Sunday – February 9, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 5:12-42 “The Great Escape”

Sunday – February 9, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – February 9, 2020

Acts 5:19-20
But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.”

The early church in the Book of Acts experienced the Lord’s power through the many miracles performed by the apostles, and through powerful witness and the resulting powerful conversions of the Jewish population of Jerusalem. Jesus had told the apostles that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them to be His witnesses and Peter testified to the Sanhedrin that it was the Holy Spirit in them that was the source of their power (5:32).

Many say that if the church would only repent of her sins and have faith in God, then we would again see miracles on a par with these recorded in the Book of Acts. But I believe such thinking not to be in line with biblical teaching. It was not every church member who was performing these miracles, but rather the apostles and a few other leading men in the church. The purpose for God granting these miracles was to confirm the gospel message and to authenticate these men as God’s messengers in these early days of the church.

While God obviously still does mighty miracles in our day if He so chooses, to argue that it is His will to do them as a common occurrence is to ignore the overall teaching of God’s Word. Many fail to note that while the apostles performed many great miracles, and the angel miraculously delivered them from prison, the angel did not spare them from being flogged. (There is a bit of humor here: since the Sadducees did not believe in angels, the Lord sent one to deliver the apostles!) God did not deliver James (12:2) or Paul from prison (Acts 24:27) or spare them and most of the other apostles from martyrdom. Paul did not heal Trophimus (2 Tim. 4:20) or tell Timothy to claim healing by faith for his frequent stomach problems (1 Tim. 5:23).

On the one hand, we should never limit God’s power by our unbelief or by our rationalistic theology. We should pray in faith, knowing that all things are possible with God. Yet on the other hand, we should submit to the fact that it is not always His will to deliver us from illness, persecution, or death. Above all, we should be people who are “strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light” (Col. 1:11-12). I would point out that you don’t need steadfastness and patience if God miraculously delivers you! We see God’s mighty power in our text, not only in the miracles of healing, but also in the disciples rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.

Sunday – February 2, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 4:32 to 5:11

Sunday – February 2, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – February 2, 2020

Acts 4:32-34
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.

I once heard of a group of untaught Christians who took our text so literally that they were seriously thinking of taking the life of one of their members who had committed a serious sin. While I appreciate their zeal to do what the Bible teaches, I think they have misapplied Luke’s account of Ananias and Sapphira. On the other extreme, there are many more who would like to simply set this passage aside. Actually, there are many who would like to set aside our text and its implications because it exposes a good deal of shoddy thinking and outright sin in the church. Let’s face it; none of us are really inclined to add this passage in Acts to our list of “happy texts” in the Bible.

Luke tells us that “great grace was on them all” (Acts 4:33). While “great power” seems to be restricted to the apostles, who performed many signs and wonders, “great grace” appears to be evident among all the saints. God was showering His grace upon the Jerusalem church, at least in part due to the unity of the believers, as evidenced by their caring for one another in their financial needs. For various reasons these were not easy times for those living in Jerusalem, the result being that many of the saints in Jerusalem were in financial straits. It is not merely generosity which prompts those with financial resources to give, however; it is a deep unity among the saints.

Barnabas is an excellent example of what Luke has just described. Verses 32-35 provided us with a general statement regarding the health of the church in Jerusalem. Verses 36 and 37 provide us with an excellent example of the attitude of the saints in the church toward the needy and toward their own material possessions. Barnabas had a piece of property which he sold, and then brought the proceeds to the apostles to distribute as they saw fit. This is the way it was supposed to be, the way Luke had just described it in more general terms.

Giving is a by-product and outgrowth of Christian unity. Our text begins with Luke’s description of the church at Jerusalem as being of “one heart and mind” (Acts 4:32). Sharing flows from unity, and it also enhances unity. The term “fellowship” is frequently used in reference to sharing financially with others. Our text helps us to understand why “fellowship” is often financial but always is partnership. Our union in Christ makes us all partners, so we should desire to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Sharing should not be limited to material possessions. We should also be liberal in giving our time, our energies, and our spiritual gifts to those whose needs we can meet.

Sunday – January 26, 2020 Book of Acts – 3:1-26 “A Lame Excuse For Preaching the Gospel”

Sunday – January 26, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – January 26, 2020

Acts 4:1-3
As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.

Most of us don’t know much firsthand about persecution for the sake of Christ. The threat of someone rejecting us or thinking that we’re weird is enough to make cowards of us when it comes to witnessing. We don’t know what the council said by way of threats, but if Peter and John continued to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus Christ, they would pay a severe price. But rather than saying, “Yes sir, we’ll be more restrained in the future,” they said, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (4:19).

There are two common misconceptions that we need to keep in mind regarding opposition or persecution for our faith. The first is that if we’re faithful to the Lord, He will protect us from persecution. I’ve heard many Christians say something like, “I don’t understand what’s happening. I was faithful to the Lord, but I’m being attacked by my co-workers or friends. Why isn’t the Lord protecting me?” The Old Testament prophets were bold and faithful witnesses, but many of them were persecuted and killed. John the Baptist, the twelve, the apostle Paul, and the Lord Jesus Himself all were faithful witnesses who suffered much because of their faithfulness to God. Paul promised, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).

The second misconception is that persecution comes mainly from those outside the church. We expect the world to oppose the name of Jesus, but for some reason, we are surprised when those who profess to be Christians that attack us. But it was the religious establishment that opposed the prophets. The religious leaders opposed and crucified our Lord. Here the religious rulers lead the opposition against the apostles. The Sadducees were mainly wealthy priests who wanted to protect the status quo in order to preserve their wealth and influence over Jewish affairs. The chief priest and the high priests were all Sadducees, along with the captain of the temple guard.

As then, so it has been down through church history. Opposition to those who preach the gospel and who uphold God’s Word often comes from the religious establishment, whose power and privileges are threatened. In countries where the Roman Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church are strong, they are the source of most opposition to the gospel. In our country, theological liberals, who deny the resurrection, are often our main opponents. But, Spirit-filled witnesses are bold to obey God rather than the religious establishment, even if it means persecution. If we want to be confident witnesses, we must daily be filled with God’s Spirit.

Sunday – January 5, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 2:1-40 “Peters Interpretation of Pentencost”

Sunday – January 5, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – January 5, 2020

Acts 2:37-38
Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The number one fear that people have is the fear of speaking in public. It ranks ahead of the fear of death! The fear of speaking in public would increase if a person knew that he would be speaking to a hostile audience. And, you have no time to prepare your message. The opportunity presents itself and you’re on—without any notes! This was the situation facing Peter on the Day of Pentecost. The sound of the rushing wind from heaven had drawn a large crowd, which then heard all the apostles speaking of the great deeds of God in the many different native languages of the crowd. This perplexed them as they asked, “What does this mean?” (2:12).

Peter will now take his stand, along with the rest of the apostles, and give them the explanation of Pentecost, its meaning, and its implications. Peter did not hesitate to tell his audience what Pentecost did mean. He quickly turned their attention to the prophecy of Joel. Peter was claiming what these Jews had witnessed was the outpouring of the Spirit. But there was much more to it than that. The question was not so much the source of this phenomenon, but the meaning of it. In the context of Joel’s prophecy, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was a sign which was to precede the coming “day of the Lord”. The “day of the Lord” was not only the day when the kingdom of God would be established on the earth and God’s promised blessings would be poured out on His people, Israel. It was to begin with judgment.

Peter did not know how soon these judgments would take place (since Joel does not indicate such). He was not claiming that they had been fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost; rather, he is saying that these things would precede “the great and glorious day of the Lord.” Since the prophecy had begun to be fulfilled, as evidenced by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, it is reasonable to assume that the rest will come to pass in due time. Peter’s point is that the outpouring of the Spirit predicted by Joel has happened. The Messianic age has begun.

There is a coming day of judgment for us, one way or the other. That day of judgment may come before our death or it may come after, but there is a day of judgment (Hebrews 9:27). To the threat of eternal judgment is God’s offer of salvation, to all who will “call upon the name of the Lord.” By admitting your sin, and by trusting in Jesus of Nazareth as God’s Messiah and your Savior, you will be forgiven, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and look forward to the coming kingdom of God and all of its blessings. Have you, in simple faith, done this? I pray that if you have not, you will, even now.

Sunday – December 29, 2019 Book of Acts – Acts 2:1-13 Pt 3 “The Holy Spirit at Pentecost”

Sunday – December 29, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – December 29, 2019

Acts 2:1-2
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.”

God purposed to send His Spirit to the church during the Feast of Pentecost because this Old Testament feast foreshadowed Pentecost. Paul calls attention to this relationship between Old Testament institutions and New Testament realities in Hebrews 10:1 “For the law possesses a shadow of the good things to come but not the reality itself, and is therefore completely unable, by the same sacrifices offered continually, year after year, to perfect those who come to worship.”

The Feast of Pentecost (or, more commonly in Old Testament terms, the “Feast of Weeks”) was to be celebrated 50 days after the offering of the first fruits. In this way, we can see that Pentecost followed Passover, but was actually 50 days after the offering of first fruits. It occurs in the third month of the Jewish calendar, which would be during the months of May or June on our calendar.

Like the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the offering of Israel’s first fruits followed shortly after the observance of the Passover meal. The presentation of the first fruits always occurred on the day after Sabbath, or Sunday. Sunday after Passover was also the day our Lord Jesus rose from the dead, the first fruits from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20). Fifty days later, Israel celebrated the Feast of Pentecost. This was the end of the barley season (the Old Covenant?) and the beginning of the wheat harvest (the New Covenant?). It was the time when God identified Himself with the church, the time when He endowed the saints with power so that they could carry out the Great Commission. It was the time when God came to indwell His saints in a way that was more intimate than any saint had ever experienced it. It was the time, thanks to the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, when God could now indwell those who were not yet free from sin and its corrupting influences. God dwells among and in His people, sinful though they will be, because of the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus.

What does Pentecost mean to us? The story of Pentecost in Acts 2 tells us how our Lord is now present with His church – through the Holy Spirit, whom He has sent. Pentecost assures us that God is present with His people, even though we are not yet sinless. We are forgiven sinners, who will one day be freed from the suffering and groaning that is the result of sin (Romans 8:18-25). But through the atoning work of Christ and the abiding of the Spirit, God is with us in a way that no Old Testament saint ever knew. He is with us, not only to teach, comfort, and guide us, but also to empower us to carry out the Great Commission. What news could be better than this?

Sunday – December 22, 2019 Christmas Message – Psalm 98 “Joy to the World”

Sunday – December 22, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – December 22, 2019

Psalm 98:7-9
“Let the sea roar and all it contains, the world and those who dwell in it.

Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy before the Lord, for He is coming to judge the earth; He will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with equity.”

Isaac Watts was arguably the most prolific hymn writer of his day. He is known for writing such timeless hymns as “Jesus Shall Reign”, “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” and “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” However, Watts is best known for writing the hymn “Joy to the World”—a song played worldwide during Christmas every year.  But did you know that “Joy to the World” was not written as a Christmas carol? In its original form, it had nothing to do with Christmas. It wasn’t even written to be a song.

In 1719, Watts published a book of poems in which each poem was based on a psalm. But rather than just translate the original Old Testament texts, he adjusted them to refer more explicitly to the work of Jesus as it had been revealed in the New Testament. A century later, in 1848, a Boston music teacher named Lowell Mason discovered the poem and set it to the tune we are familiar with today. Because it was released at Christmastime, it quickly became a holiday favorite and went on to become the most published Christmas carol in America.

While he is much appreciated today, during his lifetime Watts was considered by many to be a disturbance of the status quo and even possibly a heretic for the lyrics he wrote. While he wasn’t a heretic, he was a revolutionary. Watts grew up in a world where the music in every worship service consisted only of psalms or sections of Scripture put to music. Watts found the practice monotonous. To him, there was a lack of joy and emotion among the congregants as they sang. He once famously said, “To see the dull indifference, the negligent and thoughtless air that sits upon the faces of a whole assembly, while the psalm is upon their lips, might even tempt a charitable observer to suspect the fervency of their inward religion.”

So why do we sing this song at Christmas? It is clearly a song about Christ’s second coming—when the full expression of his glory will be revealed. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the Christmas story. Or does it? After all, there is no second coming without a first coming. This song is all about the fulfillment of what Christ came to do in the first place. Christmas is not only a time to look back at the grace accomplished in the past. Christmas is also a time to look forward to the grace that was accomplished for our future. When we sing these words we are proclaiming the ultimate joy to be revealed. This is why we can sing  “Joy to the World” at Christmas.

Sunday – December 15, 2019 Book of Acts – Acts 2:1-13 Pt 2 “The Holy Spirit in the Gospels”

Sunday – December 15, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – December 15, 2019

Leviticus 23:22
‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God.’

As we saw last week, the Holy Spirit was active before Pentecost. In the Old Testament, we saw the Holy Spirit of God striving against sin (Genesis 6:3), enduing men of faith with skill (Exodus 28:3; 31:2-5; 35:21-35), empowering them for service (Judges 3:10, 34; I Samuel 10:6), and causing some to speak God’s message as prophets (Numbers 24:2; II Samuel 23:2; II Chronicles 20:14). But none of the old testament saints knew Him as the disciples came to know Him at Pentecost. The Pentecostal Person is no less God than is God the Father, and in the Old Testament was even more active than God the Son.

Pentecost was a divinely planned event; not an afterthought with God. The coming of the Holy Spirit was as much a part of the redemptive plan as was the incarnation, death, resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Pentecost was in the Old Testament in type and in prophecy. Pentecost was a solemn festival of the Jews. There was a series of seven of those annual feasts which, like the whole of Israel’s divinely appointed ritual, were “a shadow of good things to come” (Hebrews 10:1).

These feasts are set forth in order in Leviticus 23.  The first of the feasts was the Passover (v. 4- 5). This was the feast of redemption, reflecting upon Israel’s deliverance from her bondage in Egypt. The next was the Feast of Unleavened Bread (v. 6-8). It was closely associated with the Passover and lasted seven days. The third was the feast of Firstfruits (v. 9-14). There was no set date for this event since it came, of necessity, when the grain was ripe and ready for harvest. The fourth of the solemn feasts is called the feast of Weeks, or Pentecost (v. 15-21). The joyous season of the grain harvest lasted seven weeks, and on the day of the seventh sabbath, “fifty days” to be exact, the feast of Pentecost was celebrated. Now we begin to see more clearly the deeper significance of Israel’s solemn feasts. The Greek word for “Pentecost” means fiftieth, and it was celebrated the fiftieth day from the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. It was “the day of Pentecost” (Acts 2:1) when Jew and Gentile were made fellow heirs and of the same body by the Holy Spirit.

There is no record in the Bible of Israel observing the feast of Weeks until we read of Pentecost in Acts 2. The grace of God in Jesus Christ was to reach out beyond the limits of Israel, and Pentecost marked the beginning of the fulfillment of the divine plan, the Gospel into all the world. We should bow in humble gratitude and praise to God when we realize that the birthday of the Church was in preparation through every stage of human history.

Sunday – December 1, 2019 Book of Acts – Acts 2:1-13 Pt 1 “The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament”

Sunday – December 1, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – December 1, 2019

Acts 2:2-3
Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.

When the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles and the other believers on the Day of Pentecost, those who heard them speaking in tongues were perplexed and asked, “What does this mean?” (2:12). The question persists in our day. Many claim that the meaning of Pentecost is that we should have the same experience as the disciples, namely, to speak in tongues. You have probably had other Christians ask you, as I have, “Have you spoken in tongues?” If you have not, they are eager to help you have this experience for yourself. We all need to answer biblically, in light of the context: What is the meaning of Pentecost?

Acts 2 must be interpreted in light of Acts 1:4-8, where the risen Lord Jesus instructed the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit. Jesus explained that they would “be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (1:5) and they would receive power to be Christ’s “witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (1:8). Just as the ministry of Jesus depended on the Holy Spirit descending on Him at His baptism, so the ministry of the disciples depended on them receiving the Holy Spirit and relying on His power. While they had experienced a measure of the Spirit’s power before (John 20:22), now He would come to dwell in them permanently.

We need to be careful to distinguish several terms that are often confused. In Acts 1:5, Jesus said that the apostles would be baptized by the Holy Spirit, which occurred on the Day of Pentecost. Baptism refers to being totally identified with the Spirit and to the initial reception of the Spirit. Paul tells the Corinthians, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13). If the baptism of the Spirit were a special experience for the spiritually elite, Paul would not have said such a thing to the Corinthians. Nowhere does the Bible command believers to be baptized with the Holy Spirit, since it is not an experience we are to seek, but God’s action performed on the believer at the moment of salvation.

God’s purpose at Pentecost was to equip His church with the mighty power of the Holy Spirit so that we would be His witnesses to all the nations, resulting in His eternal glory. We need to ask ourselves is my daily desire to bear witness of Christ to those who are lost and perishing? The power of the Spirit isn’t given just to make me happy. It is given to make me holy so that my life and my words bring glory to God as I bear witness to His saving grace. That should be the meaning of Pentecost for you and me.

Sunday – November 24, 2019 Book of Acts – Acts 1:3-26 “Getting Ahead of God”

Sunday – November 24, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – November 24, 2019

Acts 1:23-26
So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.”

As I approach the study of the first chapter of Acts, one question overshadows all others, and it is this: Just whose name would be on the foundation in place of Judas? Who was the twelfth apostle? In the twenty-first chapter of the Book of Revelation we read these words: The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (Revelation 21:14). Is the name “Matthias” the name which we will find on the twelfth foundation stone? Some would say, “Yes”; others, an emphatic “No!”

Only one chapter is devoted to pre-Pentecost matters, this tells us something. Of all that could have been said that fits into this category, Luke chose to take up the greatest part of the chapter with an account of the selection of the twelfth apostle. The mystery is that as important as this incident seems to be, Matthias is never specifically mentioned again. The rest of the Book of Acts, and the Epistles as well, virtually ignore Matthias. Why then is the selection of Matthias given such editorial priority? While we are preoccupied with this question, Luke does not seem to have been so troubled by the issue, never choosing to pronounce on the “rightness” or “wrongness” of this action.

The feeling that we must pronounce on the “rightness” or “wrongness” of this selection of Matthias reveals a serious fallacy in our thinking. What real difference does it make whether the apostles were “right” or “wrong”? We seem to think it makes a great deal of difference. But does it? Do we believe the plans and purposes of God collapse when men fail to do the “right” thing? Do we really believe God’s purposes are achieved only when we do the “right” thing? If the Book of Acts underscores any truth, it is that of the sovereignty of God, who works all things in accordance with His will, whether or not men believe or obey. Much of what the Spirit of God accomplished in the Book of Acts was in spite of men.

God can just as easily use the “wrath of man” to accomplish His will as He can the obedience of man. The Gentiles will hear the gospel, and many will come to faith on account of the Jews. Not because of their faith and obedience, mind you, but ultimately because of their stubborn unbelief. As Paul will clearly teach in Romans 9-11, and as Luke will clearly demonstrate in the Book of Acts, it was the rejection of Messiah by Israel that made the preaching of Christ to the Gentiles possible. God was not obliged to use Matthias just because the one-hundred and twenty “rightly” chose him, any more than He would have been prevented from using him if they had “wrongly” selected him. The selection of Matthias is a key to the message of the entire work, the message that God was sovereignly at work, through His Spirit, to accomplish His will in ways in which men would never have conceived and which they would not believe even if they were told.

Sunday – November 17, 2019 New Series – Book of Acts – “Introduction to the Book of Acts”

Sunday – November 17, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – November 17, 2019

Psalm 71:14-16
But as for me, I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more. My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness and of Your salvation all day long; for I do not know the sum of them. I will come with the mighty deeds of the Lord God; I will make mention of Your righteousness, Yours alone.

If you are like me (and I suspect that most of you are), you’ve got a lot of room to grow in the daily practice of praising the Lord. A great way to grow in the praise of God is to read and meditate on the Psalms every day. In Psalm71, the psalmist acknowledged, “my praise is continually of You.” You would think that continual praise of the Lord would be adequate. But he goes on to say in verse 14 “But as for me, I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more.” If the psalmist needed to resolve to praise the Lord yet more and more, how much more do we!

Maybe you’re thinking, “But I don’t have a bubbly personality. I’m not the type who goes around saying, ‘Praise the Lord’ all the time.” But praising the Lord doesn’t mean repeating, “Praise the Lord,” over and over. Rather, praising the Lord is to exult and rejoice in who God is and what He has done, especially, in what He has done to redeem you and draw you near to Him through the cross of Jesus Christ.

Genuine praise contains both a rational and an emotional element. With our minds, we must understand who God is, as revealed in His Word. Otherwise, we are not worshiping the true God, or at least, God as He is truly revealed. But, also, when you understand who God is and what He has done in sending His only begotten Son to die for your sins, it affects your heart. It fills you with joy and thankfulness. It humbles you to realize that your sin put Him there. It motivates you to follow Christ and please Him with all your heart. If you can think about what Jesus did on the cross and shrug it off, you’re not a Christian!

My prayer is that we understand this Thanksgiving more than we ever have that praising God is not optional. It’s not something nice to do whenever you feel like it, but it doesn’t really matter. Rather, praising God is our highest calling. If you are not continually filled with praise to God, then you are not yet fulfilling the purpose for which He created you and saved you. Today, let us join the psalmist in resolving, “But as for me, I will … praise You yet more and more.” (Psalm 71:14)