Archive for : January, 2021

Wednesday, January 20 th

Prayer focus topic—Government leadership
Prayer points—Focus in prayer on our leaders at the various levels of government: our president,
members of congress, our governor, and state and local officials. Pray that God will grant them
wisdom to make righteous choices. Pray that we will have the humility to humbly submit to all
governing authorities so that we can live quiet and peaceable lives.

Weekly Thought: Encouragement from Every Book 1 Chronicles: Rejoice and Tremble at His Presence

God is here. Right now and in every moment and in every place, the Lord of all is
present. No one is outside of his reach or his sight. Nothing happens apart from his knowledge
and permissive will. God is here. Not only is present in all places in a general sense, his people
have the privilege of his special and abiding presence, to be near him and have him near to us in
a unique way. What kind of feelings should this truth produce in us? What should our response
be to God’s presence? Should we rejoice with singing and gladness? Or should we tremble in
fear?
The glory of God’s presence among his people is one of the themes emphasized in the
book of 1 Chronicles, which recounts the life of David through a different perspective than the
account of 1 and 2 Samuel. In addition to highlighting the ark of the covenant, the priesthood,
and the Messianic line, the preparation of the building of the temple is of great import for the
writer of Chronicles. In the book, we read of David’s desire to build a magnificent temple for the
ark of God to dwell in to be a sign of God’s special presence among his people. When David
tells of his grand designs to build a house for God, the Lord responds by telling David that it is
actually he who will build an unshakeable house for David, meaning he would establish David’s
kingly line forever. Nevertheless, the Lord allows David to begin preparations for his son
Solomon to eventually build the temple, which would a powerful reminder of God’s presence.
This begins a time of joy and excitement at this new project designed to honor the God of Israel.
Throughout 1 Chronicles, though, there are sobering reminders of the seriousness and
gravity of God’s holy presence. Take for instance, the tragic occurrence of 1 Chronicles 13:7-11:

“And they carried the ark of God on a new cart, from the house of Abinadab, and Uzzah and
Ahiowere driving the cart. And David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their
might, with song and lyres and harps and tambourines and cymbals and trumpets. And when they
came to the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzzah put out his hand to take hold of the ark, for the
oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and he struck him
down because he put out his hand to the ark, and he died there before God. And David was
angry because the Lord had broken out against Uzzah. And that place is called Perez-uzza to
this day.”

The ark of the covenant served as the symbol of the seat of God’s presence in the
tabernacle and later in the temple. As it is being moved to the city of Jerusalem, David ensures
the ark moves with great fanfare and rejoicing, with songs and instruments and shouting. Yet,
this happy moment is shockingly interrupted when the ark begins to fall and Uzzah puts out his
hand to steady it. Immediately, the Lord is angry, and he strikes Uzzah dead in an instant. This is
a seemingly innocent act, isn’t it? Why would God do such a thing? Why is the Lord so angry at
a simple touch of the ark? Even David, who was rejoicing just moments before, is upset with
God and no longer wants the ark in Jerusalem.
Certainly, God is being neither vindictive or unjust. Rather, he is demonstrating the great
worth and the great danger of his holiness and presence. David eventually comes around on this
point, and he realizes his mistake a few chapters later when he attempts once again to transport
the ark:

“Then David summoned the priests Zadok and Abiathar, and the Levites Uriel, Asaiah, Joel,
Shemaiah, Eliel, and Amminadab, and said to them, “You are the heads of the fathers’ houses of
the Levites. Consecrate yourselves, you and your brothers, so that you may bring up the ark of
the LORD, the God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it. Because you did not carry it
the first time, the LORD our God broke out against us, because we did not seek him according to
the rule.” So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the LORD,
the God of Israel. And the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles, as
Moses had commanded according to the word of the LORD” (1 Chronicles 15:11-15).

What had been the problem? Although they had previously rejoiced at God’s presence,
they had not taken care to transport the ark according to the word of the Lord. The ark was
carried by the wrong people and in the wrong fashion. In so doing, they had treated God’s
presence as a trivial thing, neglecting his careful instructions. The second time, the priests were
rightly told to consecrate themselves to prepare for the task. They were a holy people set apart
and prepared to do the serious work that God called them to do. God’s presence is no frivolity. It
is the most serious thing imaginable because God is pure and righteous and holy, and no one may
presume that they may come into the Lord’s presence with unclean hands. Thus, God’s judgment
on Uzzah is a sign and reminder of the awe and reverence that all must have for God and his
commands. When we neglect to do so, we do not honor the greatness and the righteousness of
God; we treat the Lord of glory as common and unspectacular and profane.
Even so, God’s presence is not only cause for fear but for great praise and happiness.
David’s song of thanks to God in 1 Chronicles 16 gives insight into this dual emotional response
that we ought to have:

“Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place. Ascribe to the Lord, O
families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength! Ascribe to the Lord the glory due
his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth; yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. Let the
heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among nations, “The Lord reigns!”

The Lord is a God of joy but also a God of terrifying strength and power. He is glorious
and good. That’s why in this passage trembling is placed right alongside rejoicing. God’s
presence reminds us of how small we are but also of how thankful we should be that God loves
us and draws near to us. To know that the almighty God seeks my good and cares about our lives
should create in our hearts a fearful desire to do what is right and an abundant joy in the God
who watches over us. Notice the charge that David gives to his young son Solomon as he is
encouraging him to ready himself to do the work of building the temple:

“And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and
with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If
you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever. Be
careful now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong and do it”
(1 Chronicles 28:9-10).

We cannot hide our hearts, thoughts, or intentions from the all-knowing and omnipresent
God. He searches each of us. But the amazing truth is that if we seek him, he is near to us and he

desires to know us and help us. We see this throughout the whole story of the Bible; even as sin
separates, God is seeking to be present with his people. The holy Son of God even came to
unholy sinners in order to make them clean so they could re-enter the presence of God. That’s
cause for rejoicing and trembling.
The New Testament makes the radical declaration that God dwells in Christians by his
Spirit. The Church is his new temple. This should cause us to shout for joy but also tremble in
fear. Because God is with us and in us, our lives take on much greater significance because we
are representatives of God’s character and holiness. This vastly elevates the seriousness of every
choice we make and how we interact with others, but it also increases our happiness and our
joyful motivation to do what is right. The presence of God in us by his Spirit is no small thing; it
is no trifle. It is the most frightening and happy truth the world has ever known. As C.S. Lewis
put it his Chronicles of Narnia, God is not safe, but he is good. That is exceedingly good news
for the saved children of God. God is with us; let us tremble. God is with us; let us rejoice.

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but
much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God
who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).

Weekly Thought: Encouragement from Every Book
2 Kings: Open Eyes to the Living God

It has often been noted that we tend to become like what we admire. We imitate what we
deem to be valuable and worthwhile; it’s only natural. And the object of our admiration tends to
be what we most often set before our eyes. What we choose to gaze upon, to behold, has great
influence on what and who we are. This fact is at the root of the danger of idolatry (the worship
of false gods). Not only does idolatry dishonor God and devalue his great holiness and worth, it
traps us by deceiving our eyes into admiring what is not ultimately valuable. We pass up the
living, active, loving God for mere objects: statues of gold, figurines of silver, or pictures on a
screen.
Some readers of the Bible might wonder why the Almighty God takes idolatry so
seriously. Why does he seem to care about that particular sin in many cases more than he does
about seemingly graver injustices like murder and violence? Is God’s jealousy and anger about
idolatry a result of mere ego or pettiness from the creator? What we may not realize is that
almost all evil and injustice finds its source in idolatry. They are inextricably linked. Why? It’s
because we become like what we admire, what we worship.
As Psalm 115:3-8 reminds us, we become like what we worship and trust in. Worship of
anything besides the true God corrupts us and makes us lifeless because we elevate what is
material and temporary over the one who is just, compassion, transcendent, and powerful over all
things. If we value lifeless images of gold and silver (or anything else for that matter) over God,
we become dull to the needs of others and we forget the just commands of God that remind us to
love God and love neighbor. When we choose gods of our own design, we neglect and reject the
fact that there is a holy standard that should govern our lives. We are implicitly saying that we

are the determiners of our own lives; we decide what is right and wrong because we decide what
our personal god is rather than submitting to a standard outside of ourselves.
All of this is at the core of what goes wrong in Israel in the book of 2 Kings, which
recounts the long and tragic demise of God’s people by recording the consistent failures of the
rulers of Israel and Judah. King after king is listed in the historical record, and what the inspired
author emphasizes is not the great military victories or accomplishments. Rather, the focus of the
text is on the wickedness or righteousness of the king in question. The major criteria for each
king is first and foremost how they responded in relation to idolatry. Did they worship the false
gods of pagan nations or did they tear down idols and high places? That’s the key question for
each king, and only a handful get a passing grade (and even the good kings usually don’t go far
enough). 2 Kings 17 records the eventual fall and destruction of Israel, the natural consequence
of so many years of sin. The chapter sums up well how God’s own people could end up at such a
low point:

“ And they did wicked things, provoking the Lord to anger, and they served idols, of which
the Lord had said to them, “You shall not do this.” Yet the Lord warned Israel and Judah by
every prophet and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments
and my statutes, in accordance with all the Law that I commanded your fathers, and that I sent to
you by my servants the prophets.” But they would not listen, but were stubborn, as their fathers
had been, who did not believe in the Lord their God. They despised his statutes and his covenant
that he made with their fathers and the warnings that he gave them. They went after false
idols and became false, and they followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom
the Lord had commanded them that they should not do like them. And they abandoned all the

commandments of the Lord their God, and made for themselves metal images of two calves; and
they made an Asherah and worshiped all the host of heaven and served Baal. And they burned
their sons and their daughters as offerings and used divination and omens and sold themselves to
do evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger” (2 Kings 17:11-17).

In this lengthy text, horrible atrocities and crimes of Israel are mentioned. They begin to
even burn their own children in sacrifice to false gods. How did Israel come to do the
unthinkable? How did they become like the worst of the pagans? The text clearly shows the
natural progression. It starts with idolatry and disobedience to the commandments of the Lord.
And as verse 16 says, they “went after false idols and became false.” They became like what
they worshipped. They were unloving and violent and untrustworthy because they abandoned the
God of Israel, who is the only truly loving and just one. And the book of 2 Kings vividly displays
the tragic consequences. Violence begets violence and there are constant rebellions and coups
and betrayal and soon Israel is just as bad and unjust as any other nation. Idolatry only leads to
wickedness and trouble and pain.
Yet even as Israel and Judah sets their eyes on worthless idols, the faithful God is
revealing himself through his prophets and his mighty deeds. He even delivers his undeserving
people from their enemies when they call out to him. One example of this comes in 2 Kings 19
when Hezekiah, a rare righteous king of Judah, calls out to God as they face the mighty armies of
Sennacherib. Notice his prayer:

“O Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the
kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 16 Incline your ear, O Lord, and

hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to
mock the living God. 17 Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their
lands 18 and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods, but the work of men’s
hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. 19 So now, O Lord our God, save us,
please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God
alone.”

Hezekiah is one of the few who recognize that the Lord is the only true God. And we
later read that God does answer this prayer by destroying the vast enemy armies in one night,
showing himself to be the only God. Yet, the irony is that Hezekiah asks God to open his eyes to
what is happening when really it is God who has been seeing everything all along. It is the
people who are blind to how God has been working. What the people really need is to open their
eyes to who God is and what he has been doing. This is illustrated on a different occasion in 2
Kings 6. In this instance, Israel is surrounded by the enemy armies of Syria and the prophet
Elisha’s servant is greatly afraid. However, Elisha knows there is no need to fear:

“And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” He said, “Do not be afraid, for
those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said,
“O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man,
and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha”
(2 Kings 6:15-17).

If we had open eyes to see, we would know all that God is working for us and how powerful he
truly is. We could see that he alone can help us when our idols inevitably fail and frustrate. We
could God’s incredible ability to deliver. While we set our gaze on worthless things, God is
trying to shift our eyes and open them to his goodness and glory.
If there is evil and injustice that we are concerned about in the world, rest assured that
God cares about that injustice too. What God wants us to see, though, is that all that evil occurs
when we turn our eyes from him and his standard. Only by looking upon him and his plan can
the great problems of our world (and our own hearts) be solved. The consequences of our evil
idolatry are much great than we think, and the power of God to defeat that evil is much greater
than we realize. If we fix our eyes on Jesus, we will be able to see all that God has done and is
doing to confront evil in the world, and we will begin to realize that he is transforming us into a
kind of people who reflect the goodness and beauty and truth of God’s righteous character. Lord,
open our eyes to see!


Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with
unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from
one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:17-18).

Weekly Thought: Encouragement from Every Book 1 Kings: Uneven Faith

Faith can be an unsteady endeavor. For most of us, our faith and our faithfulness
unfortunately ebbs and flows. Spiritual triumphs are followed by defeat. Trust in the Lord goes
up and down. Sometimes, we feel a fire in our bones to be all that God wants us to be, but other
times the Lord feels totally distant. Despite how it might seem, this phenomenon is not evidence
of any inconsistency or absence on the part of God. Rather, it is a product of our faulty
perception of our circumstances.
Just as in the book of Judges, in 1 Kings we see over and over again this pattern of ups
and downs (although there are admittedly more moments of failure than of obedience). King
Solomon starts off with impressive humility and desire for wisdom in 1 Kings 3, yet even he
plummets into the snare of idolatry and evil by taking many foreign wives. On a larger scale,
God’s people cycle through periods of faithfulness and disobedience. As the kingdom of God
splits as a result of Solomon’s sin, we read of many kings from both the northern kingdom of
Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. Sometimes kings uphold righteousness, but when they
do, it is not long before the next generation succumbs to the pull of sinful ways once again.
Interestingly, almost every king that is mentioned is measured against the standard of David’s
faithfulness to God. Ironically, the writer of 1 Kings reminds us that even David was not quite so
consistent either. Speaking of King Abijam, he writes:

“And he walked in all the sins that his father did before him, and his heart was not wholly true to
the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father. Nevertheless, for David’s sake the Lord his
God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing
Jerusalem, because David did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn aside from

anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the
Hittite” (1 Kings 15:3-5).

So David was completely devoted to God, except for when he wasn’t. So it goes with the
human heart. The unevenness of human faithfulness is not only evident in generational shifts and
trends, but we know from our own experience that it can even occur on a personal level from day
to day. One example of this in 1 Kings comes in chapters 18 and 19 as we read about the great
prophet Elijah. In 1 Kings 18, Elijah proves to be a shining example of boldness, courage, and
faith as he alone stands up to the wicked King Ahab and the 450 evil prophets of Baal. He
challenges them to a test with total faith that the Lord will be shown to be the true God of Israel.
Whichever god sends fire down is the true and living God. After the prophets of Baal fail
spectacularly, Elijah builds an altar and calls for a great amount of water to poured around it and
then calls for fire from heaven. God undeniably shows up in fire and power, and the prophets of
Baal are defeated. One man’s faith in the great might of God led to a victory over the
surrounding enemies. Elijah’s faith displays itself further at the end of the chapter when he is
confident that God will end the three-year drought. Seven times Elijah sends a servant to check
for signs of a rainstorm.1 Kings 18:44 says this:

“And at the seventh time he said, “Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the
sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop
you.’”

Tuesday, January 19 th

Prayer focus topic—Decisions to follow Christ
Prayer points—We focus this day’s prayer on those who are considering making the decision to
follow Christ and put him on in baptism. We especially want to pray for the kids and teens who
are considering this important topic so that they will be granted wisdom and courage. Pray that
we as the Church body will encourage them and teach them faithfully as they consider these
decisions to follow Jesus.

Monday, January 18 th

Prayer focus topic—The Women of the Church
Prayer points—Thank God on this day for all of the faithful women in our Church. Pray that they
will continually be able to stay connected and fellowship with one another, especially during this
pandemic. Pray that the mature women will continually guide and teach the younger women as
they grow. Pray that all of us will honor and serve one another and seek ways to use our various
talents to build up the Church.

Sunday, January 17 th

Prayer focus topic—Active-duty Military
Prayer points—The focus of this day’s prayer is on those currently serving in our military. Pray
for their safety and success. Pray for their families and the difficulties they endure. Thank God
for these men and women and for the great sacrifices they make. Pray that God will continually
bless them and their families.

Saturday, January 16 th :

Prayer focus topic—Veterans
Prayer points—Let us pray on this day for the many Veterans in our nation. Let us thank God for
the faithful service they have given to our nation, and let us ask that God would continually bless
and protect this group.

Friday, January 15 th

Prayer focus topic—Shut-ins/Those in isolation
Prayer points—Today, we want to focus our prayers on those in our Church family who are in
isolation, who are unable to get out much during this time. Pray that they will continually
remember the love and presence of God. Pray that we will be intentional about reaching out and
encouraging them. Pray that they will stay safe and healthy during this time.

Thursday, January 14 th

Prayer focus topic—Families of the Church
Prayer points—On this day, let’s all pray for the various family units in the body. Pray that God
will keep these families strong and faithful. Ask that God would help each married couple to
love and serve one another as God would have them, so they can display Christ’s love for the
Church to the world. Pray for those who are parents to have the wisdom to know how to raise
children who will be strong and faithful in the Lord. Pray for strong spiritual leadership in the
home. Pray that children will be humble and obedient examples of faithfulness and trust to their
parent.

Wednesday, January 13 th

Prayer focus topic—The Disabled Community
Prayer points—Pray for those struggling with various disabilities. Pray that we will model love,
inclusion, and compassion as Jesus did as they may often feel marginalized or forgotten. Let us
ask God to give us wisdom and strength to reach out and encourage in a way that meets needs
and honors God.

Tuesday, January 12 th :

Prayer focus topic—Haitian brothers and sisters
Prayer points—Let us thank God for our Haitian brothers and sisters and for the precious unity
we have in Christ. Pray that soon they will be able to return to meeting with us in the building
when it is safe to do so. Pray for Delmond in the work he is doing, and ask for God’s strength
and help that they would be able to continually grow in faith and love.

Monday, January 11 th

Prayer focus topic—The Church on Martha’s Vineyard
Prayer points—Pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ on the Vineyard and for the leaders
there. Let us ask that God would guide and strengthen them so that they can grow and show the
love of Jesus in their community. Pray that we would see and seek more opportunities to
encourage and fellowship with them.

Sunday, January 10 th

Prayer focus topic—Greater knowledge of God
Prayer points—Pray that we all each will be able to see God in a greater way this year and
deepen our knowledge of him. Ask for God’s strength and help for us to be motivated to get into
his Word and to continually grow our relationship with him. Ask God that he will help us as we
attempt to make our worship services, Bible classes, and times of fellowship beneficial for the
purpose of encouraging one another to love God and to know him.

Saturday, January 9 th

Prayer focus topic—Church unity
Prayer points—Let us pray as Jesus did for the oneness of his people, so that the world may see
the love of the Father and Son and the unity of the Spirit in us. Pray for unity among our Church
family here at Cape Cod despite our differences and weaknesses. Pray for unity in the Church in
general, that we will be bound together by truth and our common love for Christ. Pray that our
unity will be an example and a light to nonbelievers.

Friday, January 8 th :

Prayer focus topic—Children of the Church
Prayer points—Let us pray specifically for the young children, the tweens, and the teens of the
Church family here. Pray that they grow up strong into Christian maturity. Ask God for help in
knowing how we can best be examples to them and lead them, but also to learn from them. Pray
that God will bless them and help us to teach them and serve them well so that use their whole
lives in the service of Christ. Pray for the Bible class teachers in our congregation who play such
a big role. Also keep in prayer efforts designed to help young people grow spiritually, like camp
at Gander Brook and yearly youth rallies.

Thursday, January 7 th :

Prayer focus topic—Evangelism/Church growth
Prayer point—Let’s pray for boldness for each Christian at the Cape Cod Church of Christ so
that each of us will seek to proclaim the gospel in our lives. Ask for help from God that he will
open opportunities for us in our families, at work, and in our daily lives to tell others the good
news about Jesus. Ask for strength and discernment to know the best ways to go about that task.
Ask God that he will send laborers into the harvest and that the Church here will grow for His
glory.

Wednesday, January 6 th

Prayer focus topic—Those suffering in the community/Our neighbors on the Cape
Prayer points—Let’s pray this day for those struggling with poverty, disease, grief, pain, or
suffering on Cape Cod. Pray that God will give us eyes to see needs around us and that we will
have courage and wisdom in meeting those needs. In a world that often views Christianity as
being judgmental and unwelcoming, help us to have the compassion and love that Jesus did.

Tuesday, January 5 th :

Prayer focus topic—Healthcare workers
Prayer points—Pray for those working in healthcare on the Cape, in our nation, and around the
world. Pray for their strength and wisdom during these stressful times. Thank God for their
service and work that they are doing. Give thanks and pray specifically for those in our own
congregation who work in these fields serving others in various roles.

Monday, January 4 th

Prayer focus topic—Celebrate Recovery
Prayer points—Pray for the ministry of Celebrate Recovery and all those involved. Ask that God
would use that to draw people to Christ and to serve the community. Pray for those involved that
they will be an encouragement to one another and that they can get help from that group. Pray
that more and more people will be able to come and look to God for help with their problems.

Thank God that this outreach has led several to Christ and pray that more and more will be
reached in the coming year.