Apr 03

Working It Out

Have you ever struggled to figure life out? That’s a crazy question isn’t it? We all at some point have to scratch our head and wonder, what in the world is going on? I believe there are a lot of people trying to do that right now with COVID-19. I want us to see in today’s text that we can trust that God is working all things out for His glory and His children’s good. Ruth 4:14 says, “Then them women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you without a close relative, and may his name be famous in Israel.'”

When Naomi first came back to Bethlehem after 10 years of living in Moab, she didn’t want to be called Naomi anymore. Instead, she wanted to be called Mara, which means bitter. Naomi looked at the circumstances of her life and felt like God was punishing her, like He didn’t love her anymore. Yet, as we come to the close of the book in today’s text we see just the opposite. We see that God was working His plan out the entire time. Not just a plan for Naomi’s good, but ultimately what was going to be the for world’s good. We know this because the son that Ruth and Boaz had was the next link in the Messianic line. That is why Ruth 4 ends with giving a short genealogy that mentions David. While they were meaning Boaz or his son, when the ladies were talking about may he be famous in Israel, they didn’t realize just how famous the eventual offspring from this family’s line would be.

The book of Ruth is a tale of tragedy that ends in triumph. It pictures the victorious life of a Christian. Because no matter how bad things seem to be in our lives right now, because Jesus rose from the dead, the child of God has this blessed hope, that one day we were be in the eternal presence of the Savior who died for us. I’m not trying to make light of the difficult circumstances we find ourselves in right now. These are truly trying times. However, as a Christian, we can face uncertain days as the hymn says, “because He lives.” I don’t know what God is trying to accomplish through COVID-19, but I know that He is using it for His glory and our good. May His kingdom grow because people are surrendering and bowing their heart and life to Jesus. May the church be purified and live out the Great Commission during this time and beyond.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Apr 02

It’s Been Reported

Can people really tell that I am a disciple of Jesus? Am I truly saved or am I deceiving myself? These are questions that many people ask from time to time about their life. However, God doesn’t want us to live in uncertainty. He wants us to know definitively if we truly belong to Him or not. The way that we can know is by how we live our life. It’s not enough to say that you believe in God or that you love Jesus. That profession will be proven true by the way we conduct our lives as we see in today’s text. Ruth 2:11 says, “And Boaz answered and said to her, ‘It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people home you did not know.'”

Naomi and Ruth have had a hard life. Both of their husbands died and left them as widows. They have traveled back to Naomi’s home town of Bethlehem. Ruth is from Moab and so she would have been seen as an outsider by the Jews is Bethlehem. However, Ruth had made a profession to leave her family’s false gods and to love the One true God. The genuineness of her profession is seen in her leaving her land and her family, as well as, how she is treating Naomi. This points us to what Jesus said in John 13 that people will know that we belong to Him by our love for others.

The proof that we have been saved is going to be much more than just the words that we say. It will be proven by our love for others. A love that is sacrificial, putting the needs of others before our own. While we have seen many terrible stories of people hoarding during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have also seen incredible stories of love and sacrifice for the good of others. These are hallmark traits of disciples of Jesus. How is God calling you to show sacrificial love to those around you? Will the genuineness of your love and faith been revealed by how you live during this time?

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Apr 01

Breaking Point

What happens when you play with fire? Eventually you get burned, right? This is the sad story of Samson’s life, and it is the testimony of many Christians today. When we continue to play around with temptation and sin, sooner or later it is going to come back to get it. This is what we see in Samson’s life in Judges 16. Judges 16:16-17 says, “And it came to pass, when she pestered him daily with her words and pressed him, so that his soul was vexed to death, that he told her all his heart, and said to her, ‘no razor has ever come upon my head, for I have been a Nazarite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaven, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.'”

Samson continued to play around with temptation. He was a man driven by his physical desires. Up to this point, he had gotten away with it for the most part. However, this time it was going to end up costing him his life.

Samson needs to serve as an example for us of the dangers of playing around with temptation. The problem is, we do something and we get away with it once, and then we do it again and again until we think it is no big deal. Then, one day it comes back to get us in a big, and oftentimes painful way. Sooner or later, our sin will find us out and we will pay a price for it. By God’s grace, He has given us a few ways that we can flee the temptations. First, as His child, God has given us His Spirit to live inside of us. We can pray and ask God for His help to flee the temptation. Second, God has given us His Word. 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that with every temptation, God will make a way of escape. This is one of the purposes of memorizing Scripture, so that we will recognize the temptation, but also know how to handle it. Finally, God has given us other brothers and sisters in Christ. Like it or not, we all need accountability in our lives. When we share our struggles with our brothers and sisters, God can use them to help us experience victory. The most foolish thing we could do, which is often the thing we do, is we try to conceal it, downplay it, or tackle it on our own. We have to know, this is a recipe for disaster. Don’t fight temptation alone. God has given us weapons to wage in this war. Let’s use them so that we can glorify Him by turning from our sinful desires and living to please Him.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Mar 31

Your Place in God’s Plan

Have you ever wondered where you place is in life? Have you ever felt like you didn’t know your purpose or like you didn’t serve a purpose? I think we all go through times like this in life. Yet today’s text for our series, Blogging Through The Bible In 2020, shows us that we do have a place in God’s plan. Judges 13:5 says, “For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.”

Israel has once again turned their back on God. He is going to raise up a new judge for the people. We see that God chose Samson before Samson’s birth for this purpose. It shows us that God knows His plan for our life, even before we are born. Samson would be a part of delivering Israel from the Philistines, but they wouldn’t be completely defeated under Samson. The Philistines full defeat would come many years later. If Samson’s life was judged by whether or not he completely destroyed the Philistines, he would have been judged as a failure. However, Samson served his purpose in God’s plan.

You and I have to understand that we are only a part of God’s plan. Sometimes, God uses us to share the Gospel with someone. At other times, God uses us to continue to share the Gospel with people, and even speak new truths into their life. As Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians, some sow, some water, but it is God who gives the increase. Think of it like working a puzzle. We love to put the outside of the puzzle together first, because that means that everything else must fit inside the box. However, God can’t be put in a box, and seldom does God give us all of the edge pieces in our life. But what God does give us, is the piece that is needed for the next step in our life. We may not see how it all fits together, but we just have to trust that God is moving us and putting us in front of those He desires us to reach. Where is your place in God’s plan? What is He asking you to do? Remember, it’s not about what we do for the kingdom, it’s about being faithful in what He has called us to do.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Mar 30

Where is the Lord?

I wonder how many people have been asking this question in the middle of this crisis? Believe it or not, this isn’t a new question. In fact, we will see it implied in our text today for Blogging Through The Bible In 2020. Judges 6:13 says, “Gideon said to Him, ‘O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt? But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.'”

Gideon is being given an incredible privilege and blessing in our text, he is talking face to face with God, though he doesn’t realize it at first. Gideon is voicing what I’m sure all of Israel was wondering at the time, and what many people today are wondering. Israel is believing that God has forgotten then or turned His back on them. When in reality, God was doing exactly what He said He would do, and He was doing the most merciful thing He could do for Israel at that time. The same is true today, even in the face of this current crisis. While Israel, and many today, are blaming God or others for this; not one time did they ever ask what their part in this was. Today, just like Israel in our story, people like to blame God or anyone else for their troubles. Yet, as we go into the New Testament, if we read James 4:1-3 we see a different story. James tells us that most of the wars and fightings that occur between people happens because of our own sinful, selfish nature.

We need to learn to see our circumstances for what they are. There are certainly times in which we are the victims of other people’s choices. But more often than not, we are suffering the consequences of our own choices. Why do we blame others? We blame them because it is easier than doing the hard work of examining ourselves. Yet, if we are going to be right with God, the first place we must begin is with ourselves. We must ask God to search us and reveal our part in the mess. In these days of social distancing and self-quarantine, we need to make sure that we are doing our part to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The Lord hasn’t forgotten us and He hasn’t forsaken us. Instead, He is purifying us. He is strengthening our faith as we have asked Him to do. He is building His kingdom as we have prayed. I don’t know when this will end, but one day it will. Let’s just make sure that we learn the lesson that God is trying to teach us.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Mar 27

Is God’s Word Enough?

Are there some things that when you hear them you struggle to believe them? Why is it that if one person tells us something we are skeptical of it, but if someone else tells us the same thing we tend to believe them? The answer to that is this, we tend to trust some people more than we trust others. How does that apply to our belief in the word of God? Today’s text for Blogging Through The Bible In 2020 comes from Judges 4. Judges 4:8 says, “And Barak said to her, ‘If you go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with, I will not go.'”

Israel has once again sinned and turned her back on God. Faithful to His Word, God is using another king from a people group that had not been driven out of the Promised Land yet to oppress the nation of Israel. In our text, God has revealed that He wants to use a man by the name of Barak to defeat Sisera. However, for Barak what God had said wasn’t enough. Barak needed confirmation from Israel’s judge at that time, Deborah. God did end up using Barak to defeat Sisera, but Barak didn’t receive the honor a military commander would normally receive for a military victory. He didn’t receive the honor, because for Barak, the word of the Lord wasn’t enough. He trusted more in his advisors than the sovereign Lord who was going to give the victory.

This chapter shows us an important lesson, God’s word has to be enough for us or we don’t truly have faith in God. There is a time and a place for wise counselors. In fact, Proverbs 11:14 tells us that there is safety in a multitude of counselors. But the word or advice of our counselors shouldn’t carry more weight than what God has said. As a believer, we are called to walk by faith, not by sight. God will call us to do things and go places that don’t make a lot of sense to us. However, it is in those times in which God is the most glorified and our faith is strengthened the most. I certainly believe we are going to see something like this as a result of what we are going through with COVID-19. Churches aren’t able to meet and a lot of uncertainty is arising, but I believe we are going to see God doing some miraculous things in His people and through His people, if we will just trust Him and obey Him. I won’t pretend to know what God might do, but I know He is a God of the miraculous. Until we know what He wants us to do, let’s continue to do what He has told us to do last which is to pray, to study, to serve, to worship, and to make disciples!

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Mar 26

We All Need Accountability

We always think that we are better on our own than we are together. We often take the mentality of the average toddler in believing “I can do it all by myself.” And while we might have some success, more times than not, the spirit of individualism leads to our downfall. Like it or not, we all need someone in authority over us and we all need accountability. We see this in our text for the day which comes from Judges 2. Judges 2:18 says, “And when the Lord raised up judges fro them, the Lord was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them.”

As we move into the next book in the Old Testament, we are going to see a stark contrast from the book of Joshua to the book of Judges. While Joshua was alive and those in his generation, Israel obeyed the Lord. However, with the rise of a new generation, Israel fell away from the Lord. What we see in our text is that God graciously provided leadership for the nation of Israel through judges. While the judge was alive, Israel obeyed God and all was well. However, when the judge died, Israel reverted back to her old ways. Not only did Israel go back to her old ways, but later in the chapter we read that they actually got worse.

What this shows us is that we all need someone in authority over us to keep us on the right path, and we all need accountability. While we may think that we can do this by ourselves, we are deceived. When is a sheep the most vulnerable? When it falls back or wanders away from the rest of the pack. You and I are like sheep. As we stay connected to the Good Shepherd, who is Jesus, and the rest of the sheep (the church), we are less vulnerable to swallow the lies of Satan or fall into our own self-delusions of individual strength. Who do you have in your life that loves you enough to hold you accountable? Are you currently surrendering to those in authority over you? I think this is a timely reading because of where we find ourselves in America right now. The government has essentially ordered a self-quarantine. There are those in several states, including in Virginia, who have some tight restrictions for the next several weeks. It may seem dumb or irrational to people. However, this is a test to see whether or not we will submit to those in authority over us. Romans 13 says that it is God who has ordained those in authority and He has given them the power to rule over us. Our responsibility is to pray for them and submit to them. The only caveat to that is if they ask us to do something that goes against the Bible. Therefore, we as Christians, need to submit to our government and trust that God is truly the One who is in control. I read someone’s article the other day that said, “we have been saying for years that God is in control and He will supply what we need, now we are getting to prove our belief in that by doing what we are told to do.” That is a powerful statement, and one that I completely agree with. God has promised not to leave us or forsake us. He has promised to provide for us. Therefore, we need to act on what we say we believe. This also applies to children with their parents during all times. Parents are our first authority figures. We see our responsibility to submit to them codified in the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:3-17. In many ways, how we submit or don’t submit to those in human authority over us gives a picture of how we are submitting to or not submitting to God. So my last question for us today is this, is our life and our choices we are making today revealing that we are submitting to and trusting God?

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Mar 25

A Lasting Legacy

What will people remember about me when I’m no longer here? That might seem like a morbid question, but during times like these, I imagine it is a question that many are asking themselves, especially if they have been diagnosed with COVID-10. It is a legitimate question, after all, one day we will all breath our final breath here on earth. In today’s text for Blogging Through The Bible In 2020, Joshua is going to talk about his legacy, and we will see it firsthand. Joshua 24:31 says, “Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had known all the works of the Lord which He had done for Israel.”

Joshua has come to the end of his life. He is giving his farewell address to them. This farewell address isn’t about what he has done in his life. Rather, Joshua recounts God’s faithfulness to him and to the nation of Israel from the very beginning. Joshua not only makes a bold claim of who he has served, but he also says that his family will follow in his footsteps. This is something that our text today shows us they did, at least for a time. Joshua in his farewell address, also warns Israel of the danger of making a rash vow and not following through on it. Joshua was being a loving, caring spiritual father to the nation. We see the result of godly leadership in our text, because Israel continued to serve the Lord for at least a time following Joshua’s death. The interesting thing that our text points out is that their continued faithfulness to God appears to be tied somewhat to the fact that the elders who served after Joshua continued to share with the people all that God had done. As long as God’s faithfulness was kept in front of them, they seemed to willingly serve the Lord. What a powerful lesson for us all. we are all prone to forget, and when we forget God’s faithfulness to us, it is much easier to stray from God.

When was the last time you shared with your family or someone else some of the ways that God has been faithful to you? When was the last time that you just stopped and praised God for all He has done and is doing in your life? We are all going to die one day, and people will gather to remember us, what will they remember about you? While people may remember some of what we said, they will remember much more of what we did. Let’s make sure that our walk matches our talk, and then we will leave something far more valuable than an inheritance to our family, we will leave them a godly legacy.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Mar 24

Can’t Have It Both Ways

I’m sure we have all heard of the saying, “you can’t have your cake and eat it to.” My favorite line is, “this isn’t Burger King, you can’t have it your way.” Yet, I think we are all guilty of wanting it our way at times in life. We see this in our text for today, which comes from Joshua 7. Joshua 7:12 says, “Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they have become doomed to destruction. Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you.”

God is speaking to Joshua after Joshua suffered his first military loss since taking leadership of the nation of Israel. While Israel had defeated the people of the city of Jericho before this, they lost to a smaller city, Ai. They were victorious at Jericho because they listened and obeyed what God told them to do. However, they lost the first time fighting against Ai because they didn’t obey the Lord. To be fair, it wasn’t that everyone disobeyed. In fact, it was just one person who disobeyed. But one man’s disobedience led to an entire nation suffering defeat. The story of Achan and the loss at Ai should serve as a strong warning about tolerating sin amongst God’s people. It should also serve as a reminder that the choices that we make rarely only affect us. God had told Israel not to take anything from the city of Jericho. Yet, Achan saw something that looked beautiful and valuable and so he took it. No one else knew what Achan did, but God did, and Israel ended up paying a price. Achan’s reasons for taking the beautiful garment and some money reminds us of the trappings of materialism and greed. Jesus spoke on this in Matthew 6 when He said that we cannot serve two masters. We either completely surrender ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ, or we continue as the servants of sin. There is no such thing as a 99% Christian.

What this means for you and I is that we must completely surrender ourselves to Jesus. This isn’t just a one time thing. It is something that Jesus said in Luke 9:23 that we are to do each day. There will always be the pull of materialism, greed, and other sins in our lives. But each day we must choose which appetite are we going to feed. Are we going to feed our sinful, self-centered appetite that says life is all about me and what I want? Or, are we going to feed the Christ-centered appetite that seeks to please God and live for His glory? This is why Joshua said in Joshua 24:15, “Choose you this day whom you will serve…” It is a day by day decision that we must make. By God’s grace, He didn’t leave us alone to make that choice. He has given His children His Spirit to live inside of us, to help us to know Him and obey Him each and every day. So let’s make sure that each day we wake up to surrender that day to God, and ask for His help to live for Him so that others can see Him living in us.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Mar 23

Promise Fulfilled

Have you ever had someone promise something for you only to have them break that promise? I think we have all had to deal with that type of disappointment in life at least once. When we get used to people saying one thing and then doing something different, we become frustrated, angry, and even cynical towards others. We start expecting people to hurt us or to let us down. I want to tell you this though, God is not someone who has ever or will ever fail you. The apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:13, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” That is going to be a lesson we see in today’s post for Blogging Through The Bible In 2020. Joshua 5:12 says, “Then the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten the produce of the land; and the children of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate the food of the land of Canaan that year.”

God had promised from the time that Israel had left Egypt that He would provide everything they needed for their journey. For over the past 40 years, six days a week God provided them manna to eat. He promised to provide them this food until the time they got into the land that God promised them. Once they arrived in the Promised Land, He would continue to provide for them, it would be the food of the Promised Land instead of manna. At this point in the book of Joshua, Israel has crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land. Therefore, God once again had proven Himself faithful to keep His promises. The amazing thing about it is this, God remained faithful to Israel even though Israel was often faithless towards God. They struggled to believe His promises, they complained against God, they complained against those God called to lead them, and in many cases they rebelled against God’s Word. Yet, God never failed them. He never broke a promise to them.

I don’t know about you, but that gives me joy and hope. God’s love and fulfillment of His promises to His children is not dependent upon the actions of His children, they are dependent upon the character of God. We can trust what God has said in His Word. This doesn’t mean that things will always go the way that we want them to go. There were times when Israel didn’t want to eat anymore manna, but God didn’t give them what they wanted; God gave them what He knew they need and what He had promised. In a world and a time of such uncertainty, we need to spend more time in the Word of God and see what God has said and what God has promised. Then, we need to pray that the Lord will give us the faith needed to trust Him. In the words of the hymn, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, “His word shall not fail you He promised, believe Him, and all will be well; Then go to a world that is dying, His perfect salvation to tell.” If there has ever been a message for the church to proclaim, it is that one. Let’s study the word of God to know God more, and then go and spread the word to a world that is dying so that they to can have the hope and joy we have because of the Gospel.

By His grace and For His glory,

Pastor Justin

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