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Encourage Yourself In The Lord
August 15, 2019
David was one of the tough guys of the Bible. Anyone whose resume’ includes killing lions, bears, and giants isn’t just another guy. David was a John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Chuck Norris, and Rocky Balboa rolled up in one Old Testament king. He was something of an enigma; a unique combination of poet, musician, and warrior. He played a harp and swung a sword.
In 1 Samuel 30 David the tough guy was in trouble.
While on a mission with his men, David’s home base of Ziklag was raided by a renegade band of Amalekites. David and his men returned to find their families gone and the city burned to the ground. In that there were no casualties indicates there was no battle. David had apparently failed to leave a garrison in the city. Taking the entire population captive, the Amalekite aim was to sell the prisoners as slaves — a fate in some cases worse than death.
What a horrible day this was for David and his men. The Bible says they sat down and wept until they could weep no more. Then the anger set in with thoughts of vengeance, and David was the nearest target.
David had been in some dangerous situations before, but this one was different. He knew the Amalekites and Philistines hated him. He knew that Saul was out to kill him. But now there was talk among his own men of stoning him. The threat level had just gone from elevated to severe!
Grieving his own personal loss, and with rising discontent in the air, David did the best thing he could do. Standing alone amid the smoldering ruins of Ziklag, “David encouraged himself in the LORD his God” (1 Samuel 30:6). At the very place of failure and loss, the crossroads of devastation and disappointment, David turned to God. It’s not like he could sit down and talk things over with one of his friends. They all wanted to stone him. David got alone with God and received the strength he needed to not only survive, but to make an amazing comeback.
Sometimes life hits you hard. It may be a single problem that confronts you. Or you might be ambushed by a multiplicity of issues. You need a game plan when stunned by crisis, and David provides one. Tune out other voices, tune in God’s voice, and encourage yourself in the Lord.
Remember who God is, and remind yourself of the awesome things He has done. Rehearse His many blessings in your life. Declare His unfailing faithfulness. Proclaim His promises. Sing of His goodness and greatness. Do what Jude said and build yourself up on your most holy faith.
There may be days when we are hard pressed to find encouragement anywhere else, but we can always find it in Jesus. With David we will testify, “In the day when I cried out, You answered me, and made me bold with strength in my soul” (Psalm 138:3). As Paul stated it, we are “strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16).
David could have allowed himself to be crushed by what happened at Ziklag. He could have become embittered by the loss. Instead, he encouraged himself in the Lord. The chapter goes on to report that David fully recovered everything. And the next book of the Bible records how David came into his full inheritance as King of Israel.
When trouble comes, encourage yourself in the Lord. When all seems lost, encourage yourself in the Lord. “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him” (Palm 34:8).
Pastor Todd Weston
August 8, 2019
“Be joyful always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).
Hmph! Whoever wrote that short verse must have lived a charmed life. His checks never bounced. His stock portfolio never dropped. His boss never complained. His neighbors were never grumpy. His car battery never died, and his flights were never canceled. His was undoubtedly a life of ease free from pain and strife.
Of course, we know that wasn’t the case. The author of the verse was the apostle Paul who gave this testimonial, "We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food” (2 Corinthians 6:4-5).
That’s the guy who said, “Be joyful always.”
Being joyful always is a nice thought. I mean, who wouldn’t want that? But is it possible? Surely, the Lord would not tantalize us with something unobtainable. He would not tease us with the promise of something that could never be fulfilled. That’s right. He wouldn’t. What God commands, He makes possible.
Paul’s command is possible to every believer who chooses joy. Notice, I didn’t say “happiness.” Happiness is an emotion based on external factors. Happiness depends on what happens to you. When the skies are clear and sunny, I am happy. But when they are dark and stormy, I am sad. Personally, rainy days and Mondays always get me down. But enough about me. Like the weather, happiness can fluctuate on a daily basis.
On the other hand, joy is an inside job. It’s an attitude based on internal factors. As such, joy is not dependent on outside forces. The attitude of joy can be a constant in the midst of ever-changing circumstances. This explains how Paul was able to write from a Roman prison cell, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)
According to Galatians 5:22 every Christian has joy, “The fruit of the Spirit is…joy.” Joy is a present and renewable gift of the Holy Spirit. But having joy and being joyful are two different things. Having the spiritual fruit of joy, we must choose to be joyful. That is what Paul said to do, and he said we should exercise the fruit of joy always.
Sing when you want to scream. Smile when you want to cry. Give thanks when you want to complain. Praise when you want to grumble. Look up when you want to look down.
I believe I have the full support of Scripture when I say it is not God’s will that His people live as joyless, miserable creatures simply enduring life. The Christian life is something to be enjoyed, not endured!
Refuse the wretchedness of a joyless existence. Don’t allow circumstances to dictate your outlook. Choose joy and be joyful…always! It’s the better way to live.
Pastor Todd Weston
August 1, 2019
He uttered no prophecies like Isaiah. He performed no miracles like Moses. He composed no songs like David. He wrote no books like Paul. And yet he was known as the “father of the faithful” (Romans 4:11), and the “friend of God” (James 2:23).
His name was Abraham, and his faith journey had a peculiar start. God spoke to Abraham saying, “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). The first part of the command was specific, “Get out of your country.” The last part of the command was rather vague, “To a land that I will show you.”
What did the “father of the faithful” do? The Hebrew writer tells us, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8).
Abraham didn’t know, but God did.
God had reserved a piece of property uniquely situated at the crossroads of the ancient world. The trade routes connecting Asia, Europe, and Africa ran directly through the land of Canaan. God had big plans for Abraham and his descendants on this choice piece of real estate, and it all started with the call, “Get out of your country.” In one giant step of faith Abraham “went out, now knowing where he was going.”
Don’t you love it when God does that? Rather than giving you the whole game plan, He just gives you the first play. Instead of the entire travel itinerary, He just gives you the first part.
I have made a discovery about walking by faith. It’s pretty easy until I am the one who has to do it. I’m sure Abraham’s servant felt that way in the 24th chapter of Genesis. Abraham was by now an old man, and it was time for his son Isaac to get married and start a family. So Abraham told his servant to go back to the old country and find a wife for Isaac.
Talk about looking for a needle in a haystack! That’s probably how the servant felt about his new assignment. How on earth would he find the right girl?!
So the servant “went out, not knowing where he was going.” Arriving at a certain place, he stopped to pray for guidance. Before finishing his prayer he saw a beautiful young lady approaching. Her name was Rebekah, the future bride of Isaac. Looking back on the whole episode the servant made this inspiring observation, “As for me, being on the way, the LORD led me” (Genesis 24:27). Specific direction was given, not in advance, but during the course of the journey.
To get into the new, God has to get us out of the old. That sometimes starts with just taking the first step, “Get out of your country.” But as Abraham learned, as his servant discovered, and as countless other believers have found to be true, the Lord leads those who walk by faith.
He leadeth me! He leadeth me!
By His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful follower I would be,
For by His hand He leadeth me.
Pastor Todd Weston
July 25, 2019
“If I only knew then what I know now!”
I wonder how many times that statement has been uttered since Adam and Eve made their fateful decision in the garden.
He was the perfect man. She was the perfect woman. They lived in the perfect place. They enjoyed a perfect relationship with their Creator. Adam and Eve lived in a world of absolute freedom with only one restriction, “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17).
You know the story. Deceived by the serpent, Eve ate from the forbidden tree (Genesis 2:13). Adam could not claim deception (1 Timothy 2:14). Knowing the sinfulness of what he was about to do, Adam deliberately decided to share in Eve’s sin.
In that moment something died within the progenitors of the human race. The light went out in their souls. In one act Adam and Eve went from freedom to slavery, innocence to guilt, peace to fear. They would soon learn that, “the way of transgressors is hard” (Proverbs 13:15).
Adam lived a total of 930 years, most of which were in a ruined world. He lived long enough to see the increased wickedness of the human race that ultimately led to the judgment of the Great Flood. I wonder if Adam ever thought back to the days in the garden before the Fall of Man. Of all humanity, Adam and Eve alone knew what the world had once been. Remembering the beauty of the original as compared to the ugliness of the current, I wonder if Adam ever said, “If I only knew then what I know now!”
We don’t have to invest in sin to know that sin is a bad investment. We don’t have to learn the hard way, as did Adam and Eve. There is a better way. Look to the Word of God. Listen to the voice of the Spirit. Learn from the experience of others. In so doing we can avoid the painful consequences that elicit the sad confession, “If I only knew then what I know now!”
If ever a person uttered those words, it was the Prodigal Son. The supposed party ended in a pig pen. Destitute, dirty, down-and-out, craving the fodder given to the pigs to satisfy the gnawing hunger inside, you can hear him moan, “If I only knew then what I know now!”
Thankfully, this story ends with a note of redemption. Returning to his father’s house, the boy was met, not with anger and rejection, but with love and forgiveness. Thinking back to the wasted days in the far country he probably said to himself, “If I only knew then what I know now…I would have repented and come home sooner!”
Anyone who wants to know God’s forgiving love in Christ can know it now. No matter what the past has been, mercy, love and forgiveness awaits all who come home. And now you know!
Pastor Todd Weston
The Unpardonable Sin
July 18, 2019
It happened when I was around eight-years-old.
That’s when I first heard about the egregious spiritual violation called the unpardonable sin. Of course, I didn’t really understand it, and I couldn’t begin to explain it. But that didn’t stop my overactive conscience from convincing me I had probably committed the unforgivable iniquity.
I don’t know to what unfathomable depths of sin an eight-year-old church kid is capable of sinking. However, I do remember the sick feeling that I was sunk! But the question that haunted my mind was — when did I commit the “sin unto death”?
It could have been the time I fell asleep in church. I quickly dismissed that thought. Half the church would have been guilty including a few prominent deacons. Maybe it was the time I lied about being sick so I could stay home from church. “Aha! Now we’re getting somewhere,” so I thought. Or maybe it was the time I got mad at my sister and called her a name. From the discipline I later suffered, that one was a strong possibility.
To say that I was distressed is an understatement. I lived in mortal fear that my eight-year-old soul was forever condemned. And then I learned some truths about the unpardonable sin.
I learned that it’s a sin against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:28-20) about which those who are guilty are not troubled in the least. Those who have committed it don’t care. Those who care have not committed it. That understanding really helped to reduce my distress.
I also learned that the unpardonable sin is not a single act, but an ongoing action. Of Noah’s generation the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever” (Genesis 6:3). The Holy Spirit strives up to a point. The sobering possibility is that there can come a point where the Spirit strives no more, and a man is left to himself without God and without hope.
Where is that awful place? It’s the place where the willful, repeated, unrelenting rejection of the witness of the Spirit crystallizes in a person’s heart. The Holy Spirit is sent to witness to our sinfulness and need of a Savior. The Spirit convicts and convinces. But what happens when a person repeatedly slams the door on the witness of the Spirit? What happens when a person is resolute in their position that the work of the Holy Spirit is synonymous to that of demons? I’ll tell you what happens. The unpardonable sin occurs.
Forgiveness and salvation becomes an impossibility because the means of forgiveness and salvation have been consciously, deliberately, and permanently rejected. I would never dare suggest the exact location of this point of no return. But such a line exists, along with the possibility of crossing it.
The fact that I was so concerned about this issue assured me that I was innocent of the irredeemable crime. While the unpardonable sin is not something about which believers need to worry, there are three consecutive actions against the Holy Spirit we should be aware of.
1) Grieving the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30). We grieve the Holy Spirit when we ignore the voice of conscience and commit sin.
2) Resisting the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51). We resist the Holy Spirit when we refuse to respond to conviction and repent of sin.
3) Quenching the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). We quench the Holy Spirit when we have grieved and resisted Him so thoroughly that He withdraws His presence from our lives (Judges 16:20).
While the unpardonable sin is a danger to some, the greater issue for believers is the grieving, resisting, and quenching of the Holy Spirit. So protect your relationship with the third member of the Trinity. Without the Holy Spirit we cannot believe, we cannot repent, we cannot be forgiven, and we cannot be saved.
Pastor Todd Weston
The Best Medicine
July 11, 2019
Prescription drugs is big business in America. In 2018 prescription drug sales in the U.S. came in around $350 billion with non-prescription sales escalating the cost of all pharmaceutical spending well beyond $500 billion. With 5.8 billion prescriptions filled in 2018, Americans are a heavily medicated people.
While the Bible is not a medical textbook, it does offer a prescription that works every time, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). Joy is one of the predominant characteristics of biblical Christianity. We are called to serve the Lord with gladness, not sadness (Psalm 100:2). A cheerful heart has many serendipitous advantages, among which are health benefits. Maintaining a joyful spirit is good for you!
To maintain a cheerful heart in a not so cheerful world, consider the following:
1. Limit your load
We were not designed by our Creator to carry life’s problems on our shoulders. Rather than carry our burdens, cast them on the Lord in prayer (1 Peter 5:7). Practice the rule of Philippians 4:6. Worry about nothing. Pray about everything.
2. Live on the right side of life
Just as there are two sides of a coin, there are two sides in life — the bright side and the dark side. I’m not suggesting we stick our collective heads in the sand and disconnect from reality. I am suggesting we choose to live on the sunny side of life, full of faith and optimism.
3. Learn how to think
In the classic, See You At The Top, Zig Ziglar talks about “garbage-dump thinking.” Wrong thinking can lead to health problems. Philippians 4:8 provides these guidelines for right thinking, “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.”
4. Let go of bitterness
We all go through hard times and painful experiences. They key is not allowing bitterness to take root in your spirit. Hebrews 12:15 warns of the toxicity of bitterness. Bitterness is a proven joy killer. Let go of bitterness by realizing that God is at work even in the bad things that happen. Trust Him to take what was meant for evil and turn it around for good.
5. Look to Jesus
Hebrews 12:2 tells us to run life’s race looking to Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Not an occasional glance, but a permanent look. Fix your eyes on Jesus. His joy is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
A sour saint is a sick saint. Bitterness leads to brokenness. Refuse to be a joyless Christian. Stay healthy by applying these biblical prescriptions given by the Great Physician Himself. It’s the best medicine.
Pastor Todd Weston
If My People
July 3, 2019
He was only one man, but he saved a nation.
The nation was Egypt. A highly advanced civilization for its day, Ancient Egypt was by no means what we would call a Christian nation. It was a nation that embraced a complex system of polytheistic beliefs and religious rituals. Egypt was ruled by the Pharaohs — leaders who were believed to possess a degree of divinity.
But Pharaoh and Egypt’s pantheon of gods could not divert the crisis that was coming. Egypt was about to have a head-on collision with a seven-year famine. This famine would be so severe that it would threaten the life of the nation.
That’s when God raised up Joseph. Joseph was the great-grandson of Abraham, the Father of the Jewish race. He was also the most Christlike man in the Bible. Joseph’s arrival in Egypt was less than glorious. Just another unfortunate soul unlucky enough to get himself sold into slavery. But God had a plan.
Through a miraculous series of events, God led Pharaoh to promote Joseph as ruler over all the land of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself (Genesis 41:38-41). While serving as a slave in the house of Potiphar, “the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake” (Genesis 39:5). Now as second in command, God blessed the nation of Egypt for Joseph’s sake.
God saved a nation for the sake of one godly man.
As we celebrate the birthday of America we are aware of the fact that our beloved country is in serious trouble. Diabolic forces from within and without seek its demise. Forces of darkness wish to extinguish the light of this “Shining City On A Hill” (see President Ronald Reagan’s ‘Shining City On A Hill’ farewell speech to the nation, January 11, 1989). Politicians promoting a Socialist agenda appear determined on robbing the American people of their “unalienable rights” endowed by their Creator (Declaration of Independence).
What shall we do? God’s Word tells us, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Here is the mercy of God. He doesn’t require the entire nation to repent and seek His face. He doesn’t demand that all state and federal officials humble themselves and pray. God said, “If My people.” If the true Church of Jesus Christ will step forward, if true believers in Jesus Christ will do this, God says it will be enough! He will forgive our sin and heal our land.
God blessed Egypt for Joseph’s sake. I believe He can and will do the same for America — “If My people…”
Pastor Todd Weston
God doesn’t command the entire nation to turn — just His people
June 27, 2019
It happens all around us! In nature. In nations. In churches. In communities. In families. Even in the hearts of believers. Erosion happens.
Webster defines erosion as, “The process of where something is diminished or destroyed by degrees.” Erosion doesn’t happen quickly and obviously. It happens slowly, silently, and subtly. It’s the gradual, almost imperceptible, wearing down of something. You don’t realize it is happening until it has happened.
A single drop of water landing on a rock will have no impact. But multiply that one drop into countless drops over time and erosion occurs. Scientists tell us the Grand Canyon was caused by years of water erosion. Whether it’s by wind, water, or other factors, erosion is a destructive force that can have tremendous effects.
The erosion of truth resulted in the Jewish Holocaust and the creation of a new term: genocide. Joseph Goebbels, Reich Ministry of Propaganda of Nazi (National Socialist) Germany stated, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it…The truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” The erosion of truth by the Nazi’s nearly wiped out the entire European Jewish population.
Today we are witnessing the erosion of societal mores once considered essential to the moral fabric of our nation. Time-honored values are readily discarded on the trash heap of irrelevance. At the same time, that which was unthinkable from time immemorial is not only thinkable but acceptable….even celebrated in the streets!
There is not a segment of society untouched. Erosion is happening and is undermining the foundations of so many things. Witnessing this troubling phenomenon we might be tempted to cry out in despair, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3) Have you ever thought about that? If everything around us collapses due to erosive influences, what then?
Then remember Psalm 61:2, “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” When everything is crumbling beneath us, remember that Jesus Christ and His Word are our true foundation. “When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.”
Furthermore, don’t let your faith and passion for the Lord get worn down. Practice the safeguards against erosion given by Jude. Keep building yourself up in your most holy faith. Keep praying in the Holy Spirit. Keep loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And keep looking for the soon return of our Lord Jesus Christ (Jude 20-21).
Pastor Todd Weston
Watch And Pray
June 20, 2019
It’s a miserable moment! It’s the moment when you are driving down the highway and the need for sleep begins to overtake you. Your eyelids grow heavy. Your thoughts are disconnected. You would give half your kingdom for a bed, but there is no place to pull over and stop. Aware of the danger of falling asleep at the wheel, you drive on fighting to stay awake.
Falling asleep at the wheel can have serious consequences. So can falling asleep spiritually.
Judges 16:19 contains a haunting phrase that should cause every Christian to sit up and take notice, “Then she lulled him to sleep.” The phrase comes from the story of Samson and Delilah. To bring him down Delilah put the strong man to sleep. Little did Samson realize as he drifted off to dreamland the dreadful consequences that awaited when he awoke.
The story presents a timeless principle. To bring a believer down Satan does not have to lead them into a life of sin. All he has to do is lull them to sleep.
This reality of this danger is seen in the Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25. While they slumbered and slept (v5) the oil of the five foolish virgins ran dry, and their fire died out (v8). Unprepared and missed the coming of the bridegroom.
The Bible talks about “the spirit of slumber” (Isaiah 29:10-11; Romans 11:8). Bad things happen when Christians fall into a deep spiritual sleep. Spiritual defenses are down, and discernment is disengaged. You’ve heard the phrase, “drifting off to sleep.” It’s easy to drift right off the road and into the ditch.
A person under the spiritual of slumber is not aware of what is happening around them and/or to them. Samson did not know Delilah was cutting his hair while he slept. Neither did he know the Philistines were lying in wait…not until it was too late.
Of the slumbering Northern Kingdom of Israel the prophet said, “Foreigners sap his strength, but he does not realize it. His hair is sprinkled with gray, but he does not notice” (Hosea 7:9). Bad things can happen while you sleep.
For this reason Jesus told His disciples, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). To watch is to pray, and the person who prays is watching. Your eyes are never more open than when they are closed in prayer!
So as Paul told the Roman believers, “Understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11). Time is short and eternity is for keeps. Watch and pray. Don’t let your lamp go out. “Awake, you who sleep…and Christ will give you light” (Ephesians 5:14).
Pastor Todd Weston
The prophet was sent to encourage a discouraged people. His name was Haggai. The discouraged people were the Jews who returned from Babylon to rebuild the temple destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar.
The first temple, built by Solomon, was a wonder to behold. Built on the summit of Mount Moriah overlooking the Kidron Valley in Jerusalem, the temple stood nearly twenty stories at its highest point. It is estimated that the gold and silver used would exceed two-hundred billion dollars in today’s figures. Add to that the massive amounts of carved stone, quality lumber, in addition to other precious metals and materials, and you have a structure of incalculable worth.
This is the temple that was reduced to rubble by the Babylonian army in 587 BC. About seventy-years later construction on the new temple began.
While the building was in construction the prophet Haggai asked a question of those old enough to remember Solomon’s Temple. “Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?” (Haggai 2:3). While the Bible doesn’t say, I am sure there was unanimous agreement. While the rebuilt temple would be nice, it would never compare in glory to the first. Or so they thought.
Then Haggai encouraged them to be strong and complete the project with this promise, “The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former” (Haggai 2:9). And it was, but not in the way they probably expected. While the second temple paled in comparison to the first in terms of cost and architectural beauty, it far exceeded the glory of the former in this way. Into the rebuilt temple came the Desire of All Nations — Jesus Christ God Incarnate — and filled it with greater glory (Haggai 2:7). The glory of the latter was greater than the former.
Like the discouraged Jews in Haggai’s day, we may take an assessment of our lives and say, “It’s nothing like I thought it was going to be. I had such dreams and high aspirations. But the years are spent and I have come up short of what I set out to do.”
Maybe that’s because somewhere along the way you met with failure and disappointment. A bad decision here, a wrong choice there, circumstances beyond your control have all seemingly worked together against you. Like the Jews on the second temple job site, you know you can rebuild but conclude it will never be what it might have been.
Enough! God has promised, “The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former.” You are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) and God has promised greater glory. As one writer stated, “God longs to do more in your life than you have ever envisioned.”
So reject the lie of the enemy that your life is as good as over. Refuse to accept the notion that God will never use you again. Stop looking back. Set your gaze forward. Open your heart to the Lord. Pursue Him with renewed zeal and passion. Claim the promise that the glory of the latter will be greater than the former. And into your heart God will give peace, “says the LORD of hosts.” (Haggai 2:9).
Pastor Todd Weston