Make the most of today!
Pastor Stephanie Humpa
Verse of the day:
“Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” 14 How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. 15 What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” 16 Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil.17 Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” (James 4:13-17)
A few months ago I received the news that someone close to me was facing a potential diagnosis that would give them only a few more years to live. More testing was needed to confirm but it was looking pretty certain that this was going to be the diagnosis. For a month we would have to wait to hear the results of the additional testing. It was hard to wrap my mind about what the future might look like.
It’s easy when you are 31 years old to go through life feeling pretty confident about your next day and future years. To be honest I don’t really think about my own mortality because there “should” be more years ahead of me than there are behind me. That’s how it is supposed to work right? But it doesn’t always. That’s what James is warning us of. We don’t know what is beyond this very second for us let alone tomorrow or a year from now. We should keep our own mortality in mind as well as the mortality of others.
If you knew that you only had 3 years to live what would you do with that time? If you knew your best friend, or your husband, or your sister only had 3 years to live how would that change how you live? Do you have a something that would fall under the category that you find in James 4:17? Something that you ought to do but haven’t yet? During the month of waiting for these test results to come back God showed me I had a James 4:17 category in my life. It was something that I just kept putting off taking care of hoping that I would get to it one day. I decided regardless of what the test results showed I was going to take care of it.
I thank God every day that the tests results came back favorable for my loved one. It shouldn’t take a loved one facing a serious illness to motivate us though. If we know what we ought to do we should do it now. James even goes as far as letting us know that when we know there is something we should do and we don’t do it we are sinning.
If God has directed you to do something kind for someone, to offer your time to ministry, to mend a broken relationship, do it! We are here not to only live for ourselves but to be a blessing and a light to the world around us. What is the good and right thing that you have been avoiding or putting off? The future is fragile, let’s make the most of today!
Verse of the Day:
“Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.” (James 2: 25-26)
Actions speak louder than words. It’s an old, familiar saying that always gets proven true. It’s so easy to use words as if they were an action. We tell someone we’ll pray for them and count that as the action. We tell someone we’ll attend a certain event with no intention of following that up. We talk about wanting to follow God’s leading and direction, but then make no action to do so. We talk about wanting our friends and family to have a relationship with God, but remain silent when a conversation about God presents itself. We’ve all done it, and if you’re like me, you spend a lot of time thinking about what you could have said or done in the moment that might have made a difference, but for some reason just couldn’t bring yourself to do it in the moment.
I remember several times in high school that I had the opportunity to share my faith with friends, but backed down for a number of reasons… usually a fear of not knowing what to say or not wanting to put myself out there to be a target that people would see differently. In talking to more of my church friends, I learned that these were common fears we had that hindered us from sharing our faith. We talked about how we believed God could do anything with each other, but then in the moment didn’t act in the faith of what we were claiming to believe.
I finally heard a speaker share something with me that bolstered my faith and changed how I saw those situations. God wants us to succeed in sharing our faith. He wants us to succeed in every area of our life, so he’s not going to suddenly abandon us when we might be looking for the words to say. He’s not going suddenly stop protecting us because we act out in faith of what we believe. Rahab was shown to be right with God by her actions. She knew that God would come through despite the immense fear she must have been feeling by putting her life on the line to protect the Israelites. God wants to bolster our faith and move through us. He wants to prove to us that he is faithful in every situation. My prayer is that we would put our faith into action and see how God continues to provide.
Pastor Dan Wootton
This past August I completed one of my fitness goals. I swam in the Madison Open Water Swim—a 2.4 mile course in Lake Monona. I want to be a student of endurance. I believe that the self-inflicted tests we assign ourselves through exercise, diet, sleep, and time management have reflections in the spiritual endurance we all long to cultivate. If you’ll allow me, I’d love to share a few crossover concepts from my long swim this past summer.
To build endurance, create scenarios where giving up isn’t an option. When you’re a mile away from the shoreline, you REALLY don’t want to stop swimming. If I swam two miles in three feet of water, I would have taken a break. I might have quit. The open water (and a healthy fear of drowning) created a scenario where giving up wasn’t an option. If you’re dieting sweets and your pantry is filled with Oreos, you’ll probably take a break. Faith calls us to say ‘yes’ without a safety net. Our friends, Mark and Heather McKinstry, sold their house when they became missionaries to Spain. Giving up isn’t an option.
To build endurance, value pace over speed. When I first started swimming long distances, my only goal was ‘don’t stop.’ I would swim however slow I needed to in order to not become winded. Over time, that pace increased . . . slowly. When God calls us to a career, a ministry, or a relationship, our hearts are often obsessed with speed. We give up because it isn’t happening fast enough. Focus on your pace. Build your pace. What reasonable steps can you make today to pursue the goals God has placed in your life? Make small steps today and small steps tomorrow.
God blesses those who patiently endure. Let’s strengthen our endurance!
In Biblical times many cities were surrounded by walls for protection from their outside enemies. The job of a watchman was to sit high on the city wall and observe the surroundings carefully to see if an enemy was approaching. If an enemy was spotted, the watchman’s job was to blow his trumpet, which served as a warning to his people. He had a very crucial role. If he failed to see the enemy or failed to blow his trumpet the people in the city could die. However, if he was diligent, and succeeded in warning them, the lives of many people would be saved.
God was calling Ezekiel to be a watchman for the people of Israel (v7). He may not have been watching for enemies from a city wall, but he was being called to warn them about the sin that enslaved them and to move to repentance.
I believe today we are also called to the important job of being a watchman. God has placed people in our lives for a reason. The family we are in, the people we live near, our coworkers, or people we encounter regularly; none of it is by accident.
I am forever thankful for a high school basketball coach for being a “watchman” for me. He was a Christian who coached basketball in a public school. He didn’t have to share his love of Jesus; his job was to teach our team the skills of basketball. Thankfully, he knew he had a higher calling on his life. Throughout my high school career, he invited me to spend time with his wife and kids, constantly encouraged me, and above all, breathed life into me by telling me about the saving blood of Jesus Christ. My life was headed in a completely different direction before I met him. Through his obedience in being bold in his faith and telling me about Jesus, the trajectory of my life changed from a life headed towards destruction to a life of following Jesus.
God gives Ezekiel a warning in v8 if he keeps quiet, “If I announce that some wicked people are sure to die and you fail to tell them to change their ways, then they will die in their sins, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths.” That’s pretty straightforward. We cannot allow fear or comfort to hold us back from telling those around us about Jesus. God has called all of us to preach the good news, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” Mark 16:15
God uses us to further His kingdom. Who has God placed in your life to share the Gospel? God has equipped you. Now boldly and lovingly go and tell others about Jesus.
Last week millions of Americans participated in the United States midterm elections. Voter turnout was very high as all 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives were contested as well as 35 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate. Emotions were elevated as many in the country wanted their voice to be heard through their vote. Activists from both parties volunteered countless hours as they passionately supported their candidates.
Now that elections are over I reflect on the passion and conviction that was demonstrated to represent political candidates. My desire for the church is that we would represent the Lord with that same passion and conviction. In fact, we should want to be even more passionate because we know that the Lord’s agenda is for the good of all mankind.
Psalm 113:4 states, “The Lord is exalted over all the nations his glory above the heavens.” Another word for Lord, is master or ruler. God is the ruler over all the nations. He is higher than all the senators, presidents, prime ministers, and kings of the entire world. God doesn’t need to be elected because He is Lord. No need to vote.
Even though He is exalted over all the nations it is unfortunate of the multitudes who have not yet heard of Him or His plan. There are still thousands of unreached people groups who do not know Him. They do not know that He is the King of kings and the Lord of Lords. Let us make the Lord known today. Let us share with others His wonderful plan of salvation. Let us proclaim his glory as He is exalted over every nation.
According to the free dictionary the definition of the word Leader is “One that leads or guides.” Every one of every age is a leader in some form or another. You might be in a roll where you lead a large group or maybe you lead one other person. It might be at work, in school, at church or in your home.
When you are leading, you are in charge or in command of others. When we attempt to lead in our own strength and wisdom we are easily overwhelmed. We often become discouraged and feel weak in our leadership abilities when those we are leading expectations have not been met.
We might think that we need to push through these feelings on our own and think we can get through the tough times by our own strength. But that will never work. We need to look to The Leader of our lives, Our Heavenly Father. He is our strength. As we allow him to lead He pushes and strengthens us. Cease trusting in your own strength and trust the Lord to “Strengthen our feeble arms and weeks knees.” And “Make a path for your feet…” (Hebrews 12:12-13)
Wait, Sacrificing People Is Ok?
Pastor Joshua Humpa
I’m going to come right out and say it, it’s super weird and confusing that God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son. Even stranger that God commended him for having the heart to carry it through and is praised in the Bible by later authors for his faith. You read about nations in the Old Testament that would sacrifice their children to idols and God wiped those people off the planet. Today, anyone who comes forward saying God told them to kill a family member gets a followed up 911 call.
So what gives? Why did God ask Abraham to do this, and why is it looked back on as justifiable, even honorable? The key is context - big picture. In a lot of ways Abraham sacrificing his one and only son was a metaphor for the sacrifice God would make with his one and only son, Jesus. As Isaac carried the wood for his altar, Jesus carried His wooden cross to his death. Both sons became the offering that replaced the sacrificial lamb. God was never going to let Abraham follow through with Isaac dying, but as this new covenant was being formed that would last generations, this was the starting point to prove Abraham’s faith in God.
Abraham never doubted that God would be faithful to him if He was faithful to God. Abraham believed that God would raise Isaac from the dead if he went through with the sacrifice, because Abraham held onto God’s promise to birth nations from Isaac. Abraham’s motives in this scenario are clean and pure, even though at first glance it seems haunting.
It’s an odd story, and in the scope of things a one and done situation (just like God turning back the son, Jonah swallowed by a big fish, or the world flooded). The attribute we can acquire to become more like the people God created us to be is to live with dynamic faith. To believe whole heartedly that if God says it, it’s true! If God commands it, we will do it no matter how much it brings us out of our comfort zone. Honoring God with our faith in all areas, whether it’s money, relationships, or careers. Abraham’s faith is praised throughout the Bible because it’s genuinely admirable. God is not going to ask you to sacrifice your child today, but He may ask you to step into the unknown and trust that He will be faithful to you every step of the way.
Stuck Waiting For Answers
Pastor Tom Murray
Verse of the day:
It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. (Hebrews 11:8 NLT)
We want more information.
There are unanswered questions.
Resisting a move God places in our heart is often linked to the unknown. We sense God pushing us to take a step and we hold back.
How will we get there?
What will this do to us financially?
How will this impact relationships with family and friends?
What if this happens? How about that?
We will say “yes” when we have all the answers. We will step out when all the unknowns are resolved.
Instead, let’s strive to be like Abraham.
"It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8 NLT).
Abraham had many reasons not to go. He was old. His family settled in Haran. Abraham had many possessions and lived close to relatives.
We are really good at making mental or written lists of reasons not to act.
Let me encourage you be bold, full of faith, and willing to allow God to lead you through the unknown.
Learn wisdom, don't be foolish!