Sunday February 6, 2022 Romans Week 40 Romans 8:26-27 “Praying in the Spirit”

Sunday – February 6, 2022

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Word On Worship – Sunday – February 6, 2022

Romans 8:26-27
“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

Paul wants to encourage us, especially when we feel our own weakness, because the Holy Spirit is praying for us. Even though we do not know how to pray as we should, we should be encouraged to keep praying because “the Spirit also helps our weakness.”  We tend to look at the spiritual giants in the Bible and think, “Wow, they were strong!” Look at Elijah! What a guy! He called down fire on his sacrifice and then slaughtered 400 prophets of Baal. Yet James (5:17) tells us, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed….” Elijah was weak, just like we are. But he prayed to the God who is strong.

Or, consider Moses. He stood up to the most powerful monarch in the world by calling down miraculous plagues on him and his kingdom. He parted the Red Sea so that the Israelites could pass through on dry ground. He seemed to be a rock of spiritual strength! And yet in the mournful Psalm 90, Moses laments the frailty and shortness of life. The psalm ends with his plea (Ps. 90:17), “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; and confirm for us the work of our hands; yes, confirm the work of our hands.” If Moses needed to beg God to confirm his labors, how much more do we? Moses was aware of his own weakness, which is why he prayed.

Our weakness lies in our complete inability to verbalize our groanings—or to know what to ask in prayer. Our groanings are beyond the ability of words to communicate—any words. If the gift of tongues is the ability to speak in some language, then even speaking in tongues could not convey our groanings. The Spirit intercedes for us, communicating our groanings to God. He conveys to God what we cannot put into words, and He also intercedes with requests which are consistent with the will of God. When we cannot speak, the Spirit speaks for us, to God. The Holy Spirit is the communicative link between our own heart and the heart of God. He ministers to us in our present weakness.

Has suffering and groaning found its way into your life? Are there deep inner agonies you cannot even verbalize? Our experience is not unique, but that of all creation. It is that which should be happening to every Christian at various times and with various levels of intensity. We should not feel guilt-ridden or unspiritual over our groanings. If you have come to recognize your own fallenness and that of the world in which you live, you have come to see life as it really is. You are sharing in that same kind of suffering and groaning which our Lord experienced as the Son of God.

Sunday – January 23, 2022 Romans Week 38 Romans 8:14-17 “Assurance in the Spirit”

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Word On Worship – Sunday – January 23, 2022

Romans 8:14
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”

The exhortation of Romans 8 is that the Christian is living out our lives in the Spirit to be far from passive. We are not to be striving to be righteous in the strength of our flesh, but we are to be putting to death the deeds of the flesh through the Spirit. There is no peaceful co-existence with the flesh; we must choose sides. We will either walk according to the Spirit or according to the flesh. If we walk in the Spirit, we will wage war against the deeds of the flesh. This is a struggle every Christian must take seriously.

The Christian’s walk according to the Spirit is a walk of obedience, based upon our obligation to God, according to His goodness and grace to us. There are no harsh words, no dictatorial commands. Paul is not a sergeant here addressing new recruits but a brother reminding us of the goodness of our Father. God’s Spirit is a gift from the Father to every Christian. He reminds us that we are sons. He leads us and empowers us so that we may act like sons to the glory of the Father.

The challenge in our walk is usually not in what we do, but how and why we do it that makes something of the Spirit or the flesh.  We falsely assume certain activities (like prayer, worship, and Bible study) are spiritual, but others (like washing dishes, changing diapers or the oil in the car) are not. Whether we work at preaching or teaching in secular schools, the issue is whether we are doing it by means of God’s Spirit or by means of the flesh. Some of the activities which appear most spiritual are those which can be, and often are, done in the flesh. For example, James warns us prayer can be accomplished in the flesh, or in the Spirit: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). Even Paul experienced that preaching the gospel can be done in the flesh or in the Spirit: “Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will” (Philippians 1:15).

The great danger faced by the church today is not that of “secular humanism” but that of “religious humanism”—seeking to serve God and to please Him in the power of our own flesh, rather than “according to His Spirit.” The greater danger is that of appearing to be spiritual and religious in the power of the flesh. Take note of the strong distinction which the Scriptures make between that which is of the flesh and that which is of the Spirit. May God grant us the ability to distinguish the two and to choose to walk according to the Spirit putting to death the deeds of the flesh.

Sunday – January 9, 2022 Romans Week 36 Romans 8:5-8 “Siding with the Spirit”

Sunday – January 9, 2022

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Word On Worship – Sunday – January 9, 2022

Romans 8:5
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”

There is a popular but mistaken view that there are two optional tracks for the Christian life. If you’re prone toward hard work, you can sign up for the discipleship track. Under this plan, you give up everything to follow Christ. You have to deny yourself and take up your cross daily and endure hardship and sacrifice. The other track, the “cultural Christian track,” is for the rest of us more “ordinary” believers. Under this plan, you can accept Jesus as your Savior (to make sure that you’ll go to heaven), but also pursue your dreams for success and personal fulfillment in this life. You get the best of both worlds without needing to be gung-ho, like those on the discipleship track.

The idea that discipleship is optional or a spiritual perk for those who have the inclination is a myth. Jesus’ mandate to make disciples goes beyond informing the mind; it aims to shape the character.  It encompasses tutoring the heart to forge godly character as well as training disciples in practical ministry skills.  New Testament discipleship targets the head, the heart, and the hands.

The process of sanctification (what God does) is inseparably related to discipleship (what we do).  Sanctification is only possible when this process is initiated and infused with the Holy Spirit who comes to live in the heart of a believer.  Christianity is not hard; it’s impossible.  You can’t live a Christian life apart from the Spirit of Christ. Discipleship is not a matter of turning over a new leaf, but rather, receiving a new life. God, by His Holy Spirit, comes to live in the heart of the believer.  He creates new affections (new loves, new desires) that inform the mind and empower the will. Paul captures this idea when he says: “…continue to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.”  (Phil 2:12)

Note your work and God’s work.  You (the believer) are to work out your salvation.  Not to work for your salvation but to work out what God has already worked in as a free gift.  I understand what a “workout” is and does.  A physical workout takes time, energy and effort and over time will reshape the body.  Likewise, spiritual practices take time, energy and effort, but over time will reshape the soul. This happens as God does His work in this – “to give you the desire and power to do what pleases Him.” Embrace the Good News.  Jesus came into this world to die for our sin and to be resurrected to new life, so you can encounter Him and let Him empower you to live the life He calls you to.  Then prompted and empowered by the Holy Spirit, commit yourself to the things Jesus calls you to do.

Sunday – January 2, 2022 Romans Week 35 Romans 8:1-4 “Dealing with Guilt and Sin”

Sunday – January 2, 2022

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Word On Worship – Sunday – January 2, 2022

Romans 8:1-2
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

We come to a chapter that has often been called either the greatest or one of the greatest chapters in the Bible. Many have pointed out that it begins with “no condemnation”, ends with “no separation” and in between there is “no defeat”. Personally, I’ve come to Romans 8 again and again when I’ve been discouraged or depressed. If you struggle with guilt or with sin, if you’re going through trials, read Romans 8. If you’re struggling with assurance of your salvation, Romans 8 has the answer. Interestingly, while Romans 8 exhorts me forward in my faith, there is not a single command in the chapter. Philipp Spener truly said that if the Bible were a ring and Romans its precious stone, chapter 8 would be “the sparkling point of the jewel”.

There is a noticeable shift from Romans 7 to Romans 8. In chapter 7, “I” is frequent, the law is prominent, and sin is dominant. In chapter 8, the Holy Spirit is frequent (more than any other NT chapter), God’s grace and persevering love are prominent, and victory over sin is dominant. Right out of the gate, Paul deals with two very practical issues: guilt and sin. As we saw in chapter 7, believers fight an inner war. That is why Paul’s teaching in Romans 8:1-4 is fundamental to the Christian life.

The Christian need not be overcome by guilt or by fear, due to his sins. The cross of Jesus Christ is the solution from sin and its condemnation, for all who are justified by faith. The death which Christ died was for all of the sins of the one who receives His work, by faith. The righteousness which the Law requires and which we find impossible to achieve, God achieves in and through the Christian, through the prompting of and power of the Holy Spirit. In Christ and through the Holy Spirit, God has delivered us from the penalty and the power of sin.

There is no condemnation! What a wonderful truth to the ears of every believer. While our Lord’s death at Calvary delivered us from condemnation, it also delivered sin to condemnation. In Christ, God condemned sin. God condemned sin in the flesh. The flesh was the “handle” sin found to lay hold of us and to bring us under condemnation. When God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, He came in the flesh. He came in the likeness of sinful flesh. And when He suffered the wrath of God and the penalty of death in the flesh, sin was condemned in the flesh. In that very realm of the flesh, in which it seemed sin could not be defeated, God overpowered sin, condemning it in the flesh. Because of Jesus Christ, we are not condemned. Because of Him, sin is condemned, and in the flesh. For the Christian, the shackles of sin are surely broken.

Sunday – December 19, 2021 Romans Week 34 Romans 8 Overview “From Agony to Ecstasy”

Sunday – December 19, 2021

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Word On Worship – Sunday – December 19, 2021

Romans 8:3-4
For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

There is an expression that goes something like this: only two things in this life are certain, death and taxes. Now this may be true for the unbeliever, but for the true believer in Jesus Christ we must add at least one more thing—sanctification. That is the force of Romans 8. All of the struggles, all of the turmoil, all of the agony, is a part of God’s plan to conform us to Himself.

We gain a clue to the importance of this chapter simply by contrasting the conclusion of chapter 7 with that of chapter 8. Chapter 7 ends in agony, with the apostle describing the constant struggle going on within as he attempts to live a life which is pleasing to God in the power of the flesh. Those who can identify with the agony of Paul in Romans 7 will rejoice with him in the ecstasy of Romans 8. Do you desire to serve God and to obey His commands and yet find it impossible to do so? If not, then you should go back to the beginning of Romans and start reading again. If you have come to that point of despair of which Paul speaks, then you have come to the point of dependence upon God.

Paul’s approach to the spiritual life is so different from that of many today. Paul does not seek to motivate Christians by questioning their salvation or by suggesting that, by sin, they can lose it. He does not suggest that unspiritual living is the result of failing to possess the Spirit but bases his teaching on the certainty that every Christian is indwelt by the Spirit. And he does not appeal to guilt or fear but to grace and assurance. Paul assumes that his readers are genuine Christians. If they have been justified by faith, then they have the Spirit dwelling within. Christians, according to Paul, do not need to receive the Spirit, but to respond to the Spirit, in faith and obedience for assurance, guidance, empowerment, and a host of other ministries.

The Christian’s walk according to the Spirit is a walk of obedience, based upon our obligation to God, based upon His goodness and grace to us. There are no harsh words, no dictatorial commands. Paul is not a sergeant here addressing new recruits but a brother reminding us of the goodness of our Father. God’s Spirit is a gift from the Father to every Christian. He reminds us that we are sons. He leads us and empowers us so that we may act like sons to the glory of the Father.

Sunday – December 12, 2021 Romans Week 33 Romans 7:14-25 Pt 2 “This is War”

Sunday – December 12, 2021

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Word On Worship – Sunday – December 12, 2021

Romans 7:24-25
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

I tend to think of Paul as the man with all the answers. If anyone can understand sin and my struggle with it, it would be Paul. But in our text Paul is the one struggling, and he does not offer a quick or easy explanation. This is because sin cannot be understood. Sin is irrational. We try to rationalize our sinful actions to make it appear that we have reasons, good reasons, for our sin but there is no good reason for sin. Sin is an irrational act which has no easy, rational explanation.

We have little difficulty believing we struggle with sin or that others like Peter struggled, but Paul somehow seems above it all.  Yet Paul’s struggle is a deeply personal struggle, with sin and with his own flesh. It is a war within, the result from his conversion to Christ, that did not exist until he was saved. However, Paul’s despair was legitimate and even necessary. Until we hate sin, we will not turn from it. Until we reach the end of ourselves, we will not look to God. Just as unsaved person must come to the end of themselves in order to receive God’s gracious provision of righteousness, by faith in Christ, Christians too must come to the end of themselves to find the solution, once again, at the cross of Calvary.

If coming to the end of ourselves is essential to turning to God for our deliverance, then many Christians will never turn to God for victory over sin because they do not recognize their true condition or take it seriously enough. It was the self-righteous Pharisees who did not come to Jesus for forgiveness simply because they did not think they needed it. It is the “smooth-sailing saints” who do not come to the cross for deliverance from the power of sin in their lives because they do not agonize over their condition as Paul did.

How great is our struggle? My concern is that I lack the kind of agony that Paul has. If our struggle is as great as Paul’s, we will in desperation give up all self-help efforts and turn to the cross. God has provided a righteousness through the power of the Spirit. The answer is to come in Romans 8- the very Spirit that raised the dead body of Jesus Christ from the grave is the Spirit that dwells in you and will give life to your mortal bodies. The solution for Christians is the walk of the Spirit, but we will never get to that point until we have come to the desperation of Paul in Romans 7. My prayer is that we begin to grasp the immensity of the struggle with sin and forsake all efforts to serve God in the strength of our flesh.

Sunday – August 15, 2021 Romans Week 17 Romans 4:9-15

Sunday – August 15, 2021

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Word On Worship – Sunday – August 15, 2021

Romans 4:13
It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.

Many Christians today are divided with regard to assurance of salvation. The Roman Catholic Church declared, “No one can know with a certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God”. Among Protestants, those from the Armenian wing (Wesleyan, Holiness churches, the Nazarene Church, Pentecostal churches, etc.) argue that true believers through sin can lose their salvation and fall from grace. Although, some Armenians, inconsistent with their own view of saving grace, do hold believers are eternally secure. Those who hold the Reformed view believe that those whom Christ has genuinely saved, He will keep unto eternity.

Let me give you a brief overview of my understanding of the basis for assurance of salvation. There are three aspects to it: First and foremost, have you trusted in Jesus Christ alone and His death in your place to forgive all your sins and clothe you with His righteousness? If you answer “yes,” then there is a secondary basis for assurance: What evidence of the new birth do you see in your life? While we never will be perfectly sanctified in this life, there should be some definite signs of the new birth: a growing love for God, a desire to know Him through His Word, a desire to please Him by keeping His commandments, a growing love for others, a growing hatred of sin, etc. The “tests” of First John fit into this category, along with the character qualities of 2 Peter 1:5-11.

Third, there is the witness of the Spirit, who “testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:16). While this aspect of assurance is partly subjective and therefore subject to error, I understand it to be based on the objective promises of God. This inner witness of the Spirit is when He takes the promises of salvation in the Bible and testifies to your spirit, “Yes, these are true and by God’s grace I rest on them!” Or, the Holy Spirit assures you by reminding you of how He has worked the signs of new life in you.

Paul states it as a given that those who have received this reconciliation now exult in God. But do we? Have you spent any time this past week exulting in God because of all that He has freely given to you through the Lord Jesus Christ? I encourage you to make time each day to open God’s Word and pray, “Lord, show me today some of the unfathomable riches of Christ so that I may exult in You. Thank You that I have been justified by Christ’s blood! Thank You that while I was Your enemy, You reconciled me to You through the death of Your Son!” The fact that you are saved for sure—justified by Christ’s blood, saved from God’s wrath, reconciled to God although you once were His enemy—ought to cause your heart to exult in God.

Sunday – July 19, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 16:1-10 “The Sovereign Spirit”

Sunday – July 19, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – July 19, 2020

A Parable:

The week began and progressed as normal for the majority of Christendom. Oh, it was quite a different week, but only a few Christians would notice—far too few. One pastor reviewed the sermon that he had prepared. He would begin his message with a funny story, include a few Bible verses, the quote from Time magazine, and a story about a dramatic conversion. And, of course, he would conclude with an emotional appeal. “Yes,” he thought, “this one has been planned perfectly.” As he reread the sermon for the last time, it was obvious that he didn’t notice the difference.

The week continued on flawlessly. The church raised enough pledges for the down payment on the new sanctuary. The Wednesday evening prayer meeting also went on as usual, the few who came prayed that God would bless all of the missionaries. But no one noticed the difference. A few church members even got to witness at work that week. They pulled out their pocket Bibles and read to co-workers. Although no one seem very interested, they plowed through the entire presentation and encouraged them to pray the prayer at the end to invite Christ into their heart. But they didn’t notice. In fact, few Christians would have noticed, even in an entire year.

But there were a few Christians that had a most frustrating week. One pastor sat and stared at his Bible, but couldn’t get anything out of it. He knew the Bible and he knew how to prepare biblical sermons. But the Bible had become a dead book to him. He was frustrated and perplexed. But he noticed the difference! Some other believers also noticed. One man kept succumbing to lusting and couldn’t get the victory, no matter how hard he tried. A small group that normally was overflowing with joy in the Lord and love for one another found themselves depressed and bickering. Several other Christians found themselves doubting their salvation, and even wondering if God existed. These believers were defeated, frustrated, and confused. But, they definitely noticed the difference!

What was there to notice as different about this week? God decided to see which Christians were living in dependence on His Holy Spirit, and which ones were just depending on their own intellect and human plans to live the Christian life. So, He withdrew His Holy Spirit from the earth for the week! Think about it—would you notice the difference?

It is easy to fall into routine Christianity, where we function in the flesh instead of walk in vital dependence upon God’s Spirit. One of the main lessons of the Book of Acts is the expansion of the early church was due to the working of the Holy Spirit. He was directing, moving, and empowering the apostles as they responded to His leading. If we want to see God working today in a similar fashion, we need to fight routine Christianity and rather, seek daily to submit to and follow the sovereign Spirit.

Sunday – May 17, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 11:20-33 “One Step Back to Move Forward” Pt 2

Sunday – May 17, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – May 17, 2020

Acts 11:22-24
News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

Most people in the world would say, “The way to get into heaven is to be a good person.” Again, the definition of “good” in the minds of those who say this is so vague and broad that almost everyone qualifies. If you’ve ever done a good deed for someone, even if it was to earn your Boy Scout badge, you’re in! But the Bible teaches that no amount of human goodness can qualify a person for heaven, because God is absolutely good and He cannot and will not allow even a single sin into His perfect heaven. Thus the apostle Paul builds his argument that “there is none who does good, there is not even one” (Rom. 3:12), because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

In light of this, when the Bible calls a man “a good man,” we should sit up and take notice. Although it is speaking relatively, not perfectly, here is a man whose life we should study and learn from. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Luke says that Barnabas “was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Acts 11:24). The description starts on the surface and works inward. He was a good man—how so? He was full of the Holy Spirit. How so? By being a man of faith. By studying Barnabas’ life, we will look at what a good person is, namely, a person who loves God and others (the two great commandments).

When we first meet Barnabas, he is selling his property to lay the proceeds at the apostles’ feet to meet the needs of the early church in Jerusalem (4:36-37). Years later, the apostle Paul referred to Barnabas as one, like him, who labored with his own hands to support himself in the ministry of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:6). Barnabas’ generosity toward those in need took precedence over his thinking about his own future. Later, when the famine threatened not only Judea, but also Antioch, the church in Antioch gave to help the needy saints in Judea. Although the text does not say, I’m sure that Barnabas contributed to that gift, and he gave his time to deliver it to Jerusalem. The church could trust him with the money, because he was a generous man, free from greed and obedient to God.

Having considered Barnabas, can it be said of you, as it is said of Barnabas, that you are a good man or woman, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith? Is your love for God vital and growing? Is your love for people becoming more tender and compassionate? Do you seek to help others grow in their faith? Do you ask God to use you to reach the lost for Christ? Are you aware daily of your need to depend on the Holy Spirit to produce His fruit of goodness in your life? When you do stumble, do you turn from it and go on with the Lord? That is how you can become a truly good person before God.

Sunday – March 22, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 8:25-40 “The Ethiopian Eunuch”

Sunday – March 22, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – March 22, 2020

Acts 8:29-31
Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” 30 Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?”

I have heard it said that Philip was called to leave a thriving and successful ministry in Samaria to go out to this desert road leading from Jerusalem to Gaza. I’m not so sure that this is the case. In verse 25, we read that the Apostles Peter and John have finished their ministry in Samaria and have headed back to Jerusalem, preaching Jesus as they went. It looks as though the task in Samaria was finished, so that Philip could leave to minister elsewhere. The disciples left, heading back to Jerusalem, while Philip was directed to go the opposite way on this road, toward Gaza.

Now we are led to the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch at the end of chapter 8. Here the spectacular is largely missing. Granted, God’s Spirit directs Philip to the desert road where he meets the eunuch, and He then instructs Philip to make contact with this man. But none of this supernatural guidance is known to the eunuch. From his vantage point, nothing spectacular has occurred prior to his faith in Jesus so spectacular events had no bearing on his conversion – unlike Simon the magician, whose conversion seems to have been heavily influenced by signs and wonders. Only after the eunuch was saved and baptized did he observe something spectacular – Philip’s amazing exit.

Since signs and wonders were not the explanation for the conversion of the eunuch, to what do we attribute his conversion? I think the answer is: the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and the testimony of this man of God. The eunuch’s heart was already prepared when Philip encountered him. He must have had a fair knowledge of the Jewish faith, enough to prompt him to travel a long distance to worship in Jerusalem. He must have paid a high price for his copy of Scripture. The Spirit of God not only prompted Philip to make the journey to meet the eunuch, He also opened the heart of the eunuch to receive Stephen’s exposition of the Word.

Yes, God can use a Simon and an unbelieving Saul, but how much better to be used like Philip, who obediently followed the leading of the Holy Spirit, and willingly bore testimony to the Lord Jesus. He knew the Scriptures so well he could take up from the very text the eunuch was reading, and beginning there, proclaim the Lord Jesus. May we be that kind of instrument in God’s hands, to the salvation of the lost and to the glory of God.