants to reveal to you.

I am praying for you MJ Old Pastor Van
Thursday October 21, 2021

October 21

Bringing People to Jesus

He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah!” (which means “Anointed One”). . . —John 1:41

People become known for many things. Noah is known as a righteous man in an evil age. David is known as the man after God's own heart. Peter is known as the outspoken disciple. John is known as the disciple whom Jesus loved. Judas is known as the betrayer. Paul is known as a fearless proclaimer of the gospel. Andrew is known for bringing others to Jesus.

The first person Andrew brought to Jesus was his brother Peter. As soon as Peter joined the disciples, he became the spokesperson for the Twelve, while Andrew remained in the background. It was Peter, not Andrew, who rose to prominence as one of Jesus' inner circle of three. We do not read of Andrew resenting Peter; it seems he was satisfied to bring others to Jesus and leave the results to Him.

It is not surprising that Andrew found the boy with the loaves and fishes and brought him to Jesus (John 6:8–9). Andrew brought Greeks to Jesus, even though they were despised by pious Jews (John 12:20–22). There is no record of Andrew ever preaching a sermon, performing a miracle, or writing a book of Scripture. He is remembered for those whom he brought to Jesus.

Andrew is a good role model for us. Our job is not to transform people into Christians nor to convict them of their sin. It is not our responsibility to make people do what they ought to do. Our task is to bring them to Jesus, and He will perform His divine work in their lives.

Old Pastor Van
Wednesday October 20, 2021

October 20

Prepared for Worship

He will be like a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver. Then they will present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.—Malachi 3:3

The quality of our worship is not based on our activities but on our character. Churches can mistakenly assume that the better the music, the more impressive the building, and the more eloquent the preaching, the more worshipful the experience will be. Genuine worship, however, originates from within our hearts. If our relationship with God is not healthy, all these things are nothing more than religious pageantry.

The Levites were the worship leaders of their day. Their task was to offer sacrifices on behalf of the people. God declared that before they could worship Him in righteousness, He would first refine them with His refiner's fire, purging them of any impurities. Merely being members of the religious profession, having official responsibilities in the temple, and going through the rituals of worship, did not guarantee that their religious activities would be acceptable to holy God.

Today, we tend to look to external things to enhance our worship. The true quality of our worship, however, rests within us. If we have not allowed God to purify us first, our worship will be void of His presence. If we do not have a pure heart, we may give offerings, but they will be unacceptable to God. Attending a religious service will not automatically ensure an encounter with God.

If you are not satisfied with the quality of your worship, don't be too quick to blame your environment. Look first to your own heart. Allow God to refine your heart until it is pleasing to Him, and you will be free to worship God as He intends.

Old Pastor Van
Tuesday October 19, 2021

October 19

It Is Your Life!

“For they are not meaningless words to you but they are your life, and by them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.”—Deuteronomy 32:47

It's puzzling that so many Christians try to live the Christian life without reading their Bible, except for sporadic perusals of God's Word, seeking a pithy thought for the day. The Word of God is not merely a source of helpful suggestions, preventative warnings, or inspirational thoughts: It is life itself!

God gathered the children of Israel at the edge of the Promised Land to review their pilgrimage with Him. They had spent forty years in a desert because their parents had not trusted God's word. Their parents died without seeing the Promised Land because they had not believed God's word. Even the revered Moses was soon to leave them because he had not shown proper reverence for God's word. Many of them knew those who had been put to death as a consequence of their disobedience to God's word. Over the years God's word had become the most important thing in the life of the Israelites.

God commanded His people to bind His words on their hearts, to teach them diligently to their children, and to regularly discuss them in their homes (Deut. 6:4–9). So essential was His word that it was to hold a prominent place in the daily lives of His people.

Our reverence for God's Word is revealed not only by what we say but also by what we do. Spending more time reading and studying the words of people rather than the Word of God, reveals our hearts' condition. To blatantly disregard God's Word is to reject life itself. To obey God's Word is the surest way to experience all that God has in store for us.

Old Pastor Van
Monday October 18, 2021

October 18

Seeing with Your Eyes

I had heard rumors about You,

but now my eyes have seen You.—Job 42:5

In his time, Job was the most righteous person on earth. He was so godly that the Lord took pleasure in pointing him out to Satan (Job 1:8). Yet, despite his love for God and his diligent obedience to His commands, even Job had not fully come to know God. The blessings God had given to Job had not revealed everything about God's character. There were characteristics that Job would come to realize only through adversity. So the Lord allowed Satan to test Job through suffering.

Although Job lost everything he had, even his seven children, Job discovered that God was still with him. Though he faced the most difficult and bewildering tribulations imaginable, Job came to understand that God was infinitely wiser than he (Job 42:1–4). As Job endured the insensitivity of his friends, he learned that God is the only One who is absolutely trustworthy. Job learned much about God through his anguish. Finally, he confessed that at first he had only heard about God, but now, through his suffering, he had come to see God (Job 42:5).

When you are in the midst of your trials, your Lord will reveal His character to you in ways you never knew. You will experience His strong and comforting presence. Like Job, you will learn that your Lord will remain, even when everyone else abandons you. You will see God more clearly as He takes you through the dark times. Then you will experience God in ways you had previously only heard about from others.

Old Pastor Van
Sunday October 17, 2021

October 17

One Man's Sin

“Go and consecrate the people. Tell them to consecrate themselves tomorrow, for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says, ‘There are among you, Israel, things set apart. You will not be able to stand against your enemies until you remove what is set apart.’”—Joshua 7:13

Just as the obedience of one Christian can bring blessing to others, the sin of one Christian can bring harm to many others. The children of Israel were rapidly advancing into the Promised Land. They had experienced a miraculous victory over the city of Jericho, and they were continuing toward their next conquest. To their surprise they met decisive defeat as they attempted to capture the small town of Ai. They sought God's explanation for their failure, and He provided it. He revealed that someone among them had disobeyed His clear command not to keep any possession from Jericho. The disobedience of one man and his family had paralyzed an entire nation! Achan thought he could conceal his sin and it would not affect anyone else. God chose to demonstrate the destructive power of one sin to His people. One act of disobedience cost Achan and his family their lives. It caused his countrymen to lose the battle; innocent soldiers were killed. His sin had serious repercussions for others, denying them the blessing, power, and victory of God.

Your sin will have an impact on others. Choosing to disobey God may cost your family God's blessing. The power of God may be absent from your church because you are living in disobedience. Your friends may suffer because you are not living righteously. Diligently seek to obey every word from God, for you do not know how your disobedience could affect those around you. Scripture promises that if you will obey the Lord, your life will be a channel of blessing to others (Ps. 37:25–26).

Old Pastor Van
Saturday October 16, 2021

October 16

Never Too Busy

But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw [the man], he had compassion.—Luke 10:33

If anyone could understand the temptation to let busyness distract Him from the Father's activity, Jesus certainly could! He told a parable that clearly illustrated this danger: A certain Jewish man was on his way to Jericho when he was brutally attacked by thieves and left to die by the road. First a Levite, then a priest, passed by. These were religious leaders; surely they would show compassion to a wounded person! But they had places to go and appointments to keep, so they passed him by. Surely someone else would come along who had more time to help the wounded man! Then a Samaritan, despised by the Jews, came along. Of all people, this man had reason to look the other way, since the wounded man was his enemy. But wherever he was going could wait, for someone needed his help.

It's easy to become so busy that you are oblivious to those in need. Your schedule can become so full of accomplishing good things that you are of no help to the people around you. God is at work in the lives of your friends, your neighbors, your family members. He may ask you to interrupt your day long enough to join Him as He ministers to them. Nothing on your agenda, no matter how pressing, is reason enough to ignore the voice of God when He tells you to stop and help. If you have become too busy to minister to those around you, ask God to reestablish your priorities so that you do not miss opportunities to serve Him.

Old Pastor Van
Friday October 15, 2021

October 15

Discouragement

“I have been very zealous for the Lord God of Hosts,” he replied, “but the Israelites have abandoned Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they’re looking for me to take my life.”—1 Kings 19:14

Kingdom work can be challenging! You can give everything you have to God's service and come away exhausted. This is what happened to Elijah. God had just used Elijah to call down fire from heaven in a spectacular display of divine power. But Elijah's exhilaration was soon replaced by strenuous work followed by death threats, causing him to flee for his life. Now he was alone, exhausted, and discouraged.

Again, God came to Elijah. This time, He came not in fire or in a loud, spectacular way, but in a still, small voice. God's servant was tired, and God brought him comfort. Elijah's focus had shifted from God to God's enemies. He had allowed his circumstances to overwhelm him, leaving him disoriented to God and feeling alone. So God encouraged him. God provided Elisha for him as a helper, friend, and companion.

God removed Elijah from the activity for a time, so that he could rest and spend time with God. When the nation next saw Elijah, he was rejuvenated and refocused on God and His assignment.

If you are overwhelmed by kingdom work so that your focus is no longer on God but on all that there is to do, let Him comfort you. Listen to His gentle voice. He will encourage you and provide exactly what you need to prepare you for what comes next. If He needs to remove you from your work for a time, He will. He may place a friend or colaborer beside you to help carry the load. God knows exactly how to encourage you. Let Him do so.

Old Pastor Van
Thursday October 14, 2021

October 14

Victory Versus Defeat

“The Lord will cause the enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you. They will march out against you from one direction but flee from you in seven directions. . . .

The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You will march out against them from one direction but flee from them in seven directions. You will be an object of horror to all the kingdoms of the earth.”—Deuteronomy 28:7, 25

As the Israelites were preparing to enter the Promised Land, God set before them a choice: Heed His voice, obey His commandments, and experience continued victory. Or turn from God, disobey His word, and experience repeated and resounding defeat. It was a simple choice. The choice they made would be evident by the results on the battlefield.

The assurance of victory did not mean that the Israelites would not have to strap on their armor and go to battle. It did not assure them of effortless victory. At times their enemies fought fiercely, and the battles raged back and forth. Nevertheless, as the Israelites walked closely with God, they knew that their efforts would always result in victory.

God gives us the same choice He gave the Israelites. If we walk with Him, obedient to His word, He will stand with us and ensure victory over our challenges. We must face the battle, but God promises us victory if we remain in His will. However, if we choose to disassociate from God, we surely will be overtaken by difficulties. As with the Israelites, our decision will be evident by the outcome. If you are continually being defeated by everything you face, your heart has departed from God.

If you have been experiencing defeat in the challenges you face, examine your heart. When you are buffeted by the crises of life, your heart may have shifted away from God. Choose to listen to God. Then obey what He tells you, no matter what you face, and you will experience victory.

Old Pastor Van
Wednesday October 13, 2021

October 13

No Secrets

For nothing is concealed that won’t be revealed, and nothing hidden that won’t be made known and come to light.—Luke 8:17

One of Satan's subtle deceptions is that you can do things in secret that will never be revealed. This is simply not so. The Bible stresses that everything done in darkness will one day be brought to light. So before you commit yourself to do anything questionable, seriously ask yourself, “Am I willing for those around me to know what I am about to do? Am I willing for God to watch me participate in this activity?”

The knowledge that God sees what we do, the certainty that we are accountable for every word and action, ought to dissuade us from sin (2 Cor. 5:10). But we can become so alienated from God that even this knowledge does not deter us. God promises that He will publicly expose our sin so that we must give an account to others for our actions. Ultimately, everything we do will be exposed on judgment day.

Still, some people believe they can sin against God, their families, their employers, or their friends and never be discovered. God has provided a safeguard against sin: the certainty of disclosure. Scripture commands us to expose the deeds of darkness as we become aware of them (Eph. 5:11). As Christians we are to be the light that dispels darkness in our world. Sin cannot continue in the Christian's experience, for light cannot dwell with darkness. The only insurance against having your sins exposed is living a blameless life.

Old Pastor Van
Tuesday October 12, 2021

October 12

Godliness and Persecution

In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.—2 Timothy 3:12

Living a godly life will not insulate you from hardship. Paul said that the more blameless your life, the more likely you will be persecuted. According to Paul, “evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse” (2 Tim. 3:13). As the world increasingly embraces sin, worldly people are becoming increasingly intolerant of godliness. Darkness cannot tolerate light; the more your life illuminates the presence of Christ, the more you should expect opposition from the forces of darkness. Your Christlike nature will be offensive to those in rebellion against Christ's Lordship.

You may have recently repented of your sin and taken a new step of obedience to God. Perhaps you expected to experience God's blessing immediately as He demonstrated His approval of your obedience. Instead, you were met with opposition. The persecution may have come even from other Christians who misunderstood your motives. Perhaps you obeyed God, and still your actions were met with criticism instead of praise.

If you are sincerely following the Lord's direction, don't be discouraged. Paul warned that those who seek to live godly lives will suffer persecution. Do not be surprised when this happens to you. If the world crucified the Son of God, surely the world will be hostile to anyone who lives by the power of the Holy Spirit. Persecution may be the best evidence that your life is like that of Christ. Jesus warned that the world hated Him, the Savior, and so it would certainly misunderstand and mistreat His disciples (John 15:18).

Old Pastor Van
Monday October 11, 2021

October 11

Spiritual Preparation

“When they had gone to buy some, the groom arrived. Then those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut.”—Matthew 25:10

There is no substitute for spiritual preparation. Spiritual preparation equips you for unforeseen crises or opportunities. However, if you are unprepared you will be vulnerable in life's unexpected events.

Jesus told a parable that teaches this truth. Ten virgins were awaiting the arrival of the bridegroom so that they could celebrate with him and his bride. Five of them prepared in advance and brought an adequate supply of oil for their lamps. The other five were not prepared, so they rushed out to buy additional lamp oil. While they were gone, the bridegroom arrived. The five who had planned ahead entered into the house with him, but the door was closed against the five who were not ready, and they missed the celebration.

If you are spiritually prepared when a crisis comes, you will not have to try to develop instantly the quality of relationship with Christ that can sustain you. If you suddenly have an opportunity to share your faith with an unbeliever, you will be equipped to do so. If you enter a time of worship spiritually prepared, you will not miss an encounter with God. If you are spiritually filled when you meet a person in sorrow, you will have much to offer. If you have established safeguards in your life in advance, you will not give in to temptation.

Christians lose many opportunities to experience God's activity because they have not devoted enough time to their relationship with God. If you have not yet developed the habit of daily prayer and Bible study, why not begin now, so that you will be equipped for whatever life brings?

Old Pastor Van
Sunday October 10, 2021

October 10

Leaders and Managers

But the Lord told him, “Listen to the people and everything they say to you. They have not rejected you; they have rejected Me as their king.”—1 Samuel 8:7

The Israelites were to be a nation unlike any other. Every other nation had a king or ruler, but Israel's king was to be God Himself! Still, the Israelites complained that they wanted to be like other nations and have an earthly ruler! As we read about the Israelites, we marvel at their foolishness. Yet we are prone to make the same mistake, choosing our human wisdom over God's leadership.

There is much discussion these days about leaders and managers. According to popular teaching, leaders have the vision and set goals for people or organizations to follow. Managers handle the day-to-day marshaling of resources under their charge. In the Christian life, God is the leader of our lives, our families, and our churches. God sets the direction; He establishes the priorities; He provides the resources. We are the managers. We take what He gives us and do with it as He directs.

The biblical term for leader is Lord. As our Lord, Christ has the authority to reveal the direction for our lives. As Lord, He chooses our careers, leads us to our marriage partners, and helps us set our daily priorities. We are to be good managers of the mind, body, and spiritual life He gives. He is the Lord of our families. He knows what is best for our children. He knows how to make marriages strong. Our responsibility is to obey Him as He leads our families to Christlikeness. Christ is the Lord of our church. He takes responsibility for expanding it (Matt. 16:18; 1 Cor. 12:18). Only He knows what is best for our church. Our task is to faithfully perform the role He assigns us.

Do not foolishly trust in human wisdom and leadership as the Israelites did. Follow your Lord and trust Him alone.

Old Pastor Van
Saturday October 09, 2021

God's Sufficient Grace

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.—2 Corinthians 12:9

Human strength is a strong deterrent to trusting in Christ. When we rely on our own strength, resources, and knowledge, we assume we can handle situations without help from God. We tend to divide problems into two categories: problems that we know require God's help and problems we think we can handle on our own.

Paul had a tenacious personality and an exceptionally strong will. He courageously faced angry mobs as he traveled far and wide to promote the cause of Christ. He had spent the first half of his life serving God in his own strength. However, once God gained his attention, Paul had to learn to rely on God's strength and not his own.

Paul was afflicted with a thorn in the flesh (2 Cor. 12:7). Whatever this was, it humbled him. He had performed incredible miracles, even raising the dead, but he could not remove the affliction that God had given him, an affliction that made him depend on God. The world had seen what Paul could do in his own strength, and it was horrifying! Now God wanted to exercise His power through Paul's life. When Paul thought he was strong, he neglected to rely upon God's strength. Only in his weakness did Paul trust implicitly in God.

If you feel strong in an area of your life, beware! Often your strength, rather than your weakness, hinders you from trusting God. God will bring you to a point of weakness if that is what it takes to bring you to trust in Him. Do not despise your weakness, for it leads you to trust in God's strength.

Old Pastor Van
Friday October 08, 2021

October 8

Trusting God's Wisdom

“Go and tell Hezekiah that this is what the Lord God of your ancestor David says: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Look, I am going to add 15 years to your life.”—Isaiah 38:5

The fundamental premise of Christianity is that God knows what is best better than we do. When we are experiencing God's blessing, it is easy to believe that God knows what is best. But when God allows sickness and sorrow in our lives, we may be tempted to question His wisdom.

The Lord told King Hezekiah that his life was coming to an end. God advised him to prepare himself for death and to make arrangements to turn over the kingdom. Instead, Hezekiah pled for his life, begging God to spare him from death (Isa. 38:3). God loved the righteous Hezekiah and, in His grace, granted him an additional fifteen years to live. Those fifteen years would prove that God's wisdom far exceeds human wisdom. During those added years, Mannasseh was born, and he eventually succeeded Hezekiah as king of Judah. Mannasseh, who reigned for fifty-five years, was the most evil king ever to rule over Judah (2 Kings 21:1). Mannaseh encouraged the worship of idolatry throughout the nation. He passed his own son through fire according to the abominable practices of idolatry. He shed much innocent blood during his reign; every part of the nation suffered from his cruelty. Manasseh's wickedness provoked God to anger, but Manasseh ignored God's warning (2 Kings 21:16; 2 Chron. 33:10). All these hardships were caused by Manasseh, a king who would never have been born if Hezekiah had accepted God's will for his life! Furthermore, Hezekiah's extended reign led to Judah's eventual defeat by the Babylonians (2 Kings 20:12–20).

So much suffering resulted from Hezekiah's unwillingness to accept God's will for him. God knows what is best. Whether your circumstances are easy or difficult, you can completely trust His guidance.

Old Pastor Van
Thursday October 07, 2021

October 7

Questioning God

Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind. He said:

Who is this who obscures [My] counsel

with ignorant words?

Get ready to answer Me like a man;

when I question you, you will inform Me.—Job 38:1–3

Job was a righteous man who, from a human perspective, did not deserve to suffer. He lived a blameless life and followed God's laws to the letter. As he was experiencing great tribulation, Job cried out in frustration and questioned why God was allowing him to suffer. God came to Job in the form of a whirlwind with His answer. As soon as God spoke, Job recognized that he should not have challenged God's wisdom. God turned to Job and asked him several sobering questions: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Where were you when I set the oceans in their place? Where were you when I put the constellations of stars in position?” God's questions humbled Job and reminded him that his own wisdom did not begin to compare with God's.

When God finished asking His questions, Job replied, “I have uttered what I did not understand, / Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42:3). In a moment of despair and frustration, Job had challenged God's wisdom. God had firmly reminded Job that He was still sovereign and that this truth was enough for Job. Whether Job ever knew that his life had been the focus of a cosmic struggle is unclear. Perhaps Job never realized that his experience brought glory to God in the face of Satan's challenge (Job 1:8–12). But Job was satisfied to know that God's wisdom was flawless.

At times you may not understand why a loving Father would allow you to suffer as you are. You may question the wisdom of God's direction for your life. Learn from Job. Review the awesome power and wisdom of almighty God (Job 38–41). Have confidence that this same God is directing your path.

Old Pastor Van
Wednesday October 06, 2021

October 6

Prayer Changes You

“Now if You would only forgive their sin. But if not, please erase me from the book You have written.”—Exodus 32:32

Prayer is not designed to change God, it is designed to change us. Prayer is not calling God in to bless our activities. Rather, prayer takes us into God's presence, shows us His will, and prepares us to obey Him.

Moses climbed Mount Sinai and spent forty days communing with God. God showed him the wickedness of the Israelites (Exod. 32:7). Moses had not known their desperate condition, nor had he realized the imminence of God's judgment upon them until God revealed it to him. As God made Moses aware of all that was at stake, Moses felt the same compassion for the people that God felt. Moses became willing to sacrifice his own life for his obstinate people. In a compelling and selfless prayer of intercession, Moses offered to have his own name blotted out of the book of life if God would spare the people. In Moses' time with Him, God had formed a mighty intercessor for His people.

God will use your prayer times to soften your heart and change your focus. As you pray for others, the Holy Spirit will work in your heart so that you have the same compassion for them that God does (Rom. 8:26–27). If you do not love people as you should, pray for them. If you are not as active in God's service as you know He wants you to be, begin praying. You cannot be intimately exposed to God's heart and remain complacent. The time spent with God will change you and make you more like Christ.

Old Pastor Van
Tuesday October 05, 2021

October 5

All Things Are Pure

To the pure, everything is pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; in fact, both their mind and conscience are defiled.—Titus 1:15

Your heart's condition will be expressed through your life. It will be evident by your attitudes, your words, and your behavior. Jesus said that you can clearly see others only when your own eyes are unobstructed (Mark 6:42). If your vision is hindered by sin, you will not look at others properly.

If your heart is pure, you will approach life without malice. You will not question the motives of everyone around you; you will not doubt the truth of everything others tell you; you will not look for fault in others. Instead, you will look for the good in others, finding what is praiseworthy. You will not be naive or gullible, but you will seek what is good rather than what is evil. If your heart is pure, you will see others the way God sees them (Matt. 6:22).

If your heart is defiled, everything with which you are involved will seem corrupt as well. You will assume evil motives in others because you know what you would do given the same circumstances. You will be cynical about what you hear because your own words are deceitful. You will be drawn to evil people and evil things.

How do you look at the words and actions of others? Are you critical of them? Are you judgmental? If so, ask God to purify your heart. Once He has, you will be free to see yourself and others as God does.

Old Pastor Van
Monday October 04, 2021

October 4

Spiritual Optimism

David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with a dagger, spear, and sword, but I come against you in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel’s armies—you have defied Him. Today, the Lord will hand you over to me.”—1 Samuel 17:45–46a

David was certainly an optimist! Regardless of his circumstances, David could always see God's activity! A pessimist focuses on the problems, concentrating on the reasons why something cannot be done. The optimist sees those same problems, but he sees them from the perspective of God's presence.

David was just a young boy when he faced Goliath, an intimidating veteran warrior who frightened even the bravest Israelite soldier. As he prepared for battle, David saw that Goliath was a giant. He heard his boastful taunts. He could not fail to notice his enemy's weapons: a sword, a shield, and a javelin. David did not barge into the battle unprepared for a fight. He armed himself with five smooth stones. David was prepared for God to grant him victory with the first stone he hurled at the giant or the fifth. David was ready to accept God's victory, whether it came easily or with much effort.

Optimists do not ignore the difficulties, they are keenly aware of them. But the knowledge of God's presence prevents them from becoming discouraged or giving up. It is impossible to stand in the presence of God and be a pessimist!

The account of David and Goliath vividly pictures the source of the Christian's faith—not our own size, strength, or resources, but the power of almighty God. If we focus on our opposition and problems, they will seem gigantic. But as we focus on God, we will see our situation in the proper perspective and be assured that all things are possible with God (Phil. 4:13).

Old Pastor Van
Sunday October 03, 2021

October 3

Weak with Those Who Are Weak

Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?—2 Corinthians 11:29

Christians do not live in isolation. When we sin, there are repercussions throughout the Christian community. When a brother or sister suffers, we are affected. Our calling is not to be solitary Christians but to be members of a priesthood (1 Pet. 2:9).

It was impossible for Paul to remain unmoved while there were believers in Corinth who were spiritually weak. When he learned that false teachers had caused Christians in Corinth to stumble in their faith, Paul burned with indignation. Paul told the church members at Corinth to rejoice when a church member rejoices and to weep when a fellow member weeps (1 Cor. 12:26). We depend on one another, and this influences everything we do. Jesus said that even when we pray, we are to begin by saying “our Father” (Matt. 6:9). We must do everything with our fellow Christian in mind (1 Cor. 14:12).

It's possible to become so preoccupied with your own spiritual journey that you do not get involved in your church. You can become so focused on what God is doing in your own country that you are oblivious to the suffering and persecution that your fellow Christians face in countries around the world. If other believers around you are rejoicing or hurting, and you are unaffected, you have become desensitized to the people of God.

Ask God to place a burden on your heart for fellow believers. Make yourself aware of their needs. Pray for them and adjust your life to God's activity in their lives.

Old Pastor Van
Saturday October 02, 2021

October 2

While He Prayed

When all the people were baptized, Jesus also was baptized. As He was praying, heaven opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in a physical appearance like a dove. And a voice came from heaven:

“You are My beloved Son.

I take delight in You!”—Luke 3:21–22

The greatest moments in a Christian's life come through prayer. When Jesus prayed, heaven opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. The Spirit came upon the disciples as they gathered to pray on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:14; 2:1). When the disciples prayed together after Pentecost, their gathering place was shaken, and they were emboldened to proclaim the gospel throughout the city (Acts 4:31).

Prayer is not a substitute for hard work—prayer is the work! God does things in and through our lives by prayer that He does in no other way. As we pray and as our attention is turned toward God, we become more receptive to aligning our lives with His will. God will not equip us with His power while we are racing off to our next appointment! His Spirit will not empower us if we are oblivious to what He is saying. He requires our complete attention before He will fill us with the powerful presence of His Spirit.

If you want to learn how to pray, use Jesus as your model. Jesus did not always receive what He asked for, but His prayers were always heard and always answered (Mark 14:36; Heb. 5:7). If you do not sense the Holy Spirit's power in your life, you may not be spending adequate time in prayer. Perhaps you are pursuing your own agenda rather than seeking the Father's will. You may have abandoned the place of prayer before God's answer came. If you will commit yourself to spend sustained time in prayer, asking for God's kingdom on earth, God will work in your life just as He did in the lives of Jesus and His disciples.

Old Pastor Van
Friday October 01, 2021

October 1

Painful Reminders

Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and when they had won over the crowds and stoned Paul, they dragged him out of the city, thinking he was dead.—Acts 14:19

God has many ways to deter us from sin. One is to provide reminders for us so that we never take disobedience to Him lightly. Before his conversion, Paul assumed that he was righteous before God. In reality, Paul was so disoriented to God that he arrested and executed Christians in order to please Him! Paul was so blinded to God's will that when he watched Stephen being brutally murdered for his faith, Paul's heart was hardened, and he became even more determined to imprison other Christians.

It is significant that there are two occurrences of stoning mentioned in the New Testament—Stephen's and Paul's. Was it coincidence that God allowed Paul to be stoned in the same manner as Stephen had been? God had certainly forgiven Paul for his involvement in Stephen's death, but God also left him with a reminder of what his arrogance had led him to do. If pride could blind Paul to God once, pride could do it again. Perhaps Paul's “thorn in the flesh” was a direct result of this stoning. It may have served as a visible reminder to Paul, and to others, of the terrible consequences of sin.

God is absolutely just. He loves, and He forgives, but He does not compromise His righteousness. God deals with us uniquely. He draws upon our experiences to teach us about Himself. God will forgive us of our sin, but He may provide stark reminders of the ugliness of sin. Let us thank God that He loves us enough to remind us of the destructive consequences of sin in our lives.

Old Pastor Van
Thursday September 30, 2021

September 30

Sympathy with God

When he heard these words, Ananias dropped dead, and a great fear came on all who heard.—Acts 5:5

When God brings judgment upon someone, our natural inclination is often sympathy toward the one being disciplined. Yet when God acts in judgment, our sympathies ought always to lie with Him. Only God knows all that is at stake, and only He knows the full circumstances that provoked His wrath upon the one He is judging.

Ananias and Sapphira's experience is one of the most perplexing stories in the New Testament. In a time when God's grace had provided salvation for all mankind, His response to this couple seems unusually harsh. Yet there was much at stake in their deception. The church was in its formative stages. Ananias and Sapphira had witnessed the miraculous power of God and had seen thousands of people being added to the church. Nevertheless, they showed little regard for the Spirit of God when they blatantly lied to God and the church. Such irreverence would have been devastating to a church whose very life depended upon the presence and guidance of God's Spirit. God left a sobering reminder that He would not tolerate sin.

Many times the sin of one Christian has a devastating effect on others. At times, God chooses to judge someone's sin severely, as a deterrent for others. Don't try to protect someone from the judgment of God. It is a terrifying thing to fall under His judgment (Heb. 10:31). Yet His judgment on one may ultimately save that person and many others. When God is judging others, take heed and examine your own life. God knows what is at stake; He loves His children enough to provide a stark warning of sin's dangers.

Old Pastor Van
Wednesday September 29, 2021

September 29

It's Not Difficult!

“This command that I give you today is certainly not too difficult or beyond your reach.”—Deuteronomy 30:11

The Christian life is not difficult. The same Christ who lived a perfect, obedient, and sinless life stands prepared to live it again through you (Gal. 2:20). God's will is not hard to discern. He has given us the Scriptures, which reveal His will, and He has placed His Holy Spirit within us to guide us to His perfect will in every situation (John 16:13). Our greatest challenge will be to wholly commit our lives to follow God's will obediently as He reveals it.

Moses gathered the Israelites around Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim before they were to enter the Promised Land. There, God described what they had to do in order to obey Him. God gave detailed instructions so there was no mistaking what was expected of them. Then God asked them to make a choice. If they chose to disobey His commands, they would face His wrath. If they chose to obey, they would receive His blessing.

God's Word comes to you in the same way. It is not too complex to understand. You don't have to struggle to discern God's will about adultery or forgiveness or honesty. God's word is perfectly clear. The question is, how will you respond? Nowhere in Scripture did God excuse disobedience because His instructions were too vague or complex. Condemnation came because they knew exactly what God wanted them to do, yet they chose not to do it! God, through His Holy Spirit, will always give you sufficient revelation and strength to take the next step with Him. If you are uncertain about what God is asking of you, make sure that you are obeying all that you do know, and through your obedience, God's next instruction will become clear.

Old Pastor Van
Tuesday September 28, 2021

September 28

Confession

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful.—James 5:16

Confession is God's provision to clear obstacles that hinder our relationships with God and with others. Confession is not just for those who don't mind admitting their faults. Confession is a command, given to every Christian. James advised that when we sin, it is important for us to confess not only to God, but also to our fellow Christians. There is a tremendous freedom that comes as we openly acknowledge the sinfulness of our actions to others.

If confession does not come out of repentance, it is merely admission, and not true confession. It is important to confess your sins specifically and not hide behind generalities. It is one thing to pray, “O Lord, forgive my sin.” It's quite another to identify specifically in painful honesty. Whenever possible, confession ought to be made directly to those whom your sin has hurt. You are not to confess the sins of others but only your offenses. Confession is not a sign of weakness; it is evidence of your refusal to allow sin to remain in your life.

Significantly, James linked confession with prayer. Your prayers will be hindered if you hold on to unconfessed sin. When James promised that the “effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much,” he did so in the context of confession. If you wish to have a powerful prayer life, you must regularly confess your sin. Only when there are no obstacles separating you from God and others will your prayers be effective. Pride will discourage you from admitting to others the sinfulness of your heart. A desire to please God will compel you to confess your sin and rid yourself of its oppressive burden.

Old Pastor Van
Monday September 27, 2021

September 27

Casting Your Cares

. . . casting all your care upon Him, because He cares about you.—1 Peter 5:7

As you've no doubt discovered, becoming a Christian does not make your problems go away. But it does give you an Advocate to whom you can take every concern. The Christians Peter addressed were facing persecution. They did not know whom they could trust; a friend, a neighbor, or even a family member could betray them, resulting in suffering and even death. But Peter had walked with the risen Christ, and he had personally experienced the love that Jesus had for His followers. He knew that Christ was in control, capable of handling every trial and that He wanted to do so as an expression of His love.

Casting our cares is a choice. It means consciously handing over our anxiety to Christ and allowing Him to carry the weight of our problems. At times this is the most difficult part of trusting God! We don't like turning over the responsibility for our problems. We have been taught that self-reliance is good and praiseworthy. We may even enjoy worrying. Yet if we are to be freed from the burden of our concerns, we must choose to cast them into the strong hands of our Father.

Peter does not distinguish between little cares and big cares. God does not differentiate between problems we should handle on our own and God-sized needs. He asks us to turn them all over to Him. One of our greatest errors is to assume we can deal with something ourselves, only to discover that we really can't.

God sees you as His frail child, burdened with a load that surpasses your strength. He stands prepared to take your load and to carry it for you. Will you let Him?

Old Pastor Van
Sunday September 26, 2021

September 26

No Sin

Everyone who remains in Him does not sin; everyone who sins has not seen Him or known Him.—1 John 3:6

The Bible makes two things clear about sin. First, living a lifestyle of sin indicates that you are not walking in the power of the Holy Spirit, regardless of what you say about your spiritual condition. You cannot regularly spend time studying and meditating on God's word, praying and walking in fellowship with the Holy Spirit, and persist in sin.

Second, if you do not hate sin the way God does, then you do not truly know Him. There are those who continue in their sin yet insist that they love God and belong to Him. John makes it clear: If you have a lifestyle of sin, you have not seen Him and do not know Him. You may have prayed a “sinner's prayer,” or made a commitment in your church, or been baptized, but the evidence of the Holy Spirit's presence in your life is that you are defeating sin. This does not mean that you will never sin, but it does mean that you refuse to make sin a lifestyle and you immediately seek forgiveness when you sin (1 John 1:10). It means that you are opposed to sin, as God is, and you allow the Holy Spirit to eradicate every trace of sin in your life. It means that when you sin, you immediately confess it and repent of it and do whatever is necessary to avoid repeating your sin.

If you find yourself falling into sinful habits or not grieving over your sin as you once did, this indicates that you are not abiding in Christ. Return to Him in repentance; restore your fellowship with Him, and you will once again experience victory over your sin.

Old Pastor Van
Saturday September 25, 2021

September 25

Believing God's Love

And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.—1 John 4:16

The greatest truth in all of Scripture is this: God is love. Understanding this in its full dimensions will set you free to enjoy all that is yours as a Christian. But you must accept that God loves you. If you grew up experiencing unconditional love in your family, this may not be difficult for you. However, if your early years were void of love, this truth may be hard to accept. God loves you, not because you deserve His love, but because His nature is love. The only way He will ever relate to you is in love. His love for you gives you an inherent worth that nothing can diminish.

If you cannot accept the truth that God loves you, you will be limited in how you can relate to Him. When He disciplines you, you will not take it as an expression of His love. Rather, you may resent Him. When God says no to a request that is less than His best for you, you will conclude that He doesn't care about you. Without a clear understanding and acceptance of God's love for you, you will be disoriented to Him and to what He wants to do in your life. If you will accept God's love, however, you will be able to return love to God as well as to others (1 John 4:19).

Are you experiencing the profound sense of joy and security that comes from knowing you are dearly loved by God? Being assured of God's love for you sets you free to enjoy the numerous expressions of love He showers upon you each day.

Old Pastor Van
Friday September 24, 2021

September 24

A Living Sacrifice

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.—Romans 12:1

God takes great pleasure in worthy sacrifices. In the Old Testament God gave detailed instructions for how His people were to give their offerings. He declared that these brought a “soothing aroma” to Him (Lev. 1:13, 17). When the Israelites gave an offering to God, it was no longer their own, it belonged entirely to God. God would accept only the best that people could give. It was an affront to almighty God to offer Him animals that were damaged or imperfect in any way. God Himself met the standard for sacrifices when He offered His own Son as the spotless Lamb. Only the death of His perfect Son was a worthy enough offering to atone for the sins of mankind.

Now, God asks us to lay down our lives on His altar as a living sacrifice. Just as it was in the Old Testament, our sacrifice, once offered, cannot be reclaimed. We belong entirely to Him. We cannot make a partial sacrifice of our lives; our offering must be wholehearted.

Therefore, if you are a Christian, your life is not your own. Rather than dying, however, God asks you to live for Him as a living sacrifice. Every day, you are to offer your life to Him for His service. You do not serve Him in your spare time or with your leftover resources. The way you live your life for God is your offering to Him. Relentlessly pursue holiness so that your offering to God is unblemished and acceptable to Him (Eph. 4:1; Phil. 1:27; 1 Thess. 2:12).

Old Pastor Van
Thursday September 23, 2021

September 23

Revenge

Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord.—Romans 12:19

One of the hardest areas in which to trust God is in the matter of justice. When we perceive an injustice, we want to see the guilty party punished. We want justice to prevail, especially if we are the victim. We become impatient if we are not avenged quickly. Yet God warns us that vengeance is not our prerogative. We are to desire justice, but we are not to seek vengeance (Mic. 6:8). When someone offends us, our responsibility is to respond to the offense with forgiveness (Matt. 5:44). God takes the responsibility to see that justice is done. God loves people too much to allow sin to go unchecked.

Peter claimed that God is not slow about His promises to us, but He is patient and long-suffering before He brings about judgment (2 Pet. 3:9). Yet ultimately God has prepared for absolute justice. There will be no sin committed that He will leave unpunished. Either the punishment will fall on His Son or it will be charged against the sinner, but everyone will ultimately give an account for everything they have done (2 Cor. 5:10).

God is absolutely just, and only He can ensure that justice is fully carried out. If we are impatient and seek revenge, we presume that we are wiser than God, and we reveal a blatant lack of trust that God will do the right thing. Only by trusting God's sovereign wisdom will we be free from our anger and preoccupation toward those who have committed evil. If we refuse to trust God's justice, we become enslaved to bitterness and anger. We must guard our hearts and trust God to exercise His judgment against those who oppose Him.

Old Pastor Van
Wednesday September 22, 2021

September 22

Prepare Your Mind

Therefore, get your minds ready for action, being self-disciplined, and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.—1 Peter 1:13

Your mind is a wonderful thing! You can memorize life-changing passages of Scripture that can undergird you in your daily life; you can meditate upon God's Word, discovering His magnificent truths; you can discern between truth and falsehood; you can recall God's past blessings.

Some of God's most effective servants were those who disciplined their minds for His service. Moses, educated in the best schools of Egypt, assembled the books of the Law for the Israelites. Isaiah used his scholarly mind to write an exalted prophetic book in Scripture. Paul learned under Gamaliel, the outstanding teacher of his day, and it was through Paul that God presented much of the theology found in the New Testament.

Sadly, many Christians today do not exercise their minds to be of service to God. They allow others to do their spiritual thinking for them. If they can find their theology from a book, they will not bother to study God's Word themselves. If a speaker makes an authoritative statement, they readily accept it without verifying whether it is biblical.

Paul urged Christians to strive for maturity in their thinking (1 Cor. 14:20). He said there was a time when his spiritual thinking was immature, but he had prepared his mind to know and understand the great truths of God (1 Cor. 13:11). He had not allowed others to do his thinking for him. When you became a Christian, God renewed your mind (Rom. 12:2). Be certain to use your mind in a way that brings glory to God.

Old Pastor Van
Tuesday September 21, 2021

September 21

Instruments

Does an ax exalt itself

above the one who chops with it?

Does a saw magnify itself

above the one who saws with it?

As if a staff could wave those who lift it!

As if a rod could lift what isn’t wood!—Isaiah 10:15

One of the dangers in the Christian life is to take credit for what God does. This was the Assyrians' problem. They were a weak nation until God chose to bless them in order to use them as an instrument to punish the Israelites. However, the more God blessed them, the more confident they became in their own strength. When the farmers had good crops, they credited their farming skills rather than God. When their army won a victory, their generals took the credit. When the nation experienced prosperity, the Assyrians attributed it to their military and political might. Finally, God pointed out the absurdity of their conclusions (Isa. 10:5–19).

It is sometimes easier to handle poverty or weakness than wealth or strength. Poverty causes us to recognize our need for God. Prosperity persuades us that we no longer require Him. Scripture holds several examples of those who assumed they were self-sufficient, only to realize their dire poverty apart from God. Samson was the strongest person alive, but he forgot that his strength came from God. Once God removed his strength, Samson was reduced to a pitiful slave. Saul was the first king of Israel, yet when God removed His Spirit from this proud monarch, he became a paranoid, petty man, seeking counsel from the occult.

Be careful how you handle the success God gives you! As you enjoy His blessings in your family, your business, or your ministry, keep in mind that you are an instrument in the hands of the Master.

Old Pastor Van
Monday September 20, 2021

September 20

A Pure Heart

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying:

Who should I send?

Who will go for Us?

I said:

Here I am. Send me.—Isaiah 6:8

It takes a pure heart to see God (Matt. 5:8). You can attend church services, read your Bible, and pray, but if sin fills your heart, you will not see God. You will know when you have encountered God because your life will no longer be the same.

Isaiah was concerned with the death of King Uzziah, the able king of Judah, but was disoriented to his heavenly King. Then something happened that forever changed Isaiah's life. God, in all His awesome majesty, appeared to him in the temple, surrounded by heavenly creatures. Instantly, God's presence made Isaiah aware of his sinfulness. One of the seraphim came to him with a burning coal and cleansed Isaiah of his sin. Immediately, Isaiah began to hear things he had never heard before. Now, he was aware of a conversation in heaven concerning who might be worthy to be God's messenger to the people. This prompted Isaiah's eager response: “Here am I! Send me.” Now that God had cleansed Isaiah, he was aware of heavenly concerns and prepared to offer himself in God's service. Whereas Isaiah had been preoccupied with earthly matters, now his only concern was the activity of God.

If you have become estranged from God and His activity, you need to experience His cleansing. Sanctification prepares you to see and hear God. It enables you to serve Him. Only God can purify your heart. Allow Him to remove any impurities that hinder your relationship with Him, and then your service to Him will have meaning as you offer Him your consecrated life.

Old Pastor Van
Sunday September 19, 2021

September 19

Evil, Good and Good, Evil

Woe to those who call evil good

and good evil,

who substitute darkness for light

and light for darkness,

who substitute bitter for sweet

and sweet for bitter.—Isaiah 5:20

It is Satan's practice to convince people that what God calls good is actually evil and what God declares evil is, in fact, good. Satan persuaded Adam and Eve that their disobedience, rather than their obedience, would guarantee a full life. They believed him and immediately began to experience sin's consequences! Despite the absurdity of Satan's logic, he continues to deceive people into doubting what God has clearly said.

King Saul sought Samuel's affirmation for the sacrifice he had offered, even though he had acted in direct disobedience to God's command (1 Sam. 15:13). Ananias and Sapphira expected praise from the early church for their offering, though they were blatantly lying (Acts 5:1–11). An Amalekite soldier sought David's gratitude for killing Saul, God's anointed king (2 Sam. 1:1–16).

We, too, will face the temptation to call something good that God has declared wicked. We may be persuaded that we can accomplish more good by lying than by telling the truth. We may claim that we are mobilizing Christians to pray for someone in sin when, in fact, we are spreading gossip. We may assert that we are following God's will in our job when, in fact, we are striving to pursue our own ambitions. We will also be tempted to call evil that which God declares is good. God says it is good to love our enemies, yet we might decide our task is to hold them responsible for their actions.

It is so important to hold ourselves accountable to God's word. God does not need us to find exceptions for His commands. He requires our obedience.

Old Pastor Van
Saturday September 18, 2021

September 18

Divine Potential

When he arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to associate with the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, since they did not believe he was a disciple. Barnabas, however, took him and brought him to the apostles and explained to them how, on the road, Saul had seen the Lord, and that He had talked to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus.—Acts 9:26–27

Only God knows the potential of each believer. We can project what we think God might do in someone's life, but we have no way of knowing. We see only outward appearances and behavior, whereas God looks at the heart (1 Sam. 16:7).

The apostles were skeptical of some who professed to be Christians. No one seemed more unlikely to become a dedicated follower of Jesus than Saul of Tarsus. He had been one of Christianity's greatest enemies, even overseeing the murder of Stephen (Acts 7:58–60). When Paul suddenly expressed an interest in knowing the leaders of the Christian movement, it was natural for the apostles to suspect devious motives and to doubt his conversion. Nevertheless, despite the apostles' reluctance, Barnabas assumed the best in Paul and risked his own life to be Paul's advocate.

You may identify with Paul. Perhaps you were an improbable candidate to be a committed Christian. It may be that God placed a Christian friend beside you to help you develop your faith. Thank the Father for those He has sent to you who believed in what God could do in you, even when others doubted.

Perhaps you stand with the apostles. There may be some around you in whom you have little confidence, though they claim to be Christians. Be assured that if God could turn the proud and murderous Saul into one of the greatest saints in history, He is equally capable of redeeming those around you. Don't give up on your fellow believers. Look to see where God is working in their lives, then join Him. It is a great privilege to be like Barnabas and to invest in the life of a fellow Christian. This is the purpose of discipleship.

Old Pastor Van
Friday September 17, 2021

September 17

The Glory of the Lord

When Solomon finished praying, fire descended from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple.—2 Chronicles 7:1

The glory of the Lord is His presence. When God occupies a place, His glory is unmistakably evident! God has high standards for where He will make His presence known. He does not respond to our whims or come on our terms.

Solomon longed for God's presence to be obvious in the temple that he had painstakingly built for Him. Solomon had spared no expense or effort in building this magnificent temple as a house for the Lord. Yet he understood that constructing a spectacular building was no guarantee that God would choose to inhabit that place. So Solomon prepared himself and the people in the hope that God would look upon them with favor. The priestly choir sang and played instruments in reverent praise to God (2 Chron. 5:11–14). The priests sacrificed so many animals on the altar that they could not count them (2 Chron. 5:6). $>Solomon prayed, and when he finished, fire came down from heaven and consumed their offering. The glory of the Lord filled the temple! God's glory was so overpowering in Solomon's temple that the priests could not carry on their normal activities (2 Chron. 7:2).

There is no mistaking when God inhabits a place. God's glorious presence fills a place, and it is impossible to carry on business as usual! The New Testament teaches that our lives are temples because Christ abides in us (1 Cor. 3:16). We cannot assume by this that our lives are pleasing to Him. Like Solomon, we must thoroughly prepare ourselves so that God will choose to reveal His presence in our lives. When He does, there will be no doubt that it is God!

Old Pastor Van
Thursday September 16, 2021

September 16

Much Beloved

At the beginning of your petitions an answer went out, and I have come to give it, for you are treasured [by God]. So consider the message and understand the vision:—Daniel 9:23

“For you are beloved.” Could there be any words from God more welcome than these? Daniel was in exile in Babylon as a result of his nation's utter defeat by the Babylonians. He desperately wanted to make sense of his circumstances. So he did what he had done so many times before: he prayed. God immediately dispatched the angel Gabriel. Gabriel revealed that God had sent him to Daniel at the beginning of his supplications. God did not even wait for Daniel to finish his prayer. Why? Because God loved Daniel greatly. What a marvelous testimony! There had been times when Daniel's love for God had been put to the test. Now, when Daniel was in need, God was quick to respond in love to him.

God wants to answer the prayers of those whose hearts are completely His (2 Chron. 16:9). God can accurately orient you to the events of your day. Media, public opinion, and political leaders cannot tell you the truth of your circumstances. Only God can. God loves you and will speak to you in His time. His answer may come immediately as it did in Daniel's case, or it may be delayed, but it will come (Dan. 10:13). If it seems as though everything is crumbling around you, and you wonder why you do not see God's activity, take comfort in knowing that you are loved in heaven. If you are genuinely seeking God's answers, you can go to your Father confidently with your questions. He will respond to you in love (Luke 11:5–13).

Old Pastor Van
Wednesday September 15, 2021

September 15

A Heart of Flesh

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.—Ezekiel 36:26

From our hearts comes our response to God. Apart from the cleansing work of the Holy Spirit, our hearts are extremely deceitful (Prov. 17:9). David prayed that God would cleanse him from the ravages of his sin and purify his heart (Ps. 51:10). God's greatest desire is that His people love Him with all their hearts (Deut. 6:5). Jesus said we are blessed if our hearts are pure (Matt. 5:8).

Sin hardens the heart (Matt. 13:4, 19). The more sin we allow to pass over our hearts and through our lives, the more resistant we become to a word from God. The sin of unforgiveness stiffens our hearts. We cannot continue to resist the prompting of the Holy Spirit without becoming hardened against Him. Exposing ourselves to evil and ungodly influences desensitizes us to God and His word. Over time, our hearts become like stone, unreceptive to a fresh word from God. We become anesthetized to sin.

Has your heart grown hard toward God? Do you feel as though nothing could soften it? God has a solution. He will separate you from the influences that are destroying you (Ezek. 36:24). He will cleanse you from all filthiness and remove everything that has taken His place in your affections (Ezek. 36:25). He will remove your heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh, tender toward Him and His word. If your love for God is not what it should be, ask Him to renew your heart and restore your devotion to Him.

Old Pastor Van
Tuesday September 14, 2021

September 14

Life and Light

Life was in Him,

and that life was the light of men.—John 1:4

When Jesus came to a world that was in bondage to darkness and dead in its sin, He came as light and life. His light dispelled sin's darkness wherever He went, for the forces of evil could not withstand Him. The life He brought was abundant and free, available to all who were dead in their sin. (Eph. 2:1; John 10:10).

If you are a Christian, Jesus lives in you, and His light is within you. Christians are called to dispel darkness (Eph. 5:11). The light of Christ ought to shine so brightly through you that those practicing darkness are uncomfortable when they are around you. The light within you should dispel darkness from the lives of your friends, coworkers, and family members.

The fullness of life found in Christ dwells within you as a Christian (Col. 1:27). The life that Jesus offers is available to others through you. Don't discount what you have to give to those who are hurting. Christ's life within you is more than sufficient to meet every human need. When people encounter you, they encounter Christ within you. You do not know all the answers, but you have Someone within you who does! You will not carry the burden of the needs of others. Christ will. Be aware that just as many resisted Jesus, so there will be those who resist the truth that you offer (John 1:11). Be thankful, however, that God chooses to express Himself through you, giving light and life to those around you.

Old Pastor Van
Monday September 13, 2021
September 13

Prayer Is Preparation

When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place.—Acts 2:1

Prayer does not give you spiritual power. Prayer aligns your life with God so that He chooses to demonstrate His power through you. The purpose of prayer is not to convince God to change your circumstances but to prepare you to be involved in God's activity.

The fervent prayer of the people at Pentecost did not induce the Holy Spirit to come upon them. Prayer brought them to a place where they were ready to participate in the mighty work God had already planned.

Jesus told His followers to remain in Jerusalem until the Spirit came upon them (Acts 1:4–5). The disciples obeyed His command, waiting for God's next directive. As they prayed, God adjusted their lives to what He intended to do next. As they prayed, a unity developed among them. For the first time the disciples used Scripture as their guide in decision making (Acts 1:15–26). The day of Pentecost arrived, and the city of Jerusalem filled with pilgrims from around the world. When God released His Holy Spirit upon the disciples, He had already filled the city with messengers who would carry the Gospel to every nation. Prayer had prepared the disciples for their obedient response.

Prayer is designed to adjust you to God's will, not to adjust God to your will. If God has not responded to what you are praying, you may need to adjust your praying to align with God's agenda. Rather than focusing on what you would like to see happen, realize that God may be more concerned with what He wants to see happen in you.

Old Pastor Van
Sunday September 12, 2021

September 12

God's Design

For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified.—Romans 8:29–30

Your life is a part of God's grand design. God has known about you and had a plan for your life since before time began. He knew everything about you before you were even born (Jer. 1:5). God predetermined that you would become like His Son. Your life, therefore, has a destiny. Christ is the model upon which the Father is developing your life. You are meant to have a relationship with the Father that is as intimate as the relationship between Jesus and the Father (John 17:21). Every event He allows into your life is designed to make you more like Christ.

God's call came when He invited you to join Him in the process! His call was extremely personal, designed specifically for your response. How wonderful to realize that at a particular moment in history, almighty God spoke personally to you and invited you to become His child!

Because of your sin, you could never live blamelessly. But God forgave your sin and justified you, declaring you righteous. All the spiritual debt you carried with Him was forgiven, and you were freed to enjoy God and to serve Him for the rest of eternity. In Biblical times, the glory of God's people was His presence. You, too, are glorified because the fullness of God now dwells within you, and you will one day be with Him (Col. 1:27; 2:9). He invites you to join Him in working out His will in your life—conforming you to His image (Phil. 2:12).

Old Pastor Van
Saturday September 11, 2021

September 11

Go!

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. . . —Matthew 28:19

Our Master commands us to “go.” We need permission to stay! The gospel is the account of Jesus' leaving His Father's right hand to go to Calvary. Jesus instructed those who wanted to be His disciples to leave their homes and their comforts and follow Him. Some insisted that they could not go yet because they still had to care for elderly parents (Luke 9:59–60). Others wanted to make sure everything was in order first (Luke 9:61–62). Still others expressed willingness to follow but wanted to know the details of what they would be doing (Luke 9:57–58). Jesus never excused those who struggled to follow Him. He made it clear that to follow Him meant He set the direction and they were to follow.

We can convince ourselves that Jesus does not really want us to adjust our lives, pointing to the success we are enjoying right where we are. Yet Jesus often told His disciples to go elsewhere in spite of the success they were experiencing. Peter had just pulled in the greatest catch of fish of his entire career when Jesus invited him to leave everything (Luke 5:1–11). Philip was enjoying astounding success as an evangelist when the Holy Spirit instructed him to go to the desert (Acts 8:25–40). Success where we are can be our greatest hindrance to going where Jesus wants us to be.

If you become too comfortable where you are, you may resist Christ's invitation to go elsewhere. Don't assume that God does not want you to go in service to Him. He may lead you across the street to share the gospel with your neighbor or to the other side of the world. Wherever He leads, be prepared to go.

Old Pastor Van
Friday September 10, 2021
p>September 10

God Remembers

“Go and announce directly to Jerusalem that this is what the Lord says:

I remember the loyalty of your youth,

your love as a bride—

how you followed Me in the wilderness,

in a land not sown.”—Jeremiah 2:2

Even when our hearts grow cold toward God and our devotion to Him weakens, His love remains steadfast. We may forget God, but He remembers us.

God was concerned because the people of Judah had allowed their hearts to drift far from Him. In a powerful moment, God shared His heart with His people, recalling what it was like when they first began loving Him. He remembered how they had loved Him, as a new bride loves her husband, with excitement and enthusiasm for the future. He recalled the kindness they had expressed as they willingly followed Him wherever He led them. God reminded them of the love they had once had for Him, so that the memory might rekindle feelings of devotion and their hearts might return to Him.

If you do not guard our heart, you will grow cold in your love for Christ. A time may come when He approaches you and reminds you what your relationship was once like. Do you recollect the joy that permeated your life when you first became a Christian? Do you recall the youthful commitments you made to Him, pledging to do anything He told you to do? Do you remember the thrill you experienced each time you came to understand a new dimension of His nature? Spiritual memory is important. You may not realize how far you have drifted from God until you contrast the love you are expressing to Him now with that of earlier days.

God has not changed. He is the same Person you gave your heart to when you became a Christian (Mal. 3:6–7). If your love for God is not as intense as it once was, return to Him. He will restore the intimate fellowship you once shared with Him.

Old Pastor Van
Wednesday September 08, 2021

Not Lost in the Crowd

When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, because today I must stay at your house.”—Luke 19:5

In our large world it's easy to feel that we are nothing more than an insignificant speck in the midst of a multitude. Our world tends to depersonalize us, seeking to make us like everyone else, but God loves us in specific ways that are particular to us.

Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem to fulfill His assignment on the cross. The multitudes thronged around Him in such numbers that the diminutive Zacchaeus could not see Jesus unless he climbed a tree. Zacchaeus would have been satisfied simply to catch a glimpse of the great Teacher. But Jesus stopped, turned, and looked directly at him! In that moment, Zacchaeus was oblivious to the crowd around him. Thus began a special time with Jesus that radically changed his life.

Jesus will relate to you in ways that are unique to you. He knows your past; He knows what you will face in the future. Because He knows everything about you, His word to you will perfectly fit the circumstances of your life. You may be in a group of Christians who are listening to God's Word, and you may hear things from Him that no one else hears. Don't become frustrated with others if they are not as excited about a truth from God as you are. Don't be impatient with them if they are not implementing God's word in their lives exactly as you are. God will personalize His word to you. He will relate to each of your friends in a way that specifically meets their needs as well.

Old Pastor Van
Tuesday September 07, 2021

September 7

Long Enough on the Mountain

“The Lord our God spoke to us at Horeb, ‘You have stayed at this mountain long enough.’”—Deuteronomy 1:6

If God allowed us to live on the “mountaintop,” we would not experience trials, but neither would we achieve any victories. The Israelites had gathered at the foot of Mount Horeb while God spoke to them and gave them His law. It was a breathtaking experience! Fire and smoke covered that awesome mountain; lightning flashed, and loud trumpet sounds pierced the air in a deafening crescendo! The ground at the foot of the mountain shook, and the people trembled in fear (Exod. 19:16–25).

As important as it was for God's people to have this inspiring encounter with Him, their Lord had not rescued them from Egypt in order for them to settle around a mountain in the wilderness. God delivered them so that they could conquer the Promised Land. God wanted to demonstrate His power to the Israelites so that they would trust Him in their conquest of Canaan. Finally, God announced that they had been long enough at the mountain; it was time to go to battle.

The mountain is an enticing place to set up camp. Peter, James, and John were prepared to reside on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus, but their Lord knew that a demon-possessed boy needed their assistance down below (Matt. 17:4, 14–18). At times God will graciously provide you a mountaintop experience. These times come in many settings: during your time alone with Him, at a Christian conference, by reading a Christian book, or at a prayer meeting. You may wish you could spend the rest of your life basking in the glow of your encounter with God. But remember, these mountaintop encounters are God's way of preparing you for the battles that await you.

Old Pastor Van
Monday September 06, 2021
p>September 6

Nothing Can Separate You

Who can separate us from the love of Christ?

Can affliction or anguish or persecution

or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?—Romans 8:35

Nothing you could ever experience, no matter how terrible or frightening, could ever separate you from the love of God. No tribulation and distress you might ever suffer could be so intense that God's love for you is not even more fervent. No persecution could be so painful that God's love cannot bring comfort. Famine might starve you of food, but you will never hunger for the Father's love. Poverty cannot strip you of God's compassion, just as even death itself is incapable of robbing you of your heavenly Father's infinite love.

If you base your view of God's love on your circumstances, you will become confused. There may be times when you will ask, “How could a loving God allow this to happen to me?” You may begin to question what you find clearly stated in the Word of God. God promised that you would never be separated from His love; He did not say that you would never face hardship, persecution, poverty, or danger. If you doubt that God could love you and still allow you to experience difficult experiences, consider the life of Jesus.

If you allow the death of Jesus on the cross to forever settle any questions you might have about God's love, you will approach difficult circumstances with confidence. Knowing that there will never be anything that could separate you from God's perfect love, you will watch to see how God expresses His love in each circumstance. Don't ever judge God's love based on your circumstances. Instead, evaluate your circumstances from the perspective of God's love. Hi. MJ

Old Pastor Van
Thursday September 02, 2021

September 2

Working Alone

When Moses’ father-in-law saw everything he was doing for them he asked, “What is this thing you’re doing for the people? Why are you alone sitting as judge, while all the people stand around you from morning until evening?”—Exodus 18:14

In our zeal to please God and advance His kingdom, we Christians often take on responsibilities that God never intended us to have. One of the great challenges of the Christian life is determining what God does not want us to do! Our intentions are admirable: We love God, we love His people, and we see many needs around us. But sometimes our good intentions cause more harm than good.

Moses was aware of the need for someone to settle disputes among the Israelites. Someone had to help those former slaves learn how to live together as the people of God, so Moses took it upon himself to meet this need. Long lines of unhappy people, hoping to have their cases heard, stood before Moses each day. Moses spent day after day carrying the weight of his nation's problems on his shoulders. Finally his father-in-law, an outsider, witnessed what Moses was doing and challenged the wisdom of his actions. Moses was taking on more than he could handle. He was wearing himself out trying to do what was impossible for one person. In doing this service alone, Moses was robbing others of an opportunity to serve the Lord. He was also doing a disservice to his people, who otherwise could have had their issues resolved much sooner.

When you become aware of a need, do not automatically assume God wants you to meet it. The only reason to perform ministry is that God clearly tells you it is His will. If you are feeling overwhelmed by all that you are doing, you are probably doing more than God has asked. Pray carefully about the assignments you take on, so that you don't rob yourself and others of God's best.

Old Pastor Van
Wednesday September 01, 2021

September 1

If You Seek Him

The Lord is with you when you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you abandon Him, He will abandon you.—2 Chronicles 15:2

Our response to God greatly determines His presence in our lives. If we seek God with all of our hearts, then we will find Him (Jer. 29:13–14). The Lord wants to have fellowship with us, but He will not force a relationship upon us. We cannot reject fellowship with God and expect Him to remain near. He does not merely follow us throughout our day in case we need His assistance. If we continue to forsake Him, a time will come when we desperately need Him and He will not be near (Isa. 59:1–2).

It is an affront to sovereign God to treat Him like a servant who should wait upon us. God will relate to us on His terms, not ours. God desires a close walk with us. He will make His presence real and personal if that is our desire. If we repent of our sin and seek God on His terms, we can look forward to intimate fellowship with Him (James 4:8–10). We are to continually seek Him, not content to enter a new day without the assurance that God is walking beside us.

Do you say you want to experience God's presence while your actions reveal otherwise? If you say you want to know God better but neglect studying His word, are you truly seeking Him? Have you regularly forsaken the place of prayer? If your actions reveal that you are genuinely seeking God, then He promises that you will find Him (Matt. 7:7).

Old Pastor Van
Tuesday August 31, 2021

August 31

Motives

Then Jesus answered him, “What do you want Me to do for you?”—Mark 10:51

It is hard to believe that the Lord would ask us what He could do for us. However, sometimes that is the question we must answer. Bartimaeus was blind, and he knew exactly what he wanted Jesus to do for him: restore his sight. Yet he received much more than physical sight! He received salvation, for Jesus knew Bartimaeus's heart was faithful. Bartimaeus immediately used his gift to become a follower of the Savior.

Jesus also asked James and John what they wanted Him to do for them. They requested the most prominent places in His kingdom. This time, Jesus answered that He could not give them what they asked. Their request was selfish, and it brought dissension among their fellow disciples (Mark 10:41).

Only when we pray according to God's will is He pleased to grant our requests (John 15:16). We will not see our prayers answered if we ask selfishly (James 4:3). If God refrains from giving us what we are asking, we should evaluate our prayers. Are our motives selfish? Are we asking for far less than God wants to give? (2 Kings 13:19; Eph. 3:20). Are our requests worthy of the God we approach? Do we lack the faith God requires to give us our desires? (Matt. 17:20). Is there unconfessed sin? (Isa. 1:15). God delights in responding to our requests (Matt. 7:7). If we will ask according to His will, we, like Bartimaeus, will receive far more than we anticipated! (Jer. 33:3).

Old Pastor Van
Monday August 30, 2021

August 30

A Ministry of Reconciliation

Now everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. . . —2 Corinthians 5:18

The world abounds with people whose sin has alienated them from God. Christ's sacrificial work has restored Christians to a love relationship with the heavenly Father. As Christians, we are appointed as ministers of reconciliation. Once Christ dwells within us, we become His ambassadors, and we entreat others to be reconciled to Him (2 Cor. 5:20). We are God's messengers of peace, urging others to return to God (Matt. 5:9).

Sin breaks our relationship with God; it severs relationships with others as well. Broken relationships are the epidemic of our day. Sin alienates family members, separates friends, divides churches, and destroys marriages. Sin creates mistrust, jealousy, hatred, and greed, all of which devastate relationships. Only Christ has the remedy for the disastrous effect of sin on human relationships. As His ambassadors, we are to take the message of reconciliation to a broken, divided world. We urge reconciliation first with God, and then with each other.

How tragic when God's messengers of peace harbor enmity toward each other. It is a travesty to carry a message of love and yet be filled with hatred. If there is someone whom you refuse to forgive, your message of reconciliation is hypocrisy. The evidence that you are a disciple of Jesus is that you love your fellow Christian (John 13:35). In each of your relationships, make certain that your actions share the love and forgiveness that reflect what you received from God. Then you will not only speak the message of reconciliation, but you will live it as well.

Old Pastor Van
Sunday August 29, 2021

August 29

The Judgment Seat

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or bad.—2 Corinthians 5:10

There are many motivations in the Christian's life. One is our awareness that one day we will give an account of our lives to Christ, as He sits in judgment upon humanity. It is much more comforting to believe that Christians will be ushered into heaven with no questions asked about our faithfulness upon earth, but that is not what Scripture says will happen.

Paul cautioned that in the final day of judgment every Christian will give an account for his or her actions. This expectation terrified Paul and motivated him to strive to please God in everything he did (2 Cor. 5:9–11). Paul knew that although he might ignore the Spirit's quiet voice during His life on earth, a time of accounting would come when he would have to explain why he had rejected God's instructions. Paul never carelessly assumed that, because of all he had done for God's kingdom, God would overlook his sin. Instead, he understood that to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48).

God does not force His will upon us. He will ask us to answer for the way we responded to Him. Christians have been pardoned by the sacrifice of Jesus. We are not condemned. But because God is absolutely just, we will be called on to give an account of our actions. The Christian life gives a tremendous freedom, but it also brings a pervasive sense of our accountability to God and to others. We can learn from Paul that accountability is healthy; it gives us a powerful motivation to please God.

Old Pastor Van
Saturday August 28, 2021

August 28

Open Doors and Adversaries

. . . because a wide door for effective ministry has opened for me—yet many oppose me.—1 Corinthians 16:9

Open doors of service may also let in adversaries. Paul had many of both. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians from Ephesus, he was trying to determine where to go next. He chose to remain longer in Ephesus because of the open doors of service God granted him. Knowing that God had opened the doors of ministry, Paul was not going to leave, regardless of how many enemies he faced. We might assume that Paul would reach the opposite conclusion. In light of the opposition he faced, he could have concluded that it was best to serve in less hostile regions. Instead, Paul based his decisions on God's activity rather than on what people were doing.

As you respond to God's invitations, don't be caught by surprise when adversaries try to thwart what you are doing. If you concentrate on your opponents, you will be sidetracked from God's activity. Don't base your decisions on what people are doing. They cannot prevent you from carrying out God's will (Rom. 8:31). Many times the most rewarding spiritual work is done in the crucible of persecution and opposition. While Paul was in Ephesus, a riot broke out in reaction to his ministry. The city theater resounded with an angry mob who shouted for two hours in support of their god, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” (Acts 19:23–41). Despite this fierce rejection of the gospel, Ephesus became one of the chief cities from which the gospel spread throughout Asia.

It takes spiritual discernment to see beyond human activity to God's will. As you seek places of service, look beyond what people are saying to find what God is doing.

Old Pastor Van
Friday August 27, 2021

August 27

Humble Yourself

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”—Luke 14:11

There are two ways to attain high esteem. One is the world's method: Take every opportunity to promote yourself before others; seize occasions for recognition and manipulate your way into the center of attention. The other way is God's way: Humble yourself. Rather than striving for recognition and influential positions, seek to put others first. Cultivate humility, for it does not come naturally. One of the many paradoxes of the Christian life is that when God sees your genuine humility, He exalts you.

Proverbs 16:18 warns that if we put our efforts into promoting ourselves, we will be brought down. Jesus told of a man who tried to enhance his own image (Luke 14:7–11). While attending a banquet, he immediately claimed the seat of honor. When the host saw this, he humiliated this man by asking him to move to the least honorable place to make room for a more distinguished guest. Jesus said the wise thing to do is to seek the lowest position and allow others to exalt you if they feel you are worthy.

There is an enormous difference between the way the world honors you and the way God does. Proverbs 25:27 indicates that glory is not legitimate if you seek it yourself. When the world exalts you, you are the one who receives the credit. When God exalts you, others will praise Him for what He has done in your life. If you honor God, He will honor you (1 Sam. 2:30). Strive to humble yourself and bring glory to God. Allow Him to be the One to honor you in the way that pleases Him!

Old Pastor Van
Thursday August 26, 2021

August 26

Redeeming the Time

Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise—

making the most of the time, because the days are evil.—Ephesians 5:15–16

These days we are bombarded with opportunities that entice us to invest our time and energy. Each day the voices of urgency cry out for every available moment. So many causes promise that time spent on them will reap great rewards; how can we recognize God's voice among so many competing voices?

A fool makes unwise choices with his time. With every new opportunity that comes along, the fool chases off in a different direction, not questioning whether that is the best choice. The loudest voice gains his attention. At some point the fool discovers to his dismay that he has squandered the investment of his time.

The days in which you live are evil. Marriages are under tremendous pressure, families are disintegrating. Multitudes are dying each year without hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Investing your life wisely is critical to you and to those around you. Foolishly spending your time in sinful or wasteful pursuits can cost you and others dearly.

Often, it is not evil pursuits that rob your time. Rather, the temptation is to sacrifice what is best for what is good. The enemy knows that blatantly tempting you with evil will be obvious, so he will lure you with distractions, leaving you no time to carry out God's will. He will tempt you to so fill your schedule with good things that you have no time for God's best. You may inadvertently substitute religious activity for God's will, pursuing your own goals for God's kingdom instead of waiting for His assignment. Time is a precious commodity. Be sure to invest it wisely.

Old Pastor Van
Wednesday August 25, 2021

August 25

Abundant Life

A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance.—John 10:10

Jesus warns us to be on guard for thieves who will try to rob us of what God has for us. Jesus wants us to enjoy abundant life (John 10:10). Since the time of Adam and Eve, people have had to choose whom to believe. Satan convinced Adam and Eve that forfeiting their obedience to God would gain them everything. Instead, their disobedience robbed them of all they had. For the rest of their lives they experienced only a fraction of the blessings God had intended. Scripture is replete with accounts of those who forfeited their inheritance as children of God in order to gain that which was transitory and empty.

The world seeks to convince you that you will find fulfillment if you adopt its standard of morality for your marriage, raising your children, advancing your career, or pursuing pleasure. If you believe this, you will never experience the blessings God intended for you. Sin brings death (Rom. 6:23). It is tragic to listen to the voices of the world instead of to the One who created life and who wants you to experience life to its fullest.

Jesus wants you to live your life with security, knowing that you are a beloved child of God. If you are not experiencing love, joy, and peace, you have settled for less than what God intends for you. If you have been making excuses for why you are not experiencing an abundant and joyful life, determine today to settle for nothing less than God's best for your life. Stop following the world's way of finding satisfaction. Instead, listen to the Savior's voice, and you will find true fulfillment.

Old Pastor Van
Tuesday August 24, 2021

August 24

The Spirit of Wisdom

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him—

a Spirit of wisdom and understanding,

a Spirit of counsel and strength,

a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.—Isaiah 11:2

Throughout His ministry, Jesus relied upon the Holy Spirit to direct Him as He made crucial decisions and faced relentless opposition (Mark 1:12). Centuries earlier, Isaiah had described what the Spirit's presence would mean for the Savior. The Spirit would give Jesus the knowledge of the will and ways of the Father. As a young boy, Jesus already possessed unusual knowledge of God's word (Luke 2:47). The Spirit granted Him the wisdom to use this knowledge. The Spirit enabled Jesus to take the word of God and apply it effectively to the specific needs of those He encountered.

If you are a Christian, the same Spirit abides in you. At times, you may pray and ask God to send His Spirit “in power.” That is the only way the Spirit ever comes! More importantly, the Spirit will come in wisdom, bringing the understanding of God's ways.

You need God's wisdom for the decisions you face (Rom. 11:33). Perhaps God has placed you in a position of great responsibility, and you feel overwhelmed by the decisions you must make. It may be in your role as parent, or friend, or leader that you long for the wisdom of God. The same Spirit who enabled Jesus to see through the deceptions of Satan will also guide you through the temptations that confront you. Pray that God will fill you with His Spirit of wisdom so that through the decisions you make you can live your life effectively.

Old Pastor Van
Monday August 23, 2021

August 23

Victory One Step at a Time

The Lord your God will drive out these nations before you little by little. You will not be able to destroy them all at once; otherwise, the wild animals will become too numerous for you.—Deuteronomy 7:22

When God led His people into the Promised Land, He did so step by step. If He had allowed them to annihilate their enemies at once, the land would have been too difficult to manage. So He allowed some of the enemies to remain for a time in order to maintain the land and suppress the wildlife. In doing so, God taught His people to trust Him step by step. He gave them only as much responsibility as they could handle at one time.

As God leads you in your Christian growth, He will allow challenges that match your character and relationship to Him. God will not totally change your character at once when you become a Christian. Rather, He will lead you through a process to become more like His Son. He will keep working in an area in your life until it is controlled by the Holy Spirit. You may eagerly desire maturity in every area of your character, but steady, gradual growth is more lasting. God will not take shortcuts in His process of making you like Christ. He sees your life from eternity and will take as long as necessary to produce lasting spiritual growth in you.

Do not become impatient while God is producing Christlikeness in you. Do not seek more responsibilities than those He has given you. Obey all that you know He has asked, and He will lead you at a pace that fits your present character and His purposes for you.

Old Pastor Van
Sunday August 22, 2021

August 22

The Meek

Blessed are the gentle,

because they will inherit the earth.—Matthew 5:5

In popular thinking the term meek implies weakness. The word Jesus used had a different meaning. His picture of meekness is that of a stallion that has been brought into subjection to its master. Whereas it once fought against any attempt to bring it under control, resisting direction with all its strength, now it yields its will to its master. The stallion has lost none of its strength or endurance; it has simply turned these over to the control of the master.

For the Christian, meekness requires submitting our will to the Master. Meekness is not submitting to everyone around us, it is taking our direction from God. Meekness means that we do not have to defend our rights, but we allow the Lord to defend us. Meekness means a life that is submissive to the Holy Spirit, giving Him the freedom to make any changes He knows are necessary. Meekness involves a self-control that comes from trusting God. Meekness demonstrates an attitude of long-suffering that allows God to deal with the injustices we face.

Jesus' life was the paragon of meekness. He could have called upon legions of angels to remove Him from the cross, yet He allowed sinners to torture and kill Him. Although Jesus was by no means powerless to defend Himself, He chose to yield His life to the Father's will. He did this because He trusted the Father completely. When we doubt the Father, we tend to act in our own strength, rather than relying on His power. Jesus said that in relinquishing control over our lives to God, we will gain life in abundance!

Old Pastor Van
Saturday August 21, 2021

August 21

Hunger and Thirst

Blessed are those who hunger

and thirst for righteousness,

because they will be filled.—Matthew 5:6

Hunger and thirst are the body's way of telling us that we are “empty.” Our natural response to physical hunger and thirst is to seek food and water to satisfy our need. Each Christian has an inner longing that only Christ's righteousness can satisfy. But we cannot be filled with righteousness if we are filled with self. Throughout the Scriptures God emphasizes that the one who longs for Him with all his heart will find Him (Jer. 29:13). As we crave righteousness, we will repent of our sin, and God will remove it from us. Our selfishness will be replaced by the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22–23). The Spirit will make us to be like Christ.

Righteousness is not to be taken lightly, nor is it easily attained. Holy God does not give His righteousness to people indiscriminately. He gives it to those who know they cannot live without it. Our desire for personal righteousness must be powerful, all-consuming, dominating everything we do. Pursuing righteousness means that we value the opinion of God far more than we treasure the opinions of people.

Righteousness is not merely an absence of sin. It is allowing God to fill us with His holiness (Rom. 6:11). It is being like Christ. Jesus is our model of One who sought God's righteousness first, and then the Father glorified Him. We are not only to seek the kingdom of God, but we are also to pursue His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). If we will hunger and thirst for righteousness, we will be satisfied!

Old Pastor Van
Friday August 20, 2021

August 20

Those Who Mourn

Blessed are those who mourn,

because they will be comforted.—Matthew 5:4

God wants us to experience His joy (John 15:11). Yet we cannot experience His joy until we have mourned over our sin. If we do not grieve over the weight of our sin, we have no concept of sin's devastating power. If we treat our sin lightly, we demonstrate that we have no sense of the enormity of our offense against almighty God. Our sin caused the death of God's Son. It causes us to fall short of what God intends (Rom. 3:23). It brings pain and sorrow to others, as well as to ourselves.

The Bible says that those who grieve over their sin will draw near to God (James 4:8–10). Those who mourn and weep over their sin are in a position to repent (Luke 4:18–19). There cannot be repentance without the realization of the gravity of sin. Regret for sin's consequences is not the same as sorrow for sinning against holy God. Confession of sin is not necessarily an indication of repentance. Repentance comes only when we acknowledge that our transgression has come from a heart that is far from God, and we are brokenhearted over our grievous offenses against holy God.

Jesus said that those who are heartbroken over their sin will find comfort. They will experience new dimensions of God's love and forgiveness. His infinite grace is sufficient for the most terrible sin. Do not try and skip the grieving process of repentance in order to move on to experience joy. God will not leave you to weep over your sin but will forgive you, comfort you, and fill you with His joy.

Old Pastor Van
Wednesday August 18, 2021

August 19

The Poor in Spirit

Blessed are the poor in spirit,

because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.—Matthew 5:3

The Bible presents many paradoxes that challenge our human way of thinking. We think of the poor as possessing very little, yet Jesus said the riches of heaven belong to the poor in spirit. Self-reliance robs us of God's good gifts.

Jesus insisted that in order to follow Him we must deny self. As long as we rely on our own resources, we will never place our trust in Him. As we acknowledge the poverty of our souls, we realize how desperately we need a Savior. Jesus declared: “Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matt. 4:17). God has so much to give the one who recognizes his need and will call upon Jesus!

Jesus said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. He had just encountered the rich ruler, who valued his possessions so much that he could not give them up to follow Jesus (Luke 18:18–24). Jesus later encountered Zaccheus, a wealthy, notorious sinner (Luke 19:1–10). Despite Zaccheus's material wealth, he recognized his spiritual poverty and found salvation. Jesus taught the disciples that true wealth is found in a relationship with God. Those who realize their inherent spiritual poverty apart from God will trust in Him, and He will enrich their lives immeasurably. Do not allow your resources, wisdom, talent, or abilities to prevent you from trusting the Person who can bring you abundant life.

Old Pastor Van
Wednesday August 18, 2021

August 18

Daily Bread

Give us today our daily bread.—Matthew 6:11

Jesus often reminded His followers not to worry. He told them not to be anxious about tomorrow's needs or potential problems (Matt. 6:25). Rather, Jesus stressed a daily reliance on the Father, who provides for His children day by day.

As the Israelites wandered in the desert, they had no way to get food. Miraculously, God provided manna that appeared on the ground each morning. God's provision was sufficient for one day at a time. Each day the children of Israel received fresh manna as a tangible reminder of God's love for them. If they attempted to store it for the days to come, they found that it had spoiled by the next day. It was impossible to stockpile God's provision, because God wanted them to trust in Him, not in their pantry. God's grace was sufficient for each day.

God wants us to trust Him daily with our needs. This trust does not make us poor planners or careless with our futures, unprepared to face what may come. Rather, it keeps our relationship with the Lord in its proper perspective as He reminds us daily of our dependence upon Him. God is aware of what tomorrow will bring and how we should prepare for it. He knows the problems we will face, and He has already made provision for us to overcome them. He asks us to trust in Him daily. Our faith in Him today cannot substitute for our trust in Him tomorrow. If we walk with Him closely today, we will be in the center of His will tomorrow.

Old Pastor Van
Wednesday August 18, 2021

August 17

May God Rule in Our Midst

Your kingdom come.

Your will be done

on earth as it is in heaven.—Matthew 6:10

In heaven, God's will is the only priority. A word from God brings angels to do His bidding, immediately and without question. Jesus instructed us to pray that God would accomplish His will in our world in the same way. This means that God's purposes would be preeminent in our homes, our businesses, our schools, our churches, and our governments.

Jesus taught His disciples to pray that God's purposes be carried out in the world around them. In modeling how they should pray, Jesus was teaching His disciples how to share God's heart. He demonstrated this again at Gethsemane when He prayed “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 26:39). It is as we seek God's kingdom on earth, and not our own purposes, that we gain the same mind as our heavenly Father. We become colaborers with God by praying faithfully in agreement with His desires.

As you seek the Lord's will, He will guide your praying. He will invite you not only to pray, but also to become involved in His activity as He answers your prayer. If He places a burden upon you to pray for an individual's salvation, that burden is also His invitation to join His activity in that person's life. Prayer will prepare you to be a servant through whom God can bring about His will on earth. Pray that the Lord's absolute rule on earth will begin in your life. Then watch to see how God uses you to extend His Lordship to others.

Old Pastor Van
Sunday August 15, 2021

Victory over Sin

—that is, God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe, since there is no distinction.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

God presented Him as a propitiation through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness . . . so that He would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus.—Romans 3:22–26

Because of sin, Adam and Eve fell short of the perfection God intended for them. Because of sin, the Israelites relinquished the glory they could have experienced as God's holy nation. Because of sin, Judas fell short of the opportunity to be an apostle of Jesus Christ. Sin will corrupt every area of your life that it touches. Sin will cause your marriage to fall short of the promise it held in the beginning. Sin will cause you to fall short as a parent, a church member, a worshiper, or a friend. Every area in your life is susceptible to sin's destruction.

The wonder of salvation is that God completely dealt with sin. He did what we could not do. Through Christ's sacrifice, God, by His grace, offered His salvation and canceled the penalty of our sin. By His grace, He takes a life that has fallen short of God's best and gives it meaning. He provides the opportunity to immediately confess our sin and to be cleansed from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). He mends a broken heart. His grace erases anger and bitterness. He restores severed relationships. He takes a life devastated by sin and makes it whole. He takes our failures and produces something good.

Only God can heal sin's devastation. Only He can bridge the gap between His glory and your sin (Rom. 3:23). You must trust Him to do so. If you will ask Him, He will free you from the bondage of your sin, reestablish your relationship with Him, and restore you to wholeness.

Pastor Van
Saturday August 14, 2021

Can We Continue in Sin?

What should we say then? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may multiply?

Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?—Romans 6:1–2

A Christian has died to sin. Sin has no control over a corpse. Temptation can present itself enticingly and persistently, yet a corpse will not succumb! Before you were a Christian you were keenly susceptible to sin. Sin held you in its grip. When you became a Christian, your old self died (Gal. 2:20). Sin now has no more control over you than temptation has over a corpse. You have died to sin. You can still sin, but you are no longer in sin's power. If you choose to succumb to temptation, you are rejecting the freedom from sin that Christ gained for you by His death.

God's grace is a further motivation for us to resist sin. It was God's grace that enabled Jesus to endure mocking, beating, and crucifixion at the hands of those whom He had come to save. It was grace that led God to forgive our sin despite our rebellion against Him. It is this same grace that God expresses toward us each time we sin against Him. Knowing this grace, we cannot continue to practice sin (Rom. 6:1–2). We cannot presume upon God's forgiveness by committing further offenses.

You are no longer the helpless victim of your sin. The victory has already been won. God does not have to win a victory over your sin; He already has! You only need to apply His victory to each area of your life. If there is a sinful habit, an ungodly attitude, or an unrighteous relationship that you need to put to death, claim the victory of Christ's resurrection today. Then you will be free to experience the abundant life that God intends for you.

Pastor Van
Friday August 13, 2021

Showing Grace

And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.—Ephesians 4:32

The Book of Ephesians describes the behavior that ought to characterize Christians as they relate to one another. Our actions ought to be permeated with kindness. Kindness is love expressed in practical ways; it is putting the needs of others before our own. It is intentionally considering ways to meet other people's needs.

Being tenderhearted means that we are keenly sensitive to the feelings of others. When a fellow Christian experiences sorrow, we grieve also (1 Cor. 12:26). When another believer is joyful, we, too, rejoice. Being tenderhearted means showing compassion toward those around us.

We show forgiveness because we, too, fall short of God's ideal. Knowing that God has graciously saved us from destruction motivates us to forgive others when they offend us. Often we are less patient with our fellow Christians than we are with nonbelievers. We expect more of Christians, and we feel betrayed when they fail us. When this happens, we need to look closely at the cross and remember the forgiveness we received there. We must set aside the self-centered attitude that leads to impatience and criticism of others.

Jesus did not say that the world will know Him by our miracles, by our grand testimonies, or by our vast Bible knowledge. The world will know Him by the love that Christians show to one another (John 13:35). Are you constantly in conflict with others? Ask God to give you kindness, a tender heart, and a forgiving spirit. As you allow the Spirit to build these qualities into you, your life will be a blessing to others around you.

Pastor Van
Thursday August 12, 2021

The Fragrance of His Knowledge

But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ, and spreads through us in every place the scent of knowing Him.

For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.—2 Corinthians 2:14–15

Whenever the Romans won a major military victory they would celebrate with a spectacular parade. The commanding general would lead the procession in a magnificent chariot, followed by his soldiers, musicians, and other officials. Then, soldiers would lead the defeated enemies through the city in bondage. As a part of the celebration, the Romans would burn fragrances on altars, filling the entire city with a pleasant aroma. Even those who could not witness the triumphal procession could hear the victory music and smell the pleasing incense. Everyone would know that their army had been victorious. The special fragrance came to symbolize victory to anyone who smelled it.

Paul used this vivid imagery to describe the effect that Christians should have in the world. According to Paul, God permeates our lives with the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, our lives should demonstrate to others that Christ is victorious. As unbelievers observe our lives, they should become aware of the victorious power of Christ. As other Christians witness the victory Christ gives us over our sin, they can rejoice in the triumph of their Lord and gain confidence that Christ will bring victory in their lives as well.

The most compelling evidence that Christ is alive and triumphant is His activity in the lives of His people. It is a privilege to be the fragrance of Christ by which others learn of God's life-changing power over sin. Your life ought to be convincing proof that God continues to work powerfully in the lives of His people.

Pastor Van
Wednesday August 11, 2021

Pleasing God, Pleasing Others

For am I now trying to win the favor of people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.—Galatians 1:10

At times you will have to make a choice between pleasing God and pleasing those around you, for God's ways are not man's ways (Isa. 55:8–9). As important as it is to strive for good relations with others, it is even more important to maintain a steadfast and obedient relationship with Christ. Disobeying God to keep peace with other people is never wise. Peace with God is always paramount.

Jesus warned that obeying Him might cause division in your relationships (Matt. 10:35–36). If Paul's primary goal had been to please others, he would never have become an apostle of Jesus Christ. Paul went completely against the wishes of his colleagues in order to obey Christ. At times, obedience to God sets family members at odds with each other (Matt. 10:35–36). When you follow Jesus' Lordship, your family may misunderstand, or even oppose you, yet your obedience to God reflects your identity as His child. Jesus said that those who obey His will are His brothers and sisters (Luke 8:21). God does not intend to divide the home, but He places obedience before domestic harmony.

It is important to get alone in quietness with God so that you understand what pleases Him. The world's thinking will mislead you more easily when you are not clear about what God desires. It broke Peter's heart to know that the opinion of a servant girl had mattered more to him than the approval of his Lord! If the desire to appease others tempts you to compromise what you know God wants you to do, learn from Peter's mistake. Determine that you will please your Lord regardless of the opinions of others.

Pastor Van
Tuesday August 10, 2021

The Testimony of Others

“Here I am. Bring charges against me before the Lord and His anointed: Whose ox or donkey have I taken? Whom have I wronged or mistreated? From whose hand have I taken a bribe to overlook something?I will return it to you.”

“You haven’t wronged us, you haven’t mistreated us, and you haven’t taken anything from anyone’s hand,” they responded.—1 Samuel 12:3–4

There is a freedom that comes in having nothing to hide. Living a life of integrity allows you this freedom. Your integrity is measured not by what you say about yourself but by what God and people say about you. Samuel had lived all his life among the people of God. Leaders who preceded him were dishonest and corrupt; it would have been easy for Samuel to compromise in his dealings as well. Near the end of his life, however, Samuel could boldly stand before his nation and ask them to reveal any offense he had committed against any of them. They could not think of one.

In his position of leadership, Samuel could have taken advantage of people. Yet because he carefully guarded his motives and kept his relationships blameless, Samuel could fearlessly ask the people to report if he had mistreated them in any way. It takes courage to open your life up to the scrutiny of others, but Samuel did not fear what others would say about him. He did not have to avoid anyone whom he had offended. He had a confidence that comes from living a blameless life.

If you have mistreated others, you cannot change the past, but you can choose to live with absolute integrity from this day forward. Living righteously frees you to face any person unashamedly, knowing you have behaved in a Christlike manner. If your reputation is stained, seek forgiveness from those you have offended. Ask God to guide you daily in your relationships so that you have no regrets about your treatment of others.

Pastor Van
Monday August 09, 2021

Put Away Evil

You must purge the evil from you.—Deuteronomy 22:21b

It is a dangerous and costly mistake not to take temptation seriously. The sad testimony of many who have succumbed to sin's enticements is that they thought they were strong enough to remain in the midst of temptation and resist it. God requires that His people remove evil from their midst (Deut. 21:21). One way to do this is to remove anything in your environment that may tempt you to sin. When wickedness surrounds you, you are in danger of becoming anesthetized to its destructive potential. Never assume that you are immune to temptation. Do not underestimate the craftiness of the evil one.

God does not tolerate evil, for evil cost the death of His Son. Sin causes untold pain and destruction to everyone it touches. Treating evil lightly shows foolish disregard for God's redemptive work. An honest evaluation of your life will reveal temptations that you should remove, such as some forms of entertainment or ungodly relationships. When God convicts you of evil in your midst, remove it immediately!

There are times, however, when you are powerless to remove ungodly influences, so you must remove yourself from the temptation. Paul urges us to avoid every kind of evil (1 Thess. 5:22). When Joseph was enticed to commit adultery by his master's wife, he fled immediately! (Gen. 39:12).

Do not lose your abhorrence of sin. Be diligent to keep any form of temptation out of your home, out of your relationships, out of your mind. You can do this only by maintaining your love relationship with God, recognizing that you are powerless to resist temptation in your own strength. You will not be able to walk closely with God unless you see sin as He sees it. Darkness and light cannot coexist. Run from the darkness to the light!

Pastor Van
Sunday August 08, 2021

Giving Your Best

“You must not sacrifice to the Lord your God an ox or sheep with a defect or any serious flaw, for that is detestable to the Lord your God.”—Deuteronomy 17:1

God's love moved Him to sacrifice that which meant the most to Him—His only Son. Our response, if we truly understand His love for us, is the desire to give back to God that which means the most to us.

The Old Testament reveals that God set forth high standards for the sacrifices He required of His people. A worthy sacrifice had to cost the people something. As their hearts shifted away from God, the people began struggling to give God costly offerings. They would bring blind, lame, and sick animals, assuming God could not tell the difference (Mal. 1:8). God saw what they were doing and declared their offerings to be in vain (Mal. 1:10). Throughout the Old Testament period, God was setting the stage for the ultimate, perfect, and sinless sacrifice of His Son for the sins of humanity.

The offerings we give back to God reveal our hearts' condition. A heart that overflows with gratitude for God's love will respond in selfless devotion. If we are unwilling to sacrifice our time, our possessions, our money, or our energy, we indicate that we do not love God as He desires. God takes delight in the person who gives to Him cheerfully out of a loving heart, a person who understands that God is the source of everything he has and who knows that God will more than compensate for whatever is sacrificed for Him (2 Cor. 9:8).

If you struggle in giving your best offerings to God, pause and reflect on what God sacrificed for you. Trust Him and give Him the best that you have because you love Him with all your heart.

Pastor Van
Saturday August 07, 2021

Now!

“Lord,” another of His disciples said, “first let me go bury my father.”—Matthew 8:21

Often our struggle as Christians is not in deciding whether we should obey Christ but in obeying immediately. We may acknowledge our need to follow Christ and commit ourselves to do what He has told us. Yet when God reveals His will to us, that is the time to obey! God's revelation of His will is His invitation to respond immediately.

Some would-be disciples pledged their willingness to follow Jesus, but they told Him they were not ready yet. In Jesus' day, a Jewish man was expected to care for his elderly parents until they died. One man wanted to wait until his father died before going with Jesus. This would be an honorable delay. The man had to choose between this important responsibility and heeding a call from the Lord. Yet God knew this man, and He knew the man's father. God would have taken care of the man's father, if he only would have followed Jesus. This was an opportunity to walk with the Son of God, yet the concerns of this life were competing for priority with obedience to God.

Timing our obedience is crucial. Invitations from God come with a limited opportunity to respond. Some opportunities to serve Him, if not accepted immediately, will be lost. Occasions to minister to others may ass us by. When God invites us to intercede for someone, it may be critical that we stop what we are doing and immediately adjust our lives to what God is doing. Missing opportunities to serve the Lord can be tragic. When an invitation comes from God, the time to respond is now.

Pastor Van
Friday August 06, 2021

A Jealous God

For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.—Deuteronomy 4:24

Our God is a consuming fire. He is satisfied only when His love totally consumes us. We usually think of a jealous person as someone resentful and suspicious, but the Lord's jealousy on our behalf is something that should be precious to us! He has the complete right to our lives. He gave us life, and He wants to protect us from anything that could harm us. That is why He has commanded His children to worship no other gods, allowing nothing to distract us from His consuming love.

The Lord opposes anything that hinders our relationship with Him (Deut. 6:15). He knows the danger of other gods, how they will lure us away, deceive us, and leave us empty. He will tolerate nothing that takes precedence over our love for Him. Our faithfulness to God assures us of the abundant life He wants to give us. If we reject Him, He will pursue us until we return to Him.

We should not resent the fact that God wants to guard our relationship with Him. It should bring us comfort. Our relationship with God should be our top priority. It should dictate how we spend our time, our money, and our energy. If certain people or our possessions separate us from God, we must reexamine our hearts and give our devotion first to Him, as He commands. God wants each of us to love Him with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength (Mark 12:30). Our love for God should extend to every corner of our lives. God loved us so much that He gave us His own Son. Let us respond by giving Him our highest devotion in return.

Pastor Van
Thursday August 05, 2021

Not One Word Has Failed

“. . . and you know with all your heart and all your soul that none of the good promises the Lord your God made to you has failed. Everything was fulfilled for you; not one promise has failed.”—Joshua 23:14

Near the end of his life, Joshua took time with the Israelites to review all that God had done for them since they first began following Him. God had given them an impossible assignment: to conquer a foreign and hostile land with fortified cities and armies more powerful than their own. The Israelites were to go forward with nothing more than God's promise that He would go with them and take care of them. Now Joshua looked back over their experience and reminded the Israelites that God ad kept every promise. They had experienced numerous victories and had enjoyed God's provision for every need.

Sometimes hindsight gives us a clear picture of how faithful God has been. We are tempted during a crisis to wonder if God will be faithful to is promises. We focus on our problems, and our trust in God begins to waver. Twenty-four years after God promised Abraham and Sarah a son, they were still waiting on God to fulfill His promise. But in the twenty-fifth year, Abraham and Sarah could look back and see that God had been faithful. As David was fleeing for his life, he may have been uncertain how God would keep His promise to make him a king. But at the end of his long and prosperous reign, David could review how God had kept every promise.

You, too, can rely on God's faithfulness. Are you in a crisis? Hold to the promises of your Lord! He will not forget His promises to you. Look back over your Christian life and recount the many ways in which God has been faithful to His word.

Pastor Van
Wednesday August 04, 2021

Clean Hands; a Pure Heart

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?

Who may stand in His holy place?

The one who has clean hands and a pure heart.—Psalm 24:3–4a

God has rigid requirements for those who want to enjoy intimate fellowship with Him. There is no easy access to God for those with unclean hands or an impure heart. It is an affront to holy God to assume that we can indulge in our sin and blatantly disobey His word, then brazenly enter the holy of holies. In Old Testament times, one's hands represented one's activities. Clean hands symbolized pure activities. Priests washed their hands before serving in the temple to symbolize that only those who were cleansed could worship holy God.

There are levels of intimacy with God. The moment you become a Christian you begin a relationship with the Lord. However, if you persist in your sin, sin will separate you from God and keep you from enjoying close fellowship with Him. If you follow only God's basic commandments but resist every time God gives you specific, personal directions, you will never fully experience the depths of God's Person. If, however, you are like the psalmist and understand the holiness of God, you will adjust your life to His standards and respond to His prompting so that you may have deeper fellowship with Him.

The closer you get to holy God, the more obvious even your smallest sins become. The more you know of God's character, the more you will realize the need to wash your hands and purify your heart before you can get close to Him.

Are you willing for almighty God to make you absolutely pure before Him so that you can enjoy the maximum possible relationship with Him?

Pastor Van
Tuesday August 03, 2021

Asking for Mountains

“Now give me this hill country the Lord promised [me] on that day, because you heard then that the Anakim are there, as well as large fortified cities. Perhaps the Lord will be with me and I will drive them out as the Lord promised.”—Joshua 14:12

Caleb's faith in God never wavered though everyone around him doubted. God convinced Caleb that the children of Israel should enter the Promised Land, but the people were intimidated by giants and fortified cities (Num. 13:28–33). Their disbelief forced Caleb to wait forty years in the wilderness before he finally entered the Promised Land. Even after all those years, Caleb was as confident as ever in God's power.

When God was dividing the land among the Israelites, the people were asking for the lush valleys and grassy plains. Caleb asked for a mountain. The Israelites had driven their enemies into the mountains, where they had built fortresses. This did not intimidate Caleb—he asked for a challenge! He did not trust in his own strength but in God's presence. Caleb longed to see God work in power, and he knew he would be less likely to rely on God if he dwelt in the easy places. He chose a situation in which he would have to trust in God. Caleb knew his inheritance from God was on the mountain. He refused to allow the difficulty of gaining it to stop him from enjoying all that God had promised him.

If you always choose the easy way, asking for the peaceful valleys, you will never see God's power displayed to enable you to take a mountain. Seek out the mountains, and you will witness God doing things through your life that can be explained only by His mighty presence.

Pastor Van
Monday August 02, 2021

Delivered into Your Hand

The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, for I have handed them over to you. Not one of them will be able to stand against you.”—Joshua 10:8

No greater confidence will ever come to you or to any other Christian than the confidence of knowing you are doing God's will. God will not commission you to do anything without ensuring your success. God assured Joshua that there was no reason to fear as he prepared to battle the Canaanites. God would allow the Israelites to fight the battle, but the outcome was settled before they ever picked up their weapons. What confidence this gave them as they fought! Even though their enemies fought relentlessly, Joshua's army was certain of eventual victory.

God does not promise you victory in every task you devise, but He does promise that you will be successful whenever you follow His will (Deut. 28:7, 25).

Does it appear that people are keeping you from obeying God's will? Rest assured that God will not allow anyone or anything to prevent His children from accomplishing His purposes.

Be careful to evaluate success in the way that God does. Perhaps He is working to produce His peace in your heart as you face troubling times. Perhaps He is working to develop a forgiving spirit in you when others mistreat you. Perhaps He is working to eliminate a particular sin in your life. If you accept the world's understanding of victory, you may feel defeated. If you look to see what God is accomplishing through your situation, you will find that He is succeeding. When you face opposition but know you are doing what God has asked, have confidence that He will accomplish everything that He desires.

Pastor Van
Sunday August 01, 2021

A Loyal Heart

“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to show Himself strong for those whose hearts are completely His. You have been foolish in this matter, for from now on, you will have wars.”—2 Chronicles 16:9

If your heart is loyal to God, you do not have to look for Him, He is already looking for you! God told King Asa that He continuously watches for those who are steadfast in their commitment to Him. When He finds them, He makes His presence powerfully evident to them. King Asa had experienced God's awesome power when he faced a menacing army from Ethiopia (2 Chron. 14:9). God gave Asa victory, despite the overwhelming odds he faced. In spite of this miracle, the next time Asa faced an enemy he failed to trust God. Even though the army Asa faced was smaller than the one God had previously defeated, Asa's faith in God faltered. God encouraged Asa to take courage in knowing that God never rests or sleeps. He is never distracted, but diligently seeks individuals whose hearts are completely committed to Him.

Life's challenges sometimes seem impossible. Do you feel you are too weak to fight the battle? Don't give up! Keep your heart loyal to God, for He constantly watches over you, and He desires to demonstrate His strength in your life. God is willing and just as capable of giving you victory in your current challenge as He was with those in times past. The question is not whether God is looking for His people, but whether His people are seeking Him. Take comfort in God's promise that He watches over you and He wants to give you victory.

Pastor Van
Saturday July 31, 2021

God's Presence

No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave you or forsake you.—Joshua 1:5

God's assignment for Joshua might have caused him some concern. Being the successor to Moses was no small task. Through Moses, God had turned the waters in Egypt into blood, parted the Red Sea, destroyed the Egyptian army, and miraculously fed the nation for forty years. God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai and gave him His law. Joshua must have wondered how he could follow Moses.

To erase any doubt, God assured Joshua that Moses' accomplishments had all been due to God's presence. Joshua grew confident because the same God who walked with Moses now walked with him (Josh. l:6).

As you read the accounts of God's miraculous work through men and women in the Bible, you may wonder if God still performs such miracles today. Be assured that the same God who walked with Moses, Joshua, Elijah, Peter, James, John, and Paul now lives within you. No power can defeat the God who guides you. The God who blessed them is just as capable of working out His purposes through your life. The same God who gave them victory over seemingly invincible enemies, who provided for them when their own resources were insufficient, and who guided them in their decisions, is prepared to work as powerfully in your life today. The heroes of the faith had one thing in common: They were all ordinary people with no power of their own. The difference is the mighty presence of God. Times may change, but the effect of God's presence remains the same.

Pastor Van
Friday July 30, 2021

Powerless

Then she cried, “Samson, the Philistines are here!” When he awoke from his sleep, he said, “I will escape as I did before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him.—Judges 16:20

One of the signs of a heart that has shifted from God is the absence of spiritual power. If you are like Samson, you will not be immediately aware that God's power has left you. Only after he tried to defeat his enemies did Samson recognize that something was wrong. He went against the Philistines as before, expecting their swift defeat. But this time the Philistines easily prevailed over him.

If you allow sin to creep into your life, if you refuse to obey your Lord, if you do not reconcile with those who have hurt you, your spiritual vitality is waning. You may assume everything is fine, but when you pray, answers do not come as they once did. You once had a positive effect on those around you, but now your influence is negligible or even harmful. Your life once brought reconciliation, but now you experience problems in your relationships. Those around you who have relied upon your strength are discovering that you are not as helpful to them as you once were. Your lack of spiritual power is not crying out for attention; but you are seeing subtle changes in your spirit and in your relationship with God.

How can you stop this spiritual decline? You must regularly repent of any sin. You must invite God to search your life to see if there are ttitudes, relationships, or activities that need to be removed. You must fervently obey His will. If you walk with God in this manner, you will grow in spiritual strength and be used mightily by Him.

Pastor Van
Friday July 30, 2021

A Double Portion

After they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell [me] what I cando for you before I am taken from you.”

So Elisha answered, “Please, let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.”—2 Kings 2:9

There had never been a man like Elijah. Elijah had raised the dead, called down fire from heaven, and revealed God's plans for a devastating drought. The Israelites must have felt certain there would never be another prophet like Elijah, until Elisha came along. Moses was arguably the mightiest leader the Hebrews had ever followed, yet God prepared Joshua to accomplish what not even Moses had achieved. David's reign marked a high point for the nation of Israel, yet it was Solomon who carried out the task that was denied his father, by building the spectacular temple.

We can be tempted to put more trust in the leaders God gives us than in od Himself. History teaches that, as wonderful as these godly people are, God always has another Moses, Elijah, or David. Often the successor will come with a double portion of their predecessors' spirits.

God's purposes do not depend on us. He has limitless ways to accomplish His will. The same God who led Moses could also use Joshua. If no one were willing to serve Him, the Lord would accomplish His work by His own divine power. We are not irreplaceable to the Lord. He will achieve His purposes. The question is this: Will we be a part of God's activity, or will He find someone else? We deceive ourselves if we think we are indispensable to God. Service to the Lord is an honor God bestows on us, not a favor we do for God.

If you are mourning the loss of one of your leaders, do not despair. God has another leader, for He will see that His will is carried out. It may even be that He has been preparing you to be that leader.

7 Pastor Van
Thursday July 29, 2021

A Double Portion

After they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell [me] what I can do for you before I am taken from you.”

So Elisha answered, “Please, let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.”—2 Kings 2:9

There had never been a man like Elijah. Elijah had raised the dead, called down fire from heaven, and revealed God's plans for a devastating drought. The Israelites must have felt certain there would never be another prophet like Elijah, until Elisha came along. Moses was arguably the mightiest leader the Hebrews had ever followed, yet God prepared Joshua to accomplish what not even Moses had achieved. David's reign marked a high point for the nation of Israel, yet it was Solomon who carried out the task that was denied his father, by building the spectacular temple.

We can be tempted to put more trust in the leaders God gives us than in God Himself. History teaches that, as wonderful as these godly people are, God always has another Moses, Elijah, or David. Often the successor will come with a double portion of their predecessors' spirits.

God's purposes do not depend on us. He has limitless ways to accomplish His will. The same God who led Moses could also use Joshua. If no one were willing to serve Him, the Lord would accomplish His work by His own divine power. We are not irreplaceable to the Lord. He will achieve His purposes. The question is this: Will we be a part of God's activity, or will He find someone else? We deceive ourselves if we think we are indispensable to God. Service to the Lord is an honor God bestows on us, not a favor we do for God.

If you are mourning the loss of one of your leaders, do not despair. God has another leader, for He will see that His will is carried out. It may even be that He has been preparing you to be that leader.

Pastor Van
Wednesday July 28, 2021

Draw Near to God

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people!—James 4:8

There may be times when God seems far away. You may feel as if your prayers go unheard. James said there is a simple reason for this and a solution. If you are far from God, it is because your sin has separated you from Him.

God is unchanging. His character stays absolutely holy. His faithfulness remains constant; it is we who change. We allow sin into our lives. We choose our own direction. We spend less and less time with Him in Bible study and prayer. Then one day we realize that we have gradually grown distant from God. The solution, according to James, is straightforward. We are to draw near to God. As we realize our need to be closer to the Father and we begin to return to Him, He meets us even as the father hurried to greet his prodigal son (Luke 15:20).

Drawing near to God requires you to take two actions. First, you must leanse your hands (Isa. 1:15). You must cleanse your way of living. If you have been actively engaged in sin, you must renounce it. If you have done anything to offend or hurt someone, you must make it right. Second, you are to purify your heart (Ps. 51:10). You must make certain your attitudes, thoughts, and motives are right in God's eyes and are in harmony with God's word. Jesus warned that you cannot serve two masters (Matt. 6:24). It is impossible to love anything else as much as you love God and still please Him.

If God seems distant, do what is necessary to cleanse your hands, purify your heart, and draw near to Him.

Pastor Van
Tuesday July 27, 2021

Put Away Lying

Since you put away lying, Speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another.—Ephesians 4:25

Because you are a Christian, your life ought to be permeated with truth. When you were born again, God put the Spirit of truth in you (John 16:13). The Spirit's role is to guide you into all truth. The Spirit wants to fill your mind with whatever is true (Phil. 4:8). If you allow the Spirit to fill you with God's truth, you will be truthful in your actions and in your relationships. According to Jesus, this means that your yes will always be yes, and your no will always mean no (Matt. 5:33–37).

The world considers truth optional. Deception permeates every corner of society because the prince of this world is the author and father of lies (John 8:44). From his first contact with people, Satan has been lying to them and persuading them to live in falsehood rather than in truth.

The world will tempt you to compromise the truth. You may be fooled into thinking that you can accomplish greater good by withholding the truth. That is a demonic deception. You cannot use deception to build the kingdom of God! God refuses to use sinful means to accomplish His holy purposes. You may be tempted to live a lie by projecting a false image of yourself. Jesus condemned this as hypocrisy (Luke 12:56). When you sin, you will be tempted to conceal the truth; yet only as you onfess the truth will you be forgiven and set free (James 5:16).

What you say reflects what is in your heart (Matt. 12:34). If your heart is filled with deception, your mouth will speak falsehood. Ask God to permeate you with His truth so that you find falsehood, in any form, abhorrent.

Pastor Van
Monday July 26, 2021

Your Heavenly Father Knows You

Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him.—Matthew 6:8

Even before we call on Him, the Father has already begun to provide all that we need (Isa. 65:24). Jesus wanted His disciples to learn how intimately God knew and loved each of them. That is why He told them to pray. He assured them that even before they prayed, God knew all about their situation.

Prayer is not designed for us to inform God of our needs, for He already knows them. Why, then, should we pray? Prayer enables us to experience God more intimately. The more a child experiences the loving provision of a parent, the more convinced he becomes of his parent's unrelenting love. Often a parent will anticipate a child's need before the child recognizes it and be prepared in advance to provide for that need. Our heavenly Father knows exactly what we will face today and next week. He is eager for us to experience Him as He provides for us.

To our surprise, we often discover that God knows far better than we do what is best for us. At times we assume that we know what would benefit us. We can even be foolish enough to assume that we don't require anything of God. Yet God wants us to go to Him in our need (Matt. 7:7). He is ready to show His strength through our weakness. Our heavenly Father knows exactly what is best for us, and He is prepared to provide for every need, if we will but ask (Phil. 4:13).

Pastor Van
Sunday July 25, 2021

Walking Worthy

Just one thing: live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, working side by side for the faith of the gospel. . . —Philippians 1:27

Paul never lost his wonder at having been called by God. He understood that the way he lived ought to be worthy of the King who had chosen him. He knew that the mystery of the gospel had been hidden for generations and had only been revealed in his day through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Col. 1:26–27). Paul alsounderstood that until people accept the gospel, they are spiritually dead and therefore without hope (Col. 2:13). As a result of God's plan of salvation, those who trust in Jesus are not only made alive in Christ but are also adopted as the Father's children (Rom. 8:16–17). Paul recognized that though the Gospel sounds like foolishness to the world, it is the power of God that brings eternal life to those who accept it.

Because Paul's life had been radically transformed by the gospel, he was intent on living to honor the gospel that gave him life. It would have been tragic to receive the riches of the gospel and then to live as a spiritual pauper. It would have been disgraceful to be saved from death by the blood of Christ and then show no reverence for that sacrifice. It would have been foolish to accept such love from Christ and then to resent what He asked in return.

The way you live your life ought to be a tribute to the matchless grace that your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has bestowed upon you.

Pastor Van
Saturday July 24, 2021

The Difference Your Life Can Make

My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, he should know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his life from death and cover a multitude of sins.—James 5:19–20

One of the Christian's greatest deterrents from sin is the life of another Christian. Some Christians maintain that it is none of their business if another chooses to sin. They are convinced that they are being judgmental if they respond to someone in sin. The world persuades them not to get involved, but this inaction prevents them from being an effective intercessor.

As Christians we are aware that sin brings death (Rom. 6:23). Sin kills relationships, dismantles marriages, stifles joy, and destroys peace. When we see someone wander from the truth into error, how should we respond? When Jesus saw sin it broke His heart. He wept over entire cities as He saw them rejecting the truth (Matt. 23:37–39). He prayed fervently for His disciples to be strong when they were tempted (John 17). He warned those who were heading toward spiritual failure (Matt. 26:20–25, 34). Jesus was even willing to die to save people from their sins because He knew the devastation that sin causes. Jesus never stood idle as those around Him were led astray by their sin. He always took an active role in turning them back to God.

“Minding your own business” will save you some discomfort, but it will not help a brother or sister who needs to return to the Lord. If you are truly aware of the grave consequences for those who continue in sin, you will be moved to weep even as Jesus wept. Pray fervently for your friend. That will safeguard your motives and prepare you to minister to him. Be alert, in the event that God asks you to confront your friend. If you do so, be loving and gentle lest you, too, be tempted (Gal. 6:1).

Pastor Van
Friday July 23, 2021

Displaying God through Your Life

. . .work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

For it is God who is working in you, [enabling you] both to will and to act for His good purpose.—Philippians 2:12b–13

Salvation is not an event; it is a process. Salvation is God's gift, for there is nothing we can do to save ourselves (Eph. 2:8–9). Yet with salvation comes the responsibility to work out our salvation. Once we have been saved, we must claim all that has become ours.

Through salvation, God gave you victory over sin. That victory applies not only to past sins but also to every sin you will ever commit. When you became a Christian, God made you a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). God wants to continually build new things into your life as you walk with Him. God gave you His joy when He saved you, and He wants to fill you with His joy daily. When you first repented of your sin, you relinquished your right to your life. God continues to ask you to yield your will to Him and to follow His leading rather than setting your own direction for your life. When you were converted, God made everything available to you; how you implement what He has given you is your choice (2 Pet. 1:3–9).

This is the great paradox of the Christian life. We are to work diligently on our faith, yet always with the awareness that only God can bring about lasting change in our lives. As we see God at work in us, we are motivated to work even more diligently. God will not force His changes upon us; neither can we bring about lasting change in our lives apart from the work of the Holy Spirit.

When you sense God developing an area of your life, join Him in His activity so that His salvation will be demonstrated fully.

Pastor Van
Thursday July 22, 2021

Blinded by the God of This Age

Regarding them: the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.—2 Corinthians 4:4

When you are blinded, you cannot see things as they really are, even though others around you see them clearly. You cannot experience the full reality of all that is around you. You may feel you are experiencing all that there is to life, yet you may be unaware that you are missing what God desires for you. You may even be in danger because of your blindness and not know it.

Paul warned that the “god of this age” can blind you to the reality of Jesus Christ. Christ's presence can make a significant difference in your life. However, if Satan convinces you to doubt that Christ can do what He promised, he will have blinded you to the reality of what your life is eally like and to what it could become. Others may see what your unbelief causes you to miss, but you will be unaware of it. Your life may be steadily moving toward disaster, but you will be oblivious to it.

Christ comes to you as light (John 1:4, 5, 9). He illuminates your sin so that you see its ugliness and destructiveness. He reveals Himself so that you can appreciate the glory of His person and the marvelous riches He brings. His presence lights your path so that you can see impending danger. Don't let the god of this age distort your spiritual vision. Don't be fooled into thinking that everything is as it should be when, in fact, you are missing out on so much that God wants to do in your life. Ask Christ to illuminate your life and let you clearly see your spiritual condition.

Pastor Van
Wednesday July 21, 2021

Born Again

Jesus replied, “I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”—John 3:3

Entering a saving relationship with Christ is a life-changing experience! All things become new! Not some things, but all things (2 Cor. 5:17). For the first time in your life, Christ is Lord; God is Master. When you become a Christian, Christ's presence will affect every part of you. You will have new thoughts, new attitudes, new values, and new sensitivities. New priorities will dramatically affect your relationships. You will view everything in your life from a Christlike perspective. Christianity is not something you add to your life; it is life!

Nicodemus thought that salvation meant performing certain religious exercises and holding to particular religious teachings. He had no idea of the all-encompassing nature of salvation! When you become a Christian, God gives you a new heart so that everything becomes new! God gives you a new mind, like that of Christ, so you think differently. He gives you new emotions, so you feel deeply about completely different matters. You become sensitive to sin, so you are no longer comfortable with it. Your recreation will be affected as you are made aware of what is honoring to God and what is not. Your relationships will now be guided by the Holy Spirit. Destructive habits and attitudes, previously immune to change, will be transformed.

Have you noticed the changes God has brought to your life since you entered a vital relationship with Jesus Christ? These changes should be very noticeable as a testimony of the new life you received when you trusted Jesus as your Savior and Lord.

Pastor Van
Tuesday July 20, 2021

God's Initiatives

The Lord said to Abram:

Go out from your land,

your relatives,

and your father’s house

to the land that I will show you.—Genesis 12:1

The most dramatic changes in your life will come from God's initiative, not yours. The people God used mightily in Scripture were all ordinary people to whom He gave divine assignments that they never could have initiated. The Lord often took them by surprise for they were not seeking significant mandates from God. Even so, He saw their hearts, and He knew they were trustworthy.

The Lord spoke to Abram when He was beginning to build a nation dedicated to His purposes. Through this nation would come the Savior. God appeared to Moses at the very time He had purposed to deliver Israel out of slavery in Egypt. God found in Jesse's youngest son David a godly man who could lead His people. God surprised Mary when He old her she would be the mother of the Messiah. God's Son selected the twelve isciples, all ordinary, uneducated men, when He was ready to take the good news of His salvation to the world. Through the ages God has taken the initiative in the everyday lives of people to accomplish things through them that they never could have imagined.

The Lord may be initiating some new things in your life. When He tells you what His plans are, trust Him and walk closely with Him. Don't let the busyness of your present activity keep you from experiencing all that God has in store for you. You will see Him accomplish things through your life that you never dreamed were possible (Eph. 3:20).

Pastor Van
Monday July 19, 2021

Knowing God

Then God spoke to Moses, telling him, “I am Yahweh. I appeared to braham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty, but I did not make My name Yahweh known to them.”—Exodus 6:2–3

As God has walked with His people through the generations, He has progressively revealed His nature according to His purposes and the needs of His people. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob knew Him as God Almighty, because they needed His mighty power to protect them from their enemies. Moses and the Israelites learned that God was Lord, Master over every nation and every thing. God not only delivered them from the most powerful ruler in the world, but also brought them into the $>Promised Land. They came to experience Him as Lord, preeminently powerful over the pagan gods of their day.

God will continue to reveal His character to you according to your needs and according to His purposes. You will come to know more and more about Him as you obey Him. When you grieve, He will come to you as Comforter. When you are in need, He will demonstrate that He is the Provider. When you face a serious challenge, He will reveal that He is God Almighty.

Your understanding of God's character ought to be greater now than when you first became a Christian. You ought to know Him today better than you did five years ago. Sadly, some Christians continue to live year after year with the same basic knowledge of God that they had when they first began walking with him. Whatever your present situation, view it in the light of what God is teaching you, through circumstances, about Himself and you will come to know God in dimensions you have never known Him before.

Pastor Van
Sunday July 18, 2021

The Desires of Your Heart

Take delight in the Lord,

and He will give you your heart’s desires.—Psalm 37:4

Your relationship with God ought to bring you more joy, satisfaction, and pleasure than any other relationship, activity, or material possession you have. Scripture exhorts you to delight yourself in the Lord, finding your greatest pleasure in God and the things dear to His heart.

How can you find pleasure in what God enjoys? Only as you spend time with Him will you begin to take delight in the things God loves. As you spend intimate time with God and allow Him to show you your situation from His perspective, you will begin to see things as God sees them. As you adjust yourself to God, your heart will begin to desire the same things God's heart desires. When you pray, you will find yourself asking for the very things God desires. Matters foremost on God's heart will be preeminent in yours. Your first request in prayer will not be for yourself, but for God's name to be exalted and His kingdom to be extended (Matt. 6:9–10).

Have you been asking God to give you the desires of your heart without first seeking to understand what is on His heart? God places this important requirement for those who pray: that we seek His priorities and make them our own. This great qualifier prevents us from asking out of selfishness. As we find joy in the Lord, we will see what is truly important, and we will long for these things as the Father does.

Pastor Van
Saturday July 17, 2021

A Godly Person Set Apart

Know that the Lord has set apart

the faithful for Himself;

the Lord will hear when I call to Him.—Psalm 4:3

No one is more precious in the Lord's sight than a godly person. God is pleased whenever He finds someone who strives to live a righteous life and bring glory to Him. God sets such people apart in a special place in His heart. They are always kept before Him, and He stands ready to respond to their faintest cries for help.

Sin separates us from God, causing Him to close His ears to our praying. It is futile for us to pray when we are knowingly practicing sin. But the opposite is also true. God chooses to honor us by listening to our every cry when we are living a godly life. An abiding security comes with living a blameless life. The righteous person never has to wonder whether God has listened to his prayer (1 John 5:14–15). The godly person has confidence that God has indeed heard her prayer and will immediately respond in all of His power.

It is exhilarating to be set apart by God, knowing that God observes your consecrated life and is pleased with what He sees. What a tremendous privilege to know that your life holds a special place in God's heart! The world may not accord any special status to you, but you will know that you are cherished by God. The world continues to find new ways to honor people, but even the world's most extravagant accolades are pitiful compared to the unfathomable blessing of holding a special place in the heart of God!

Pastor Van
Friday July 16, 2021

God Honors Those Who Honor Him

I will honor those who honor Me,

but those who despise Me will be disgraced.—1 Samuel 2:30

One of the many truths of the kingdom of God is that if we will honor God, He will honor us. If, however, we dare to treat Him isrespectfully, we will also be treated as least in His kingdom. The initiative rests with us. Our response to God determines His response to us.

Eli had been the priest of Israel for many years, and he knew the standards for righteous living that God required. Yet Eli faced a dilemma, for his sons were living in direct opposition to God. As their father, Eli had to decide whom he would honor. He could not defer to his immoral and ungodly sons and also exalt the God he served. By default, Eli chose to honor his sons, for he did not insist that their behavior conform to God's standards. Eli would have pleaded that he still loved God but that he simply could not bring honor to God with his family. Yet God viewed Eli's behavior differently (1 Sam. 3:13–14). Eli revealed his own heart when he failed to honor God before the people of Israel by the way he dealt with his sons. This is why God punished Eli and his sons severely (1 Sam. 4:17–18).

God is not pleased if you praise Him at church but not at your workplace. It is not acceptable for you to revere God when you are with other Christians but not in your school or neighborhood. He expects you to honor Him completely, with your words, with your actions, with your life. If you honor Him, He will honor you.

Pastor Van
Thursday July 15, 2021

He Is at Your Right Hand

I keep the Lord in mind always.

Because He is at my right hand,

I will not be shaken.—Psalm 16:8

What does it mean to set the Lord always before you? It means that you choose to relate everything you encounter to your trust in God. What you choose to focus on becomes the dominant influence in your life. You may be a Christian, but if your focus is always on your problems, your problems will determine the direction of your life. If your focus is on people, then people will determine what you think and do. In biblical times, the right hand was the most distinguished position, reserved for one's chief adviser and supporter. When you choose to focus on Christ, you invite Him to take the most important position in your life as Counselor and Defender.

Every time you face a new experience, you should turn to Christ for His interpretation and strength. When people insult you and mistreat you, you should seek direction from your Counselor regarding the right response. When you face a crisis, you should receive strength from the One at your right hand. When you experience need, you should consult your Counselor before you react. When you face a fearful situation, you should take courage from the Advocate at your right hand. Everything you do is in the context of your relationship to Christ.

What an incredible act of God's grace that Christ should stand beside you to guide you and counsel you and defend you! How could you ever become dismayed over your situation with Christ at your right hand? What confidence this should give you!

Pastor Van
Wednesday July 14, 2021

God Will Not Forget

“Can a woman forget her nursing child,

or lack compassion for the child of her womb?

Even if these forget,

yet I will not forget you.”—Isaiah 49:15

God never becomes preoccupied or neglectful toward one of His children. God said it would be more likely for a nursing mother to forget the infant at her breast than for Him to forget one of His children! The nursing mother has a keen sensitivity to her baby. Even if the infant is in another room the mother's senses are in tune with her child. The mother knows when it is time to feed and care for the child. The mother never becomes so preoccupied with other things that she neglects the needs of her child.

It is fitting that God chose this imagery to describe how He looks after His people, for He is more sensitive to the needs of His children than even the most loving mother. He anticipates every cry for help. Even before we can call out in need, God is responding with His answer (Isa. 65:24). This is one of the most comforting promises God has given to us: that He will never forget us.

Don't let the difficult circumstances you are facing convince you that God has forgotten you. Don't ever assume that God is more concerned with the needs of other, more significant, more spiritual people than He is with yours. Scripture teaches that God looks upon you with the same love, interest, and concern as a nursing mother would look upon her infant. It should reassure you to know that your Father loves you like that!

Pastor Van
Tuesday July 13, 2021

Godly Sorrow

For godly grief produces a repentance not to be regretted and leading to salvation, but worldly grief produces death.—2 Corinthians 7:10

There is a difference between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow, though both are deeply felt. You can feel genuine sorrow over something you have done. Your mind can become consumed with your failure and offense against God and others. Judas felt this kind of sorrow. He betrayed the Son of God for thirty pieces of silver, the standard price of a slave. Yet his sorrow did not lead him to repent and to seek restoration with his fellow disciples, but rather to a lonely field where, in his guish, he took his own life (Matt. 27:3–5). Judas carried his sorrow to his grave.

How different Peter's sorrow was! Peter, too, failed Jesus on the night of His crucifixion. Peter also went out and wept bitterly (Luke 22:62). Yet Peter returned to Jesus and reaffirmed his love for Him (John 21:15–17). Peter was not only remorseful, he was also repentant. Peter's life changed. There is no record of Peter ever denying his Lord again, even when he was persecuted and threatened with death. Peter repented, turned his life around, and never committed that sin again.

Don't allow mere unhappiness over what you have done to rob you of genuine repentance. You can blame yourself and be angry with yourself for the sins you have committed, but that is not repentance. Allow the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the gravity of your sins. Ask the Spirit to clearly show you how God views your character. When you see your sin rom God's perspective, you will experience godly sorrow.

Pastor Van
Monday July 12, 2021

Wait on the Lord

Wait for the Lord;

be courageous and let your heart be strong.

Wait for the Lord.—Psalm 27:14

Waiting is one of the hardest things to do. We want to be people of action. We feel better if we are doing something to address our need, but waiting forces us to rely on God. David learned what it meant to wait. He was chosen by God to be the next king of Israel, then spent years waiting for the day God's word would come to pass in his life. As he waited, a paranoid, egocentric king occupied the throne that had been promised to him. David spent his time hiding in caves and living among his enemies. As he waited he saw good friends murdered and his family and possessions taken. He saw Israel's enemies wreak havoc on his nation. Perhaps no one ever faced greater adversity while waiting upon God's promise than David did. He certainly understood what it meant to become discouraged and fearful.

But David also enjoyed the reward for waiting upon the Lord. He became the greatest king in Israel's history, and, more importantly, through his trials he became a man after God's own heart. The psalms David wrote during his days as a fugitive have been cherished words of encouragement for millions of people through the ages. Through David's descendants came the Messiah. David's willingness to wait has blessed us all.

Times of waiting on the Lord can be some of the most precious moments in your life (John 11:1–6). If you are waiting on God for something, read Isaiah 40:31 and find encouragement as you wait for Him to fulfill His promises to you.

Pastor Van
Sunday July 11, 2021

Confident Hope

Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.—Hebrews 10:23

Hope in the Christian's life is not wishful thinking. It is confident expectation. Those without Christ may wish things were different and wish they knew someone who could change their situations. The Christian is personally related to the Lord of the universe, who is sovereign not only over all creation but also over every circumstance we experience. We can live with confidence because our hope is in One who is faithful.

When God speaks, He stands by His word to see that it comes to pass (Isa. 55:11). When God speaks a word to you, trust Him completely, for God never deceives His children. If God has indicated to you that He is going to do something, you can be absolutely confident that He will do it.

Do you wonder why unrighteous people seem to prosper while righteous people suffer? Jesus promised that each would eventually receive a just reward (Luke 16:19–31). Do you wonder if all the effort you have put into training your children in God's ways will bear fruit when they become adults? God promised it would (Prov. 22:6). Do you wonder if the things you renounced when you became a Christian will be replaced by God's blessings? Jesus assured us we would receive a hundred times as much (Mark 10:29–30). Do you doubt that Jesus will return and join us with those who have already died? Scripture indicates this certainty (1 Thess. 4:13–18).

Our hope is not mere speculation in what God might do. God has given His word on many areas of life regarding things He will do. We can have confident hope in everything that He has promised.

Pastor Van
Saturday July 10, 2021

Bitterness

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and by it, defiling many.—Hebrews 12:15

Bitterness has a tenacious way of taking root deep within the soul and resisting all efforts to weed it out. Bitterness occurs for many reasons. It might come from deep hurts you received as a child, hurts you cannot forget. Time, rather than diminishing the hurt, only seems to sharpen the pain. Bitterness can result from the hurtful words of a friend or coworker. Often the person who hurt you is unaware of the extent of your bitterness. You find yourself rehearsing the offense over and over again, each time driving the root of bitterness deeper within your soul. Bitterness can derive from a sense of being unjustly treated.

Bitterness is easy to justify. You can get so used to a bitter heart that you are even comfortable with it, but it will destroy you. Only God is fully aware of its destructive potential. There is nothing so deeply imbedded in your heart that God's grace cannot reach down and remove it. No area in your life is so painful that God's grace cannot bring total healing. No offense committed against you is so heinous that God's love cannot enable you to forgive.

When you allow bitterness to grow in your life, you reject the grace of God that can free you. If you are honest before God, you will admit the bitterness and allow God to forgive you. Bitterness enslaves you, but God is prepared to remove your bitterness and replace it with His peace and joy.

Pastor Van
Friday July 09, 2021

Effective, Fervent Prayer

The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful.—James 5:16b

God promises all believers that if we live righteously and pray fervently, our prayers will be effective and produce significant results. How do we treat a promise like this? We might argue, “But I do pray, and nothing happens!” Our problem is that we do not hold ourselves accountable to the Scripture. God's Word says that prayer ought to accomplish much. If our prayer life is not accomplishing much, what should we do? If we are praying but seeing no results, should we conclude that this promise is untrue? Should we excuse this Scripture as impractical and unrealistic? Or should we examine ourselves to see if we meet its conditions?

James says that fervent prayer avails much. Could it be that we are not as fervent in our praying as we should be? Fervent prayer means we do not quit easily. Fervent prayer means we purposefully spend sufficient time in intercession. Fervent prayer means we cry out to the Father, sometimes in tears, with our heart and soul. Fervent prayer comes as the Holy Spirit assists us in praying with groanings too deep for words (Rom. 8:26).

According to James, our righteousness will ensure effective prayer. God's standard of righteousness is different from ours, for He looks beyond our actions, even beyond our thoughts, directly to our hearts. How then should we hold ourselves accountable if our prayers are accomplishing little? If nothing happens when we pray, the problem is not with God. The problem is with us, for God's word is absolutely reliable. If we adhere to what God requires, He will lead us to pray for things that align with His purposes, and God will answer our prayers in a mighty way.

Pastor Van
Thursday July 08, 2021

A Highway of Holiness

A road will be there and a way;

it will be called the Holy Way.

The unclean will not travel on it,

but it will be for him who walks the path.

Even the fool will not go astray.—Isaiah 35:8

The nation of Israel was designed to have a place where other nations of world could come to worship the true God. The temple in Jerusalem was to be the center from which the good news of God's salvation would spread to every corner of the world. But those who were supposed to be God's people forsook Him and practiced every kind of sin. Rather than being ambassadors for God, they disgraced His holy name. Rather than attracting the nations of the earth to God, they became stumbling blocks to those who were seeking the true God. The Israelites fell so far from God's original intent that God judged them and sent them into exile. Yet God promised that one day His people would be an avenue by which others could find salvation.

>It is God's desire that anywhere there is a Christian, God has a way for people to learn of His salvation (Rom. 10:14–15). Whenever an unbeliever meets a Christian, the unbeliever ought to be face to face with everything he needs to know in order to follow Christ.

Sadly, however, Christians can be like the Israelites of Isaiah's day. We can be so involved in our sin that we are completely disoriented to God, ill-equipped to direct others to Him. If our lives are filled with hypocrisy, we may turn people away from God, rather than helping them come to Him. If our lives are filled with doubt or anger, we will impede others from coming to Christ. Our lives ought to be a highway of holiness, providing easy access to God for anyone around us who seeks Him. Ask God to remove any obstacle in your life that hinders others from coming to know Jesus.

Pastor Van
Wednesday July 07, 2021

An Imperishable Crown

Do you not know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.

Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.—1 Corinthians 9:24–25

Athletes are willing to push themselves harder and longer and farther than anyone else. They strive to bring their bodies and minds completely under control so that they excel and receive a prize. Others go home to relax, but athletes continue to train. While most people protect themselves from any form of discomfort, athletes push themselves to the limits of their endurance. While some remain satisfied with mediocre performance, athletes pay any price for excellence. Paul said that despite their most valiant efforts, the athletes' successes and prizes are eventually forgotten. Even the greatest athletic achievements have not affected eternity.

If an athlete can be motivated to make incredible sacrifices for a perishable reward, how much more ought Christians to strive for an imperishable one? If an athlete will labor day after day in order to receive glory from others, how much harder ought Christians to work for the “well done” of their Master? Are you striving to bring your body into subjection for the glory of God? Are you training your mind to think the thoughts of God rather than thoughts of the world? Are you disciplining your life in prayer? When others are sleeping, are you interceding? Have you studied God's word so diligently that you are prepared to find answers to the challenges you face? Have you equipped yourself in evangelism so that you are ready to share your faith? Have you prepared yourself as a Christian in order to qualify for the imperishable crown that awaits you?

Pastor Van
Tuesday July 06, 2021

Return to God

“So tell the people: This is what the Lord of Hosts says: Return to Me”—[this is] the declaration of the Lord of Hosts—“and I will return to you, says the Lord of Hosts.”—Zechariah 1:3

God places much of the burden of what we will become on our response to Him. If we have drifted from God, His call is to return to Him. God promises that if we will return, He will immediately renew His relationship with us. James 4:8 promises that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. Matthew 7:7 guarantees that if we seek Christ, we will find Him. Much of the Christian life rests upon our response and our desire to experience God to the fullest.

Why is it that some Christians seem to go so much deeper in their walk with God than others? Why have some had such powerful intercessory prayer ministries that have changed the courses of nations? Why has God chosen to anoint the words of some so that, when they speak or pray or preach, it is obvious that their words are consecrated by God? It is because these individuals have committed themselves to pursue God until His presence is powerfully real in their lives. They have decided to settle for nothing less than a vibrant relationship with God, and He has honored their desire.

Have you become complacent with your relationship with God, or are you hungering for more? Don't become satisfied with a relationship with God that is broken by sin and void of the power of the Holy Spirit. You have just as much of God's powerful presence available to you as the greatest saint in Christian history! Return to God. There is so much more in store for you if you will return to Him. He awaits your response.

Pastor Van
Monday July 05, 2021

Choose to Rejoice

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.—Acts 16:25

Your joy as a Christian should not depend on your circumstances. Joy comes from God, and therefore it cannot be affected by what is outside of you. Don't be fooled into letting the actions of others determine your joy. True joy comes from knowing that God Himself lives within you and has fellowship with you, regardless of your environment. Real joy lies in the knowledge that holy God has completely forgiven you of every sin, and even now, He has a home prepared in heaven where you can spend eternity with Him (John 14:3). The circumstances of your life cannot change these truths!

Paul and Silas faced some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable. They were falsely accused, arrested, and imprisoned. They were beaten and shackled in the darkest, coldest section of the prison. But they refused to allow their horrific situation to dampen their joy! They did not blame God for allowing these things to happen to them. Instead, they praised Him for His goodness! In the darkness of the night, they prayed and they sang. God brought a miracle that released them from their chains, but perhaps the greater miracle was that His Holy Spirit could so fill them that even in their painful imprisonment they could overflow with joy!

Do not allow difficult events to cancel the joy of knowing you are a child of God. Choose to allow God's Spirit to fill you with His unquenchable joy, and your life will be a miracle to those who watch you face the trials that come.

Pastor Van
Sunday July 04, 2021

What More Could Have Been Done?

What more could I have done for My vineyard

than I did?

Why, when I expected a yield of good grapes,

did it yield worthless grapes?—Isaiah 5:4

The prophet Isaiah told the story of a man with a vineyard on a fertile hill. The man cultivated the ground and removed the stones so that nothing would hinder the vines' growth. He planted only the best quality vines. He built a tower in the middle of the vineyard so he could watch for wild animals and intruders. He constructed a wine vat so that he would be ready for the ripe grapes. Then he waited. Rather than producing good grapes, however, the vineyard produced worthless ones.

The story illustrates the relationship between God and His people. God has done everything necessary for us to produce an abundance of spiritual fruit in our lives. He saved us when we were without hope. He gave us His Holy Spirit to produce fruit in our lives (Gal. 5:22–23). He removed our sin so that we are free to serve Him. We have the Bible in numerous translations. We have access to more Christian books, music, videos, conferences, schools, radio and television stations, magazines, and seminars than ever before. There are churches of every kind and size. We have teachers and pastors to instruct us and encourage us. Most of all, we have direct access to God through prayer. Jesus said that to whom much is given, much is expected (Luke 12:48). One day God will hold us accountable for all that He has done for us. He will ask us to show Him the fruit of all of His bountiful provision for our lives. What will He find?

Pastor Van
Saturday July 03, 2021

Strongholds

“You are not to make a covenant with the people who are living in this land, and you are to tear down their altars.But you have not obeyed Me. What is this you have done?

Therefore, I now say: I will not drive out these people before you. They will be thornsin your sides, and their gods will be a trap to you.”—Judges 2:2–3

God gave the Israelites specific instructions: Drive the Canaanites out of every corner of the land, and obliterate any vestige of their abominable idol worship. This assignment was challenging! Their enemies had formidable chariots. The Canaanites had seemingly impregnable fortresses that were dangerous and difficult to overcome. The Israelites failed to drive all the Canaanites from the land. Much about the Canaanite lifestyle and religion appealed to the Israelites' sinful nature. Rather than destroying them and their idolatry, Israel compromised. The Canaanites would prove to be a troublesome distraction to the Israelites. Their idol worship would present a constant temptation.

When you became a Christian, God declared war on sin's strongholds in your life. Sinful behaviors and attitudes were firmly entrenched in your character, but God commanded you to tear them down. The Holy Spirit pointed out areas of your life that were resistant to God's will. Were you tempted to merely establish a truce rather than obliterating every sin? Is anger one of sin's strongholds? If so, it will rise up against you in moments of weakness. Is there a stronghold of lust in your life? If so, you will succumb to it when caught off guard. In careless moments, these strongholds will still tempt you to continue your past sinful behaviors.

Do not underestimate the destructive power of sin. If there are strongholds in your life that you have never defeated, the Holy Spirit is still prepared to bring you complete victory.

Pastor Van
Friday July 02, 2021

Integrity Upheld

You supported me because of my integrity

and set me in Your presence forever.—Psalm 41:12

Joseph was a righteous man who had cultivated a reputation for godliness in his community. Then word spread across the community that Mary, the woman to whom he was engaged, was expecting a child. There would be many who would assume the worst of this apparently scandalous situation. Joseph probably experienced gossip from some, ostracism from others. Yet he was a man of integrity, aware that God knew the truth of his relationship with Mary.

At times, God will be the only witness to your righteous behavior. Sometimes God is the only one who will understand your motives. Sometimes you will do all you know God has asked you to do, only to face ridicule from others. At such times all you can do is maintain your integrity, trusting that God always keeps His eyes on you. God looks favorably upon those who walk with integrity, doing what they know is right, regardless of how others perceive their actions.

The most important thing is not that people know the truth. The most important thing is that you are a person of integrity before God. When no one seems to understand why you have done something or when thers question whether you have done all you should have done, your confidence should not be in the hope of vindication in the eyes of others. It should be in the knowledge that God keeps you in His sight. If you have this confidence, it will be enough to sustain you.

Pastor Van
Thursday July 01, 2021

"Hitherto..."

Hitherto hath the Lord helped us. I Samuel 7:12.

It was on this date one year ago that my wife faced serious surgery scheduled for next morning. We opened our daily devotional reading for that evening and found it headed "Ebenezer... Hitherto hath the Lord helped us." We encouraged ourselves in the Lord our God as did David of old, confident that the same grace which had brought us safe "thus far" would be sufficient from there on. The God of the Hitherto is the God of the Henceforth!

The backward look is a good look if we review the path already trod to raise our Ebenezer and sing, "Hither by Thy help I'm come." This is the way to check with the past in order to cope with the future. The faithfulness of God will stand our inventory any time. We shall find that "there failed not ought of any good thing which the Lord had spoken... all came to pass."

And be sure to give God credit. Don't call it your wits or luck or fortune. Let your testimony be, "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us." Some have reversed Ebenezer to read, "Hitherto have I helped the Lord." "Tell how great things the Lord hath done for thee."

Pastor Van

Activities

Upcoming Events

Oct 3
Lord's Supper

October Birthdays

Oct 2
Gavin Blair
Oct 10
Judy Rinehart
Oct 11
Lois Bartels
Oct 12
Mary Cline
Oct 12
Kelliana Wert
Oct 16
Dennis Parks
Oct 23
Tommi Warfield
Oct 26
Katie Hicks
Oct 29
Nancy Wilson
Oct 31
Chris Beck

October Anniversaries

Oct 27
Bill & Linda Wight

Our Pastor

Pastor Gary Beck

Pastor Gary Beck and his wife Mary Jane have attended Watson Baptist Church for 38 years. They have 3 children and at this time 4 grandchildren. Pastor Gary was ordained a Deacon in 1997, Associate Pastor in 2019 and was called to be the Pastor in August of 2021. Mary Janes serves as Sunday School Director and Church Secretary.

Our Church

The Watson Baptist Church began as a Mission extension of Jackson Township Baptist Church in 1895. The first church, "The New Zion Baptist Church" started with 17 members at the White School House, later the place of worship was changed to the old Presbyterian Church. Mrs. Cannon of Mason presented a church bell to the church in 1904.

A new church was built in 1969 and the name became "The Watson Baptist Church". The land was donated by Glen and Agnes Martin. The church continued to grow and an addition was added in 1984. There have been 29 pastors to date.


Contact Information

Address:

Watson Baptist Church
100 N Old Watson Rd
Watson, IL 62473
Phone:

(217) 536-6226

WBC Facebook

Staff

Pastor
Gary Beck - (757) 816-6589
Deacon
Aaron Cline - (217) 343-8861
Deacon
Roger Loy - (217) 240-5811
Deacon
Leo DeWeese - (217) 343-4020

Prayer List

Pastor Gary Beck
Deacon Aaron Cline
Deacon Leo DeWeese
Deacon Roger Loy
DOM Joe Lawson
President
Vice President
Federal, Sate, and Local Officials
Police Officers
Jail Inmates & Guards
Military
Lost Souls
Shut-Ins and Seniors
Frankie Webb*
Hilda Webb*
Charles & Loretta Woods*
James Moshenrose*
Sue Elam
Military
Ivan Artola
Alex Artola
Alyssa Artola
Courtney Mosier
Allen Hicks
Blake Rardin
Praises
Betty Aldridge-doing well
Stefan Hall--recovery going very well
Lacey & Matt Beck--doing well
The North American Mission Board has put out a 2021 prayer calendar to use for prayer for our missionaries. Each week there will be a different missionary and their needs.
October 24-30: Gene and Amanda Collins; True Life Community Church, St. Charles, MO
Pray that the gospel spreads ahead in their community, that disciples are being made and that True Life Community Church is known for their faith and love for one another.
Our Mission Field
Patty Green-(Leo sister) health getting worse
Josie Smith--found 2 spots on liver doing Chemo
Bill Percival--health
Co-worker of Sean Dammerman--mental and physical health.
Marilyn Walker--can't walk on leg, hoping to see a bone specialist
Doug Warner - Roger L. friend - health
Ruth Ann friend--serious health, cancer treatments and surgery
Mary Cline--help with her breathing, in Mt. Vernon, doing better
Jeff Hamken--health/kidney failure, not well
David Tieffel--cancer
Scott Morris--son-in-laws-Cole Aden's dad--brain cancer
Farmers' safety
Kay Koester--sees cariologiest Nov. 5. Has her throat surgery Nov. 19
Bob McDaniel--health/hospital, some better
Sue Elam--fatty mass, no dialysis
Gary--unspoken
Chris Beck--mental and physical health
Dean Kurdydk--removal of bladder cancer
Linda Riley--back health
Darrell Durbin--health
Linda W--back, neck & shoulder pain, getting better but will take awhile
Elaine Carter--health issues
Kenton Gable--16 yr. old with bone cancer. He will begin treatments.
Karen Pendley--Radiation treatments/health
Sally Rush--hurt leg in fall. She is in Evergreen Nursing Home
Mary Jane--MRI showed spot on Pancreas, seeing Dr. Dy Tuesday
MIldred Fancher--sinus infection
Dorthy M--high blood pressure
James M--cancer surgery Monday at Sara Bush
Pauline Wright--surgery at Mayo Clinic to remove 4 tumors will be 11/10/21
Paula T--return to good health. Awaiting results of PET scan from 10/22
Lori West--stress test to be done Friday
Dave Collins--ICU in Champaign