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Monday, January 31, 2022

 We are currently studying the book of Philippians and discovering how we can be people of joy. Paul was in prison and in chains, and was convinced that his suffering would not end soon. In fact, he even states in His letter to the church that he was facing death. He understood that his life was being poured out like a drink offering. Yet he said he was glad and rejoiced with all of the people in the church at Philippi. How is that possible?

Philippians 2:12-18  “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life-in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.”

First of all, he was glad that his dear friends in the church were people who obeyed the Word of God. They were not just hearers, but doers of what they had been taught. He compared them to stars in the universe that shine in the darkness because they were holding out the word of life. This concept of “holding out” is powerful. Paul uses the same Greek word in 1 Timothy 4:16 when he says, “Watch your life and doctrine closely.” The word means to “give attention to, hold onto, and apply with action.” The people of the church at Philippi were people who paid attention to the teaching of God’s truth, held onto it, and applied it to their actions. When Paul saw them doing that while he was with them it gave him great joy. When he heard that they were still living that way he was filled with more joy.

This kind of obedience and application of truth is possible because God is at work in us to accomplish it. Paul’s statement that we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling can cause confusion. He is not stating that we work for our salvation, but that we work to apply our salvation to how we live our lives. God is at work in us to give us the will, or desire, to live obediently by acting according to His standards. This is reason to rejoice. Put simply, when by faith we receive from God through Jesus Christ the forgiveness of sin and the salvation of our soul, the Holy Spirit stimulates a desire to obey Him and serve Him. He supplies passion to fulfill God’s good purpose. When we live according to those desires we experience joy. Others who observe us are also filled with joy.  

So the three principles we learn from this passage are these:

  1. We will experience joy, even when we are suffering, when we are fulfilling the desires God has placed in our hearts to accomplish His purpose.
  2. Others will experience joy when they see our lives of obedience and dedication to accomplishing God’s purpose.
  3. We will experience joy when we see those we brought to Christ and discipled living obedient lives according to God’s desires and purpose for them.

Ultimate joy, even in suffering, is possible when all three of these things are happening in our lives. Which ones, if any, are lacking from your life right now? There are many factors that may be keeping one or more of these joy-producers from working in our lives.

  • Selfish desires stop #1 from happening.
  • Peer pressure stops #2 from happening.
  • Fear of witnessing and personal involvement with other people stops #3 from happening.

Let’s carefully review our lives and renew our commitment to seeking God’s purpose in all things, and to living out God’s Word in all areas, and the joy will return.

Pastor John


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Friday, January 28, 2022

Anyone who has ever been involved in team competition or been a fan of a team will be able to relate to the next principle of joy. There is nothing that destroys the joy of a team faster than dissension caused by the self-serving attitudes and actions of a team member. In the same regard, there is nothing that brings greater fulfillment of joy than to see a group of people from various backgrounds and experiences with differing personalities and passions coming together to accomplish a common goal for the good of all.

I remember one such day in particular where this played out. Three friends joined me on a team that joined ten other such teams for the purpose of accomplishing a common goal. Now on the surface it appeared that each of the eleven, four-member teams was competing against the other teams in a golf tournament, but that would be an incorrect evaluation of the day. The goal was the raising of money for a Christian ministry that reaches kids for Jesus. The primary focus of the event was to see how much money we could raise to see this ministry continue to survive and flourish in our area high schools. Some of the team members raised large amounts of money and had connections to major donors, while others brought in only small amounts. But at the end of the day, each person was commended for his or her efforts regardless of their contribution size. The team succeeded without the special recognition of the individual. When the contributions of each member of the team are recognized and valued, no matter how small, heroes are eliminated, and joy is made complete. As the old baseball poem goes, there was joy in Mudville because it didn’t come down to one person’s swing, but because the team had come together in unity and reached the goal.

It would have been very easy on that day to focus on the wrong things. It would have been easy to be recognized as the hero for making two 20-foot putts in a row and having team members fall on their knees in front of me in an act of homage. But that would have been to accept what was not rightfully mine, for other team members got us to the position where those putts could be made. Everyone’s contribution on our team led to us winning the championship that day, but the honor of winning was not the completion of the joy for the day. If it was, then it was only our joy at the expense of all of those who did not win. No, the real joy was in seeing all of the golfers and volunteers come together and accomplish a common goal.

That’s what Paul refers to in today’s Scripture.

Philippians 2:1-4 “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

We must not get so enamored by the small accomplishments of the individual that we fail to see the bigger accomplishment of the whole team. If there is one thing I hate about professional sports more than anything else it is when an athlete draws attention to himself after doing something great. The game is not over. The team has not accomplished its goal. The athlete has done only what they are being paid to do. But still they selfishly seek the approval and praise of people.

May this attitude never enter the church of Jesus Christ. May individual churches never boast about their accomplishments until all churches accomplish together the goal of reaching the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. May individuals in our churches never boast about anything except what the whole body is doing. May we truly have the attitude of Jesus, who humbled Himself and became a servant to others for their good, and as a result has been exalted to the highest position of joy. Make my joy complete by being those kind of people.

Pastor John


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Thursday, January 27, 2022

Prayer has been described as a place of praise. I suggest that it is also the producer of praise. Here’s what the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 1 starting in verse 19.

“Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.”

Paul states that the prayers of people on his behalf cause him to rejoice, because he knows they are working for his deliverance. He defines deliverance as either release from prison to be able to visit them or release from this life to be able to be with Christ forever. In fact, he says that the choice between the two options is a tough one. He longs to be with Jesus as we all do, but he also longs to be in this body.

But look at his reason for wanting that option – it’s to be a servant to the people he loves in the church. It is not for selfish reasons in any way. He does not want a new car, or a new job, or a new wife, or a new baby, or a summer vacation, or any other thing that the world might offer as an alternative to desiring heaven. He wants to be a part of the body of Christ on the earth and see its progress and growth. He clearly states that the fellowship he will have with them brings them joy because it will be God’s miraculous work that makes it possible.

All of this sharing of joy begins at the altar of prayer. It is through prayer that the power of the Holy Spirit is released to do mighty and God-magnifying things – Paul will be released. It is through prayer that God’s plan is both revealed and implemented – Paul knows that he will remain in the body for God’s purpose in the church. It is through prayer that peace comes because God’s purpose is understood – Paul said his labor will be fruitful.

Are you short on joy? Maybe you’re short on prayer. Are you lacking peace? Maybe your prayers are lacking the power of surrender to God’s purpose. You see, there is no power in prayer unless there is surrender to God’s power in prayer. Prayer has no power of its own, but when we hear God’s purpose and surrender to His plan the power of God is released. Therefore, when we surrender and God supplies, we will rejoice.

So start praying. Start praising. Start listening. Start obeying. It’s time for joy to begin.

Pastor John


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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Welcome to day two of our study of joy from the book of Philippians. Paul is in prison, and as a result of his incarceration there has been a renewed sense of urgency that has developed in people to be bold in their witness for Jesus Christ.  Paul’s willingness to endure hardship for the sake of Jesus Christ has motivated others to become more courageous in their sharing of the gospel.

Philippians 1:12-14  “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.”

People were motivated to share the Gospel courageously and fearlessly because of how Paul responded to jail time. Paul says that as a result of his chains the whole palace guard and all of the people responsible for the operation of the jail now know why he is there. They were all exposed to the truth of salvation in Jesus Christ. Everyone in the churches knew of Paul’s boldness when he was free. Now they have seen his boldness when there is an attempt to silence him. They have seen the true nature of salvation: it is not simply a convenient lifestyle that produces positive results, but it is a total transformation of the whole being that produces consistency in spite of circumstances.

As a result, the people of the churches were being motivated to surrender their lives to the cause of Jesus Christ. Oh there were some who were faking it and were boldly speaking out for Christ out of envy and rivalry, and maybe even out of the selfish motives of spiritual attention deficit disorder. But Paul understood, as we should, that the power of God is in the speaking of the truth not in the motive of the heart. The motive determines our reward, but not the hearer’s response. The Word of God does not return void – ever!

For this reason Paul rejoices. He is filled with joy because the gospel of salvation is being preached and taught to more and more people. My friends, we are partners in the gospel, and we should be rejoicing when we hear of the gospel being preached. My heart is broken when I hear about churches that are fighting over how the gospel is preached or what methods are being used for evangelism. I am distressed when I get reports of people who are attacking leadership because they don’t like a particular way the pastor speaks or challenges them or some author or book he plans to use. I am confused by the people who call themselves Christians and continue to cause division and hurt in the church because music, worship style, and people’s personal freedoms do not match their own choices. To quote Paul, “What does it matter?” We should all be rejoicing because the gospel is being preached. Our only concern should be for the truth and not a false gospel. The method and the motive are insignificant if the message is true.

Let’s spend today repenting of the criticisms of the church, and rejoicing over the ways the people of the church are spreading the gospel. That’s all that really matters. Today, choose joy instead of being a joy-sucker.

Pastor John


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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

For the rest of this week I would like to spend some quality time reflecting on the subject of joy from the book of Philippians. Paul wrote this letter to the church at Philippi while he was in prison, and yet it was his most uplifting and encouraging letter. What makes that kind of joy possible when the circumstances of life were so horrible? I think we will discover some wonderful truths that will help us not only know the answer to that question but also experience joy for ourselves.

Philippians 1:3-6  “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

I believe it is very significant that the first statement of joy that Paul makes to the people in Philippi while in his prison cell is based on his relationship with them. Relationships are vital to the experience of joy in our lives. Paul calls the people in this church his partners in the Gospel, and it is because of that partnership that he is able to endure hardship.

We see this principle worked out in a variety of ways in our everyday lives. Like athletes who press on toward the prize of winning a championship even though they are seriously hurting from an injury because they are surrounded by partners in the pursuit of the goal who support them and carry out their roles.

This is what the people of Philippi were to Paul – partners in the work of bringing people to Christ. Even though Paul was sidelined by his imprisonment he was filled with joy when he thought of the partners he had who were still hard at work to carry out their commission to spread the Good News. I have discovered this joy of partnership in the church. So many pastors have yet to experience it because they are forced to do all the work alone. They are leading a flock of impotent and sterile sheep who are unwilling to propagate the Gospel. Somehow they have gotten the idea that it is the shepherd’s responsibility to produce more sheep. These churches may be filled with people who do all kinds of work in the church, but fail to do the necessary work of evangelism in the world. I know the sorrow that is produced in the heart of a pastor when he is leading a church like that.

I also know the joy of being in partnership with people who are experiencing the work of God in their lives. They are at work in the church and in the world focused on the salvation of lost souls.  They are growing in their love for Jesus Christ, which is expressed in their abounding love for each other. (see Philippians 1:9-11). They are striving for purity and holiness, and their lives are filled with the fruit of righteousness so that it is obvious that they belong to Jesus Christ. I am overflowing with joy right now as I write this because it is true of the sheep at my present church.

I praise God for our partnership in the Gospel. When things go wrong on any given day, and hardship comes, I am filled with joy anyway because of that partnership, knowing that we are serving our Lord and Savior with all of our heart. I trust that your partnership with me brings you the same joy. 

Pastor John


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Monday, January 24, 2021

We bring to a conclusion today our study on trusting God’s character in bad circumstances with Paul’s final words from Romans 8 before he makes the statement that all things are working out for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:26-27  “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”

Jeremiah 8:18 “O my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faint within me.”

The basis for this study has been the “things” that are working for our good, and we have discovered that the “things” does not primarily refer to the circumstances of life but to the activities of God as expressed by His character in us. In review, the “things” that are at work for our good are:

  1. The freedom from the sinful nature because of the Spirit of life given to us in Christ
  2. This life is one of righteousness and peace
  3. We have been adopted as children of God and granted all rights as heirs with Christ of all things
  4. This hope we have in our final redemption into a spiritually perfect and eternal body gives us the patience to endure hardship today

And finally…

5. …while we patiently wait for that final redemption, God has given us the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit to provide us with strength in our times of weakness.

Paul begins verse 26 with the phrase “In the same way”. He refers to what he has just stated in the previous verse – we are inwardly groaning for the day when we will be free from the limitations and bondage of this physical existence and we will be given our eternal bodies. When we experience trouble and hardship, we groan for relief, and the ultimate groan is the cry for heaven. The groan for heaven is a groan we know, because we know the outcome of it. The groans for present relief are groans we do not know, because we cannot find answers. But the Holy Spirit groans for us because He does know the answers. In the same way that we groan for what we know will be the ultimate answer – heaven – the Holy Spirit, who searches our hearts and knows the mind of God, groans for the answers to our present situations so that all works out for good according to God’s purpose.

I hope you find this as helpful and encouraging as I do. In those dark times when answers are hard to find, we can trust the companionship of the Holy Spirit who is at work to bring about good from the heart of God. When words cannot express the depth of our emotions and fears, the Holy Spirit understands our groanings.

Do not fear the times of inexpressible confusion. Do not fear the times of unanswered requests. Do not fear the times of limited understanding. The Holy Spirit is never confused, is never withholding an answer, and is always working to bring us understanding in faith. His time schedule may be different than we desire, but we can trust the outcome to our Sovereign Companion.

As a result, we can wholeheartedly proclaim with the Apostle Paul the words of the rest of Romans 8 in this summarized version:

If God is for us, who can be against us? With all of these things at work on our behalf we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us. I am now convinced that nothing in this world or in my current situation can separate me from the love of God because I am in Christ Jesus my Lord.

May I suggest that you commit that to memory, or write it on a card and carry it with you at all times. The next time a situation arises that looks dark, or diminishes you hope in any way, pull it out and read it and be refreshed. God is at work around you through the Holy Spirit in you to produce His good through you. That’s a guarantee!

Pastor John


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Friday, January 21, 2022

Even though we have been spiritually adopted as children of God, as we discovered yesterday, the reality is that we still have to endure the hardships of this physical life for a time. Paul understood that when he wrote this next passage of encouragement to us in Romans chapter 8. Let’s be honest, for most of us the physical hardships, troubles, and trials of life usually overwhelm our spirits and we long for them to be over. Our patience runs thin. We run after the pursuits of the flesh rather than rest in our position as a child of God.

Romans 8:22-25  “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

According to Paul, the reason we run out of patience and run into problems is that we have displaced hope. For some reason we have bought into a self-serving spiritual philosophy of adoption that seeks to guarantee the fulfillment of the desires of the flesh. “Give me my inheritance now!” is the cry of the prodigal followers of this position. The hope of such people is placed in the fulfillment of life today. But Paul refutes that prosperity gospel with hope in the ultimate redemption of our current physical body when Jesus returns to give us our eternal, spiritual body. Until then, we groan inwardly as we wait patiently for that to occur.

I like to think of this in terms of a caterpillar, even though the analogy is not perfect. Prior to my salvation, I was just wandering around feeding on any green leaf I could find. I may not have been the nicest creature to look at, but I did my best to combine my colors and my defense systems into an external appearance that could be tolerated. On the inside I was filled with bitterness: just ask the robin that tried to pick me up until I squirted his beak with my juice when he squeezed me too hard. I was afraid of intimacy, because any time someone would get too close I would curl up in a ball and protect myself from harm. Then one day I was moved in my spirit to leave that life behind. I suddenly understood that there was a purpose for my life and that I could be free to fly. I put to death the old ways and was transformed into a new being. I spun myself into a grave where death would normally be certain, but where God’s power would transform me. This grave is ugly and hard. I am bound up in it, but I am patiently waiting to be fully released because I know that when I am I will be complete. Inside this shell I groan to be set free. My wings have formed. My spirit is transformed. My will is conformed to that of my creator. Very soon He will energize me to break out of the grave I am in and fly into His arms. Until He does, I wait patiently.

As I said, the analogy is not perfect, for in one sense we have already been set free from our cocoons to serve Jesus Christ in freedom. But in light of what Paul says in today’s Scripture, we are still in a physical cocoon. It limits us. It confines us. It makes us long to be free from its restrictions. But our hope is not in this physical life: it is in the death of this flesh and the resurrection into spiritual eternity. With our hope fixed firmly on that guarantee, we can patiently endure the hardships of our current cocoon.

Pastor John


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Thursday, January 20, 2022

We are currently in a devotional study of learning how to trust God’s character when we face bad circumstances.

Unfortunately in our modern culture there are far too many people who do not have the privilege of knowing their father. Even when the father is present, so many have a poor understanding of what a real father is like because of the model he presents. But if we can look beyond the human limitations and failures of earthly fathers and open our hearts to the incredible wonder of a perfect Father in heaven, we will be empowered to endure hardship because we know His heart and His purpose is always good.

Romans 8:14-16 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

Romans 8 tells us about all of the things that are at work in our lives to help us handle tough times, and one of the most significant for me is this one – I have been made a permanently loved child of God with all rights of sonship. Here are three benefits of believing this truth.

  1. We have a life free from fear because of the power of the Father. When I was young I had a vivid and recurring dream. I was a toddler and was in a fenced area containing a large bull with huge horns that swept down in a curve in front of his head much like tusks on an elephant. The bull charged me, knocked me down, then scooped me up with his horns and began tossing me in the air. With each toss I became more filled with terror as the bull would catch me and then throw me higher. At the top of one toss I noticed my father coming to my rescue. He jumped high into the air using the back of the bull as a springboard and snatched me away from danger, setting me down carefully as he landed on the ground. He turned and grabbed the bull by the horns and began spinning him around like an Olympic hammer-thrower. At just the right moment he released the bull and flung him into a far pasture. I awakened from the dream feeling at peace that I had a father who would protect me from harm.

God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of adoption as a son, and we may cry out to Him in any situation knowing that He will respond with intimate love and infinite power.

2. We have been made an equal heir of all things with Jesus Christ. When God adopts us as His children he removes all distinctions, between us and other people, and also between Jesus Christ and us. Yes, Jesus is still God and we are not, but God honors those who are in Christ with all the rights and rewards of being His children. The Apostle John states it this way: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:1-2)

3. Finally, the sufferings of today are necessary for the total experience of glory later. We are much more appreciative of gain when we have experienced loss. Blessings are more valued after cursings. Light is more highly esteemed after a period of darkness. Glory will be more fully revealed after suffering. Do not fight the hardship – embrace it as a training ground of personal growth leading towards the revealing of God’s glory.

Hardship and hurt are able to be endured because:

  • fear has been removed by the power of the Father to control and conquer the difficulty;
  • the Father treats me with the same love and honor that He treats Jesus because I have been made an equal heir;
  • God is designing all of the tests in this life to improve me and prove to me His love so that I will experience the fullness of His glory.

Be encouraged – you are a child of God.

Pastor John


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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Yesterday we talked about the word vitality, and that God has granted us vitality of life in Jesus Christ. The root word of vitality is vital, and it is used to describe certain organs in our bodies that are essential to existence. Our vital organs are primarily contained in our chest cavity, protected from the normal activities of life by our rib cage. But in the event that we will be involved in some form of dangerous activity, we wear extra protection. Police officers wear bulletproof vests; football quarterbacks wear flack jackets; and Christians wear a breastplate of righteousness.

Being a Christian is a dangerous profession: the Enemy is out to destroy what makes our life vital. He is constantly shooting his flaming arrows at our hearts, trying to interrupt the flow of life-giving blood. He cannot undo the saving power of the blood of Jesus Christ, but he can stop it from having its intended result on our personal choices and lifestyles. He shoots his wicked darts at our lungs, attempting to quench the breath of the Holy Spirit so that we gasp for the air of the world to survive. He aims his attack at times at our stomachs, hoping to stop the feeding on God’s Word and the digesting of truth so that he can deceive us and mislead us into sin.

But God has provided us with an impenetrable defense system to protect all of our vitals. It is the breastplate of righteousness. 

Ephesians 6:14 “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place…”

But what makes this such an effective defense system? First, it is not of our own design, so it has none of the limitations of our humanity. Our own righteousness is as filthy rags and was surrendered as worthless at the cross when we were saved. Second, it is not simply a righteousness made for us by God but rather we are made the righteousness of God. The breastplate is the actual righteousness of God Himself. Read 2 Corinthians 5:21. 

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Jesus Christ actually became our sin, so we are no longer declared to be sin but instead have become the righteousness of God in Christ. This is not an addition to our lives; it is the replacement of our lives. It is our very identity: we are righteous.

Because of this, when we fall into sin or become overwhelmed with trouble and trials, it may be because we have ignored or forgotten our identity. The righteousness of God is still there, but as Paul says in Ephesians, we have not made sure it is in place. Make sure that your vitals are protected by a constant reflection on the righteous nature and character of God Himself that is our permanent possession and you will be protected from the effects of the bad and evil in our world. God’s righteousness is at work in you to bring about His good.

If you want to take the time for one more point, here is a free bonus. The righteousness of God is not only a defense system, but it is also an offensive weapon against the hardships of life. Read this, and let the truths of Scripture touch and encourage your heart.

“Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”  2 Corinthians 6:4-10

Pastor John


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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Bad circumstances have a way of sapping our energy. We get mentally drained trying to figure out solutions to the problem. We get emotionally drained by feeling all of the possible responses we could have to the problem. We get physically drained by all of the activity it takes to try and fix the problem. I’m tired just writing about it. But I have good news for us all – it is not the circumstance that causes the draining of our energy; it is our fleshly response to the circumstance that does that. The circumstance itself has no power. We empower it by how we respond to it. We empower it to control us and deplete us of strength when we respond to it with our own reasoning and activity. We become emotionally drained because we know the limits of such responses and our hope is diminished based on our finite limitations. 

I want you to notice the difference between what I just wrote and what Paul wrote in Romans about our responses to circumstances.

Romans 8:6 “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.”

Romans 8:10-11 “But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.”

What I wrote is all about what I am able to accomplish in my human nature, and what Paul wrote is all about what God will do through His Spirit. What I wrote brings fear and failure. What Paul wrote is vitality and peace. 

The Greek word for life is zoe, and its base meaning is “the state of one who is possessed with vitality”. I like that word vitality. It describes what I desire for my existence. It is certainly not what I experience when I respond to circumstances from my flesh and human nature. But because Christ is in me, and in you, the death we have been living in response to our circumstances has been replaced with the resurrection power of Jesus Christ who has given life -vitality – to our mortal bodies.

My friends, we have the power of God residing in us, and circumstances cannot change that fact. Our response to those circumstances can change the experience of that fact if we choose to respond from our flesh. I know how easy it is to blame others and blame events for causing our current mental, emotional, and physical stress: I do it all the time. But God is richly showing me that His Spirit provides vitality in all of those times, and that the circumstances are powerless in and of themselves. My response to them is what needs adjustment. The sinful circumstances of this life will not be changed until Jesus returns. What can be changed is my response and attitude. 

Jesus, thank you for bringing your resurrection power into my life and giving me vitality. Forgive me for responding from my flesh to the things that happen in my world and for placing myself on the mental, emotional, and physical throne of my life by thinking I have the solutions and ability to act in my own strength. Use these times to strengthen my faith and determination to trust you with the outcomes. Thank you for the peace that passes all understanding when I give all of the control over to you. Amen.

Pastor John