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Thoughts About The Cross

Thoughts About Prayer

Thoughts About Palm Sunday

Thoughts About Easter

Thoughts About Missions

Thoughts About Trust

Thoughts About God's Choosing Us

Thoughts About Being A Witness

Thoughts About The Great Commission

Thoughts About God's Guidance

Thoughts About The Day Of Pentecost

Thoughts About

Standing On 
The Promises

Thoughts About Giving

Thoughts About Christian Grieving

Thoughts About False Teachers

Thoughts About Feeling Discouraged

Thoughts About "The Name"

Thoughts About Wisdom

Thoughts About Fasting

Thoughts About Idolatry

Thoughts About Work

Thoughts About Christian Education

Thoughts About Holiness

Thoughts About Witnessing

Thoughts About Changed Lives

Thoughts About Leaders

Thoughts About Faith


Thoughts About The Cross

Read Matthew 27: 45-46 -  An RCA liturgy for the Lord's Supper uses these words, "By his death, resurrection, and ascension, he established a new and eternal covenant of grace and reconciliation that we might be accepted of God and never be forsaken by him."  Jesus experienced God forsaking him so that we will never have to.  If we sometimes feel that God has abandoned us, or isn't with us, or doesn't care about us, what we are experiencing isn't real.  Our perception can be influenced by what's happening around us, or by exhaustion, or by the world, or by pain, etc.  And so we can fool ourselves into believing that God has left us.  Jews, though, experienced what it was like to be forsaken by God for real.  Our false experiences can be bad enough.  Thank the Lord we don't have to go through the real thing.

Read Luke 23:44-45.  As I read these verses, I thought of the golden-oldie song that goes, "Why does the sun keep on shining?  Why do the waves rush to shore?  Don't they know it's the end of the world 'cause you don't love me any more."  Luke tells us the sun stopped shining.  How could it go on shining when something as terrible as Christ's crucifixion was happening?  And, it was, in a sense, the end of the world - the end of the old world of sacrifices, temples, and priests.  The new world of free access to God had begun!

Read Luke 23:46.  Though Jesus had felt abandoned by God, he still trusted in God.  He addressed God as Father and gave his spirit over to the Father.  When we are going through those times when we are feeling as though God isn't with us, we need to hold onto our faith, too.  It is not the time to skip church or quit reading the Bible.  Keep holding on to God!  Keep praying!  Keep worshiping!  Keep on keeping on, as Jesus did, even when you feel as if it isn't doing any good!

Read Luke 23: 47-49.  The crucifixion of Jesus Christ brought forth faith and repentance.  And it still does today!  Has it brought forth faith in Jesus and repentance of sin in your heart?

Read John 12:20-33.  Certainly the depiction of Jesus being lifted up on the cross in the movie "The Passion of the Christ" is drawing people to the box office - and to Jesus.  What is there about the cross that draws us to Jesus?  Has it drawn you to Jesus?  How can the cross be used to draw people you know to Jesus?



Thoughts About Prayer

Read 1 Samuel 9:3-10 and verses 19-20.  Would it even occur to us today to bring up a matter such as lost donkeys to the Lord?  Do we believe that the Lord cares that much about the day-to-day details of our lives or that he is involved with those details?  Are you ever stopped from bringing up something to the Lord in prayer because you feel that "I don't want to bother Him about this and, besides, I can handle it myself?"

Read Psalms 104, verses 10-15, 21-23, and 27-30.  We depend on a lot of things for our livelihood - the stock exchange, the health of the dollar, import and export deals, the market prices, technology and machinery, fertilizer, insecticides and herbicides, the seasons, the weather, capitalism, the availability of energy sources, and more.  Let's not forget that we also depend on God.

Read Proverbs 21:1 and 1 Timothy 2:1-2.  Praying for our nation, our leaders and the world is not just a patriotic thing to do, or a necessity since 9/11, or prudent during an election year, but it is also biblical!  And it's a statement of faith that we believe that God - not Democrats or Republicans, or strategists, or generals, or tycoons - controls the future!

Read Colossians 4:2-4.  As we pray for our own needs, let's not forget the needs of The Church.  Let's pray for pastors, teachers, missionaries, and all Christians, that doors would be open to them to proclaim the gospel.  After all, if Paul needed this kind of prayer, how much more do we need it!

Read Genesis 12:1-3 and 2 Corinthians 9:6-15.  When God answers our prayers and blesses us either spiritually or materially or both, He does this so that we will then have the resources to be blessings to others.  We're not blessed so that we can grow more and more idolatrous or more and more focused on the things of this world.  We're blessed so that we can be generous, just as God was generous to us.


Thoughts About Palm Sunday

Read Matthew 21:1-4.  Matthew lets us know that what happened on Palm Sunday wasn't just a chance event, but that it occurred to fill the words of the prophet Zechariah full of meaning.  And, indeed, Palm Sunday did just that.  Because on Palm Sunday, a King like no other came riding into Jerusalem.  He wasn't just a human ruler who had been chosen by God to bless the people; He was God himself, the people's True King, coming into Jerusalem as a human being!

Read Zechariah 9:9-13.  Notice that this Old Testament prophecy, which relates to Palm Sunday, speaks of joy, salvation, peace, and freedom.  How is it that Christ's coming brought these things to us?  But notice also that verse 13 speaks about God's people being used as His instrument and His soldiers to fight against the enemies of the Lord.  Who or what are the enemies of the Lord today?  Do you realize that you have been enlisted against them?

Read Mark 11:7-10.  The footnote in the New International Version tells us that the word "Hosanna!" means "Save!"  Today we look to our leaders to save us from many things - terrorism, hard economic times, unjust and immoral laws and actions, etc.  The people of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday looked to their King to save them.  We can easily and readily call Jesus our Lord (King) and Savior.  But what does that mean?  Think for a few moments about the things our King saved us from.

Read Luke 19:45-48 and John 2:12-17.  Was King Jesus concerned with spiritual matters or with material matters?  The answer is that He was concerned for both.  He wanted the temple to be a place of prayer and not to be a place where people tried to make money.  This demonstrates that He was looking out for the spiritual condition of His subjects.  But He also didn't want the poor who were coming to the temple to be exploited and cheated.  Jesus was concerned about the material well-being of His subjects as well.  So, The Church should both preach The Gospel and do deeds of mercy, justice, and love, taking care of people's spiritual and physical lives.

Read Luke 17:20-21.  Where is the Kingdom of God?  What is the Kingdom of God?


Thoughts About Easter

Read Mark 16:1-8.  The earliest manuscripts we have of the Gospel of Mark ends with verse 8.  It's as if Mark is saying, "I'm not going to tell you what happened next.  I want you to experience it for yourself.  I'm not going to tell you where Jesus went and what he did next because I want you to realize that at any moment you could encounter the risen Christ.  How?

Read Luke 24:1-12.  The disciples were so real and so human and their reaction helps me to believe that the Bible is true.  When told of the resurrection, their first response (as I'm sure ours would be) was, "This is nonsense!"  Just the sort of reaction real people would have.  And Peter's reaction rings true, too.  He goes to see for himself.  I hope that for all our lives we'll keep digging into the scripture, meditating, learning, and praying in order to see for ourselves if the things of God are true.

Read Matthew 28:1-10.  The risen Christ didn't immediately leave the earth to be with his Father in heaven.  He had work to do.  He was going to meet with the disciples.  And even when He did ascend into heaven, He didn't put his feet up and relax.  He is now God's right hand man, still working to carry out God's plan.

Read Revelation 1:4-19 Jesus was dead, but now is alive, ruling the kings of the earth, and walking among the churches, so that we will be a kingdom of his priests.  In some sense, we are still waiting for Jesus to return to the earth, but in another sense, He is here with us right now at American Reformed Church.  Does He like what He is seeing?  What changes is He making?  What work is He doing?

Read 1 Corinthians 15:20-26.  Notice that Christ is reigning now.  We're not waiting for him to start.  And his reign is that of a conquering King.  He is now in the process of destroying all of his enemies.  We all have parts to play in the process.  Onward, Christian soldiers!


Thoughts About Missions

Read Genesis 2:4-7.  The first time in the Bible that we read about God breathing is when he brought Adam to life.  Adam's very breath came from God in the first recorded instance of "artificial respiration."  Hey, God's the first EMT!!!  But there is even more going on in the Genesis verses than that.  God somehow was getting up close and personal with man, giving the creation of man special attention.  God seems to be putting a part of his own nature into man.  Man, therefore, is different from the plants and animals in that man is a spiritual being, has a special intimate relationship with the Lord, and is the focus of God's attention in this world.

Read 2 Timothy 3:14-17.  The New International Version of the Bible tells us that all scripture is "God-breathed."  Other versions may use the word "inspired," but all the versions mean the same thing - that the Bible came from God himself and, in a sense, was part of God and was "exhaled" from him.  It is also infused with "God's breath," or his Spirit.  No wonder the Bible has power that no other book does!

Read Matthew 9:35 through 10:10 and 10:16-20.  Motivated by compassion, Jesus sent his disciples out into the mission field.  But first, he equips them.  Jesus' compassion is the same today as it ever was.  Do you feel his compassion for the lost?  And Jesus still equips his people today.  How has he done that and in what ways has he equipped you and American Reformed Church to take God's grace to the world?

Read Matthew 6:9-15. Jesus teaches us to pray this way, "Lord, forgive me in the same way that I forgive others."  Yikes!  And what happens if we don't forgive others?  Jesus is pretty clear on that point, isn't he?  "Your Father will not forgive your sins."  May God, through his Holy Spirit and his Word, teach us to forgive!  We wouldn't like the alternative!

Read Luke 18:15-17.  Notice that Jesus tells us to "receive" the Kingdom of God, not to "earn" it.  The Kingdom of God comes to us as a gift.  We are like children waiting for Mom to give us lunch, or holding out our hands for candy after a children's sermon, or getting presents from Grandpa and Grandma on Christmas.  Children don't "earn" any of these things.  These things are given out of love.  And so is the Kingdom of God!



Thoughts About Trust

Read Matthew 14:22-33.  When you read through the Gospels, you'll see that Peter has his ups and downs.  In the passage for today, he has LITERAL ups and downs!  Peter is like us.  One minute we can be trusting God, the next minute we can focus on our problems and begin to sink and drown in them.  I'm thankful that Jesus is always there to give us his hand!

Read Mark 8:27-35.  Who do you say Jesus is?  Do you agree with Peter that he is the Christ (meaning "God's anointed one," "The Messiah")?  If so, do you understand what Peter did not, that God's special servants are those who sacrifice for his kingdom and others?  Are you one of God's special servants?

Read Mark 14: 17-31.  Peter is confident here in his love for Jesus, his belief in Christ's cause, and his own ability to follow through on his commitments.  Peter will soon learn that pride goes before a fall and  that his trust should have been in the words of Jesus.  What are you putting your trust in, the Lord or yourself?  We can't even trust in the love we have for God or our Christian commitment.  It will be God working in us who will bring us into his kingdom.  By grace we are saved through faith, not of ourselves.  It is the gift of God.

Read Mark 14: 32-42.  Have there been times in your life when your spirit was willing, but your flesh was weak?  As Paul asked, "Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

Read Mark 14: 66-72.  When Peter blows it, he blows it in a big way, doesn't he?  Even calling down curses on himself and swearing that he didn't know Jesus.  How could Peter fall so far?  And is there any hope for him, and for those of us who have also fallen so far?  Come to church Sunday and find out!


Thoughts About God's Choosing Us

Read 1 Corinthians 2:11-15.  If you have understood the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it is not because you are exceptionally clever or because you have a natural aptitude for grasping religious truths, but it is because God The Holy Spirit has made The Good News clear and real to you.  So thank him for the insight that he's given you and pray in faith for those who haven't quite "gotten it" yet, that God would enlighten them.

Read Ephesians 2:1-5.  Can a dead person respond to the message that is preached at his or her funeral service?  No!  What would have to happen in order that the person would be able to hear, ponder, understand, and react?  He or she would have to first be resurrected and come to life again.  What did God do for us in order that we would be able to respond to his messages?

Read 1 Peter 1:10-12.  We in the 21st century know many things that those living in previous eras did not - that the Earth is not the center of the universe; that DNA is the building block of life; that information can be stored electronically rather than by using paper and pens; that antibiotics kill bacteria; that man can fly using machines.  But one other great thing that we understand that those in the past didn't is God's plan for humanity that centers on Jesus Christ.  The Old Testament prophets didn't know what their words and visions of God's servant and the glory of God's people really meant.  We do!  Praise the Lord!  And "Even angels," Peter tells us, "long to look into these things."  Spend time looking into the truths that intrigue even angels!

Read John 11: 28-29.  One of the names, or titles, that the people in First Century Palestine called Jesus was, "Teacher."  And he still is a teacher today.  What sorts of things do we have to learn from him?  What avenues and methods does he use today to teach us?

Read John 15:12-17 A master is under no obligation to explain his actions and decisions to his servant.  And there are times when parents, because of limited time or children's limited ability to understand, say things like, "Because I said so!  That's why!"  A boss may not explain to you all the ins and outs of a company policy.  But friends reveal themselves and explain themselves to one another.  And Jesus is our friend!



Thoughts About Being A Witness

Read Luke 1:1-4 - If we say today that a non-fiction book of a news story is "well-researched," we usually mean that it is trustworthy - that the author has tracked down leads, confirmed all the facts, got all the pertinent data organized, etc.  The Gospel of Luke purports to be "well-researched" and to be non-fiction and totally trustworthy.  Do you trust it and the rest of the Bible?

Read 1 John 1:1-4 - John was not just writing down religious theories and philosophies of living in his letter to Christians of his day.  And he wasn't talking about things that had happened a long time ago or reciting ancient myths and legends.  No, he was writing about what he and the rest of the disciples had personally seen and experienced.  And he did this so that we would have fellowship with the apostles, that we could have the same Lord as they did and could share their joy in Jesus, that we could have things in common with the disciples.  Just as you might fill someone in on the details of what happened to you on vacation, or at work, or over the weekend, so that the person would know where you were coming from and, in a sense, share your experiences, so John tells us what the disciples saw so that we can enter into their world.

Read John 21:20-25 - John's readers knew what he ws saying was true because he wrote down what he had personally seen and heard and because they knew the man himself.  Do you have a reputation for being truthful?  Do people trust you because they know you?

Read Revelation 12:7-11 - One way that Christians overcome Satan is "by the word of their testimony."  Christians testifying about what God has done in their lives can be a powerful means of persuasive evangelism, particularly in our world where personal experiences count for so much.  What things could you tell others that God has personally done for you?

Read Philippians 2:12-13 - The Bible never tells us just to "let go and let God."  It tells us to work hard for the kingdom, to strive to know God better, and to fight against the sin in our lives.  But it also calls on us to realize that, as we put forth effort, it is really God who is working in us and through us.  So we should always be hardworking, yes, but also thankful and not proud.


Thoughts About The Great Commission

Read Matthew 28:16-20 - Matthew's gospel ends, not with an account of Jesus ascending to the Father, but with a charge for Jesus' followers and a promise for them as well.  It's that charge that compels us to do what we do as a church and it's that promise which assures us that we will be able to do as Christ commanded.

Read Luke 24:50-53 - Luke's gospel ends with an abbreviated version of the story of the ascension.  He will elaborate on it in Acts.  But, for now, notice that it was as Jesus was blessing the disciples that he left them.  And indeed the Bible teaches that it was actually a blessing to the church that Jesus went up to heaven because it meant that he was sending the Holy Spirit to us on Earth.  The disciples certainly interpreted what happened as a blessing.  They weren't crying and mourning, but were filled with great joy and were praising God.  We naturally long for Christ's return.  But let's not forget the blessing we have now of God living in our hearts and working in our lives.

Read Hebrews 4:14-16 - Israel's High Priests were able to go into the holiest place of the Jerusalem temple.  But our High Priest, Jesus, is able to go into heaven itself!  Talk about a holy place!  He is able to go to the throne room of God! And we can go there, too, in prayer, knowing that we will find a sympathetic ear.

Read 1 Peter 3:18-22 - Jesus has truly "made it to the top" and now all other beings in creation are under him.  He's higher up the ladder "than all of them and so they must obey them."  Our loving, compassionate Savior is now the boss!  Jesus isn't higher than God The Father, though.  But he is on an equal plane with him and is now his "right hand man."

Read Psalms 68: 1-10 and 18-20 - Notice how much grace is in this Old Testament passage.  It is not the case that we have two Gods in the Bible - a God of wrath in the Old Testament and a God of grace in the New Testament.  The ascension of Jesus is prophesied about here and it is in connection with God dwelling even among the rebellious, bearing our burdens, and rescuing us from death.  Praise his name!


Thoughts About God's Guidance

Read Exodus 40:33-38 - As the Israelites traveled to the Promised Land after God had brought them out of Egypt, the Lord was their guide.  He would tell them when to stay where they were and when to break camp and move on.  They wouldn't make a move unless the Lord directed them to do so.  The Lord is still guiding his people today.  How does he guide you?  How can you make sure you aren't making a move unless the Lord tells you to do so?  How can we make certain that we are living inside of his will?

Read Isaiah 26:7-11 - The people of Judah were waiting for the Lord to judge the wicked and to avenge himself on their enemies.  In the meantime, they walked in his ways and desired to glorify him.  What things are you waiting for the Lord to do in our nation and in the world as a whole?  What things are you waiting for the Lord to do in your own life and in your own world?  Are you following him while you wait?

Read Luke 2:21-32 - It is interesting that, in the Bible, those that have to wait for the Lord to take action or to bring his plan to fruition are often righteous and devout.  We might wonder why waiting and being righteous and devout go hand-in-hand.  I think it is because waiting on the Lord is a form of trusting in the Lord.  Becoming impatient with God can be a sign of diminishing faith.  Trusting in the Lord leads to righteousness and piety.  A lack of faith leads to trouble.

Read 2 Peter 3:3-13 - It is easy to start doubting the Lord and becoming impatient as one looks forward to the Second Coming and the Day of Judgment.  After all, it has been 20 centuries since Jesus promised he would return!  That is, from our human perspective, it has been a long, long, time.  But Peter reminds us that God doesn't share our human perspective.

Read 2 Peter 3:14-18 - Peter looks at our wait for the Second Coming as being a period in which we can grow in the Lord and improve our relationship with him, and a period in which many more can be saved.  As you wait on God, whatever it is you're waiting for him to do, make sure you make good use of that time to continue to become what the Lord wills you to be.  Waiting should be a time for growth.  Waiting shouldn't be an excuse for going backwards.


Thoughts About The Day Of Pentecost

Read Ephesians 2:11-13 and 19-22 - The Day Of Pentecost which we will be celebrating next Sunday is the day on which God equipped Christ's followers to begin to take the gospel to all the nations.  It was God's plan that, in Christ, believing Jews and Gentiles together would form his new Israel.  Jesus wasn't meant to be the Jewish Messiah only.  He was the world's Messiah.

Read Genesis 3:22-24 and Revelation 22:1-3 - God is at work through history to restore to humankind what our sin has taken away from us.  This restoration will be finished when Christ returns bodily to earth, but in the meantime, it is ongoing in our lives.  God restores us to our position of having fellowship with him.  He restores us to holy living.  He even works on restoring us to each other.  God will not let sin ultimately ruin his plans for his creation.

Read Galatians 5:22-26 - When the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples on Pentecost, he did more than make it possible for them to proclaim the gospel in other languages.  He made it possible that their lives and ours would yield the fruit that Paul talks about in today's scripture passage.  How much fruit is growing in your life?  The key to a good crop is to keep in step with the Spirit.

Read Romans 12-6-8 - When we think of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we often think mostly about the "spectacular" ones like speaking in tongues and working miracles.  But serving, giving, encouraging, and showing mercy are also the Spirit's gifts.  Which of the Spirit's gifts do you think you might have in your life?

Read Luke 11:9-13 - The way to become filled with the Spirit, to be empowered to serve God, and to keep the fruit of the Spirit appearing in your life is to ask God - and to keep asking!!!  Ask in faith that your loving Heavenly Father will grant your request.  Remember who you are talking to.


Thoughts About
Standing On The Promises

Read Nehemiah 1 - When we hear or read about Christians suffering in other lands, or see news stories about struggling, troubled congregations, is our first response to pray, or just to shake our heads and say, "That's too bad!"  Though Nehemiah lived a life of ease far away from Jerusalem, he cared deeply about his people that had returned there after the exile, and cared that the name of God was being shamed in that land.  He cared enough to pray.  Do you?  He believed enough so that he felt he wasn't wasting his time praying.  Do you?

Read Nehemiah 2:1-8 - Nehemiah didn't view what happened to him as a lucky break, or congratulate himself on the good relationship he had built up with the king which was paying dividends for himself and his people.  No, he believed that "the gracious hand of my God was upon me."  How many of the good things that happen to us do we attribute to God?  Do we need to attribute more of them to him?

Read 1 Timothy 2:1-2 - Whenever I read these verses, I'm caught short.  I often forget to pray for our government's leaders.  And part of the reason I forget is a lack of faith.  It's much easier for me to think, "Oh, those politicians are at it again," or "Here comes yet another scandal," or "Power always seems to corrupt," than it is to say to myself, "God wants to work in the lives of our leaders so that they will make good laws that will enable us to lead peaceful and quiet lives.  So I should pray."  Will you pray for our leaders and trust God for them now?

Read 1 Kings 8:56 - Take a few moments and think about some of the good promises that the Lord has given you.  Do you believe He will keep them?  What are some of the promises he has already kept in your life?

Read Hebrews 6:13-20 - Take comfort in the fact that God does not lie and that if He were on a witness stand, He could just swear on Himself!  This is the God who has promised to forgive all your sins in Christ, to never stop working in your heart, and to be your Heavenly Father for all eternity.


Thoughts About Giving

Read Acts 11:27-30 - When we are called to give to the work of the Lord, we are called to do so according to our ability and according to what the Lord has provided for us.  This is good news because it means that the Lord doesn't compare what you give with what a Christian millionaire might give, accepting his gift while looking down on yours.  It also means that the Lord doesn't just look at us as a group, The Congregation Of The American Reformed Church Of Hull, but also as individuals, each with different circumstances in life.

Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 - Some Christians focus in on verse 7 and use it as an excuse not to give much to the work of the Lord.  "I only give what I can give cheerfully, without being reluctant."  But they forget that in the context of these verses, instead of Paul saying, "Decide how little you can contribute," he is really saying, "Decide how much you want to be blessed, because, according to your giving, so shall your blessings be!"  Read the verses over again to see this.

Read 1 Corinthians 12:7-12 - There is no such thing as a "one size fits all" Christianity.  We have received differing gifts from the Spirit and have different talents, temperaments, and personalities.  All of our differences make for one very interesting Body of Christ!  Let's not try to force anyone into a box or use cookie cutters on anyone!

Read Acts 4:13-20 - Can it be that our courage to live for Jesus depends on whether or not we have "been with Him" lately?  And are we so excited about, and changed by, Jesus, that we can't help talking about him?

Read Deuteronomy 12:1-7 - The Lord is the one who determines how we shall thank and worship Him for all the blessings he has given us.  The guiding principle of worship isn't, "Anything goes as long as it makes us feel good and we're sincere," but rather, "We should search the scriptures daily to find out how our God wants to be worshiped."


Thoughts About Christian Grieving

Read James 4:4-10 - Sometimes the Bible's instruction to us is not, "Come into the Lord's presence with joy," but rather, "Grieve, mourn, and wail."  Under what circumstances would this Word of the Lord come to you?  When it does come, are you willing to obey it?

Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 - Paul doesn't say to Christians, "We do not want you to grieve."  Instead, he says that he doesn't want grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope."  There are times in life when we will grieve and the death of a loved one is such a time.  But during those times, let's remember God and what he has promised us, that those who grieve will be comforted and that, in the end, our tears will be wiped away.

Read Psalm 137 - This shocking Psalm was written when the people of God were in exiled captivity in Babylon, conquered and far away from both the land they loved and the glory days of Jerusalem as the center of God's presence in the world.  So, perhaps we can understand some of their feelings.  What's interesting is that this Psalm full of their feelings was included in the Jewish hymn book, the book of Psalms.  God is obviously not as shocked by our so-called "negative emotions" as we are, and he wants us to get them out in the open.

Read Psalm 150 - Do you get the feeling after reading this Psalm that our worship is too sedate?  That we can often work up noise and enthusiasm for other things in life, but not for the Lord?  Why is this?  Do we think God wouldn't like it if we gave worship all we had?  According to this Psalm, He likes it a lot!  Or are we more afraid that those around us won't like it very much?

Read Matthew 17: 14-21 - How much faith is necessary for you to have or work up in order for God to move in your life and in your world?  According to today's scripture passage, not much!  Always seek to have growing faith, but even on those days when it seems like your faith is small, take heart.  God can still do things with, in, and through you.  Our problem is often that we don't believe that a little faith can go a long way, so we don't expect much.


Thoughts About False Teachers

Read 2 Corinthians 11:1-15 - Satanically inspired folks can still appear on the surface as those who are trying to do the right thing.  The false teachers of Paul's day claimed to be spiritual leaders and preachers of God's Word, but they really had other agendas and led people away from the truth.  How can you tell whether a leader is inspired by the right or wrong spirit?  And how can we make sure that our actions that seem and look right, are, in fact, rightly motivated?

Read 2 Corinthians 11:16-33 - I have read books and heard speakers that proclaimed that Christians shouldn't suffer.  Christians are "King's Kids" and, if they have enough faith, should find that their lives go from blessing to blessing.  How do you think Paul would have responded to this way of thinking?  How do you respond to it?

Read 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 - One way Satan can wear us down is by tormenting us with situations that don't change, health conditions that don't get any better, or persecutors that don't let up.  These things become like the steady "drip, drip, drip" of Chinese Water Torture to our souls.  But we need to remember that God is in control of even these things and that His grace can be sufficient to see us through them.  We must constantly turn to Him, relying on His strength and not our own.

Read Proverbs 16:28 - The Bible warns against, and condemns, gossiping.  Yet, do we view it the same way that God does?  To us, it can seem like just a normal part of rural, small town life.  Yet another way Satan traps us!

Read 1 Samuel 16:5-7 - The most important thing to the Lord is what's inside a person, what's in his or her heart.  This is in sharp contrast to our society which emphasizes what a person looks like on the outside.  We need to perform the most important "make-over" of all by getting the Lord to renew our hearts.


Thoughts About Feeling Discouraged

Read Galatians 6:7-10 - Perhaps we who are living in an economy based on agriculture can understand Paul's meaning in these verses better than those living in a city.  Farming entails a lot of hard work and one doesn't see immediate results.  But if one keeps at it and doesn't give up, harvest time will come.  Paul tells us to keep living the Christian life even if we don't see immediate results, because harvest time will come.  Notice that Paul recognizes that becoming discouraged is a real possibility, so he motivates us with the promise of a sure harvest.  May God help us to live in the certainty that a harvest is coming.

Read Matthew 17:14-20 - It sounds to me that Jesus is feeling discouraged in this passage.  If that's the case, then feelings of discouragement can't be a sin.  It must be that the important thing is what you do when you're feeling discouraged.  Do you give in to those feelings, or do you press on?

Read Revelation 2:8-11 - One of the themes of the book of Revelation is that things are not always the way that they appear to us.  The church in Smyrna looked like it was poor and beaten up, but in God's eyes it was blessed and rich.  And though it looked like Satan had the upper hand there, Jesus knew exactly what Satan was up to and put a limit on the time that Satan could test the Christians.  May we look at our own lives with the eyes of faith and see that God is always the one on the throne.

Read Psalm 27 - Have there been times in your life when you had to wait on the Lord?  Is this easy or hard to do?  David urges us to be strong and take heart during those times because help is coming, so we should take heart knowing that Calvary proves that God will come through for us.

Read Psalm 130 - How much do watchmen wait for the morning?  Whether the watchmen are guarding factories or installations in our times, or cities or castles in ancient days, watchmen long for the morning because it means their shifts are over and that any trouble will be easier to spot.  Morning brings a sense of relief and safety.  So they long for it.  So we should long for the Lord, knowing that He, like the morning, is coming.


Thoughts About "The Name"

Read Revelation 3:11-13 - What do you think Jesus means when he says he will write God's name on us and the name of the New Jerusalem and his own new name?  Is it a mark of ownership?  A passport?  An indication of our true identity?  All of the above?

Read 3 John 5-8 - In today's world we talk about honoring the name of an individual.  What does this mean?  In 3 John, we read of missionaries who went out into the world "for the sake of the Name."  What can you do "for the sake of the Name?"

Read Psalm 106:1-12 - The Psalmist tells us that the Lord saved the Israelites "for his name's sake; to make his mighty power known."  God's purpose remains the same throughout the Bible.  It's the same today as it was when the Israelites were brought out of Egypt.  God saves us, his people, in order that his mighty power would be known.  How can you be a witness of that power?

Read Micah 4:5 - Believers are called to be different from non-believers.  We follow our God.  The world follows its many "gods."  Can others tell by observing you and listening to you that you are different than an unbeliever?

Read Proverbs 18:10 - How can the name of the Lord be a strong tower and bring us safety and security?  Let's remember that his name is "I am who I am."  Nothing and no one can change God.  So, if he sets out to redeem us and to be our God, he can't be stopped.  This is what brings us comfort and strength.



Thoughts About Wisdom

Read Proverbs 4:5-9 - When God's Word tells us that something is supreme and that we had better get it at any cost, then we had better pursue it with all our might.  The book of Proverbs tells us that wisdom and understanding are the things we must obtain in this life.  How do we get them?  Are you pursuing them?

Read Matthew 7:24-27 - In this parable, Jesus makes it clear that it is not enough to simply know what the Bible says.  The truly wise person is the one who practices what the Bible preaches.  May God help us to do so!

Read 2 Timothy 3:14-17 - Many in American Reformed Church have been taught the Holy Scriptures from infancy.  Are you one of these people?  If so, are you now convinced that they are the truth?  Are you continuing in what you learned in Sunday School and RCYF?  Are you letting those Scriptures train you in righteousness and equip you for good works?

Read Proverbs 14:14-18 - In these verses we can see two truths about the wisdom that the Bible talks about.  First, wisdom is not just what we believe, but what we do.  Second, we will get more of what we practice.  If we practice folly, stupid and disastrous results will follow.  If we live according to the way of knowledge, God will give us even more knowledge.

Read Isaiah 29:13-14 - Here we see that the wisdom and intelligence that the Bible talks about is not a person's IQ or how well a person does in school or whether a person thinks fast on his or her feet.  These verses tell us that there is a wisdom and an intelligence of the world that will vanish.  Those who are far from God will be punished.  By inference, then, the wisdom and intelligence that God seeks are a willingness to walk close to Him and live according to His word.


Thoughts About Fasting

Read Matthew 6:16-17 - Jesus says that a personal fast that one would undertake should be just that - personal and private.  Why?  Because it really is a sign of faith in God's existence and in His rewards to do something that only He will know about and for which one will get no personal, immediate glory from others.  One is counting only on the Lord.

Read Mark 9: 14-28 - Jesus reminds the disciples here that God's work can only be accomplished through God's power.  This is one reason that prayer is so important.  But we are like the disciples seem to have been, believing that because we know Jesus and have been chosen by Him, we can handle whatever comes our way using our own strength.  A couple of demonic obstacles thrown into our path will knock that notion out of us in a hurry!

Read Acts 13:1-3 - God spoke to the early church as it spoke to Him in worship, prayer, and fasting.  Listen for God to speak to you in our worship services and times of prayer.

Read 2 Samuel 12:1-17 - In the Bible, fasting is often associated not only with getting serious with the Lord about something, or with setting aside extra time for Him, but also with repenting of sin.  One shows the Lord that he or she is too troubled about sin to be able to eat.  Do we ever get that troubled about our sin?  Should we?  David's fast was both a time of repentance and a time to ask God for something very serious.  Have we ever wanted to get so serious with the Lord, or ever wanted something from Him so badly that we would go without food?  Should we?

Read Psalm 51 - This is David's prayer of repentance after his sin with Bathsheba.  Perhaps he prayed it as he fasted.  But notice that David knows that forgiveness will come not because he has put on a show before the Lord or made such a sacrifice, but because of his broken spirit which led him to fast and pray.


Thoughts About Idolatry

Read Romans 1:18-20 - The Bible tells us that God has given humanity a witness to testify about His existence and His qualities.  That witness is creation itself.  What does the world around you tell you about God?  Ask Him to open your eyes each day to the ways in which your world testifies about His glory.

Read Romans 1:21-23 - In these verses, Paul points out how foolish idolatry is.  As He said in yesterday's verses, God's eternal power and divine nature are on display in creation.  So how could anyone believe that statues of birds and creatures could really represent such a God?  But the human heart can easily deceive itself and believe the most outlandish things.  Ask the Lord to help you steer clear of the lies we can tell ourselves.

Read Genesis 2:4-8, 15 - Man was created to care for God's good creation.  If you think about all the jobs there are in the world today - from farmer to scientist to storekeeper to teacher to carpenter to housewife to whatever - they all have to do with some aspect of taking care of some of the needs of God's creatures - human or otherwise.  How do your job or jobs fulfill the task that God gave Adam?

Read Genesis 28:10-17 - Jacob, fleeing from the wrath of his brother Esau, may have thought that he was leaving the God of his family behind.  But God lets him know that wherever Jacob goes, God will be there, too.  In fact, Heaven is in constant contact with Earth.  But, like Jacob, we are often unaware of it.  May God open our eyes to the ways in which he is in our places and the ways Heaven is interacting with our own personal worlds!

Read Psalm 139:1-6 - As we have seen this week, God is involved in our world and is aware of all that goes on here.  This means that He is also aware of each of us, is involved in our lives, and even that He knows everything that goes on in our hearts and minds.  We have a God who is never taken by surprise.  And a God of grace who extends His love and mercy to us even though what He finds inside of us is less than perfect.  And a God who knows us better than our spouses or best friends do, better than we know ourselves.  Praise His name!


Thoughts About Work

Read Luke 8:1-2 - Every "full-time Christian ministry" depends on the support of those who work at other jobs.  Even Jesus' ministry was supported in this way.  Perhaps this is one way in which all jobs Christians have can be considered to be "full-time Christian work."  Without the money that farmers, teachers, hairdressers, bankers, etc. earn and contribute to Christian causes, those causes would quickly slide into the red.

Read 1 Timothy 5:8 - Another motivation for getting up out of bed and doing our jobs is providing for our families.  Paul takes this very seriously, even saying that those who don't provide have denied the faith and are worse than unbelievers!  How do they deny the Faith?  Perhaps Paul has in mind here that our Heavenly Father provides for us, His adopted children who have needs.  If we claim to embrace the Christian message and to follow that God and to want to be like him, how can we fail to provide for our loved ones?  How are non-providers worse than unbelievers?  Unbelievers can claim an excuse of sorts.  They never heard about God's love.  Christians have heard and so they don't have any excuses.

Read 1 Thessalonians 4: 11-12 - Working is a way to earn the respect of outsiders and, therefore, a way to witness to them.  There are people in this world who, through extenuating circumstances, find themselves with legitimate needs.  Unfortunately, there are also people who are lazy sponges.  Paul doesn't want the world to ever label Christians as lazy sponges.

Read 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 - What better motivation for working do we need than this: If you don't work, you don't eat!?!  God normally desires that people earn the food that sustains them.  There will be some who will be unable, but those who are able are required to be busy.  May God grant us strength to do so!

Read Proverbs 6:6-8 - If the heavens declare the glory of God, then the anthills must as well.  Ants are industrious without waiting to be told what to do.  The writer of Proverbs wants us to follow their example, using common sense and labor to provide for our needs, our family's needs, and the Kingdom of God's needs.


Thoughts About Christian Education

Read Proverbs 22:6- Sunday School was invented in 1769 as a way of teaching children of poverty how to read, but educating its young has always been a concern of the Christian Church.  Pray for our church as it begins its Christian Education year this Sunday.  Pray that we will be able to train children in the Lord's ways, so that they won't depart from the Lord later in life.

Read Deuteronomy 6:1-9 - Families, as well as The Church, have a responsibility to teach the Word of God to the young.  As the Christian Education year starts, think about how you can help teach the children in your extended families, or the children you know, by example, words, love, and prayers.

Read Matthew 28:16-20 - Jesus' purpose for the disciples was not that they would stay in their little group rejoicing that the Lord had risen, but that they would go out into the world and make other disciples for him.  Disciple-making involves more than just telling people about Jesus.  It involves teaching them how to live for Jesus.  The Church needs both evangelists and teachers.   Pray for those in these positions and consider whether the Lord may be calling you to evangelize and/or to teach.

Read John 21:15-17 - Jesus called on Peter to prove his love by bringing God's word to the Lord's people.  Even today, we can show our love for Jesus by bringing his Word to the people he loves and cares for.  We can do this as individuals and corporately as we keep our congregation's Christian Education programs running and giving to the work of missionaries who are feeding some of the "lost sheep."

Read 2 Timothy 1:3-7 - What a blessing it is when faith is passed down from one generation to another!  Pray that during our Christian Education year The Faith could be passed along and that those who have The Faith would learn how to fan into flame the gifts that God has given them.


Thoughts About Holiness

Read 2 Peter 2:20-22 - Yuck!  I apologize if you are using "Seed Thoughts" for pre-meal devotions.  Why would Peter use such gross imagery?  He wants us to be disgusted by the idea that people who have been exposed to the Gospel would choose to go back and live in sin.  He wants us to realize that such a thing is foolish.  When God calls us to Jesus, he calls us to a life of holiness, not sickness and filthiness.

Read 2 Corinthians 6:14 - 7:1 - At first glance, it may seem that Paul in these verses is telling us to avoid contact with unbelievers.  But we know from Paul's life and his writings that this can't be the case.  One thing he IS doing in these verses is warning us to avoid the things in the world, the attitudes in the world, and the people in the world which could lead us to sin.  He calls on us to be "perfecting holiness" in our lives.  What a high and awesome calling!  What does this calling mean in your life today?

Read 1 John 1:5 - 2:6 - If Christians sin, their attorney, who himself paid the penalty their sins require, rises to their defense.  However, John doesn't want us to get the idea then that it's okay for us to sin as Christians because, after all, Jesus will just take care of it.  If we have fellowship with a being who is light, how can we choose to walk in darkness?  How can we have a relationship with God if we do what God hates?  Not that we won't fall into sin, but, as a rule, Christians will be striving to walk in the light.

Read Ephesians 5:1-7 - Notice that Paul calls us "God's holy people."  One definition of "holy" is "different."  God's people are to be different than the people of the world.  In what ways?  Notice, too, that Paul labels greed as being the same thing as idolatry.  Most Americans don't have household statues representing their gods, but that doesn't mean that there's no idolatry in this country.  Again, Christians are supposed to be different from idol worshipers.

Read Galatians 4:6-7 - Christians work at living holy lives, not because we are slaves to laws and rules or because we are trying to win God's favor, but because God has given us the HOLY Spirit.  And because we now have an intimate family relationship with God and want to please Him because we love Him and delight to do so.



Thoughts About Witnessing

Read Acts 1:1-9 - Jesus told his followers that they would be his witnesses throughout the whole world and The Church has been carrying out that mission ever since Jesus ascended to the Father.  How does American Reformed Church carry out that mission?  What part can you have in that mission through prayer, financial support, or even going on the mission field yourself?

Read Acts 2:1-11 - One of the meanings of the Day of Pentecost is that God's message was now going to be heard in all the nations.  God didn't only speak Hebrew.  Praise the Lord that his message came to Dutch and English speaking peoples so that we could know about Jesus today.  Pray for Bible translators and missionaries who are putting that message in other languages even as you read this.

Read Acts 8:1b-4 - The Lord has interesting ways to get his people to obey him.  He had given the church the command to go out into all the world and be his witnesses, but apparently, many Christians were content to stay in Jerusalem and be part of one, big, happy family.  So God allowed persecution to scatter the believers with the end result being that the Gospel message indeed went out to the world.   Our God is powerful enough to bring good out of evil.

Read Acts 10:9-23 - This is another very important chapter in the book of Acts as it teaches us that God's desire is for Jews and Gentiles to associate with each other and fellowship together as equal members in his family.  God had called the Gentiles "clean" so Peter was to treat them accordingly.  And today, God's dealings are not confined to just one racial group but to all the races, and we have Christian brothers and sisters from racial groups all over the world.

Read Acts 15:22-35 - Yet another important chapter in Acts finds the question of "Do Christian converts from paganism have to also convert to Judaism in order to be saved" answered.  The earliest Christians were also Jews and some felt that everyone who became a Christian should live the Jewish way of life and submit to all its laws and traditions.  There were teachers who proclaimed as much.  The Church rejected this thinking, however, and asserted that Gentiles were free to be themselves in the Lord, submitting only to his ultimate Lordship and the Law of Love.  Becoming a Christian doesn't necessarily mean that you will suddenly become, as it were, someone else, but it does mean that God will be working in you so that you will start to become the best you that you can be.


Thoughts About Changed Lives

Read 1 Corinthians 11:17-32 - The Christians at Corinth may have thought they were taking the Lord's Supper, when all the while their actions and attitudes were actually bringing judgment on themselves.  We need to always be examining ourselves to make sure that when we think we are honoring God we are.  Because, it's possible to be sinning instead.

Read Luke 19:1-10 - This was one of my favorite stories when I was a child.  One reason was because of a song we sang about it in Sunday School.  The song ended with, "Zacchaeus, you come down!  For I'm going to your house today.  For I'm going to your house today!"  But the song doesn't tell the whole story.  Jesus didn't only choose Zacchaeus and extend God's love to him, but the Lord also listened as Zacchaeus repented of his sins and planned to make restitution.  Repentance is always an important sign of true faith and true salvation.

Read Mark 5:1-10 - If ever a case seemed hopeless, it was the case of the man who encounters Jesus in this scripture passage.  The poor guy wasn't only controlled and possessed by one demon, but by a legion of them!  Yet, as we shall see in the Seed Thought for tomorrow, there was hope for even this hopeless man.  That hope was Jesus.  May he be our hope, too.

Read Mark 5:11-20 - Jesus brought a total reversal about in this man's life.  Once he was insane, violent, and naked.  Now he is in his right mind, sitting quietly by Jesus, and fully clothed.  Once he cut himself off from people.  Now he goes to them in order to tell them the good news of Jesus.  No matter what sins you have committed, or how badly you feel you've messed up your life, Jesus can bring reversals to your life, too.  After all, He did it for the man who once was filled with a legion of demons!

Read Psalm 19:7 - The New International Version of the Bible translates the original Hebrew language which speaks about what the law of the Lord does as "reviving the soul."  The King James Version says, "...converting the soul."  Whichever translation is used, though, the main point is clear.  God's Word changes a person's soul and doesn't leave the soul in the same state it was in.  How has God's Word revived, converted, and changed you?


Thoughts About Leaders

Read 1 Timothy 2:6 - Paul urges us to pray for our leaders in order that they may govern in such a way that Christians could live peaceful and quiet lives and that the gospel of salvation could continue to go out into the world.  In 21st Century America, we can easily find ourselves more often criticizing and second guessing our leaders than praying for them.  Let the words of Paul urge you to prayer.  And remember that Paul says that this is "good and pleases God our Savior." 

Read Acts 17:22-31 - Some Christians believe that in order to be holy they must cut themselves off from the culture around them.  But when Paul was in Athens, he observed aspects of the Greek culture and used them to present the Gospel.  May God help us to look at the world around us and see ways that our own culture points to God.

Nehemiah 2:1-10 - Nehemiah, a devout Jew, was nonetheless an important member of a Persian King's Court and used his position to help the Lord's people.  Should believers get involved with politics today?  Should they seek positions of influence?  And if they are elected or appointed to such positions, what should believers do while holding those positions?

Matthew 17:24-27 - Jesus wasn't too heavenly-minded to be of any earthly good.  Though he was the son of the heavenly King, he abided by the rules of this world as long as they didn't conflict with the will of God.  Here is another area of daily living in which Jesus is our role model.

Titus 3:1-8 - We have been saved in order to devote ourselves to "doing what is good," including having proper respect for our leaders and their laws.  Those who aren't so devoted show that they have slipped backwards into the old way of life.  May God help us to be constantly moving forward into the new life he's given us in Christ.


Thoughts About Faith

Read Hebrews 11:1-12 - Faith involves believing in things that we can't see.  This is one reason we assemble together on Sunday mornings and at other times during the week - to remind ourselves of the unseen things.  The things that are seen take up so much of our time and can become of paramount importance to us.  We need to remember that what we can see isn't all that exists, and to encourage one another to believe in the unseen God.

Read Hebrews 11:32-35a - One way we encourage each other to believe in the unseen God is to remember his great miracles in the past and the times he has answered our own prayers and come through for us, granting us deliverance.  In what ways has the Lord blessed you?

Read Hebrews 11:35b-38 - It's not only those who see great miracles who have faith.  Some hold onto their faith even in the midst of overwhelming trials with no relief in sight.  They, too, can have testimonies to share about how they are still clinging to God no matter what.  Don't assume that if you are going through hard times that you have nothing to say to anyone of any value about God.  How about even, "I still know he's there and I'm still praying to him and nothing will shake the faith he's given me, even though I can't and don't always understand what he's doing or what he's putting me through."

Read Hebrews 11:39-40 - There is a sense in which the promises made to the Old Testament saints were never completely fulfilled in their lifetimes, or even in the entire Old Testament era.  (For example, Israel and Jerusalem never became an eternal light to all the world in a literal sense.)  In this regard, we are like our Old Testament brothers and sisters.  They were always still looking for something more.  And no matter how blessed we are by God here and now, we're still looking for something more and something better.  And our faithful God will see to it that all of his people down through history will get that something more and something better.

Read Psalm 103 - When we listen to the testimonies of other Christians, or give our own, or think of the lives of the men and women of the Bible, we can be reminded of the truth that this Psalm sings about - God is faithful and gracious and empowers us even though our lives are fleeting.  And, his Fatherly love will never leave us.  Therefore, we like the Psalmists offer him our praise.






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