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A Posture That Is Productive

Scripture Reading: Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19
Is there anything that you’re going through or facing in your life today that you’re so clear that God’s presence and help is with you and assisting you? And yet at the same time still have this sense that things are not coming to the completion of the desired goal that you would have hoped would come as fast as you would like them to come about? And because of this do you become weary and sometimes doubt comes, and even tempted to say “I was wrong to believe it could ever come to be?” These types of situations happens to all of us. I know it does with me.
A posture that is productive
Psalm 118:25-26 “O Lord, save us; O Lord, grant us success. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you.” John 12:13 “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!”
  • As the people were declaring this Psalm, this was their hope. This event was not long after Lazarus was raised from the dead. The people had all the evidence from all that they have heard and seen for themselves that Jesus is the Messiah. There was this great moment where they began praising Him as they moved towards the city gates. But they did not know that what they where hoping for wasn’t going to happen yet. Still there was hope in their hearts.
  • All of us are waiting and facing situations that is taking longer to coming about than we anticipated. Somehow we know we are moving with the King as they did that first Palm Sunday. And you and I have seen God’s grace with us but things hasn’t all happened or come to being completed yet.
The people went out to meet Him. (v. 13)
1. They lifted their voice in praise. John 12:13 “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!” The people at that time praised Jesus beyond the present facts.
  • First fact: there was a deepening in the oppression in their location. They, the Jews were not in control of their land but the Romans were in control. They where oppressed by the Romans and this oppression intensified during the Passover season.
  • They lifted their voice in praise of a King who will break the oppression when at the very moment the number of Roman soldiers coming into town was increasing. Still they shouted out in praise.
  • Second fact: they knew (aware) of the conspiracy of a plan by the Pharisees that will lead to Jesus’ death. There was the scornful attitudes of those opposed to Jesus.
  • Similar to our own personal lives where we begin to move toward God and are excited about what He is going to do with His power in our lives or in the lives of others especially of those we love, and in situations we face but instead of the establishing of full victory there comes an increasing of oppression and mocking of Satan, our adversary. Still they lifted up their voice in praise.
2. They trusted God before the promise is realized.
  • Psalm 118:25-26 “O Lord, save us; O Lord, grant us success. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you.” (John 12:13 “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!”)
  • Zechariah 9:9 “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (John 12:15 “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”
  • The people who were praising the Lord with one text of scripture did not recognize that another passage of scripture was being fulfilled at the same time.
  • How many of us ever faced situations and trials and as we face the trial we found a promise of God from His Word and embraced the promised? As we moved towards the realization of that promise sometimes slow and sometimes fast, but often times very slow, we wonder if it will ever come to where the trials are gone and the promise we embraced is realized. Nevertheless we held on to the promise of God. We trusted God before the promise is perfected in our lives. And in the waiting, in the trusting and after the victory is realized we then see all the other things God did.

Our Response to the Oppositions (Nehemiah 4:1-23)

Nehemiah 4:1-23
When the city of Jerusalem have been destroyed, the people returned from their Babylonian captivity and rebuilt the temple (Ezra 1-6). The temple was the place where the worship of the Lord was reinstated. It was the first stage of the rebuilding. Now, the walls that protected the city and temple have been broken down as well and the gates have been burnt by fire and it too will be rebuilt. The rebuilding of it has been the focus of Nehemiah. As the rebuilding of the walls and gates began, opposition from the enemy began as well. The first thing that their enemy did was to mock and ridicule them in order to discourage and have them give up on their commitment on the work that God is doing (Nehemiah 4:2-3).
Last week we exposed the tactics of Satan and how he plots to oppose the works of God and our personal commitment to that which God is doing in and through our lives. Familia, we are in a real battle against the adversary. As a reminder, the tactics he often uses is to discourage us. He does this by causing you and I to see and focus on the great rubble in the situations in front of us and in doing so make us feel that the work at hand is too great and can never be accomplished. He mocks and ridicules and make fun of our faith, our commitment, our lack of it. But when these tactics fails, he then tries a direct assault against us (v. 8).
How Nehemiah responded. (Our response to the opposition of the adversary)
1. Prayer to our God. (v. 4, 9)
  • Nehemiah called upon God in prayer. We too should do the same. Prayer should always be our first response. We should realize and accept our limitations and take an honest view of our strength and abilities. Then immediately recognize who we are and what we have in our relationship with Jesus Christ. We need to truly believe that our God is our source of unlimited help, resource and strength, in Christ.
  • Ephesians 6:10 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and His mighty power.”
  • 2 Corinthians 10:4 “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”
  • Nehemiah believed that prayer to his God was essential to the rebuilding work to be successful. Let us learn this lesson from him and make our prayer unto God and see Him do mighty works on our behalf (v. 9).
  • Yes, prayer is important. But my praying is not an excuse to be lazy and not act on the part God has given us to do. We pray and ask God for help and guidance, then we do our part in cooperation to what He tells us to do.
2. Be on constant guard against the enemy. (v. 11)
  • Be vigilant, be alert, be prepared for the attacks of the enemy. (v. 13; 16-18)
  • How? By knowing the truth of the Word of God. “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints (Ephesians 6:17-18).” When we know the absolute truth of the Word of God, we can easily recognize the counterfeit, the lies of the enemy.
  • Let the enemy hear that we are aware of his schemes (v. 15).
3. Encourage and help one another. (v. 14; 19-20)
  • Because the enemy is so relentless to discourage and get us to give up, it is vital that we be relentless in regularly encouraging and motivating one another with who God is and what He has done for us.
  • Nehemiah directed the people to the Lord. He was a great encourager. He encouraged the people to remember the Lord and not look at the power of the enemy, but look at the power of God. He reminded them that the Lord is great and awesome and will fight for them.
  • The Lord will fight for us today. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).” “If God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)?”

God’s Greatest Priorities (Matthew 6:19-21)

Matthew 6:19-21
Consciously or unconsciously, each of us chooses our own priorities. They are the goals we put at the top of the list. They reflect what we value the most and what we believe is worth living for. These are the things we hope will fulfill our deepest desires. Jesus called them our “treasures,” and challenged us to question them. Listen, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for your selves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mathew 6:19-21 ESV).
In other words, He’s asking us, “What’s your treasure?” or actually, “Where’s your treasure? Are you going to pursue money, pleasure and safety here in this life, or are you going to use your days and resources to prepare for heaven? Do you want to be rich or take people with you into eternity?” What’s the greatest investment of your life? Is anybody going to be in Heaven because of you? It’s a matter of priorities.
Four choices…
Below are four choices every one of us must make. They are unavoidable. Each choice is revealed by the way we answer a simple question. And as we review these choices, it soon becomes obvious that Jesus answered them one way, and Judas, the crowd, and even some of the disciples before the resurrection, answered them another way. The question before us today is: How do you and I answer them?
Choice #1:
Here or heaven? Which is more important? Does this world seem more real than the next? Some people have spiritual eyes that can see the future. They really believe in life after death, so they use the opportunities and resources they have here to prepare for that future. They understand that their biological life, and even the planet itself in its present condition, will pass away, but the next level of existence last forever. Abraham and Sarah were such people, which is why, though wealthy, they lived like “strangers and exiles on the earth” (Hebrew 11:13 AMP). “All these died in faith (guided and sustained by it), without receiving the (tangible fulfillment of God’s) promises, only having seen (anticipated) them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”
Choice #2:
Help or forgiveness? Which do you or I need more? Do we think of ourselves as a good person who may have made a few mistakes, or as a selfish or rebellious or independent person who’s done some really bad things? When Jesus tried to tell people He came to die for their sin, most stopped listening (Jn 6:60-71). He said
it’s the sick who need a physician (Mt 9:12), and by “sick” He meant people who knew they were sinners, who understood they would be judged by God, so they longed for His mercy. Those who don’t consider themselves to be sinners and confused by all the talk about Jesus dying on the cross. Inside they’re saying, “Buy why? I’m not that bad!
Choice #3:
Things or people? Which am I spending my life pursuing? Which do I value the most? It takes energy and time to acquire things, just as it takes energy and time to reach people for God. Everyone has to work to provide the basic necessities of life, but after that our priorities determine how we invest what’s left over. Depending on our choice we’ll end up with more things or people.
Choice #4:
God’s hand or face? Do we want God to do things for us, or do we want God? Do we use Him or love Him? Is our deepest longing to someday be with Him and see Him face to face? Because if it’s not, sooner or later we too will become disappointed with God. A few “unanswered” prayers or unexpected crises can turn us bitter as well.
Asaph, the psalmist, described his own struggle with this choice in Psalm 73. He said he watch unbelievers prosper while he was facing hardship, and he grew bitter toward God. But then he said he went into the sanctuary of God and worshipped, and, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, he changed his priorities. He realized there is nothing greater than knowing God. He said, “Whom have I in heaven (but YOU)? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” (Psalm 73:25). He called God his “portion forever,” and said, “…But as for me, it is good to be near God.” (Ps. 73:26; 28). In worship Asaph changed his answer to this question. He chose God’s “face” rather than His “hand.”
Response
It’s a matter of priorities. It isn’t that God doesn’t want to bless us here in this life, or work miracles to help us, or generously provide physical resources. He does. But those are not His highest priorities, and they can’t be ours either. The example of Judas is a warning to us that until Jesus’ priorities become ours, we’re walking on a path that will leave us disappointed, and may make us bitter. But when we surrender to the heart of God, and value the things He values, and see this world from His perspective, our disappointments will cease and our hearts is filled with thankfulness.
Growing Deeper in Christ Questions:
1) Pick one of the “Four choices” listed above, and tell us the choice you made. Was the choice easy to make or difficult? Tell us why.
2) Do you know someone who grew disappointed or bitter at God? What was their reason? Are they still that way, or have they changed?
3) Do you need to change any of your priorities? Would you be willing to share that with us and why it’s a struggle?

Reaffirm Life’s Commitments

It is important to remind ourselves of the need to reaffirm the commitments that we have made in our lives and to see to it that we fulfill them. In other words, it is affirming the fact that you and I made decisions, made vows about things in life and that we are going to fulfill these commitments and do it. Today, we need to remember to remain strong in our commitments and vows.
Definition: Reaffirm – to affirm (validate, pledge, vow, assert, uphold) something again especially so as to strengthen or confirm. Commitment: (1) the entrusting of something valuable to another person. (2) the responsibility to practice specific activities. What is commitment? By definition: a pledge to fulfill, a promise to do or give something. It is a responsibility, a promise, a devotion, a determination.
The commitments we make is to be guarded, to be protected and at various times needs to be reaffirmed. Familia, we live in a world of uncommitted, compromising people. We are living in a time where it does not seem that commitment is something of importance anymore. And that is why I believe that God will test us to see if we will keep the commitments that we have made with Him – to love and obey Him (Mark 12:28-31). He will also test to see if we will keep the commitments we have made to other people, especially to those we love. Hopefully and by the grace of God, you and I will be found committed and faithful.
Commitment to the Lord.
I’m sure that God loves stories of people who decides to love Him and live for Him, committed to Him and reaffirm in their minds and hearts of their commitment. We know God is committed to us. He will do what He says He will do. He will always show up and show up just at the right time to fulfill the need that we have. But, how about our commitment to Him? Each one of us is responsible to respond to God by committing our heart, mind, body and life to serve Him, to share the Gospel and to be His witness in this world. Many of us have made a commitment to follow the Lord regardless of the cost. Like everyone else, I am sure that each of us have made mistakes along the way, but yet our determination to follow Jesus remains unchanged. I believe that all of us who are a disciple of Jesus will encounter at times that our commitment to the Lord will be tested especially when difficulties occur. Commitment requires a choice, a decision. Jesus wasted no time getting to the heart of commitment. Either the disciples would be committed to Him and deny their own desires or they would be determined to go their own way and deny Him. This decision to commit is the same for us. Either we deny ourselves and commit to following Him or deny Him and commit to following our selfish ways (1 Samuel 7:3; Matthew 16:24; Luke 9:23).
Commitment to the Word.
We need to reaffirm our commitment to daily spending time in the Word of God. God’s Word should be the governing principle for our lives. It provides a solid base that will keep us firm and secure no matter what circumstances we face.
  • Deuteronomy 8:3 “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
  • Psalm 119:165 “Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.”
  • James 1:22 “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
The power of God’s Word also brings spiritual life to all who are open to its truth in every area of life. It brings life and fruitfulness to areas of our lives that seems lifeless or stagnant.
  • Isaiah 55:11 “…so is my word that goes our from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
Reaffirm our commitment to making the Word of God the solid foundation of our lives because when the foundation is wrong then you and I will always be making adjustments. The Word of God is the only conclusive source of truth, of wisdom, knowledge and understanding. It is filled of practical principles that can set free and enrich the person who will pursue its truth and make it their foundation.
  • Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
  • Joshua 1:8 “Do not let the Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”
  • Ephesians 6:17 “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
Commitments to family relationships, to those we love.
Reaffirm your decision to making the people you love in life a priority by staying true to the commitments you made with them.
Wavering commitments.
One of the problems that I think is the reason we waver in our commitments is a divided heart. In Psalm 86:11-12, David is praying to God to give him an undivided heart. He is requesting God to unite the focus of his heart towards the Lord alone. Familia, we have a divided heart. Part of us is towards God, and part of it is towards our flesh. We are divided by the desires of our flesh and our desires for God. Our hearts and minds are at times divided between variety of things instead of completely directed, committed towards God alone. We need to ask God to give us an undivided heart where all of our attention and affection is to serve God and glorify His Name.

Taking Authority in Prayer

Taking Authority in Prayer
The most important authority God has given us is the authority to pray. Think how often Jesus said if we believed in Him we would have access in prayer to the Father, and that we could be confident that whatever we needed He would give us (John 14:13-14; 15:7; 16:23-27). By His death and resurrection Jesus not only cleansed our sins and gave us eternal life, but He also restored the spiritual authority God intended for us when He created us.
The Work of Prayer:
Many of us realize prayer is a great source of power, but we still don’t pray that much. This may be because we don’t realize how much spiritual opposition there is to our prayers. There is nothing the devil hates and fears more than humans discovering how to destroy his plans through prayer, so he opposes us every time we try to pray. A mature believer learns to expect this opposition, and develops ways to press past it, but someone who doesn’t understand what is happening to them can become distracted and discouraged. Their prayer-life can end up focused on a few of their own personal needs. In effect, their authority goes unused and the devil’s plans go unchanged.
Practical Steps:
Here are some practical steps that might help to strengthen our prayer-life:
1. Realize that much of the weakness and failure we experience, and even the struggles of others around us, can be changed when we learn to pray as we should. Listen to Paul: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. (Ro 8:26). With this in mind, should we be surprised that when we are baptized in the Holy Spirit, God touches our lips and gives us a gift that empowers us to pray what we “ought to pray”? “But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.” (Jude 1:20).
2. Realize there will always be a spiritual struggle to prevent us from praying because the devil knows this is the key to his defeat.
3. Make prayer a discipline. Develop ways of reminding yourself of areas you need to consistently hold before God, but listen for the Spirit’s guidance each time you pray. Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses…” (Acts 1:8).
4. Find a regular place and time; use a journal; write down revelations and answers to prayer.
5. Make the effort to gather with others to do intercessory prayer. We need to be part of gathered-prayer just as we need to be part of gathered-worship. Praying with others strengthens our private prayer.
6. Continually remind yourself not to beg or bargain when you pray. Ask Him to show you how to pray for that person or situation, and recall the promises God has given us in Scripture. Then pray boldly and with the authority God has given you, even if you don’t feel it at the time. Trust and remember that God rewards and blesses those who earnestly seek Him. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exits and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Heb.11:6).
Discussion Questions:
1. Life is challenging and all of us are on our God-given assignments: our family, workplace, school, church, our community…etc. Pick one and tell us how you think God wants you to pray for that situation.
2. Name someone (or feel free not to use their name) who God wants you to fight for in prayer. Why?

The Need to Remember (Hinasso) Deuteronomy 8:1-20

Deuteronomy 8:1-20
The Bible teaches us the importance of not forgetting the Lord and the importance of remembering His goodness and love for us. Truly there is a tremendous need for us to remember and not forget all of His benefits (Psalm 103). I would like to propose to you a few of the things we need to remember about God and also about ourselves on how we should live, what we should do and about the kind of person we should be.
The importance of God’s Word.
  • We need to remember this year to take God’s Word more seriously than we have ever done before (v.1; Deuteronomy 4:1-14). How well we remember and obey the Word of God will be evidenced by the way we live and the decisions we make.
  • Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” The Word of God will show us how to live a godly life. God’s principles will guide us where to go and what to do accordingly. There is no confusion in the Word. Some of us get our wisdom from the world, but God is suggesting to make His Word, His commands to be the way of life for us. If we follow the Word of God and take His Word seriously, then we can assume and know and be assured in our hearts that the Lord will make things clear. The Word of God shows us the path we should take, but it will also shows us when we are off the path He has for us. And when we fall away from the path of God, His Word makes clear the way to come back to the path He has designed for us.
  • Familia, we should not forget how valuable the Word of God is. When we follow the Word of God, then we will not stumble as much as we use too, not as many mistakes because God makes clear the path. The Word of God is filled with warnings, filled with counsel, filled with answers for life’s relationships. Remember that we cannot live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (v.3; Matthew 4:4). Jesus is the Bread of Life (John 6:35;41;48). In Jesus, you and I will never be hungry again. We will never be hungry for love again, never be hungry for purpose again, never be hungry for a sense of direction again, never be hungry for peace again. Everything will be satisfied by Him. We are too inexperienced to try to make it through life without a guide. God’s Word is that guide that brings life.
Live by a simple standard.
  • We need to remember to live our daily lives by a simple standard that comes from trusting God and observing His commands (v.1-2, 11; Deuteronomy 13:4). This is the way of God. Life is complicated and becomes very difficult without God’s help. Everything isn’t always ideal because life throws a curve and can go sideways in an instant. But frustrations come when we refuse to live by a simple standard of trusting Him, obeying Him and walking with Him. We need to remember and be aware to guard our hearts to not ignore His ways.
Testing of the heart.
  • We need to remember that life is filled with the test of God (v.2-3, 16; Deuteronomy 13:3; Genesis 22:1; Exodus 16:4). God will test and try us with adversities to prove our faith and constantly remind us that we can’t make it on our own without Him.
The blessings of God in the past.
  • We need to remember all of yesterdays blessings from God (v.10-18). David in Psalm 103 remembers the faithfulness of God in his life and writes down specifically the blessings, the benefits he had received. When we are faced with problems that seems so insurmountable it is so easy to forget what God has done in the past.
Understanding spiritual activity.
We need to remember that spiritual activity is territorial in nature (v.1). Remember that spiritual activity has to do with God’s desire to redeem and enlarge your territories, but the enemy comes to restrict us from receiving and to never experience God’s best and blessings. Familia, Satan is looking for property, for territory in our lives, in our hearts, in our homes to encroach in and conquer. The enemy is committed this year to stripping us of everything we love. He is committed to move in on all territories that God wants you and I to have and enjoy. He is committed to stealing and destroying the treasures that are special to us (John 10:10). Satan will control everything that we don’t surrender to God. Satan will control territories that we don’t conquer for God.

Decisions For The New Year (Part 3) Joshua 24:13-24

Joshua 24:13-24
Understand that everyone of us will make extremely important decisions regardless of what is happening in our lives and regardless of what’s happening even in our island home and in the world today. Also, remember that the decisions we do make will surely affect not only our own lives but the lives of the people we love and those within our circle of influence. The Apostle Paul like Joshua declared how sure he is of who his God is and what he believes (2 Timothy 1:12). I think that the decisions we make in life will be the evidence that will support who our God is that we are serving and what we truly believe is of value.
Summary from the previous weeks:
First is the initial decision of how God fits into our lives. It’s a decision of choosing to have a relationship with Him and putting Him first and serving Him (Joshua 24:15). Secondly, it’s a decision to choose to embrace and obey the values and commands of God (Deuteronomy 6:24). Thirdly, we need to make a decision to truly trust God because it’s one thing to say God is first in our lives, but it’s another thing to trust Him completely. Fourthly, it’s a decision to make our family, our home a priority. And fifth, it’s making a decision to look for opportunities to grow in the knowledge and application of the Word of God.
Familia, I would like to continue today by suggesting the following that I believe are significant decisions you and I will need to make this year.
Making a decision to commit to persevere in prayer.
  • The Bible is clear to teach that God hears and answers our prayers (Psalm 3:4; 4:3; 18:6; 55:17). I truly believe like most of you do that the Lord hears our prayers and will answer them but not always in the way we would like them to be answered. Understanding this is important as we decide to commit to prayer.
  • Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
  • Matthew 7:7-8 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; He who seeks finds; and to Him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
  • Do you believe in God who answers prayers? If you do, have you decided to commit to persevere in prayer? How does your prayer life look like today?
  • Proverbs 3:5-6 “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 3:7 “Do not be wise in your own eyes.” Because it will lead us to the wrong path. Being wise in our own ways dictates the direction of our own lives and no longer led by God. Familia, you and I need to make a decision to be led by God even though we know at times that He will lead us into the wilderness. Even though it is not the place we want to go or the things we want to do, but in the end believing it is where we need to be and doing what we need to do. Do you have confidence in God to lead you?
Making a decision to give the burdens of life to the Lord.
  • Truly there will be burdens and things to carry but the burdens will be lighter and easier when you and I decide to give them in full surrender to the Lord.
  • 1 Peter 5:7-8 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
  • Satan is looking for people who are anxious and worry because he feeds on the worries of their lives. When we are weighed down, heavy laden then we become vulnerable and Satan can easily devour us. He will eat away and destroy our confidence, our joy, our peace, our hope. Familia, God wants to take every care, worries, burden you and I have, but we need to make a decision to surrender them to the Lord. What are the worries, burdens in your life today? Make a decision to give it to the Lord.
Psalm 23
“The Lord is my shepherd” – It begins with a relationship. It means that I have a relationship now with God who says He will guide me, lead me.
“I shall not be in want” – I get to enjoy God’s supplies for my life this year. It means that if provisions are needed, God will provide the very thing I need.
“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters” – I get to know what real rest and refreshing is that comes from God.
“He restores my soul” – In the midst of trouble and sickness the Lord is saying, I am going to heal you.
“He guides me in paths of righteousness” – The Lord is going to guide and direct my life. Trusting Him and not leaning on my own understanding.
“I will fear no evil for you are with me” – real assurance of God’s protection and that He will see me through. I am not alone.
“Your rod and your staff, they comfort me” – The peace of God.
“My cup overflows” – The joy of knowing God’s abundant life. He will give me more than what I desired.
“I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” – The blessing of the future. Security and blessed hope for tomorrow. To be in eternity with the Lord.

Decisions for the New Year (continued) Joshua 24:13-24

Joshua 24:13-24
Truly each one of us will be faced with a need to make decisions. This coming year, you and I will have to make a significant decision that will surely affect our lives and the lives of people we love and the lives of other people around us that is within our circle of influence. Amidst all that was happening in the world during the time of Joshua, the great deal of sin, immortality, disobedience and rebellion, Joshua took a bold stand and made a decision. He made a decision of commitment about serving the Lord (v. 14-15) as well as a decision to embrace and obey and tell others about the values, commands, and principles of God.
Making a decision to trust God.
· I am sure that there will be days before us this new year that you and I will be greatly stretched by our faith and by our circumstances. There will be situations that I think God will arrange and some He will allow that will stretch us to the point where it will require a great deal of faith on our part to really believe that God is able to see us through it. We will find ourselves in situations that will be unfamiliar to us or situations where we will not be sure of what to do and God is going to ask us to trust Him. We will be stretched and you and I will either trust the Lord more or believe that He fails us and doesn’t care. God wants to do the impossible in our lives this year, but are we going believe Him more than we have ever done so before and see Him do amazing things? Are we going to make a decision to trust Him or not? You and I will be faced with making this decision.
Making a decision to make our familia a priority.
· Some of us will and some of us won’t make our home, our family a priority. But some will decide like Joshua did (v.15) and we should do the same.
· Proverbs 6:20 “My son, keep your father’s commands and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” This scripture verse suggests that fathers and mothers are really speaking about the commands of God in our home relationships. It assumes that we are talking about the principles of God and not only speaking it into the lives of our familia but also taking the time to listen to them and observe the concerns they may have. I believe that all of us will have a great amount of opportunities this year to spend time talking about the things of God to people we love and listening to their concerns.
· Why should the commands of God be a priority in our homes, in our lives, in the lives of those we love? (Proverbs 6:22-23; Deuteronomy 6:5-9).
◦ When you and I make God and His commands the priority in our life, it will lead and guide us. It will save us from confusion, mistakes and failures. We will know clearly the path to take.
◦ When you and I make a decision to put God and His commands first, we actually get sleep and rest because we know that God is going to care for us, watch over us and the affairs of our lives.
◦ You and I will constantly feel a sense of confidence as the Lord will speak into our lives because we decided to put Him first.
◦ His commands and ways become a light and lamp and brings clarity and revelation in those dark times when we don’t know what to do.
◦ Yes His commands will lead us to do what is right but it will also tell us when you and I are wrong and off the wrong path.
Making a decision to look for opportunities to grow in the Word of God.
· Time in God’s Word will help you and I resist the temptations that we will face and there are all kinds of them. In particular, the temptation of pride. Pride that causes you and I to think that we can survive on our own without God and His help. The Word of God will surely humble us (Psalm 119:11). It will also help us to live wisely (Psalm 119:105). It will strengthen us everyday because it gives us hope (Psalm 119:49). It will bring comfort to our hearts (Jeremiah 15:16). It brings courage to trust God to do things, and let Him be God (Joshua 1:6-9; Psalm 46:10). Familia, spiritual survival is not possible without nourishment from the Word of God. God’s Word is essential to us as believers (Deuteronomy 8:3). As we begin a new year, let each of us commit to daily spending time in the Word. It will help us meet every challenge. Whatever we face this year, God’s promises are there for you and for me.

Decisions for the New Year (Joshua 24:13-24)

Joshua 24:13-24
What’s ahead of us is a year of decisions for all of us. I’m sure you can agree that in some way or another all of us will make numerous decisions that will have significant impact upon our own lives, in the people we love and in the circumstances of our day to day life. Surely the days ahead of us will be filled with a lot of good days, but I am also sure that this coming year will also have its share of bad days as well. But it doesn’t really matter if our days are good or bad because God is faithful in the midst of it. Our God will always show us the way to go and the way to get out of bad days. Our God knows what is ahead and will go with us wherever we go and will help us, guide us and direct us. That is if we allow Him to do so.
I believe that there will be things that each of us are going to be called to do this coming year. I’m not simply talking about the things God is going to do, but more so and more importantly what you and I are going to be called to do by God. The message to Joshua and the Israelites is that they will be needing to make a decision. And the decision is who are they going to serve and who are they going to live for. The message for us today is the same and we too will need to make a decision. A decision as to who it is that you and I will choose to be Lord and God of our lives. You and I will need to make a decision as to how the Lord fits into our lives, our home, our family. Yes, a decision as how the Lord fits into our everyday lives.
Faced with a decision.
1. All of us are going to make extremely important decisions. In the days and the New Year to come you and I will have to come to a serious decision about making God first and showing it by how we live (vs. 14-15).
· God reminded the Israelites of what they had is because of Him (vs.2-13). And because of all that He has done for them they were exhorted to trust the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness and throw away the false gods that their fathers have worshiped and the gods of their conquered land. Joshua made a bold decision of commitment himself and proclaimed that he and his household will serve the Lord, seek and call upon His Name every day of his life (v.14-15).
· Understand that our lives are made by the decisions we make. When you look back at your life, you will see that where you are today and what you are going through now is the direct result of the decisions you have made. And grant it that you and I have made bad decisions and thank the Lord that we have made good ones too. Ultimately the decisions we make is what affects our lives. I often say that the decisions we make today will surely affect our tomorrows. The question is, What are you going to do? Are you going to be influenced by the worlds ways, by the pressure that comes from those around you or are you going to decide to choose to really follow God and love and serve Him?
2. All of us will be called to make decisions about real values that we choose and embrace.
· It is one thing to say God is everything, but it is another thing to live it out. Are the values, commands, the ways of God really important to you and me? Why would you want to decide to choose to embrace the values of God? Familia, when you love the Lord, put Him first, respond and obey His commands, then it is for your own good. It will bring blessings and life. It is for our good and survival and the future of our lives and those we love.
· Deuteronomy 6:24 “The Lord commands us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today.” We are commanded to be committed to His commands and teach our children, tell people how important the ways of God is in our lives. We are to bind them upon our hearts. (Deuteronomy 6:6-8; Proverbs 6:21; Joshua 1:1-9).
· Remember that God so loved that He gave His son and whoever receives His Him receives forgiveness of sin and eternal salvation. But He has also given us His ways, His commands, His principles for our benefit so that our life will have its highest fulfillment and riches blessings release when they are received and obeyed. God’s love is not separated from His ways and His commands.
3. All of us will reap great consequences from the decisions we have made and will make this coming year.
· If you and I put God first and decide to choose to make Him Lord and commit ourselves to holding firm to what we know and believe are His commands and values, then God will honor and bless you and I for it. I don’t know how or when, but I know He would because He is faithful.
Each of us will make a decision to choose for ourselves this day whom we will serve, and may our decision be to choose to trust, serve, worship the Lord.

The Loving Heart of God (John 3:16)

John 3:16
Are you in a situation that you feel there is no hope? Whether the difficulty is physical, financial or relational, it can feel like what the Bible defines as perishing. Our problems does not simply just go away because it’s Christmas season. But Jesus offers a freedom you and I can have based on John 3:16. And if we focus on what Jesus came to do, we can find new hope and strength for making it through. Christ is ready and willing to help us and bless us. We can have this hope because of the loving heart of God towards us that gives. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
The Christmas message.
The center of the Christmas message is the Son of God. But the heart of it is that God sent Jesus because He did not want people, anyone of us to perish. To perish is not just to not know eternal salvation, but also to live trapped in the numerous things that burdens and hinders life and shatters hope that has come down from generation to generation or brought down upon ourselves from something we have done even in recent days. Life begins to dry up, decay, fall apart and die. And a person who is honest acknowledges that truly it’s because of brokenness, failure and sin. Sin is something we often do not want to talk about. But we need to know that sin grieves God not because bad things make Him mad, but because bad things ruins what He intended. Sin ruins and causes perishing.
For God so loved the world that whoever receives His Son receives forgiveness of sin and eternal salvation. But it doesn’t end here. He has also given us His ways, His commands, His principles, resources and help that if we are open to receiving from Him, then He will take away or restore what is dying in our lives and decaying around us. We need to understand that God’s love is not separated from His ways and His commands. As we focus on the mercy and heart of God for us, we also need to focus on the ways, commands and principles He has for us. He has given us these for our benefit so that our life will have its highest fulfillment and riches blessings release when they are received and obeyed.
This Christmas, we need to take to heart these words, “whoever believes, need not, should not perish.” But also understand that if we don’t receive, we will. There are those who have received Jesus as Savior and have the hope of eternal life. But how many of us need to receive the things the Lord wants to bring into our lives that will remove the power of other things perishing? Like perishing in our relationships, perishing in our hopes, perishing in our attention to responsibilities that we feel inadequate to do, perishing as we stumble into temptations and falling into sin that ruins and brings decay. But God is saying, whoever believes and receives will not perish. We need to allow our hearts to be embraced by this great loving heart of God that so love us that He gave His Son because He did not want things in people to perish.
The word perishing is used when someone is being destroyed or when someone was killed or tortured in battle. It also describes someone who have lost everything and have no resources and don’t know how they will make it through the day. How often do we find ourselves in a battle of life’s circumstances that takes away the Christmas joy, the sense of peace, the thrill of hope, the sense of purpose. Jesus did not promise instant relief from everything, but He did say that if we would receive, He has come that you and I might not perish in the middle of it. Jesus came, given by Father God to us so that we would know that the gift that has come to us is not only a gift of forgiveness of sin and promise of eternal life but also a gift of a provider, a healer, a comforter, a refuge who would walk with us so that you and I don’t perish in our challenging circumstances. God sent His Son to rescue us from our perishing condition.
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