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Monthly Archives: December 2012

Today’s Sermon

Hello again!

Today the pastor preached on Isiah 8:22 and 9:3-4. From these passages he got five main points:

  1. Oppression. Here the pastor talked on how people tend to turn to the wrong things to find solutions to their problems. He said they tend to go to the “Earth”, instead of to Christ.
  2. Illumination. The pastor talked here about zeal for the Lord. i.e. That our zeal for the Lord will spread Christ’s light.
  3. Celebration. Here he talked about how all nations are blessed by Christ.
  4. Liberation. Here the pastor talked about how the people in Isiah’s day would have known what it was like to have a “bar across their shoulders. He said that we too had a bar across our shoulders – one of sin, but that it was lifted from us and put on Jesus.
  5. Incarnation. Here the pastor concluded by talking about how Jesus is the fulfillment of all the previous four points: Jesus bore unimaginable oppression  He was the very light of the World. He is the reason we can celebrate, and He has freed us from our sins (we are liberated).

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

P.S. I apologize if the points don’t seem connected. I assure you they were connected quite nicely in his sermon, but I couldn’t quite remember the finer details of the sermon.

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Knowing God is Near

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (2 Timothy 4:16-18)

This passage is quite encouraging; even when it seems like we’ve been deserted, God is always with us. Knowing God is with us, though, is quite difficult at times. The Bible assures us in multiple different passages that God is always with us, but when we experience something like what Job or even Paul experienced, how can we know for sure? It seems that going through what either of these two men went through would shake anyone’s faith.

The answer is somewhat simple: We have to look to the cross. See, when hard times come, we don’t really have to believe God is with us, so much as Christ has died for us. This is because of two simple reasons:

  1. God sent His very own son to die for us, to make us His sons. What human father abandons His children? And how much greater than a human father is God?
  2. If we believe Christ died for us in order to save us, we must also believe He completely finished the work He set out to do. Meaning, that since Christ promised that after He died He would send the Holy Spirit to live within us, He must indeed have done so.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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The Old Testament: Is it Actually ‘Useful’?

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:14-17)

All Scripture, Old and New Testaments, are useful in teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness… However, there are some books of the Bible, such as Numbers, Lamentations, and Leviticus, which, when we look at them, don’t appear to be exactly “helpful” in any of these areas. The book of Numbers can seem like nothing more than a bunch of useless numbers and history. The book of Lamentations can appear to be nothing more than a man lamenting. The book of Leviticus can seem like nothing more than rules and regulations which are no longer helpful to us.

They are much more than that though: Numbers is an account of how God sustained His people. Lamentations shows us that, even for a believer in God, things do get tough at times (we have to look at the New Testament in order to see that, even when things get tough, God always either helps us endure or provides a way out). As for Leviticus, while the rules within it are no longer applicable to those who have been saved through the blood of Christ, it can still aid us in showing us exactly what Jesus went through for us on the cross. For example, burnt offerings were consumed completely in fire. Likewise Jesus, the final burn offering, was consumed completely in God’s wrath for us on the cross.

The Old Testament is more than a collection of stories. It can be, when we look at it in light of what Jesus has done for us (i.e., in light of the New Testament), can be an encouraging and helpful aid in our walk with the Lord. We just have to look at Job in order to see that whatever trouble we’re going through now is meant to build us in the Lord. We can look to Noah’s ark, and see that God saves His people through the wood. 1 Kings 19:18 tells us that, even when it seems like no one around us believes in Christ, there are those that do.

In conclusion: The Bible doesn’t lie. When Paul says that all Scriptures are useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness, he truly does mean all Scriptures, both from the New and Old Testaments.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Cleansing

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:20-22)

Now, it is certainly true that we have been saved by grace, through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. However, this does not mean we can continue living like we once did. Paul charges us here to, “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace,”. Paul says this more clearly in Romans 6:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:1-4)

Jesus has already cleansed us of our sin nature, but it’s our job to, through Christ’s strengthening us, resist our flesh. In other words, we should cleanse our-self (again, through God’s strength, and not our own) from things we are tempted towards. One way we can do this is by removing any access to the thing we’re tempted towards. Other things we can do to cleanse our-self is to get in the Word, to pray, and to be around other believers. Also, there’s the obvious thing we can do, which is to obey Paul’s command to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Meditating on Jesus

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

Meditate on Jesus, the Messiah, who was raised from the dead and is a descendant of David. This is the gospel I tell others. (2 Timothy 2:8) – A quick side note here: I prefer the ISV translation of this verse simply because I believe “meditate” has a stronger meaning than “remember”, which is how the ESV translates it).

Paul first talks about what we are to do for Christ (see 2 Timothy 2:1-7), and now he is telling us to remember what Christ did for us. Indeed, not only to remember, but to meditate upon it. Meditation implies finding a quiet place, clearing your mind of all other thoughts, and focusing only upon Christ. – The World has its own form of meditation, where you clear your mind of all thoughts except those which build you up. While this can sometimes provide temporary relief from stress, it cannot truly fix our problems. It’s only by focusing on Jesus and the mighty work which He has accomplished for us that we can truly have our problems erased.

Jesus once told a parable about a man who built his house on sand, and a man who built his house on rock. Storms came to both houses, but only the house which had been built upon rock survived the storms. Jesus is our rock, and we are to mentally “build a house” on Him. Meaning that we are to settle down, as it were, on Him. When you live somewhere, you see that place constantly. You can’t go outside without seeing where you live; for that matter, you can’t even go inside without seeing where you live. It should be the same with us and Christ: If He truly is our rock, and if we truly have built our-self upon Him, it only makes sense that we ought to be thinking constantly of Him. He is our savior and our Redeemer, He deserves our constant praise and worship. Of course, we can’t hope that thoughts of us won’t ever intrude upon thoughts of Him here on Earth, we have to wait until we get to Heaven for that to happen. However, we can certainly set time apart to be with Jesus, and think on Him.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Today’s Sermon

Hello again!

Today the pastor preached on Luke 2: 8-20. His main point was that we should, “let the Angel’s song encourage us to:

  • Find Wonder in God’s Presence (vs.16).
  • Let Our Wonder Become Contagious (vs. 17-18).
  • Worship God with Wonder and Awe (vs. 20).

His point was that we, as Christians, often lose the wonder of how Jesus gave His very life for us. The sermon encouraged us to regain the wonder we had for the amazing work Jesus has done for us.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Athletic Soldier-Farmers for Christ

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. (2 Timothy 2:3-6)

Share in Christ’s sufferings first, then in all you do aim to please God, then in all you do make sure to “compete according to the rules”. Once you’ve done all that, you can expect your reward… This is how the passage might apply to our lives. It has some obvious applications for pastors as well (it was, after all, written for a pastor: Timothy), but for now let’s focus on the impact it can have on our own lives.

Paul always make sure that the most important point comes first in his letters, and here is no different. He reminds Timothy to, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus ought, to share in Christ’s sufferings. Back then this could have been meant quite literally that Timothy was to be willing to share in Christ’s physical suffering. Even today, in certain parts of the World, this can have a physical meaning. However, for those who have been blessed with a life which isn’t currently being threatened, I believe it can also have a Spiritual meaning: i.e., that we should be willing to see and, in some small part, “feel” what Christ suffered on the cross, when He took our sin and guilt and shame upon Himself..

The next part of what Paul tells Timothy, says to not get involved with “civilian pursuits”, but aim to please God. This has rather obvious application to our own life: We should not allow anything to become more important in our life than doing all that we can to please God.

Paul’s next point, is that an athlete is only crowned when he competes according to the rules. This point perhaps applies a bit more to pastors than to others, as I believe Paul intended this to mean that pastors are to preach “according to the rules”; i.e. according to the “rules” the Bible sets out for pastors. That being said, it’s also quite important for us to obey the doctrines the Bible lays out for us.

Paul’s final point is that the “hard-working farmer” should get the first share from the crops. I believe this point was also intended rather more for pastors, as Paul is stating that a preacher that plants the seeds of the Gospel in his congregation, ought to be paid. However, it should also tell us non-pastoring people that we should indeed give at least something to our pastor. Most work quite hard to write and to preach sermons, and so long as those sermons include the power of God, they ought to be rewarded with money for their hard work.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Today’s Sermon

Hello again!

Today the pastor preached on Luke 2:25-38. It was a very good sermon, I did have to somewhat “translate”certain things which he said in order to fully grasp the idea, (for example, at certain points he treated the birth of Christ as though it accomplished the same things as His death), but over all it was a very good sermon. Here were his three main points:

  1. Jesus’ birth prepares us to die.
  2. Jesus’ birth gives us a purpose for living.
  3. Jesus’ birth brings us to surrender.

Of course, all of those things are actually done at the cross, but the pastor did certainly preach in a manner where you could simply “translate” parts of it to their actual meaning. – It’s nearing Christmas, you can hardly blame Pastors for wanting to incorporate Jesus’ birth into their sermons.

All that being said, here is what I remember about the three points:

In his first point, the Pastor focused on Simeon. The part I remember in particular is where he told us about how we can see our example (as to how Jesus’ birth prepares us to die) from Mary. This is because, in his blessing, Simeon tells Mary that a sword “will pierce her heart too.” He then talked for a little on how this did indeed happen at the cross: when Jesus’ heart was pierced, I have no doubt it was as though Mary’s heart had been pierced too.

 

In his second point, the Pastor told us that Christ’s birth gives us a purpose for living because Christ’s coming gives us hope and a task. The hope being the hope of eternal life, and the task being that of spreading the good news of Christ to those around us.

In his third point, the Pastor told us that Jesus’ birth should bring us to surrender. He said that it’s never too early, that it’s never too late to surrender our-self to Christ. Concerning the “it’s never too late” bit, he reminded us of Simeon again, who had waited his entire life for Christ’s birth. He told us that there was surely points when Simeon must have thought he was too weak to keep waiting, but he never gave up hope. Concerning his point about how it’s never, “too early”, the Pastor reminded us of how women were often married very young back then, and so Mary may well have been no older than a teenager when she devoted her life to carrying for Christ. After saying this, he encouraged all the children there to, ‘devote their lives to Christ today, because we don’t know if there will or won’t be a tomorrow.’

Anyway, it really was a great sermon, and a real breath of fresh air after all the self-proclaimed “Churchs” my family and I have been going to lately. I hoped you enjoyed reading about it as much as we enjoyed hearing it.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Wrapped Up in the Gospel

Hello again!

Today we’re moving to 2 Timothy. – This is what God gave me today in His word:

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. (2 Timothy 1:6-12)

Paul reminds us of several things in this passage: he remind Timothy (and by extension, us) to fan into flame the gift God has given him. He also reminds us that God has given us a spirit of power and love and self-control, and to not be ashamed of the Gospel or of those who preach it. Most importantly, he reminds us of the thing that made all of this possible: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is Godly admonishment “at it’s best”, if you will.

See, Paul is telling us to fan into flame whatever gift it is that God has bestowed us with, but he also reminds us that it’s Jesus who calls us to this “holy calling” of spreading the Gospel to others through the gifts we have been given. Likewise when he reminds us of the Spirit of power that we have been given, Paul quickly adds that we should, because we have this spirit, we shouldn’t be ashamed, of the Gospel. – Everything Paul says is wrapped up in Christ’s death and Resurrection, and that is what makes him such a powerful teacher. God wouldn’t let anything enter the Bible that wouldn’t help us in some form or another, and Paul’s Epistles are no different. They are here both to instruct us in how to live a holy and pleasing life to God, and how to correctly teach others to do so.

All that being said, it is also very important that we do make an effort to use the gifts we’ve been given (and by doing so “fan them into flame”), and to not be ashamed of the Gospel or of those that preach it. We should also strive for a faith like that of Paul’s: A faith which is convinced God will keep us safe until “that Day”.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Concerning True Ministers

Hello again!

Today I decided to depart slightly from the regular post, and instead write a little essay on what exactly a true Minister is. – This is what God gave me today:

What exactly is a Minister? Is it someone who spreads the news that, if you could only do this and that, you would be right with God? Is it someone who tells you that, if you were only a better person, then you would be right with God? Is a Minister perhaps someone who lays out the different choices that you have in your life that will make you either a better or a worse person? Not at all. People who preach that particular kind of message are not Ministers, but are rather merely the leaders of their own little clubs. This is because a true Minister is one that preaches the message God wants to be preached, while the leader of a club “preaches” the message he wants to preach.

You see, there are many people out there today who claim to be Ministers. Indeed, you can hardly turn a street corner without running into a dozen self-proclaimed “Churchs”. Sadly though, people have quite lost sight of what it means to be a real Minister, and a real Church. A real Minister, is a Minister of the Gospel. Paul told the Corinthians that while he was with them, he had resolved to know nothing but the Gospel [1 Corinthians 2:2]. Elsewhere, too, Paul constantly reminds those he writes to in His epistles to remember the Gospel; in 1 Timothy 1:2-7, Paul charges Timothy to charge “certain people” to stop teaching a “different doctrine” than what he had laid out in verse two. That is, not to teach a different doctrine than that of the grace, mercy, and peace we have from God the Father.

In spite of this, however, acclaimed “Ministers” continue to preach Gospel-less “sermons”. They leave out the very power of God unto salvation, and so their “sermons” are powerless. Indeed, the majority of preaching that doesn’t include the Gospel is almost useless. Yes, we can learn from doctrines. Certainly it is fine to talk about obedience to this or to that, but a Minister must always include how we can be obedient to this or to that, is by the fact that Jesus took our sin and gave us His righteousness. A true Minister of the Gospel and of God’s word recognizes this, and puts it to use in his sermons.

A true Minister is someone who doesn’t force his congregation into a half-willing submission to God in order to be seen “fit” by society. Neither does a true Minister require unerring perfection; a standard, no matter how much he claims to be able to do so, even he cannot live up to. Rather, a true Minister is one who accepts the fact that his congregation still, even though Jesus has taken and slain their sin nature, still have flesh, and so still occasionally fall to sin. A true Minister is one who encourages his congregation towards living a Godly and holy life, and to repent quickly after stumbles. A true Minister is also one that unerringly preaches the Gospel!

In conclusion, any Minister that preaches a message other than that of the Gospel; other than the message which is distinctly Christian, is nothing more than the leader of a club or of a religious group. Nearly all other major religions have some form of standard for their people to live up to; Christianity is the only religion that gives people a way to live up to this standard. It is, therefore, a Minister’s job (so long as he wishes to remain a Minister of God’s word, and not a promoter of Buddhism or Islam) to share this message each and every week with his congregation.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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