Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt
I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Revelation 3:8, NIV
Dear Father in heaven, we thank you that you know us all and that you look deep into our hearts, watching over us in everything we go through, whether easy or difficult. We thank you that we do not stand alone but that you hear the smallest sigh of each of your children. We thank you that darkness must give way to light, distress to joy, and fear to strength and courage. For you lead us through everything; it is what you bring about from your future world, not anything within our sight, that gives us strength and courage and that endures through everything. We thank you from our hearts for your unending gifts, and we are amazed that it was possible for us to receive all this from you. Protect us and keep us childlike, so that we remain in the fellowship that the Lord Jesus has given us, singing praise to him and to the glory and honor of your name. Amen.
Discipleship is not a question of our own doing; it is a matter of making room for God so that he can live in us. —J. Heinrich Arnold
When folks ask us what it’s like to live without many of the conveniences of modern technology, our best answer is that it has localized our lives. Without email and Facebook, we must nurture most of our relationships in person. This has meant that, while we have lost contact with hundreds of former friends, we know nearly every person on our block. Without access to blogs and news websites, we are out of touch with the latest presidential tweet, but we do know when a neighbor runs out of medication. Without air travel, conferences and edgy gatherings of “radicals” are mostly out of the question, but we can attest to the great joy that a neighborhood bonfire brings. Though scaling down our world from across the country to across the street has been challenging, it has helped us root ourselves more deeply in this place.
Some of you are protesting that you, too, are aware when your neighbor’s medication runs out. Even now, you are ordering a refill for her online. Loving our local neighbors does not require such extreme Luddite discipline. I hear you, and, on a good day, I even agree with you. Modern technology is not unraveling our ability to love our neighbors, but it is changing the places that make it possible to even have such a thing as neighbors.
Heading to Ford Heights without a car, cell phone, or computer worried us. We were concerned that our newly wireless life would isolate us rather than unite us with our neighbors. We were already odd enough as privileged outsiders led by visions of community, reconciliation, and kinship. Why add more “weird” to the package?
Our fears were quickly allayed. Neighbors questioned our lack of a television, but our other great technological sacrifices went unnoticed. We do not stand out. In Ford Heights, cars, tablet computers, and internet access are still luxuries. About a third of the people in our town don’t own a car, and those who do must often share it with households of, say, seven. Computers can be spotted in less than half of our neighbors’ homes, and internet access isn’t a given. Smartphones are growing more common but are not pillars of daily life. I have yet to see an Apple Watch. The results of choices that made us seem radical to those outside Ford Heights are simply part of ordinary life for those in the neighborhood.
We are one lively, semidysfunctional family…and I
What stands out to us about Ford Heights, however, is how well everyone knows one another. In the neighborhood, there is no such thing as a stranger. You are family, friend, or enemy – but never unknown. Walk down any street in the summer, and you’re likely to find young mothers gossiping on front stoops, image-conscious teens flaunting their new shoes, and hordes of kids romping around. This sort of intimacy has its downsides (“Everybody be up in each other’s business,” as locals say), but mostly it is a gift.
Those who live in communities like Ford Heights know what I am talking about. Neighbors watch each other’s kids. Lawnmowers are shared. Cousins and second cousins live across the street from each other. We are one lively, semidysfunctional family…and I
This sort of close-knit village life was new for me. Prior to moving to Ford Heights, all my attempts at following the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” were in the context of sprawling suburbs or trendy urban neighborhoods. I marched in antiwar demonstrations, purchased fair-trade goods, and helped throw potlucks for homeless folks downtown. But any engagement with my actual next-door neighbors was conspicuously absent. How was I supposed to love my neighbors as myself when I hardly saw them? It doesn’t seem possible in the transient, anonymous life found in most suburbs and cities.
Things are different in Ford Heights. With rowdy basketball games clogging the roads and kids always knocking on the door, loving one’s neighbor becomes as simple and natural as attending a birthday party down the street.
Why is it that most suburbs and cities are random collections of strangers while places like Ford Heights are intimate communities? It occurs to me that the “localizing effect” Tatiana and I experienced as a result of our disconnection from modern technology has been at work in Ford Heights for years.
Our town’s relative lack of access to modern technology has shielded it from what has turned much of North America into an anonymous society. In places like Ford Heights, the high cost of air travel has kept people from spreading out, allowing vast family trees to take root and inhabit a single place. Limited access to cars means options for shopping are restricted to what’s in walking distance (the corner store) and not how far one can drive (the mall). And the fact that not everyone owns internet-connected devices translates into neighbors spending more time with friends in town than on Facebook.
I do not mean to romanticize my town’s poverty. Rather, there seems to be a direct connection between the amount of technology a community adopts and its ability to maintain a close-knit social fabric. Because its residents are unable to afford the new American dream, Ford Heights has (mostly) bypassed the technological nightmare that comes with it.
The preservation of neighborhood life was not the reason Tatiana and I began to move away from modern technology, but it is surely one of the primary reasons we continue to do so. Neglected ghettos and dying rural towns are some of the last places left in North America where the greatest commandment can still be practiced with one’s actual neighbors. But as corporations find ways to make their latest gadgets more affordable and advertisers continue to seduce young imaginations, the gift of a local life that so many of us here cherish hangs in the balance. The loneliness and anonymity that has struck so many cities and suburbs has begun to creep into Ford Heights. Television already keeps far too many residents inside, and too often neighbors choose YouTube over pickup basketball games.
We’re not naïve enough to think our household’s decision to stay offline and on the ground will do much to stop the technological invasion that is bound to come, but we love Ford Heights’ block parties too much to be willing to give up the fight just yet.
CONTRIBUTED BYChico Fajardo-Heflin
Chico Fajardo-Heflin is an artist, dishwasher, and storyteller. He and his wife, Tatiana, currently share their home with two neighborhood teenagers. You cannot follow Chico on Twitter, but you can follow Jesus over to your next-door neighbor’s house.
Verse of the Day
for Wednesday, April 18, 2018
Thoughts on Today’s Verse…
Imagine Jesus being proud of you! He said if we confess him before others here on earth, he will speak up for us in heaven. Confessing Jesus as our Lord is simply acknowledging the truth. But for believers, it is more than that, since at the close of time every knee will bow and every tongue confess his name. For us, confessing Jesus is anticipating his triumph in which we will share.
Mighty God, your Son is my Lord. I love him and praise him for his redeeming sacrifice. I thank him for his conquest of the grave. I marvel at his sacrificial and triumphant grace. Jesus is Lord. I know it sounds sweet in your ears so I say it again, Jesus is my Lord. Thank you for being so great that you would be so sacrificial. In the name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus the Carpenter, I offer this thanks. Amen.
For many years I’ve said that, when it comes to America, I’m more concerned with the absence of light than with the presence of darkness. In the same way, I’m more concerned with our failure to speak freely than with those who are trying to silence us.
This, of course, is not to deny that there is a frontal assault on our most fundamental freedoms. I’ve witnessed this firsthand and documented it for years.
Just this week, media researcher Brent Bozell sounded the alarm about this concerted attack. He said, “This is the emerging of the greatest censorship of free speech worldwide in the history of man. Now, let me explain this, the left is on a jihad against conservative thought. It’s happening in academia, entertainment, business, religion, everywhere.”
His warning follows on the heels of the release of a major study done by Bozell’s Media Research Center (MRC) titled, “CENSORED! How Online Media Companies Are Suppressing Conservative Speech.”
According to this study: Twitter Leads in Censorship; Facebook’s Trending Feed Has Been Hiding Conservative Topics; Google Search Aids Democrats; YouTube Is Shutting Down Conservative Videos; Tech Firms Are Relying on Groups That Hate Conservatives; Liberal Twitter Advisors Outnumber Conservatives 12-to-1; Tech Companies Rely on Anti-Conservative Fact-Checkers.
In short, the MRC study confirms what we knew to be true already: There is a war against conservative and religious speech. And it not just in the realm of online media, as Bozell rightly observed.
But, to repeat, that’s not my greatest concern today, as weighty as these developments are.
Instead my focus is on our failure to stand up and speak out, especially as religious conservatives.
Who’s stopping pastors from speaking freely from the pulpit? I’m not talking about endorsing political candidates. I’m talking about addressing abortion and LGBT activism and racial division and more. Who’s stopping us from being socially and culturally relevant?
Why must we dance around these issues with the constant fear of stepping on people’s toes? How can we possibly take gospel-worthy, moral stands if we are such people-pleasers? If we are so ambiguous in our declarations? Why are we more concerned with not offending people than with genuinely helping people?
And what about the rest of us who are not preaching behind pulpits (or speaking over the airwaves)? Who’s stopping us from speaking the truth in love on our social media outlets? Or in our social circles? Why are we more concerned with the opinions of people than with the opinions of God? Why don’t we share our faith and our convictions more clearly and boldly and publicly?
A young man once reached out to me on Facebook. He wrote, “I shared one of your articles recently, and I was shocked at the negative comments I received. Some folks even unfriended me. So, what do you think I should do? Should I pull the article?”
Seriously? Pull an article you agree with because you got some flack? Delete a post you feel is important because some people unfriended you? Our fellow-believers around the world are being tortured and killed for the gospel, and we’re afraid of losing friends on social media?
No wonder we’re losing our freedoms. We’re handing the jailer the keys.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for being sensitive and compassionate. I’m all for using wisdom. But true compassion speaks the truth. Love warns. Wisdom doesn’t waver.
Unfortunately, so much of what we call sensitivity and compassion and wisdom is nothing more than cowardice and compromise. Let the truth be told.
Again, I’m not downplaying the very real assault on our freedoms. We are getting hit on every front. I don’t deny this and I don’t minimize it.
But if we all started to speak up together, things would change. If pastors and leaders took their clues from the Word of God rather than from what’s trending, the nation would be rocked. If we used the freedoms we do have and used them to the full, those freedoms could not be taken from us in 100 years. (I’m speaking in particular of the situation here in America.)
Jesus urged us to let our light shine, to put it on a lampstand where everyone could see it rather than hiding it under the bed. It’s time we let our light shine for America to see.
If we do, our nation will be blessed, and our freedoms will be preserved. If we don’t, we will have no one to blame but ourselves.
So let your light shine!
Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is Playing with Holy Fire: A Wake-up Call to the Pentecostal-Charismatic Church. Connect with him on Facebook or Twitter, or YouTube.
What Caused Lucifer Or Satan’s Fall?
A Prayer for When Life Gets You Down
By Carrie Lowrance
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without fault and it will be given to you.” -James 1:5
Sometimes it’s hard to know how to pray and even what to pray when life gets you down. In my own experience, I always pray for three things: wisdom, discernment and for God’s will to be done.
1. Pray for Wisdom
When we are in the midst of a storm and have to make heavy decisions that seem to have no answers, it can seem like wisdom is eluding us. It is always wise to first ask God for wisdom in order to make decisions. We must not lean on our own knowledge and understanding. According to Proverbs 4:7, wisdom and good judgment are some of the most important things to acquire.
2. Pray for Discernment
It is crucial to pray for the ability to discern God’s voice, for it to be amplified beyond a doubt. We all discern His voice in different ways, from hearing His voice in our head to a feeling of utter peace and stillness. For some of us he speaks very loud and clear. Regardless, praying for discernment helps your spirit weed out the deceiver from a spiritually sound answer.
3. Pray for God’s Will
We sometimes get caught up in how we want things to work out or how we think things should go. It’s part of being human. When you realize you’re doing this, stop and pray and ask God for his will to be done. Give Him the praise and the glory because you know you are exactly where He wants you in order to teach you something or for you to grow.
Are things so hard right now that you don’t even know what to pray? Let these words be your cry.
Dear Lord, times are really hard right now and life has really got me down. I don’t know what to do. I ask that You bestow Your wisdom upon me. I don’t want to lean on my own knowledge anymore, because it has let me down so many times. I need to hear Your voice. Give me the discernment to hear Your voice and Your voice alone. Speak to me in the way You know I will hear you best. I also pray for Your Will, Lord. I give You the praise and the glory in my circumstances because I know that I am exactly where You want me. I know this is to teach me something or to help me to grow. No matter what, I trust you and ask You to show what is best in this situation. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.
3 Proven Ways to Run the Race That is Set before Us
Several times in the Bible, our everyday life in Christ is described as a race. We’re off and running in this marathon, and each sunrise presents new challenges as we hurry along. All the while, we know that God has provided the path we’re supposed to take.
But how exactly can we run this race that is set before us? Thankfully, we’re not left jogging in the dark. The author of Hebrews provides 3 proven ways to keep us on the right track.
Remembering the Cloud of Witnesses
We get our start in the race of life by remembering that we’re not alone:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…” (Hebrews 12:1a)
When ancient sprinters dashed off in their quest for victory and the laurel crown, they often did so in a large arena filled with spectators (much like sporting events today). Peering up into the stands full of billowing clothes and moving people looked somewhat like looking up into the clouds.
And that’s what it’s like for us in our race, too. We’re not the only ones to take this journey. People have run this way before, as Hebrews 11 shows (a chapter that’s often called the “hall of faith”). Our spiritual ancestors, such as Abraham and Noah, answered God’s call and set out on the race set before them. Their example gives us encouragement.
But we don’t have to look back to find “heroes of the faith.” We can find them today—right in the pews and chairs on any given Sunday morning. Christians are meant to make this journey together, and we’re much stronger when we do. Seeing the powerful examples of faithfulness around you can give you the courage you need to charge ahead.
“For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.” (1 Corinthians 4:17)
Sometimes, however, other problems can keep us from running our race, even when the crowd is cheering us on.
Throwing off the Sin that Entangles Us
If we’re to keep chugging along on the right path, we can’t do so if we’re constantly tripping up. The writer of Hebrews describes it this way:
“… let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1b)
In the sporting events of the ancient world, competitors usually ran in a much more “natural” way than athletes do today. Long before the days of special sprinting attire, the clothes of the time either had to be tied up away from the legs or taken off before running. Otherwise, the runner would get tangled up and fall on his face.
Our Christian race isn’t much different. We can’t run very well if we’re bound up in the snares of sinful living. Those things that seem so satisfying in the moment can take our eyes off the prize (as we’ll see), and instead keep us fixated on temporary thrills. But we’re called to a much better path:
“For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13)
Life works best when we follow God’s Word and obey His commands in the Bible. He didn’t give us those commands to trap us, but to free us to run our race with endurance. When we do so, our true goal comes into view.
Looking to Jesus
While we may glance at the crowd of witnesses around us and we may throw off the things that tangle us up, our ultimate encouragement is in the prize that awaits those of us who live by faith:
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)
At the beginning of the race, Jesus may seem far away in the distance. We know of Him through the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. We’ve heard how He has changed other lives. But our race is still new.
Before long, however, we realize that the prize awaiting us is the Savior of our souls, and He’s not content to just sit and watch us from the finish line. He’s busy working on us as we run the race:
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10–11)
As we run and keep our eyes on Jesus, God works on us, making us more and more like His Son. Ultimately, He will bring us to our long-awaited reward:
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)
Run the race that is set before you. But run it with the hope that God wants you to have in Christ.
Blessed James Oldo
Saint of the Day for April 18
(1364 – April 18, 1404)
Blessed James Oldo’s Story
You’ve heard rags-to-riches stories. Today, we celebrate the reverse.
James of Oldo was born into a well-to-do family near Milan in 1364. He married a woman who like him, appreciated the comforts that came with wealth. But an outbreak of the plague drove James, his wife, and their three children out of their home and into the countryside. Despite those precautions, two of his daughters died from the plague. James determined to use whatever time he had left to build up treasures in heaven and to build God’s realm on earth.
He and his wife became Secular Franciscans. James gave up his old lifestyle and did penance for his sins. He cared for a sick priest, who taught him Latin. Upon the death of his wife, James himself became a priest. His house was transformed into a chapel where small groups of people, many of them fellow Secular Franciscans, came for prayer and support. James focused on caring for the sick and for prisoners of war. He died in 1404 after contracting a disease from one of his patients.
James Oldo was beatified in 1933.
The death of those we love brings a troubling awareness of our own mortality. James had that experience when he gazed into a friend’s grave, and it brought him to his senses. He determined to use whatever time he had left to build up treasures in heaven and to build God’s realm on earth. Our time is limited, too. We can use it well or foolishly: The choice is ours.
HEAVEN AND EARTH
May you be blessed by the LORD,
the Maker of heave and earth.
FROM THE FATHER’S HEART
My child, it’s time to stop and look around again. Walk outside. I created the world for you to enjoy. Whether you see puffy clouds or raindrops, the first buds of spring or the last falling leaves before winter, I made each season for a purpose. Every creature, great or small, listens to My voice. I am the Maker of heaven and earth – and that includes you.
A GRATEFUL RESPONSE
Lord, You spoke the world into existence, then flung the stars in their precise order in the heavens. You formed a special place for me to live, a home where I could reflect the glory of Your creation. I join all of nature in singing a chorus of praise to You, Maker of heaven and earth.
Each of God’s creations is cause for celebration.
For more from Rebecca, please visit www.rebeccabarlowjordan.com
What Jesus Did! ‘Attracting a Crowd’
After [his confrontation with the Jewish leaders], Jesus crossed over to the far side of the Sea of Galilee, also known as the Sea of Tiberias. A huge crowd kept following him wherever he went, because they saw his miraculous signs as he healed the sick.
LORD God, Father of mercy and God of all compassion, use me to serve others in the name of Jesus. Give me courage not to compromise his truth, but also give me compassion to serve others as he did. In his name, I pray. Amen.
Related Scripture Readings
Daily Wisdom: Proverbs 12:1
Passion for Praise: ‘I Will Sing Praise to Your Name’
Praying with Paul: ‘Giving No Offense’
1 Corinthians 10:33
v23-33 There were cases wherein Christians might eat what had been offered to idols, without sin. Such as when the flesh was sold in the market as common food, for the priest to whom it had been given. But a Christian must not merely consider what is lawful, but what is expedient, and to edify others. Christianity by no means forbids the common offices of kindness, or allows uncourteous behaviour to any, however they may differ from us in religious sentiments or practices. But this is not to be understood of religious festivals, partaking in idolatrous worship. According to this advice of the apostle, Christians should take care not to use their liberty to the hurt of others, or to their own reproach. In eating and drinking, and in all we do, we should aim at the glory of God, at pleasing and honouring him. This is the great end of all religion, and directs us where express rules are wanting. A holy, peaceable, and benevolent spirit, will disarm the greatest enemies.
v1 The first verse of this chapter seems properly to be the close to the last. The apostle not only preached such doctrine as they ought to believe, but led such a life as they ought to live. Yet Christ being our perfect example, the actions and conduct of men, as related in the Scriptures, should be followed only so far as they are like to his.
Keep me from giving offense to people of any race, any class, any tradition, not seeking my own advantage, but let me please everybody – for their good – that they may be saved.
Let me imitate your great apostles, but most of all let me imitate Jesus, who came to glorify your name, to serve instead of be served, and to seek and save those who were lost.
In the name of Jesus and in reliance upon his example I ask this. Amen.
“We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete.” – Hebrews 12:2
Thoughts for Today
Are you caught up in a loved one’s life-controlling problem? Do you try to control his or her behavior?
Are you dependent on being in the helping role?
Do you work to cover up and make excuses for a loved one’s poor behavior?
Are you realizing that all areas of your life revolve around serving the needs of this loved one?
If you see yourself in any of these unhealthy behaviors, or if you feel you might be in danger of sliding into any of them, you need to begin the process of moving toward a healthier relationship with your loved one.
Consider this …
The behaviors described above are symptoms of codependency. Avoiding or overcoming codependency requires balance. God doesn’t want our lives to be centered around our loved one’s problems, but neither should we be independent and concerned only with ourselves. The healthy balance is to be interdependent.
You can find a healthy balance in your relationships by making Christ and His will central. Love others. Care about them. Be concerned about what is happening in their lives. But rather than entwining your life with their life-controlling problems, serve Christ and focus on Him.
Father, I know I have a tendency to get so wrapped up in trying to protect my loved one from his own behaviors that I take my eyes off you. Help me focus on Jesus and find the right balance in this relationship. In Jesus’ name …
These thoughts were drawn from …Concerned Persons: Because We Need Each Other by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min. This group is designed for the many people who have a current or past relationship with a person who has a life-controlling problem.
- It emphasizes the need we all have for each other.
- It helps people focus on Christ rather than on the problem.
- It serves as a powerful evangelistic tool by providing a way to minister to people’s felt needs and then pointing them to Christ.Note: This curriculum was written especially for small groups, and we encourage people to use it that way. However, it can also be used effectively as a study for individuals or couples.
NATIONAL ANIMAL CRACKERS DAY
National Animal Crackers Day is observed on April 18.
This day brings us back to our childhood memories and the many boxes of Animal Crackers we shared with our friends. Animal Crackers refer to a type of small cookie baked in the shape of circus or zoo animals, such as a lion, tiger, bear or elephant. The most common variety are light-colored and slightly sweet. However, chocolate and frosted varieties are also available. Even though animal crackers are made with layered dough much like crackers, they are sweet like cookies.
HOW TO OBSERVE
National Animal Crackers Day is the perfect day to celebrate that childhood memory again. Pick up some animal crackers at your local grocery store and share them with family and friends. Share your photos of your Animal Crackers Day celebration using #NationalAnimalCrackersDay.
Our research was unable to find the creator of National Animal Crackers Day. It did locate information confirming in the late 1800s animal shaped cookies were imported to the U.S. from England. In 1902 animal crackers officially became known as “Barnum’s Animals” and evoked the familiar circus theme of the Barnum and Bailey Circus. Later that year, the now-familiar box with a string was designed for the Christmas season made to hang from the Christmas tree. They were a big hit in 1902 and still are today. (http://eatocracy.cnn.com/2012/04/18/national-animal-crackers-day/)
MY time……….today, we are going to see “Rampage” in 3D……a movie about a giant gorilla…oh, I just love my big ape movies!!!
I love ALL animal movies, films, documentaries, etc…….
So, it will be my first 3D in awhile and they do it differently now……it’s supposed to be so much better than the old-time blue-and-red ones…….I hope it’s worth it!!
Now, for some cute quotes and words of wisdom from some really “comic” characters…..
That is it……..oh, yes…..