August 13 – Unstoppable – Minimize Hypocrisy and Maximize Godliness

Read 1 Timothy 3:1-13

There is something unthinkable about this unstoppable movement called the church.  The “unstoppable” flows from the reality that Christ Himself builds it and the Holy Spirit empowers it.  But, still, the unthinkable is found in the fact that frail and faulty men and women play a key role in it.  I am guessing you can complete the battle cry of those outside the church, can’t you?  “The church is full of __________!” (Hypocrites, right?)  It is no surprise that the generational complaint still lives today.  After all, it is true.  On our best days, those of us who comprise the church are prone to wander and surprisingly inconsistent.

Nevertheless, God desires that those who lead His unstoppable church be people described with the word “godly” rather than “hypocrite.”  Through His Spirit, He has listed qualities that should characterize those who serve Him.  Notice that He not only gives qualities for pastors and elders but also for deacons . . . those whose ministry might seem as “simple” as preparing and delivering a meal to someone in need (Acts 6:1-7).  In that regard, every believer in the church of Jesus should, by the Spirit’s help, minimize hypocrisy and maximize godliness.

Though the two lists have their differences, in broad strokes, they focus on some of these general areas:

  • Family commitment – How a person relates to spouse and children is critical!  If you are married with kids, your faith is to impact this vitally important facet of life.
  • Outside reputation – What those in the community think of the church member is important!  Although you do not have ultimate control over that, are you giving them clear reasons to shake their heads and roll their eyes?
  • Financial integrity – Jesus made clear that His followers cannot serve God and money (Matthew 6:24)!  Are there dimensions of your finances that are questionable or that have gained a position of priority higher than they should?
  • Biblical theology – Not only the elder, but all who serve must “keep hold of the deep truths of the faith.”  Do you have a grasp of basic Bible doctrines and teaching?

Although God’s desire touches more than we have above, the key question for each of us is, “With the Spirit’s help, am I minimizing hypocrisy and maximizing godliness in my life?”

Steve Kern

Posted in 1 Timothy, Unstoppable | Leave a comment

August 12 – Unstoppable – Unstoppable Power

Read John 14:15-17Luke 24:36-49Acts 2:1-21

Something was coming.  Better said, “Someone was coming.”  This Person was to be the Paraklete, the Comforter, the Counselor, the Teacher.  He would guide believers into all truth and would convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.

But He was no newbie on the scene.  No, His existence is traced beyond the point of the inception of time to eternity past.  Thus, He is older than the hills . . . in fact, He was a co-participant in creating them.  But creation was only one of many of His spectacular works.  He enabled people like Joshua and Daniel to interpret dreams.  He gave to King David incredible leadership abilities.  He was the wind in the sails of Bible authors and the source of the words for the prophets.  The Holy Spirit had been active throughout time leading up to Christ’s ministry.  In fact, He had even been part of what Jesus had done.

Still, this would be different.  While the Spirit had been with them, the day would come when He would be in them.  Previously, He had come and gone, somewhat mysteriously and unpredictably.  And never before had He taken up residence in frail human beings.  But that day was coming.

Not only would His coming be different; it would also be essential.  Jesus was clear in His instructions: “Stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”  Without that power, they would be dead in the water.  With that power, they would be part of the unstoppable church, empowered to bear witness of Christ in their neighborhood and among the nations.  The unstoppable nature of the church is not only a result of the Christ who builds it.  It is also the product of the Holy Spirit who fuels the church’s mission.

And when that day came, powerfully spectacular things happened.  His coming was announced by tornado like sounds and fiery visions.  Language barriers were broken and a sermon was preached.  And the most spectacular thing of all . . . 3000 people came to Christ.

That same Spirit is still active today.  He drew you to the Savior, if you know Him.  He lives in you, if you are a believer.  And He empowers God’s people today for an unstoppable ministry.

Steve Kern

Posted in Acts, John, Luke, Unstoppable | Leave a comment

August 11 – Unstoppable – Christ’s Unstoppable Church

Read Matthew 16:1-28

How do you stop an unmanned runaway train consisting of some 73 cars . . . most of which contain crude oil?  How do you stop it as it picks up speed down a 7 mile descent?  How do you stop it as it approaches a populated area?  How do you stop it before it approaches a turn that cannot withstand its speed?  The answer is “you don’t” . . . and no one did.  On July 6, 2013, this train derailed and exploded in the heart of the city of Lac-Megantic in Quebec, Canada.  In the aftermath, dozens from Lac-Megantic lost their lives and millions of dollars of damage was left behind.  The train, you see, was unstoppable.

Now, subtract out the devastation and destruction for a moment.  Picture the powerful train in motion and you get a glimpse of the unstoppable Church.  In describing His Church, Jesus put it like this:

“. . . I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”  (18b)

Now, likely you are aware of local churches that have dwindled and perhaps even closed their doors.  Christ is not making promises about individual local churches.  He is talking about the corporate body of Christ – the universal church.  As we will see in the days to come, this church cannot be destroyed.  The best that Satan can dish out will never thwart the church.  Even death itself will not bring it to a standstill.

What is it that makes the church unstoppable?  A second look at the text gives us some of the answers.

  1. Upon this rock I will build my church.”  The church is unstoppable because of its foundation and cornerstone.  The church is built on the very foundation of Christ who is identified by Peter as “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  This foundation is strong, secure, and indestructible.
  2. “Upon this rock I will build my church.”  The church is unstoppable because of its architect.  Jesus is the omnipotent creator of all things (Col. 1:16).  Nothing can withstand Him.  What He purposes is also realized.

If you are a Jesus-follower, you are part of this unstoppable movement called the universal church.  Give your energy to participate in what He is doing through a local church like Grace.

Steve Kern

Posted in Matthew, Unstoppable | Leave a comment

August 10 – His story: Man’s rescue – The song God wrote

Read Deuteronomy 32:1-47

So Moses wrote down this song that day and taught it to the Israelites. (31:22)

God had written a song.  And He chose Moses to perform it.  It would be among his final public proclamations before following God up the mountain to die. (v48ff)  Had Moses himself written the song, perhaps it would have been a bit more upbeat.  But God Himself wrote the lyrics and hand-delivered them to Moses.  A song written by none other than God Himself.

When I think about “songs of praise,” my thoughts don’t go to God’s judgment or His chastening.  Rather, I think of the more likable characteristics of God.  Remembering the great things He has done in the past.  Admiring His beauty and almighty strength.  The greatness and faithfulness of God my Rock are what I like to sing about when I lift my voice in praise to Him.  Perhaps Moses felt the same way.  In fact, maybe that’s why God wrote the song rather than giving Moses a blank slate with some musical notations and a general direction.

The song was to be a testimony against the people of God for when they would rebel and oppose His ways.  A way for them to remember that God called it right, even as they would forget all that He had done on their behalf.

Now write down for yourselves this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, so that it may be a witness for me against them. . . And when many disasters and difficulties come upon them, this song will testify against them, because it will not be forgotten by their descendants. (Dt. 31:19,21)

The lyrics read like a story.  One that begins and ends with the mighty and perfect name of the LORD.  The Rock Who always acts perfectly and justly and “who does no wrong.” (Dt. 32:4)  Even in their chastening, the LORD God is just.  Even in the difficulty that the Israelites would eventually bring on themselves, faithful God would remain true to His Word.  And the Israelites needed to know.  They needed the lyrics inscribed on the pages of their minds so that they would not forget Yahweh, the LORD.

The song rings true for us as well.  It begins with the mighty name of God.  And it ends on the same note.  Always just and faithful and true, God the Rock has always been and will always be the One True God.  When we choose our own way and go against His, He remains true.  When He works on our behalf to show us the emptiness of an idol we have let take His place, still His faithfulness never wavers.

Oh, that we would learn to trust His song and sing it too.

Bria Wasson

Posted in Deuteronomy, HIS Story: Man's Rescue | Leave a comment

August 9 – His story: Man’s rescue – How can we not praise Him?

Read Exodus 14:1-15:21

To picture it proves difficult.  As if molding solid clay, God used His breath to form walls with sea water, making way for His people to escape their pursuers.  A million people walking straight through the middle of the ocean’s floor, surrounded on either side by solid water walls constructed by the very breath of God.  It reads like a science-fiction movie script.

So when it was all said and done, and God had powerfully replaced the sea water over the enemy of His people, the Israelites responded accordingly.

They celebrated.

Four hundred thirty years, they had served as slaves in Egypt.  At least a few lifetimes.  Four hundred thirty years they had awaited deliverance from slavery and the only life they had known.  And now the only One Who could save them rearranged an ocean to do it.

When God moves His hand, something mighty always happens.  And the Israelites had seen not just the work of His hand, but the blast of His very breath as they walked between those water walls.  They had been awaiting their deliverance with baited breath of their own, realizing the truth of God’s absolute control over His people and their situation.  Whether carrying out a plague on Pharaoh and his people or changing Pharaoh’s mind about letting them go, the Israelites had been learning that God’s power prevailed over all, and His plan always rules.

How could they not celebrate?  God, the I AM, had personally led them to freedom and delivered them to new life.  When God’s people, the Israelites, experienced the effects of His mighty hand, they could not help but sing His praise.  And He expected no less.

But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.  (Ex. 14:4)

He left no room for wondering Whose hand it was.  No room to doubt Who He is.  He brought glory to Himself by acting on behalf of His people.  And He has done no less for us.

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.  (Rom. 6:22)

The very same God who made walls from an ocean to rescue His people, conquered death itself for us.

So, how can we not praise Him?  How can we not celebrate His might?

Bria Wasson

Posted in Exodus, HIS Story: Man's Rescue | Leave a comment

August 8 – His story: Man’s rescue – The story ends…or does it?

Read Revelation 21:1-22:21

HIS story of man’s rescue ends with eternity.

How do you envision eternity?  If you are a follower of Jesus, you will spend forever with God.  But what will that be like?  Do you ever fear that it might become boring?  I mean, if people are singing and playing harps 24/7 and if you aren’t particularly musical, it could get old pretty fast.

Fortunately, that stereotype of our future is not one that the Bible supports.  Hopefully, you were encouraged to read that eternity will include some very familiar but much improved elements.

  • There will be a heaven and earth (21:1). If your vision was one of halos, wings, and cloud walking, guess again.  You will dwell on a new earth surrounded by a new heaven.
  • There will be a city with walls, gates, and streets (21:9-21).  Whether you prefer green acres or city life, all of us have to “go to town” once in a while.  This city will be a spectacle of beauty.
  • There will be springs, rivers, and trees (21:6; 22:1, 2).  Eternity is not a cement jungle.  The beauty extends to nature itself.
  • We will eat and drink (21:6; 22:2).  Although I have known a few people in life who see food as a necessary evil, most of us enjoy eating.  Thankfully, food and drink will be part of our “forever experience” as well.
  • We will continue to serve God (22:3).  Eternity is more than music.  There will be endless opportunity for us to serve God.  Some even understand verses like 21:24-26 to indicate that we will continue to uncover the wonders of God and worship Him for them.

But eternity is more than a ramped up version of your present experience!  It will be much different in that the curse of tears, mourning, crying, and pain will be lifted and that God will be with us!  It is something for which we should yearn.  It is the culmination of the story that God has been writing since the beginning of time.  No wonder the apostle John cried out, “Amen!  Come, Lord Jesus!”  (Rev. 22:20b)

Steve Kern

Posted in HIS Story: Man's Rescue, Revelation | Leave a comment

August 7 – His story: Man’s rescue – 1000 years…a long time but not an eternity!

Read Revelation 20:1-15

If you are more than about 19 years old, you were around for the celebration of a significant turn of the calendar…from 1999 to the year 2000.  People sure made that New Year seem significant…Y2K scare and all.  It represented the start of a new thousand year period…a new millennium.  One thousand years is a long time…but it is not yet eternity!

One thousand years represents the timeframe during which Jesus will reign here on earth after His return at the revelation.  Though that is a long time, it represents another important part of HIS story and man’s rescue.  Consider what happens during that time.

At the beginning of that time, Satan will be bound and thrown into the Abyss.  After years and years of wielding his influence, he will be powerless, unable to deceive the nations!  This will be unlike any other time period since the fall of man with unprecedented peace and visible righteousness on the earth as Christ rules with an iron scepter (Rev. 19:15).  But, this is not yet eternity.

At the beginning of that thousand-year period, judgments will take place.  Those living at the end of the Tribulation (Matt. 25) and those martyred for Christ during the Tribulation will be judged.  The unredeemed will be cast from His presence, while others (especially martyrs) will have opportunity to reign with Jesus.

This millennium experience will also be unparalleled in nature as wolf, lamb, leopard, goat, calf, and bear will live together in harmony instead of predator/prey relationships.  Even children will be able to play with cobras and vipers.  That certainly doesn’t happen today!

At the end of that thousand year period, Satan will be released.  It is amazing to read how his deception will find a quick following of multitudes.  But this uprising will be easily squelched by God.  And Satan himself will be eternally eliminated from the picture.

If you know Christ, you will have returned with Him and will be part of the glory of those thousand years.  But though a thousand years is a long time, it is not yet eternity.  The best is yet to come!

Steve Kern

Posted in HIS Story: Man's Rescue, Revelation | Leave a comment