Due to the current crisis, our Wednesday Bible Study is not meeting. In lieu of that study, a devotional is being posted here. This can be used for personal reflection or in a small group. If you are with a small group of people, I encourage you to do the devotional together, or to go over it with a friend over the phone.
In Christ, Pastor Andy
You are welcome to join our interactive Bible study!
7-8 pm Wednesdays evenings - Now studying Nehemiah
Please click this link https://zoom.us/j/276516410 to join by computer or smartphone.
Or to join by phone, dial 253-215-8782, and when prompted, enter the meeting ID – 276 516 410.
June 10 Devotional
Read: Kyle Sims, a local pastor in Lancaster, SC, writes an article on embracing your reformed roots. "As our culture and society change, the church does find itself at a crossroads. Do we chase after our market share of the Christians in our community? Do we seek to discover what these people want in church and give it to them? Or, do we seek what God would have us to be as His people? Do we trust God to bless us through the means of grace, even in a changing world?"
Question: How can you rightly embrace tradition while rejecting traditionalism?
Prayer: Dear God, please help me and my church to be continually transformed by your Word. Help us to rightly embrace what can be learned from generations of Christians before us. In Jesus' name, amen.
June 3 Devotional
Last Lord’s Day, Pastor Andy preached on the civil government from Romans 13. Here is a prayer for the civil government and for our own call to love one another.
A Prayer for Justice and for the Civil Government (A prayer from the Worship Sourcebook)
As we listen to the world’s concerns,
hear the cry of the oppressed,
and learn of new discoveries,
give us knowledge,
teach us to respond with maturity,
and give us courage to act with integrity.
As citizens, we acknowledge the Spirit’s work in human government
for the welfare of the people,
for justice among the poor,
for mercy toward the prisoners,
against inhuman oppression of humanity.
Help us to obey you above all rulers;
Fill us with the patience of Christ
As we wait upon the Spirit.
We pray for the fruit of the Spirit of Christ
Who works for peace on earth,
Commands us to love our enemies,
And calls for patience among the nations.
We give thanks for your work among governments,
Seeking to resolve disputes by means other than war,
Placing human kindness above national pride,
replacing the curse of war with international self-control.
We hear the Spirit’s call to love one another,
opposing discrimination of race or sex,
inviting us to accept one another,
and to share at every level
in work and play, in church and state,
in marriage and family, and so to fulfill the love of Christ.
Enable us to accept that call and be agents of renewal in our work
through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Question: In what specific ways can you pray for our government today?
Prayer: Pray the above prayer. Or consider using the above prayer as an outline for prayer.
May 27 Devotional
The Standard of Truth
Read: 1 Timothy 4:16 - Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
I want to focus here on the phrase, "the teaching." The word "teaching" can also mean "doctrine." In Paul's instructions to Timothy, Paul was exhorting Timothy that there was a standard of teaching that he needed to adhere to. To adhere to “the teaching” isn’t exactly what your ear might expect to hear. Today, we might expect hear simply, “adhere to the Bible.” Certainly, we should adhere to the Bible. All genuine Christian teaching is grounded in the Bible. However, the emphasis here in 1 Timothy 4:16 lands on “the teaching.”
When Paul wrote to Timothy, there was a standard, a doctrine, for teaching the Scripture. Timothy was not only to adhere to the Scripture. He was also to adhere to what was taught about the Scripture. He was to adhere to the standard of teaching. The model we frequently find today is “Me, myself, and the Bible.” But that’s not Biblical. There is a standard for teaching the Scripture. This standard is the basis for confessionalism among Presbyterians. We have a standard, a confession, the Westminster Confession of Faith, for what we believe and how we live out our faith.
What are some advantages to having a confession? The first is grounding. Our ultimate grounding is in the Scripture. But we are meant to read the Scripture in the context of Christian community. We are meant to learn from what our brothers and sisters have taught in the past. The Westminster Confession is an excellent summary of Christian teaching. When we come to the Bible with the attitude that we don’t have anything to learn from other Christians, we become unhinged. But by listening to Christians current and past, by way of confession, we stay grounded in the Scripture.
The second advantage is unity. The confession is precise and dogmatic in many ways. However, it is also carefully written in a way that is not overly dogmatic. It is written so that we can unify around it and confess together, “This is what we believe.” In the Presbyterian church, the Westminster Confession is the standard of teacher for elders of the church. In fact, every elder in the Presbyterian church vows to uphold the Westminster Confession as the standard of teaching. An elder can take an exception to a part of the Westminster Confession. However, the Presbytery must approve that exception as not violating the big picture of the the Confession. This allows for freedom of conscience while maintaining a teaching to unify around.
What about a member who is not an elder? A member of the church only needs to make a simple profession of faith. So, members of the Presbyterian church are not required to subscribe to the confession. A new Christian doesn’t have a robust faith to start with, so a simple profession of faith is how one joins the church. This allows for freedom of conscience while learning and growing in the faith.
The third advantage is a standard. No teacher or leader in the church should say, “Do this because I say so.” Any teaching and leadership in the church ought to have its ground in the Word of God. In the Presbyterian church, the Westminster Confession is how one’s teaching of the Bible is evaluated. It means that there are no rogue teachers and leaders. There is a system of accountability. Certainly, it is an advantage to be in a church that has a standard for something as important as teaching the truth of Scripture.
Question: When has the teaching of other Christians, present or past, helped you to be grounded in the truth of God’s Word?
Prayer: Dear Lord, please help me in unity with the family of God be grounded in your Word. In Jesus’ name, amen.
May 20 Devotional
Habits and Faithfulness
Acts 17:2 – And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them for the Scriptures.
The Apostle Paul had customs; he had habits. Habits can be useful in different ways. During a crisis situation, essential habits can keep you functioning. For example, a fire fighter may need to rely on developed and repeated habits to function while fighting a fire. Habits and routine can affect moral. Theodore Roosevelt explored the River of Doubt, a terrible expedition in which several died. However, during the expedition, some of the same morning routines were maintained even in the worst conditions. These routines brought some normalcy and stabilization during abnormal and destabilizing times. Habits can also increase efficiency in work. If we have to constantly give deep thought to what we do next, we become incredibly unproductive.
Yet, this pandemic has upended most of our routines and habits. Habits can be an aid to faithfulness. But habits do not equal faithfulness. Think about a faithful spouse. Surely, while the habit of coming home every day is a good habit, a spouse that comes every day merely out of habit is not actually faithful. What if the daily routine is thrown off? What if the spouse gets a flat tire on the way home? Does the spouse just move into the nearest house? No! A faithful spouse, no matter how much the routine is thrown off, because of faithfulness, will seek to return home. It might be hard, but the spouse will do the difficult, out of the normal routine challenges to get home.
Routines for church life have been upended. Just as a faithful spouse will not let a change in routine change coming home, don’t let changes in routine change coming home to the family of God. Continue to worship and fellowship, even if it is different from the old routines of the past.
Routines are in the fabric of our human nature. When God created the world, he made us to work for six days and rest for one day. That one day of rest is for focusing on and worshipping God. This day happens routinely every week. The Lord’s Day is the most essential routine for you to be in harmony with God and God’s people. And it is a weekly reminder of the gospel. We can’t make it on our own and need to rest in Christ, bringing all of our anxieties and cares to him. The Lord’s Day is a blessing, don’t miss out.
Keep the essential routines for walking with God. Don’t let a change in routine keep you from the most important habit of all, spending time with God and God’s people.
Question: What habits can you be forming to help walk with God?
Prayer: Dear Lord, please help me to form godly habits. In Jesus’ name, amen.
May 13 Devotional
Read: Exodus 20:13-15
"You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal"
During this crisis, Christians are faced with some challenging questions about the wellbeing of their neighbors: "Is reopening the economy loving money? Does the lockdown prioritize health while reducing many to the poor house? Is the lockdown sinful? Is reopening the economy going after vanity fair?"
A wise friend and pastor, Bryan Schneider, poised some thoughtful answers in his article, "Biblical Balance in the Days of COVID-19." I recommend watching or reading his response.
Question: In what ways can you promote the livelihood, thriving, and the well-being of others?
Prayer: Dear God, please give me wisdom to truly seek what is best for my neighbor. In Jesus' name, amen.
May 6 Devotional
The Power of Prayer
Read: Nehemiah 1:1-1:11
There is power in prayer! When I was in the Navy, one of my shipmates thought the opposite. In fact, for him, prayer was a metaphor for being totally unproductive. If someone was not taking action, he would say, "What are you doing over there?! Praying?!" We can be quick to dismiss prayer too. If we see a problem, we look to the immediate human solution rather than praying and seeking God's will.
It is notable that the first chapter of Nehemiah, aside from brief background information, is a prayer. Now, Nehemiah certainly is not a book against practical actions. In the 13 chapters of Nehemiah, we see that the Israelites took action to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and the Temple after they were devastated by the Babylonian Exile. However, before this great restoration of Israel, what did Nehemiah do? He prayed.
Prayer precedes great works of God. When there is a problem, we ought not to turn to and rely on ourselves. We ought to rely on God, and we rely on God by bringing our needs to God in prayer. We should take action, as Nehemiah did, but we should do so in prayer, depending on the Lord and seeking the Lord's guidance.
Question: What needs are you aware of that you should be bringing to God in prayer?
Prayer: If God reveals to you something that you should be praying for, go ahead and bring it to God in prayer.
April 29 Devotional
Read: Job 1:1-2:10
Job was a devout man. But why did he follow God? Satan proposed that the reason for Job's devoutness was the material benefits that Job had been blessed with. Job 1:9-11 reads, "'Does Job fear God for nothing?' Satan replied. 'Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.'"
So, the LORD allowed Satan to test Job, but the LORD restrained Satan from doing anything directly to Job. So, Job lost everything. He lost his oxen and donkeys, his servants, his sheep, his camels, and his sons and daughters. Job was devastated. He tore his robs and shaved his head. But he didn't curse God. Rather in worship, he acknowledged that it is God who gives and who takes away. Job gave glory to God and praised his name.
As if this trial wasn't enough, next God allowed Satan to strike Job with sickness. Satan was sickness would break Jobs loyalty and reverence towards God. But it didn't. Job suffered greatly. His wife even encouraged him to curse God. But Job would not, and he held onto his integrity as a follower of God.
I would like to tell you about a friend of mine who was my neighbor in Portsmouth, VA. His name was Don. Like Job, Don was a faithful follower of God. He was diagnosed with cancer. Don loved to work with his hands. So, even when he was weakened, he kept on laying brick. He would lay one brick, take and hour break, and then lay another. It was as if he wanted to bring glory to God through his brick laying, even if he worked at the pace of one brick an hour. Don's suffering and sickness increased. One day he told me, that in the midst of his suffering, He wanted to have the testimony of Job. It was a simple testimony. God wasn't an idea in his head to make him feel better. Don testified of God's reality and greatness by following God through suffering. That was his testimony, the testimony of Job.
Question: In what ways are you suffering? How can you give the testimony of Job in the midst of these sufferings?
Prayer: Dear God, help me to follow you, including when I suffer. Let my following of you be witness to others. In Jesus' name, amen.
April 22 Devotional
Dear New Cut Church,
Recently, my wife, Becca, shared that Psalm 84 was very encouraging to her, especially in the circumstances of not being able to gather physically for worship. I was also encouraged also by this Psalm, so am sharing it here with you.
How lovely is your dwelling place,
2 My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
3 Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.[c]
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.[d]
7 They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.
8 Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty;
listen to me, God of Jacob.
9 Look on our shield,[e] O God;
look with favor on your anointed one.
10 Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.
12 Lord Almighty,
blessed is the one who trusts in you.
Prayer: Consider praying Psalm 84 out loud and continue praying as God leads.
April 15 Devotional
Dear New Cut Church,
On Good Friday, our denomination, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, joined together with several other denominations in prayer. I am grateful for anyone who was able to join in praying. For our Wednesday Devotional, I am posting a list of suggested prayers that was used on Good Friday. Please feel free to use this list, whether the whole list, or even just a couple lines on the list, to guide you in a time of prayer.
Grace and peace,
Pray that God, in His power and mercy, would end the coronavirus pandemic.
Pray that all our government leaders will be protected from the virus and that they will have the patience, wisdom, civility, and compassion to deal with the many problems facing our country in this perilous time.
Pray for the safety of all members of the medical community and pray that they will be able to care for the sick with wisdom, kindness, and stamina.
Pray that the sick will be healed and restored and that the elderly will be protected.
Pray that the medical community will have the medical supplies, drugs, testing kits, protective equipment, ventilators, and hospital and ICU beds to take care of the ill.
Pray for those who are grieving for lost friends and family.
Pray for the poor and all those who have been hurt by the economic downturn: employees, the self-employed, small business owners, big businesses, churches, and charities.
Pray that all those who have lost jobs will be able to return to work soon.
Pray to restore the economy.
Pray that in these difficult times hurting people will not turn to drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and domestic abuse.
Pray for those confined by quarantine, those who are sheltered in place, and those practicing social distancing that they might not despair in loneliness and isolation.
Pray for our education system at every level that has broken down under the threat of disease.
Pray for the health and protection of all those who work in jobs that still serve the public every day and have greater exposure to the virus.
Pray for a vaccine to end this virus and that this plague might not return among us.
Pray that in this time of great national distress that our people will show patience, kindness, and love to all, and not turn to panic, greed, and mischief. Pray that the cast down will be raised up.
Pray for single mothers, widows, orphans, aliens, and outcasts in their distress.
Pray for the peace and safety of the Church universal around the world.
Pray for people everywhere according to their needs and for all the special needs that you know about.
Pray that the people would realize the brevity and uncertainty of life and would turn to Christ in repentance and faith.
Pray that the people of God will love what He commands and desire what He promises.
Pray that God will be pleased with our prayers and answer them in His infinite grace and mercy in Christ.
April 8 Devotional
The Ministry of Reconciliation
2 Corinthians 5:20-21 -- "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
During this Holy Week, we remember the crucifixion of Christ on the cross to pay for our sins so that our sins our not counted against us. Now, we are representatives or ambassadors of what God has done for us. Because of what God has done for us, we invite others to be reconciled with Christ! We implore others to be reconciled to God. An article written recently shares some thoughts on how we can be ambassadors of Christ. Feel free to read it on the Gospel Coalition website. This article helped me to think through some of the ways that we can be ambassadors of Christ in our current situation, and I will share them below.
Pray! All things start with prayer. Ask God to open doors for sharing the gospel. Ask for hearts to be open to the gospel. We don't change people. God changes people.
Go for a walk. Lots of people are out and walking right now, spending time outside. It's a great way to meet new people. Remember to keep 6 feet away. And don't shake hands! Or if walking is not a great option, the phone is a handy tool.
Keep a look out for people's needs. Then think about how you can meet those needs. We need to use words to communicate the gospel message, but those words often hit home with acts of genuine kindness. I have been finding the biggest struggle of people to be loneliness and isolation.
Don't worry about seeming silly. I think what keeps us from sharing the gospel or making new friends a lot of times is a hyper self-awareness. Right now, everyone is acting different and oddly compared before. So don't worry about seeming silly. A part of reaching out to others is taking risks and putting our own self-regard aside.
Question: In what ways can you, with your gifts an callings, be an ambassador of Christ?
Prayer: Dear God, please help us to be ambassadors of Christ. Please provide us with occasions to act as ambassadors of Christ. In Jesus' name, amen.
For our April 8th Wednesday evening meeting, we will be reading from the Gospel of John to get the story of the passion of Christ. We will also read into the beginning of the resurrection account. We will stop before the last 10 verses of the Gospel of John. The sermon on Easter will be from those last verses and will focus on our call to discipleship in light of the resurrection. The information for joining our meeting is posted at the top of this page.
April 1 Devotional
Facing our Mortality
John 14:1-3 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."
Read: "Dealing with Death and Disease" by Robert Rothwell.
Question: In what ways have you faced your mortality?
Prayer: Dear Lord, please help us to face our mortality. Help us to do so honestly, and point us towards eternal hope in Christ. In Jesus' name, amen.
March 25 Devotional
Forgiveness and a Pandemic
Colossians 3:13 – Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.
In a Navy training talk several years ago, I learned the importance of forgiveness when stress is high and when small mistakes can turn into big consequences. It was somewhat of a passing point in the lecture. However, it stuck with me. The instructor’s point was that, in the midst of a stressful situation, we need to be able to forgive one another when we let each other down. Forgiveness is vital to staying together as a team.
Now, this pandemic has put our country under a lot of stress. That stress has brought the best and worst out of people. Personally, I have had good responses, but I have also had bad ones. I have had to seek forgiveness for impatience and a short temper, and am grateful that I received forgiveness. Forgiveness mends relationships and groups. Forgiveness is vital to our relationship with God and our relationships with others. As this pandemic has many on edge and reactive, remember to “bear with each other and forgive one another.”
Question: In what areas do you need to seek forgiveness?
Prayer: Dear Father, please forgive me for my sin that are stress provoked, and sins of all kinds. Also, please help me to forgive others when they sin against me. In Jesus’ name, amen.
March 18 Devotional
Matthew 6:25-26 "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Paul Tripp wrote this poem "SAFE"
I am safe,
not because I have no
or because I never experience danger.
I am safe,
not because people affirm
or my plans always
I am safe,
not because I am immune from disease,
or free of the potential for poverty.
I am safe,
not because I am protected from disappointment,
or separated from this
I am safe,
not because I am
I am safe,
not because I deserve
comfort or have earned my
I am safe,
not because of
or who I know,
or where I live.
I am safe because of the glorious
I am safe because of the presence of
I am safe because of
and divine grace.
I am safe,
not because I never face
but because you are
with me in it.
You have not given me
a ticket out of danger.
You have not promised me
a life of ease.
You have chosen to place me in
a fallen world.
I am safe
because you have given me
the one thing
that is the
that will ever keep me safe.
You have given me
Discussion Question: How have you seen God's special care towards you and in the world, even in the midst of chaos.
Prayer: Thank you God for your special care towards your people, that transcends the chaos around us. Please help us to rest securely in your care, and to have peace and wisdom. In Jesus' name, amen.