|St. John Baptist Church|
|Sermons, prayer requests, and updates for our church family|
|Discouragement is something we all identify with and have experienced in our lives. It can come from simple things such as failing to do well on a test at school, not being able to do something we had planned or looked forward to. At times it can be things of greater magnitude. There are times it comes from failed relationships, job losses, physical difficulties and sickness. However it may come, discouragement is always tough to deal with. There are great saints of old that have wrestled with the problem. One that so often comes to my mind is David who often wrote of his feelings of discouragement in the Psalms. In Psalm 142 he wrote about his spirit being overwhelmed within him. In Psalm 143 he said practically the same thing again. There are times we feel overwhelmed in spirit and discouraged. But the thing is what we do about it. David prayed about his discouragement and asked the Lord to lift him up from it. When you feel so low in spirit within, do as David did, cry out to the Lord who is your Refuge and Strength. Ask His help to hear you and lift you from the discouragement you face. Truly He does care about our deepest needs and He will hear your cries today.
|I've often read in Paul's letters where he told the church he was writing to that he had them in his prayers. Sometimes I think we are really good at expecting and desiring others to keep us in their prayers, but then we often neglect to pray for them. I encourage you today to pray for those in our church family who are hurting. I'm not talking about just some careless prayer where you ask the Lord to help those who are sick in our church. I'm talking about calling their names and asking the Lord to meet the particular needs in their lives. We have so many who are hurting and that are discouraged by their sicknesses. They may often put on a good front and even smile, but behind that front and that smile is a hurting heart. Call on the Lord for them. Carry them on your heart into the Lord's presence asking God to help them today. It may be us needing their prayers soon.
|Years ago Carl A. Blackmore wrote this song. Had it on my heart this morning.|
"Some glorious morning sorrow will cease; Some glorious morning all will be peace; Heartaches all ended, school days all done; Heaven will open–Jesus will come.
Some golden daybreak Jesus will come; Some golden daybreak, battles all won; He’ll shout the victory, break through the blue; Some golden daybreak, for me, for you.
Sad hearts will gladden, all shall be bright; Goodbye forever to earth’s dark night; Changed in a moment, like Him to be; Oh, glorious daybreak, Jesus I’ll see.
Oh, what a meeting, there in the skies; No tears nor crying shall dim our eyes; Loved ones united eternally; Oh, what a daybreak that morning will be.
Some golden daybreak Jesus will come; Some golden daybreak, battles all won; He’ll shout the victory, break through the blue; Some golden daybreak, for me, for you."
|Verse 81 - My soul fainteth for thy salvation: but I hope in thy word.|
Verse 82 - Mine eyes fail for thy word, saying, When wilt thou comfort me?
Verse 83 - For I am become like a bottle in the smoke; yet do I not forget thy statutes.
Verse 84 - How many are the days of thy servant? when wilt thou execute judgment on them that persecute me?
Verse 85 - The proud have digged pits for me, which are not after thy law.
Verse 86 - All thy commandments are faithful: they persecute me wrongfully; help thou me.
|As a pastor for nearly 35 years I have dealt with more people than I can remember who have had sickness and sorrows. I have listened as people have shared their burdens and told me of diagnoses, of test results and surgical outcomes. I have wept with families as they talked about a child who has gone astray and they longed for them to come back home and to the Lord. I have sat many long hours in hospitals waiting to find out if surgeries would go well. I have tried to encourage people who were dealing with their most difficult and dark hours of life and wanted to lift them up. You want to encourage hope that things will get better. But what if they don't. I listened to someone this past week who kept saying, "Tomorrow they will be better." "Tomorrow they will be better." But they weren't. What do you do then? When things don't get better, how do you deal with it? To me the answer is found in the words of Psalm 71:16-I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD. That is how we make it when things don't get better. It isn't in our own strength, but in His strength. In all of those situations I talked about being in as a pastor. It wasn't my words that helped in any of them. It was His strength that made all the difference. In the dark and difficult hours I watched Him step into their circumstances and bring comfort and peace. When things don't get better, it is in the strength of the Lord we can make it. There are times when things do get better, and praise His wondrous name for those times! But when they don't, you can go, you can make it, you can face it in the strength of the Lord.
|I can't tell you how often I've turned to the story of Paul and of his thorn in the flesh. He tells about it in Second Corinthians chapter 12. He talks about how the Lord blessed him with visions and revelations, but to keep him from being exalted above measure this thorn in the flesh was given him. It became an instrument of Satan to buffet him. I think about "thorns in the flesh" that have been given to many of us. It could be a cancer or sickness you struggle with. It could be a family problem or even a wayward child. It could financial in nature when you find yourself in the red instead of black and wonder how to make ends meet. It could be you find yourself weeping till you fall asleep each night with a hurting heart. Thorns stick deep into your heart, don't they? Maybe you have prayed continuously as Paul for God's help, but the thorn remains. Even if He chooses not to remove it, He promises sufficient grace. That is grace that meets the needs where its at. It doesn't come close or fall just short, but is perfect for the situation. I've always found it to be true. His grace is sufficient for every need and every situation in our lives. What is your thorn today? He has grace sufficient for your need.
|There is no way that we could count or measure the amount of tears that we have shed. There are so many in our church family that for the past weeks and months have wept and cried over sickness and burdens. There is a verse in Psalm 56 that says, Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book? The idea of the psalmist is that God knows all about our hurts and our pains and it tells me that God sees every tear that I cry and He has a record of each one that we shed. I don't always know the hurt that people feel. I don't always have the ability to sympathize with what they are dealing with or going through. But God does and God can. He knows where you are today. He knows what you're going through at this very moment in time. He sees your tears and He knows your pain. I may never know what you are going through right now, but be encouraged to know that He does and He sees your tears and most of all, He cares.
|You know, it's easy to desire to be blessed. We all have that one downpat don't we? There is nothing wrong with desiring to be blessed of the Lord, but I wonder how often do we think about desiring to be a blessing to someone else. There are so many others around us that are longing for an encouraging word or helping hand. I know during this pandemic it may be hard to do some things, but we can still be an encouragment to someone else. Send a card or text or make a phone call, but in some way there may be someone that just needs to hear a word of hope, a word of encouragement to lift them today. Max Lucado, in his book "Outlive Your Life", makes this statement, "None of us can help everyone. But all of us can help someone." Who is that someone you can help today? Then why not help them?
|Has anyone else noticed how dark it is outside lately? No, I'm not talking about how dark it is when you walk outside your house and look around at night. I'm talking about how dark it is when you look around at our world. The Bible describes the difference between Christians and non-Christians as being the difference between light and darkness. It seems to me that the world that we're living in is getting darker with each passing day. Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:13-But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. We are seeing evidence of that so greatly in our day. Wickedness seems to be on the rise, while godliness seems to be on the decline. But what are we to do? Just what Paul told Timothy in the next verse, vs 14-But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them. Just keep living by the same principles and truths that we've been living by through the years. Don't change. Don't give in to the worldly form of thinking, but remain true to the things of God. Yes, it sure is dark outside, but let's continue to be the light God has called us to be.
|When the apostle Paul was writing to the church in Ephesus he said to them in Ephesians 1:15-16-Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers. We all have many things that we are praying for and praying about these days and I'm sure Paul did as well, but he had time to make mention of these saints in Ephesus in his prayers. With all that is going on about us, we should never forget to pray for someone else when we pray. It may be someone who is lost and needs salvation or it may be someone who is discouraged and needs encouragement. It could be someone who is battling sickness that needs the Lord's strength or someone who is facing problems and needs God's guidance. You see, the list goes on and on, but there is someone we know who needs our prayers. Don't forget to pray for them today. I feel sure that you are hoping there is someone who is praying for you today.
|Luke 2:8 says, And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. It was fitting that the Holy Spirit lets us know that the time of day of the announcement to the shepherds of our Lord's birth was at night. It was a dark time for the nation politically as Rome was in control of the region. It was dark spiritually as there had been four hundred silent years since a fresh word had been given by God. But all things were about to change as the Word was made flesh to walk among men. The Light of the World was come to give His Light into the darkness of the day. Oh, how dark the night, but now Jesus has come! I wonder today, how dark is the night for you right now? There are those dealing with the darkness of sin because salvation is missing from their heart. There are those dealing with the darkness of sorrow because of some situation in their life. There are those dealing with the darkness of sadness because of some difficulty they are facing at the moment. There is good news, just as there was for the humble shepherds that dark night. The good news is that Jesus has come. He is the hope for all our needs. No matter how dark the night, He is the light we need. He is the hope of our salvation. He is the source of our strength. He is the answer to our sadness. He is the light for our darkness. Jesus declared that truth in John 8 when He said, I am the light of the world. He is today light for whatever darkness you are facing. How dark is your night? He is the light.
|At Christmas we often focus our attention on the actual birth of Jesus and those events surrounding the filled inn, the manger scene, the angels appearing to the shepherds or the wise men coming from afar. But I've been thinking about Mary and her willing and trusting heart. Can you imagine the faith it took for her to accept what she accepted when the angel appeared to her? She was no doubt just a teenage girl when the angel appeared to her telling her that she would give birth to Jesus. The pregnancy would be because the Holy Spirit would come upon her, not because of a relationship with a man. Knowing she would be ridiculed. Knowing the stigma that would follow her. Knowing the possibility of being accused of adultery and being stoned. Yet, Mary said in Luke 1:38-Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. Wow! What faith in God and what willingness to obey the Lord. She was being asked to carry all of that and she accepted it. That searches my heart today. Am I willing to accept what the Lord asks me to carry in my life? If He asks me to carry sickness or sorrows or troubles or burdens of life, am I willing to say as Mary, "be it unto me according to thy word"? Far too often I'm ready to grumble and complain about little things compared to what she was asked to do, but Mary had a willing and trusting heart, believing that God had a plan and would handle all the details for His glory. You know, He does for you and me too. If He asks you or me to carry some load in our lives for His sake, He has a plan and will handle all the details for His glory and for His honor in such a way that will be astounding. We need to just have a willing and trusting heart as Mary. What an example Mary has set for you and I to follow.
|In my personal devotions I'm reading through the book of John. I read this morning the fourteenth chapter. This chapter is so rich in truth and encouragement, but one verse captured my thought today. In verse 27 Jesus said, Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. What a tremendous verse! We often think of a legacy as being money or property handing down from a loved one when they pass it on to us or die. The legacy that our Lord was leaving was peace, but not just any peace...His peace. He described His peace as different from the world's peace. I thought what kind of peace does this world give compared to Him? Their peace is superficial. Their peace is artificial. Their peace is temporary. Their peace cannot sustain in the darkest trials. His peace is so much different because His peace will last through the storm. His peace will sustain through the trial. His peace will comfort in the sadness. His peace will be with you through the dark night of the soul. That is why Jesus could say, Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. So, whatever is causing you fear or trouble today realize He gave us peace, but not just any peace. He gave us His peace that will be enough to keep us though our world be rocked with trouble and trial. It is the kind, Paul said, that would keep our hearts and mind in Christ Jesus. It is His legacy of peace given to you and to me today.
1-Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation.
2-He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved.
3-How long will ye imagine mischief against a man? ye shall be slain all of you: as a bowing wall shall ye be, and as a tottering fence.
4-They only consult to cast him down from his excellency: they delight in lies: they bless with their mouth, but they curse inwardly. Selah.
5-My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.
6-He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defense; I shall not be moved.
7-In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.
8-Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.
9-Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity.
10-Trust not in oppression, and become not vain in robbery: if riches increase, set not your heart upon them.
11-God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God.
12-Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy: for thou renderest to every man according to his work.
|Through the trials of life and through the troubles of life it is so easy to become disheartened and discouraged. So often we find ourselves feeling empty and lonely. We at times think no one else knows what it's like to be where we are and go through what we go through. The fact is we are not alone in our struggles. There are countless others that have walked the lonely roads before us. There are many that have ventured across the deserts of life before we ever got there. The valleys we walk through have footpaths that are worn slick from the travellers that have been before us. David in that wondrous Psalm 23 said, Yea, though I walk through the valley. We all go through them from time to time. The thing is, don't stop. Don't give up. Don't lose hope. Keep pressing forward. You will get through! I love that word through. It means it is only temporary. It isn't permanent. It isn't going to last forever. You may feel as though you've been there a long time, but you will get "through" it. So, this morning I just have this simple thought on my mind for you. Three simple little words. Twelve letters and an apostrophe - "Don't lose hope."
|The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 5:20-Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. It is the law of God or the commandments of God that reveal to us our sin. God has declared what sin is in His eternal word and the law, although never intended to change our lives in redeeming us, it does convict our hearts. It reveals God's truth and reveals our failures. I don't know about you, but it sure reveals where I fail and miss the mark of God. Yet, I'm so thankful that the great apostle never stopped there. He went on to say that where sin abounded or was much or rose in excess that grace did much more abound or rose far greater above it. I'm so thankful today for the much more abounding grace of God. I look at my life and see many sins, far more than I like to admit, but I'm glad there is grace that rises above my sins and forgives me. I fail Him so often and in so many ways. I look at my life to see where I miss it more often I feel than I hit it, but thank God for grace. He is merciful and He is gracious and He is kind and He is forgiving to us when we come honestly confessing our sins to Him. It's easy to look at everyone else and point out there flaws and faults. I challenge you today. Take a look in the mirror and you'll see someone who is where they are because of much more abounding grace.
|I'll be honest with you today. Sometimes you begin to feel like things will never change and that it will always be as it is. We live in a world that is all messed up and in a society that is in complete disarray. We live in bodies that are breaking down and wearing out. We deal with physical limitations. The desire to do is present, but the ability to do so often is limited. We think back to a time in our life when it wasn't like this. We remember when, maybe not too very long ago, things were so much different than they are now. But here we are. Dealing with "life" as it is for us. But is won't be like this forever. In that great resurrection chapter of 1 Corinthians 15 Paul writes in verse 51-52-Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. Twice Paul says, we shall be changed. Thank God, it won't be like this forever. There will come a day when sin won't be a problem to us. There will come a day when Satan will be cast into the lake of fire forever. There will come a day when sickness and sorrow will never be known. There will come a day when there will be no more cancer, no more pain, no more weakness, no more worries, no more heartaches or any such things. We deal with those things and more now, but it won't be like this forever. There is a better day coming for you and for me.
|I read the story, related by another preacher, that was printed several years ago in the "Pentecostal Evangel" where J. K. Gressett wrote about an agriculturist named Samuel S. Scull, who lived on a farm in Arizona. This is part of the story he told:|
"One night, a fierce storm struck with rain, hail, and high winds. At daybreak, feeling sick and fearing what he might find, Samuel went to survey the loss. The hail had beaten their garden and truck patch into the ground; the house was partially unroofed; the henhouse had blown away, and dead chickens were scattered about. Destruction and devastation were everywhere. While standing dazed, evaluating the mess, and wondering about the future, he heard a stirring in the lumber pile that was the remains of the henhouse. A rooster was climbing up through the debris, and he didn’t stop climbing until he had mounted the highest board on the pile. That old rooster was dripping wet, and most of his feathers were blown away. But as soon as the sun came over the eastern horizon, he flapped his bony wings and proudly crowed.” (From a CAL post) Sometimes you feel as though all you've been through this year has crashed in on you, but, like that old wet rooster, we are able to rise up out of the mess today and still give glory to the One who has redeemed us and kept us safe, bringing us to where we are right now. Are things still a mess around us? Sure, but for now, let's lift our head to heaven and give thanks to the Lord who has blessed us far greater than we all deserve.
|When the apostle Paul wrote to the young pastor Timothy about the conditions coming in the last days, one description he gave of the people and their attitude during those times is found in 2 Tmothy 3:2 which was that they would be unthankful. Simply put, the word means ungrateful. Could a better word describe this generation in so many ways? The generation of "give me" is what we've become. Our nation has raised a group of young people who feel they deserve more for nothing. Far too many have developed the attitude of deserving just because and what they have they are not thankful for. Think about it. How often do we even hear someone say the words "thank you" anymore? The longer I live, the more I realize that if I truly got what I deserved I would be cast out of God's sight forever in hell. Anything that I have in this life or in eternity is all because of God's amazing grace. I have no grounds for unthankfulness whatsoever. Period. Does that mean I always get my way? No. Does that mean I always get what I want? No again. But it means that I have much more than I deserve and for all that I have I need to stop and say to the Lord every day, "Thank you, for your blessings on my life." I look back through my years and see how good the Lord has been to me and I must say, "Great has been His faithfulness." So, I say today with all my heart, "Thank you, Lord, for your blessings!"
|I just wanted to give you something that I haven't been able to get off of my mind and heart since yesterday. It is something I heard or read a long time ago that says this, "Never doubt in the dark, what God has told you in the light." If He has promised you something when things were well, don't doubt Him now though things may be tough. What He said then, is still true now.