Let us make room for God by spending time with Him through reading Scripture and committing it to memory

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Let us make room for God by spending time with Him through reading Scripture and committing it to memory

I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you. 
— Psalm 119:11

According to Barna research, over 85% of American households own a Bible. Even the majority (62%) of Antagonistic and Skeptic (67%) households own a Bible (Barna, State of the Bible, 2017). The question remains, Do we read the Bible? As we have been witnessing at The Well, persecution of “illegal house churches” are continuing in China. To make matters worse, the government is mandating the installation of HD surveillance cameras in their government-sanctioned Three-Self churches. As a result, many Chinese Christians are imprisoned for their faith. Attending an underground seminary can result in a three-year prison sentence. An American Pastor, Wayne Cordeiro, shared an experience he had in China as he was there to train Christian leaders. Imprisoned believers are memorizing Scripture passages smuggled to them on small pieces of paper because the government “can’t take what’s hidden in your heart.” A woman who had recited 2 Peter 1 from memory at Cordeiro’s seminar said, “In prison, you have much time in prison … [Because the prison guards confiscate the Bible] we memorize it as fast as we can because even though they can take the paper away, they can’t take what’s hidden in your heart.” The Well Church, we have the opposite problem in America. Even though we have many copies of the Bible, many of us do not read it nor commit it to memory because we have not given Scripture the attention it deserves. Proverbs 30:5 states, “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” The Word of God is trustworthy! As we pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world, let us model after their faith. Let us make room for God by spending time with Him through reading Scripture and committing it to memory.

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Would you join me in praying for our president that he may know Christ?

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Would you join me in praying for our president that he may know Christ?

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior. — 1 Timothy 2:1–3

Most Christians would agree that they want to please God. In 1 Timothy, the Apostle Paul teaches that praying for all people, including kings and those in leadership, is good and pleasing to God. Last Sunday, June 2, 2019, Franklin Graham called for a special day of prayer for President Donald Trump. Many believers, especially those who do not endorse Trump as president, disagreed with Graham and thought that his call to pray was more political in nature. Some churches opted to not address Graham’s call to pray. When David Platt, pastor of McLean Bible Church in VA prayed for the President during an unscheduled visit at his church on Sunday, he prayed for the president by laying hands on him. This simple act of praying for President Trump upset some members of his church and he had to write a letter to his congregation concerning his prayer because Pratt’s prayer for the president was viewed as his endorsement of the sitting president. To clarify the concerns of many he wrote, “My aim was in no way to endorse the president, his policies, or his party, but to obey God’s command to pray for our president and other leaders to govern in the way this passage portrays.” He then made an apology for hurting some members and asked for grace. As a pastor, I respect and admire David Platt’s ministry. However, I do not think he had to apologize for obeying Scripture. Whether we endorse our president or not, we are called to pray for him. The Well Church, would you join me in praying for our president that he may know Christ? It is good and pleasing to God.

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Who do you need to pray for today?

Who do you need to pray for today?

Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. - 1 Samuel 12:23

In Birmingham, AL, a first-grade teacher who prayed with her class before lunch every day was told to stop due to a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). The complaint states, “A concerned parent has report that a first-grade teacher at Norwood Elementary School leads her students in prayer every day before lunch.” What is the big deal with prayer by a teacher? The FFRF responded, “Public school teachers and administrators may not promote religion by leading students in prayer, encouraging students to pray, participating in student-initiated prayer, or otherwise endorsing religion to students.” How would you feel if you were that reprimanded teacher? What would you do? In this week’s Scripture reading, we see Samuel’s role changing after the inauguration of King Saul. He is no longer the Judge of Israel, however, he continues to represent God as a prophet who gives the word of God to all Israel, including the king. At his farewell address as a Judge to Israel in 1 Samuel 12, he encourages Israel to “serve the Lord with all your heart … [f]or the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake” (vv. 21-22). As God’s prophet and representative, he promised that he would not cease to pray for Israel (v. 23). I believe that the action of the FFRF is not necessarily a loss for the teacher or Christians. Just as Samuel interceded for all Israel in his new role, she and we can privately intercede for those around us. As it is written, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people” (1 Timothy 2:1). Who do you need to pray for today? Let us boldly lift up prayers in faith.

As we learn more about God, our ultimate response will be worship

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As we learn more about God, our ultimate response will be worship

And Samuel said to him, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.”  — 1 Samuel 15:28-29

Scripture teaches us that God is not like us, and all of His promises are “Yes” and “Amen” (2 Corinthians 1:20). Samuel affirms this by stating, “he [the LORD] is not a man, that he should have regret” (1 Samuel 15:28-29). It is, therefore, difficult for us to reconcile passages like 1 Samuel 15:11 where the LORD regrets or repents (KJV). How can this be? Can God repent? My theology professor once said, “God is infinite and we are not. Therefore, we do not have the capacity to fully understand God.” Therefore, God uses words, such as regret and repent, that makes sense to us finite beings. Concerning these verses, John Piper writes, “For God to say, 'I feel sorrow that I made Saul king,’ is not the same as saying, 'I would not make him king if I had it to do over.’ God is able to feel sorrow for an act in view of foreknown evil and pain, and yet go ahead and will to do it for wise reasons. And so later, when he looks back on the act, he can feel the sorrow for the act that was leading to the sad conditions, such as Saul's disobedience” (Piper, 1998). So, what should our response be? I believe that God wants us to wrestle with Scripture (and with Him) to develop our faith. He wants us to have confidence in Him and trust in all of His promises. Let us remember, “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19, NIV). R.C. Sproul said that theology should lead to doxology. As we learn more about God and wrestle with passages like these, our ultimate response will be worship. Let us worship our holy, majestic, and all knowing God.

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Did You Make Resurrection Resolutions?

Did You Make Resurrection Resolutions?

I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. — Eph. 1:19-20

What were your New Year’s Resolutions? If you remember them, are you still keeping your resolutions? According to U.S. News and Reports, approximately 80% of resolutions fail by February, so the odds of keeping your resolutions are against you. Australian Matthew Payne says that Christians should not make New Year’s Resolutions. He argues, 

We [Christians] should make Resurrection Resolutions instead. In a sense this is what all Christians should be doing anyway, but let’s make it an explicit part of Easter. Tell your neighbor that you don’t make New Year’s Resolutions but that you make Resurrection Resolutions instead. “What’s that?” they ask. You answer: “it’s like New Year’s resolutions, except it isn’t futile. God promises that through the power of Jesus’ resurrection we really can change. It’s not all up to me anymore.”

Payne is right. Without relying on the resurrection power of Jesus, we will fail on our own attempt to change. We can only change through the “incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe in him … the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead” (Ephesians 1:19-20). Instead of relying on our strength, willpower and grit, those of us who believe in Jesus will experience God’s incredible power — true life change. So, let me ask you, What are your Resurrection Resolutions for 2019? In Romans 6:4, the Apostle Paul teaches, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” We are raised to life! 

As we celebrate Jesus defeating death on this Easter Sunday, let us remember that Jesus not only removed our sins from us, but also enabled us to live in newness of life. He is Risen!

Would you pray for your pastor today?

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Would you pray for your pastor today?

“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”  — Joshua 24:15

A new report from the Barna Group found that even though a majority of American pastors — nine out of ten — believe that a large part of their role is to point Christians to biblical teachings concerning specific “hot-button” issues, they struggle on how to address these issues. The report states, “They are not only afraid of offending some in their congregation, but also pressured by others to speak up on those very same topics. These hot-button issues … related to the LGBT community, same-sex marriage rights, abortion, sexual morality and politics” (Barna, January 29, 2019). In other words, they feel that they are “doomed if they do, doomed if they don’t” address the issue. There is too much pressure for many pastors to “do the right thing.” 

At the end of Joshua’s life, he gathers all of Israel and exhorts them to either choose God or their idols (Joshua 24:15). From the beginning, God challenged Joshua to trust in Him and take courage in leading. Joshua not only needed courage to lead the Israelites into the Promise Land, but also to exhort his people to serve God and obey His voice. The Barna study concludes, “Pastors must be committed for the long haul, educating and equipping their people to respond with love and conviction, in word and deed. This, after all, is the essence of discipleship.” The Well Church, as many are being influenced by social media, we need pastors to take courage and humbly lead God’s people with love and humility, not buckling to the pressures of people. Would you pray for your pastor today? Pray that I will take heart God’s command:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
 — Joshua 1:9

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Do you seek God with the life changing decisions?

Do you seek God with the life changing decisions?

So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the LORD. — Joshua 9:14

When we need to make a big decision, whether it is buying a new house, finding a new job, seeking a spouse, or exploring a new investment opportunity, we often seek counsel from God because we do not want to make a mistake. When the stakes are high, we want clear direction from God. What about situations when the facts are obvious? When you have been seeking for an opportunity and only one door is opened, isn’t that a clear sign from God? Or what about small and insignificant situations? Should I “bother” God with such small matters that do not really matter from a heavenly perspective? In Joshua 9, the Gibeonites deceived the Israelites to make a covenant with them. Even though some Israelites where suspicious (Joshua 9:7), they examined the physical evidence and proceeded with the covenant. Since a covenant in the Old Testament is a “chosen relationship in which two parties make binding promises to each other” (crossway.org), the leaders should not have made the decision in haste, but inquire of the LORD through prayer, and even fasting. However, based on earthly standards, “Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them” (Joshua 9:15a).

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in the fast-paced world we live in, we are forced to make many decisions in life. One study shows that adults make 35,000 decisions daily! Instead of seeking God with the life-changing decisions, let us make a habit of inquiring of the LORD in all of life. We ask counsel from God not only by prayer and fasting, but also by reading God’s Word. As we read last week, let us remember that

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. — Joshua 1:9

Let us not take anything for granted and rely on our Sovereign Lord, Jesus Christ.

Deaths of Despair

Deaths of Despair

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” — Psalm 91:1–2

In a recent report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, life expectancy dropped for the third year in a row in the United States.  Kathleen McHugh of Harvard Medical School observed, “We're seeing the drop in life expectancy not because we're hitting a cap [for lifespans of] people in their 80s, [but] because people are dying in their 20s [and] 30s.” The top three spiking causes of death are drug overdoses, suicide, and liver cirrhosis due to alcoholism. Sanjay Gupta from CNN refers to these as the “deaths of despair,” which is predominantly happening in America. This is a sad reality of the hopelessness of our nation. As one of the wealthiest nations in the world, we have looked at our own resources to try to “fix” our problems. We look to experts in and outside the church who teach that the solution lies within ourselves. They teach that all the help we need comes from within. What happens when you cannot find this happiness within yourself? As evidenced by the rising rates of the “deaths of despair,” it is apparent that many lonely Americans turn to drugs and alcohol. Scripture teaches us that true hope comes only from God. When life seems difficult and hopeless, we are taught to go to God and trust in God. In Psalm 91, we see the confidence in times of danger and challenges that comes from those who trust in God. What does trusting in God look like? In Psalm 91:14 we hear God speak,
“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.”

The Well Church, do not place your trust in things that cannot give you eternal hope, but place your trust in God and hold fast to Him in love. Then with a mighty voice, let us declare, “A mighty fortress is our God!”