Pastor’s Page

Pastor’s Page

HERB RUBY'S DISCIPLESHIP READING LIST

1.  “Knowing God” by J. I. Packer (Overview of theology)

2.  “The Westminster Confession of Faith” (Summary of Reformed Doctrine)

3.  “Mere Christianity” by C. S. Lewis (Classic on apologetics)

4.  “Religious Affections” by Jonathan Edwards or “God’s Passion For His Glory”  John Piper on Jonathan Edwards (Having a heart for God)

5.  “Knowing Scripture” by R.C. Sproul (How to interpret the Bible)

6.  “If You Want to Walk on Water You Have to Get Out of the Boat” by John Ortberg     (Faith)

7.  “Reason For God”  by Tim Keller (Sharing your faith in today’s world)

8.  “A Praying Life”  by Paul Miller (Prayer)

9.  “The Explicit Gospel”  by Matt Chandler (The importance of gospel-centered living)

10.  “Everyday Prayers”  by Scotty Smith (365 days of devotions)

HERB RUBY'S ALPHABET MEMORY VERSE DEVOTIONAL

A Note From Pastor Herb:

Psalm 119:105 says, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”  Psalm 1 describes the “blessed man” as one whose, “delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”

I have been personally blessed by the experience of memorizing Scripture.  To have Scripture verses memorized is to have a wonderful, accessible source of encouragement and power from God.

Because I personally have difficulty memorizing, I have found that it is much easier through the use of associations.  The “ABC Method” of memorizing Scripture uses the well-tested association of the sequential order of the letters of the alphabet as an aid to memorization.  Although the verses will usually begin with a letter in alphabetical order, sometimes just a key word in alphabetical order will be used.  Additionally each of the four sets of ABC verses is associated with a major theme in Scripture.

A commentary on the meaning of the verse and a prayer applying that verse will be included to all for better understanding and application.

Each person may have their own method of memorization but I have found the following methods useful.

 

  1. Read the verse out loud several times and then try to say it out loud from memory.
  2. Write the verse on paper over and over again.
  3. Write the verse on a file card with the letter and reference on the opposite side.  Test yourself.
  4. Put the card in your Bible or devotional reading and review.
  5. Test yourself just before going to sleep at night.

I pray that you will find the verses in the weeks ahead to be a great encouragement to your faith and give you joy in your walk with God.

 

God bless you,

Herb Ruby

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”  I Timothy 3:16

Commentary:  Although I Timothy 3:16 is not the easiest verse to memorize, it states a truth that is behind the reason for memorizing Scripture, namely that the Bible is God’s special revelation to us. This verse reminds us that God himself is the author. Although he used human agents to write it, the words are as trustworthy as if God breathed his own wisdom and truth into it, which in fact he did. The verse reminds us that we cannot take just selected portions or just any verse that we like. “All” Scripture has been inspired by God and is applicable to all the things that pertain to our spiritual lives. Although Scripture is not exhaustive for all things, it is enough for us to know God and to know how to please him. And nothing is more important than that.

Prayer:  Dear Lord, as I begin the process of memorizing Scripture, I pray that you would help me  to learn this verse by heart.  May you give me the faith to believe what you say is true and will guide me by your Word into a life that is truly pleasing to you. Apply this verse to my heart and use Scripture to teach, rebuke, correct and train me to be more and more like Jesus your Son. In whose name I pray, Amen

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”. 2 Peter 3:18

Commentary: There are many verses in the Bible that encourage us to study and be knowledgeable of God’s Word, but there is none so direct and forceful as we find here in 2 Peter 3:18. Peter exhorts the believers to whom he is writing to actively be involved in pursuing both a personal experience of receiving God’s gifts through faith [grace] and to putting effort into the study of God’s attributes and will.  God has revealed in Scripture what we need to know about him and to grow in righteousness [1 Timothy 3:16]. But the greatest revelation for us comes through what the Scriptures teach us about his Son Jesus Christ [Hebrews 1:2]. May this verse encourage us to memorize Scripture so that we can grow in the knowledge of the One who so wonderfully shows us the character and desires of God.

Prayer:  Gracious Lord, may my heart’s desire be to know You more. Through knowing your Word and memorizing it, may I grow in true knowledge of You. May my growth in grace and knowledge bring You glory and praise to your Son, in whose name I pray. Amen.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

Commentary:  To cast literally means to “throw upon”. What an amazing admonition. Not only does God offer compassion , but he wants us to “throw “ our worries, our anxious thoughts, and our struggles with uncertainty on him so that he can carry them for us. Our faith is to be not only in a God who is personal and powerful, but a God who is caring and tender-hearted and who invites us not only to communicate our concerns to him, but to trust him to carry them for us. What a great encouragement we have in knowing that our God is always present and eager to help us. May we not only memorize this verse, but personally claim its promise over and over again.

Prayer:  Dear Father, You are not only the Creator of the Universe, but my heavenly Father who is concerned about everything I am concerned about. I know my tendency is to be independent and try to carry everything myself. Help me overcome this habit toward  for self-reliance and more quickly share my burdens with you. May this verse resonate in my heart and help remind me to trust you even as Jesus your Son did. In whose name I pray. Amen

Key words to date: All, But, & Cast…

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart”. Psalm 37:4

Commentary:  We all have hopes, dreams and desires. There are things we love to do and ambitions we would like to fulfill. But sometimes the things we want to do are not at all what God wants us to do.

The great promise found in this verse is connected with our wanting what God wants as our primary desire. If our heart is tuned to pleasing God, his truth, his will, his pleasure, then our desires will be in line with his and we can be confident in asking for the good things that he promises. The key question is whether our desires are consistent with his. If we truly delight in pursuing pleasing God, our heart will be full.

Prayer:  Dear God, I need your grace to change my heart. So many of my desires, even the requests in so many of my prayers are about what I want, not what you want. Draw me closer to yourself. Help me see things through your eyes. May I grow deeper and deeper in my desire to put you first in my life. And as I do may I find greater and greater delight because of you. In your name I pray. Amen

Encourage one another daily, as long as it is today”. Hebrews 3:13

Commentary:  Courage is the quality of personal strength that enables us to face the challenges that come to us day by day. The believers who received this letter where facing many trials and difficulties. Many were considering renouncing their faith because it would be easier to deny their faith. Each day they needed the courage to stand for Christ in their world.

While it is true that God is there for us each every step of the way, we get encouraged as we stand together in faith. We all need brothers and sisters who will encourage us. We need people who by their personal walk and faith and example inspire and in so doing  put courage in us.

If you do not have any people like that around you, you need to find some! Invest in others who you admire and respect. Ask them questions. Help and encourage them, then ask for their help and encouragement in return. Remember, even Jesus chose twelve men to be around him and pray for him.

Our faith journey was never intended to be a solo trip. We all need to share our life with other faithful followers of Jesus Christ.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, You said that in this world we will have trouble. I know that to be true in my experience and I often get weary and discouraged. Help me to look to you for the strength I need every day. Please help me to find loving and encouraging people who will support me and who I can support. May I see them as gifts from you. Amen

Past key words: “All”, “But”, “Cast”, “Delight”

For you know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future”.   Jeremiah 29:11

Commentary:  Whenever you get discouraged because of temporary failure or setbacks or disappointments, this verse can be a real encouragement. God’s desire for us is that of a loving father who wants his child to succeed in whatever good endeavor they are involved in. This can apply to big things like financial prosperity, career success or happiness in personal relationships, as well as the little day to day challenges.  But the ultimate objective is the gracious life we will experience with God in heaven.  And whether or not God chooses to bless us with prosperity in this life, our greatest successes will be found in knowing, serving and becoming like Jesus in this life and in the next.

Prayer:  Gracious Lord, When I get discouraged with what seems to be the failure of my plans, may I be reminded that I am your child and that you have a good plan for my life. You are there working for my good and your glory. Help me to remember that you love me and want me to succeed in all things that please you. Remind me that you are there when I am discouraged.   I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen

Memory verse review

All Scripture is __________ ____ ___ ______ ____ _____ ____ ______ ____ __________ ____ __________ .

But grow in ____  _____ ____ ______ ___  ___ _____ ___ ______ ______ _____.

Cast all   your  _______ __ ____ _______ __ ______ ___ _____.

Delight yourself in  ___ _____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ _____ __ ___ ___.

Encourage one another  ______ __ _____ __ __ __ _____ _______.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

Commentary: Feeling stress is one very real and immediate reaction to trouble. Our pulse rate may go up, we may feel a bit panicky, and we may even temporarily have a feeling of impending doom. These are reactions of fear and are typical of our trying to take responsibility to deal with our struggle in our own strength.But faith takes hold of God. God wants to give us his strength when we face difficult circumstances. Psalm 46:1 reminds us that God not only cares about what worries us, but is there to actually help us. If we call on him we can know he hears us, and not only that he hears us, but that he will provide a place of safety and overcoming power for us to face whatever difficulty comes our way. The key is for us to quickly remember this great promise and call upon God – and know by faith, that he will.

Prayer: Gracious Lord, I do not know all that this day holds, but I am pretty sure there will be problems and situations today that may disturb and worry me. May I not seek to respond to them in my own strength, but look to you for help and perspective and overcoming power. Be my place of refuge I pray. Amen

He himself is our peace”. Ephesians 2:14

Commentary: I have seen bumper stickers that have the phrase “Visualize World Peace”. Most people given the choice would want people to have peace. But can we have peace by merely imagining in our minds? I don’t think so! Such a thought implies that the thoughts of a person are so powerful that our brain waves have power to overcome man’s decisions.

The real power in the universe is Almighty God, the Creator of all things. Man’s greatest need is not world peace, but peace with God. The gulf between the holy God of the Universe and sinful man is a vast chasm, greater than natural man can fathom. Yet God in his infinite mercy and grace provided a way for breakers of his holy laws to have peace with him.

That solution was given in the form of the incarnate Son of God Jesus Christ. Jesus came to pay for our sin so the gulf between sinners and God could be breached. We can come to God in full fellowship if we come through faith in Christ’s atoning work.

Ephesians 2:14 is a very short, easy verse to memorize, but so profound. This greatest of all gifts, peace with God is because of Jesus. He himself is our peace.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, thank you for the peace you have brought into my life. Through you my sins are forgiven and I can enter into fellowship with God the Father with boldness and confidence. May I never forget it is because of you that I have this most wonderful privilege. In your name and through your merit I pray. Amen

I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.” John 6:47

Commentary: From the mouth of Jesus himself, we have one of the great verses that gives assurance of eternal life. Jesus had just previously shared that he was the “bread of life”, the very source of spiritual life with God. He also says in John 6, “For my Father’s will is for everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life”[v.40].The faith that gives this wonderful assurance is not “faith in faith”, but faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ – the one who came to give his life and sustains our life as the continuous source of our new life in God. May our hope and confidence not be in our faith, but in the one who is the very source of our assurance, Jesus Christ, the hope of the world.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, May I never trust in the strength of my faith. May my focus be on  the content of my faith – you. You are the author, the source, the content of what I believe in. Give me an unshakable confidence for the future as I believe in what you have said. “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. Amen

For the joy of the Lord is your strength.”  Nehemiah 8:10

Commentary: This wonderfully uplifting verse was given to the people of God in the midst of one of the greatest revivals in the Old Testament. After the walls of Jerusalem had been rebuilt and the people felt physically safe, the next task was to rebuild people’s hearts. Ezra the priest brought out the Book of the Law and read it publicly to the thousands who had gathered. Then the Levites explained the meaning of what was being read so that those listening could understand. As a result the people became convicted of their sin and began to weep openly.

Nehemiah, realizing that true repentance was occurring did not want this powerful movement of God to turn into great sorrow. To know God’s character and know how to please him as expressed in his Law was a wonderful privilege and a reason for rejoicing.  So he declared to all, “ Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to the Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength”.

To know God, to know what pleases him, and to desire to do his will, will give us a strength that comes from faith. For the joy of the Lord gives great strength to those who have delight in him.

Prayer: Dear Lord, May I remember today that joy comes to me through a relationship with your Son Jesus Christ. May I rejoice that through him my sins are forgiven, I have a new life, a new purpose and a new source of power. Help me live with a strength that comes from knowing you. Through Jesus I pray, Amen.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.    Romans 8:28

Commentary: One of the greatest comforts for a believer in Jesus Christ is knowing that God is sovereign. With all the difficulties that surround us and the trials and tribulations that we experience in this world, this verse reminds us that God is in control. Nothing that comes our way surprises God. He has the situation not only under control, but promises to be working in our lives to give us whatever we need to glorify him and use that experience not only for his glory, but also for our good. We may not understand why we have to go through the struggle, but the promise in this verse assures us that ultimately God is using it to give him praise and to benefit us.                                                                  So whatever challenge comes your way today, know with certainty that if Jesus Christ is your personal Savior, you have been called by God for a purpose and he is at work for good.

Prayer: Lord, help me to believe that whatever trial I am experiencing right now that you care about me and you are working in my life to bring good out of the situation. Give me the faith to claim this promise and the strength to trust in you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength”.   Mark 12:30

Commentary: Jesus gives us in this verse the entire summary of all the commands of God. It tells us what is important to God and what should be important to us. God’s great commandment could have been” submit”, or “obey” or “serve” or “work”. And if it had been who would we be to argue. But instead God says ”love”, because above all else he wants our love. This love is not just emotion or affection. This love is all encompassing. We are to love God with our thoughts, our reflections, our work and all our choices. The fact that God wants us to love is a wonderful evidence that love comes from God. Love is God’s great attribute that he wants reflected in us.

Prayer: Gracious, loving Father, help me to see you for who you are, the God of the Universe, the Creator of all things, yet someone that wants my love. Help me to see the love you have for me through Jesus. May my desire be to love you with every fiber of my being. Grant me grace to be able to love you more and more. By the gift of your loving grace I pray. Amen

My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.”       2 Corinthians 12:9

Commentary: Some years ago my wife and I spent three weeks traveling in Morocco visiting and encouraging missionaries. I have never felt more out of control and dependent in all my adult life. Not knowing the language and not knowing the travel routes made us completely dependent on our missionary hosts for food, lodging and general survival. Although it may sound a bit ironic, I also cannot remember a time when I felt the Lord’s presence and protection more complete and more comforting. The saying that goes, “When God is all you have, you realize that God is all you need”, rang true in our situation in Morocco.

The memory verse for today communicates that truth in a powerful way. Until we really have to give up control and depend on God completely, we may not know just how powerful God’s grace can be.

Prayer: Great and Powerful Lord, when I feel out of control, may I turn to you for your all-sufficient grace and power. In the moments when I feel weakest may I turn to you and experience that your grace is available to meet my need. By your loving grace remind me to quickly turn to you for strength. Increase my faith  through Jesus I pray. Amen

Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them”. John 13:17

Commentary:  “Knowledge is power” is a saying quoted from time to time to support the idea that correct information is the answer to just about any problem. The statement implies that right information in itself has power, which of course is not true. Knowledge is basically irrelevant if it is not applied properly.

To the Old Testament people knowledge was by its very nature to be applied. Knowledge put into practice is the essence of the biblical virtue known as wisdom. The result of applying wisdom is to literally receive a blessing from God. Jesus spoke today’s memory verse in his Upper Room discourse to his disciples. He exhorted them not only to have right information, but to apply it in their lives.

The challenge for all believers is not only to read, study and meditate on God’s words, but to put that Word into practice in our everyday lives. As we read the Bible, as we listen to sermons preached, as we attend Bible studies, may we remember Jesus’ words that we will be blessed if we put into practice what he has said.

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, Thank you for reminding me that I need to apply what I learn, not just take in more and more information. Forgive me for being content to just get facts and information and not sincerely seek to put your truth into the real moments of my life. Forgive me for learning your Word and then choosing not to do it. Cause me to want your blessing and make your words an integral part of my life. For your sake I pray. Amen

To obey is better than sacrifice.” 1 Samuel 15:22

Commentary:  This verse comes right before the prophet Samuel’s statement to King Saul that because of his disobedience to God’s direct command Saul would be rejected as Israel’s king. God had given Saul the command destroy the Amalekites as his judgment against them. Saul chose to only partially obey. His excuse was that he was saving the best of the plunder so he could make an offering to God. But God didn’t want the offering. His instruction had been explicit yet, Saul justified himself by saying that his choice was better than God’s.    We can all learn a valuable lesson here. God gets greater delight in our obeying his commands than in our offerings to demonstrate we are sorry for our sins. Saul felt he could do whatever he wanted and if he was wrong, a few sacrifices would cover God’s wrath. Saul was both arrogant and half-hearted in his devotion to God.  As we face decisions we can come back to this verse and remember that God is most pleased with our obedience.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, forgive me for the times when I have disobeyed your clear instruction in Scripture by presuming on your grace and mercy to forgive me. Help me to remember this verse so that I resist temptation and desire to please you by obeying you fully. Through the merit of Jesus I pray. Amen

 

“But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.”   Psalm 33:11

Commentary:  One of the great assurances of our faith is the knowledge that God is unchangeable. Things change around us all the time, but to know that God has everything under control is a great source of confidence for the believer.

Not only does God’s character not change, but his good purpose for his creation does not change either. God has a plan and he is working that plan and we are part of it. It should be greatly assuring to us that nothing is going to happen to us that God is not already aware of. Whatever occurs in our life, God will use for his glory and for the ultimate good. Knowing this we can rest in his goodness and trust that the events in our life are not a result of blind fate or random chance. God has a plan and will use us to accomplish it.

May the knowledge of his sovereign rule give us courage, hope and persevering faith to handle whatever comes our way.

Prayer:  Almighty and Everlasting God, You are the Sovereign Lord. Nothing is going to happen to me today that will come as a surprise to you. Prepare me for whatever comes my way by believing in your sovereignty. Thank you for your Word and the assuring grace of the Holy Spirit.  In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

“In quietness and trust is your strength.”  Isaiah 30:15

Commentary:  On occasion you hear someone say, “Don’t just stand there. Do something!”  When faced with a problem, action, any action is viewed as better than doing nothing.  But the problem is that often action is the self-reliant response of a man thinking he has the wisdom and strength in himself to accomplish what is needed.  What Isaiah reminds the people of Israel to do when faced with a challenge is to be quiet, give the problem to the Lord, and trust him and He will give the strength that you need.  Quietness alone, however, does not give strength.  We must use that moment to get in touch with God.  Receiving His guidance requires that we stop and acknowledge our dependence, then we can rely on His mercy and grace to help us.  Isaiah would write in chapter 40 verse 31, “but those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength.”  Jesus, before he began a busy day, would often go off alone to a quiet place (Mark 1:35) to prepare for the day.  How often we lack the strength to do God’s work because we rely on our own strength instead of being quiet and trusting in Him.

Prayer:  Father, I could never recall the times I have rushed into ministry, thinking I was doing it for you, but not being quiet before you to receive your strength.  May this verse remind me that you want to give me strength.  Help me to take moments of quiet to receive your guidance and strength. In your son’s name I pray.  Amen.

“For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and give his life a ransom for many.”  Mark 10:45

Commentary:  In the ancient world serving others was viewed as beneath the dignity of an important person.  Providing care for others was the role of a hired hand or slave.  Jesus change that for all time.

The fact that God would send his Son to earth is amazing enough.  But the fact that Jesus came primarily to serve should amaze us.  With all the power of the universe in his hands, Jesus Christ chose to spend his time on earth in humble service to a needy people.  In doing so, Jesus elevated serving others into the highest calling.

Not only did Jesus serve others, his greatest act of service was to die for sinners.  In giving up his life on the cross he paid the ransom – the price of exchange to let a prisoner go free.  To serve is to be like Jesus.  Who can you serve today?

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, help me to see from your life that serving others is not beneath my dignity.  Help me to be like you by serving others. In your name. Amen.

Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these thing well be added to you as well.”      Matthew 6:33

Commentary:  Jesus expresses this great admonition in the midst of is discussion on worry. Worrying about food, clothing, and shelter are examples of concern for basic necessities that may grip our attention and focus.  Jesus’ formula for overcoming worry is clear – focus on God!  To seek means “to be absorbed in the search for; to make a strenuous effort to obtain.”  The kingdom is the great summary of the idea of pursuing God’s rule and control over our lives.  To seek God’s Kingdom is nothing short of seeking Him.  If we seek God we will find what pleases Him, what is right in His eyes and what is righteous.  God’s Kingdom and His righteousness fit together in perfect harmony.  There is a great promise here as well.  Seeking God’s will and rule in our life is the great antidote to worry.  God promises to provide. It is our responsibility to pursue the things of God and trust Him for the results.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I confess my proneness to worry.  I look at my needs and sometimes think I am totally responsible to provide for myself and those around me.  Help me make seeking what pleases you to be the priority of my life.  Show me what you want me to do this day, and may I rely on your promises to provide for all I need.  Through Jesus your Son I pray. Amen.

Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I  have commanded you.”          Matthew 28: 19-20

Commentary:  Jesus came to give us forgiveness and the assurance of eternal life, but he also came to give us a purpose.  Before Jesus ascended to heaven, he gave his disciples a final word of instructions popularly known as the Great Commission.  Our life on earth has a purpose – to make disciples.

Jesus did not say disciple-making was only for foreign missionaries who travel to distant lands.  The word “go” in verse 19 in the original language is not a command.  It is a participle.  A more literal translation of the verse would be the participial phrase “as you are going.”  “Make disciples” is the command.  Developing committed  followers of Jesus Christ is the real object of the Great Commission, not foreign travel.

To be faithful to this calling, all believers are to seek to set and example of what it means to follow Jesus.  We are to be involved in disciple-making wherever we are or go.  May each of us look around and seek to recognize people who we are influencing and who we can help to grow in their relationship with the Savior.

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, help me to see the people around me that I can influence.  Help me to be an example, a model, an instructor so that others may be more effective in becoming like you.  Help me to take the Great Commission seriously and invest my life in helping others follow you.  In your name I pray. Amen.

Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.”          Psalm 127:1

Commentary:  This verse is a great promise – and a great warning.  We are so prone to start great projects on our own initiative and pursue them with our own energy.  Then, when things become difficult, we call our God to bless our project or intervene to make our plans succeed.  The Psalmist reminds us that we should include God in our planning, in our execution and in the maintenance of what we are doing.  If God is not in what we are doing it will either fail ultimately or be of no real consequence.  How foolish we are to forget that God is the Sovereign Lord, that His plans never fail and that if He is in it, there will be great value.

Prayer:  Gracious Father, I have so often charged ahead with my own ideas seeking to accomplish my will in my own strength.  Then when I begin to flounder I seek your aid to bail me out.  Help me to be wise and apply the divine principle of this verse in all I do.  May I seek your guidance for my ideas, and your strength and your resources to have the plan succeed.  Let my life be a series of activities directed by You, for Your glory.  For the sake of your Son and your kingdom I pray.  Amen.

This is the verdict:  Light has come into the world.”  John 3:19.

Commentary:  There can be no neutrality with Jesus.  After he gives the great offer of salvation in him, (John 3:16), Jesus states that his coming into the world gives men a clear choice.  They can either stay in the dark, i.e., the state of mind of loving evil, or they can come to him and experience the light.

The difference between the believer and the unbeliever does not lie in the guilt or innocence of either.  The “verdict”, is the different attitude they take toward the “light”.  The unbeliever shrinks from the light because it exposes his sin;  the believer comes to the light and allows Jesus to be both the source of our forgiveness and the model for us to follow.

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, You are the light of the world.  You came so I could see my sin and know the cleansing that comes from your forgiveness.  Help me to walk in your light day by day.  May you daily give me faith to desire you as my Lord and Master.  In your name I pray.  Amen.

Work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”  Philippians 2:  12-13

Commentary:  As followers of Jesus Christ we have been called not only to rest in Christ, but to work for Christ.  Our personal relationship – our salvation – is a call to build God’s kingdom by following and serving our Lord.  Therefore, we are commanded to put effort into our life of service and worship and growth in grace.

But we are commanded to give forth effort in our life with God, we must never forget that we are totally dependent on God for the results.  Although we are to be working, God is also working.  He is continually involving himself in our lives to empower us and to enable us to do the good things he has planned for us to do.

Our fear and trembling is not some servile fear, but a feeling of deep respect for someone so great as God to invest himself so personally in us.  Out of thanksgiving and awe we are to seek to please God in what we do, knowing he is intimately involved in our lives and pleasing him should be our greatest desire.

Prayer:  Father, Too often I live my life in my own strength.  I live as if I am the one who controls my destiny.  Remind me constantly that you are intimately involved in my life.  Any progress or success I make in my spiritual journey is because of your work in me.  But also help me to remember that I need to put forth effort as well – in time, in study, in prayer, in seeking to know you and to do your will.  Give me a desire to strive to please you with my effort and to give you praise and thanksgiving for what you are doing in my life along the way.  In the powerful name of Jesus I pray.  Amen.

Righteousness eXalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.  Proverbs 14:34

Commentary:  The famous French statesman, historian and social philosopher Alex de Tocqueville toured America in 1831 and wrote a two-part work about America in 1835 entitled “Democracy in America.”  It was described as the most comprehensive and penetrating analysis of the relationship between character and society in America that has ever been written – (William J. Fedderer’s “America’s God and Country; p. 204).

In it he related, “I do not know whether all Americans have a sincere faith in their religion – for who can search the human heart? – But I am certain that they hold to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions.  This opinion is not peculiar to a class of citizens or a party, but belongs to the whole nation and to every rank of society.”

De Tocqueville’s famous high esteem of America was also couched with a warning.  “America is great because America is good, and if America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

America’s great heritage from its Judeo-Christian roots goes back to the very statement of Proverbs 14:34.  God has blessed our nation because from its founding to its constitution to the present, our laws have been rooted in the principles of scripture.

We know that this heritage is rapidly eroding and we can see the results every day in the news and in the general decline of our society and the increase in righteousness in general.  God will not be mocked.  A man reaps what he sews.  So too, a nation.

Proverbs 14:34 is a grave warning for us and should remind us to pray for God’s mercy to send the spirit of revival into our hearts and into our land.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, We have been given so much blessing from your hand.  And for generations we have given you the credit.  Forgive our ungrateful independence and arrogant self-reliance.  Cause people’s hearts to turn to you and desire to please you.  I pray for your mercy to reign down and cause us to repent of our sin and seek your righteous ways.  I pray for my country, but I pray you would begin with me.  Forgive our sin and cause my life to be a testimony of honor, love and obedience to you.  Through Jesus my Lord I pray.  Amen.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:13

Commentary:  God has created us for a relationship – a love relationship.  Anyone who desires to be loved desires to be sought after.  God is no different.  Our sinful nature causes us to go our own way.  Our self-centeredness expects people to seek after us – to love us.  But God knows, for our love to be genuine, it will have within it a desire to seek God.

Love, also must come from the heart.  Love that is genuine desires to be with the person they love, to please the person they love, to give to the person they love.  God wants our love and so he wants us to seek him with our whole heart.

David reminds us of his heartfelt desire.  My heart says of you, “Seek his face!  Your face Lord I will seek.”  Psalm 27:8.  Isaiah 55:6 sounds so much like Jeremiah 29:13 when we hear “Seek the Lord while he may be found;  call on him while he is near.”

What is so special about our memory verse is that God indeed promises to be found.  Our efforts will not go unrewarded.

Our efforts to love God will go unnoticed.  If we seek God with our whole heart he will be found and bless.

Prayer:  Lord, there are times you seem so far away, but I know that is my own doing.  So often I have ignored you or even turned away from you.  You deserve to be loved – you want to be loved – so sometimes you want to be pursued so that I can show how important you are to me.  Lord, I want to seek you today.  I want to tell you I love you and need you.  Hear this my prayer and let me share the love of my heart with you.  Amen.

“It is not good to have zeal without knowledge.”  Proverbs 19:2

Commentary:  I once knew a man who was not supportive of Christian education and used the verse, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”  (I Corinthians 8:1).  There are no doubt people who have a considerable amount of Bible knowledge but do not show love, and there are people that come across as arrogant with their knowledge.

Although knowledge without love is inconsistent with maturity in Christ, zeal without knowledge is also warned against in scripture.  How many people have been hurt by an overzealous believer who lacks wisdom and tact because they are ignorant or what the Bible teaches about truth, love, and service.

A person can be very sincere, and be sincerely wrong.  Our zeal for the Lord should be directed by his commandments and done with the heart that reveals the life he lived on earth for us and taught his disciples.

Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:5 that we should “speak the truth in love.”  To know how to do that we must have knowledge of what God’s love is and how to apply it from the example of Scripture.

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, Help me to be zealous for you – to live for you and to share you with others.  Let my words and actions be directed by the instruction in your Word.  Let my actions be guided by your example.  May I seek to study your Word so I can become more and more like you.  In your name and for your sake I pray, Amen.

Ask and it will be given to you;  seek and you will find;  knock and the door will be opened to you.”  Matthew 7:7

Commentary:  As we begin a new section of memory verses on the theme of faith, Matthew 7:7 can be one of the most encouraging passages in the Bible on prayer.  Prayer is one of the great demonstrations of faith, and to express our faith we need to pray.

Jesus here gives us a great motivation to pray.  Praying to someone we can not see with our eyes takes faith.  We need to believe in the promises of God’s Word.  Here Jesus exhorts us to prayer because we can be confident that God hears us if we seek Him sincerely and with a desire to do His will.

The verse comes with three imperatives in the present tense.  Imperatives are commands for us to do.  The present tense shows us that we are to do them continuously.  Note also they are in a progression of growing intensity.  If God is close, simply ask.  If he seems not to be close, go seek him so he can receive your request.  If there is something between you and God – don’t stop – knock!  Persist until you get your request heard.  Matthew 7:8 is a positive answer for us in response to our efforts in prayer.  May we believe Jesus’ words and pursue him in prayer.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, Help me to believe this command.  Help me to take your word to heart and actively pursue you in prayer.  You have promised to hear and answer.  But you also remind me that you want to be pursued.  That my seeking you and desiring you, and making effort to have my requests heard is part of your plan for building my faith.   Help me not be discouraged when I feel like you are not listening.  Bring this verse to mind when I give up too easily.  Remind me that pursuing you is part of your plan to mature me in faith.  This prayer I ask in your name.  Amen.

But those who hope upon the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles;  they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  Isaiah 40:31

Commentary:  Biblical hope is not the same as wishful thinking.  Biblical hope is faith that believes God for the future.  Faith for the future gives us strength for today and this strength is promised for us today if we will believe God’s promises for tomorrow.

Faith is much more than believing God’s Words is truth.  The promises from God mean real power for us as we live day by day in dependence upon God.  Sometimes we tire from running the race.  Sometimes, in our walk of faith we may feel as if we can’t keep going.

But God has promised to give us the strength to keep going.  Strength to make it through without quitting.  Strength enough to  keep moving forward despite obstacles in our path.

To watch an eagle in flight soaring in the sky should remind us that God will supply the lift we need to soar.

Eagles don’t soar by flapping their wings – they rely on the air currents to lift them up and keep them aloft.  So, too, but trusting in God’s promises, God will lift us above our struggles, so we too, can soar.

Prayer:  Gracious God, my Father and my source of hope, when I begin to tire in my walk of faith, when I begin to weaken under the pressures of life, help me remember that you promise to lift me up.  Bring to my mind this verse that promises to give me power.  Keep me encouraged and strong as I remember that you are not only walking beside me but able to have me soar whenever I call on you.  Bring to my mind how Jesus called on you over and over again, and you supplied him with strength for every trial and need.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”  James 1:2-3

Commentary: Most of us do not like trials and difficulties.  It is typical for human beings to gravitate to what’s comfortable and easy.  But we know that our muscles will not grow unless they are stretched, unless they are used

The same is true for our faith.  Rather than recoiling from trials and trying to avoid the conflicts that come from living for Christ, we need to see these difficulties as part of God’s plan to make us stronger, to make us know his power and sufficiency for our lives.

God does not give us grace and strength to avoid difficulties.  He gives us grace and strength to go through the difficulties.  The ability to keep going and not quit is called perseverance and is an ability that God will give us as we look to Him for strength.

To have joy doesn’t necessarily mean we will enjoy something.   But it does mean we will feel satisfaction and confidence knowing we have faced the trial and with God’s grace supplying all we need, we will not only get through it, but get stronger.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, Help me to see trials as opportunities to become more like you.  Help me to call on the Holy Spirit to give me the strength to stay the course, do what is good and right, and pleasing to You. Help me to ask for grace instead of complaining or withdrawing from the challenge. Help me to believe that You will be there walking with me to strengthen me, and to give You glory. In your name and for your sake I pray. Amen

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition make your requests to God.”  Philippians 4:6.

Commentary:  Being anxious is a natural result of the human condition.  We are fallen creatures who get anxious, worry, fret, even obsess over situations we are facing or even thing we imagine we may face in the future.  Jesus taught his disciples not to worry.

We know that this is easier said than done.  Prayer of course is the way to transition from worry and anxiety to contentment in God.  Paul tells us that prayer is the way to deal with everything that causes us to be anxious.  Prayer brings us to the very throne of God.  Prayer is the means by which we can come into His presence and have our concerns placed at His feet.  Philippians 4:7 says that God will give us peace from our praying.  This peace is from God.

May this memory verse be on our mind and in our heart when we feel anxious, and may we take to God in prayer everything that makes us worry.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I confess to you I worry, I get anxious.  I need the strength that you only can supply.  Train my heart to recognize worry and anxiety in my life – and as soon as I do – to bring it to you in prayer.  Forgive me for the times I stay anxious and do not share with you.  Forgive me for the energy I waste in needless worry.  Send your Holy Spirit to help me to acknowledge my need, seek your help, and experience the promises of your Word.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Encourage one another daily, as long as it is today”. Hebrews 3:13

Commentary:  Courage is the quality of personal strength that enables us to face the challenges that come to us day by day. The believers who received this letter where facing many trials and difficulties. Many were considering renouncing their faith because it would be easier to deny their faith. Each day they needed the courage to stand for Christ in their world.

While it is true that God is there for us each every step of the way, we get encouraged as we stand together in faith. We all need brothers and sisters who will encourage us. We need people who by their personal walk and faith and example inspire and in so doing  put courage in us.

If you do not have any people like that around you, you need to find some! Invest in others who you admire and respect. Ask them questions. Help and encourage them, then ask for their help and encouragement in return. Remember, even Jesus chose twelve men to be around him and pray for him.

Our faith journey was never intended to be a solo trip. We all need to share our life with other faithful followers of Jesus Christ.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, You said that in this world we will have trouble. I know that to be true in my experience and I often get weary and discouraged. Help me to look to you for the strength I need every day. Please help me to find loving and encouraging people who will support me and who I can support. May I see them as gifts from you. Amen

Past key words: “All”, “But”, “Cast”, “Delight”

For you know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future”.   Jeremiah 29:11

Commentary: Whenever you get discouraged because of temporary failure or setbacks or disappointments, this verse can be a real encouragement. God’s desire for us is that of a loving father who wants his child to succeed in whatever good endeavor they are involved in. This can apply to big things like financial prosperity, career success or happiness in personal relationships, as well as the little day to day challenges.  But the ultimate objective is the gracious life we will experience with God in heaven.  And whether or not God chooses to bless us with prosperity in this life, our greatest successes will be found in knowing, serving and becoming like Jesus in this life and in the next.

Prayer:  Gracious Lord, When I get discouraged with what seems to be the failure of my plans, may I be reminded that I am your child and that you have a good plan for my life. You are there working for my good and your glory. Help me to remember that you love me and want me to succeed in all things that please you. Remind me that you are there when I am discouraged.   I pray in Jesus’name. Amen

Memory verse review

All Scripture is __________ ____ ___ ______ ____ _____ ____ ______ ____ __________ ____ __________ .

But grow in ____  _____ ____ ______ ___  ___ _____ ___ ______ ______ _____.

Cast all   your  _______ __ ____ _______ __ ______ ___ _____.

Delight yourself in  ___ _____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ _____ __ ___ ___.

Encourage one another  ______ __ _____ __ __ __ _____ _______.

God demonstrates his own love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8

Commentary:  The Scriptures tell us that God is love (I John 4:16).  But love could mean so many different things.  Here we have love defined.  Love is giving, love is sacrificial.  Love is demonstrated in real actions.  God’s great love is explained and understood in His giving his Son to die for our sins.

But there is another profound dimension of God’s love defined by this great verse.  God initiates His love to people who are unworthy, disinterested and rebellious.  God’s love initiates reconciliation, forgiveness and fellowship to us while we were enemies in our hearts toward God.  When we receive Jesus as Savior we can realize that although we may think we found Jesus, God was pursuing us long before we came to know Him.

God’s love is truly amazing grace.

Prayer:  Father, May I never take your love for granted or think that somehow through my effort or my own goodness I discovered you on my own.  Your love came to me as undeserved in every way.  Yet you did not give up loving me, but you pursued me until I put my trust in Your Son.  Help me live my life as a continuous “Thank You”, for loving me with this gift of your Son.  In and through the name of your Son Jesus I pray.  Amen

In him and through faith in him, we may approach God with freedom and confidence.  Ephesians 3:12

Commentary:  Faith in Jesus Christ gives us so many benefits.  What usually comes to mind is forgiveness of our sins and eternal life.  But in this verse we are reminded that faith in Jesus gives us personal access to God, a relationship without barriers, and the right to call God Father.  Through faith in Jesus, redeemed sinners have a direct pathway to the Creator of the Universe, the Lord of All Creation, the Giver and Sustainer of all good gifts.  Not only are we reminded that we are free to approach God, but we can be sure as we approach God, that He welcomes our presence.  We receive all these privileges because we have put our faith and trust in His Son, Jesus Christ.  What a glorious promise and assurance we have as believers in Jesus.  He is the way to God, and we can come boldly because of Him.

Prayer:  Thank you Heavenly Father for your grace and mercy to me.  Thank you that you did not leave me in my sin and misery separated from you, but made a way for me to come into your holy presence.  Thank you for sending Jesus to be my Savior.  Thank you for not only forgiving my sins, but making a way for me to have personal communion with you. Help me to remember that you grant me freedom of access and encourage me to come to you in prayer and worship and fellowship through the sacrifice of your Son, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray.  Amen

“I  can do everything through him who gives me strength.”     Phil. 4:13

Commentary:   Paul is thinking of Christ when he writes this verse, later he writes in I Timothy 1:12, ” I thank Jesus Christ our Lord, who has given me strength.”

Whether he is struggling with fear, or anxiety or with difficulties, his source of strength is Jesus.  He has found contentment in every circumstance because even when he is weak he is strong, because Christ empowers him in all the circumstances he finds himself in.

Christ encourages him with his teaching, with his example, and with his sacrifice for our sin.  But most of all Paul knows he has great strength because he knows that he is in Christ, united with him by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

Paul can do all things that God wants him to do by looking to him for the power he needs.  Jesus is our Savior and Lord, but also our source of strength for whatever task God has for us to do.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, so often I fail to accomplish your will because I attempt to do your work in my strength.  Forgive me for trusting in my self-sufficiency  and for my foolish pride that thinks I can do your will in my own strength.  Help me remember the example of Paul’s faith and to apply this truth to my life.  By your Spirit remind me of your presence and power that is available to me by being united with Christ.  May you be glorified as I give you my trust,      Amen.

Join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.”  Romans 15:30

Commentary:  Prayer is one of the great gifts of grace that God gives to us.  By it we can share our thoughts with God, express our praise and share our concerns.  In times of difficulty and in times of joy, prayer connects us with our Lord.

But prayer also serves as a wonderful way for us to connect with other believers.  We all appreciate other people praying to God for our concerns.  Praying for someone else is a wonderful way of showing love.

But this request of Paul of the believers in Rome goes even deeper than that.  In requesting that they pray for him, Paul is actually inviting them to partner with him in his ministry.  Through prayer we can join someone in their ministry.  Through prayer we can walk along beside someone in their difficulties.  Through prayer we can be with someone as they struggle along the way.

Prayer is not only an act of love and an act of fellowship, but it is an act of service.  To  understand that in prayer we join someone, is a wonderful privilege and a selfless gift.

Prayer:  Father,  Thank you for the great privilege of prayer.  Thank you for allowing my prayers to draw me close to you, but also to a friend, a partner, a companion and with others as I pray with and for them.  Let me see my prayers for others as being like walking beside them and helping them in their struggles.  Thank you for putting me in a family where I can be an important part in other people’s lives.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.

Know that the LORD is God.  It is he who has made us, and we are his.  Psalm 100: 3.

Commentary:  At the core of our worship and praise and thanksgiving to God is the fact that we are His creation.  He is the Creator of all things and He is the Creator of us.  He has determined our eye color, our height and our natural talents.  All the abilities we have are the result of His creating us.

I always find the idea of a self-made man, a bit absurd.  Although we can develop our talents and even maximize our opportunities, we did not create ourselves.  We did not choose our parents.  We did not give ourselves our unique set of talents.

Whenever we have success because of our natural abilities, there should be an awareness in our heart that any credit for our success should be given to God.

Prayer:  Father, I have a tendency to give myself credit for successes I have because of my talents.  How short-sighted I am to forget that you made me and that any achievement I obtain is only because you created me with gifts and talents for Your glory…  Help me to be quick to give you praise in my heart, and praise in public for whatever successes I obtain.  May I honor you as God in all that I do.  To You be the glory.  Amen.

“Live by faith, not by sight.”  II Corinthians 5:7

Commentary:  To be a follower of Jesus Christ is to say that we have faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  But there can be a tremendous gap between saying we have faith in someone and being able to say we are living “by faith” in someone.  Frances Schaeffer described the contradiction of saying we believe in Jesus – yet not trusting him day be day in our lives as “practical atheism”.

Our focus as Christians should be to live by faith, that is, to live dependent on Christ each day to guide and direct us.  It means to live here and now knowing that this earthly home that we have is just a temporary dwelling.  We should live with the perspective that we will spend eternity with God in our heavenly home.

To live by sight is to live as if this world is all there is and that we in essence control our own destiny.

To live by faith is to believe the promises of God both for our earthly life and for the life to come.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, You showed us how to live on earth by living by faith.  Everything you did or said was motivated by your desire to please your Father and do his will.  Help me to live like that.  Forgive me for believing that somehow my world is only that which I can see.  I know better, but sometimes I drift away from the reality of your presence.  Help me to seek your presence each day and desire to live dependently on you moment by moment.  In your name I pray.  Amen.

My soul finds rest in God alone, my salvation comes from him.  Psalm 62:  1.

Commentary:  As he so often does, David the psalmist finds himself in trouble with people who are trying to harm him.  Although he may have no human resources to look to, David encourages himself with what he knows of God.  In the midst of trouble, he is able to simply be quiet before God and find a contentment and security that gives him the strength he needs.

He knows that God alone is the source of his eternal redemption and all the benefits of the covenant.  Wherever he is and in whatever situation he finds himself in, he can encourage his heart by being quiet before God and trust in His promises to provide and protect.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, How many times we have felt in the midst of difficult situations that the solution is to get busy and do something.  May we find more and more that the thing we really need is to be quiet before you, to be still and know that You are God.  May we be quick to stop and remember Your promise to be near, to guide and protect us.  May we look to you for courage and strength as we quiet our hearts before you.  Thank you for your promised presence in Jesus.  Amen.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”                                                                                          Hebrews 11:1  NASB

Commentary:  Nowhere in the Bible is the word faith so explicitly defined as in this verse.  Here the New Testament writer describes it in several key elements.  Faith involves confidence in the promises of God.  Faith has a future element to it for hope is a confident expectation for the future.  Conviction involves being persuaded that something is right and true.  And faith also has to do with the unseen world.  You do not need faith to believe what you can see with your eyes.

Faith consists of taking God at His Word and directing our lives accordingly.  Because of faith, future events are almost the same as a present reality.  And faith can see things as real and true that the physical eye can not see.  Faith enables us to live in the light of God’s promises with such confidences that what God has promised is ascertain as if we were seeing it happen before our very eyes.

Prayer:  Father, Thank You for the gift of faith.  Thank you for giving me such confidence in Your promises that I can live as if I see those realities unfolding before my very eyes. Your Word is true.  Let me live by Your Word each and every day with a sure hope for the future.  Help me live with faith even as your Son Jesus Christ did.  In whose name I pray.  Amen

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”  Galations 5:6a

Commentary:  Faith as we have seen from Hebrews 11:1 results in confidence and hope.  True faith also manifests itself in something else – love.  Faith in Christ impacts the heart and ushers in a response of love.  We are saved by faith not by works, but faith is not mere intellectual conviction – a simple assent to certain facts.  To believe is to place one’s personal confidence in a Savior who loves us and gave his life for us.  Since Jesus is the source of our faith, there should be a genuine self-denying love for others that characterizes our faith.  Faith and love are permanently linked together and should be the clearest indicators of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, May I never forget that my salvation originated in your love expressed in the gift of your Son for me.

May the faith you have given in me produce a growing love for You and for others. Through Jesus Christ, who gave his life on the cross so that I might know You as my heavenly Father.  Amen.

Pray continually.”  Thessalonians 5:17

Commentary:  This injunction is the middle part of three great commands.  “Be joyful always;  pray continually;  give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

One of the ironies of the Christian faith is that we are strongest when we are aware that we are weak.  We can be most confident when we realize our lack of ability to be in control and place our faith and hope in the God who is sovereign over the entire universe.  Prayer is the wonderful way we draw God into our consciousness.  Going to God in prayer is to call upon the greatest power that exists.  Prayer is fellowship with God and it is the way we can sense the very presence of God with us.

Although we may not always utter audible or conscious words, through an awareness of God’s presence we can know the Spirit of God is with us.  Through prayer our lives can be lived in continual dependence on God and in the peace and comfort such knowledge brings.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father,  Thank you so much for the privilege of prayer.  To know that You are always near, that you always hear and that You are constantly available is one of the greatest blessings I can know.  Help me by Your Spirit to live life in the constant awareness of Your presence.  May I live a life marked by a faith that looks to you continually through prayer.  Through Jesus, Amen.

You quarrel and fight.  You do not have.  You do not have because you do not ask God.  James 4:2

Commentary:  James prefaces this verse with the question, “What causes fights and quarrels among you?”  Then he answers the question by saying, “Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?”

Self-centeredness is at the core of so many of our conflicts and instead of desiring God’s will, we want our will to be supreme and we pray as if it is God’s job to satisfy our own self-centered desires.  Our verse for today reminds us that our prayers are always to be in keeping with God’s will.  God delights in answering prayers that are offered in righteousness (Psalm 34:15), in truth (Psalm 145:118) and according to His will (1John 5:14).

So we should always temper our desires with the question “Is my request pleasing to God?”  If so, we should ask – and ask anticipating that He will give us what is good for us and be satisfied.

Prayer:  Father, I am prone to be self-centered even in the requests in my prayers.  Help me to remember that Your will is best.  You know what I really need.

Help me to live by faith and make my requests to You.  So many times I have not received because I have failed to ask.  May Your Holy Spirit prompt me to ask of You, and guide me to ask according to Your will.  Overcome my self-centeredness and make me more like Your Son, my Savior Jesus Christ.  In whose name I pray,  Amen.

“The righteous will live by faith.”  Romans 1:17

Commentary:  Martin Luther’s understanding of this verse changed his life and changed history.  Luther had struggled with his inability to merit forgiveness for his sin.  Through this verse Luther came to understand that righteousness can only come to us as a gift.  It cannot be earned or deserved.  Jesus Christ’s perfect life and substitutionary death could impute his righteousness to anyone who would receive it by faith.  Ultimately, new life in Christ is living with the belief that Jesus’ righteousness is given to us as a gift and is obtained by faith in Jesus as our Savior.  That we are made righteous through faith in Jesus’ perfect life and atoning death brought the crowning achievement of the Reformation – the rediscovery of the gospel.

Prayer:  Father, I am so thankful that the gospel was rediscovered in this verse.  May I never forget that my relationship with you comes through faith in Jesus who gives his righteousness to me as a gift received by faith.  Help me preach the gospel to myself every day, remembering that you see me and relate to me because of the gift of the gospel purchased for me by your son, Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray.  Amen.

“David found strength in the Lord.”  I Samuel 30:6.

Commentary:  Great men are known for their achievements that give them notoriety.  But sometimes we see the greatness of a man because of the way they handle adversity.  With all the struggles David had before he became king, this verse follows perhaps the lowest point in his career.  He had fled Saul with his small band of men and was living day to day. David and his small army had left their camp to pursue their enemies and while they were away from their camp the Amelikites had raided their camp, burned it to the ground and taken all the wives and children as hostages or slaves.  David’s men were so upset with him they discussed stoning him.

With all the struggles of seemingly losing everything, having to deal with mutiny would have been the ultimate humiliation.

What would David do?  Stand up to the leader of the mutiny?  Commit suicide?  Try some bold plan of rescue?

I Samuel 30:6 simply says, “David found strength in the Lord”, he did not look to himself for answers.  He did make some well-crafted plan, – not some bold confrontation with the leads of the mutiny.  David prayed.  He went to the Lord to deal with his own sense of loss, his own fear, his own feelings of inadequacy, his own situation of loneliness.

What a great example for us all in times of severe testing.  May yours and my first response in a crisis be to look to God, and find a strength for the situation, that only He can give.

Prayer:  Father, I may never have a crisis as intense as David’s.  But I know I will have moments when everything around me seems to be falling apart.  May I remember your promise to never leave me or to forsake me.  May I remember David’s example and know that You should be the one I look to first for strength.  Thank you for giving me David’s story and may I seek to live putting you first in my life.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3: 5-6.

Commentary:  My wife and I always made a big deal out of our sons’ birthdays.  It was a day to give praise to God for the gift they were to us and to celebrate their life.  It was our family tradition for me to offer a prayer on their behalf – a prayer that would give thanks for them and ask for God’s blessing in the coming year.

But before I offered the prayer of blessing I would read Proverbs 3:1-6.  Verse one begins with, “My son do not forget my teaching; but keep my commands in your heart.”  The commands of course are summarized  in our memory verse for today.  Verses 5 and 6 summarize so well God’s covenant promises and our covenant responsibilities.  God promises to keep us with Him, to guide us, to protect us and provide for us.  But we are to live by faith.  We are to rely on His Word for guidance, to place our trust in what He says is best and to look to Him as our Lord.  God’s promises are true, but they come to us through the avenue of faith.  What a great verse for young people to hear and believe and follow.  What a great promise for believers of any age.

Prayer:  Lord, you make great promises to your children.  You promise to keep me close to you and get me through all that life throws my way.  But I must trust You.  You can’t believe for me.  Help me to remember your promises.  Continually bring to my mind that You are God and that Your way is best.  Forgive me for trusting in myself and and forgetting to include You in my daily decisions.  Give me eyes that look to you and a heart that depends on You each and every day.  Thank you for your promises.  In your name, Amen.

“I do believe;  help me overcome my unbelief.”  Mark 9:24

Commentary:  As a father of three sons, I have a strong emotional connection to the dad who communicated this request.  His son had suffered for years and years, and in faith he had brought his son to the desciples to be healed.  They were inadequate to make a difference.  Undeterred the father brings his son to Jesus and says, “If you can do anything?”  “We can only speculate on the tone of Jesus’ answer, “If you can?  Everything is possible to him who believes.”  To Jesus, building the men’s faith is more important than the son’s affliction.  He solicits a faith response from the father.  A faith that is weak – but is real, and is open to grow deeper.  And in response to that growing, dependent faith – Jesus heals the boy.

How often do we come to God like this man, thinking to oneself – “If you can?”  Not “I know you can.”  Jesus honors the honesty of this man’s little faith because, though small it is real, it is sincere, it is growing even as he shows his doubt.

How many times would we be blessed if we came to God with the spirit of this prayer. Rather than take “No!” for an answer due to our lack of persistence we should pray “Lord, I do believe – help me overcome my unbelief.”

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, I probably cannot count the number of times I have given up on my requests because my faith was weak.  Bring to mind this verse to remind me that you are patient and gracious despite the weakness of my faith.  And even as I acknowledge my little faith, you will increase my faith as I trust in you.

In your name I pray Jesus, Amen.

This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”  I John 5:4

Commentary:  Faith in Jesus Christ is a powerful thing to have.  For this is the faith that John is referring to.  Faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord gives us victory over every assault the world can throw at us.  John uses the term world to refer to all those forces around us that are opposed to God moral pressures, ideas in opposition to God that assault our intellect and even physical trials like persecution.  Because we have faith in Jesus, we have overcoming power against all those forces that would seek to cause us to turn away in unbelief and follow the ways of this world rather than the commands of God.  As believers in Jesus Christ, we are God’s children, born from above, born to love and born to keep his commandments.  Confidence in Jesus, the object of our faith, is the one weapon that makes us victorious against war, evil, and the forces the world would send against us.

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, You are my source of strength.  Through faith in you I can stand up against any foe.  With you I can be victorious.  May I never forget the power of gospel.  Through faith in you and by following your commands I can win the victory.

Thanks be to God who gives us the victory in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Without faith it is impossible to please God, for anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”  Hebrews 11:6

Commentary:  Today’s memory verse may be the most practical definition of faith found in the Bible.  While faith is described throughout the Bible, nowhere is it broken down into such clear, distinct words as in this verse.

Faith is not faith in faith.  Faith must have an object.  To have faith that God exists seems almost elementary to the extreme and yet many people have faith in faith, which means faith in themselves, not God.  To have faith in God is to believe in a personal God who is interested in our lives and wants to be known.  The second part of faith is that we know God as one who desires to be known, he wants us to seek after Him, to know Him, to delight in Him, and to have fellowship with Him.  Faith also believes that God delights in our seeking Him.  His response to our seeking is to reward us with grace and blessing and much, much more.

Yes God blesses obedience.  But obedience must be more than blind rule keeping.  Obedience must be the response of faith to a gracious God that wants a relationship with us and delights when we place our trust in Him.

Prayer:  Gracious Heavenly Father,  May I live today wanting to please you with the things I do and the words I say.  May my actions today reflect a belief that You are real, that You are interested in my life.  May my life bring You joy and pleasure as I live knowing You will bless me as you have promised, as I live by faith.  May I never forget your precious love for me through your Son Jesus Christ and may my life be pleasing in Your sight this day.  Through Your Son Jesus Christ I pray,  Amen.

Excel in everything – in faith, in knowledge, in complete earnestness, and in your love.”  II Corinthians 8:7.

Commentary:  The meaning of excel in the original language means to overflow with abundance.  Jesus uses this word in his famous teaching of Matthew 12:34 where he says, “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”  Here in II Corinthians Paul gives us quite a challenge to our faith.  We are to live our life overflowing with faith, knowledge, earnestness and love.  Each of these four is connected to the other, yet each is important on its own.  Being a follower of Jesus is a calling to excel in qualities that reflect his presence in our lives.

Prayer:  Most holy Lord,  I wil always say I believe in you, but sometimes I don’t show it in my actions.  I know the right thing to do but I don’t always do it.  I am often lazy and not diligent and too often I choose to please myself, not love you or my neighbor.  But I know that you want me to excel in these four areas.  I humbly ask for more grace to live dependently on you.  May I put into practice the knowledge of your Word.  May I be more diligent in walking with you, and above all, may I know your love more and more so that it will permeate all that I say and do.

In your most excellent Name I pray,  Amen.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil;  for thou art with me.”  Psalm 23:4 KJV

Commentary:  One of the greatest tests of our faith is when we face the possibility of death.  Whether it is a serious illness, an accident or a very dangerous, life-threatening situation like a robbery or a natural disaster, our faith in God’s gracious presence can give us strength to face these situations with courage and a calm that non-believers do not know.

A believing friend of mine, while riding in an ambulance when suffering an obvious heart attack, repeated this verse he had known from childhood, over and over again.  It sustained him through a time when he was literally in the valley of the shadow of death.  But the verse itself is not where we get our strength.  The verse is the personal promise of God that he will be with us, even in the most difficult situations.  The reason we can let go of our fear is because God himself has promised his personal presence to guide us, comfort us and reassure us.  Memorizing this verse will enable us to draw from its great promise at the moment we need it most.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father,  Thank you for your promises.  When I encounter times that are really scary and there is a real threat to my earthly existence, may I look to you for supernatural faith that will keep me calm and assured.  May fear never overcome me.  May I know Your Word and believe it, and when danger comes I can face it knowing you are right beside me all the way.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen

“The zeal of the Lord will accomplish this.  Isaiah  9:7

Commentary:  We must never confuse faith in faith with true biblical faith.  Biblical faith is not our trust in our ability to believe something, but faith in believing that God will do what He has said.

Isaiah 9:7 reminds us that God is zealous to do what He has promised.  God’s very nature is to be trustworthy, to be faithful in accomplishing His will.

You may be familiar with Isaiah 9:6, one of the great Old Testament verses that describes the Messiah.  “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given” is followed by three great descriptions:  “he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, the Prince of Peace” which promise that the Messiah will come and there will be no end to his reign.  And what assurance do we have of this coming to reality?  Isaiah 9:7 tells us, “the zeal of the Lord will accomplish this.”  What a fitting way to end our section of versus on faith.  This is what faith is – believing that God will indeed do just what He says.

Prayer:  Father, Help me to remember that you are the object of my faith.  Help me look to You knowing that You will keep your promises because You are zealous to do so.  Let me trust in your character and your Word as I seek to trust and obey You.  May your Word sustain me and may I keep my eyes and my faith focused on you.  Thank you for Your promises, Amen.

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Covenant of Grace Church PCA, 820 Nicodemus Road, Reisterstown, Maryland 21136
410-833-2160
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