Monday, March 31, 2014

Romans 8:31-38
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Last week as we examined the armor of God, it became clear that it is key to have faith that God has already won a victory over evil. The tactics we take to fight the enemy need to help us remember that because of the work of God in Jesus Christ there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. How do you think that remembering that God has already won can help us in our conflict with evil in the world?

Weekly Theme March 30 through April 5

Tools to Fight the Enemy
 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”- Romans 8:38-39

How many of you have used the great defense known as “did not” or in the current vernacular of my little cousins “nuh-uh”? Life would be so much easier if the “nuh-uh” defense worked. If we could stare down the barrel of a gun or facing a critical diagnosis and say “nuh-uh” and everything would just be ok. But as we have discussed in this series Christ has freed us from the oppression of evil but that does not mean we do not feel its effects. The trick in this life long battle is to realize that we will come face to face with evil in our life, but to remember that in the end through the power of Jesus Christ we are already victorious. We have heard time and time again stories that tell of people who have come face to face with evil and even some who by earthly standards have lost to evil, but then they are able to witness to the fact that God is continually working for good having already triumphed over evil through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. What we need to do in the midst of the strife is to remember and hold on to the hope in God that He has already prevailed.
Believe it or not the way that we do this is not too far from the defense of “did not” or “nuh-uh.” Our enemy is a master deceiver and the evil principalities and powers that function together as evil in this world try to get us to abandon our hope and play evil’s game. And our response should continuously be “nuh-uh, I know that my God is faithful and has already secured a victory for me and no matter what you do to me God has already won.” The things that help us remember are those things that become our tools to fight the enemy.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Ephesians 6:17
17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Today our scripture represents the sword of the Spirit shown in the word of God. Elsewhere in scripture, it describes the word of God as sharper than a double edged sword. How do you think the word of God can help us in our spiritual fight?

Friday, March 28, 2014

 Ephesians 6:17
17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Today our scripture represents helmet of salvation. How do you think that focusing our vision on what God has already done for us can protect us against the tactics of our enemy? How do you remember what God has done in your life?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ephesians 6:13
16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

Today our scripture represents the shield of faith. There are many aspects to faith, but one key aspect is trust. Do we trust that the battle is already won through Christ’s victorious actions? Do you believe what Paul writes here that the shield of faith can stop the evil one’s flaming arrows? Can you trust that even though the evil one may win a battle Christ has already won the war?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ephesians 6:15
15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace

Today our scripture honors what is sometimes described as the sandals of peace. The scripture says our feet should be grounded in a gospel of peace. What do you think Paul means? How can you stay grounded in this gospel of peace?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

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

Today our armor is the breastplate of righteousness. The breastplate protects that which is most important to our lives and to God, our heart. How do you protect your heart? 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Ephesians 6:10-14
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 

The first element of the armor of God is the belt of truth.  We need God’s truth in the midst of spiritual warfare because as we have seen our “adversary” is the master of lies. How do you think you can put the belt of truth on? Do you think that there is a reason that Paul says that this belt should be tight? 

Weekly Theme March 23 through 29

Engaging in Warfare

“I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” - Luke 10:18-19

 So how do we deal with the barrage of evil that can come our way through the attacks of Satan?  We have to be prepared to engage in spiritual warfare. We need to expect that Satan will want us not to be  successful in our personal spiritual lives and in the life of the church.  If we are successful in these areas then we will be cutting into the kingdom of darkness and the forces of evil will not like that.  We are in a spiritual battle and we need to be prepared to fight that battle successfully.
Jesus gives us the power and authority to face all the tactics of Satan and his kingdom of darkness.  However, we need to be aware of what that power and authority enables us to do.
This week, we will look at many pieces of one set of scripture from Ephesians that describes the armor that God has given us to defend against the work of evil in this world. Each day, we will discuss a different piece of the armor and how it is useful in our lives.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Malachi 3:6-12
“I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.
“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’
“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.

Today our scripture represents the step of give. We  give of ourselves and our resources for God’s work through His church. How can things in our lives help or hinder our ability to give? Do you think our adversary could use our fear and/or the thought of scarcity to hinder us from giving? Why do you think this would be an effective tactic? What does that mean about our faith in God as our

Friday, March 21, 2014

1 Peter 4:8-11
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Today our scripture represents the step of serve. We serve in our world for Christ. How can things in our lives help or hinder our ability to serve in our world for  Jesus Christ? Why do you think hindering our ability to serve would be a tactic of our “adversary?”

Thursday, March 20, 2014

1 Peter 2:1-3
1Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Today our scripture represents the step of grow. We grow in our faith in Christ. How can things in our lives help or hinder our ability to grow in Jesus Christ? Why do you think hindering our ability to grow in Christ would be a tactic of our “adversary?”

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Psalm 95:1-7
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
    let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
    and extol him with music and song.
For the Lord is the great God,
    the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
    and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
    and his hands formed the dry land.
Come, let us bow down in worship,
    let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
for he is our God
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    the flock under his care.

The next four days are going to look very familiar because the best way for us to discriminate what we do and don’t do is based off of our discipleship path (Connect, Grow, Serve Give.) For the rest of the week  we will be going through the discipleship path.  Today our scripture represents the step of connect. We connect to God in Christ. How can things in our lives help or hinder our ability to connect to God in Jesus Christ? Why do you think hindering our ability to connect to God would be a tactic of our “adversary?”

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

1 Peter 5:8-11
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

The second aspect of discernment is to define what you see. First, you have to see what's around you. Then, you have to think about what defines it. What are the characteristics of this thing, this thought, this situation? Why do I want this thing, this goal? This ends up being the key question.. Why do I want this and how does it bring glory to God?  Why do you think this should be the central question in discernment? How many things in your life would fail this test? 

Monday, March 17, 2014

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

This week we will look at scriptures that help us discern what is good. During this sermon series we have been learning to question what we do and why we do it. This week we will look at one method for examining our lives. This is a three step process. We need to detect, define, and discriminate. The first aspect of discernment is detection. Put simply: open your eyes! Be observant. Pay attention. Our scripture today  commands us to "be sober." Why do you think it is important that we  are observant? How do you think that can help us overcome our enemy? 

Weekly Theme March 16 through 22

Discerning Spirit
“Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”
- Hebrews 5:13-14

If we are to overcome the enemy’s attacks in our lives then we have to develop the ability to discern what is good for us and what is not good for us.  Many Christians find themselves giving into temptation because they have never developed a discerning spirit.  They walk right into Satan’s traps and are befuddled because they end up making decisions that take them further away from God, not closer to God.  The goal is to develop a discerning spirit so that Satan’s trap can be recognized and avoided before one falls into the,.
If we are going to be a person who is able to discern the danger that the enemy might be luring us into then we have to know right from wrong, both in theory and practice.  We must know how to apply God’s truth to our lives and how to live in obedience to his commandments.  We need to know God’s commandments and why God asks us to follow those commandments and we need to know the consequences of not following God’s commandments.  When we have that knowledge, then we have the information that we need to discern the times we are going astray and to avoid those situations in which Satan might be leading us into a trap.
When we understand that we must discern the danger in doing certain things or exposing ourselves to certain situations then we can avoid a lot of difficulties and problems for our lives.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Psalm 14:7-12
Answer me quickly, Lord;
    my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
    or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
    for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
    for to you I entrust my life.
Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,
    for I hide myself in you.
10 Teach me to do your will,
    for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
    lead me on level ground.
11 For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life;
    in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.
12 In your unfailing love, silence my enemies;
    destroy all my foes,
    for I am your servant.

Is there a word or phrase in our scripture today that speaks to active resistance in your life? Why?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Psalm 56
Be merciful to me, my God, for my enemies are in hot pursuit;  all day long they press their attack.
My adversaries pursue me all day long;
    in their pride many are attacking me.
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?
5 All day long they twist my words;
    all their schemes are for my ruin.
6 They conspire, they lurk,  they watch my steps,
    hoping to take my life.
7 Because of their wickedness do not let them
escape; in your anger, God, bring the nations down.
Record my misery;
    list my tears on your scroll[d]—
    are they not in your record?
9 Then my enemies will turn back
    when I call for help.
    By this I will know that God is for me.
10 In God, whose word I praise,
    in the Lord, whose word I praise—
11 in God I trust and am not afraid.
    What can man do to me?
12 I am under vows to you, my God;
    I will present my thank offerings to you.
13 For you have delivered me from death
    and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before God
    in the light of life.

Is there a word or phrase in our scripture today that speaks to active resistance in your life? Why?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Psalm 55:16-23
16 As for me, I call to God,
    and the Lord saves me.
17 Evening, morning and noon
    I cry out in distress,
    and he hears my voice.
18 He rescues me unharmed
    from the battle waged against me,
    even though many oppose me.
19 God, who is enthroned from of old,
    who does not change—
he will hear them and humble them,
    because they have no fear of God.
20 My companion attacks his friends;
    he violates his covenant.
21 His talk is smooth as butter,
    yet war is in his heart;
his words are more soothing than oil,
    yet they are drawn swords.
22 Cast your cares on the Lord
    and he will sustain you;
he will never let
    the righteous be shaken.
23 But you, God, will bring down the wicked
    into the pit of decay;
the bloodthirsty and deceitful
    will not live out half their days.
But as for me, I trust in you.

Is there a word or phrase in our scripture today that speaks to active resistance in your life? Why?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Psalm 31:1-8
1 In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
    let me never be put to shame;
    deliver me in your righteousness.
2 Turn your ear to me,
    come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
    a strong fortress to save me.
3 Since you are my rock and my fortress,
    for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
4 Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
    for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hands I commit my spirit;
    deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.
6 I hate those who cling to worthless idols;
    as for me, I trust in the Lord.
7 I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
    for you saw my affliction
    and knew the anguish of my soul.
8 You have not given me into the hands of the
enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place.

Is there a word or phrase in our scripture today that speaks to active resistance in your life? Why?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Psalm 25:1-7
In you, Lord my God,
    I put my trust.
I trust in you;
    do not let me be put to shame,
    nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one who hopes in you
    will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
    who are treacherous without cause.
Show me your ways, Lord,
    teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are God my Savior,
    and my hope is in you all day long.
Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
    for they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth
    and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
    for you, Lord, are good.

For the rest of the week, we will look at Psalms that speak about trusting in God. By continuing to grow in our faith, we can present an active resistance.  Faith is our way of saying to God ,“I believe that You will.” Reread today’s scripture. Is there a word or phrase that speaks to you? Why?

Monday, March 10, 2014

1 John 4:1-6
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
You, dear children, are from God and have
overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the
viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

This week we will look at scriptures that help us maintain an active resistance to evil in this world.  Reread verse 4.  This reminds us that Christ is in our heart and that His power is greater than any evil in this world. How do you think having “Christ in you” gives you power to resist evil?

Weekly Theme March 9 through 15

Active Resistance
   “Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers (and sisters) throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” 
- 1 Peter 5:9

 Since we do not have the power on our own to defeat Satan and his demons, we have to understand what resources we have available to us to fight him and we have to develop a strategy that will give us the best chance of defeating his power in our lives. In other words it is not good enough for us to sit back and just see what happens and then go from there.  Passivity in our fight against Satan will never work.  We must be active in developing our strengths and using them to our best advantage.  We must also be mindful of Satan’s weaknesses and use them to our advantage as well.

Submission to God and faith are at the heart of our ability to put up an active resistance to the attacks of Satan in our lives.  At this stage of the sermon series, we need to take a serious look at how we can develop and implement submission and faith to our advantage when we are in battle with the enemy.

Submission to God is basically saying to God, “I can’t, but you can.”  When we submit to God through a relationship with Jesus Christ we are putting aside our false self-reliance and throwing all of our hope in God’s direction and presence in our lives.  Submission is growing closer to God and living with the reality that we are severely limited in what we can accomplish in anything, let alone our battles with Satan.  Then through submission to Jesus we begin to live the reality that through him we can accomplish anything as long as it is in his will.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Job 19:25-27
25 I know that my redeemer lives,
    and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
    yet in my flesh I will see God;
27 I myself will see him
    with my own eyes—I, and not another.
    How my heart yearns within me!

The trouble with Job’s friends and wife is that they like us want an easy answer to the question why does bad things happen to good people? Their answers are consistently that bad things happen for a reason. If you are good God rewards you. But, what Job learns and what we should know is that the  gift God gives us is not an easy answer nor a quick prize. God’s gift is something far greater.  Job’s response here has been echoed by communities of faith for thousands of years. How do you think this statement gives us hope in the face of the enemy?

Friday, March 7, 2014

Job 18:5-10,21
“The lamp of a wicked man is snuffed out;
    the flame of his fire stops burning.
The light in his tent becomes dark;
    the lamp beside him goes out.
The vigor of his step is weakened;
    his own schemes throw him down.
His feet thrust him into a net;
    he wanders into its mesh.
A trap seizes him by the heel;
    a snare holds him fast.
10 A noose is hidden for him on the ground;
    a trap lies in his path.
21 Surely such is the dwelling of an evil man;
    such is the place of one who does not know God.”

Today our description of our “adversary” is that of tempter. Our scripture reading is just a segment of this friend’s speech,. The friend goes on and on with the simple point, “You're evil and there's no hope for you!" We like Job know this is not true so how do you think we can avoid being deceived by this lie?