PASTOR'S WEEKLY ARTICLE
A Bigger And Better You
November 7, 2019
The Book of Psalms is not only the longest book of the Bible (150 chapters), it is by far the most popular. Classified under the literary category of “poetry,” Psalms covers the gamut of human experience and emotion. For this and other reasons, it’s a book with which people can easily identify.
David wrote about half of the psalms (i.e. sacred songs) recorded in this Old Testament book. Many of the chapters authored by David are a mixture of prayers and praises; prayers for deliverance from trouble, and praises for deliverance provided.
If you know anything about David, you know his life was marked by trouble. We know he dealt with those pesky Philistines who were always up to no good. I don’t know what your personal “Philistine” may be, but we all have ongoing situations that require our attention.
While dealing with the Philistines, David had bigger fish to fry. There was the issue with Saul, king of Israel, who happened to be David’s boss and father-in-law. Seeing David as a perceived threat to his job, Saul attempted on more than one occasion to kill him. Now that’s a problem!
Then there was the coup d'état launched by David’s son, Absalom, and some of his trusted advisors. This act of betrayal must have been especially painful for David. So traumatic was this experience that it became the theme of several psalms written by the shepherd boy turned king.
The 4th Psalm was among those written during the time of Absalom’s rebellion. In the first verse David provided insight into how God can make all things work together for good in the lives of believers, “Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress” (Psalm 4:1 KJV). One Hebrew word translates the phrase “Thou hast enlarged.” The word means: to enlarge, widen, expand.
There’s no doubt that David was in distress. The word indicates pressure. On the run from Absalom, David was under tremendous pressure. The kingdom was at risk and so was the king’s life. What did God do? Rather than making David’s problem smaller, He made David bigger. “Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress.”
Is that not the greater victory? We all want God to shrink our problems into oblivion. I’m there with you. But if through our trials God can accomplish a deeper work in us, is that not the greater good? Stretched in faith. Expanded in capacity. Widened in experience. Enlarged in confidence. Increased in strength. Stronger in boldness. Growing in godliness.
Maybe Paul had this deeper work in mind when he wrote, “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:17). One feature of the glory that outweighs and outlasts the problems of life is a bigger and better you!
God is in the business of building people. This is true. When He reduces your troubles to nothingness, give Him praise. But remember to bless His name (see note below) as well when instead of making your problem smaller, He chooses to make you bigger.
Pastor Todd Weston
Note: Psalm 103:1-2 has been designated as the exact center verses of the Bible with 15,500 verses before and after. The 103rd Psalm is classified as a Psalm of David. The two verses designated as the exact center of the Bible read, “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.” One of the benefits of the Lord for which we give Him praise is when He turns the tables on trouble and enlarges us in our distress.
Whatever Happened To Civility?
October 31, 2019
It has become a lost art. I’m talking about civility — the quality of being polite, courteous in behavior and speech, showing due respect, having good manners.
Civility used to be a way of life in America. Children respected their elders. Men refrained from swearing in the presence of a lady. Motorist yielded to other drivers. Politicians disagreed with each other “with all due respect.” Young people were reminded to watch their manners.
Sadly, those days appear to be gone. We are now caught up in an uncivil war. An article that appeared in Psychology Today states, “Sadly, we seem to be living in an increasingly uncivil community. From presidential politics to random internet comments, there seems to be more and more rude, demeaning, insulting, and aggressive language and behavior in our society.” (Is Civility Dead In America? Psychology Today, July 11, 2016)
We witness acts of incivility on a regular basis. Character assassination on social media. Crude forms of humor in entertainment. The proliferation of bad language in public conversations. Showing disrespect to authority figures. Name calling. Bullying. Road rage. The list goes on.
It all adds up to a complete loss of civility; a total lack of self-restraint. It has been said that civility is the key to civilization. Without it we descend into a state of barbarism. Humanity becomes inhumane. Societal cannibalism sets in as we consume one another in acts of incivility.
Now that I have painted a dismal picture, let me point out a biblical solution. To correct the loss of civility we are witnessing today, we must go back to what Jesus called the first commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). Jesus then added what He considered to be the second commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).
The order of the commandments is significant. Keeping the first enables us to keep the second. It’s only when I love God the way I should that I will love others the way I should. Loving God will enable me to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). It will enable me to do what Paul said in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Loving God is what enables me to turn the other cheek, go the second mile, love those who don’t love me, bless those who curse me, and pray for those who want to hurt me (Matthew 5:38-44). Loving God is what helps me seek peace when I want to fight (Romans 14:19), hold my tongue when I want to give someone a piece of my mind (Colossians 4:6), and treat others the way I want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). In short, loving God produces civility.
The answer then is clear. We know what happened to civility. People stopped loving God. If they stopped, they can start again. By the power of the Holy Spirit let there be a return to God in America. May we love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. In loving Him, may we learn how to love one another.
Then, and only then, will we be a civil nation once again.
Pastor Todd Weston
October 24, 2019
Have you ever felt unqualified for a job, position, or opportunity that presented itself?
I certainly did at the age of seventeen. That’s when I took a summer job at a women’s shoe store at the Battlefield Mall in my hometown of Springfield, Missouri. To this day I don’t know what possessed me to take that job. It possibly could have been the “spirit of stupid”!
As for job training, it consisted of a five-minute crash course on my first day of employment. The job training did accomplish something for me — much confusion! When it was over I was more confused than ever.
What happened that day was like one of those strange-but-true stories. I awoke that morning with a bad case of laryngitis. I could barely whisper. And then imagine my dismay when my first customer was a nun! As the Lord is my witness, I lie not. As I attempted in my stricken vocal condition to squeeze the nun’s foot into a ridiculously tiny shoe, one word was flashing in my mind — UNQUALIFIED! I was definitely unqualified for the job.
Like my dismal and remarkably short-lived career in lady’s shoes, we stand before God totally unqualified. Unqualified to be His child. Unsuitable for citizenship in His kingdom. Unworthy of the least of His blessings. Unfit to share in the eternal inheritance of His people.
Other phrases come to mind: ineligible for, inadequate for, unprepared for, incapable of, not good enough for, not cut out for. That is our natural lot in life. To make matters worse, there’s nothing we can do about it. Unqualified, we cannot qualify ourselves. But God can!
Seeing our helpless condition, God demonstrated mercy and “qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints” (Col. 1:12). This He did through His Son, “in whom we have redemption…the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:14). As the great hymn says, “Christ has regarded my helpless estate, and hath shed His own blood for my soul.”
Think of it! Like a modern-day Mephibosheth who was elevated from a state of ignominy to a permanent dinner guest at the king’s table (see 2 Samuel 9:1-13), we have been qualified by God Himself to inherit every blessing available in Christ. Not only that, but this qualification is not a gradual process. It’s an instantaneous act that occurs at the moment of salvation.
There are a lot of things in life of which we might be considered unqualified. Professional race car driver. Brain surgeon. CEO of a Fortune 500 company. We accept that. But just as each Israelite was qualified to share in the inheritance of Canaan, every believer is qualified by God to share in the inheritance that is theirs in Christ.
So accept it by faith, and give thanks to God who qualifies the unqualified!
Pastor Todd Weston
Seek And Set
October 17, 2019
Are the things of life getting you down? Let’s face it. Life on this sin-cursed planet can be troubling at times. Political turmoil. Economic uncertainty. National unrest. Cultural upheaval. Societal degradation and degeneration. It’s enough to make a person want to join a monastery and escape reality.
Before you do a Google search for monastic societies in your area, let me suggest a better plan. My suggestion is to put into practice these words of Paul written to the Colossians, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (3:1-2).
Paul told us to seek and set. The idea of the first is that we seek and keep on seeking. Rather than a one-time act, it’s a way of life. The object of our seeking is “those things which are above.” When my focus is set on things here below, life can get discouraging fast. But when I lift up my eyes and pursue the kingdom of God and His righteousness, things start looking up. Literally!
In the second verse Paul used a fishing term to make his point. People who fish understand what it means to “set the hook.” To catch the fish you make a quick motion that firmly secures the hook in the fish’s mouth. As the hook is set in the fish’s mouth, our minds should be set (hooked) “on things above, not on things on the earth.”
Spiritual health and emotional stability depends on what we choose to set our minds upon. If I make a habit of setting my mind on all the dysfunctional issues of the day, I will pay the price. But when I turn my focus heavenward, I will win the prize.
A new submarine was being tested. As part of the test, it had to remain submerged beneath the ocean’s surface for several days. During this time, a strong storm passed through the area causing much damage. When the submarine returned to the harbor the captain was asked if they were affected by the storm. With a look of surprise he responded, “What storm?”
The submarine was completely unaffected because it had reached the area known as “the cushion of the sea.” The “cushion” is a part of the sea that is never stirred, even though the ocean’s surface may be whipped into a wild frenzy.
Such a place exists for the Christian. Paul mentioned it when he said, “your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). As the ocean waters cushion a submarine swimming in their depths, so Christ cushions those who have learned to seek and set their minds on Him. He is our peace (Ephesians 2:14).
The life hidden in Christ must still be lived out on earth. That’s true. But the things of life don’t have to get you down. By seeking and setting your mind on things above you will be able to face the issues of life successfully.
Pastor Todd Weston
October 10, 2019
He was possibly the greatest musician of all time. In a way, he was music personified. Beautiful melodies, glorious harmonies, and symphonic accompaniment seemed to emanate from his very being. When he opened his mouth to sing, breathtaking music filled the air as all God’s universe stopped to listen in amazed wonder.
His musical talent was equalled, if not exceeded, by his wisdom. Of all created things, he was the wisest. Not until the rising of Solomon to prominence would the wisdom of this exalted being even be remotely challenged.
Because of his wisdom, this notable figure was given a position of great privilege and authority. As the “anointed cherub” he was the highest ranking of all angelic beings and the guardian of God’s throne in heaven.
Besides all that, his appearance was nothing less than spectacular. An ancient Jewish writer described him as “perfect in beauty.” The writer’s name was Ezekiel. And the name of this exalted character was Lucifer. He would come to be known as Satan.
Gifted with immense talent, wisdom, position, and beauty, where did Lucifer go wrong? Ezekiel tells us in the 28th chapter and 17th verse of his book, “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty.” The iniquity that was found to be in Lucifer (v15) was that of pride. It was pride that moved Lucifer to mount a revolution in heaven saying, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly…I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:13-14).
Discontent and ungrateful for what he had received, Lucifer rebelled and sought a kingdom that belonged to another. As Absalom rebelled against his father David and sought to steel away the throne, Lucifer rebelled against God Himself. It didn’t end well for either of them.
Knowing the story of Satan’s rebellion helps us understand why the Bible takes such a strong stand against certain sins. In Proverbs 6:17 pride leads the parade of the seven sins especially detestable to God. 1 Samuel 15:23 likens rebellion to the sin of witchcraft. And the act of sowing discord and division among God’s people is roundly condemned throughout the Bible.
Satan was the original rebel. He has since inspired many to follow in his diabolical footsteps. The problem is they are sometimes hard to identify. Paul knew this was true. He said, “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).
In spite of deceptive appearances, in time the truth will come out. Pride will rear its ugly head. Rebellious words will be spoken. Rebellious attitudes and actions will be seen. Insolence will show its hand. A spirit of division will reveal itself. The tree is ultimately known by the fruit it produces. Likewise, rebels eventually give themselves away for what they are.
So be careful. Do not deceived by the rebel’s attractive appearance. Do not be swayed by his/her winning ways and smooth words. “Perversity is in his heart” (Proverbs 6:14).
As the Children of Israel withdrew from the tents of the rebellious Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, withdraw from those who exhibit a rebellious spirit. And as the Jews who refused to take part in the rebellion observed from a distance the judgment that swiftly fell upon these Old Testament rebels, “You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked” (Psalm 91:8).
Pastor Todd Weston
October 3, 2019
Miracles! Just the mention of the word sparks interest. It captures our attention. It causes us to sit up and take notice. We love to hear and read stories about miracles.
In its simplest definition a miracle is a supernatural manifestation of power that human and natural forces cannot duplicate. The parting of the Red Sea. The collapse of the impregnable walls of Jericho. The instantaneous calming of the storm on the Sea of Galilee. The resurrection of Lazarus. These are indisputable acts of God that far exceed human explanation and ingenuity.
The opening chapters of the Old Testament Book of 2 Kings record the ministry transition from Elijah to Elisha. While many miracles were performed by the prophet Elijah, the ministry of Elisha appears to be characterized from the start by the miraculous.
Several accounts are recorded in the first 7 chapters of 2 Kings. The miracles performed by the prophet Elisha cover a wide spectrum of human need. A river of water appearing overnight in the desert to save the armies of three nations. A vessel of oil replenishing itself. A child raised from the dead. A leper healed after dipping himself 7 times in the Jordan, and so on.
These are incredible stories with a very large “wow” factor. They are miracles on a large scale. This is big time stuff.
But does God ever do miracles for every day needs of life? Yes, He does. Also recorded in the opening chapters of 2 Kings is the story of impure water made pure (2:19-22). A few chapters later we read about the healing of a pot of stew with poisonous ingredients (4:38-41). Remember that miracle the next time you pray over a meal.
Possibly my favorite is the intriguing story of the floating ax head (6:1-7). As the story goes, a group of students from the local Bible School were chopping down trees near the Jordan River. As they were hard at it, the head on a certain ax worked itself loose and flew off the handle into the river where it quickly sank to the bottom.
The student who was using the ax cried out to Elisha, “Oh, sir! It was a borrowed ax!” If you have ever lost a borrowed item you can identify with this young man’s dilemma. Hearing about the problem, Elisha didn’t shrug his shoulders and say “That’s too bad.” No. He asked where the ax head had fallen into the river. He then cut off a small branch from a tree, threw it into the river, and the ax head miraculously floated to the surface.
This miracle serves as reminder that God cares about the relatively small issues of life, as well as the large ones. I think it is significant that the record of the floating ax head is sandwiched in between two of the most spectacular miracles performed by Elisha — the healing of Naaman the leper, and the blinding and consequent capture of the entire Syrian army. Those are big miracles. But so was the recovery of the ax head to the guy who first borrowed and then lost it.
It isn’t silly or spiritually irresponsible to pray about the “small” needs in life. If it concerns you, it concerns your heavenly Father. We know He can do the big stuff. He can do the little stuff, too. So go ahead and ask. “He does great things too marvelous to understand. He performs countless miracles” (Job 5:9).
Pastor Todd Weston
The Best Wine
September 12, 2019
The Gospel of John tells about a wedding to which Jesus and His disciples were invited. The wedding would take place in Cana of Galilee, located just a few miles north of Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth.
Nathanael, one of the twelve disciples, was from Cana. The miracle Jesus would perform at the wedding would begin the fulfillment of the promise He gave to Nathanael in John 1:50, “You will see greater things than these.”
From John 2:1 we learn that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was also at the wedding. It’s likely she knew the bridegroom’s family and was helping with preparations for the event that could last up to seven days.
Everything was going well when calamity struck. They ran out of wine. It was the bridegroom’s responsibility to furnish refreshments for the duration of the wedding celebration. Apparently, he either miscalculated or was too poor to provide the sufficient quantity of wine for the guests.
Mary's intervention indicates her connection to the bridegroom’s family. After discussing the situation with Jesus, she instructed those helping, “Whatever He says to you, do it” (John 2:5). That’s when Jesus performed His first miracle and turned water into wine.
It was customary to serve the best wine at the beginning of the wedding feast in order to make a good first impression. But upon tasting the water turned to wine, the master of the feast could not believe his taste buds. Calling for the bridegroom he said, “Everyone serves the best wine first. When people are drunk, the host serves cheap wine. But you have saved the best wine for now” (John 2:10).
Here we see the way of the world juxtaposed with the way of God. It is the way of the world to serve the best wine first. Worldly living is like a sparkler on the fourth of July. It burns brightly at first to only fizzle out in the end. It begins with a burst of speed and ends in a slow crawl. What starts with a shout ends with a whimper. That is life as offered by the world.
But the way of God is completely different. With God life is always moving along an upward trajectory. Like an ever-ascending staircase it goes “from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18). It builds to a climactic crescendo. The life truly lived for God just keeps getting better with time.
In the beginning we are translated from death to life. We quickly learn that the life to which we have been saved is life with a capital “L"! In the words of John 10:10, it is “life more abundantly.” It is life that grows and overflows. It cannot be contained. “My cup overflows” (Psalm 23:5). Just about the time you think it cannot get better, it gets better! As the songwriter put it, “Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before.” All through our Christian journey we say on multiple occasions, “You have saved the best wine for now.”
So goes life in the Spirit until the day we stand before Jesus face-to-face. Looking back over the joys and thrills of a life lived for the Lord we will realize He has once again saved the best for last, “When He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).
Solomon beautifully summarized the Christian life with this proverb, “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day” (Proverbs 4:18). On that glorious day when faith has become sight, we will join the multitude amid the wonders of heaven and declare, “You have saved the best wine for now.”
Pastor Todd Weston
What About The Rainbow?
September 5, 2019
So what about the rainbow? What is it about this multicolored optical illusion caused by refracted light hitting drops of water that is so fascinating?
We might as well admit it. We are captured by these products of storm and sunshine. When a rainbow appears in the sky people stop and look. Children point. Photographers take pictures. Judy Garland sang about them, “Somewhere over the rainbow…” Fables and myths have arisen concerning them such as the leprechaun’s pot of gold at the rainbow’s end.
Did rainbows exist prior to the Flood, or were they a new phenomenon? The Bible doesn’t say. What we know is that they are first mentioned after the Flood in Genesis 9:13. Imagine Noah looking up in wonder at the beautiful rainbow and hearing God say, “I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth.”
Before contracts were written documents, it was customary to appoint a visual sign that both parties agreed on as a perpetual reminder. (Note: in Genesis 31:44-53 Jacob and Laban built a stone memorial as a sign of the covenant made between them.)
The rainbow was a token of the covenant God made with the human race that, “never again will floodwaters kill all living creatures; never again will a flood destroy the earth” (Genesis 9:11). Think of it as a visual peace-sign placed in the sky for all to see. The rainbow at the end of the storm is a visual reminder of God’s divine restraint. True to His promise, He holds back the threatening flood tide. In wrath He remembers mercy (Habakkuk 3:2).
This does not mean God has changed His mind about sin. God is provoked every day by the sins of the human race (Psalm 7:11). What was unacceptable to God in Noah’s day is unacceptable to Him today. Rather than seeing the rainbow for what it means and being grateful, humanity has descended to greater depths of wickedness. Some have even taken the sacred symbol to represent a lifestyle choice incongruent with the Bible. While these store up wrath for the day of wrath (Romans 2:5), God remains patient, “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). The rainbow remains.
It is significant that in his vision, John saw a rainbow around God’s throne (Revelation 4:3). God’s heavenly throne is one of grace where mercy can be obtained (Hebrews 4:16). But at the last judgment the rainbow is gone (Revelation 20:11). The wrath of God that has been building for several millennia will finally be released and the world will be judged, not by flood, but by consuming fire (2 Peter 3:10).
In His mercy, God has erected another peace-sign. It’s the cross of Jesus Christ. The worldwide invitation is to look and be saved (Isaiah 45:22). As Noah looked at the rainbow and saw the symbol of God’s everlasting covenant, we look to the cross. There the wrath of God was poured out and spent. In the cross of Christ we find the permanent solution to sin and judgment. Through faith in the One who died there for all, we can have peace with God.
Pastor Todd Weston
The Way Of Cain
August 29, 2019
In the next to the last book of the New Testament, Jude introduced three bad guys from the Bible. The devious Balaam. The rebellious Korah. And the notorious Cain.
Some time after their expulsion from the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve welcomed their first child into the world; a son whom they named Cain. Remembering the first prophecy of the Bible, Eve may have looked into the face of her newborn thinking he could be the promised “seed of the woman” sent to crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15).
If that is what Eve thought, she could not have been more wrong. It would be thousands of years before another young mother would look into the face of her newborn son and hear the angelic announcement, “There is born to you this day…a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Cain was not Christ. That soon became evident to Cain’s family, especially to his brother Abel.
We cannot imagine what it must have been like to be a member of the original family. Adam undoubtedly told his sons about the wonders of the world before it was ruined by the curse of sin. We can imagine the day when Adam took Cain and Abel to a place where they could see the entrance of the Garden of Eden from a safe distance. There at the gate was the angelic creature with the flaming sword drawn, barring the way into the garden and to the mysterious Tree of Life. Cain and Abel listened attentively as their father told the story of the serpent, the forbidden fruit, and the awful act that changed the course of human history.
The first to feel the sting of sin, Adam and Eve fashioned homemade garments in an attempt to cover their shame. It didn’t work. It never does. God Himself sacrificed an animal to provide a covering. In that moment the timeless principle was established, “without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). Adam later explained to his sons that the way to peace with God is through blood sacrifice. That is God’s way. It was a finger pointing to Calvary. But Cain came up with his own way.
Cain was not an atheist. He just had his own ideas about God and how He might be approached. Rejecting the idea of blood sacrifice, Cain invented the religion of human works. Looking with disdain on the sacrifice offered by Abel, Cain presented the product of his own efforts. False religion began with Cain.
Cain represents many today who are religious, but not righteous. They are not righteous because they have despised the one and only way provided by God.
It all comes down to this. There is the way of the cross, or there is the way of Cain. There is God’s revealed plan, or man’s created plan. That’s it. To those who choose the way of Cain Jude says, “Woe to them!” Great sorrow awaits those who think they can be saved on their terms. “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12).
Cross-less Christianity may look pretty, but it is utterly powerless to save. Reject the way of Cain. Be like Paul and glory in the cross of Jesus Christ and the sacrifice offered there (Galatians 6:14). It is the way that leads to life.
Pastor Todd Weston
Among other things, the ordeal recorded in the Book of Genesis was a test of endurance.
Noah was five-hundred years old when God announced the coming flood and told him it would be a good idea to build the Ark. He was six-hundred years old when the flood finally came, and well over seven-hundred years old when his feet stood once again on dry land.
It was a cataclysmic event to say the least. For forty days and nights torrential rains fell. The subterranean waters broke through the earth’s surface with volcanic force. Towering tidal waves caused by oceanic earthquakes inundated the land. For a period of one hundred and fifty days the waters continued to rise until even the mountains were covered.
Noah and his family were on the Ark for a total of 377 days…with the animals! Do you ever wonder how that went? We normally think the test of faith for Noah was in the building of the Ark. Obviously, that was a test. But it didn’t end there. Living on the Ark had to test Noah’s faith and endurance to the max.
Nowhere in the biblical record was Noah ever told how long the flood would last. Nowhere was Noah told how long he and his family would be on the Ark. There was no cruise itinerary. No schedule of destination stops. There was no place to stop. Everything was under water! At some point somebody on the Ark had to ask, “Is this going to last forever?” Imagine being trapped in a large boat with thousands of animals and having nowhere to go.
Finally the day came when Noah and his family were able to leave the Ark. It’s no wonder that the first thing Noah did was build an altar and give thanks. The long ordeal was over.
Noah endured. He endured the one-hundred years of mocking and ridicule while building the Ark. And he endured the 377 days inside the Ark. Because he endured, he was saved.
The Book of Hebrews was written to Jewish believers who were living in troubled times. Aware that these believers were feeling the pressure to renounce their faith in Christ, the Hebrew writer said, “You have need of endurance” (Hebrews 10:36).
The Bible makes it clear that the “last days” will be marked by a lack of endurance among believers, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). Abounding sin and increasing deception will take their toll. Hard times will wear people down. Many will call it quits. “But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:14).
If you are tottering on the border between belief and unbelief, commitment and abandonment, “You have need of endurance, which has great reward.” The prize goes not to the person who starts the race, or even runs the race. It goes to the person who having started and ran, finishes.
Pastor Todd Weston
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