Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
QUIET PREPARATION — Psalm 95:6-7 Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.
Hearing From God’s Word
“In a House of Prayer, Jesus Was Teaching” – Luke 20:1-19
Last week I received another reminder that my human body is flawed, and subject to a variety of problems. After a few days in the hospital I was stabilized but learned of a problem that will require further work in a few weeks. Sometimes it is tempting to become discouraged because despite trying to perform proper maintenance, things still break down in unexpected ways. Bodies have similarities to cars.
Our fighter verse this week was the first six words of 2 Corinthians 4:16- “Therefore we do not lose heart.” In the remainder of this verse, Paul reminds us, “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16b). This seems written directly to me this week.
Verse 16a is not the first time Paul makes this statement in this chapter. In verse 1 he wrote, “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.” As I was taught many years ago, and as Pastor James has stated on many occasions, when the word therefore appears in Scripture, go backward to find out what it is there for.
In chapter 3, Paul discusses the new covenant that originated with Christ. The old covenant was based on the intent and letter of the law, which was designed to help the Israelites please God by aligning themselves to His character and standard of living. The problem, originating with the nature of humanity, is that no one is perfect enough to fulfill the old covenant. Sin creates a permanent barrier, or veil in Paul’s description.
“But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:16-18).
The transformation to His image that we experience is not a physical one but an internal spiritual one. When we accept Christ and become one with Him, we begin a spiritual transformation. As Paul continues his message in chapter 4 he focuses on the difference between our physical and spiritual lives. As we live and serve Him, our physical strength decreases while our spiritual strength increases.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:7-9).
Paul continues with the acknowledgement that we will one day die a physical death as Christ did, so that one day we will also be resurrected as He was to join Him in eternity. Where do these thoughts lead?
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
I returned to our fighter verse with a better appreciation of why Paul used therefore in verses 1 and 16. As I encounter physical difficulties that remind me of my mortality it would be tempting to become depressed. As my jar of clay becomes more weathered and weaker, my spiritual self becomes stronger, more seasoned, and more useful for Christ. This is what Paul recognized happening to himself. It will happen to all true believers. The physical decreases while the spiritual increases.
I pray that I, and all of us, will be able to continually realign our expectations of what is most important to God. Though our physical strength becomes less, God can certainly use our maturing spiritual strength to have an unexpected impact for the kingdom. Instead of the seen and temporary, let us keep our eyes fixed on the unseen and eternal.
I like this week’s fighter verse – 2 Corinthians 4:16. I am sure it is in the list of familiar verses or a verse in which someone would say, “I have heard that one before!” But for our fighting, I want us to just hold on to the first six words: So we do not lose heart. So, why are we to not lose heart?
This Sunday we resume our study of the Gospel of Luke! We will be in Luke 20:1-19. And it just so happens to be a part of our Community Bible reading this week, too. Kind of neat how that worked out!
I mentioned last week that Community Groups are starting to resume. More of these groups will resume as the COVID numbers decrease. But I just want to encourage you to be a part of a Community Group even if it is just you and one other person. We have these groups with the sole purpose of each one of you watching out for each one of you. And to fulfill that purpose, groups are free to function as they like as often as they like. Groups can meet for prayer, for Bible study, to simply connect or think thru the Christian life together. The bigger point is to be together. It would be thrilling to know that every person of Calvary Community Church has a community group. If you would like to talk more about community groups, please let me know!
And here is an exciting opportunity from Bob Hershey (director of the Cleveland Pregnancy Center):
We are currently doing a Meals 4 Moms program. It is a meal delivered to a mom after she has her baby. Just a nice gesture from the center to help that mom after she gets home with her newborn. I’m sure you all might already do this for moms in your churches. Let me ask you if that group would be willing to make a meal for a family after they come home with their baby? We typically have about 30 babies born each year through the center. We’d like to be able to offer every one of those moms a meal when they get back home. Let me know if you have a group that would be interested in helping this way. Just one more connection back to the church with the love of Christ.
If you are interested in the Meals 4 Moms program, let me know!
But the Lord sits enthroned forever;
he has established his throne for justice, and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness. The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
And those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion! Tell among the peoples his deeds!
QUIET PREPARATION — Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,
to which indeed you were called in one body.
And be thankful.
Hearing From God’s Word
“We Work Together As A Church” – 1 Corinthians 11:17-22
Most evenings near the end of Wheel of Fortune, I can barely keep my eyes open. So, yes, I am tired.
This week’s fighter verse is for when you are tired, that is, tired of doing good. Have you ever been tired of doing good? Not in doing good, but tired of doing good. You know you are tired of doing good when you entertain the thought or even say the words, “what is the point anymore?”
Galatians 6:9 is the fighter verse. Galatians 6:10 explains how we are to do good. And Galatians 5:22-23 gives some further insight as to what that good is to look like.
This Sunday, January 24 we are having communion together. Or, our gathering this Sunday is at the Lord’s Table. I am thinking that we will spend time in 1 Corinthians 11:17-22. A reason is that this part of 1 Corinthians 11 so closely connects with 1 Corinthians 12 which we looked at briefly last Sunday (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:18, 19, 20).
And we are to be doing something this week which began last Sunday – pray for one another. And in praying for one another we are also seeking to hear about God’s steadfast love in the lives of those for whom we are praying.
And I love sharing this: we have committed to adding to our missions staff! This commitment means that we are asking, seeking and waiting for who God will provide to our missions staff. Be continually praying! How exciting will it be to watch God provide?!
Community groups are continually happening! If you would like to be a part of a community group, are interested in knowing more about community groups, or would like to start a community group, please let me know. It would be so good to hear from you!
Keep this in mind the rest of the week: God is always doing more than we know. Therefore, do not get tired of doing good.
CALL TO WORSHIP & OPENING PRAYER — Psalm 67:1-3 May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us, Selah
that your way may be known on earth,
your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!
QUIET PREPARATION — Psalm 62:1-2 For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.
HEARING FROM GOD’S WORD “We Work Together When We Hear a Man Pray” Psalm 143:1-12
On Tuesday Pastor James shared our fighter verse for this week—James 1:5—“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” The challenge to consider trials of various kinds with joy because it will develop perseverance leads into verse 5. This perseverance leads to perfection (maturity, not flawlessness) and completeness within us. The foundation that this will be built on is our faith. Is there anyone in Scripture that we can look to as an example of someone who faced many trials, yet grew in faith and maturity?
In Psalm 71 David wrote:
In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame! In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me! Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man. For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth. Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you. (Psalm 71:1-6)
David’s plea to God shows perseverance and consistency. He recognizes that God has known him since before he was born, and that He is his hope and trust. This is wisdom. The rest of Psalm 71 is both a plea for God’s deliverance from those who persecute him, and a promise to sing God’s praises with love and consistency.
We should look at what caused the trials that David faced throughout his life; largely, sin. Some of the trials and tribulations that he faced were the result of his own sin. He committed adultery with Bathsheba. He arranged her husband Uriah’s death. He didn’t discipline his son Amnon for rape and incest. He ordered an unauthorized census, which resulted in a deadly plague on the people. These sins brought David difficulty and heartache, to the point of losing the son he conceived in sin with Bathsheba, Absalom.
Some of the sins that brought David trials throughout his life were committed by others. Saul tried to hunt him down to kill him. Other nations were constantly after David and Israel, attempting to conquer them and take their land. Absalom led a rebellion in an attempt to take David’s throne, and was killed.
What can we learn from David? Where do you suppose some of our trials originate? Sin, of course. We have been reminded in many sermons past that both believers and non-believers are sinners. The crucial difference between the two is that believers are forgiven of the effect of their sin through the blood of Christ, and look forward to eternity with Him in God’s presence. Even though we are forgiven we still struggle with our humanness. We still fight the tendency to sin. When we sin we can expect troubles and trials that might occur as a result of that sin. Likewise those around us can sin in ways that affect us and bring us other troubles and trials. Sometimes we feel especially helpless in these instances because we may have done nothing personally to influence their sin. The effect remains.
From David we also learn the proper response to those troubles and trials. David, in Psalm 71 and countless others, prays to God for forgiveness and strength. He sings and proclaims God’s greatness with boldness. He lives with the sense of God being ever-present with him. This is the perseverance that breeds maturity that James writes about in verses 5-11 of chapter 1.
Why should these trials bring us joy? The answer is in James 1:12: “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” In the next couple verses we are reminded that God is pure, and does not use evil or temptation. The reward for remaining steadfast under trial is great:
“Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (James 1:16-18).
Praise God that we inconsistent, sin prone humans have a God who is both constant and consistent in goodness and love. Because He loved us and gave His son for us we have a bright future even when the present looks bleak. He is bigger than our sin!
This week’s fighter verse is James 1:5. One thing I realized today is how important James 1:2-4 is to verse 5 and especially in asking, why ask God for wisdom?
Two take-aways from the fighter verse for this week is to resolve to count 2021 as a joy and to ask God for wisdom so that to count 2021 as a joy.
Our focus for 2021 is working together. And we have been taking our time at the start of 2021 to understand what it means to work together. Working together works when the pastor works correctly (Ephesians 4:11-12). Working together works when you see that this church vitally needs you (Ephesians 4:7; 4:16). Working together works when you see that you vitally need this church (Ephesians 4:12-15). And we can only work together when we know and do God’s will together (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
This Sunday we will continue to understand what it means to work together in Psalm 143:1-12.
Following the morning service, we will take time to affirm our budget for 2021. There are three main proposals for 2021. The first is a cost of living increase of three percent for the ministerial staff (worship director, pastor). The second proposal is that we increase our missions giving. We do not know yet who this will support. And that is the exciting part! We get to come together and ask God to lead us to someone or bring someone to us to partner with in establishing and strengthening churches worldwide. The third proposal is that we come together asking God and intentionally seek how we might be a help to the community of God (the family of God) with our benevolence fund.
Two more things that do not need to be decided Sunday. The first is that our pastor needs help. In 2021, it would be good to see two elder-servants added to our church leadership. These would be two men who would oversee outreach (local and global missions) and discipleship. The second is for someone to assist our treasurer. All that is being asked now regarding these two things is that we ask God about it.
Mark down Sunday, January 24. This is the Sunday we will gather at the Lord’s table together for communion!