Archive for November, 2020

Are You Ready for Christmas? (Hebrews 3-7)

November 30, 2020

 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, Hebrews 3:9.

Brothers and sisters, we each begin this Monday with the near memory of Thanksgiving in our minds and maybe still in our digestive system. It is back to work for many of us and for all of us it is with a reality that this may be a different month of December than we have ever faced.

As I consider this upcoming month, I am setting my sights toward Christmas. For me, I am focusing all my efforts on being ready to celebrate Jesus coming to the earth. As a part of this effort I am praying for opportunities to sow the good news of His coming into the hearts of many people.

I am so excited that we are in the book of Hebrews this week. The book of Hebrews presents to us Jesus as the Son of God (5:5) who has come to be the Son of Man (7:26). This Jesus came to be the Savior of all who will surrender their lives to Him (7:25).

On every page in the book of Hebrews we are pointed to Jesus. I want to take this opportunity to challenge you in three ways:

  1. I want to challenge you to dive deep this week into God’s Word to discover who Jesus is and what the implications of His coming were.
  2. I want to challenge you to go to our website, and down-load our free devotion guide for December.
  3. I want to challenge you to make a Christmas Miracle list of people you want to see come to Jesus.

I remember years ago hearing about a man that I had witnessed to and had prayed for so many times coming to the Lord. By God’s grace we met at an event we were both attending. As we approached each other he said, pastor I got saved. I responded, I have so longed to call you brother.

Friend the greatest gift you can give anyone is your prayer for their salvation. Are you ready for Christmas?

Thanksgiving Encouragement Pt. 5 (Philippians 1-4)

November 27, 2020

16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. Phil. 4:16-17

I know it is the day after Thanksgiving and I know for many people this holiday has been different than it has been at any time in your life. But there is so much to give thanks for. This week I have been focusing on Thanksgiving Encouragements. Here are the previous encouragements I have offered you from God’s Word in the book of Philippians:

Paul knew God would see him through.

Paul knew God has a purpose in everything.

Paul knew every day was important because he was serving others.

Paul knew this world is only temporary. Heaven does not have Covid-19.

Here is our last encouragement for the week: Paul knew that it is better to give than receive.

Brothers and sisters, let me encourage you to focus your attention on giving to others this holiday season. This truth grips me this morning as I consider the many blessings of God. I sit here at my desk rejoicing in the knowledge of how many untold times people have encouraged my life by the gifts they have given my family.

But even more so I rejoice in the joy our family has been given in having gifts to give to others. I truly cannot explain to you the inner joy that comes when you bless someone else for God’s Glory.

At the same time I am also challenged this day to make sure I do not get caught up in the pursuits of what is offered to me by the world. The world says you always need more and the world says, I can help you to get it.

Friend, the world is a vicious trap that pulls us down and keeps us from enjoying the beauty of impacting others for the glory of the Lord. Only when we focus totally on Jesus can we overcome the world and occupy ourselves with giving to others.

As I look back over our study in Philippians this week, I realize how Paul pointed us to Jesus in every chapter. Jesus, in chapter 1, is the one who sought us in our mess. He crafted an eternal plan that included us. Jesus, in chapter 2, is our example of putting others before us. Jesus, in chapter 3, is the one who died and rose again so that we could claim resurrection from the dead. Jesus, in chapter 4, is the one who empowers His people to live a life of contentment that impacts others because all we have is given to us for the glory of God.

Let this Christmas season be the season where you focus on giving to others. My prayer for our lives is that we would embrace the joy of giving.

Thanksgiving Encouragements, Pt. 4 (Philippians 1-4)

November 26, 2020

13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:13.

Well, we made it. Yes we did. Today is Thanksgiving 2020. To God be the glory for the great things He has done. I am personally so excited about today because I am focused on the encouragements we have received from God’s Word.

Now, I know not everyone shares my excitement this day. For some people this year has confined you and you are feeling low. Still for others, this year has taken from you many things that you planned to do. I think we can all say this. But let me point you beyond the moment. Let me lift you above the horizontal viewpoint. Take a few moments and again look up.

This week we are reading Paul’s encouragements to the church at Philippi. Paul was in confinement and Paul was being told that he may be killed for his stand for Jesus. But Paul did not have discouragement about his situation. Paul was encouraged because:

He knew God would see him through.

He knew God has a purpose in everything.

He knew every day was important because he was serving others.

Today I offer you our fourth encouragement: This world is only temporary. Heaven does not have Covid-19.

Wow. This is amazing. Here is what Paul wrote in chapter three and verse twenty:

20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

As I gather this day with part of my family, I rejoice because all my family knows Jesus as Lord and Savior. This day I praise the Lord for all He has done in saving my family. Yes my family is spread out over the country today, but someday we will all be together in Heaven.

Here is a Thanksgiving challenge: Make sure your family knows Jesus!!! Rejoice with those who know Jesus and take the bold step in sharing Jesus with all your family members who are not ready for Heaven.

When our family sits down today for the meal, there will be extended family and church family with us. I am so glad I am a part of the Family of God.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Joseph family!!!

Thanksgiving Encouragements (Pt. 3)

November 25, 2020

 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Phil. 2:3

Only one more day to go. Thanksgiving is just hours away. I pray you are applying our Thanksgiving encouragements? For our memory we have already shared two Thanksgiving encouragements:

You can trust God to see you through

Rejoice because God has a purpose in everything.

Are you ready for Thanksgiving encouragement number 3? Here it is:

Every day is better when you focus on others.

This encouragement comes from Paul’s teaching in chapter 2. For those who have the mind of Christ, they follow the example set by Christ’s ministry here (Phil. 2:5-9).

I really needed this because I like things to stay the same with this holiday. It is my favorite holiday. I love when our family gets together. No stress of presents, just fun and love around the table as we play games and catch up.

This year we are going to Beth’s home for the first time. When I first heard of this new thing, I thought, I don’t like it. But then Paul’s encouragement came into my mind and heart. Suddenly I remembered my faith is all about focusing on others. Suddenly I became happy because I am still getting to do all the things I love (minus Keith, Amanda, and Colt which is a heart-break) with the people I love.

The church at Philippi needed this encouragement to consider those around them because our Lord taught us to lift up the lives of others because they are so valuable in God’s eyes.

Thank you Jesus for my day three encouragement. I hope it encourages you as well.

Thanksgiving Encouragements Pt 2 (Philippians 1-4)

November 24, 2020

12 I want you to know, brothers,[e] that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, Phil. 1:12.

Its only two days away, yes Thanksgiving is two days away. Now, you may consider me prideful in assuming there will be a Thanksgiving in two days. Brothers and sisters, I know for a fact there will be a thanksgiving because I will be somewhere in two days. Either here on the earth or in Heaven.

In Psalm 47 the writer calls upon God’s people to clap their hands in praise to this glorious God who grantees our future.

Yesterday we began studying Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Paul writes to encourage the church to have joy in the Lord in the midst of uncharted waters. Yesterday we were encouraged with this principle: You can trust God to see you through.

Today we are focusing on Thanksgiving encouragement Pt. 2. Here is the principle:

Rejoice because God has a purpose in everything!

Go back with me to the days of Paul. Paul is experiencing his first Roman imprisonment (Acts 28). The church is praying and the church is considering all that is happening with their leader. It was uncharted waters, much like our days with Covid-19.

In chapter one and verse twelve Paul writes, “this is turning out…” As I read these words I thought about all the things we have been facing this year. From day to day we did not know how things would turn out. But we were encouraged because God was in charge. God was and is working it all out.

Question: Are you rejoicing now or are you locked up in a house frustrated and feeling low? Maybe you are asking, How can these things work out for God’s glory? Paul knew what he was facing would serve to advance the gospel.

Here is how understanding this truth will direct everything toward rejoicing:

  1. You must understand your tough moments are God’s positioning your life to minister in ways you otherwise would have never been able to do.

2. You must understand the work-out you have been going through is strengthening your faith.

3. You must understand your trials are a testimony to others who are following your lead in drawing nearer to God.

Let us rejoice in this day. We know we are going to make it. God has a Christ-centered purpose for these days. Rejoice because you will make Thanksgiving Day and you will make it beyond.

Thanksgiving Encouragements Pt 1 (Philippians 1-2)

November 23, 2020

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, Philippians 2:1

Yes, it is true, we have arrived at the week of Thanksgiving 2020. Most of us would have to admit that we wondered if we would even make this years Thanksgiving week. It goes without saying that this has been an upside down year.

Just this past week some states and cities issued lock-down orders for travel and family get-togethers. One Christian leader evidenced the thoughts of many people when he asked, “God how much more can people take.”

2000 years ago a local church was going through unchartered waters. Their founding church pastor, the Apostle Paul, had been arrested for preaching the gospel (1:7). This local church loved Paul and they evidenced their love through their labors with him.

Paul’s letter was written to encourage the church to look to Christ in their season of uncharted waters. This week I want to do the same with you. I want to point you to Christ Himself as your encouragement. I will stay in Philippians all week long (even though our reading plan will cover Hebrews 1-4). Here is our first encouragement:

You can trust God to see you through!

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Phil. 1:6

Brothers and sisters this one verse has influenced my Christian walk more than any other. I have clung to this encouragement when I did not know if I would make it through difficult waters. I have claimed this verse when the enemy said, it’s over. I have celebrated this verse each time the Lord has continued to show his vision for my future. I have centered my life in this verse almost daily as I look to the certain future I have in Christ.

Paul was confident (sure) that the God who had saved him would continue to save him and would safely deliver him into the Kingdom of Heaven. I can say with Paul, be confident, God will see you through.

I don’t know what you are facing today. But I am certain, God does. I am also certain, you can deposit all you faith into His hands because, He who started a good work in you will be faithful!!!

Don’t Leave Anything Out (Ephesians 5-6)

November 20, 2020

13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Ephesians 6:13

Years ago Sherry and I purchased our first propane grill. We were so excited about our purchase. We saved 20 dollars by purchasing the grill unassembled. I can remember thinking it will be a piece of cake to assemble the grill. I worked for what seemed like hours. Finally I was finished. I proudly hooked up the grill, but it would not ignite. What was the reason? I had left out on key part that was required.

All my efforts were wasted because I had not followed the instructions. Brothers and sisters, these are critical days in our world. You and I cannot afford to leave out anything God directs us to do.

In the book of Ephesians Paul writes about the glorious grace of God which saves us. In chapters 4-6 Paul focused on the implications of grace in the Christian’s life. Grace is crucial to our success in both our relationships as well as our personal walk with God.

As Paul brings his epistle to a close he writes, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might,” 6:10.

Grace leads us to a secure position if we follow God’s directions as He calls us to do. Grace leads us to a strong position to engage the world with the everlasting gospel. However, if we leave anything out that God tells us we will be overcome by the forces of the enemy (6:10-13).

I want you to get this. It is possible to be in the Word of God every day, be praying every day, and to be sharing your faith every day and still be defeated by the enemy.

One must ask, how can this be? Paul’s answer is, you left out part of the Armor of God.

Let me suggest to you the following ways to ensure you do not fail to put on the full Armor of God:

  1. Memorize the Armor of God.
  2. Pray through the Armor of God at least once a week.
  3. Mentally walk through the process of the implications of putting on the Armor of God.

Allow me to illustrate the third suggestion. Each morning I put on the belt of truth as I read God’s Word. Each day I do battle with the enemy who offers lies to me. I test everything against God’s Word. Even this morning I prayed that God would reveal truth and remove untruth from my life. When this happens, I will not be tripped up by the enemy.

4. Approach your battles with the mindset of a victor and not a victim.

This day and every day is truly a day of battle. Victory will be yours in Christ as you stay close to Him and as you strengthen yourself by putting on His Armor!!!

So Much To Do (Ephesians 3-4)

November 19, 2020

10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.  Ephesians 3:10

I can’t believe it, it’s already Thursday. This is hard to grasp, even in a year of pandemic we are so busy. Brothers and sisters, be honest, your days are filled with activity just as are mine.

I know this is true because everyone I meet is in a hurry. Back in April of 2020 people were saying, I like the shut down because it has taken away the things that used to keep me so busy. Question: Are you right back to where you were before?

The church at Ephesus was very busy. However, they were not busy with useless things. Paul commends the church for their faithfulness (1:3). Paul also reminds the church of God’s grace at work in them and through them (2:8-10). In chapter 4 Paul reveals to the church the awesome honor they have been given in carrying the gospel to their city and beyond.

As Paul closes chapter 3, he prays not only for the church at Ephesus, he prays for every church including your church and the church I serve. In his prayer we discover a God who’s plans are beyond our mortal understanding and we discover a God who’s power is boundless.

Question: Have you been busy with God’s plan and have you been working out spiritually in His power?

Oh how I pray this for your life and for my life. You see, we each have a choice at the very beginning of each day. We must decided whether to busy ourselves with God’s plan or to busy ourselves with our plans.

Daniel Henderson encourages us to embrace God’s plan through Bible Study and Prayer. His words leap from the page:

“Let God start your daily conversation (prayer) by reading His Word as the first activity of your day. He will guide your conversation based on His living, powerful, and unchanging truth.” Maxim, Jim, “21 Days of Breakthrough Prayer.”

Brothers and sisters when we begin our days with fellowship with God in His Word and in prayer our minds are set on what God has for us. Yes, the day will be busy, but it will be productive for matters of eternity.

If you are feeling stressed, it could be because you are swimming in a world filled with the storms of activity with no real purpose. Get out of such waters by getting in the boat with Jesus! His boat is so different (Mark. 4:35-42).

It Never Gets Old (Ephesians 1-2)

November 18, 2020

But  God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, Ephesians 2:4

I truly do not have a clue as to how many times I have read Ephesians 2:4. But I do know this, it never gets old. Each time I read this wonderful verse and the context of it’s purpose I find myself freshly filled with praise and thanks to the God of my salvation.

So many times I have wondered where I would be today had it not been for the mercy of God. You ask, what kind of person were you before Jesus came into your life? Oh, have you not heard? I was walking the familiar path of every lost person. I was following Satan, even though I would have argued that I was not. I was headed down dead end streets as one who was a child of wrath. Yes, this was me and it could possibly be you?

Now is the good part, “BUT GOD.” Yes, it is true, the Creator of the Universe came into my life and revealed to me my sinful condition and the mystery of His will. This was nothing short of the mercy of God. This God sent Jesus to die in my place so that by faith I could be reconciled to God. His redemption was the price that was paid for my sins to be cleansed.

I boast in Christ alone. I believe even my faith is a gift from God. Truly I can say, I don’t know where I would be if not for God’s grace. To this day, grace has never gotten old.

Oh how I want to remind you (if you are a Christian) that what God did for me, He did for you. I challenge you to take time this day to consider all He has done for you. Everything you have came from God Himself (Eph. 1:1-3).

I also want to challenge you to meet others on the road of life and share with them what God did for you and what He wants to do for them. I know you love others and I know you want to share the love of Christ with them. It is so easy when you are oozing with the great grace of God!!!

If you are not a Christ-follower, but know God is calling you (and He is), I want to help you. Here is my personal email. Reach out, I am waiting for you.

I love each of you in the Lord and I am looking forward to seeing you out in the world for the glory of God!

The Big “if” (Colossians 3-4)

November 17, 2020

 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Colossians 3:1

Several nights ago John and I filled out his FASFA online application for the next year. The purpose was to determine it he is qualified for a grant for college assistance in the coming year. After we filled out the form we then were waiting for the “big if,” to determine whether he gets a scholarship or not.

As Paul continues to write a “Big If” comes into focus. Chapters three and four in the book of Colossians contain practical instruction for those who belong to Christ. Paul begins chapter three with the conditional statement, If you belong to Christ.

According to Paul, those who belong to Christ are pursing Heaven’s agenda. I wonder, has the “Big If” been settled in your life? I find many people who say it has been settled, but the fruit of their lives reveals that they are traveling a different road than God intends for them to travel.

True Christ-followers set their minds on God’s road for their lives. I love when I see this in people’s lives. Such people no longer travel the paths they used to travel. Colossians 3:5-11 is clearly seen in their lives.

For such people, there is no longer a “Big If.” Such people live with a certainty that they are in God’s family. I love to be around people who live this way. Below I have listed 8 connecting points for people who have settled the “Big If.”

  1. Such people evidence the fruit of the Spirit.
  2. Such people evidence Christ-like love and kindness.
  3. Such people are at peace with God and with the world.
  4. Such people are thankful.
  5. Such people are growing in God’s Word.
  6. Such people are worshipping and fellowshipping with God’s people.
  7. Such people are living for God’s glory.
  8. Such people are leaning into intercession.

Brothers and sisters let these 8 connecting points connect you even deeper to God’s agenda for your life. I am praying for you today that Christ will be clearly seen in your life and also that it will be seen in my life. I do not want any “Big If” in my life or yours. I love each of you dearly in Jesus!