“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1).
God blessed us with our children so we could teach them how to live right with Him. We see these gifts from God as “our children,” which can cause us to forget that the ownership of these souls belongs to Him. God instructs us to be good stewards, or managers, of the gifts He gives us (1 Peter 4:10). We should strive to be better teachers of God’s truth so that the children we have been blessed with will not only hear God’s word but see its power through our faithful lives.
Paul “urged” the church to be totally devoted to God because God is totally devoted to us. As parents, we should show our love for God by sacrificing the desires that our flesh uses to deceive us, and put our devotion into God for His glory, which He will bestow on us if we walk in the glory of His truth. There are many so-called religions out there but God has shown us that there is “one body” and “one faith” (Ephesians 4:4-5), and we should strive to make sure the children He blesses us with are properly instructed in the truth about the church He built.
Paul says, “by the mercies of God,” showing God has never done things because He had to, but because He loves us and wants the best for us. Paul’s writings in the book of Romans illustrates God’s mercy in justification, sanctification and even in baptism, revealing to us that God went to great sacrifices to see that we have everything we need to live in a way that is right with Him. Paul shows the proper response to God is to love Him as He loves us and this can only be done by sacrificing our bodies to our goals and purposes and live for His glory. The children in our lives need to be “urged by the mercies of God” to deny their own desires to live right with God. The most effective way to reveal God’s grace to children is to make sure they see us walking in faith.
We do this as our “spiritual service of worship.” The Greek word, “logikēn”, is used for our word “spiritual,” to be understood as, “the logical way to worship God,” keeping in mind that this is God’s logic, not ours. God gives us children to show them His way: “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Sacrificing our wants and desires to walk in God’s way is how we become good stewards of the children given to us by our God.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).
Paul penned these words in a letter that was written to strengthen the fellowship in a somewhat divided congregation in Rome. This was a congregation that was made up of a mixture of people converted from the Jewish faith and from the pagan world, with an estimated 50/50 split. As the church in Rome was strengthened by these inspired words of wisdom, we can also be encouraged and strengthened to avoid the downfalls of discouragement, doubt and even division.
In this physical world, we will face many trials that satan will try to use as stumbling blocks to our growing faith. The Lord’s church in Azle has seen her share of these kinds of attacks. We have seen people leave the faith because they allowed their opinions to overrule God’s truth, we have been part of a transitional stage as the preacher, Ian, retired after years of joyous labor with us, and we are enduring the acceptance of a new minister. And we are now in the process of saying good bye to our youth minister and his wife, Daniel and Keri, as they take on a new ministry in a distant land (with our love and prayers for a fruitful ministry). We need each other to stay strong.
It would be easy to crumble under the pressure that these kinds of challenges bring. But we are God’s family and He has made provisions for our success: “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3). Studying His word keeps us encouraged, enlightened and enthused. The joy of our faith is found in the integrity of the One in Whom are faith is placed. God gives us promises that we can stand on throughout eternity, and His word assures us that He “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2).
Since we know God cannot lie, we can be assured that these challenges will not be the end of His church in Azle. He promised eternity to His church so we can face these situations with confidence knowing He will work all these circumstances out for the overall good (Romans 8:28). God built His church on His divine plan so we can grow and edify one another to strive together for the unity needed to be strengthened in our faith (Ephesians 4:1-11). We can remain joyful as we know that these ministers and their families will be blessed by our God as they continue in the faith to serve Him throughout their days on this earth. We are a blessed group because we are continually being strengthened by the love that God has placed in the hearts of each member of this family.
“What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Mark 10:9).
Isn’t it ironic that we wouldn’t think about applying for a job without the proper education and training, yet we are so willing to jump into a lifelong marriage without any training at all? This lack of knowledge has caused many marriages to crumble under the pressures of common trials. The passage above has been recited at many marriage ceremonies, but has been forgotten throughout many marriages during rigorous times. We have taken God’s institution of marriage and “humanized” it, by not allowing His power to be the glue that holds these marriages together. When God said, “Let no man separate,” it was a command, not merely a suggestion. It is a command to never give up on what God has established within the hearts of those being married. God is love and love is what brought these two people together as one and “love never fails” (1 Cor 13:8).
God’s word reveals the entire truth when it comes to His institution of marriage. When He saw man in need of companionship He instituted marriage to bring these two hearts together and bring the strength of bonding love to the world (Genesis 2:18). When husband and wife work together there is a great strength and comfort provided to both through love. It is getting the two flesh to become one that is the work. God provided divine instructions to help accomplish what might otherwise seem impossible: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). A good work is anything done to accomplish God’s will and His will is for marriage to last a lifetime. For the strength it takes to remain in a relationship throughout the trials and temptations we face we must realize our own inability and rely on God’s power (Philippians 4:13) to keep this love burning strong.
Today, we hope you make the decision to strengthen your marriage by leaning on God’s word to guide you throughout your walk together as man and wife. Give Him total authority in your relationship with your spouse. Base every decision you make in this relationship upon the power of His word and watch your relationship grow. Make sure that every step you take is done in accordance with the victorious path He has illuminated for you. God wants you to live happily ever after with the partner He has given you, but you can only find true happiness by looking to His Word, leaning on His Spirit and listening to His Son to guide your heart in the direction of His blissful peace.
“Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13).
Not being from around this area leaves one to guess at certain things, but it would probably be safe to say that Azle has an anniversary marking the date of her arrival to the list of cities in Texas. No doubt this celebration calls the citizens to take part in a massive clean up to get the city to look her best for visitors. But what about the preparation we need for our citizenship in heaven? Are we putting forth the same effort to make sure our hearts are cleaned up? Have we begun the clean up procedure needed to remove sin from our soil stained souls? These are questions raging through the minds of the faithful.
God’s calling to the Christian life is a call to action. Peter reminds us not to be sleepwalkers in our faith. We must stay alert and always be prepared for action. God has shown us how to prepare our souls through forgiveness of sin (Acts 2:38). You are called to make preparation by allowing God to wash away our sin, but you are also instructed to also, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). God cleanses us to prepare us for battle.
Also, part of our preparation is to keep sober in spirit by studying God’s word (2 Timothy 2:15). The Greek word for “keep sober,” gives reference to being drunk and not being in control of our faculties. We need to know God’s word so we won’t be led astray. To remain sober in the physical sense one must refrain the intake of intoxicating beverages. As Christians, our spiritual sobriety is found in our willingness to refrain from the intake of the world’s philosophies and misinterpretations of God’s word, so that we will not be intoxicated by the ignorance of false teachings.
Make preparation in Azle for the celebration of your life in eternity. Study God’s word and set your hope in the promise of purity and cleanliness that comes from the application of truth. Stay free from the stains of worldly desires and know for sure that your life is eternal in Christ Jesus. Stay dedicated to the “upward call in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14) by not letting your guard down when it comes to your spiritual walk. Stay focused on the mission God has assigned His faithful children and do not let the world lull you to sleep through the foolishness of misunderstanding God’s will (Ephesians 5:17).
“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:26).
Fleshly minded people just will not come to realize the catastrophic impact sin has on our relationship with God: “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). Sin is what Satan uses to keep mankind separated from God. But the God we serve is willing to forgive sin through His grace that teaches us to deny the world’s philosophy (Titus 2:11-12). Some know God’s grace as His willingness to forgive our sin, but do we also know God’s grace as His willingness to provide a way for us to overcome sin? Although God’s desire for us is to be holy and blameless, we must make the choice to remain in His grace by staying free from sin. We must be willing to respond to His grace.
Numbers 15 reveals God showing us two types of sin. He shows us willful sin and then He also brings to light the idea of sin done in ignorance. David spoke of sin in these categories in Psalm 19:12-13. He voiced his frustration at his inability to mold his life according to God’s pattern. He also asks for forgiveness and strength to avoid habitual patterns of the willful rejection of God’s way: “Also keep back your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me; then I will be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression (Psalm 19:13). God desires us to be faithful to His plan for our lives and learn more about Him so we will not be ignorant to what will keep us from His proven path to victory. He has allowed us to know Him and choose His way of life by revealing the anguish of His wrath.
The church prays for everyone to follow God’s pattern of life. God has provided His truth so we can know where we stand in our relationship with Him. He has also revealed to us sin and how it works in our lives to keep us from being faithful to truth (James 4:17). We can know the right thing to do by receiving Jesus’ teachings (John 8:32). Being ignorant to God’s way is no longer an acceptable excuse: “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent” (Acts 17:30). God is willing to forgive our sins when we are willing to accept His grace. Our willingness to accept God’s offer is shown by our choice to stay with Him on that narrow path illuminated by the glory of His Resurrected Son.
— Cub Orcutt
“He said to Him, “O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house” (Judges 6:15).
There is a false belief in this world that the Christian life is free from trouble. The Bible clearly shows that pursuing God’s righteousness will cause many difficulties. Paul explained this predicament to a young preacher named Timothy: “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Even Christians must face the troubles of life. There is no easy way, there is no quick way but there is a safe way and that is through Jesus Christ. When we focus on Jesus and His abilities instead of our own, victory truly awaits. Gideon was one who focused on his own ability and couldn’t see victory, but when he focused on God he was victorious over his fears.
Here in Azle God’s people will have to go through trials also. When we focus on our own abilities we will fail. Paul said Christians live life in a manner that is pleasing to God. God finds no pleasure in His children being overcome by trials. He has given us His Son to remind us that victory can be ours if we will focus on His power and not our own. His plan of salvation cannot be conceived by human minds so He sent His Son to bring the impossible to reality (i.e. John 3:16). But when we focus on our own ideas and abilities to obtain salvation we will fail. We must simply trust and obey our Lord’s teaching. You cannot believe in Jesus and not do what He says: “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:16). Many today know Jesus as Savior, but do not recognize Him as Master: “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:22-23). Jesus denounces anyone who doesn’t heed His words and even refers to their practice as “lawless.” This is the title that goes to anyone who focuses on their own abilities instead of having faith in His plan of salvation.
We can only be right with God by dying to our own beliefs and powers and “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2). He is the beginning and the end of salvation. We must make His words our way of life and depend on God’s providence to keep us safe in and find the victory of salvation.
“Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” (James 4:10).
Satan has always had a strong cache of artillery against the human flesh because he has always known our weakness as human beings. His strategy calls for an attack on our weakest points and pride is his strongest temptation to attack our souls. His sin of pride began his own demise and his aggravation from God’s judgment motivated his assault on mankind. He went right to work on God’s creation by tempting them with pride: “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). Flesh is tragically tempted by desire for self.
Satan’s attack on our souls is always in opposition to God’s word. His desire is to plant doubt in us because doubt is the opposite of faith. Faith is what God uses to credit righteousness in the accounts of His followers: “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness” (Romans 4:5). Paul’s inspired point here is that faith depends on God’s power to save and never relies on human abilities to earn salvation. This is the faith that pleases God.
Solomon wrote, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling” (Proverbs 16:18). Many times and in many ways we allow pride to take us away from faith. We can become prideful people when we believe our own abilities are the reason we achieve great things in life. We can become prideful people when we think we are better than others. We can become prideful people when we think we know how to be saved without going to God for His instructions. Whenever we put man’s “I think so” before God’s “I say so” we become prideful people headed for a fall. God is our strength and without His power we are mere mortals awaiting defeat. The challenges we face as followers of Christ will require us to humble ourselves and ask for strength. We must look to the authors of the Bible and see how humility led them to victory: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
God is our Father Who wants the best for us. And not only does He want the best for us, He is working things out to make that happen (Romans 8:28). We must make sure we stay on our feet walking in the way of righteousness and striving to reach the goal God has set before us. If we will continue to be humble before God and receive His counsel He will continue to provide the strength we need to be victorious in life and even in death.
— Cub Orcutt
“Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves, so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty” (Job 5:17).
Just about everyone living is looking for true happiness in their lives. Some find it but there are those whose search will end up completely empty. There are those whose life will end in sorrow because they didn’t know how or where to find true happiness. Their search for the joy of life will come up empty because they accept temporary happiness instead of striving to find joy. Unfortunately, they leave this realm not having a full concept of how God wants to make our lives complete in the thrill of His joy.
The psalmist reveals truth about the blessings of embracing God’s love so that our search for true happiness can be fruitful: “How blessed are the people who are so situated; how blessed are the people whose God is the LORD!” (Psalm 144:15). “Blessed” is translated from the Hebrew word that means “to be made happy.” If we search for true happiness outside of God we will surely fail. God created the bodies we live in and His will has given us everything we need to make us happy (2 Pet 1:3). The trouble is our fleshly desires that overrun our spiritual desire to live in a godly manner. We must listen to God if we want to be happy: “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world– our faith” (1 John 5:4). Don’t let the world try to tell you how to be happy because they just don’t know. Have faith in God, who gives everything good, and let true happiness be revealed to you through the love He provides.
David reminds us again how to find true happiness in this physical body. He shows happiness doesn’t come from trusting in the flesh’s idea of happiness or even in his friends who remain as slaves the desires of flesh. His happiness was assured through his faith in God: “My lovingkindness and my fortress, My stronghold and my deliverer, My shield and He in whom I take refuge” (Psalm 144:2). True joy can only be attained through the assurance given in the protection of God’s love.
Our happiness can only be found in the same manner. We must trust in God to bring true joy to an otherwise sorrowful life. Paul found this joy as he wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). Even though the circumstances in which Paul found himself were not ideal, he knew his reason to rejoice was in the Lord. What an example for us to follow. Deny the fleshly desire of a vain search for physical happiness and be led by the Spirit of God into the true happiness of eternal life.
— Cub Orcutt