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"A Grateful Heart"
2 Corinthians 9:6-12

Week One of the Anatomy of Thanks Series

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Praise for the Lamb
Nov 08, 2019

Revelation 5

"(1) Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. (2) And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, 'Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?' (3) But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. (4) I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. (5) Then one of the elders said to me, 'Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.' (6) Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God send out into all the earth. (7) He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him and who sat on the throne. (8) And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God's people. (9) And they sand a new song, saying: 'You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. (10) You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.' (11) Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. (12) In a loud voice they were saying: 'Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!' (13) Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!' The four living creatures said, 'Amen,' and the elders fell down and worshiped."

Anyone who isn't sure that Jesus is God and is worthy of worship should take a look at this passage. This heavenly scene opens with a dilemma - no one is found worthy to open the scroll in God's right hand until the Lion of Judah, the root of David, appears as a Lamb standing as if slain. 

This is none other than Jesus Christ, who offered Himself as a sacrifice for mankind's sin. He took our sin upon Himself, suffered the punishment we deserved, and clothed us in His righteousness so that, through faith in Him, we could be reconciled with God. Now He stands in heaven, receiving praise and honor from all its inhabitants. He alone is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll, which contains God's final plans for human history.

If the angels, the elders, and the four living creatures praise the Son and the Father with such reverence, awe, and exaltation, then we who are direct recipients of divine mercy and grace can, too. The citizens of heaven hold nothing back in their unceasing worship and adoration as they humbly bow before the throne.

Considering all that our triune God has done for us, praise should be our humble and joyful response. He delights in hearing our voices raised in adoration and worship as we declare that He is worthy of all honor.

In God the focus of your thoughts and emotions as you join with fellow believers in exalting Him, or do you sing the words thoughtlessly or get caught up in an emotional experience? Although worship will be perfect only in heaven, let's start practicing now.

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The Revelation of Our Salvation
Oct 10, 2019

1 Peter 1:10-12

"(10) Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, (11) trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. (12) It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things."

If you've ever read through the Bible, you probably came to realize divine revelation is progressive. It was over the course of hundreds of years that God provided man with indications of His plan for reconciliation. That's why, as today's passage indicates, the Old Testament prophets could speak of the salvation we have in Christ even though they didn't understand how everything fit together. It was as if they were looking at a distant mountain range but had no idea how far it was from one peak to the next. 

Isaiah is a good example of this. He wrote of Israel's Messiah as a king who would rule over a restored world (Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 11:1-10) yet in chapter 53 described Him as a suffering servant who would die.

Though Isaiah wouldn't have been able to grasp the full meaning behind the words God's Spirit moved him to record, later revelation gives us a more complete picture. We know Jesus came the first time to sacrifice Himself for our sins, and one day He'll return in glory to rule the entire world as King of Kings.

What’s even more amazing is that angels long to look into this salvation, which we so often take for granted and see merely as the doorway by which we enter heaven. Such simplistic thinking reveals we truly don’t understand the scope of what transpired at the cross and how it effected our salvation.

We should be curious like the prophets, who sought to know more about Christ and the sacrifice He lovingly made on our behalf. When we make that a priority, we’ll learn more about our Savior and salvation, and our awe and love for Him will increase.

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Standing Tall Through Prayer
Oct 03, 2019

Nehemiah 1:1-11

"(1) The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah: In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, (2) Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. (3) They said to me, 'Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, an its gates have been burned with fire.' (4) When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. (5) Then I said: 'Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, (6) let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father's family, have committed against you. (7) We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. (8) 'Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, (9) but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.' (10) 'They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. (11) Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer and your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of man.' I was cup bearer to the king."

Nehemiah spent time praying on his knees. When he needed guidance, strength, provision, or protection, he responded with prayer. Because of this attitude of dependence, God was able to use Nehemiah to achieve His divine purposes.

This is also true for believers today. God will use us if we seek Him and make ourselves available. He wants His children to be a part of His work and has a purpose for each of us. 

If you want to follow Nehemiah's example of dependent prayer, first recognize God as the sovereign Ruler of the universe (Nehemiah 1:5). Although He's our loving Father and loyal Friend, we must never forget that He is also our high and exalted Creator, whose holiness is beyond our comprehension. We don't want to casually think of Him as "the man upstairs" or come into His presence in a frivolous manner. 

As one who respected God's holiness, Nehemiah approached Him with confession, admitting not only his own sin, but his father's and Israel's as well (Nehemiah 1:6-7). We cannot hide, deny, or cherish sin and expect the Lord to hear and answer our prayers. Purity of heart and the power of God are linked. We need the Holy Spirit to help us remain sensitive to sin and be willing to deal with it immediately.

The reason Nehemiah stood so tall had nothing to do with his natural abilities; rather, it was because he had developed a relationship of dependency on the Lord through prayer. The same can be true for you. Rely on the Lord, and let Him be your strength.

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Bringing Others to Jesus
Sep 27, 2019

John 1:35-42

"(35) The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. (36) When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, 'Look, the Lamb of God!' (37) When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. (38) Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, 'What do you want?' They said, 'Rabbi' (which means 'Teacher'), 'where are you staying?' (39) 'Come,' he replied, 'and you will see.' So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon. (40) Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. (41) The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, 'We have found the Messiah' (that is, the Christ)."

Andrew is the disciple known for bringing people to Jesus. Immediate after meeting the Lord, he introduced his brother Simon Peter to the Messiah. Another time, when a great multitude was hungry, he found a boy with five loaves and two fish and brought him to Jesus (John 6:8-9). When some Greeks wanted to meet Christ, Andrew and Philip made the introductions (John 12:20-22). The disciple had great enthusiasm for the Savior.

Andrew's own conversion experience motivated him to let others know about the One who'd changed his life. How about you - have you lost the joy of your salvation? If your Christian life has become stale and musty, it's time to remember what Christ has done for you to ask that He restore your excitement.

Think about how Andrew longed to know the Savior and spend time with Him (John 1:38-39). The disciple's example is a good reminder that sweet fellowship with the Lord isn't supposed to end with devotional times. It should also stimulate a desire to share with others the joy we find in our relationship with Christ. Andrew was motivated by his conviction that Jesus was the Messiah (John 1:40-41). He'd found the answer for a lost and hurting world and wanted others to know. 

When Andrew answered the call to discipleship, Jesus told him he'd be catching men instead of fish (Matthew 4:18-19). As followers of Christ, we too have this same assignment. Our styles and opportunities vary, but we're each responsible to develop a lifelong habit of bringing others to Jesus.

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A Loving God and Eternity
Sep 12, 2019

Matthew 25:31-46

"(31) When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. (32) All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (33) He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

(34) Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. (35) For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, (36) I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' 

(37) Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? (38) When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? (39) When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

(40) The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'

(41) Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. (42) For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, (43) I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

(44) They will also answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

(45) He will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

(46) Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

A Loving God and Eternity

The Scriptures speak clearly of existence after death - people will spend eternity in either heaven or hell. Yet many individuals consider this truth inconsistent with other facts about the Lord. While their objections are understandable, the Bible provides the answers:

How can the Lord be good if He lets people spend eternity in hell? God is love (1 John 4:8), and He doesn't want anyone to live without Him (1 Timothy 2:4). According to His plan, every person can turn from sin and receive the Savior, enjoying His presence both now and throughout eternity. Some, however, reject Jesus Christ and live apart from Him all their days. Unless they change that tragic decision, their separation from divine love will continue eternally.

Why would God create certain individuals, knowing they'd never turn to Him? To some, this seems unloving. Yet God so values our free will that He won't force anyone to go to heaven against his or her will. Doing so would amount to creating robots who are unable to truly respond, love, and worship.

An endless penalty seems unfair, especially if a non-Christian never heard the gospel. As long as unbelievers are alive, the heavenly Father goes to great lengths to keep them from eternal punishment - except He won't violate their free will. He gives enough time and evidence so that nobody has a valid excuse for rejecting the one path to salvation (Romans 1:20).

Jesus wants you to spend eternity with Him. So do you know Him as your Lord and Savior?

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