Tuesday Tough Love

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Daily Prayer for July 17

Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn. Isaiah 61:1–2, NIV

Lord our God, light of humankind in Jesus Christ, full of joy and trust we ask that we may have access to your almighty power, your power against all darkness, sin, death, and bondage. May we feel close to your almighty power. Hear our weeping, for we are and remain your children, to whom you have promised redemption and deliverance. Together we hold fast to this promise and stand before you saying, “We are your children in Jesus Christ the Savior, whom you have sent to us.” Hear your children. Bless us each one, and bless us as one people, allowed to serve you in the misery of our world. Amen.

 

TODAY’S DAILY DIG

featherObviously, while I love all, I must, like Christ, have a special love for the poor. At the last judgement, we shall all be judged by the treatment we have given to Christ, to Christ in the person of those who are hungry or thirsty, who are dirty, wounded, and oppressed.

Source: Dom Helder Camara: Essential Writings

The Measure of a Life Well Lived

Clare Stober

Just over a year ago, I sat by my father’s bed for ten days and nights, watching him die. We connected through touch as I held his weakening hand, swabbed out his mouth, and did all I could to ease his last passage. I stroked his forearms, still so familiar, and recalled everything I’d known about him and done with him, this man who had always been there.

“But what is the measure of a life well lived?” The question, as persistent as it was answerless, kept interrupting – interrogating – the memories that flowed through my mind. After he died I reentered normal life, returning home to the Bruderhof, the Christian community to which I belong, just in time to attend the funeral of an old friend. This loss was quickly followed by two more funerals, for two other old friends. And it seemed, as I remembered their characters and listened to the stories of their lives, that these three women were giving me one last gift, extending an answer to the question that had dogged my vigil at my father’s side.

It seemed that these three women were giving me one last gift, extending an answer to the question that had dogged my vigil at my father’s side.

As a boomer growing up in the relative comfort and prosperity of the fifties, I used to assume that every college-educated, middle-class woman of my parents’ generation aspired to becoming the perfect housewife, patterning herself on Donna Reed or the fictitious Betty Crocker. When I came to the Bruderhof, however, I discovered dozens of women from the “Greatest Generation” who had traded upwardly-mobile comforts and Sunday Christianity for a life of poverty and discipleship. These three friends were among them.

Dotti died first, but she was always first – the first to speak, to laugh, to get up and dance (when her legs still worked). A Detroit native, Dotti talked loud, laughed loud, and, well, dressed loud. You could easily pick her out in a crowd by the clownishly bright clothes she wore to keep the ever-lurking depression at bay. She thrived on excitement, hated routine, and felt it her duty to get those around her to live with the same wholehearted purpose.

Perhaps I was drawn to Dotti because she reminded me of my mother. They were the same age, had attended the same art school (missing one another by a year), and were equally high-maintenance. But in Dotti I found an extra depth, a different perspective, a person who’d seen and experienced the same things that had turned my mother into a jaded cynic, but who’d found a way through the darkness to discover joy.

When Dotti said something, you listened. Her sharply worded observations may have sounded off-the-cuff but they came from deep within, a place of wisdom honed by suffering and repentance.

In her twenties, a self-consciously sophisticated art student, Dotti found her life upended in one short weekend in 1952 when she reluctantly attended the Annual Conference of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. In her words:

When I left home on Thursday, I was what I had been brought up to be – a middle class, college-educated young lady. When I returned home on Sunday evening, I was a totally different person. My whole attitude toward war, toward minorities, toward poor people, toward unions, toward everything was completely changed. The focus of my life after that was to work for world peace, for justice, and for reconciliation between people.

Dotti and Bill on their wedding day

Dotti and Bill

It was her Christian faith that gave context to her new commitment. Dotti and her husband Bill (they married in 1953) were churchgoers. Like the other members of the progressive, integrated Methodist church they attended in Detroit, they focused their faith on social justice and racial reconciliation. In the summer of 1962, intrigued by reports about a pacifist Christian community whose members share all things in common, they decided to go see for themselves. And once again, in the course of a few days, the direction of Dotti’s life changed.

Three things they experienced on that first visit to the Bruderhof drew them: the members’ obvious joy despite their impoverished circumstances, the fact that people were able to disagree and yet still come to unity, and the outreaching love that Dotti felt from the gathered community. This love was evident in the community celebrations, but it shone through as well as members honestly and openly confronted each other.

In the car on the way back to Detroit Bill announced, “I’m going back.” Dotti later recalled:

Bill did not say, “We are going back,” or, “Are we going back?” or, “What do you think?” He said, “I am going back.” He was called. That is something I have hung on to. No matter what happens in life, Bill was called to this life by God. I felt the same call, which was more than fortunate: it was God-given. Otherwise, it could have split our family. I had become discouraged, disillusioned, and our marriage was in danger of breaking up. That one weekend turned everything around and gave me a real joy in life.

Ellen died twice. And I am certain that was the key to her joy. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Ellen died twice. And I am certain that was the key to her joy.

Ellen as a young woman

Ellen

Ellen would tell you she started out as a “nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn.” She was on a search, but for a cause, not – like many of her post-war peers – for the perfect man. Fueled by vague dissatisfaction with the status quo, with a desire for society to be “turned upside down” and for a “solution” to racial injustice, impulsive Ellen set out alone for Europe in 1953 at twenty. One of eleven passengers on a freighter, she spent the five-day voyage holed up in her cabin reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

During that trip, bored with touring London, Ellen decided to “swing by” a Christian community in Shropshire that she’d heard about from a friend in Manhattan. Swinging by entailed multiple train transfers and a fifteen-mile bicycle ride, since the Wheathill Bruderhof was located in the hills near the Welsh border. But when Ellen arrived, she met far more than she had expected:

On the way down the driveway I had what I can only call a Damascus Road experience. I looked out over the valley towards Birmingham and had this overwhelming sensation that I was on holy ground, that this place I was standing on had been here from the beginning and would be here forever, into all eternity. This was a call from God. I was Jewish, an atheist, and it was as if God put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You belong here; you have come home.” I fell in love with Wheathill from that moment. I never forgot feeling, “This is it. This is home. This is more than home. This is the solution.”

I wanted to sell everything I had and buy the whole field for joy.

And so she stayed. At Wheathill, living conditions were bleak – penetrating cold, very little food or warm clothes, no indoor plumbing. Yet Ellen responded with her whole heart when she heard that call. Years later she would write to a grandson: “When I first came to Wheathill I remember going down the driveway and looking out over the view and thinking, ‘There must be a God after all.’ I always remember the joy that filled me like I had never experienced before. I wanted to sell everything I had and buy the whole field for joy. About finding faith: I think faith finds you.”

Doris was the third to die that spring. Doris, who had grown up as a Quaker in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, was Dotti’s complete opposite, and was none too similar to Ellen either. Where the other two women seemed to blurt out their feelings without editing, Doris rarely voiced her thoughts. Getting to know her took time and patience. Small talk got you nowhere. Remaining fully present during what felt like long, full silences was a must.

Bud and Doris

Bud and Doris

Although Doris was quiet, she was never self-absorbed. Her greatest pleasures were making crafts from natural materials she’d collected, or sitting outdoors and observing or drawing. Whatever she made, she gave away. Hers was an interior life of reflection and concern for those who didn’t “have it all together.” Doris was someone you could trust, an oasis of calm and solidity. And so I was surprised to learn, after she passed away, of her own long struggle with feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness.

Doris had experienced something like communal life growing up – her parents taught in a boarding school, where her father was farm manager. She went on to study botany at Cornell. After graduating, she married Bud, who like her had had a taste of intentional community in the Civilian Public Service camp in which he had spent much of World War II as a conscientious objector. After the war, the couple explored a range of communitarian experiments. Then a friend shared with them a letter from a fellow Quaker explaining why he had become a member of the Bruderhof:

We have for so many years sought for an answer to the causes of the terrible wars, the inequality and injustice among men that now it is a great joy to throw ourselves completely into this positive effort to demonstrate the possibility of a brotherly way of life.

Bud and Doris went to visit the community a few months later, and soon decided to stay.

Crucibles

Each of these women chose early to live for an ideal, and each gladly gave up her personal freedom and the conventional ingredients of the good life to live a life of meaning and purpose when they joined the community. But not one of them, after making this commitment, “lived happily ever after.” It doesn’t work that way.

“It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” – Dorothy Day

Each of them endured physical, mental, or emotional suffering that put their faith, and their commitment, to the test. That is where each of them found an all-powerful love that sustained them and gave them a purpose to endure their darkest hours. Each, in her own way and words, would have told you she encountered this love in the person of Jesus. “It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker movement, once wrote. “It is not anything that we can take except with the utmost seriousness and yet it is of course the greatest joy in the world.”

In 1967, just five years after Dotti and her family had come to the Bruderhof, her husband Bill abruptly left. The reasons were complicated – decades later, Bill would simply say that he’d had a “heartless mind and a lot of stubborn pride.” He’d fully intended to take his wife and children with him, but Dotti refused to go. Instead, she stayed true to the conviction that they’d been called to follow God in community. Over the next five years she single-handedly raised their six children (ranging in age from three months to fifteen when he left), never knowing if Bill would return.

It was like a miracle when he finally did. Still, it was painful to make room in the family for the prodigal father. Dotti, who had managed years of single parenting, now had to reaccept a husband who doubted his faith and himself, and depended on her support. It took years for Bill to get back on solid ground spiritually and emotionally, and more years for his children to once again respect and love their father. That it was even possible says volumes about Dotti’s profound faith and her willingness to forgive.

Bill and Dotti with their children

Bill and Dotti and kids

Although her personality was strong, Dotti’s health was fragile. Since young adulthood, she’d borne up under countless infirmities resulting in numerous hospitalizations. The arthritis Dotti had been diagnosed with in her teens finally slowed her down in her sixties. Two painful knee replacements were immediately followed by a freak accident in a parking lot, when a car ran over Dotti’s foot, crushing her ankle. Reconstructive surgery with lots of hardware followed. After some healing, the metal screws and plates were surgically removed. Dotti proudly displayed them in an empty peanut butter jar on a window sill in her living room. Following the accident, Dotti never really recovered the ability to walk any distance and often had to submit to being pushed in a wheelchair, or to using her preferred mode of mobility – her camo-painted scooter.

Decades of unrelenting pain have a way of making one intolerant of small talk or social niceties. Never one to engage in trivialities, Dotti became downright intense and would deliver shocking one-liners to those who she felt needed a jolt to inwardly wake up. One young father got a lesson in parenting when Dotti brought him up short by yelling, “Say it like you mean it when you call your children in from play. Otherwise they’ll know you don’t expect them to obey!”

Like Dorothy Day, whom she admired, Dotti’s social radicalism was combined with a solidly orthodox faith. She had a “take no prisoners” approach to what she knew was true, and yet she retained an irrepressible love for all people and a desire for every one of them to find God. Her last job in the community was self-appointed. She loved to work over the stiff English translations of German sermons to make them interesting and understandable by “high school boys” – her favorite audience.

Dotti could smell a fake a mile away. She would have nothing to do with an empty, pious, or hypocritical religion. For Dotti, there was only one thing worse than politics and politicians – religious hypocrites. Her obvious love of Jesus and of the community confirmed my own decision to give myself to the same calling: to commit to a life holding all things in common, a life in full Christian community.

Ellen made a farewell visit to her parents in Brooklyn to tell them she was now a Christian – and that her new faith was calling her to move to what in their eyes was a highly dubious commune off in England. (“What did we do wrong?” her father asked.) Then she returned to Wheathill, where after two years she married Ulrich Keiderling, a German craftsman. Together they had seven children. Then came 1977, a year that the family would always remember as a crucible of suffering and redemption. In February, three-year-old Mark John, the youngest and the apple of his parents’ eye, was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive brain cancer. His parents and six older siblings spent the next three months caring for Mark John, preparing him for his inevitable death. They spared no effort to comfort him as he wasted away, became blind, and finally died in his parents’ arms, fully trusting in Jesus to take him to heaven.

Ellen with her son Mark John

Ellen with Mark John

Then came 1977, a year that the family would always remember as a crucible of suffering and redemption.

Just five months later, Ellen, now forty-five, went into labor with their eighth child. During delivery, Ellen was unconscious with no palpable pulse or blood pressure, taking both herself and her unborn daughter to the edge of death. During those hours, she experienced being irresistibly drawn toward the beauty of heaven. She always remembered smelling lilies and roses just before she was brought back to consciousness.

When Ellen awoke, though, she remembered little else. She did not recognize her own children, had no memory of Mark John’s suffering and death, and did not know she had a new daughter. As she slowly regained her memory, she was forced to experience again the pain of losing Mark John and the dawning realization that she now needed to care for another child who would not survive. Marie Johanna looked perfect, but was deemed “brain dead and incompatible with life.” Throughout the two months she lived, she never opened her eyes and only cried twice. Ellen wrote:

Marie Johanna’s delicate, tender little body was with us, but her soul, right from the beginning, was stretched out between heaven and earth. We always thought of her as a messenger who would one day have to go back where she came from.

On Christmas Eve her children gathered around Ellen as she held Marie Johanna. One of her daughters held a candle next to the baby’s face. Marie Johanna looked especially beautiful, Ellen remembered later. Then, for the first time, she opened her eyes. They were wide open and focused. She was looking into the corner of the room. At that moment, Ellen said:

I felt our baby’s soul leaving her. Her little soul rose from her body and passed in front of my face like a gentle, sweet breath. I was as certain of it as a blind person is sure when someone or something passes right by him. I felt wings brushing by my face – they were not soft, but stiff and strong, like the tips of birds’ wings, but large – and with it a fragrance. This is hard to put into words, but I felt this spiritual presence as surely as if it had been a physical presence. I stood transfixed for a moment, unable to move my head to look down at my baby. And when I did, what I saw only confirmed what I knew: her face was waxen, and she was no longer breathing.

Ellen with Marie Johanna on Christmas Eve

Ellen with Marie Johanna

Ellen had endured the most difficult experience a mother ever has to suffer – the death of a child. And she had been through it twice in less than a year. She later described that year as a time when “God had to shake us until our teeth rattled.” But she and Ulrich let that unprecedented suffering soften and change them, and it guided the rest of their lives together. The change didn’t happen overnight. Their children remember what felt like a long, dark time: days that turned into weeks when Ellen would retreat to her darkened bedroom to grieve and was not to be disturbed, years when Ulrich was away from the family working through his pain and finding his way back though his own inner wilderness.

“Where your treasure is,” we are told, “There your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21). Her children had gone ahead of her to the kingdom of heaven, and, as Ellen offered her pain to God, she found that she was able to cry out with great fervor for this kingdom to come. After 1977, Ellen refused novocaine at the dentist, celebrated being outside in cold weather, and embraced other discomforts in solidarity with her little boy who had gone through such pain. She emerged from that season of suffering as almost a new person.

The old originality was still there, now unleashed and deepened, setting her free to say and do whatever her heart said was true and right. Ulrich was back at her side, constant in his quiet love, cheering her on, occasionally reining in her excesses, and wordlessly giving her permission to speak from that place of pain and joy they’d gone through together.

That’s the Ellen I met twenty years later. There was nothing grim about her. Like Elizabeth Bennet in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, she dearly loved to laugh – at the absurdities of daily life, at a story by James Thurber, often at herself. She was exuberant in her love for individual people, for humanity, and for the church community that had carried her through those dark years. As Ellen once expressed:

That’s why each one of us is here, because we feel that here we can most closely and nearly live for that kingdom and give our lives for it, because we long for God’s kingdom to come to the world. And we have this wonderful and precious task: that we can live for it and witness to it in every aspect of our lives, in every relationship – between husband and wife and between parents and children and brothers and sisters.

Doris knew pain of a different kind. Her suffering was like a long slow burn, kept below the surface where no one could see it. The love of her husband, Bud, a warm, outgoing, and energetic man, reassured her through the constant thoughts of self-doubt and self-accusation that sought to paralyze her spirit. In a low moment some years after joining the community, Doris questioned her motivations for doing so in the first place. She worried that her decision had been based on her own principles, not on a loving response to a call. “I felt I was holding the lantern,” she would later say, “but the lantern had no flame in it. Jesus was an ideal, but he was not my personal friend.” Living on an ideal can work for a while – it sustained Bud and Doris for ten active years in the community – but then they felt the need to retreat with their family to rediscover Jesus himself.

Bud and Doris with their children

Bud and Doris with their kids

Doris’s suffering was like a long slow burn, kept below the surface where no one could see it.

During those years away from the community, Doris’s feelings of inadequacy fueled her struggle to find a personal faith. She didn’t want to just go through the motions of a committed life, but wanted her commitment to be real. She worried about inauthenticity; at times, her desire to live a genuine faith made it impossible for her to read the Bible to herself or her children without feeling hypocritical. She later wrote:

Repentance was a mystery to me – something I knew I should have – but what was it?

I had to face guilt and shame and hardly knew how, until one evening, listening to [Handel’s] Messiah, I heard the words “The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our God.” I suddenly was aware of the meaning of these words for me personally. After this, slowly courage came and humility, and reconciliation began to take place. Repentance crept in quietly, without being named or recognized.

This was a beginning, the finding of a key, but for years still I struggled to find something that Bud had found. He could sit and read the Bible or other inner books, and be warmed and refreshed by it as though he were sitting by a warm fire.

watercolor painting of berries by Doris

Doris’s artwork

Bud and Doris returned to the community in 1976, and spent ten golden years as youth counselors. Toward the end of that decade, Doris had a presentiment that she might not have many more years with Bud. A few months later, in June of 1986, she had to face her greatest fear when Bud was diagnosed with cancer. He died in December.

Doris spent the next thirty years as a widow. Whenever she felt lonely, she would sit at her desk and think of someone who might also be lonely and write them a letter. She wrote thousands of letters over those three decades, at least one a day and often more on the weekends. She corresponded with several inmates, many of whom wrote to the family after she died expressing their thankfulness for her faithful correspondence. Here’s how Doris saw her ministry of writing in her later years:

There are many ways of thinking of writing a letter. You can just sit down and start writing until you feel that you are done – or you can think about what gives Life meaning at the moment. It’s a little bit like being born again for a third time!

Radiance

Because I’d met them separately and in their later years, it never occurred to me that these three women had much in common. Then they died one after the other, one month apart. And so, once a month for three months, I sat at each one’s funeral and listened to their stories. That’s when I saw the shape of what they shared beyond their membership in the same community. I realized each of them had discovered the value in something that so many of us work so hard to avoid – suffering.

What did all that suffering do for them? It wounded them. And living with their wounds made them both vulnerable and compassionate, and yet also bluntly honest. All that pain revealed to them that they were not in control of their lives, and never had been. It refined them like a blowtorch burns the dross off molten silver in a crucible, purifying the metal until it shines, indicating it is ready to be poured into a mold. Their crucible of suffering purified their intentions, leaving them with no option but to act and speak from their hearts. They each emerged from it with a depth of joy and freedom that drew me to them.

What did all that suffering do for them? It wounded them.

In her later years, one of Ellen’s favorite things to do was to host an evening of poetry. She asked everyone to bring a poem or piece of inspiring prose to read aloud at the gathering. Before the reading started, Ellen made sure we were all comfortable – that is, that we had enough wine. And as the evening went on she kept the refills coming. Those gatherings held such good memories that her children hosted a beautiful poetry and prose evening – with wine, of course – the night before her funeral. As I sat there listening to her favorite poems being read, and her favorite sweet-sad songs being played by her grandson on his violin, I realized, “This is one measure of a life well lived.” The most remarkable thing about Ellen’s life was Ellen herself, but her radiance was not the result of her own efforts or achievements or decisions. It was Jesus, his suffering and resurrection, shining through her like light through stained glass.

Doris was granted her own kind of radiance. At an early age she had set her face toward the good and ruthlessly opposed any hint of selfishness in her own heart. For decades, her suffering, her dark night of the soul, was that she didn’t always have the assurance that she was in God’s presence; she craved it, perceiving what seemed like his absence in the face of evil.

The reality of God was so important to her that she did not want to fake a relationship she felt she had never experienced. She didn’t doubt, but she longed for inner reassurance from God. Why is it that God sometimes hides his face from those who most faithfully follow and long for him? Doris’s aridity reminds me of that of Mother Teresa, another woman who experienced years of following what she knew was true without the interior affirmation of his close presence. Like the saint from Calcutta, Doris suffered under this perceived absence – yet continued in faith, undeterred and outwardly calm.

With Dotti, of course, life was never calm for long. She faced her wounds by speaking out, breaking the mold of what nice elderly women did and did not do, say, or wear. There’s no denying she did it to get attention, but that attention was not for herself; with her bright colors she was like a flag, alerting people to the God in whom she was rooted. He was far more true and real than anything else she’d experienced in this world.

Dotti, 2016

Dotti, 2016

Dotti was like a flag, alerting people to the God in whom she was rooted.

Dotti’s health declined throughout the ten months after Bill died. She’d stopped eating numerous times only to restart, and was completely wheelchair bound. Yet two weeks before she died she made one final splash when she was wheeled into a community celebration. Her favorite Louis Armstrong song was playing: “What a Wonderful World.” Dotti somehow got out of her chair, and started to dance. It began as a shuffle but then her crippled feet caught the music and moved into the old-time box step. She grinned from ear to ear as one young man after another took her hands and followed her lead. After a full ten minutes of dancing, she was helped back into her wheelchair, exhausted but triumphant – as if certain that her life had been well lived.


All images courtesy of the families of Ellen Keiderling, Doris Mercer, and Dotti Button. Used with permission.

 

 

 

Verse of the Day

Inspirational illustration of Romans 1:16

Thoughts on Today’s Verse…

For the rich and poor, young and old, weak and strong, thin and heavy, there is still just one message and one name and one story that makes the eternal difference. That one message, story, and name are announced in the gospel — God’s good news to the world in Jesus Christ. God’s good news of life in the story of Jesus Christ is The Story and The Message and The Hope for all.

My Prayer…

Great Redeemer, make me more bold to proclaim the Gospel today. Give me eyes to see those who are waiting to be told. Fill me up with your Spirit so that I will not be ashamed but will gladly proclaim the story of Jesus. Fill my life with the optimistic hope of Jesus’ glorious and victorious return so that I might share it with passion and others will know of your grace. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

 

 

 

Saint Francis Solanus in Howard University School of Divinity | photo by Jim McIntosh

Saint of the Day for July 17

(March 10, 1549 – July 14, 1610)

https://www.franciscanmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/SODJul17.mp3

 

Saint Francis Solano’s Story

Francis came from a leading family in Andalusia, Spain. Perhaps it was his popularity as a student that enabled Francis in his teens to stop two duelists. He entered the Friars Minor in 1570, and after ordination enthusiastically sacrificed himself for others. His care for the sick during an epidemic drew so much admiration that he became embarrassed and asked to be sent to the African missions. Instead he was sent to South America in 1589.

While working in what is now Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay, Francis quickly learned the local languages and was well received by the indigenous peoples. His visits to the sick often included playing a song on his violin.

Around 1601, he was called to Lima, Peru, where he tried to recall the Spanish colonists to their baptismal integrity. Francis also worked to defend the indigenous peoples from oppression. He died in Lima in 1610 and was canonized in 1726. His Liturgical Feast Day is July 14.


Reflection

Francis Solano knew from experience that the lives of Christians sometimes greatly hinder the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Francis lived an exemplary life himself, and urged his fellow Spaniards to make their lives worthy of their baptisms.

 

 

What Jesus Did! ‘Knowing and Known’

Illustration of John 10:14-15 NLT — [Jesus said,] "I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep."

Key Thought

Jesus knows us. He knows our hearts. He knows our fears. He knows our temptations. He knows us inside and out. Any attempts to pretend would be in vain. We do not have to be afraid in his presence. We know he wants what is best for us. He demonstrated it by allowing himself to be born into our world and placed in a feed trough in a stable at Bethlehem. He made it clear by allowing himself to be arrested, mistreated, falsely tried, and then crucified on the cross at Golgotha.

Today’s Prayer

Father, because of your love and because of Jesus, who is interceding for me now, I pour out to you my deepest concerns: … I know you will hear my cries and minister to my needs. I do not mean to be selfish today, O God, but I do want to be honest in your presence knowing that I can come to you sincerely and receive your grace. Thank you for your immeasurable love, understanding, and assurance which were given to me at such a high price. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

Illustration of Mark 1:12-13 NLT — The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, where he was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him.

The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, where he was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him.

Key Thought

Jesus’ time in the wilderness was not an accident. It was not an afterthought. Jesus was compelled to go into this time in the wilderness. He had no place to hide in this wild and rugged place. In this wilderness, a harsh place we call the desert, God’s Son had to depend upon God for his survival. In the desert, God’s Son had no apparent companion to help him in his fight against evil and temptation. Isn’t this how we sometimes feel? Do we wonder how and why the Holy Spirit led us into a decision or situation when there is trouble and trial? Yet as we follow the Spirit’s lead, we find that we are not alone and we realize that God’s special grace, the presence of the Spirit and the angels, is there to sustain us in ways we could never imagine or design.

Today’s Prayer

Father, help me to see the leading of your Spirit and to receive the ministry of your angels as I face my times of trial, temptation, and trouble. Lead me to a better place and use my life to bring glory to you! In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

 

 

 

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Let None Escape

Let not one of them escape.
1 Kings 18:40

When the prophet Elijah had received the answer to his prayer, and the fire from heaven had consumed the sacrifice in the presence of all the people, he called upon the assembled Israelites to take the priests of Baal and sternly cried, “Let not one of them escape.” He took them all down to the brook Kishon and slew them there. So must it be with our sins—they are all doomed; not one must be preserved.

Our darling sin must die. Do not spare it because it cries. Strike though it be as dear as a beloved son. Strike, for God struck at sin when it was laid upon His own Son. With stern unflinching purpose you must condemn to death that sin that was once the idol of your heart. Do you ask how you are to accomplish this? Jesus will be your power. You have grace to overcome sin, given you in the covenant of grace; you have strength to win the victory in the crusade against inward lusts because Christ Jesus has promised to be with you even unto the end.

If you would triumph over darkness, set yourself in the presence of the Sun of Righteousness. There is no place so well adapted for the discovery of sin and recovery from its power and guilt as the immediate presence of God. Job never knew how to get rid of sin half as well as he did when his eye of faith rested upon God, and then he abhorred himself and repented in dust and ashes.

The fine gold of the Christian is often becoming dim. We need the sacred fire to consume the dross. Let us fly to our God. He is a consuming fire; He will not consume our spirit, but our sins. Let the goodness of God excite us to a sacred jealousy and to a holy revenge against those iniquities that are hateful in His sight. Go forth to battle in His strength and utterly destroy the accursed crew: “Let not one of them escape.”

 

 

By Love Transformed

“Call Me Your Father”

But you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. —Romans 8:15-17

If we are serious about glorifying God, because it makes a difference, we can also glorify Him by perceiving Him as Father. The words that Paul uses point to this: “to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:11).

Jesus called God “the Father.” This is because they were of the same essence: there was therefore no alienation between Father and Son. However, He also told us to call Him Father. How can this be?

We can call God Father because Jesus’ blood atoned for our sins. The blood that Jesus shed on the cross satisfied God’s justice, and the consequence is that, because we are joint-heirs with Christ, we too can call Him Father.

Let me remind you of the most dazzling thought in the world: God loves you as much as He loves Jesus. Indeed, Jesus actually said it: “[You] have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23). Now I do not have the vocabulary to convey how much God loves His Son. I only know that God spoke from heaven again and again saying, “This is my Son whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.”

As a parent, I want my son and my daughter to know that they need never doubt my total and absolute love. Yet just as human parents want their children to know that they love them, so the Father in heaven wants you to know how much He loves you.

That is the kind of God we have. He does not tell us to stand in the cleft of a rock as He passes by; He just says, “Call Me your Father.” By the merit of the blood of Jesus, all who love Him come before the God of the shekinah glory, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, and He says, “This is what I am. Love Me for being what I am, because I love you as you are.”

Excerpted from Meekness and Majesty (Christian Focus Publications Ltd., 1992, 2000).

 

 

Making the Lord Our Banner
TGIF Today God Is First Volume 1 by Os Hillman
July 17, 2018

“Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner.” Exodus 17:15

The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. God instructed Moses to stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in his hand. Moses’ staff represented something that God said He would use to bring glory to Himself. The staff represented what Moses had done for most of his life – shepherding. It was his vocation. When God first called Moses at the burning bush, He told him to pick up the staff; He would perform miracles through it.

God wants to perform miracles through each of our vocations. At Rephidim, God defeated the Amalekites only when Moses held his staff to Heaven. It was a symbol of dependence and acknowledgment that Heaven was the source of the Israelites’ power. When he dropped his hand, the power was removed and they began to lose the battle. Each day we are challenged to reach toward Heaven and allow God to be the source of victory in the workplace or be defeated. God calls us to let His banner reign over the workplace so that others may know the source of our victory. “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven’ ” (Ex. 17:14). The Lord wants those behind us and around us to know that He is the source of our power and success. With each victory is a testimony that is to be shared with our children and our associates.

Is the Lord your banner today? Reach toward Heaven today and let His banner wave over your work so that He might receive glory from your life.

 

Defining Your Self-Worth
TGIF Today God Is First Volume 2 by Os Hillman
July 17, 2018

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:14).

What measurements do you use to define your self-worth? Do you define it based on your financial assets? Is it based on what you have achieved professionally? Perhaps you define your value based on the number of children you have.

There are many things we can use to define our self-worth. However, the scriptures tell us there is only one measure for our self-worth. Each of us has self-worth because we are made in the image of God. And because we are made in the image of God, we are valuable. Whenever you and I place a value in ourselves that is based on some other performance criteria, we have moved beyond God’s view of our worth as human beings. You are never more valuable to God than you were the day you were born.

Many of us have sought to determine our self-worth based on the amount of money we have. This is a dangerous trap. Paul warns us against seeking to build wealth in order to gain greater value. Paul came to understand that the greatest riches could not compare with knowing Christ. In fact, he considered all other material things to be mere rubbish in comparison: “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:7-8).

Basing our self-worth on how much money we have or our achievements is an easy trap. We are bombarded with messages that say we are defined by what we drive, where we live, how many toys we own, and the size of our investment account. The media message is designed to create dissatisfaction and lust for what we don’t have.

Paul said the purpose for his existence was……”to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10).

In what terms do you define yourself? Is it based on knowing Christ alone?

 

 

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The Consequences Of Obedience And Disobedience

There are consequences for every action, both good and bad, just as there are consequences to obeying or not obeying God’s law.

Blessings and Curses

It could not be clearer that obedience blessings us while disobedience brings curses or negative consequences. There are only twelve verses in Deuteronomy that outline the blessings that come from obedience (28:3-14), but there are sixty-five verses where curses are the result of disobedience (27:15-26; 28:16-68). [1] Although God has determined to save Israel because of His covenant with Abraham, there is still responsibility or consequences for the nation’s actions. The society in which we live operates in much the same way. When someone breaks the law and they are caught, they have to pay some form of penalty. Years ago, I was forced to ride to work with my cousin until my car wax fixed, but he got road rage every morning on the way to work, and every afternoon, on the way home. He passed cars, sometimes briefly crossing the double-yellow lines…and only to save a few minutes. At best, he might get home about 2 or 3 minutes earlier, but I’d rather be late and arrive safely than to put my life at risk for a few minutes of time. Occasionally, he’d pay for his driving by getting tickets, and not only did these tickets cost money, they drove up his insurance rates. Now he pays a lot more for insurance than he used too. His disobedience of the law brought about bad consequences, even though he was free to obey or disobey. In the same way, Israel knows what God expects and they are obligated to obey or pay the consequences for their disobedience. The same thing applies to individuals, and corporately, with nations.

Nearer to God

An interesting thing happened when Israel obeyed the Law. God’s presence or His nearness was felt and seen, however since we know God is holy, He cannot dwell where sin is present, so if there is no repentance, He is not going to be near to any person or any nation as much as He would be if they lived in obedience to His law. Just as God is no respecter of persons, neither is He a respecter of any nation. We know that God did not choose Israel because of their greatness or moral superiority. He says, “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deut 7:7-8), but He does expect us to have regard for the poor, like widows or orphans (James 1:27).

God’s Law

Some say that God’s law is reflective of His character. They reveal Who He is and what He is like. That’s why the law was so important to Israel’s existence. The Book of Deuteronomy is clear that the exhortations to obey the law (4:1-4) come with stipulations tied to the Sinaitic Covenant (4:44-28-68), which is reaffirmed by Moses. This covenant says that both blessings and curses are dependent upon obedience or disobedience (27:1-28:68), and many of these civil laws are being upheld in nations today. These laws deal with societal order, from respecting property lines (19:14), to not bearing false witness in judicial matters (19:16-19), to matters of sexual immorality in regards to the conduct of men and women, both married and unmarried (22:13-30), and even laws intended to keep the courts free of frivolous lawsuits or cases (22:1-12). These laws are intended to make Israel holy and to be an example to other nations, which is why God says that they should “purge the evil from among” them (13:5; 17:7; 19:19, etc.). If Israel had obeyed, they would have been the supreme example to other nations.

Obedience and Prosperity

John Adams; The Second President of the United States

Our local, state, and federal officials expect the local citizens to abide by the law, and to meet certain expectations and obligations, like paying taxes, and if Israel had obeyed, God promised to exalt them too in“praise, fame and honor high above all the nations he has made,” for the purpose of exhibiting them to all the nations that practice evil, for they are to “be a people holy to the Lord” (Deut 26:19). Shortly after America gained her independence, many of the laws that were written came straight out of the Bible. There were laws concerning property boundaries, giving false testimony in a court of law, stipulations for involuntary manslaughter, and representation of the poor. During his inauguration as president, John Adams wrote “And may that Being who is supreme over all, the Patron of Order, the Fountain of Justice, and the Protector in all ages of the world of virtuous liberty, continue His blessing upon this nation and its Government and give it all possible success and duration consistent with the ends of His providence.” [2] Adams tied in blessings for the nation to that of upholding justice and virtuous liberty (obedience), and any possible success was directly tied to God’s presence “with (or by means of) the ends of His providence.” These national blessings were to be upon the nation and its government because they were mutually inclusive. This made America a Christian beacon to other nations of the world, at least for a couple of centuries.

Conclusion

Obedience brings blessings and disobedience brings curses, so it’s close to Sir Isaac Newton’s law, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Breaking God’s law, just as breaking mankind’s law, brings consequences that are anything but good. We are all free to choose to do what is right, even when you’re in the minority, but as you know, what is popular is not always right, and what is right is not always popular. Choose to do what is right, whether it’s popular or not. Disobey, and there is no guarantee of any blessing from God…only consequences that are anything but good.

1 Desmond T. Alexander. From Paradise to the Promised Land (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publish, 2012), 306.

2. John Adams. Inaugural Address, Philadelphia, March 4, 1797, The Avalon Project, Yale Law School, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.

 

 

 

THIS DAY IN HISTORY

July 17

1955

Disneyland opens

Disneyland, Walt Disney’s metropolis of nostalgia, fantasy, and futurism, opens on July 17, 1955. The $17 million theme park was built on 160 acres of former orange groves in Anaheim, California, and soon brought in staggering profits. Today, Disneyland hosts more than 14 million visitors a year, who spend close to $3 billion.

Walt Disney, born in Chicago in 1901, worked as a commercial artist before setting up a small studio in Los Angeles to produce animated cartoons. In 1928, his short film Steamboat Willy, starring the character “Mickey Mouse,” was a national sensation. It was the first animated film to use sound, and Disney provided the voice for Mickey. From there on, Disney cartoons were in heavy demand, but the company struggled financially because of Disney’s insistence on ever-improving artistic and technical quality. His first feature-length cartoon, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1938), took three years to complete and was a great commercial success.

Snow White was followed by other feature-length classics for children, such as Pinocchio (1940), Dumbo (1941), and Bambi (1942). Fantasia (1940), which coordinated animated segments with famous classical music pieces, was an artistic and technical achievement. In Song of the South (1946), Disney combined live actors with animated figures, and beginning with Treasure Islandin 1950 the company added live-action movies to its repertoire. Disney was also one of the first movie studios to produce film directly for television, and its Zorro and Davy Crockett series were very popular with children.

In the early 1950s, Walt Disney began designing a huge amusement park to be built near Los Angeles. He intended Disneyland to have educational as well as amusement value and to entertain adults and their children. Land was bought in the farming community of Anaheim, about 25 miles southeast of Los Angeles, and construction began in 1954. In the summer of 1955, special invitations were sent out for the opening of Disneyland on July 17. Unfortunately, the pass was counterfeited and thousands of uninvited people were admitted into Disneyland on opening day. The park was not ready for the public: food and drink ran out, a women’s high-heel shoe got stuck in the wet asphalt of Main Street USA, and the Mark Twain Steamboat nearly capsized from too many passengers.

Disneyland soon recovered, however, and attractions such as the Castle, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Snow White’s Adventures, Space Station X-1, Jungle Cruise, and Stage Coach drew countless children and their parents. Special events and the continual building of new state-of-the-art attractions encouraged them to visit again. In 1965, work began on an even bigger Disney theme park and resort near Orlando, Florida. Walt Disney died in 1966, and Walt Disney World was opened in his honor on October 1, 1971. Epcot Center, Disney-MGM Studios, and Animal Kingdom were later added to Walt Disney World, and it remains Florida’s premier tourist attraction. In 1983, Disneyland Tokyo opened in Japan, and in 1992 Disneyland Paris–or “EuroDisney”–opened to a mixed reaction in Marne-la-Vallee. The newest Disneyland, in Hong Kong, opened its doors in September 2005.

 

 

 

National Tattoo Day - July 17

NATIONAL TATTOO DAY

National Tattoo Day on July 17 might just be the date to get that ink you’ve been contemplating.

Evidence of humans marking their bodies with permanent designs have existed for thousands of years. Egyptian and ice mummies reveal several forms of religious and status symbols.

The word “tattoo” is derived from the Polynesian language for tatau which means “to tap or to mark.” Around the world, cultures surrounding tattooing vary and some have changed very little over time. In the United States, sailors brought tattooing to coastal shores from their island exploits.

Getting inked continues to be a growing trend as technology and acceptance increases.  Age, gender, and religion are less common barriers than they used to be. The reasons for going under the needle range from intensely personal symbols to recording a significant event. There are those who get a tattoo on a whim.  Some people confess it’s an addiction.

HOW TO OBSERVE

You have the design. National Tattoo Day is the time.  Use #NationalTattoDay to share on social media.

HISTORY

Within our research, National Tattoo Day has been observed since 2016. The founder and source of the day have not been identified.

 

 

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Taco Thursday???

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Daily Prayer for April 5

Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:5-8, NIV

Dear Father in heaven, we thank you for this day and for all the loving kindness you pour out on us. May we continue to receive your help and your protection. Bless us in whatever we are allowed to do in your service, that it may always be done in love to all people. Watch over us this night and be with us. May your will be done throughout the world, so that at last all confusion may come to an end, Satan’s work may be destroyed, and your children may shout for joy that your will is being done on earth as in heaven. Amen.

 

 

Thursday in the Octave of Easter

Reading 1 Acts 3:11-26

As the crippled man who had been cured clung to Peter and John,
all the people hurried in amazement toward them
in the portico called “Solomon’s Portico.”
When Peter saw this, he addressed the people,
“You children of Israel, why are you amazed at this,
and why do you look so intently at us
as if we had made him walk by our own power or piety?
The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,
the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus
whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence,
when he had decided to release him.
You denied the Holy and Righteous One
and asked that a murderer be released to you.
The author of life you put to death,
but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.
And by faith in his name,
this man, whom you see and know, his name has made strong,
and the faith that comes through it
has given him this perfect health,
in the presence of all of you.
Now I know, brothers and sisters,
that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did;
but God has thus brought to fulfillment
what he had announced beforehand
through the mouth of all the prophets,
that his Christ would suffer.
Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away,
and that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment
and send you the Christ already appointed for you, Jesus,
whom heaven must receive until the times of universal restoration
of which God spoke through the mouth
of his holy prophets from of old.
For Moses said:

A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you
from among your own kin;
to him you shall listen in all that he may say to you.
Everyone who does not listen to that prophet
will be cut off from the people. 

“Moreover, all the prophets who spoke,
from Samuel and those afterwards, also announced these days.
You are the children of the prophets
and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors
when he said to Abraham,
In your offspring all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
For you first, God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you
by turning each of you from your evil ways.”

Responsorial Psalm Ps 8:2ab and 5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (2ab) O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
or:
R. Alleluia.
O LORD, our Lord,
how glorious is your name over all the earth!
What is man that you should be mindful of him,
or the son of man that you should care for him?
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
or:
R. Alleluia.
You have made him little less than the angels,
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him rule over the works of your hands,
putting all things under his feet.
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
or:
R. Alleluia.
All sheep and oxen,
yes, and the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air, the fishes of the sea,
and whatever swims the paths of the seas.
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia Ps 118:24

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Lk 24:35-48

The disciples of Jesus recounted what had taken place along the way,
and how they had come to recognize him in the breaking of bread.

While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
“Peace be with you.”
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have.”
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them.

He said to them,
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them,
“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.”

– – –
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Reading 1 Acts 3:1-10

Peter and John were going up to the temple area
for the three o’clock hour of prayer.
And a man crippled from birth was carried
and placed at the gate of the temple called “the Beautiful Gate” every day
to beg for alms from the people who entered the temple.
When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple,
he asked for alms.
But Peter looked intently at him, as did John,
and said, “Look at us.”
He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them.
Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold,
but what I do have I give you:
in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.”
Then Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up,
and immediately his feet and ankles grew strong.
He leaped up, stood, and walked around,
and went into the temple with them,
walking and jumping and praising God.
When all the people saw him walking and praising God,
they recognized him as the one
who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the temple,
and they were filled with amazement and astonishment
at what had happened to him.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 105:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8-9

R. (3b) Rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord. 
or:
R. Alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, invoke his name;
make known among the nations his deeds.
Sing to him, sing his praise,
proclaim all his wondrous deeds.
R. Rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord. 
or:
R. Alleluia.
Glory in his holy name;
rejoice, O hearts that seek the LORD!
Look to the LORD in his strength;
seek to serve him constantly.
R. Rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord. 
or:
R. Alleluia.
You descendants of Abraham, his servants,
sons of Jacob, his chosen ones!
He, the LORD, is our God;
throughout the earth his judgments prevail.
R. Rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord. 
or:
R. Alleluia.
He remembers forever his covenant
which he made binding for a thousand generations—
Which he entered into with Abraham
and by his oath to Isaac.
R. Rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord. 
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia Ps 118:24

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Lk 24:13-35

That very day, the first day of the week,
two of Jesus’ disciples were going
to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus,
and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating,
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them,
“What are you discussing as you walk along?”
They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply,
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem
who does not know of the things
that have taken place there in these days?”
And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”
They said to him,
“The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene,
who was a prophet mighty in deed and word
before God and all the people,
how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over
to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel;
and besides all this,
it is now the third day since this took place.
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us:
they were at the tomb early in the morning
and did not find his Body;
they came back and reported
that they had indeed seen a vision of angels
who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb
and found things just as the women had described,
but him they did not see.”
And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are!
How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things
and enter into his glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them what referred to him
in all the Scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going,
he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, “Stay with us,
for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”
So he went in to stay with them.
And it happened that, while he was with them at table,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him,
but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other,
“Were not our hearts burning within us
while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem
where they found gathered together
the Eleven and those with them who were saying,
“The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”
Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way
and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

– – –
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

 

 

 

 

 

Verse of the Day

for Thursday, April 5, 2018

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

Thoughts on Today’s Verse…

“What am I living for?” While that is an important question, the most important question of all is “Who am I living for?” Only one person can insure that I will never die because he has already died for me and conquered death! If he was willing to die for me, I’m for sure going to live for him!

My Prayer…

Victorious Lord, thank you for giving me triumph over death through Jesus, my Lord. Thank you for giving me victory over sin through his sacrificial death. Thank you for giving me victory today in my life as I live it for him. Through the precious name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

 

 

 

Prophetic Insight newsletter

Prophecy: A New Day Is Dawning at the End of April

Recently, I had a prophetic dream, and it was very simple but very significant. In the dream, I was in a huge field. Morning dew was covering the field. I could tell it was very early morning because the sun was just starting to rise. As the sun began to rise, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of it. It was the prettiest sunrise I have ever seen. The vibrant colors, the oranges and reds and yellows filled the sky and it was so beautiful. Then the Lord began to speak and said, “A new day is dawning.” And there was a pause and I thought the Lord meant right now. But then the Lord spoke and said, “A new day is dawning at the end of April.”

A week before this, the Lord had instructed me to set aside the month of April to seek Him to a higher degree. I felt the Lord calling me to season of special prayer and fasting during the month of April. The Lord continued to speak to me about doing specific spiritual things in the month of April but also to do some physical things. So as I have been seeking the Lord, preparing for the month of April, this dream excited me to a whole new level.

I felt the Lord say, “This word is for the body of Christ.” I then remembered several words the Lord spoke to me last September and November about the first four months of 2018. The Lord kept telling me that this season would be a time where He would launch many people and many would experience new dimensions of favor and of His Spirit.

I feel what is coming at the end of April is not just a small season God is setting us up for years of life, planning, strategy and vision. The Lord was reminding me of many of my favorite Scriptures that promise that those who diligently seek Him will find Him. Through this the Lord has already been showing me strategies for so many different things. Just a few mornings ago, I woke up extremely excited. I shared two visions that I had for different things with my wife. We have already started implementing these new things just from things the Lord revealed to us just a few days ago.

What the Lord does within us during the month of April will cause Him to do something through us after that. It even says in Ephesians that God wants to do a powerful work in us so He can do it through us. In the month of April, diligently seek the Lord. Spend extra time in fasting and prayer. Dig deep into the Word. Make sure to connect with your prophets and apostles and allow them to speak into your life.

This is going to be a season of divine strategy and divine outpouring of the Holy Spirit. What God is about to in your life is powerful. Many have had dreams and visions for different things in past seasons but lacked the knowledge and strategy to move forward with them. This season, God is releasing those strategies to you so that you can go onto your next level, your next assignment and do whatever the Lord has for you.

New days are dawning! There is a new day dawning in your life. Look up! Night is over. This is your season. There is an acceleration from the Lord coming to you. I challenge you, get ready for April because God is about to show up in a great and mighty way. Seeking the Lord in the month of April is key to unlocking what is coming as this new day dawns for the body of Christ. 

Joe Joe Dawson is the founder and apostle of ROAR Apostolic Network and ROAR Church Texarkana. Joe Joe is married to the love of his life, Autumn Dawson, and they have three children, Malachi, Judah and Ezra. The Dawsons live and teach a lifestyle of revival and awakening. Their desire is to see every believer fulfill their God-given destiny and live life to the fullest in God. Joe Joe is also the author of Living Your God-Sized Dream and Recipe for Revival. To connect with Joe Joe or for more information, visit joejoedawson.net.

 

 

A Prayer for Rejection
By Lysa Terkeurst

“The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all.” Psalm 34:19 (NIV)

The enemy loves to take our rejection and twist it into a raw, irrational fear that God really doesn’t have a good plan for us.

This fear is a corrupting companion. It replaces the truths we’ve trusted with hopeless lies. Satan knows what consumes us controls us. Therefore the more consumed we are with rejection, the more he can control our emotions, our thinking and our actions.

So what’s a brokenhearted person to do? We must take back control from something or someone that was never meant to have it and declare God as Lord. To help us see how we can practice this when the worries of rejection try to control us, here are three things to remember and proclaim.

1. One Rejection is Not a Projection of Future Failures

It’s good to acknowledge the hurt, but don’t see it as a permanent hindrance. Move on from the source of the rejection, and don’t let it shut you down in that arena of life. It has already stolen enough from your present. Don’t let it reach into your future. Replace the negative talk that will hinder you. Replace it with praises for God, who will deliver you.

2. There is Usually Some Element of Protection Wrapped in Every Rejection

This is a hard one to process at the time of the rejection. But for many of my past rejections, I can look back and see how God was allowing things to unfold the way they did for my protection. In His mercy, He allowed this.

3. This is a Short-Term Setback, Not a Permanent Condition

The emotions that feel so intense today will ease up over time as long as we let them. We just have to watch how we think and talk about this rejection. If we give it the power to define us, it will haunt us long-term. But if we only allow it enough power to refine us, the hurt will give way to healing.

Father God, I don’t understand this situation. But I do understand Your goodness to me. Help me replace the fears threatening to consume me with truth. I know You love me, You are for me, and I absolutely can trust You with all of my heart. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

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Praying the Scripture: A Case Study

By Randy McKinion

Have you ever listened to someone pray and wondered why you don’t (or can’t) pray as they do? From the first, we must remember that prayer is not rendered ineffective because of its lack of eloquence or theological vocabulary. At the same time, this is an area in which believers will consistently grow, not so they can flatter a crowd, but so that they might pray in concert with God’s will. Although it is probably not a good practice to compare the prayers of other men and women, it seems that a prayer—especially when prayed corporately—can vary in its effectiveness in both asking according to the will of God and reflecting with the body of Christ.

My supposition is simple: Praying Scripture promotes growth and effectiveness in prayer. Granted, Scripture must meet a heart compelled to believe in a God who is sovereign and therefore able to answer prayer. That is, a praying heart must trust in the God who desires to answer the prayers of His children. Such was Jesus’ expectation for His disciples (John 15:7). Yet, Scripture provides inspired vocabulary and theology for prayer that pleases the Lord.

Fortunately, Scripture has provided examples of what this looks like. Not only are we given prayers of God’s children through the text, but we also have an example of the manner and result of a servant of God who prays as a reflection of his meditation upon the word of God. We see this in the text of Daniel 9.

Daniel 9:2 makes an interesting shift in the book. Daniel had previously received revelation through visions and dreams. Here, the text shifts to the interpretation of Scripture. Instead of receiving a new divine vision, Daniel reads, tries to understand Jeremiah 25:1, and prays as a response to this text. The particular verse that mentions the 70 years is Jeremiah 25:11 (see also Jeremiah 29:10), but it is pretty clear based on his prayer that he was reading the whole chapter.

As a result of his understanding the text of Jeremiah, Daniel responded in the following manner: “So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes” (Daniel 9:3). Daniel literally “turned his face toward the Lord God,” which is a fitting description of prayer. In prayer, believers turn their face from the world, its allurements, and their preoccupation with themselves to the Lord their God. The focus of their mind turns to God Himself and His will for their lives. Daniel’s manner in prayer revealed a determined, fervent heart; not an in-passing, flippant approach to prayer. He was desperate, and he lingered long before the Lord in order to understand God’s will. This was not simply a quick request before reading Scripture to ask for God’s blessing; this was a prolonged time of fasting and sitting before the Lord in a humble state. We learn much from Daniel’s countenance, but we also learn from the way he approached both the text and his response to it. Though the passages resonates with the rest of the Old Testament, two examples suffice to make our point.

1.      Daniel and Moses

Moreover, as an example for us, Daniel’s prayer demonstrates how he prayed in accordance with the text. For example, he begins his prayer, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Daniel 9:4). Consider the words of Deuteronomy 7:9:

Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments.

Now, even if Daniel was not quoting from this text—which I believe he is doing—he is at least echoing the words of God given in the text. As such, there is a resonance between his words and those of the Pentateuch. As such, the implication is important. According to Moses in Deuteronomy 7:9, when God brought His people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and redeemed them from slavery, this should have served as a perpetual example of how God would be faithful to the covenant that He had made with His people. This covenant was the promise that God had made to Abraham that these people would be God’s chosen people. Godhad promised to bless them, to multiply their seed, and to give them the land of Canaan. Thus, Moses and Daniel recognized that God is one who keeps His covenant, that He would keep His lovingkindness (or loyal love). In fact, later in the prayer, Daniel reflects upon the Lord’s work in bringing His people “out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand” (Daniel 9:15).

2.      Daniel and Solomon

Daniel’s prayer continues: “We have sinnedcommitted iniquityacted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances” (Daniel 9:5). In setting these three phrases together, Daniel’s prayer seems to be bringing together the truths of Solomon’s prayer in 1 Kings 1:1. When Solomon had finished building the temple and when the ark had been brought in, he prayed a prayer of dedication. Near the end, he acknowledged the sinful tendencies that they as a nation had, and so he made the following request of the Lord in 1 Kings 8:46:

When they sin against You (for there is no man who does not sin) and You are angry with them and deliver them to an enemy, so that they take them away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near.

This was the exact case, the reason Daniel was in exile to begin with. God had given them over to their enemies because of their continued sin. Solomon continued:

If they take thought in the land where they have been taken captive, and repent and make supplication to You in the land of those who have taken them captive, saying, “We have sinned and have committed iniquity, we have acted wickedly.” (1Kgs 8:47)

These are the same words that Daniel uses to make confession. If God’s people were to find themselves in exile, the proper response was to confess that they had sinned, committed iniquity, and acted wickedly, just as Daniel confessed. He seems to have “taken thought” just as Solomon had prayed later readers would.

What is more, the balance of Daniel’s prayer seems to reflect the rest of Solomon’s as well:

If they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul … and pray to You … then hear their prayer and their supplication [plea for mercy] in heaven Your dwelling place, and maintain their cause, and forgive Your people … and make them objects of compassion before those who have taken them captive, that they may have compassion on them. (1Kgs 8:47–50)

What Solomon had foreseen and prayed about, Daniel was living. He and his people found themselves in exile because of the sins of their fathers. Now the question remained: Would they respond correctly by not following the pattern of their fathers’ reaction? In this prayer, Daniel demonstrates that he was responding correctly, in line with Solomon’s prayer hundreds of years before.

Conclusion

I am pretty certain that good praying is not marked by its use of King James English. I think what sticks out in my mind about such individuals is that their prayers are well versed in Scripture. I think this is the reason that their prayers seem to be an expression of the heart of God. They know Him well, because they have spent time in His Word. This reflects itself in their praying as they view life through His lens, not their own.

For those of us who struggle with this, praying in light of Scripture, I believe, is an important principle for modern believers. If God speaks to us in His word—and He does—and if we desire to pray according to His will—as we should—then we will consistently pray in light of the text. When we read Scripture, in other words, we learn what God’s heart truly loves and what He desires. Therefore, when we pray with the words of Scripture, we are assured that our requests are not self-centered or outside of His will. Our requests will be focused upon Him and His glory and in line with His larger plans. When we read the Bible for our devotions or when reflecting upon Sunday’s sermon, it would be helpful for us to rephrase what we have learned in a prayer. This will help us develop not only a better vocabulary for prayer but also train our hearts to respond to God in a way that pleases Him. In many ways, this is why the book of Psalms has been so well loved by believers. In it we find the writer dealing with the highs and lows of life, and we learn how he responds to those situations with his words. The same is true of Daniel in this passage. His mind was filled with the Word of God. Much of the language he uses in his prayer is not new to him; it is taken from what he was reading in Jeremiah. This prayer may leave you saying, “If I could only pray like Daniel!” Well, the good news is that you can, because he was simply a faithful student of God’s words, and he recognized their continued validity in his life.

So, through these couple example from Daniel’s prayer, the pattern emerges whereby God’s servant reads the text, works diligently to understand that text within the context of Scripture, and responds to the text with requests influenced and governed by God’s words. Following Daniel’s example can ensure that our prayers clearly articulate the will of God, with the full understanding that in our weakness “the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).

Randy McKinion is a regular contribtuor to Expository Thoughts. He is a husband and father of three and Associate Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages at shepherds seminary in Cary, NC.

Peace or Worry?

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. – Colossians 3:15
Doesn’t the world look pretty safe sometimes?
Peace accords are signed. Cold wars end. The wall comes down. Just when my fears began to calm, I ran across an article about nuclear weapons in Russia. Organized crime is trying to steal nuclear material in Russia and sell it on the black market. And while the FBI can’t confirm that material has been stolen, Interpol reported that highly enriched uranium disappeared near St. Petersburg.
When I learn about the threat of nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands, it’s easy for me to feel anxious. But this is when I can turn to the truth from the Bible and learn from the words of Jesus.
In the Bible, the disciples of Jesus were anxious about their future. Jesus was telling them that he would soon die on a cross and be raised from the dead on the third day. They began to worry about their future. Then Jesus told them, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:26).
It’s easy to worry about the future but it’s not what God wants for us. I challenge you today to rest in God’s peace.
“Peace is more the product of our day-to-day living than of a spectacular program, intermittently executed.”
-Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969)
Devotionals Daily: A Year with Jesus

From Good Morning, Lord by Sheila Walsh

Today I will keep my eyes on the cross, a picture of Jesus’ love for me.

It changed my perception of the Cross. I’m talking about the question “Do you know how much Jesus loves you?” and the answer “This much,” an answer illustrated with arms outstretched just as our Savior’s were when he was hanging on the cross. His nail-scarred hands, stretched volun­tarily across the rough wood and held there by iron pegs that pierced his flesh and made him bleed, speak volumes of Jesus’ amazing love . . . for you.

Life’s bumpy road, however, can have any one of us doubting God’s love and fearing what the next day or week or month will hold. I don’t know what kind of past you are dealing with or what fears have resulted from your jour­ney through life. But I do know this: God is love, and his love is far bigger than any past circumstances, current fear, or worry about the future that can try to distract you and keep you from focusing on him. “Let us,” as the author of Hebrews says, “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” (12:2 NIV).

 

 

 

What Jesus Did! ‘He Will Raise the Dead!’

Illustration of John 5:21 NLT — [Jesus said,] "For just as the Father gives life to those he raises from the dead, so the Son gives life to anyone he wants."

Key Thought

Death was our impenetrable barrier as mortals. We could not escape it. We could not go around it. We could not see beyond it. Then the Father sent his Son, Jesus. Jesus conquered death. Jesus destroyed it as our barrier. He showed us what is on the other side of death. Just as surely as the Father raised Jesus from the dead, Jesus will also raise from the dead those who love him. He has promised it. He has demonstrated it. He now longs to do it, and one day he will raise the dead. Then, as God’s children, we will experience his glory firsthand.

Today’s Prayer

Father, thank you for not letting death have the final word. Thank you for demonstrating your power over our death through Jesus’ resurrection. Give me the courage to live with conviction and faithfulness knowing that my life will not be claimed by my death, but by my Savior, with whom I will live and reign forever. In his name, Jesus Christ my Lord, I pray. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

 

Passion for Praise: ‘Be My Rock of Protection’

Illustration of Psalm 31:1-3 — O LORD, I have come to you for protection; don't let me be disgraced. Save me, for you do what is right. Turn your ear to listen to me; rescue me quickly. Be my rock of protection, a fortress where I will be safe. You are my rock and my fortress. For the honor of your name, lead me out of this danger.

 

God’s Holy Fire: ‘A Matter of the Heart’

For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

Key Thought

Prejudice is ungodly. It is a divisive stain fueled by the powers of hell. To view people based on their ethnicity, their skin color, their tribe, their language, their culture, their education, or their status is to remain trapped in the sin-dominated world that Satan inflicted on us after the fall. Jesus came to tear down the walls that separate people from each other and to bring us together, through the Holy Spirit, into one new body — his body, the church — where he animates and empowers us through the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:11-22). So our identity is not determined by our skin color but by the presence of God’s Spirit. We are the cleansed and claimed people of God — spiritually “circumcised” — by the Holy Spirit.

Today’s Prayer

Father, we confess that we have allowed petty differences, racial prejudices, tribal conflicts, and regional rivalries to inflict wounds on the body of Christ. We ask — I ask personally — that your Holy Spirit work in each of our hearts to tear down these barriers and help us welcome and cherish each other based on our allegiance to Jesus as Lord and on the presence of your Spirit within us. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

 

 

 

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Genuine Salt of Humility

Humility comes before honor.
Proverbs 15:33

Humiliation of soul always brings a positive blessing with it. If we empty our hearts of self, God will fill them with His love. If we desire close communion with Christ, we should remember the word of the Lord: “This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”1

Stoop if you want to climb to heaven. Is it not said of Jesus, “He who descended is the one who also ascended”?2 So must you. You must grow downwards, that you may grow upwards; for the sweetest fellowship with heaven will be enjoyed by humble souls and by them alone. God will deny no blessing to a thoroughly humbled spirit. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,”3with all its riches and treasures. All of God’s resources will be made available to the soul that is humble enough to be able to receive them without growing proud because of it.

God blesses each of us up to the level and extent of what it is safe for Him to do. If you do not get a blessing, it is because it is not safe for you to have one. If our heavenly Father were to let your unhumbled spirit win a victory in His holy war, you would snatch the crown for yourself, and in the next battle you would fall a victim. He keeps you low for your own safety!

When a man is sincerely humble and never tries to take the credit or the praise, there is scarcely any limit to what God will do for him. Humility makes us ready to be blessed by the God of all grace and equips us to deal efficiently with our fellows. True humility is a flower that will adorn any garden. This is a sauce that will season every dish of life and improve it in every case. Whether in prayer or praise, whether in work or suffering, the genuine salt of humility cannot be used in excess.

1) Isaiah 66:2
2) Ephesians 4:10 
3) Matthew 5:3

 

 

Today’s Scripture

“But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for us.” – Romans 5:8

Thoughts for Today

You are significant!

Why? Because you are successful? Because you are good-looking? Because you are popular? Because you do good things? No. You are significant because God loves you. Because Jesus died on the cross for your sins–while you were still a sinner.

No matter what you have or haven’t done, look at God’s Word to find your reflection of significance. Nothing and no one can take that from you. You are significant because of God’s great love for you–now and forever.

Here are just a few more reflections of your significance:

Spend time in God’s Word–you will find many more reflections.

Consider this …

Have you opened your heart to God’s love? No matter what your past or what you have done, you are significant to God. He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for your sins. Forgiveness is available to you as a gift–Jesus has already paid the price. Consider receiving that gift right now. Just tell God how you feel. Ask Him to forgive you. Tell Him you want to accept Jesus and His precious gift. And then begin to see your reflection in the Bible.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for loving me. I don’t understand how I can be significant to you, but I thank you that I am.
In Jesus’ name …

 

 

Charisma Media

Could This Be Why Teenagers Are Killing Their Peers?

10:00AM 4/4/2018 Shane Idleman

“We don’t have a gun problem; we have a sin problem,” Pastor Shane Idleman says.

In the wake of so many school shootings, parents and students alike are crying out for justice. But there’s more happening than meets the eye, and the answer isn’t as simple as new laws.

Idleman ties in the increase of violence to what kids are watching.

Take a look.

 

 

 

The Famine That Leads to Freedom
TGIF Today God Is First Volume 1 by Os Hillman
April 05, 2018

“Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die.” – Genesis 42:2b

F. B. Meyer in his book, The Life of Joseph, describes a time in the life of the 12 sons of Jacob in which they were driven from their lives of self-satisfaction to an unlikely place to save their lives. Many years earlier they had thrown their youngest brother into a pit, then sold him into slavery. Thirteen years later he became the second most powerful person in Egypt. Now the world was experiencing a famine, and Joseph controlled all the stored grain of Egypt.

As long as the hills were green and the pastures clothed with flocks, as long as the valleys were covered over with corn and rang with the songs of reapers, Reuben, Simeon, and the rest of them would have been unconcerned and content. But when the mighty famine came, the hearts of these men were opened to conviction. Their carnal security was shattered. They were being prepared for certain spiritual experiences they would never have dreamed. And they were being prepared for the meeting with Joseph. This is how God deals with us; He breaks up our nest, He loosens our roots, He sends a mighty famine that cuts away the whole staff of bread. Then, at such times, weary, worn, and sad, we are prepared to confess our sins and receive the words of Christ when He says, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28).

A missionary once said, “There is a place where we will all be obedient.” Joseph was a type of Christ in the Old Testament. The famine was an event designed to bring the brothers to repentance and a saving knowledge, physically and spiritually. It created the circumstances that led to freedom for these men, for they had been in bondage to a wicked crime against their brother for many years. It was the forgiveness from Joseph that led to that freedom.

Is your life passing through a time of famine? Are your supplies limited? Is God leading you into directions that you would not normally seek? Perhaps this is God’s hand creating circumstances for His purposes. Now is the time to look attentively as He directs you to unlikely sources.

 

 

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Cold Wars, Trade Wars, and the Way of Peace

It seems that the world is teetering on the brink of disaster, and it may be only the beginning.

Cold Wars

I am old enough to remember having Civil Defense drills in our neighborhood so that we’d know what to do if a nuclear war broke out. I still remember doing the drills and hearing the sirens in our community when they went off. Many of us though, “Was this it or was this just a drill?” Even in elementary school I became quite familiar with the underneath portion of my desk. Later, they moved us out to the hallway, I suppose thinking we’d have a better chance for survival. We might not have said it out loud, but many wondered if we’d live into adulthood. The tension was sometimes palpable. You could almost cut it with a knife or even touch it. It was that tangible. We’d seen on TV what the nuclear bombs could do, and we thought, “Would holding your head between your legs and covering your head with your hands really help us survive? Those were dangerous times…and as it turned out, far more dangerous than we actually knew. For example, the Cuban Missile Crisis had us all on our seats for a time. There was every reason to believe we’d be the first ones to blink…but time proved we were wrong, and the crisis passed…but now, is it back? Or, is it more of an economic cold war, and not just with Russia, but with China (and others, like Mexico)? It seems that we’re on another teeter totter, and who knows which way it’s headed?

Peace with God

Isaiah wrote, “There is no peace,” says the LORD, “for the wicked” (Isaiah 44:22), but this is not just about pointing fingers because the Bible says that none are good, and to make sure there are no exceptions. To make sure of that, Paul says there is “not even one” (Rom 3:12c). I can only point a finger at myself because I am also included in the “not even one,” but the difference is, a Christ-follower does not acquire their own righteousness, but the very righteousness of God found in Jesus Christ (2 Cor 5:21). We are not good, but we are made good in God’s sight by Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, but this does not deter from the fact that this is not our Father’s world. “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked” (Isaiah 57:21), and “The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked; no one who treads on them knows peace” (Isaiah 59:8).

Good and Evil

What people used to call good many years ago is now laughed to scorn, and what was once called bad many years ago is now esteemed to be good, and so as it was prophesied that evil would become good, and good would become evil in the eyes of the world. That doesn’t mean good becomes evil or evil becomes good, but things that we used to esteem as good are now looked down upon or even laughed at, however Isaiah pronounces a judgment (“woe”) upon those who call evil good and call good evil. Isaiah wrote, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20). Relativism has gripped society and pragmatism rules the world. Now it is, “What works best for the most must be true, even if it hurts the few,” but as we know, what is often popular is not always right, just as what is right is not often popular.

No Peace

You cannot have the peace of God until you are first at peace with God, and you can only be at peace with God if you make peace with God through Jesus Christ. For anyone who rejects Jesus Christ, there is no peace…at least between you and God, and if there is no peace established between you and God, it is because you have not repented and trusted in Christ. Jesus went back to the Father after His resurrection, but He left the disciples with something that would help them. He said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27), and when the One Who rebuked the storms tells you, you don’t have to be afraid, you can believe it! The peace of God comes from God and not us, and this peace surpasses all human understanding (Phil 4:7). It’s hard to have peace when there is the threat of another potential cold war, and even worse, a growing threat of a trade war. These things only create more tension and apprehension for us, so it’s hard to have peace when many are walking on thin ice, at least financially. The more cracks you see, the more uncertain it looks, but this is not the view of most Christians. Their trust is in God and not in things. Contentment doesn’t rest on things but on a Person. If circumstances are allowed to regulate our peace, then we’ll never be at peace, and unlike the peace Jesus gives, this peace will not remain.

Conclusion

There is only one solution and it’s not human-centered. It will take a righteous King to rule over the earth before there is justice and equity and mercy. No more will there begging bread in the streets but the reaper will actually overtake the plow (Amos 9:13), and God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev 21:4). There will be little problem in having peace if there is no starvation, no sickness, no crying, no pain, no suffering, and no more death. At that time, peace will be like a river that flows out of the New Jerusalem and will sweep over the entire world. The Lord Jesus Christ will have made “all things new” as He promised in His Word (Rev 21:5). Only then will the world know peace and it is only because of the Prince of Peace.

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is a pastor, author, and a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.

 

 

 

In the Line of Fire, with Michael Brown

In a brazen assault on our most fundamental freedoms, California legislators are considering a bill that would make it illegal for anyone to receive professional help to resolve unwanted same-sex attractions or gender confusion.
In a brazen assault on our most fundamental freedoms, California legislators are considering a bill that would make it illegal for anyone to receive professional help to resolve unwanted same-sex attractions or gender confusion. (fsHH/Pixabay)

In a brazen assault on our most fundamental freedoms, California legislators are considering a bill that would make it illegal for anyone to receive professional help to resolve unwanted same-sex attractions or gender confusion. This would apply to people of all ages. People of all religious and moral convictions. It is an absolute outrage, and it must be opposed vigorously.

For the last few years, a growing number of states and cities have embraced legislation making it illegal for minors struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions or gender confusion to receive professional help, even with the full support of their parents.

This would apply to a 14-year-old girl who was raped by her uncle at the age of 8 and now feels repulsion towards men and attraction towards women. If her parents stood with her and she wanted to meet with a trained counselor to help to get to the root of her attractions, in some states, that would be illegal. No professional counselor or therapist or psychologist would be allowed to help her.

Yet in these same states, if an 8-year-old girl believed she was really a boy and wanted to receive professional help to affirm her female identity, that would be perfectly legal. A counselor could tell her parents to encourage her to dress and identify as a boy. That counselor could also recommend that, at age 10, she start taking hormone blockers, then prepares to “transition” fully to male at age 16, then has sex-change surgery at 18, with hormones prescribed for life.

That would be perfectly legal. But for that same 8-year-old girl to say, “I want to be at home in the body God gave me. I don’t want hormones and surgery. Can anyone help me?” The answer would be, “No. Such help is illegal.”

California wants to take this one dangerous step farther, making it illegal for anyone of any age to receive such help. This defies all logic and can only be seen for what it is: a frontal assault on our freedom to self-determination. A frontal assault on our freedom of religion. And a frontal assault on our freedom of conscience.

And make no mistake about this. As ADF attorney Matt Sharp explained on my Line of Fire broadcast, this legislation would extend into the churches.

For example, let’s say that your church has the policy of offering free pastoral counseling for all tithing members. That would mean a financial transaction is involved in those services. So, you, a member in good standing want to receive some much-needed counseling.

You’re a married father of four, but you struggle deeply with gender identity confusion. You set up an appointment with one of the pastors, only to be told, “It is illegal for us to help you.”

I am not exaggerating.

Or you’re reading the Bible, which strictly forbids homosexual relationships, and you want help with unwanted same-sex attractions. You even read where the Bible says that some people used to practice homosexuality, but through the gospel, they no longer do (see 1 Cor. 6:9-11).

You try to set up that counseling appointment with your pastor, only to be told, “It is illegal for us to help you.”

That pastor could not even recommend a book on the subject from the church bookstore.

That’s how far this outrageous bill goes, and it’s only one of a series of bills being put forward in California. If the bills pass there, other states will be eager to follow suit.

What makes this even more outrageous is that: 1) there are thousands of ex-gays who can personally testify to their own transformation; 2) there are gay and lesbian psychologists who argue against the myth that homosexuality is innate and immutable; and 3) most children who identify as transgender no longer do so after puberty.

And remember, while California seeks to pass this monstrous legislation, it has no problem backing a psychologist who will help a man embrace his alleged male and female identity simultaneously. Or a counselor who will help someone embrace their alleged animal (or alien) identity. All of that is fine. But to help someone be at home in their own body would be illegal.

The whole basis of the legislation is the claim that: 1) medical fraud is being practiced; and 2) harm can be done to patients who undergo such counseling or therapy.

But there are plenty of patients who attest to the life-transforming impact of the counseling they received. And there are plenty of Christians who attest to the life-transforming power of the gospel—including transformation from homosexual and transgender identities.

It’s also a fact that there is no definitive proof that such counseling harms a patient anymore than some patients claim harm after undergoing counseling for substance abuse or overeating or depression.

In fact, during my radio broadcast, Ann Paulk, an ex-lesbian herself, said that positive counseling outcomes for people dealing with unwanted same-sex attractions are higher than positive outcomes for those dealing with alcoholism. Yet no one in their right mind would seek to ban professional counseling or therapy for alcoholics.

No, this California assault on our most fundamental freedoms is simply the latest manifestation of LGBT activism. As I and others have warned incessantly for many years, those who came out of the closet want to put us in the closet. Do you believe me now?

And while critics of any kind of change therapy mocked us with the (false) claim that we were trying to “pray away the gay,” these same critics now want to pass a law that says, “You must stay gay” (or, “gender confused”).

Will you stand up and make your voice heard today?

Here are four things you can do: 1) share this article and my radio broadcast with your friends; 2) go here to find out more; 3) alert your friends in California and encourage them to contact their legislators; 4) pray for awakening in the church and sanity in the society.

You have been forewarned.

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.

 

 

 

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Stay blessed!!!

 

 

 

Holy Thursday

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Morn Prayer1

Daily Prayer for March 29

Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Psalm 91:14-16, NIV

Lord our God, dear Father in heaven, we turn our hearts to you, for you know all our need. We turn to you, for you are ready with your help when we are at our wit’s end. You have paths we can follow joyfully because we have a Lord who rules and who reigns over us to make us glad. May we praise your name at all times. May your help be always before our eyes so that we can be your true children, to the glory of your name on earth. Amen.

 

Reading for the Holy Week

Turning

Henry Drummond

The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter…and Peter went outside and wept bitterly. Luke 22:61–62

Every person at some time in his life has fallen. Many have fallen many times; few, few times. And who of us can fail to shudder at the tale of Peter’s guilt?

We are well aware of how the plot thickens round him. When we read the story for ourselves we feel an almost unconscious sympathy with Peter, as if his story has happened in our own lives. And we know, as we follow the dreary stages of his fall, these same well-worn steps have been traced ever since then by every human foot. Anyone who possesses an inner history can surely understand how Peter could have slept in the garden, when he should have watched and prayed. Who of us would dare to look down upon the faithlessness that made him follow Christ far off, instead of keeping at his Master’s side? For we know too well what it means to get out of step with Christ. Wouldn’t we, like the worldly company who warmed themselves by the fire and to our shame, be quick to question Peter?

Those of us who know the heart’s deceit would surely find it difficult to judge this man – this man who had lived so long in the inner circle of fellowship with Christ, whose eyes were used to seeing miracles, who witnessed the glory of the transfiguration; this man whose ears were yet full of the most solemn words the world had ever heard, whose heart was warm still with Communion-table thoughts. We understand how he could have turned his back upon his Lord, and, almost ere the sacramental wine was dry upon his lips, curse him to his face. Such things, alas, are not strange to those of us who know the appalling tragedy of sin.

But there is something in Peter’s life that is much greater than his sin. It is his repentance. We all too easily relate to Peter in his sin, but few of us grasp the wonder of his repentance. Sinful Peter is one man, and repentant Peter is another; and many of us who kept his company along these worn steps to sin have left him to trace the tear-washed path of repentance alone. But the real lesson in Peter’s life is one of repentance. His fall is a lesson in sin that requires no teacher, but his repentance is a great lesson in salvation. And it is this great lesson that contains the only true spiritual meaning to those who have personally made Peter’s discovery – that they have betrayed our God.

What then can we learn from Peter’s turning around? First, it was not Peter who turned. It was the Lord who turned and looked at Peter. When the cock crew, that might have kept Peter from falling further. But he was just in the very act of sin. And when a person is in the thick of his sin his last thought is to throw down his arms and repent. So Peter never thought of turning, but the Lord turned. And when Peter would rather have looked anywhere else than at the Lord, the Lord looked at Peter. This scarce-noticed fact is the only sermon needed to anyone who sins – that the Lord turns first.

For this reason it is important to distinguish between two kinds of sorrow for sin. The one has to do with feeling sorry over some wrong or sin we have committed. This feeling seems to provide a sort of guarantee that we are not disposed to do the same wrong again, and that our better self is still alive enough to enter its protest against the sin our lower self has done. And we count this feeling of reproach, which treads so closely on the act, as a sort of compensation or atonement for the wrong.

In this kind of sorrow, however, there is no real repentance, no true sorrow for sin. It is merely wounded self-love. It is a sorrow over weakness, over the fact that when we were put to the test we found to our chagrin that we had failed. But this chagrin is what we are apt to mistake for repentance. This is nothing but wounded pride – sorrow that we did not do better, that we were not so good as we and others thought. It is just as if Peter turned and looked upon Peter. And when Peter turns and looks upon Peter, he sees what a poor, weak creature Peter is. And if God had not looked upon Peter he might have wept well-nigh as bitterly, not because he had sinned against his God, but because he, the great apostle, had done a weak thing – he was weak as other men.

All this amounts to little more than vexation and annoyance with ourselves, that, after all our good resolutions and attempts at reformation, we have broken down again. This kind of sorrow bears no lasting fruit, and is certainly far removed from the publican’s prayer of repentance in the temple. “Lord be merciful to me, a sinner!” Stricken before his God, this publican had little thought of the self-respect he had lost. He certainly felt it no indignity to take the culprit’s place.

All this is to say that there is a vast difference between divine and human sorrow. True contrition occurs when God turns and looks upon us. Human sorrow is us turning and looking upon ourselves. True, there is nothing wrong in turning and looking at oneself – only there is a danger. We can miss the most authentic experience of life in the imitation. For genuine repentance consists of feeling deeply our human helplessness, of knowing how God comes to us when we are completely broken.

In the end, it is God looking into the sinner’s face that matters. Knowing first hand the difference between human and divine sorrow is of utmost importance. It is the distinction Luke brings out in the prodigal son’s life, between coming to himself and coming to his father. “He came to himself,” and then “he came to his father.” So we are always coming to ourselves. We are always finding out, like the prodigal, the miserable bargains we have made. But this is not the crucial thing. Only when we come to our Father in response to his waiting look can we be freed and forgiven.

Peter turned around, but note well that it was the result of a mere glance. The Lord did not thunder and lightning at Peter to make him hear his voice. A look, and that was all. But it rent Peter’s heart as lightning could not, and melted into his soul. God did not drive the chariot of his omnipotence up to Peter and command him to repent. God did not threaten. He did not even speak to him. That one look laid a spell upon his soul.

We misunderstand God altogether if we think he deals coarsely with our souls. If we consider what has really influenced our lives, we will find that it lies in a few silent voices that have preached to us, the winds which have passed across our soul so gently that we scarce could tell when they were come or gone. Even in the midst of the battle, when coarser weapons fail, let us not forget the lesson of Elijah:

A great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:11–12).

he speaks so loudly that all the voices of the world seem dumb. And yet when God speaks he speaks so softly that no one hears the whisper but yourself. Today, perhaps, the Lord is turning and looking at you. Right where you are, your spirit is far away just now, dealing with some sin, some unbearable weight; and God is teaching you the lesson himself – the bitterest, yet the sweetest lesson of your life, in heartfelt repentance. Stay right where you are. Don’t return into the hustle and bustle of life until the Lord has also turned and looked on you again, as he looked at the thief upon the cross, and until you have beheld the “glory of the love of God in the face of Jesus.”

 

 

God's Holy Fire

‘They Do Not Have the Spirit!’

Illustration of Jude 18-19 NLT —  They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God's Spirit in them.

Key Thought

Having the Holy Spirit dwelling within us is the litmus test of whether we belong to Christ or not (Romans 8:9Act 19:1-7). Without the Spirit of God within us — enabling us to overcome our sinful nature (Romans 8:12-13), transforming us to be like Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18), and producing the fruit of the Spirit in us (Galatians 5:22-23) — we live by our “natural instincts.” This way of life is also called living by the flesh or living by our sinful nature (Romans 8:5-8) and is full of corruption, division, and hostility toward God, toward goodness, and toward God’s people. Avoiding these things is why conversion to Christ and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit are so important. Living by our “natural instincts” means living in rebellion to God (Ephesians 2:1-3). No one can live for Christ without the Spirit of God. The Spirit empowers us with supernatural instincts from God to live for Christ!

Today’s Prayer

Glorious and gracious God, thank you for sending your Son to die for my sins and then sending your Spirit to live within me to help me live to honor you. In Jesus’ name, I offer you my thanks, my praise, and my heart. Amen.

 

Heartlight

Passion for Praise: ‘You Have Seen My Troubles’

Illustration of Psalm 31:7-8 — I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love, for you have seen my troubles, and you care about the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to my enemies but have set me in a safe place.

What Jesus Did! ‘Would You Like to Get Well?’

One of the men lying [by the pool of Bethesda] had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”

— John 5:5-7 NLT

Key Thought

“Would you like to get well?” Sometimes our biggest disease isn’t what appears in our bodies. Instead, this disease hides in our hearts. “Would you like to get well?” That’s a much harder question to answer than meets the eye — when applied to my spiritual wellbeing. I might have to change. I might have to give up my excuses. I might have to adapt to a different lifestyle. I might have to give up blaming others for my problems. I might have to take some responsibility for my own condition. Jesus asked the question because, in this case, the man had a real disease. As the man shows by the end of the story, he wasn’t ready to take responsibility for anything. What about us? Do we really want to get well, both spiritually and physically? Really? Then come to Christ and be ready for the Holy Spirit to begin changing you!

Today’s Prayer

Father, I do want to be made well. I want to be saved and conformed to you through and through — body, soul, mind, and spirit. I offer myself up to you to be changed so that I can be whole. I offer myself to be transformed to be more like Jesus, in whose name I pray. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

 

 

Living Lent Daily

March 29
Holy Thursday
God Is the Love That Forgives

The question of what it means to be a friend of God ultimately draws us toward the topic of forgiveness. If we live truly as friends of God, we are called to forgive those who have offended us. And given what we have experienced, we know that the future of our world depends on a critical mass of people learning to let go of hate and embrace forgiveness. To be human is to become part and parcel of human magnanimity and compassion as well as human betrayal, violence, and sin. Perhaps Paul was referring to this aspect of what it means for God to become human when he said, “For our sake he [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). In other words, for Jesus, forgiveness was the way of life.

Jesus, I fervently pray to walk in the way of forgiveness.

Holy Week Action

► Reflect on the Gospel of Holy Thursday with Arts & Faith: Lent.

Tintoretto’s dramatic interpretation of Christ washing the feet of the disciples invites us into a grand hall, with sumptuous architecture and splendid vistas. Tintoretto takes us out of the historical context of first-century Jerusalem to show the timelessness of the event. Playing further with time, his grand scene places side by side the past, present, and future. Careful attention to these juxtaposed scenes calls us to navigate the visual narrative in a U-shape, from right to left.

In the top right, obscured in semi-darkness is the recent past: the scene of the Last Supper meal. In the foreground is the present—the moment of foot washing. Tintoretto replicates the dinner table to underscore a connection with the meal, traces of which still linger as seen in the bread and the carafe. The artist also collapses the time between the foot-washing of Peter, bottom right, with the effect this must have produced in the rest of the disciples. They are invited to participate in the ritual as well, and in this scene, this is occurring all at once.

The disciples and their varied responses to the foot washing are the visual focus of the scene. The two helping to undress one another’s feet show urgency. The figure on the bottom left steadily undoing the straps of his sandals shows steady obedience, as does the disciple behind Jesus removing his stocking. The figure prayerfully seated against a column in the back is an example of discernment. Those still seated at the table signify observation and dialogue, and finally, the figure furthest away and most concealed in shadows shows suspicion and resistance. He is likely Judas.

At the top left of the scene, we see a vista over a courtyard pool flanked by classical architecture, which leads the perspective far beyond through an arch. Moving from foreground to background into the vista, the imagery gives us a shorthand of the events to come after the Last Supper. The urgency of the disciples foreshadows their hastiness in the garden as Jesus is arrested. Judas, lingering in the shadows, invites us into the darkest hours of Jesus’ Passion that will follow. The pool with the boat is death, reminiscent of the ancient mythology of afterlife, specifically of crossing over the river Styx from death to eternity. The stillness is more evocative of Holy Saturday than of Good Friday. The arch and the obelisk are both signs of conquest and triumph in classical architecture, and here these give us a promise of eternal hope and the victory that will come on Easter Sunday. This painting, therefore, is an excellent invitation to the whole Easter Triduum.

Read The Living Presence of the Heart of God, a Holy Thursday reflection by Gary Smith, SJ.

Washing the Feet of the Poor

by Gary Smith, SJ

Liturgical Year: Lent

Tonight, at the Holy Thursday liturgy, many of the poor were present, having their feet gently washed and dried by others in imitation of Jesus. When I saw it all in front of me—the poor, the washing basins, the awkwardness of the washers, the faces of the silent and reverent congregation—I realized once again what the sanctity of service is and that the truth of the heart of Christ is found in the washing of feet. When I have washed feet, I have realized that it is only from below that I can really see what is above.

A long time ago I read a reflection by Luigi Santucci in his book Meeting Jesus about the bowl that Christ used in washing the feet of his disciples. I remember thinking, like him, that if I had to choose some relic of the Passion, I wouldn’t pick up a scourge or a spear, but that round bowl of dirty water. And I would want to go around the world with that receptacle under my arm, looking only at people’s feet; and for each one I’d tie a towel around me, bend down, and never raise my eyes higher than their ankles, so as not to distinguish friends from enemies. I’d wash the feet of atheists, drug addicts, arms dealers, murderers, pimps, abusers of all kinds—and all in silence, until they understood.

Before retiring for the night, the sights and sounds of the liturgy still ringing through me, I heard on the radio an interview with a Memphis pastor who had been with Martin Luther King Jr. at the motel where the civil rights leader was assassinated. Over the years this same pastor had reflected on the meaning of it all and was led to believe that he was called to be a witness to Dr. King’s life and death.

That is partly how I feel about my life. I am a witness to a movement in me that I can’t understand or articulate. As impossible as it is for me to understand my call to service, there will be people who do get it and who can point to me and say, “There it is, there is faith in operation, there is a believer, there is the holy operating in another human being. It is the guy with the bowl of dirty water in his hands.” They will recognize what they know to be the living presence of the heart of God. I am a witness to that heart, and this may, in the end, be my only contribution, homely and undramatic as it is. I am like the spectacular yet fleeting blooming of an Arizona cactus plant: for just a few days, the world is full of a new and astonishing color.

There are times on the streets when I wonder what…I am doing. And there are moments, usually humdrum and unspectacular, during which I realize that I am to bloom for just a few days so that I might give glory in my work to another kind of beauty that works in and through me. I rebel against this kind of divine interference in my life, especially when it conflicts with my other great loves. But Jeremiah makes it clear that no one chooses to fall into the hands of the living God.

You have seduced me, Yahweh, and I have let myself be seduced;
you have overpowered me: you were the stronger. . . .
I used to say, “I will not think about him,
I will not speak in his name any more.”
Then there seemed to be a fire burning in my heart,
imprisoned in my bones.
The effort to restrain it wearied me,
I could not bear it.
                                      Jeremiah 20:7, 9

No one in the service of the poor, who is honest, pats himself or herself on the back. If he or she does, it is not for long. I realize that God brought me into this world, blessed with skills and talents. The only thing that makes sense to me is to use them in the service of the poor. It is at their feet that I find myself.

Read Stay Here with Me by Rebecca Ruiz.

There is a beautiful Taizé hymn inspired by Jesus’ words in the Garden of Gethsemane, with the lyrics: “Stay with me, remain here with me; watch and pray.” This song lends itself to the Ignatian practice of unwrapping Scripture passages by imagining oneself within the passage. For instance:

I imagine myself having left the Passover table with the rest of the disciples. I am confused and overwhelmed by everything that has just happened. Jesus says he will be leaving us. He took the bread and wine and said it is his Body and Blood, “the blood of the covenant, which is to be poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” What does all of this mean? And what kind of a Master washes his followers’ feet? It’s always the other way around. He said, “Love each other as I have loved you.” What kind of love is this?

These thoughts swirl around in my head as we all walk together. We make our way to a garden called Gethsemane, at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Jesus is so upset. He asks us to stay with him, to stay awake and pray. We sit down under some olive trees as he goes just a little further up, a stone’s throw away. He falls on his face on the ground and says, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let it be as you, not I, would have it.” He is shaking because he so agitated. I have never seen him so upset. He wipes his brow. It is a hot evening, but it almost looks like he is sweating blood. Seeing Jesus like this pains me to the heart. I want to go to him and comfort him, but he has asked us to keep watch, so I just close my eyes and pray. The night air is heavy, and I feel myself drifting off to sleep.

As I reflect on my experience in prayer, it strikes me that Jesus asks his disciples to accompany him that evening to Gethsemane. We see in Scripture that Jesus would often go off to pray alone. Yet, on this night, this night of his most profound suffering, he wants the company of his friends.

This is striking because he is about to die for these friends—and, indeed, for all of humanity. From a human perspective, it is unusual for someone who is about to be condemned to death for a crime he didn’t commit to ask the person who actually committed the crime to come and be with him. The human instinct would more likely be to push that person away and not to want to see that person at all.

Jesus, though, while fully human, is also God. And our God is a God of relationship. He came to redeem us and he loves us, personally, throughout the process of redemption. He doesn’t push us away—ever—even when our human sense of justice would deem it justifiable. At Gethsemane, Jesus demonstrated that with God’s justice, love is the overriding factor. His love remains at all times, even when we don’t expect it and when we know that we don’t deserve it. And God requests us to remain near; God desires our presence.

This evening, we enter into the Paschal Triduum, the summit of the liturgical year. We will be walking together through the events of Christ’s final days on earth. As you recall these events, place yourself in the Scripture passages each day. Observe how your experience of the passage affects you and what feelings arise within as you watch the scene unfold.

If you were at Gethsemane with Jesus that night, and he asked you to stay there with him, would you?

Think of Jesus walking with the Cross, looking at you, requesting your presence.

Think of Jesus on the Cross, requesting you near him.

Stay here with me, remain here with me.

Feel that Love, looking at you. Tenderly.

How will you respond?

 

 

 

Holy Thursday – Chrism Mass

Reading 1 Is 61:1-3a, 6a, 8b-9

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly,
to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
To announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God,
to comfort all who mourn;
To place on those who mourn in Zion
a diadem instead of ashes,
To give them oil of gladness in place of mourning,
a glorious mantle instead of a listless spirit.

You yourselves shall be named priests of the LORD,
ministers of our God shall you be called.

I will give them their recompense faithfully,
a lasting covenant I will make with them.
Their descendants shall be renowned among the nations,
and their offspring among the peoples;
All who see them shall acknowledge them
as a race the LORD has blessed.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 89:21-22, 25 and 27

R. (2) For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
“I have found David, my servant;
with my holy oil I have anointed him.
That my hand may always be with him;
and that my arm may make him strong.”
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
“My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him;
and through my name shall his horn be exalted.
He shall say of me, ‘You are my father,
my God, the Rock, my savior!'”
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.

Reading 2 Rv 1:5-8

[Grace to you and peace] from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness,
the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his Blood,
who has made us into a Kingdom, priests for his God and Father,
to him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen.

Behold, he is coming amid the clouds,
and every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him.
All the peoples of the earth will lament him.
Yes. Amen.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God,
“the one who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Verse Before the Gospel Is 61:1 (cited in Lk 4:18)

The Spirit of the LORD is upon me;
for he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor.

Gospel Lk 4:16-21

Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had grown up,
and went according to his custom
into the synagogue on the sabbath day.
He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them,
Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

– – –
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Reading 1 Ex 12:1-8, 11-14

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt,
“This month shall stand at the head of your calendar;
you shall reckon it the first month of the year.
Tell the whole community of Israel:
On the tenth of this month every one of your families
must procure for itself a lamb, one apiece for each household.
If a family is too small for a whole lamb,
it shall join the nearest household in procuring one
and shall share in the lamb
in proportion to the number of persons who partake of it.
The lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish.
You may take it from either the sheep or the goats.
You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month,
and then, with the whole assembly of Israel present,
it shall be slaughtered during the evening twilight.
They shall take some of its blood
and apply it to the two doorposts and the lintel
of every house in which they partake of the lamb.
That same night they shall eat its roasted flesh
with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.

“This is how you are to eat it:
with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand,
you shall eat like those who are in flight.
It is the Passover of the LORD.
For on this same night I will go through Egypt,
striking down every firstborn of the land, both man and beast,
and executing judgment on all the gods of Egypt—I, the LORD!
But the blood will mark the houses where you are.
Seeing the blood, I will pass over you;
thus, when I strike the land of Egypt,
no destructive blow will come upon you.

“This day shall be a memorial feast for you,
which all your generations shall celebrate
with pilgrimage to the LORD, as a perpetual institution.”

Responsorial Psalm Ps 116:12-13, 15-16bc, 17-18.

R.. (cf. 1 Cor 10:16) Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
How shall I make a return to the LORD
for all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
R.. Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
Precious in the eyes of the LORD
is the death of his faithful ones.
I am your servant, the son of your handmaid;
you have loosed my bonds.
R.. Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
My vows to the LORD I will pay
in the presence of all his people.
R.. Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.

Reading II 1 Cor 11:23-26

Brothers and sisters:
I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,
that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over,
took bread, and, after he had given thanks,
broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,
you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.

Verse Before the Gospel Jn 13:34

I give you a new commandment, says the Lord:
love one another as I have loved you.

Gospel Jn 13:1-15

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come
to pass from this world to the Father.
He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.
The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over.
So, during supper,
fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power
and that he had come from God and was returning to God,
he rose from supper and took off his outer garments.
He took a towel and tied it around his waist.
Then he poured water into a basin
and began to wash the disciples’ feet
and dry them with the towel around his waist.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him,
“Master, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“What I am doing, you do not understand now,
but you will understand later.”
Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered him,
“Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”
Simon Peter said to him,
“Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.”
Jesus said to him,
“Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed,
for he is clean all over;
so you are clean, but not all.”
For he knew who would betray him;
for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

So when he had washed their feet
and put his garments back on and reclined at table again,
he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you?
You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am.
If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet,
you ought to wash one another’s feet.
I have given you a model to follow,
so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

– – –
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Reading 1 Is 50:4-9a

The Lord GOD has given me
a well-trained tongue,
That I might know how to speak to the weary
a word that will rouse them.
Morning after morning
he opens my ear that I may hear;
And I have not rebelled,
have not turned back.
I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
My face I did not shield
from buffets and spitting.

The Lord GOD is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.
He is near who upholds my right;
if anyone wishes to oppose me,
let us appear together.
Who disputes my right?
Let him confront me.
See, the Lord GOD is my help;
who will prove me wrong?

Responsorial Psalm Ps 69:8-10, 21-22, 31 and 33-34

R. (14c) Lord, in your great love, answer me.
For your sake I bear insult,
and shame covers my face.
I have become an outcast to my brothers,
a stranger to my mother’s sons,
because zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me.
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.
Insult has broken my heart, and I am weak,
I looked for sympathy, but there was none;
for consolers, not one could I find.
Rather they put gall in my food,
and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.
I will praise the name of God in song,
and I will glorify him with thanksgiving:
“See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the LORD hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.”
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.

Verse Before the Gospel

Hail to you, our King;
you alone are compassionate with our errors.

Or

Hail to you, our King, obedient to the Father;
you were led to your crucifixion like a gentle lamb to the slaughter.

Gospel Mt 26:14-25

One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot,
went to the chief priests and said,
“What are you willing to give me
if I hand him over to you?”
They paid him thirty pieces of silver,
and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread,
the disciples approached Jesus and said,
“Where do you want us to prepare
for you to eat the Passover?”
He said,
“Go into the city to a certain man and tell him,
‘The teacher says, “My appointed time draws near;
in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.”‘”
The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered,
and prepared the Passover.

When it was evening,
he reclined at table with the Twelve.
And while they were eating, he said,
“Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
Deeply distressed at this,
they began to say to him one after another,
“Surely it is not I, Lord?”
He said in reply,
“He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me
is the one who will betray me.
The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him,
but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.
It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”
Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply,
“Surely it is not I, Rabbi?”
He answered, “You have said so.”

– – –
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

 

 

The Promise of the Darkness at Noon

By Publisher on Mar 28, 2018 05:13 pm

As the birth of Jesus had been announced by the light of the Star of Bethlehem, so the death of Jesus was announced by the darkness of Calvary. (Luke 23:44-45)

 

It is not likely that an atmospheric phenomenon caused the unusual darkness because of the astonishment expressed by observers. Further, the cause of the darkness at noon is stated to be cessation of the shinning of the Sun, a celestial event. The most logical celestial cause to look for would be a solar eclipse. Indeed, the early Christian writer Africanus quotes two first century historians, Thallus and Phlegon, who both stated that an eclipse occurred during a full moon during the reign of Tiberius.

 

However, the Darkness could not have been caused by an eclipse, because the sun and moon were on opposite sides of the sky during the full moon which marks the Passover and the Crucifixion. A similar effect could have been caused by a large celestial body, like some recently discovered in the outer reaches of the solar system, or a stellar cloud, which could have passed between the earth and sun at that time. Alternatively the sun itself could have seemed to black out in a fashion similar to stars such as R-Corona Borealis, which suffer sudden catastrophic decreases in light emission caused by conditions in the stellar atmosphere. Thus, it is possible for the sun to have stopped shinning for a time.

 

If the cause of the sudden solar darkness was celestial, one effect of the darkness would have been to bring the stars into visibility at noon. Off to the west the Northern Cross would have stood upright on the horizon, aligning with the actual cross when viewed from Jerusalem.  South of the Cross Delphinus (The Dolphin) promised the resurrection, while to the North Cepheus the King stood directly over Draco the Dragon. Draco lay on the horizon, illustrating the fact that blood of Christ shed at the crucifixion ended Satan’s access to Heaven as humanity’s accuser, and Satan was cast out of Heaven down to Earth. (Revelation 12:12)

 

 

Directly overhead at noon was the eighth chapter of the Star Bible, Aries (The Ram) which pictures the promised victory of the Lamb of God. The constellation shows the sacrifice of Christ, replacing the Ram of Abraham sacrificed on the same hill of Zion 2084 years earlier, as confirmed by the Star names El Nath (Wounded) and Sheratan (Bruised). But the slain Lamb of God is also the Lamb who will open the seals of the Book of Revelation (Revelation 5:6-14) as we move toward the end of the Age.

 

Christ’s enemies at the end of the Age are represented by the constellation Cetus (the Sea Monster) which pictures the same seven headed beast we see in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 13:1 and 17:3). Star names Mira (the Rebel), Diphda (the Overthrown), and Minkar (Bound Enemy) confirm the character and fate of Cetus. The One was overthrows and binds Cetus, Christ, is pictured in the constellation Perseus (The Breaker), who is shown carrying the severed heads of His enemies in the star Algol (Evil Spirit).

 

The third constellation associated with Aries is Cassiopeia (The Enthroned Woman). This constellation reminds us that the nation of Israel, which had rejected Christ and is represented by Andromeda (The Chained Woman) in the Church age, will be restored and lifted up when Christ returns (Isaiah 60:1-2).

 

On April 19 the sun enters Aires, obscuring it in the light. However, you can find Perseus and Cassiopeia near the Northwestern horizon in the early evening this week. Cassiopeia is especially easy to find because of its distinctive “W” configuration. Just before sunrise on Easter Morning the Northern Cross and the Resurrection Constellation Delphinus are almost directly overhead. To their south Mars, representing the blood shed on the cross, comes when 1.3 degrees of Saturn, which promises the Triumph of Jesus.

 

The stars of the darkness at noon tell us that God keeps His promises, whether they be of Grace or Judgment. Encourage a friend tonight to move into the grace side of God’s promises…

 

 

 

A Prayer for Strength to Endure
By Adrian Rogers

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. –James 1:12

Jesus is our example. He is a champion who, when He ran His race, received a crown of joy. When an athlete runs, he runs to win a trophy. In our verse today, what is “the joy that is set before Him”? It’s winning the race. He “endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

set-your-mind-on-things-above-colossians

That crown gave Him the ability to endure. If you keep the crown in mind, you can bear the cross. But you cannot have the crown if you despise the cross. We are crucified with the Lord Jesus Christ.

I have a few trophies that I won back in high school on a championship football team: a gold football, a letterman’s sweater and a silver cup. Do you know what happened to all those trophies? Someone broke into the house and got the gold football. The moths had a camp meeting in the sweater. It’s gone. There are no more letters on that letter sweater. What happened to the silver cup, I haven’t the foggiest.

Friend, athletes run “to obtain a corruptible crown; but we for an incorruptible” (1 Corinthians 9:25). Running the race, Jesus had the joy that was set before Him and He endured the cross. He despised the shame. There is a prize to possess.

If you are struggling today to endure, here is a prayer to help you remember the crown of joy ahead of you:

Lord, I am weary and don’t know when this “race” will end in my life. I feel like I’ve been running forever, trying to outrun this trial. Help me to stop trying to outrun my pain but rather run with endurance the race you have set before me. I know that because of you I am ultimately a victor over the trials in my life. I know that nothing in this world can separate me from your steadfast love. Please give me a measure of your love today; give me the strength to endure this trial. Thank you for your love for me that never ends! And thank you for the crown of joy that awaits me forever in your Kingdom!

In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

 

 

Crosswalk the Devotional

Stinky Feet – Easter Devotional – March 29

Stinky Feet
by Laura MacCorkle

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
John 13:34-35, NIV

Do you celebrate Maundy Thursday?

The word maundy means “a new commandment” and is derived from the Latin word Mandatum in translating Jesus’ commandment in John 13:34-35.

Before He said that, Jesus had demonstrated His love that same evening during the Last Supper, as He humbled Himself and washed His disciples’ feet (John 13:4-5). This act perfectly illustrated His new command.

So he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

After reading this, I can only imagine what washing someone else’s stinky feet must be like.

Think about where your feet have been, especially if you live in a back-to-nature, shoe-optional locale. This starts getting very up close and personal. And, depending on the individual and their hygiene habits or lack thereof, perhaps not too pleasant. Washing another’s feet is not a glamorous act of service at all. But neither is anything related to the role of a servant, since it represents a position of humility and a mindset of putting others first.

In this day and age, I know there are certain churches that do have foot-washing services on Maundy Thursday to commemorate Christ’s actions and his command. I have not participated in one like this, but I am sure it is a great object lesson to help all ages understand how to love one another.

Taking this a step further, The Bible Knowledge Commentary has this to say about foot-washing:

“Foot-washing was needed in Palestine. The streets were dusty and people wore sandals without socks or stockings. It was a mark of honor for a host to provide a servant to wash a guest’s feet; it was a breach of hospitality not to provide for it. …[Jesus] had done a humble service for [the disciples]. Meeting others’ needs self-sacrificially is what they ought to do too. This passage emphasizes inner humility, not a physical rite. Not to follow the example of Jesus is to exalt oneself above Him and to live in pride. No servant is greater than his master (cf John 12;26).”

So when we humble ourselves and serve the Lord as He served us, it is He who lifts us up. When we love Christ, He changes our hearts and motivates us to love others. And if showing this love means washing some stinky feet, then so be it.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and keep my laws (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

 

Intersecting Faith & Life: Who is God impressing upon your heart today? Is he calling you to show love to this person? Determine your course of action that will show a humble heart: make a phone call, send a note, lend a hand, speak a kind word or wash some feet! And then follow through as you love one another!

Further Reading

Luke 10:27, The Message
How’s Your Love Life?

 

 

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5 Who Tried to Stop Easter… and Failed

Have you ever thought about how many people tried to stop Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, whether for good or bad? Some wanted Jesus dead, and they thought His words were blasphemous. Others looked out for their own interest and rule, but there were some who wanted to protect Jesus—and they were distraught at His death. But God is sovereign over all, and He knew the path that His Son must follow in order to save mankind once and for all.

Here are 5 who tried to stop Jesus’ life, death, or resurrection and failed according to God’s plan:

1. King Herod: The Paranoid Manipulator
King Herod and many of the people he governed did not want to welcome a new King. Herod feared for his throne, and his people feared his vengeance. Once Herod learned information about the Messiah from the Magi, he asked them to return with a location so that he too could worship the King.

But being warned in a dream, the Magi traveled home a different way. Then Herod in his anger and paranoia decided to take matters into his own hands and tried to kill every Hebrew baby boy that fit the age range of the Messiah.

When Herod realized that he has been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.” –Matthew 2:16

But God sent an angel to warn Joseph in a dream, and he took Mary and Jesus to safety in Egypt. Herod failed to stop the Messiah, and God’s sovereign plan for His Son continued.

2. Satan: The Evil Deceiver
Satan tried to stop God’s plan by tempting Jesus with empty promises and bribes that he could not fulfill. Jesus, both fully divine and fully human, experienced temptation as a man the same way that we do, but He did not yield or sin.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only. Then the devil left him…” –Matthew 4:8-11

Can you imagine the fury Satan felt when Jesus remained strong in His choice to choose us—even to death? Though the Bible does not tell us, I think it is plausible to think that Satan was there at the crucifixion. We know he entered Judas Iscariot; Luke 22:3 says, “Then Satan, entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus.”

If he couldn’t stop God’s ultimate plan, he surely wanted to cause as much pain and havoc as he could while the Messiah suffered on earth. Satan failed, and not only did he lose the battle…he lost the war. God’s plan prevailed unhindered as prophesied.

3. The Sanhedrin/Chief Priests: Wickedly Insecure Men
The Sanhedrin was the supreme council of the Jewish people in the time of Christ and earlier. You can find out more information about the Sanhedrin at BibleStudyTools.comMatthew 26:59 tells us,

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death.”

They really didn’t like Jesus…and their desire was to trap Him into what they considered blasphemy. They already had it set in their minds that they would find a way to execute Him.

Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor.” –Matthew 27:1

And they didn’t stop there…

But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.” –Matthew 27:20

They wanted Jesus dead, and they succeeded as God had planned. But they failed in thinking that they were in control; they had no power when it came to Jesus’ life, death, or resurrection…the power and plan was God’s alone. They could not stop the resurrection, nor could they stop the news of it. The tomb was found empty; death could not hold Him. He is risen indeed.

4. Simon Peter: The Brave Defender
Peter tried to stop Jesus from being taken by the Roman guards. He succeeded in cutting off the ear of the high priest’s servant before Jesus stopped him. John 18:10-11 says,

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear (The servant’s name was Malchus.) Jesus commanded Peter, ‘Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

“Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” –Matthew 26:53-54

Can you imagine how hard it must have been for the disciples to accept that Jesus must die to fulfill His plan as Messiah—and that there was nothing they could do to help or stop it? They did not fully understand yet why Jesus must die, and they doubted before they saw Him again. Peter failed to protect the Messiah and save Him from the cross, but later he understood that it wasn’t Jesus who needed saving. Oh what grace God bestows on us.

5. Pontius Pilate: The Reluctant Judge
Even Pilate’s wife tried to dissuade him from crucifying Jesus: “When Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: ‘Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.’” –Matthew 27:19

Crosswalk.com Contributor Dr. Pritchard shares,
All four gospels make it clear that Pilate knew Jesus was innocent of any crime. If you put the gospel accounts together, it appears that Pilate tried four times to avoid sentencing Jesus to death:”

  • He told the Jews to try the case themselves: 
    “Pilate said, ‘Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.’” –John 18:31
  • He sent the case to Herod: 
    “…When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.” –Luke 23:6
  • He tried to placate the Jews by scourging Jesus instead of crucifying him:
    “Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. …Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, ‘Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.’” –John 19:1,4
  • He tried to make a deal but the people chose Barabbas instead:
    Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews? Asked Pilate, knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.” –Mark 15:9-11

“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ Pilate asked. They all answered, ‘Crucify him!’ When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood,’ he said. ‘It is your responsibility!’” –Matthew 27:22-24

Pilate did not understand Jesus completely, but he knew that He was innocent. Rather than standing up for Jesus at great personal cost, he faltered to blackmail from high-ranking Jewish officials and mob mentality letting the people choose Jesus’ fate as God had planned.

Pilate’s crime in many ways was worse than the sin of the chief priests. They thought Jesus was guilty and wanted him dead; Pilate knew he was innocent and sent him to die anyway. He stalled and hesitated and tried to pass the buck. He wouldn’t decide so the mob decided for him,” writes Dr. Pritchard.

As believers, we can be thankful that God did not let any man or spirit stop His plan to send His Son to die on a cross and rise from the dead. God’s plan for salvation could not be stopped, and because He paid the only price that could be paid there is hope for all who believe.

 

 

Let God Do His Job

Philippians 2:8-11 shows us how humility precedes honor,

And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.  Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 

If God’s good pleasure and His plan are to be worked out in our lives, we must walk in humility.  It is a prerequisite for us to pass the test of humility.  As we see here, because Jesus humbled Himself, God highly exalted Him.  And at that point, no demon in hell could do a thing to prevent it.

When God promotes you, no person, no demon, no ungodly system can hold you back.  God’s exalting power is irresistible.  It is undeniable, and it is undefeatable.

But a humble heart must come first.  It has been said that no man stands taller than when he is on his knees before God.  Let us humble ourselves and be obedient to God in every area of our lives.  If we will lower ourselves, God will lift us.  God’s job is to exalt us, and our job is to humble ourselves.  If we try to do God’s job for Him, He will have to do our job for us.

 

 

God Is In Control

And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” – Isaiah 6:3
Did you know there is now a modern day version of the Golden Rule? It says that “He who has the gold sets the rules”.
Who sets the rules for you? Your supervisor? The company president? The government? Whoever sets the rules has great power. Sometimes we feel like that particular person has too much power and control over our lives. We long to be that person who has the gold and sets the rules.
On the highest level, God is the one who sets the rules and has the greatest power over us. We make choices in life, but He is the ultimate boss. Through the prophet Isaiah, God told us to “maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed. Blessed is the man who keeps his hand from doing any evil.”
It’s good to know that God is kind and just. In our daily decisions, we need to follow God’s rules that are found in the Bible. Hopefully, you follow those rules in grateful response to Christ and what He’s done for you, not in an effort to earn your way into heaven.
Sometimes when people around us are flaunting their power, it’s easy to forget who is ultimately in control. I challenge you today to obey God’s rules for your life. Turn your situation over to God. He is in control.
“There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘All right, then, have it your way.’” -C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)
Devotionals Daily: A Year with Jesus

From Good Morning, Lord by Sheila Walsh

Today I will choose to believe that you are faithful and that you use hard times to make me more like Jesus.

If God loves me, why did my child die? . . . If God hears my prayers, why am I still single? . . . If God is in control, why is life so hard? . . . You may be able to add your own hard question to this list. Whatever that question is, the answer remains the same and it’s a choice of faith—“Life is tough, but God is faithful.”

And God’s faithfulness doesn’t guarantee an easy journey through life. In fact, he promises exactly the opposite: he promises that in this life we will have trials and tribulations, hardship and pain  (John 16:33). Yet he who is sovereign and wise and loving and good also promises that the tough times aren’t wasted. According to Romans 8:28–29—and I’m on a personal cam­paign to always refer to those two verses together!—even the most difficult, most painful times of life are used by God for our good, and that good is to be more like Christ . . . more trusting of our heavenly Father, walking more closely with him, being more free from sin’s grip, able to love others more wholeheartedly, finding ourselves more sensitive to the Spirit’s guidance and instruction, being more joyful whatever life’s circumstances. And I’m sure you can add to the list. Life is tough, but God is faithful!

 

 

 

The Delay of Unanswered Prayers

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The Delay of Unanswered Prayers

I called him, but he gave no answer.
Song of Songs 5:6

Prayer sometimes lingers, like a petitioner at the gate, until the King comes with the blessings that she seeks. The Lord, when He has given great faith, has been known to test it by long delays. He has allowed His servants’ voices to echo in their ears as if the heavens were brass. They have knocked at the golden gate, but it has remained immovable, as though it were rusted upon its hinges. Like Jeremiah, they have cried, “You have wrapped yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can pass through.”1

In this manner true saints have continued to wait patiently without a reply, not because their prayers were not strong, nor because they were unaccepted, but because it so pleased Him who is a Sovereign and who gives according to His own pleasure. If it pleases Him to test our patience, shall He not do as He wishes with His children? Beggars must not be choosers either as to time, place, or form.

But we must be careful not to take delays in prayer for denials. God’s postdated checks will be punctually honored; we must not allow Satan to shake our confidence in the God of truth by pointing to our unanswered prayers. Unanswered petitions are not unheard. God keeps a file for our prayers–they are not blown away by the wind; they are treasured in the King’s archives. This is a registry in the court of heaven in which every prayer is recorded.

Struggling believer, your Lord has as it were a tear-bottle in which the costly drops of your sacred grief are put away, and a book in which your holy groanings are numbered. By-and-by your case shall prevail. Can you not be content to wait a little? Will the Lord’s time not be better than yours? By-and-by He will comfortably appear, to your soul’s joy, and will cause you to put away the sackcloth and ashes of long waiting and put on the scarlet and fine linen of full fruition.

1) Lamentations 3:44

 

 

Today’s Scripture

“But the Lord watches over those who fear him, those who rely on his unfailing love.” – Psalm 33:18 NLT

Thoughts for Today

Have you experienced a relationship that brought about hurt and bitterness? Have you been hurt when someone ended a relationship with you? Have you ever been in a relationship with someone who disappointed you?

Whether it is your relationship with a parent or other family member … or with a friend … or with your children … or with a spouse or significant other–negative or broken relationships hurt. But you can have a relationship with Someone who will never hurt you, never leave you, never disappoint you. You can have that kind of relationship with God the Father through his Son, Jesus.

Consider this …

Sometimes you might feel as though God has failed you in some way. But if you will continue to trust him and to rely on his unfailing love, you will find that if you walk in obedience to him, all things really will work out for your good. And even though there may be times when you feel as though he has left you, you’ll learn that he never does.

God is your Father. Psalm 37 teaches that he directs your steps and delights in every detail of your life. Almighty God, the One who created the heavens and the earth and all that is, delights in every detail of your life!

A relationship with God is the only perfect relationship. He is love. He is truth. And he is your Daddy.

Prayer

Father, thank you for your assurance that I can always rely on your unfailing love. Forgive me for the times I have felt as though you let me down. Sooner or later I always realize that you had been with me and working everything out for my good all along. Teach me to trust you more. In Jesus’ name …

 

 

Understanding Our Own Calling
TGIF Today God Is First Volume 1 by Os Hillman
March 29, 2018

…”If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow Me.” – John 21:22

Jesus was talking to Peter after he had just had a very important encounter with Him-one of the last meetings the two would have. This was the third time Jesus had shown Himself to the disciples after His resurrection. It is the famous dialogue between Jesus and Peter in which Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Jesus followed by commanding, “Feed My sheep.” Jesus went on to foretell of Peter’s future death. As they were walking together, John was with Peter and Jesus. Peter asked Jesus about John and whether he would die also. Jesus reacted sharply to Peter’s comment, telling him not to worry about what John’s role or purpose was in life. All Peter had to do was worry about fulfilling his own purpose.

As workplace believers we tend to measure our success on whether we have achieved a certain position or stature in life. Even as Christians the temptation to believe that someone is blessed if they have achieved prominence is always confronting us. In His discussion with Peter, Jesus was getting at the very heart of the matter of a person’s calling. Peter was worried about whether his friend John was going to get the same lot in life as he was. Jesus told him it should not be his concern. He was to concern himself only with one thing: his own calling before God.

Are you tempted to compare yourself with where others are in their life? Are you dissatisfied with where God has you right now? Be of good cheer-“[be] confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).

 

 

Verse of the DayVerse of the Day

Inspirational illustration of 2 Corinthians 5:21

Thoughts on Today’s Verse…

Righteousness! That’s what we are. We are not righteous. No, it is much bigger than that. We are God’s righteousness. We are the testimony of how holy, just and gracious he truly is because, in Jesus, we are his righteousness!

My Prayer…

Thank You, Almighty God, for making me righteous in the blood of your son’s death. May people see in me, a reflection of your holiness, justice, and mercy as I try to share with them your grace. Through Jesus, your sacrifice for my sins I pray. Amen.

 

 

 

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Stay blessed!!!

Holy Wednesday

Spy Wednesday1

 

 

DailyPrayer1

Daily Prayer for March 28

Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:1–2, NIV

Lord God, we thank you that you have given us atonement, an atonement that delivers us from all evil, from all that is temporal and perishable, and that allows us even now to live in eternity. Grant that many people become aware of the greatness and freeing power of the redemption you have offered us. May a people be born to you, serving you with light in their hearts as they look to the future coming of Jesus Christ. Be with us, strengthen us, and protect us from all the deception on earth. For we want to be your children and nothing else; with our whole hearts we want to look always to you. Amen.

 

 

Verse of the Day

Verse of the Day

Inspirational illustration of 1 Timothy 2:5-6

Thoughts on Today’s Verse…

We do not need to have another human, no matter how mighty, pious, or special, to intercede for us before God. As his children, we can go freely, knowing that God himself has provided the perfect mediator between himself and us. That mediator, alone, is head of the Church and Chief Priest before God on our behalf. His name is Christ Jesus, and he is our Lord, Savior and brother.

My Prayer…

O God, you are my God, and I praise you for making access to you so freely available. I know that if left to my own power, I would have no strength or righteousness with which to approach you. Yet in your grace, you not only provided a ransom for my sin, but you also provided a mediator for my approach to you. Jesus, I thank you as well, for paying the price and staying at the Father’s side to intercede and speak for me! Thank you, Jesus, for making this prayer known to the Father as I pray in your name. Amen.

 

 

Living Lent Daily

March 28
Wednesday of Holy Week
Accepting the Offer

Throughout this Lenten journey, I have maintained that God wants all human beings to be “holy souls,” and thus “friends of God, and prophets.” I hope that you have experienced God’s desire for your friendship and your corresponding desire to be God’s friend. I am convinced that the only way to the fulfillment of God’s dream for our world is for more and more human beings to accept God’s offer of friendship and to begin to live out the consequences. God wants friendship with you and with me and with all our brothers and sisters in the world. That’s what our Lenten journey is all about. So let’s take the offer, shall we?

Loving God, I accept your offer of friendship.

Holy Week Action

► Read Maureen McCann Waldron’s reflection inspired by today’s message.

Lenten Meditation 7: Accepting the Offer

Throughout this Lenten journey, I have maintained that God wants all human beings to be “holy souls,” and thus “friends of God, and prophets.” I hope that you have experienced God’s desire for your friendship and your corresponding desire to be God’s friend. I am convinced that the only way to the fulfillment of God’s dream for our world is for more and more human beings to accept God’s offer of friendship and to begin to live out the consequences. God wants friendship with you and with me and with all our brothers and sisters in the world. That’s what our Lenten journey is all about. So let’s take the offer, shall we?

Loving God, I accept your offer of friendship.

—William A. Barry, SJ, in Lenten Meditations:
Growing in Friendship with God

Once I was contemplating the Prodigal Son. I was the father, waiting out on the road every day, searching the horizon for my son to return. One day I again scanned the familiar skyline and hills in front of me, and then I saw the speck moving far down the road—my son returning home. All of my love for him rushed into my heart, and I was overwhelmed with the realization that nothing he had done could possibly matter, if only I could hold him in my arms again and tell him how much I love him. I ran down the road toward him as fast as I could, panting and yelling with joy. My son was home!

It was that extraordinary experience of prayer that brought home to me how much God wants a loving friendship with me—with each of us. I often had the same sort of experience with my own children. These two young people that I adored with all of my heart often ignored me, disobeyed me, and went their own ways. Yet, I could feel how nothing they did could dim my deep and lifelong love for them. I might be frustrated or angry with them as they stormed from a room or slammed a door, but my children could not escape my love.

On this Lenten journey, we have been invited first to imagine and then accept that God wants a friendship with us. I think we have such a difficult time picturing God as wanting to be in a friendship with us because our imaginations can’t do better than to picture God loving the way we love. We give God our own limited, human version of love.

In our heads we might allow ourselves to think that God loves us endlessly, but in our hearts, we whisper that we are really not worthy of that love. We know too well our own flaws and shortcomings, and we are certain that if God really knew us, God would be disappointed. But the dizzying fact is that we have a God who reaches out to us, who wantsour friendship. “You did not choose me, but I chose you,” Jesus assures us (John 15:16).

Accepting this friendship with God means putting aside our fears and asking God to help us start. You chose me, Lord, and I accept. Help me start up the road and come into your long-waiting embrace.

Pray with Tim Muldoon and The Ignatian Workout for Lent: An Online Retreat.

During this Holy Week, our Ignatian Workout for Lent invites us to reflect on trial and suffering. Listen to Tim Muldoon’s reflection below. If you’d like, share some of your own reflections in the comments.

Prayer

What does a meditative reading of the story of the trial stir up in you? What trials have you faced, or are you facing? Can you find a place in your heart where you are willing to trust God the way Jesus did?

Action

In the coming days, set aside time to undertake the stations of the cross. Give yourself time to consider how meditating on Christ’s way of the cross sheds light on the specific struggles you are facing.

Jesus Before Pilate.1a As soon as morning came,b the chief priests with the elders and the scribes, that is, the whole Sanhedrin, held a council.* They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.2Pilate questioned him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”* He said to him in reply, “You say so.”3The chief priests accused him of many things.4Again Pilate questioned him, “Have you no answer? See how many things they accuse you of.”5Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.

The Sentence of Death.*6Now on the occasion of the feast he used to release to them one prisoner whom they requested.c7A man called Barabbas* was then in prison along with the rebels who had committed murder in a rebellion.8The crowd came forward and began to ask him to do for them as he was accustomed.9Pilate answered, “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?”10For he knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed him over.11But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead.12Pilate again said to them in reply, “Then what [do you want] me to do with [the man you call] the king of the Jews?”13* They shouted again, “Crucify him.”14Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” They only shouted the louder, “Crucify him.”15* So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas to them and, after he had Jesus scourged, handed him over to be crucified.

Mockery by the Soldiers.16* d The soldiers led him away inside the palace, that is, the praetorium, and assembled the whole cohort.17They clothed him in purple and, weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him.18They began to salute him with, “Hail, King of the Jews!”19and kept striking his head with a reed and spitting upon him. They knelt before him in homage.20And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him out to crucify him.

The Way of the Cross.21They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian,* who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.e

The Crucifixion.22f They brought him to the place of Golgotha (which is translated Place of the Skull).23They gave him wine drugged with myrrh, but he did not take it.24* g Then they crucified him and divided his garments by casting lots for them to see what each should take.25It was nine o’clock in the morning* when they crucified him.26* The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.”27With him they crucified two revolutionaries, one on his right and one on his left.h[28]*29* Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying,i “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,30save yourself by coming down from the cross.”31Likewise the chief priests, with the scribes, mocked him among themselves and said, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.32Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also kept abusing him.j

The Death of Jesus.33At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.34And at three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?* which is translated, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”k35* Some of the bystanders who heard it said, “Look, he is calling Elijah.”36One of them ran, soaked a sponge with wine, put it on a reed, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to take him down.”37Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.38* The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.39* l When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”40* There were also women looking on from a distance.m Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joses, and Salome.41These women had followed him when he was in Galilee and ministered to him. There were also many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.

The Burial of Jesus.42n When it was already evening, since it was the day of preparation, the day before the sabbath,43Joseph of Arimathea,* a distinguished member of the council, who was himself awaiting the kingdom of God, came and courageously went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.44Pilate was amazed that he was already dead. He summoned the centurion and asked him if Jesus had already died.45And when he learned of it from the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.46Having bought a linen cloth, he took him down, wrapped him in the linen cloth and laid him in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb.47Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses watched where he was laid.

* [15:1Held a council: the verb here, poieō, can mean either “convene a council” or “take counsel.” This reading is preferred to a variant “reached a decision” (cf. Mk 3:6), which Mk 14:64 describes as having happened at the night trial; see note on Mt 27:12Handed him over to Pilate: lacking authority to execute their sentence of condemnation (Mk 14:64), the Sanhedrin had recourse to Pilate to have Jesus tried and put to death (Mk 15:15); cf. Jn 18:31.

* [15:2The king of the Jews: in the accounts of the evangelists a certain irony surrounds the use of this title as an accusation against Jesus (see note on Mk 15:26). While Pilate uses this term (Mk 15:2912), he is aware of the evil motivation of the chief priests who handed Jesus over for trial and condemnation (Mk 15:10Lk 23:141620Mt 27:1824Jn 18:3819:4612).

* [15:615] See note on Mt 27:1526.

* [15:7Barabbas: see note on Mt 27:1617.

* [15:13Crucify him: see note on Mt 27:22.

* [15:15] See note on Mt 27:26.

* [15:16Praetorium: see note on Mt 27:27.

* [15:21They pressed into service…Simon, a Cyrenian: a condemned person was constrained to bear his own instrument of torture, at least the crossbeam. The precise naming of Simon and his sons is probably due to their being known among early Christian believers to whom Mark addressed his gospel. See also notes on Mt 27:32Lk 23:2632.

* [15:24] See notes on Mt 27:35 and Jn 19:2325a.

* [15:25It was nine o’clock in the morning: literally, “the third hour,” thus between 9 a.m. and 12 noon. Cf. Mk 15:333442 for Mark’s chronological sequence, which may reflect liturgical or catechetical considerations rather than the precise historical sequence of events; contrast the different chronologies in the other gospels, especially Jn 19:14.

* [15:26The inscription…the King of the Jews: the political reason for the death penalty falsely charged by the enemies of Jesus. See further the notes on Mt 27:37 and Jn 19:19.

* [15:28] This verse, “And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘And he was counted among the wicked,’” is omitted in the earliest and best manuscripts. It contains a citation from Is 53:12 and was probably introduced from Lk 22:37.

 

 

Wednesday of Holy Week

Reading 1 Is 50:4-9a

The Lord GOD has given me
a well-trained tongue,
That I might know how to speak to the weary
a word that will rouse them.
Morning after morning
he opens my ear that I may hear;
And I have not rebelled,
have not turned back.
I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
My face I did not shield
from buffets and spitting.

The Lord GOD is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.
He is near who upholds my right;
if anyone wishes to oppose me,
let us appear together.
Who disputes my right?
Let him confront me.
See, the Lord GOD is my help;
who will prove me wrong?

Responsorial Psalm Ps 69:8-10, 21-22, 31 and 33-34

R. (14c) Lord, in your great love, answer me.
For your sake I bear insult,
and shame covers my face.
I have become an outcast to my brothers,
a stranger to my mother’s sons,
because zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me.
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.
Insult has broken my heart, and I am weak,
I looked for sympathy, but there was none;
for consolers, not one could I find.
Rather they put gall in my food,
and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.
I will praise the name of God in song,
and I will glorify him with thanksgiving:
“See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the LORD hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.”
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.

Verse Before the Gospel

Hail to you, our King;
you alone are compassionate with our errors.

Or

Hail to you, our King, obedient to the Father;
you were led to your crucifixion like a gentle lamb to the slaughter.

Gospel Mt 26:14-25

One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot,
went to the chief priests and said,
“What are you willing to give me
if I hand him over to you?”
They paid him thirty pieces of silver,
and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread,
the disciples approached Jesus and said,
“Where do you want us to prepare
for you to eat the Passover?”
He said,
“Go into the city to a certain man and tell him,
‘The teacher says, “My appointed time draws near;
in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.”‘”
The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered,
and prepared the Passover.

When it was evening,
he reclined at table with the Twelve.
And while they were eating, he said,
“Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
Deeply distressed at this,
they began to say to him one after another,
“Surely it is not I, Lord?”
He said in reply,
“He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me
is the one who will betray me.
The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him,
but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.
It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”
Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply,
“Surely it is not I, Rabbi?”
He answered, “You have said so.”

– – –
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Reading 1 Is 49:1-6

Hear me, O islands,
listen, O distant peoples.
The LORD called me from birth,
from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.
He made of me a sharp-edged sword
and concealed me in the shadow of his arm.
He made me a polished arrow,
in his quiver he hid me.
You are my servant, he said to me,
Israel, through whom I show my glory.

Though I thought I had toiled in vain,
and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength,
Yet my reward is with the LORD,
my recompense is with my God.
For now the LORD has spoken
who formed me as his servant from the womb,
That Jacob may be brought back to him
and Israel gathered to him;
And I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD,
and my God is now my strength!
It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant,
to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
and restore the survivors of Israel;
I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 71:1-2, 3-4a, 5ab-6ab, 15 and 17

R. (see 15ab) I will sing of your salvation.
In you, O LORD, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me, and deliver me;
incline your ear to me, and save me.
R. I will sing of your salvation.
Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
O my God, rescue me from the hand of the wicked.
R. I will sing of your salvation.
For you are my hope, O Lord;
my trust, O God, from my youth.
On you I depend from birth;
from my mother’s womb you are my strength.
R. I will sing of your salvation.
My mouth shall declare your justice,
day by day your salvation.
O God, you have taught me from my youth,
and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds.
R. I will sing of your salvation.

Verse Before the Gospel

Hail to you, our King, obedient to the Father;
you were led to your crucifixion like a gentle lamb to the slaughter.

Gospel Jn 13:21-33, 36-38

Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified,
“Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant.
One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved,
was reclining at Jesus’ side.
So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant.
He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him,
“Master, who is it?”
Jesus answered,
“It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.”
So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas,
son of Simon the Iscariot.
After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him.
So Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”
Now none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him.
Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him,
“Buy what we need for the feast,”
or to give something to the poor.
So Judas took the morsel and left at once. And it was night.

When he had left, Jesus said,
“Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself,
and he will glorify him at once.
My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.
You will look for me, and as I told the Jews,
‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you.”

Simon Peter said to him, “Master, where are you going?”
Jesus answered him,
“Where I am going, you cannot follow me now,
though you will follow later.”
Peter said to him,
“Master, why can I not follow you now?
I will lay down my life for you.”
Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me?
Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow
before you deny me three times.”

– – –
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

 

 

What Jesus Did! ‘God Makes Himself Available in Jesus’

Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people — blind, lame, or paralyzed — lay on the porches.

Key Thought

One of John’s recurring themes is that Jesus comes to Jerusalem during important feasts to make God’s love and grace available to the people. Like he so often does, Jesus puts himself in a place that makes him accessible to everyday people. This group of people in today’s verses had serious health problems and had come to a place that legend had made a place of healing. John, however, will remind us once again that Jesus catches up all the legend, tradition, and meaning of his Jewish heritage and makes it all come alive in himself. He is the great healer — not legend, not tradition, and not the feasts. This healer makes God available to common everyday folks.

Today’s Prayer

Thank you, Father, for walking among everyday folks like me. Thank you for revealing your glory in Jesus. I believe he is my Savior, Messiah, Redeemer, Healer, Teacher, Lord, and friend. I believe you sent him so that I could better understand your heart. Conform my life to his example and his will. I pray this in his name, Jesus my Lord. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

 

God’s Holy Fire: ‘Blessed When Insulted’

If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

Key Thought

What an incredible phrase: “the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” Jesus reminded us that we are blessed when people insult and persecute us because we have a great reward in heaven (Matthew 5:11-12). In today’s verse, Peter plugs into this theme. In doing so, he also reminds us of an immediate reality as we await our reward in heaven. No matter what others say about us or do to us, God claims us and lives in us through the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of glory! Rather than being ashamed for our suffering, we need to remain faithful because we know that we are claimed by the almighty God!

Today’s Prayer

Father, may I never be ashamed of my faith in Jesus. Through the power of your glorious Holy Spirit, empower me to remain faithful through every circumstance and trial of life. I know you claim me as your child and that your Spirit lives in me and rests on me as I live to your glory. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Illustration

Illustration of 1 Peter 4:14 NIV — If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

 

Passion for Praise: ‘God is Not a Man’

Illustration of Numbers 23:19 — God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?

 

 

christiancrier

What Does It Mean Jesus Will Come As A Thief In The Night?

 

Jesus said that His appearance would be like that of a thief in the night, so what does this mean?

Noah’s Day

Jesus referred to Noah’s day when He was speaking about what it would be like just before His second coming, but why? Jesus explains, “For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt 24:37), and in the day of Jesus’ appearance, it will be just “as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark” (Matt 24:38). No one was expecting a flood when none had ever occurred before, so the people continued to ignore Noah’s warning about the coming flood of God’s judgment on an evil world, so what was the problem? The Bible is clear, saying “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen 6:5), and similar to today, “the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth” (Gen 6:11-12). I believe part of the reason God sent His judgment was because the people were beyond hope of repenting. They had heard Noah’s message of grace for decades, some say over a hundred years, but they kept doing business as usual, “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage,” which means it was all about pleasing the flesh. Eat, drink, marry, get a new spouse, and marry again, so all they spent their time on was imagining new ways to sin. All their thoughts were consumed about self-gratification, so that brought about all types of corruption and violence to the earth. Is it any different today?

Jesus’ Prophecy

There was no shortage of tyrannical powers in Jesus’ day. During the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry, the iron fist of Rome ruled the world, at least in the Mediterranean and Middle-East areas. When Jesus was speaking of the end times, when there would be wars and rumors of wars, there were already wars going on, although not to the extent that there would be in the days preceding Jesus’ return, but also, “many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold” (Matt 24:10-12). I believe we can now say the love of many has grown cold. Jesus warned time and again that He will come when no one is expecting Him, and so someday (soon?) there “will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matt 24:30-31), but why do those on the earth mourn when they see Jesus? The Apostle John writes something very similar in the Book of Revelation where he says that Jesus will be “coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen” (Rev 1:7). So why is there wailing and mourning when Jesus returns? Because they have rejected their only hope of being saved by rejecting Jesus Christ as the Savior (Acts 4:12). They cannot stand on their own merits any more than I can.

Like Lightning

One thing Jesus said when referring to His second coming was that “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it” (Luke 17:22). I believe those days are here, at least in the sense that I desire to see the Son of Man, or Jesus Christ, come, but I might not see before I did, so the older I get, the more I desire to see Him. Some believe that the temple in Israel must be rebuilt and the sacrifices must begin again before Jesus returns, however Jesus said His return will be “as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day” (Luke 17:24). Jesus is not waiting for things to happen. He will come at the appointed time, so “concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matt 24:36). All we know for sure is we “must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matt 24:44).

As the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.

Last Days

The Apostle Paul, writing as if the church at Thessalonica already knew, said “For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thess 5:2). It doesn’t matter if people say, “There is peace and security,” [because] sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (1 Thess 5:3). He was telling them these things because they knew better than “for that day to surprise you like a thief” (1 Thess 5:4), and yet it will many, no doubt, otherwise we wouldn’t hear these warnings from Jesus, Paul, and Peter. We shouldn’t be surprised “that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires” (2 Pet 3:3). That prophecy is being fulfilled this very day by many who read and reject this! The Apostle Peter says we must “understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good” (2 Tim 3:1-3). Have you seen the latest movies or the most recent video games? Enough said.

Conclusion

For all who have rejected Jesus Christ, that night will come upon them as swift as lightning, and will overtake them in their sins, therefore, I beg you to consider placing your trust in Christ. He can come at any moment, and if you hear He can’t come back yet, tell them, “Jesus said He will come at a time when no one expects Him.” God is God and Jesus will come when God determines He will come, and He is not waiting on a human timetable of events which are all laid out for Him to follow. He is not waiting for this to happen or that…He comes when He comes. The point is, He is coming when no one expects Him, many Christians included, but His coming will also surprise all who have spurned Him, and it is they who shall mourn, so when is He coming? I don’t know, but I do know He is coming. I just don’t know when. You don’t either.

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.

 

 

Spirit-Led Woman

Declaration: Healing Is for Today

God created the human body, and it is a marvelous creation. It was created to be strong and healthy at all times. Then why does it so oftentimes get sick? From the time that Adam and Eve willing sinned against God, the World and everything within it fell. And it’s at this time of the original sin that corruption came into the world and into the physical body as well.

And because of the fall, God designed a plan of redemption that would purchase back all that had been corrupted and lost, including divine healing for us. Whether it be spiritual, mental or emotional, or physical healing—Jesus paid the price, once and for all. And nowhere in Scripture will we find that He removed from His blood covenant His healing power for us today. Nor will we find an amendment to what was done at the whipping post to heal all that will believe in it.

But [in fact] He has borne our griefs,
And He has carried our sorrows and pains;
Yet we [ignorantly] assumed that He was stricken,
Struck down by God and degraded and humiliated [by Him].

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our wickedness [our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing];
The punishment [required] for our well-being fell on Him,
And by His stripes (wounds) we are healed (Isa. 53:4-5, AMP).

To propose that supernatural healing is not for today is blasphemous against the blood of Jesus shed at the whipping post to purchase all healing for us. To suggest that God put sickness and disease upon your body for any reason whatsoever goes against the Word of God that declares “By His stripes we are healed”. And to say that He put this illness upon your body for a good reason is a works mentality and you lack a true understanding of grace. To declare that God chose not to heal you or your loved one is to call God a liar. It not only declares war against all that Jesus did for us at the whipping post, but it implies that God and His Word are not to be trusted when He ensures us that “God is not a man, that He should lie.” (See Num. 23:19a). And that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (See Heb. 13:8).

Why then does your healing take time to manifest? Or why does it not manifest at all? According to Jesus’ words, “Your faith makes you whole” (see Luke 17:19). Faith in what? Faith in the redemptive blood of Jesus to heal.

“Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction” (Mark 5:34).

“Then He said to him, ‘Rise, go your way. Your faith has made you well'” (Luke 17:19).

Instead of blaming God for not completing His promise to heal, it’s time to take a good hard look in the mirror of God’s Word and speak the truth so that you and others can be free from the bondage of sickness and disease.

Be honest with yourself and with others: Your faith is not, or was not, strong enough to trust God for your healing. And then move forward, without condemnation, and develop your faith to believe for your healing. Remember, it is your faith that heals and makes you whole. 

Becky Dvorak is a prophetic healing evangelist and the author of DARE to BelieveGreater Than Magic and  The Healing Creed. Visit her at authorbeckydvorak.com.

 

 

christian videosGodtube

A Prayer for Praise
By Debbie McDaniel

From the rising of the sun, to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is the be praised.” – Psalm 113:3

We have so much to praise God for, there’s great power in giving honor to Him. And many of you live that truth out, every single day of your lives. The Bible is filled with examples of praise when we see His power released – life-changing miracles, dramatic stories of the enemy being halted or defeated, hearts being changed and drawn closer to Him.

Yet reality is that way too often, daily struggles or constant life demands can crowd out our praise to God.  We might check the worship box at church and somehow think we’re good for the week.  And all the while, with souls distant and cold, we sing words, we listen to music, then we go home.

Sometimes it really is a sacrifice to offer praise.  We may not feel like it.  We’re struggling.  We’re weary.  Or maybe, we feel like He let us down. We think God seems distant, like he’s far away, or doesn’t really care about what’s troubling us. Painful life blows and losses might have recently sent us spiraling.

We have a choice every day in this life.  To live absorbed in worry and stress, on the fast track of busy, focused only on what surrounds us, tuned into the roar of the world.

God desires our whole heart.  He waits for us to return.  He longs for us to know the power of His presence over our lives.  He desires to bless us more than we could imagine. His Spirit urges us onward, calling us closer.

May He help us to look up…open our mouths…and sing.

 

Dear God,

We praise you today with our hearts and songs, we praise you for your faithfulness, we praise you for your great power and love. We confess our need for you, our lives don’t go so well when we just spin around on our own. We struggle and worry, get weary and worn. Yet you never leave us. Thank you for your presence. Thank you for your care over us, thank you that you breathe renewal right into our souls. We ask for your spirit to fill us, to draw us close to yourself, and to work your purposes through us, as we set our eyes on you.

In Jesus’ Name,
Amen.

 

 

The Tomb Was Empty
Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth

He is not here; He has risen! (Luke 24:6, NIV).

Friend to Friend

The boys and girls in Mrs. Stephens’ fourth grade Sunday school class entered the room and quickly found their seats. The girls were dressed in frills and lace and chatting excitedly about the candy-filled baskets they had received that morning. The boys pulled at the unfamiliar ties around their necks and quickly discarded the sports coats they had obviously been forced to wear. The room was filled with excitement – for good reason. It was Easter Sunday.

Mrs. Stephens wanted to help her students understand that there is so much more to the Easter holiday than new clothes, chocolate bunnies, and egg hunts. Easter is more than family gatherings and tables filled with luscious food. Easter is about life. Easter celebrates the certainty of Jesus’ death on the cross, the fact that He was buried, and that He came out of a burial tomb to conquer death so that we can live now and eternally.

Mrs. Stephens came up with a plan. After sharing the Bible story of Jesus’ resurrection, she gave each one of her students an empty plastic egg and said, “We are going to take a walk outside, and I want each one of you to find one sign of life and put it in your plastic egg.”

As the children filed out of the room, Mrs. Stephens noticed Danny, a little boy with Down syndrome who had been coming to her class for some time. His bright smile and sunny disposition had immediately won her heart. In fact, when it came to Danny, she often thought he had taught her so much more about the unconditional love of God and the joy of simply being a child of God than she could ever teach him. When she heard the other children make fun of him, it broke her heart. She always corrected the children and tried to help them see just how special Danny was, but Danny seemed oblivious to their hurtful words, and thought of each child as his “buddy.”

The children soon returned from their walk, depositing their eggs on the teacher’s desk as they made their way to their seats. Inside one student’s egg was a lady bug. In another was an ant. Others had collected flowers, twigs, blades of grass and leaves to fill their eggs. But one egg had nothing in it. Everyone knew whose egg it was. Mrs. Stephens silenced the giggles with a look of warning. When she asked Danny why he had not put anything inside his egg to show signs of life, his face broke into a huge grin as he responded, “Because the tomb was empty.”

Danny got it. He truly understood the profound truth of Easter. The empty tomb is the ultimate sign of life and a miracle like none other.

 

 

 

Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth on the cross, will draw and attract all to Myself.”

James 12: 32

Amplified Bible

EXPLORATION

“What The Cross Tells Me About My Father”

“God proved His love on the cross.  When Christ hung, and bled, and died it was God saying to the world – I love you.”

Billy Graham

What have I seen in my own life that shows me how much my heavenly Father loves me?

“Nothing binds me to my Lord like a strong belief in His changeless love.”

C. H. Spurgeon

INSPIRATION

“The cross is God’s centerpiece on the table of time.”

Paul Guttke

            I am one of those very blessed girls who had a kind, compassionate and Godly earthly father who served as a role model in helping me better understand the characteristics of my heavenly Father.

As with most kids though, my relationship with my dad was not always problem free.  Especially in my teens and early twenties.  My view of my dad was tainted by my own immaturity and lack of knowledge.  I saw many of his decisions as harsh and arbitrary. I felt he was demanding and that his desire in life was to keep me from “having fun.”  Some of the boundaries he set up to protect me were seen as hindrances to impede me.

However, as the years passed, and my relationship with my father grew, much to my surprise, the very qualities in my dad that I once criticized, eventually became the elements of my father’s character which I admired most.

Time spent getting to know my dad, gave me a completely different perspective on the person he was.

This is why I want to spend some time today looking at what the cross and the events that surrounded the death and resurrection of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, tell us about our heavenly Father.

There are two critical reasons why it is so important we have a correct view of our Father.  First, my view of my heavenly Father is key in helping me form a correct perception of myself and God’s other children.  Let me explain this thought in very practical terms.  Children growing up in homes where fathers are mean and unkind, find it is more difficult to understand qualities like gentleness and kindness.  In fact, psychologists tell us that what we are surrounded by in our early years can end up having such an affect on us we may even become like the person we detested.  If I perceive my heavenly Father to be mean and demanding, cruel and arbitrary – it is possible the God I believe in may end up being the God I reflect.

Second, and this is a question I’ve asked myself on more than one occasion, if I believe God to be demanding, critical and harsh – why in the world would I want to spend eternity with a person who contains these distasteful qualities.

Today, there are four specific truths that the cross tells us about our Father:

  1. The cross tells me my heavenly Father tells the truth.  If we go back to the beginning of time on earth, in Genesis 3: 4, the crafty serpent in the Garden of Eden made a claim in direct contradiction to what God had said.  God warned Adam and Eve that sin was so corrosive and deadly, it would kill.  He told His children to stay away from sin.  But in words that defied what God had said, the serpent told Eve if she acted in direct disobedience to God and decided her way was better than God’s way, “You shall not surely die.”  The devil’s claim was that God was a liar, trying to keep His children under His thumb where He could limit their capacity.  However, as you and I witness the weight of sin crushing out the life of God’s Son on Calvary, there can be no doubt in our minds that our Father tells the truth – sin causes death.
  2. The cross tells me my heavenly Father is trustworthy.  Isn’t it wonderful to know that when someone says something to you, you can depend on the information they have given you.  In Genesis 3: 15, God made a promise to Adam and Eve that although the worst had happened and the stain of sin had ruined what God called perfect, God had a plan in place that would make everything “recreated” again.  Down through the years, God’s children, like Abraham and Sarah, Noah and his wife, Deborah and Barak, Rahab the harlot, and a myriad of others, believed and trusted that as Rahab so beautifully expressed, “I know your God. He is the God of  heaven and earth.  And He can be trusted.”  The cross confirms the  belief of so many of God’s children who have chosen to stake their claim on the fact that the word of our God can be trusted.
  3. The cross tells me my heavenly Father is merciful.  God didn’t have to forgive His children for their blatant disobedience. He didn’t have to make a way of escape.  He could have left us to our own designs, but He didn’t. The Psalmist David, who was on the receiving end of God’s unlimited mercy wrote these words as he began to understand what his Father was really like: “But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in mercy and loving-kindness and truth” (Psalm 86: 15).  In the words of Chris Bowater, “Your mercy covers me in love.  Your life adorns and beautifies, I stand complete in You.”
  4. The cross tells me my heavenly Father is love.  In an evening meeting with the Pharisee, Nicodemus, as Jesus tried to explain what God was like to this man, struggling to figure out what was truth, Jesus spoke these unforgettable words recorded by the Apostle John: “For God so loved and dearly prized the world that He even gave up His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3: 16).  The operative word here is “gave,” or as the Greek translation says, “bestowed.”  The Son of God’s gift of love.  Not the mercenary act of an angry God demanding payment – but a gift bestowed upon us by a loving Father who understood that we could never lift ourselves out of the pit of destruction we had gotten ourselves into.  And so, in an act of complete love, God poured Himself out in Christ Jesus, to rescue you and me, even though we did absolutely nothing to deserve such unconditional love.

This day and everyday, with gratitude, let us lift our voices in rejoicing that the cross is God’s evidence of the essence of who He is – truthful, trustworthy, merciful and loving. This is a God I not only want to get to know better every day of my life, but my Father, who I want to spend eternity with.

“O God, my heart is fixed, steadfast…for Your mercy and loving-kindness are great and high as the heavens!  Your truth and faithfulness reach to the skies.”

Psalm 108: 1, 4

“O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee,
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.”

George Matteson

AFFIRMATION

Several years ago, I read a poem written by Nancy Thomas, an American Quaker missionary who served with her husband and their family among the Aymara Indians in Bolivia.  Her words deeply moved me and I pray they will do the same for you, too.  The words of this poem express, so dramatically, the nature of a Father who would do everything possible to restore His relationship with each one of His children.

Hard God

“Candles and rose light
through cathedral glass
poorly define Him.
No gentle picker of pale
violets in grass.
No wandering shepherd
breathing wisdom and hymns
in shaded vale.
Let it pass.

I serve a hard God.

Liken Him to a raging fire.

Remember Him
forcing Pharaoh higher
to cliff’s edge,
then to churning sea;
see him swallowing Korah
in an extemporaneous tomb;
recall His intended pyre
to be built
from His erring
but chosen sons,
quenched only by Moses’ plea.

I serve a hard God.

He walks a stern path
through the earth.
His voice roars
in thunder,
giving birth
to terror;
oceans leap
in His wake
waves are hurled
mountains quake –
desolations are His footprints
in the world.

He is hard
and His way was stone,
touch and free
from gentility
like nails
driven through bone
and splintered to a tree.

He thunders and kills
from below, in, above;
He consumes all dross.

He is stern
like love
and hard
like a cross.”

Nancy Thomas

20th Century

“Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”

Isaac Watts

Your friend,

Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus

 

 

Begger or Prince

Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, he gave the right to become children of God. – John 1:12
Are you a beggar or a prince?  Some religious people will tell you that you’re despicable and worthless.  Others will say that you’re the pinnacle of creation or the center of the universe.
I think the words of C. S. Lewis from his great work The Chronicles of Narnia communicates the division between beggar and prince well. The voice of the lion, Aslan, is a respresentation of Jesus Christ says in the book Prince Caspian, “You come from the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve. And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.”
Friend, you were made in the image of God. That image, however, has been tragically marred and gracefully corrected. It was marred when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. It was grace¬fully corrected when Christ bore our sins on the cross . . . when he gave His life to pay the price for our sin.
Erect your head in honor of being a child of God. At the same time, bow in fear and respect to the King of Kings.
“You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure about you. We were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us.” – Nelson Rockefeller (1908-1979)
Devotionals Daily: A Year with Jesus

From Hope for Each Day by Billy Graham

Forgiveness and Fellowship

“I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” –Jeremiah 31:34

There is no possibility of true happiness until we have established friendship and fellowship with God. And there is no possibility of establishing this fellowship apart from the cross of His Son, Jesus Christ.

God says, “I will forgive you, but I will forgive only at the foot of the cross.” He says, “I will fellowship with you, but I will fellowship with you only at the cross.” Why is this? Because only through Christ’s death on the cross can we be forgiven and reconciled to God. This is why we must come to the cross, repenting of our sins and trusting Christ alone to save us. Human pride gets in the way: we don’t want to admit that we are sinners or that we are too weak to save ourselves. Only when we leave our pride at the cross can our hearts be open to God’s redeeming grace.

When we come to Christ, God imparts His righteousness to us. It is as if an accounting entry had been made in the books of Heaven, declaring us righteous for Christ’s sake. The Divine Bookkeeper cancels our debt!

Order your own copy of Hope for Each Day by Billy Graham

 

 

 

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The Incense of Your Praise

As a pleasing aroma I will accept you.
Ezekiel 20:41

The merits of our great Redeemer are as a pleasing aroma to the Most High. Whether we speak of the active or passive righteousness of Christ, there is an equal fragrance. There was a pleasing aroma in His active life by which He honored the law of God and made every precept to glitter like a precious jewel in the pure setting of His own person.

Such, too, was His passive obedience, when He endured with unmurmuring submission hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness, and at the end sweat as it were great drops of blood in Gethsemane. He gave His back to the smiters and His cheeks to them that plucked out the hair and was fastened to the cruel wood, that He might suffer the wrath of God in our behalf. These two things are sweet before the Most High; and for the sake of His doing and His dying, His substitutionary sufferings and His vicarious obedience, the Lord our God accepts us.

What a preciousness there must be in Him to overcome our lack of preciousness! What a pleasing aroma to put away our nasty odor! What a cleansing power in His blood to take away sin such as ours! And what glory in His righteousness to make such unacceptable creatures to be accepted in the Beloved!

Consider, believer, how sure and unchanging is our acceptance, since it is in Him! Take care that you never doubt your acceptance in Jesus. You cannot be accepted without Christ; but when you have received His merit, you cannot be unaccepted. Despite all your doubts and fears and sins, Jehovah’s gracious eye never looks upon you in anger; though He sees sin in you, in yourself, yet when He looks at you through Christ, He sees no sin. You are always accepted in Christ, are always blessed and dear to the Father’s heart. Therefore lift up a song, and as you see the smoking incense of the Savior’s merit coming up this evening before the sapphire throne, let the incense of your praise go up also.

 

 

Today’s Scripture

“And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, ‘Abba, Father.'” Galatians 4:6

Thoughts for Today

When we receive Christ as our savior, we are adopted by God! He becomes our Father, and we become his sons and daughters.

As our Father, he will guide us, teach us, protect us, provide for us, discipline us, comfort us, help us, forgive us, defend us, strengthen us–and through it all, love us unconditionally.

Twice in the New Testament, Jesus referred to God as Abba. In Galatians, Paul used the term. Abba is an Aramaic word for father, indicating a special intimacy rather like when we use the word daddyGod is our loving Father, our Daddy.

Consider this …

Psalm 37:23-24 says that when we stumble, we won’t fall down because God will be holding our hand. What a picture! Just envision a father–a daddy–walking along with his young child. The child trips, but the father is gripping the youngster’s hand and holds him up, keeping him from falling to the ground.

Our heavenly Daddy does this for us as we are willing to put our hand in his, following his guidance and trusting him. When we stumble, make a wrong move, he is right there to protect us and help us–to keep us from falling all the way to the ground and to guide us back to where we belong.

Prayer

Lord, I thank you that you are my loving, caring Daddy. Thank you for holding my hand wherever I go and for giving me the strength and guidance to keep going when I am faced with stumbling blocks or wrong turns. Thank you for caring. In Jesus’ name …

 

 

 

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Why is Jesus called The Christ?
What was it about Jesus being “The Christ” that was so earth shaking that it could save everyone who believed it? How did that simple knowledge turn the world “upside down” in the first century? And why is it so vitally important that we understand today what it truly means that Jesus is “The Christ,” the Son of the living God?

In this book, Leroy Surface takes you through the prophecies spoken through the prophets of old and shows how God plainly revealed what “The Christ” would do when he came. Such was the importance of this message that God sent the angel Gabriel to personally tell Daniel when “The Christ” would appear and what his mission would be. You will see why this understanding shook the world in the days of the apostles and why it will do the same today if it is once again understood and unashamedly proclaimed to every nation. Visit cochurch.org

More Free Books!

Resolving the Ownership Issue
TGIF Today God Is First Volume 1 by Os Hillman
March 28, 2018

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for He founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.” – Psalm 24:1-2

As Christian workplace believers, God calls us to view Him as the owner of everything. We are to be stewards of all that He entrusts to us. This is one of the hardest of all commandments to follow for the Christian workplace believer because, if we work hard at business, we receive all the benefits of that work. It appears as though all that we have achieved was through our hand. Yet God says that it is by His hand that we are able to make wealth (see Deut. 8). He is the source of that ability. As soon as we become owners and not managers, we fall into trouble with God.

Joseph understood that he was a steward of all the resources of Egypt. God promoted him to affect an entire region of the world. Joseph had more power, prestige, and wealth than any 30-year-old who ever lived before him. The temptation for him in this newfound role in life must have been great. Many a man has not been able to handle material success. Many of God’s choicest servants began well in their calling and service to God only to fail at the end. Consider Hezekiah, the great king who achieved many great things but failed to acknowledge God’s blessing at the end of his reign. His reign was cut short due to pride. Gideon’s fate was similar. Success can lead to pride if we are not careful.

“Not every man can carry a full cup. Sudden elevation frequently leads to pride and a fall. The most exacting test of all to survive is prosperity” [Oswald Chambers].

Ask the Lord today if you are living as a steward or an owner. Put whatever skills and resources you possess on His altar. Then you can expect God to do great things through you.

 

 

Love Leads, with Dr. Steve Greene

Peace in Your Place

It’s not easy for sheep to lie down.

Several verses in the Bible remind us that the Lord is a good shepherd and He will lead us to a place of peace.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures” (Ps. 23:1b).

Among other things, sheep must feel secure to lie down. Lambs are vulnerable to many predators because of their shape and weight.

“‘I will feed them in a good pasture, and their grazing ground will be on the mountain heights of Israel. There they will lie down on good grazing ground and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest,’ declares the Lord God” (Ezek. 34:14-15).

These verses shed light on the Lord’s shepherding style. In contrast to the self-serving rulers of Israel, He promises to lead the flock to graze in better pastures and on the grassy mountains of Israel. The Lord’s care is described from the receiver’s perspective: They will lie down in the good pasture and graze in greener meadows.

It is clear in verse 15 that the leader “caused” His followers to eat well and to rest.

God loves us and leads us through the power of the Holy Spirit. The metaphor of a good shepherd is at once comforting and challenging.

It is challenging because sheep must submit to leadership. Sheep prefer to wander in search of greener pastures. Sheep love their independence until a wolf eyes the flock buffet.

It’s the rod and staff of the shepherd that rescues wayward lambs. The rod launches toward the wolf. The staff yanks the sheep into a place of peace.

“As I have moved among men and women from all strata of society as both a lay pastor and as a scientist, I have become increasingly aware of one thing,” wrote Phillip Keller in A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm. “It is the boss—the manager—the Master in people’s lives who makes the difference in their destiny.”

The love of a leader creates an environment of peace.

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Stay blessed!!!

I’m Following Him…

Prayer2

TODAY’S DAILY PRAYER

a grape vine curl with three small purple berries“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.” Jeremiah 33:14, NIV

Lord our God, may your grace rule in our hearts and your love come to us in glorious fulfillment of your promise, so that in our time we may have community with one another to praise and worship you. Then we will be a people belonging to you and receiving help from you. Bless your Word within us, we pray. Teach us again and again how to keep your Word, how to be your children in deed and in truth. May we be given strength of heart whenever great sorrow comes to us. Let your will be revealed everywhere. Let all of humankind know that you rule, that you help us and will remain with us into all eternity. For our names are recorded with you, and we want to stay with you, Father in heaven. We want nothing else but to be your children in this world, to be children in your care for all eternity. Amen.

 

Daily Dig

Caffeine for your conscience

TODAY’S DAILY DIG

Nut halvesJesus would rather let himself be called a sinner among sinners, a prostitute and wrongdoer, a glutton and a drunk, than to set himself apart from human misery (Mat.11:19). When we read, “He is the firstborn from among the dead” (Col. 1:18), it means that Jesus appeals to the dead. Tell those who feel as if dead that Jesus is theirs. To those who feel worthless, whose life seems of no value, say: “Your life must be worth something, since Jesus has come into it. Yes, from out of the world of the dead, new life can be born in you.”

 

 

Verse of the Day

Inspirational illustration of Romans 14:4

Thoughts on Today’s Verse…

Paul is talking about passing judgment on folks in matters that are not central to our faith. He reminds us whose job it is to judge these sorts of matters. He also reminds us that the person we are judging actually belongs to the Lord and what right do we have to pass judgment on that person. So often we can find fault with others, pass judgment on them about some inconsequential matter, but then never deal with the blatant sin in our own life. Let’s remember that we will answer to God for what we do every bit as much as someone we are wrongly passing judgment upon.

My Prayer…

Father, forgive me. I confess that I have wrongly passed judgment on others when I had no right or authority to do so. I know Jesus died to redeem them. I know you love them and have a plan for each of them. Please use me to be an encouragement, never a stumbling block, to your children. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

 

 

BIBLE STUDY BUDDY

Follow1

Read Matthew 4:18-23…

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19. ”Come, follow me,” Jesus said, ”and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20. At once they left their nets and followed him.

 

21. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22. and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

 

23. Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary
Matthew 4:22

v18-22 When Christ began to preach, he began to gather disciples, who should be hearers, and afterwards preachers of his doctrine, who should be witnesses of his miracles, and afterwards testify concerning them. He went not to Herod’s court, not to Jerusalem, among the chief priests and the elders, but to the sea of Galilee, among the fishermen. The same power which called Peter and Andrew, could have wrought upon Annas and Caiaphas, for with God nothing is impossible. But Christ chooses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. Diligence in an honest calling is pleasing to Christ, and it is no hinderance to a holy life. Idle people are more open to the temptations of Satan than to the calls of God. It is a happy and hopeful thing to see children careful of their parents, and dutiful. When Christ comes, it is good to be found doing. Am I in Christ? is a very needful question to ask ourselves; and, next to that, Am I in my calling? They had followed Christ before, as common disciples, Joh 1:37; now they must leave their calling. Those who would follow Christ aright, must, at his command, leave all things to follow him, must be ready to part with them. This instance of the power of the Lord Jesus encourages us to depend upon his grace. He speaks, and it is done.

Follow the Right Leader…

”Follow me!” That was the invitation given by Marshall Applewhite, self-appointed leader of the Heaven’s Gate cult. He promised to those who would become his disciples that he would teach them how they could move on to a higher level of life in a new world. Sincere but gullible men and women heeded his call. They left families, friends, homes, and jobs to live and work together and to obey their leader’s teachings.

 

Those 38 disciples followed him even when he told them to commit suicide. He said they would be liberated from terrestrial bondage and enter into an exalted state of being. In March 1997 they followed their leader to death and eternal loss.

The true Leader, Jesus Christ, gives the invitation, ”Follow Me” (Mt. 4:19). But He is the opposite of Marshall Applewhite. After Jesus’ death on Calvary’s cross, He arose from the grave and is alive forevermore (Mt. 28:6; Rev. 1:18). When we respond to His call to follow Him as our Savior, our Master, our Lord, He forgives all our sins (Col. 2:13) and promises an abundant life of joy and hope (Jn. 10:10). And someday we will live with Him eternally in the glory of heaven (1 Jn. 5:11-13).

Be sure to follow the right Leader!

 

Quote of the Day

“The Epistles have played a major role in the formation of doctrine and Christian theology throughout church history precisely because they expound on the great themes of God’s saving work on the cross.”
~The ESV Study Bible (from “why were the epistles written?“)

Today’s Answer

On What Day Did Jesus Die?

Speculation about the timing of Christ’s crucifixion stems from the lack of direct day-to-day correlation in the gospel accounts. In the present world, dates have become imperative for adequate news coverage. But the gospel writers concerned themselves with the events themselves and not the specific timing. They aimed to present Jesus to various audiences and not provide a detailed biography.

To uncover the day of the crucifixion, we must assemble the evidence from the four Gospels and what we know of the culture at the time. Over the years, scholars have produced several models of what events happened during the days of the week leading up to the cross. These models variously propose that Christ died on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

While a Wednesday crucifixion allows Jesus to have been buried for three full days and nights, this would also mean He rose on the fourth day. In addition, the Triumphal Entry would have happened on Saturday, the day of Sabbath rest. A Thursday crucifixion moves the Triumphal Entry to Sunday, which makes more sense, and eliminates the need for a “silent day” (a day during the Passion Weekwhen no events were recorded). However, we know that the Pharisees rushed to have Jesus in the tomb on the day of preparation (John 19:34), which is Friday, and before the Sabbath began at nightfall (the Jews measured days from nightfall to nightfall).

When we examine the evidence, Friday fits best with the gospel accounts and the historical context. For example, the new testament says that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day—not necessarily after three days (e.g., Matthew 16:21Acts 10:40). As mentioned above, Jesus had to be rushed into the tomb on the day of preparation. While a Friday crucifixion would necessitate a “silent day” (probably Wednesday), this day allows time for the Sanhedrin to plan for Jesus’s arrest and the subsequent trials. So, the day is only “silent” because we have nothing specifically recorded.

 

November 14

Thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant: O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me.–ISA. xliv. 21.

Oh, give Thy servant patience to be still,
And bear Thy will;
Courage to venture wholly on the arm
That will not harm;
The wisdom that will never let me stray
Out of my way;
The love, that, now afflicting, knoweth best
When I should rest.
J. M. NEALE.

Supposing that you were never to be set free from such trials, what would you do? You would say to God, “I am Thine–if my trials are acceptable to Thee, give me more and more.” I have full confidence that this is what you would say, and then you would not think more of it–at any rate, you would not be anxious. Well, do the same now. Make friends with your trials, as though you were always to live together; and you will see that when you cease to take thought for your own deliverance, God will take thought for you; and when you cease to help yourself eagerly, He will help you.
ST. FRANCIS DE SALES.

Ah, if you knew what peace there is in an accepted sorrow!
MADAME GUYON.

 

November 14

A Letter Written on Tablets of Human Hearts
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many.
For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you. For we are not writing any other things to you than what you read or understand. Now I trust you will understand, even to the end (as also you have understood us in part), that we are your boast as you also are ours, in the day of the Lord Jesus.
Moreover I call God as witness against my soul, that to spare you I came no more to Corinth. Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand.
But I determined this within myself, that I would not come again to you in sorrow. For if I make you sorrowful, then who is he who makes me glad but the one who is made sorrowful by me?
And I wrote this very thing to you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow over those from whom I ought to have joy, having confidence in you all that my joy is the joy of you all. For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you, with many tears, not that you should be grieved, but that you might know the love which I have so abundantly for you.
Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord, I had no rest in my spirit, because I did not find Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I departed for Macedonia.
Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.
Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or do we need, as some others, epistles of commendation to you or letters of commendation from you? You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.
And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious.
Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech-unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
2 Corinthians 1:1-14, 23-24; 2:1-4, 12-17; 3:1-18
WORSHIP
Great peace have those who love Your law,
And nothing causes them to stumble.
LORD, I hope for Your salvation,
And I do Your commandments.
My soul keeps Your testimonies,
And I love them exceedingly.
I keep Your precepts and Your testimonies,
For all my ways are before You.
Psalm 119:165-168
WISDOM
Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
The rod of correction will drive it far from him.
Proverbs 22:15

BROTHERLY LOVE

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.Hebrews 13:1

As we see in Hebrews chapter 12, once we “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus,” we will be aware of how we should then live. The writer now turns to the issue of brotherly love and he uses the verb form of repeated action. Keep on loving…over and over. Jesus Himself said that this would be the sign to the world of true discipleship – love for one another.

In China a house church network leader was being pursued by the Public Security Bureau (PSB) due to his active ministry. He had to be on the run and couldn’t go home because the PSB were waiting for him at his house.

His wife went through much emotional suffering since she didn’t know where her husband was. Other believers were afraid to come to the meeting held at the house and even other co-workers didn’t come near due to fear. The wife had no money and eventually ran out of food. That was the hardest time in her life.

In spite of the PSB officers standing outside, an elderly Christian lady approached the house and boldly entered. The wife was surprised and asked the elderly woman why she was willing to take the risk. The lady said she wasn’t afraid because she knew the woman’s husband was serving the Lord and she was also serving the same Lord. The old lady prepared some noodles for young wife and her child. The young wife was really impressed with this love. Also the old lady told her that many outside were praying for them so this also brought tremendous strength and encouragement as they continued to suffer isolation.

Another house church leader in China spent time in prison. He wrote to his fellowship, “It is because of your prayers that I could go through the most difficult times while in prison. My mother, who also prayed for me every day, knew that there were many brothers and sisters who did the same for her son and that she was not alone. She too, would like to express her thanks to those who prayed for me.

“Following my release, I spent two weeks with my whole family. My daughter shared that she thought I was a bad person because she had seen the policeman arrest me right before her eyes. She was very angry with me until the day she received a card from a fellow Christian. In the card were the words, ‘Your father is a hero for he has suffered for Christ.’ Immediately all her anger dissipated and she became very proud of having a father who is a hero and willing to suffer for Christ.”

RESPONSE: Today I will make an extra effort to show love to any needy Christian brothers and sisters.

PRAYERHelp me, Lord, to make love for the brethren a daily repeated action…for Your glory!

 

 

In the Line of Fire, with Michael Brown

The man, who was given the name Adam at birth but goes by Ja Du, "said he's part of a growing 'transracial' community in which people are born one race, but identify with another."
The man, who was given the name Adam at birth but goes by Ja Du, “said he’s part of a growing ‘transracial’ community in which people are born one race, but identify with another.” (10News/YouTube)

Speaking at Oberlin College in 2001, transgender activist Lynn Hyckman stated that, “The basic assumption of transgenderism is the transgressing of gender norms. Whether that means completely passing from one end to the other, or finding a space that combines or defies the binary in our society, it comes down to exploring outside of the norm you were assigned because of the discomfort that you feel in it.”

This prompted me to ask in 2011, “But why stop with combining or defying sexualcategories? Why not create self-identified categories of race or color or nationality? How about, ‘Even though I was assigned the ethnic identity of a white American at birth, I identify myself as a black Viking.’ Why not? Perhaps on the inside I really am a black Viking! Or why limit our self-identification to earthly categories. Why should that boundary be sacrosanct? Why not identify yourself as an extraterrestrial (or maybe ‘interterrestrial,’ combining both earthly and alien identities)? Are ridiculous concepts such as these all that different from ‘the transgressing of gender norms’ and ‘def[ying] the binary in our society’?”

Of course, I understood the parallels were real but inexact, because of which I added, “I do realize, of course, that there are people who truly struggle with their sexual identity, and I’m fully aware that others are born with indefinite (or dual) sexual identities. In no way do I intend to minimize those struggles. Given the choice, however, of embracing the philosophy behind this transgender, genderqueer, omnisexual rhetoric seriously or of raising my voice to saying that something is seriously amiss, I take the latter choice.”

Well, as outlandish as these words may have sounded in 2011, they can hardly sound outlandish today.

Not with the massive strides made my transactivism in the last few years.

Not with a white woman (Rachel Dolezal) identifying as black, hence transracial.

Not with some people (allegedly hundreds of thousands) identifying as part animal (just look up otherkin or therian), hence transspecies.

And not with the headline news that, “A man in Florida who was born white now identifies as Filipino as part of a reportedly growing ‘transracial’ community.”

Note the last three words of that sentence carefully: “a growing ‘transracial’ community.”

The man, who was given the name Adam at birth but goes by Ja Du, “said he’s part of a growing ‘transracial’ community in which people are born one race, but identify with another.”

He explained that “he truly identifies with the Filipino culture, adding that when he’s around its music and food, ‘I feel like I’m in my own skin.’

“I’d watch The History Channel sometimes for hours, you know, whenever it came to that, and you know nothing else intrigued me more but things about Filipino culture,” and this is part of the reason he now identifies as Filipino.

But why not? If Bruce Jenner is a woman and Rachel Dolezal is black (remember that she, too, has her supporters), why can’t a Caucasian-American be a Filipino?

As I and others have stated over and again, if perception is substituted for reality, there is no end to the social madness that follows. (This video on The Man Who Became a Woman Then a Dragon documents some of the more extreme examples.)

There are even medical professionals who affirm the possibility of being transracial. After all, if it makes you happy, why not?

In the words of psychologist Dr. Stacey Sheckner, “If someone feels that they feel at home with a certain religion, a certain race, a certain culture, I think that if that’s who they really feel inside, life is about finding out who you are. The more knowledge you have of yourself, the happier you can be.”

She added, “If that’s who they are, and they want to celebrate it and enjoy it, then you have to think what harm is it doing? All they want to do is throw themselves into that culture and celebrate it.”

But it’s one thing to enjoy a culture and throw yourself into a culture and celebrate a culture. It’s another thing to imagine that you are biologically part of that culture. Is there no such thing as “reality check” anymore? In many circles, the answer is no.

That’s why there are women’s schools accepting male-to-female transgenders and male-to-female athletes breaking women’s sports records and women’s prisons housing biological males who identify as women (but are still attracted to women). Is it that far of a leap, then, to imagine blacks identifying as whites or Asians as Caucasians?

And since transgender identify—technically known as gender dysphoria (formerly called gender identity disorder)—is determined by psychological evaluation alone (there is no biological test), why not something similar for being transracial? If I can convince the doctor that I really identify as a black Viking, why not?

Again, I do not mean to minimize the pain of those who struggle with gender identity confusion, nor do I mean to denigrate Ja Du’s love for everything Philippine. I’m simply saying this has got to stop somewhere, and it has got to stop soon. Otherwise, we might all have to identify as Martians and go populate Mars. Unless, of course, we actually are Martians … 

Dr. Michael Brown(www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is Saving a Sick America: A Prescription for Moral and Cultural Transformation. Connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

 

 

 

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A Prayer for When You Don’t Feel God’s Presence

Dr. James MacDonald

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” (Psalms 34:8, ESV)

Sometimes we find ourselves in seasons of life when God’s goodness is hidden, when it’s either invisible to us or we’re blind to it. Let’s be honest enough to admit that those are real struggles. We’ve been in those times, and perhaps you’re in one of them right now. If you’re in such a season and can’t bring yourself to shout “hallelujah,” you don’t need to feel bad about it. I would never want to lay a guilt trip on someone for not feeling like shouting hallelujah at that moment.

But if we’re to walk in faith—if we’re to be people who truly live by faith—we must believe God is good even at times when we can’t see anything tangible pointing to it or giving evidence of it. Faith is believing the Word of God and acting upon it, no matter how we feel, because God promises a good result.

Here’s what you may be tempted to do during times when you don’t feel His goodness: you may wonder whether you should take care of things yourself. You might be inclined to conclude what you suspected all along—If I want good things to happen, I’d better go out there and get them, because God sure isn’t guaranteed to do it . . . because He’s not good “all the time.”

And that’s just not true. He has promised us good, based upon His own goodness. God is good, He’s always been good, and He’ll always be good. Check out how consistently this is established in Scripture: “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). In every situation, even in our darkest situations, we “give thanks to the Lord, for he is good” (Psalm 136:1). In fact, “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18).

Father God, I know You are good. Even when my heart wavers and I don’t feel it, I know You are good. Thank You for being bigger than my feelings. Thank You even for entrusting me with these times when believing is hard, when faith requires looking without seeing. You have never failed, though I often fail. You have never proved untrustworthy, though I have proved so fickle and forgetful. So today, I put no trust in my emotions but only in what You have shown me through Your Word to be true—that You are good, all the time. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

The Sacrifice of Thanks-sharing
Glynnis Whitwer

“Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” Hebrews 13:15-16 (NASB)

Enough. That’s what I have. Really, more than enough.

More than enough clothes in my closet. Food in my fridge. Shoes spread on the floor. Cans in the cupboard.

My children have books, warm jackets, tennis shoes, pencils, and opportunities for more. I have clean sheets, soft pillows, a kitchen table, and indoor plumbing.

My husband and I have never taken our provisions for granted. Every day we are thankful for the blessings of our home and family. Yet eight years ago we were increasingly aware of whatLuke 12:48b tells us, “When someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.” (NLT) We felt an obligation to do something more with our blessings.

So in 2005 our family of five put a plan in place to share what we had. We had enough home, enough time, and enough love. Our gratitude to God for His blessings couldn’t be kept to ourselves any more. We started with some rearranging. Two of our three sons moved furniture around so they could share a room, Then we bought two little white beds, pink curtains, and some dolls. I bought matching calico comforters and guessed at sizes of dresses.

After months of planning to share what we had, two little orphaned sisters stepped off a plane gripping the hands of their new daddy and walked into our hearts and homes.

They wore “African suits” bought from the place of their birth, brightly colored dresses that hung on tiny bodies. So proud they were to own their first new pieces of clothing, wanting to greet their new family in their best. As we wrapped our arms around these little girls, our family of five became seven.

As weeks turned into months, and typical family issues mingled with trauma from our daughters’ pasts, we learned God’s call to share isn’t always easy. Oh, at first it was great, before the first blush of excitement wore off. But the magnitude of sharing our lives with two wounded little girls was harder than we ever imagined.

When worry about the future threatened to overwhelm me, God quietly reminded me that He didn’t ask me to have the answers. That’s His job. My job is just to share what He has given me–my love, my home, my life–with two not-so-little girls now who call me Mama. With a heart of thankfulness, and an open hand of generosity. That’s all He’s asking me. That’s what blesses Him.

God’s Word confirms what pleases Him. Hebrews 13:15-16 teaches us that we must link thanksgiving with sharing. But it also says it will be a sacrifice: “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (NASB)

As we walk together as a family, we continue to learn that showing thanks to God involves sharing, and sharing involves sacrifice. God still calls us to share out of our abundance, and it still involves sacrifice. But when we share our lives, our homes, our money, our hearts, our skills, and our time as an outpouring of thanksgiving, God is pleased.

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your generosity with me. I don’t deserve Your favor, and my heart overflows with thanksgiving. Help me to show my gratitude through words and actions that are pleasing in Your sight. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

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4 Signs of True Contentment

Founders Ministries Blog

As fallen men, even redeemed fallen men, we will never be entirely content in this life. Our hearts are too prone to wander, far too apt to flirt with idolatry, for us to be completely content in Christ. As Calvin famously put it, the human heart manufactures idols day and night every day. Still, we pray for contentment and, like Paul in Philippians 4:11, we seek to learn the secret to contentment in Christ.

If we are content in Christ, what shape will our lives begin to take? What is the contented heart drawn to? When my contentment is in Christ, then four things ought to be true of me.

  • I will exhibit a deeper love for God’s Word. Because my contentment is in Him, I will want to know Him more. We know Him more through His Word. Contentment is a plant that must be tended daily, as Spurgeon said in his inimitable style: “Now, contentment is one of the flowers of heaven, and if we would have it, it must be cultivated. It will not grow in us by nature; it is the new nature alone that can produce it, and even then we must be specially careful and watchful that we maintain and cultivate the grace which God has sown in it.” One of the primary means is by hiding His Word in our hearts and having it on our person as a constant reminder that apart from our Lord, we can do nothing.
  • I will exhibit a deeper and more mature love for God’s church. When your satisfaction is found in Christ, then you will want to be in His church and with His people. It will also transform the way you see the church. This building is not the church; you are. And when your contentment is in Christ, you will love God’s people, all of God’s people, not just those people with whom you are comfortable. And you will love His church, even though it is imperfect and stained with sin. If I am content in Christ, then it will set me free from false expectations in others and will set me free to love people who come from a different background than do I.
  • I will not fall apart when adversity comes. I will rest in the absolute sovereignty of God and in His prerogative. You and I have a very limited ability to exegete our circumstances. Because we are weak and lack omniscience (though we crave it), there will be many moments in life when we simply do not understand what is going on. We will face moments when the God whom Scripture calls good brings or allows things into our lives that will not seem good. They may even seem very bad: The doctor said it was cancer. Stage four. The boss said my position has been cut. Your son continues to reject the God I taught him to love. ISIS beheaded another Christian. Your daughter admits same-sex attraction. There will be times when all you have is Christ, but if you are content in Him, He will be enough. When we our content in Christ, we can say with Paul, in Phil. 3:7–8, “But whatever gain I had, I counted loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss for because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” When it pleases the Lord to take away some earthly blessing I cherish, then I should be able to say with Job, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”
  • I will want others to know the great gain that comes from godliness with contentment. I will want my friends, neighbors and family members to find the peace that passes understanding. Thus, I will not be embarrassed to proclaim to them the only path that leads to the Celestial City.

I have written this series, not because I am always content or am an expert in the doctrine of contentment. Actually, I have written this because I am an expert in discontentment and am seeking contentment in Christ. May it please God to grant it. So far, I must say, it comes and goes. I have to repent much of discontentment.

I close out this brief series with memorable words from Spurgeon on the absurdity of discontentment for the follower of Christ:

“Permit me to remind you again, that you should be contented, because otherwise you will belie your own prayers. You kneel down in the morning, and you say, “Thy will be done!” Suppose you get up and want your own will, and rebel against the dispensation of your heavenly Father, have you not made yourself out to be a hypocrite? The language of your prayer is at variance with the feeling of your heart. Let it always be sufficient for you to think that you are where God put you. Have you not heard the story of the heroic boy on board the burning ship? When his father told him to stand in a certain part of the vessel, he would not move till his father bade him, but stood still when the ship was on fire. Though warned of his danger he held his ground. Until his father told him to move, there would he stay. The ship was blown up, and he perished in his fidelity. And shall a child be more faithful to an earthly parent than we are to our Father, who is in heaven? He has ordered everything for our good, and can he be forgetful of us? Let us believe that whatever he appoints is best; let us choose rather his will than our own. If there were two places, one a place of poverty, and another a place of riches and honour, if I could have my choice, it should be my privilege to say, ‘Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.’” (Spurgeon’s entire sermon from Phil. 4:11 simply titled “Contentment” is available here.)

 

 

Devotionals Daily: A Year with Jesus

Forgiveness
By Matthew West

Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom. -Luke 23:42

We never find out where he came from. There are no pages, not even a single paragraph, telling of his younger years or what his family was like. The final chapter of his story is the only one recorded. We never even learn his real name. We know him only as the thief on the cross, one of the two guilty criminals crucified next to the innocent Jesus.

But surely this man must have seen better days. Even the most evil of criminals who commit the vilest offenses start out as defenseless, innocent children who have their whole lives in front of them. No one can pick out a future criminal by looking at baby photos. Maybe this criminal loved to run and play. Maybe he had freckles on his face and a smile that could light up any room. Maybe he always knew how to make his brothers laugh. Perhaps he loved to follow his dad to work or cuddle up next to his mommy before bedtime.

Sure, we know who he became, but we know nothing of how he got there. Did a traumatic experience in his youth send his life spinning out of control? Was he orphaned as a child and forced to fend for himself at a young age? Or did he simply make one bad choice after another, eventually slipping further and further away from the innocence he once knew? He now bore absolutely no resemblance to that freckle-faced kid with a bright future. Three nails and a cross had sealed his fate; he was paying the ultimate price for the crimes he had committed. And those crimes must have been awful because crucifixion was the form of punishment reserved for the worst of criminals. This man hanging next to Jesus was the equivalent of today’s death row inmates waiting to die for what they have done.

I am sure you have heard someone who, after narrowly escaping a potentially dangerous or fearful situation, exclaim, “I just saw my whole life flash before my eyes!” Maybe you’ve said that yourself. It’s a common cliché we hear spoken when someone faces what is felt to be a near-death experience. I wonder if the thief on the cross experienced that. Perhaps in the midst of his excruciatingly painful punishment, his mind wandered back to those days of innocence.

Back to the feel of his mother’s lips on his cheek.

Back to the laughter of his siblings.

Back to the proud embrace of his father after a chore done well.

I imagine that, in his mind, this criminal retraced all that had led up to his first mistake, his first crime, his first taste of guilt and regret. I imagine that, as he hung dying on his cross, he wished more than anything that he could go back and undo all the wrong he had done. I imagine this because of the way he chose to spend his final breaths. Speaking to the other criminal hanging next to him, this man said, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong” (Luke 23:40).

This thief stood up to the other criminal who was hurling insults at Jesus. Quite out of character, don’t you think? This man who had done so much wrong in his life was now finishing the final chapter of his story in a different light. But why? Perhaps, as his whole life flashed before his eyes, he wondered, What happened to me? How did I get here? Where did my innocence go? I know right from wrong. Oh, how I wish I could go back.  Perhaps seeing an opportunity to prove that he did indeed know right from wrong, he took up for Jesus and, in doing so, offered a brief glimpse of the innocence that his earlier chapters may have known.

Then he made this request of the Messiah: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Pretty bold, don’t you think? I mean, did this thief actually believe he could skate into heaven at the very last moment? Was it realistic to think this single honorable gesture to defend Jesus could blot out the laundry list of offenses that had landed him on a cross in the first place? Yes. That is exactly what he hoped for—but what he received was so much more.

In Jesus’ presence, the thief on the cross became a different man. His hardened criminal’s heart softened. He took up for Jesus—and then he dared to ask Jesus to take him up. The Scriptures encourage us to “come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (Hebrews 4:16). Never had the thief on the cross needed grace more than during his last dying breaths. And Jesus gave it to him: “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

© 2013 by Matthew West

 

Lunch with a Friend

Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. – >Hebrews 13:18

Only the good news of Jesus Christ encourages us to honestly think about who we really are and to address our shortcomings in a way that won’t cause us to wrongly rely upon our own efforts.

Let me explain with this example: A while back I had lunch with a non-Christian friend. As we ate, we began discussing spiritual things. I made reference to the prodigal son, and no sign of recognition crossed his face. He’d never heard the story; he knew nothing about the Bible.

As the conversation progressed, he got around to stating his theology: namely, good people make it to heaven. He considered himself a kind, loving, and good person. And without a doubt, he’s one of the nicest people I know. But as we talked longer, he discussed his internet relationships with women ready to leave their husbands to live with him.  His “goodness,” as he called it, gave these women new hope about men.

I felt compelled to challenge his thinking. “What would these ladies’ husbands think of your so-called goodness?” I asked. “Has this ‘goodness’ ever prompted you to call one of these men and ask if he minded that you were having an internet relationship with his wife?” As it turned out, his “goodness” wasn’t as good as he thought it was.

Rely upon God’s goodness. As good as you think you might be, that goodness is nothing next to His.

“Reason often makes mistakes, but conscience never does.” – Josh Billings (1818-1885)

 

Watchman on the Wall, with Jennifer LeClaire

Bishop Bill Hamon in his office.
Bishop Bill Hamon in his office. (Taylor Berglund)

“This is a first of its kind.” That’s how bishop Bill Hamon described this week of prophetic gatherings in Dallas.

This is my first year as part of the Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders, led by Cindy Jacobs. It’s an especially significant moment to join the group.

Hamon told me this week, which includes The Global Prophetic Summit, is important for the same reason Christian International’s first conference of prophets in 1987 was important.

“It was the first conference in the history of the church conducted for the purpose of recognizing and promoting the restoration of the fivefold ministry of prophets back into the church,” he says. “It was a demonstration that God’s prophets are alive and active in the 20th century church. It was the year we did intercession for birthing of the prophetic movement. The following year, at our October Conference, the prophetic movement was officially birthed.”

As Hamon sees it, this international gathering of the prophets in Dallas will bring international recognition of God’s 21st century prophets, combined revelation and witness of God’s timing and purpose about to take place in the church on planet earth.

We all know there are challenges in today’s prophetic movement. Hamon told me he sees the challenge is raising up prophets who have their 10 Ms—manhood, ministry, message, maturity, marriage, methods, manners, money, morality and motives—in order and have more specific and accurate words for the church and nations and God’s timing for His purposes to be fulfilled.

Many are asking the question: How do we overcome the challenges we see in the prophetic movement. Hamon has some wisdom:

“Have more communication between prophets and church with each other before putting out a word that has national or world events. It’s not enough to get a word; we need counsel and wisdom for presentation and some idea of the timing. We have seen words of world events or catastrophes to happen,” Hamon says.

“In my 64 years [of ministry], I have heard many such prophecies but few have come to pass at that time. Like in the Old Testament, many prophecies took centuries before fulfillment. Such as Messianic prophecies and judgments to nations. Younger-arising prophets need to be trained and mentored like Elisha was by Elijah.”

Jennifer LeClaire is senior leader of Awakening House of Prayer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, founder of the Ignite Network and founder of the Awakening Blaze prayer movement. She is author of over 25 books. Find her online at jenniferleclaire.org or email her at info@jenniferleclaire.org.

 

 

NOV14

THIS DAY IN HISTORY

1851

Moby-Dick published

On this day in 1851, Moby-Dick, a novel by Herman Melville about the voyage of the whaling ship Pequod, is published by Harper & Brothers in New York. Moby-Dick is now considered a great classic of American literature and contains one of the most famous opening lines in fiction: “Call me Ishmael.” Initially, though, the book about Captain Ahab and his quest for a giant white whale was a flop.

Herman Melville was born in New York City in 1819 and as a young man spent time in the merchant marines, the U.S. Navy and on a whaling ship in the South Seas. In 1846, he published his first novel, Typee, a romantic adventure based on his experiences in Polynesia. The book was a success and a sequel, Omoo, was published in 1847. Three more novels followed, with mixed critical and commercial results. Melville’s sixth book, Moby-Dick, was first published in October 1851 in London, in three volumes titled The Whale, and then in the U.S. a month later. Melville had promised his publisher an adventure story similar to his popular earlier works, but instead, Moby-Dick was a tragic epic, influenced in part by Melville’s friend and Pittsfield, Massachusetts, neighbor, Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose novels include The Scarlet Letter.

After Moby-Dick‘s disappointing reception, Melville continued to produce novels, short stories (Bartleby) and poetry, but writing wasn’t paying the bills so in 1865 he returned to New York to work as a customs inspector, a job he held for 20 years.

Melville died in 1891, largely forgotten by the literary world. By the 1920s, scholars had rediscovered his work, particularly Moby-Dick, which would eventually become a staple of high school reading lists across the United States. Billy Budd, Melville’s final novel, was published in 1924, 33 years after his death.

 

 

The Daily Word of Hope Devotional

Bible Fun Fact: The span of time between Joseph being sold into slavery and seeing his brothers again was just over 20 years.

Saddling Up Anyway

They told Esther’s words to Mordecai. Then Mordecai asked them to return this answer to Esther: ‘Don’t think to yourself that you will escape in the king’s house any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent now, then relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Who knows if you haven’t come to the kingdom for such a time as this?’ Esther 4:12 WEB

John Wayne once said that ‘Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.’ A young woman named Esther was once faced with a decision like that, and it could have led to her execution. A law was passed in the land to exterminate all the Jews that were living in Persia.

Esther, who was Jew, had hidden her family’s identity and she was safely living in the royal palace when her uncle Mordecai sent her word to go and speak with the king. He wanted her to try and obtain mercy for her people. But if Esther went into the king’s chamber without being summoned, it was an automatic death sentence, unless the king chose to pardon her by extending a golden scepter.

When Esther hesitated to take the message to the king, her uncle Mordecai told her that if she did not go, the Lord would send someone else, but she would miss out. Esther was just a young girl and very scared, but she pulled herself together and said: ‘If I perish, I perish.’ After fasting and praying for three days and nights, she went in to meet the king and ended up saving her people. There is a Jewish holiday called ‘Purim’ that commemorates the event.

It is easy to be strong when there is nothing to be afraid of, but faith is tested in the furnace like refined gold. Do not cower back from whatever you have to face today, for you are here for a purpose, for such a time as this. If God is for you, who can stand against you? If you withdraw, God will send someone else, but you will miss out on what He has in store for you. So stand strong, know that God is with you, and that you are well able to face whatever comes your way.

Prayer: Heavenly Father I thank You for bringing me to Your kingdom for such a time as this. It is no accident that I am living here today and I know that You have a plan and a purpose for me. Fulfill Your will in my life, guide my steps, and draw me into a deeper relationship with You, in the name of Jesus Christ I pray.

 

Today’s Scripture

“Come now, you who say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a city and spend a year there and carry on our business and make money. Yet you do not know [the least thing] about what may happen tomorrow. What is the nature of your life? You are [really] but a wisp of vapor (a puff of smoke, a mist) that is visible for a little while and then disappears [into thin air]. You ought instead to say, If the Lord is willing, we shall live and we shall do this or that [thing]. But as it is, you boast [falsely] in your presumption and your self-conceit. All such boasting is wrong.” James 4:13-16 AMP

Thoughts for Today

The “I can do it myself” mode can creep up on us. You might have started out recognizing your need for God in all areas of your life. You focused on him and he began transforming you and guiding you and helping you grow and mature. With that growth, came success–perhaps in a ministry or a career or in some area of your life. People praised you and a subtle change began to take place. You began to look at what you had done, instead of remembering that God enabled you to be successful. Your self-confidence and “me-focus” grew and you began to depend less and less on God. Today’s scripture reminds us that “you boast falsely in your presumption and your self-conceit. All such boasting is wrong.”

The fact is–we do need God. And sooner or later when we try to do things our way, instead of seeking him for his way, we will fail.

Consider this …

Take a step back from your busyness and examine your life. Is there an area where you are operating in this “I can do it myself” mode? If so, are you willing to recognize your need for God and trust him to guide you and mold you into the person he wants you to be, accomplishing those things he has called you to do? Are you ready to stop trying to do things in your own strength and wisdom? Are you ready to praise him for your successes?

Prayer

Father, I think I’ve been a little carried away with self-importance in this area of my life. Please forgive me and help me refocus on you. I know that all my gifts and talents and successes come from you. Help me to honor you in all I do. In Jesus’ name …

 

Charisma Media

(1)

And So the Internet Crackdown Begins

The co-founder of Christian website Desiring God believes that an obsession with “material prosperity” is “at least as dangerous as porn” in our modern era.

READ: After 3,557 Days of Intense Prayer and Disappointment, Singer Christy Sutherland Has a Joyous Announcement

Jon Bloom wrote in an op-ed published last month that he believes materialism should “frighten” Christians to a degree, considering what the Bible says about it.

Bloom appealed to Jesus’ claim that it is “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And, he noted that Paul also said, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.”

He continued:

Think about the testimonies you’ve heard of people’s powerful encounters with God. Ask yourself how many of those stories of powerful, transformational, life-altering, love-producing, sanctifying encounters with God were the result of being lavished with worldly prosperity. If you’re like me, you come up empty. But if you know any, you can probably count them on one hand with fingers left over.

On the other hand, how many of those stories involve people in some way being, as we say, brought to the end of themselves? Let that sink in for moment: we tend to encounter God more profoundly in our places of need than in our places of prosperity.

Bloom went on to question why Christians don’t have accountability groups for the love of wealth as they do for other stumbling blocks, and questioned the impact of desensitization on people living in a culture that is immersed in money.

And he said that Christians must come to see abundance as potentially posing problematic issues just as many see facing financial constraints as posing trials that can yield important lessons.

“How desensitized are we — especially in light of the fact that, according to the Bible, prosperity is at least as spiritually dangerous as pornography?” Bloom asked….

Article by

Staff writer, desiringGod.org

When you think of the kind of trials that test your faith (James 1:2), do you ever think of material prosperity as one of them? Most of us don’t. We tend to think of suffering, adversity, and loss that put us in places of significant need.

And we try to avoid experiencing such needs if at all possible. If such experiences come, we really want, and therefore pray, for God to deliver us from the needy seasons as soon as possible. For surely a God who loves his children would not want them experiencing need, right? He’d want to bless us, right? Right. Unless need happens to hold greater, richer spiritual blessings than plenty. In that case, needy seasons would be greater gifts to God’s children than plenteous seasons.

“We need as much of God’s strength in abundance as we do in need, and very likely more.”

Think about the testimonies you’ve heard of people’s powerful encounters with God. Ask yourself how many of those stories of powerful, transformational, life-altering, love-producing, sanctifying encounters with God were the result of being lavished with worldly prosperity. If you’re like me, you come up empty. But if you know any, you can probably count them on one hand with fingers left over.

On the other hand, how many of those stories involve people in some way being, as we say, brought to the end of themselves? Let that sink in for moment: we tend to encounter God more profoundly in our places of need than in our places of prosperity.

At Least as Dangerous as Porn

In fact, if we take the Bible seriously, material prosperity should frighten us, in some sense, because the Bible says frightening things about it:

  • Jesus: “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:24–25)
  • Paul: “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things.” (1 Timothy 6:10–11)
  • James: “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire.” (James 5:1–3)

Not to diminish the dangers of sexual sin (1 Corinthians 6:9–11), but have you ever noticed that the New Testament issues more dire warnings against the spiritual dangers of material prosperity than sexual immorality? Jesus didn’t say it’s harder for a sexually immoral person to get into heaven than a camel to squeeze through a needle’s eye. He said it about rich people. And most people who read this live in one of the richest nations in the history of the world.

“Prosperity is at least as spiritually dangerous as pornography.”

Do we tremble? Why is it that prosperous Christians aren’t forming accountability groups like crazy to help us keep our lives free from the love of money (Hebrews 13:5)? We know that desensitization to sexually immoral images or videos is dangerous to our souls, but are we at all in touch with the effects of wealth after many decades of being immersed in a prosperous culture? How has it affected us? How desensitized are we — especially in light of the fact that, according to the Bible, prosperity is at least as spiritually dangerous as pornography?

Trial of “Facing Abundance”

Another thing to notice: listen to how Paul speaks of abundance when writing his thank-you letter to the Philippian Christians for providing for his needs in prison:

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11–13)

Does it strike you as strange that Paul speaks of abundance in the same way he speaks of need? He speaks of both as requiring faith, which means both are distinct kinds of faith-trials. Over years of trial and testing, he learned the secret of facing both circumstances.

“Abundance obscures our vulnerability, giving us a misleading sense of security and a false sense of independence.”

We know that being materially “brought low” is a trial. But do we think of materially “abounding” as a trial? If we don’t, it may be that we are too accustomed to it, too comfortable with it — desensitized to it. And if this is the case, we’re in a dangerous place.

Abundance easily obscures our vulnerabilities, giving us a misleading sense of security, and often a false sense of independence. The danger lies precisely in the fact that it doesn’t feel dangerous. We tend to like the feeling it gives. Being people whose sinful, self-centered pride is far more pervasive and powerful than we are usually aware of, we love the sense of autonomy and indulgent opportunities wealth affords. We love not feeling needy. We consider that normal.

But according to Jesus, we are completely needy. We need him like branches need the vine (John 15:5). The problem is that prosperity has a tendency to mask that need. And this is why for most people, abundance is spiritually harder to face faithfully than need. In need, we are likely to be more in touch with our true need before God. Need has a way of humbling us. But in abundance, we are less likely to be in touch with our true need and it has a way of fueling our pride.

Strength to Abound

If we live in prosperity, we must take the Bible’s warnings earnestly to heart. For the sake of love, we must help each other keep our lives free from the love of money and what that means for us. We must be as vigilant to be prosperously pure as we seek to be sexually pure. Both money and sex are gifts from God, but both can also destroy us if we are not careful.

“We tend to encounter God more profoundly in our places of need than in our places of prosperity.”

It takes tremendous spiritual strength to not be seduced by material wealth, to not transfer our trust in God to the material abundance wealth affords. Stay alert for prosperity’s seduction. It promises happiness and security and independence, but without the grace of God — without a mature, wholehearted faith in God — it will lead to many pangs (1 Timothy 6:10). For money is as seductive as sex, perhaps more so.

Remember Paul’s lament over those whose love of money caused them to wander away from the faith (1 Timothy 6:10). Remember Jesus’s lament over the rich man who could not follow him because he owned many possessions (Mark 10:21–23). And remember Paul’s example:

In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:12–13)

We need strength to abound. We need strength to resist prosperity’s siren song. And therefore, we need as much of God’s strength in abundance as we do in need, and very likely more.

Passion for Praise: ‘Interrupted by the Praise’

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang: “He is good; his love endures forever.” Then the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.

Old Ways
And so I must strive to follow His guidance!  I must watch my tongue…… I must be grateful for His instructions… I must learn to lean on Him for strength and will to go on…
17-best-short-christian-quotes-on-pinterest-faith-in-god-quotes-44877
Struggle
This is true!!  I have found a new strength within myself… it is HIM!  It is His Spirit!!  Through me, living IN me!!!  Thank You, Lord… I love You so much!!!

Bah…Humpday!

Pray4

TODAY’S DAILY PRAYER

two yellow leavesVery truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. John 5:24, NIV

Lord our God, we thank you for giving us Jesus Christ, whose words remain living to this very day. You will make his words continually alive so that in the name of Jesus Christ joyful praises are sung to you, Almighty God and Father in heaven. Remember us all. Remember the particular needs of each one of us. Come to the world through the words of Jesus Christ. May his words come as your strong angels to the hearts of many to comfort and restore, to help and do miracles for those in need. May your name be praised through the great and mighty Word, Jesus Christ! Amen.

Daily Dig

Caffeine for your conscience

TODAY’S DAILY DIG

yellow pillar candleWhat are we trying to do? We are trying to get to heaven, all of us. We are trying to lead a good life. We are trying to talk about, and write about, the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, and the social principles of the church. It is most astounding – the things that happen when you start trying to live this way.

 

 

Verse of the Day

Inspirational illustration of Romans 14:8

Thoughts on Today’s Verse…

We are the Lord’s. He bought us out of bondage to sin and death. We have voluntarily placed our lives in his hands. No matter what we do or where we go, his grace goes with us. He has promised to never leave us. He has assured us that nothing can separate us from his love. So let’s live with a sense of excited anticipation, looking to see where the Lord will lead us. Let us face difficulty, and even death, with the assurance that we will not face tough times alone. Even in the shadow of death, we don’t have to fear what the evil can do. We are the Lord’s.

My Prayer…

Father, thank you for sending your Son to redeem me. Lord Jesus, thank you for coming to earth, paying the price for my sin, and sending the Holy Spirit to be your presence in me. Take my life and use it to your glory. May my faith not fail in the face of life’s worst challenges. I pray that whether I live or I die that you be glorified in me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

 

 

BIBLE STUDY BUDDY

Read Mark 2:1-12…

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ”Son, your sins are forgiven.”

6. Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7. ”Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

8. Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, ”Why are you thinking these things? 9. Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10. But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11. ”I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12. He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ”We have never seen anything like this!”

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary
Mark 2:12

v1-12 It was this man’s misery that he needed to be so carried, and shows the suffering state of human life; it was kind of those who so carried him, and teaches the compassion that should be in men, toward their fellow-creatures in distress. True faith and strong faith may work in various ways; but it shall be accepted and approved by Jesus Christ. Sin is the cause of all our pains and sicknesses. The way to remove the effect, is to take away the cause. Pardon of sin strikes at the root of all diseases. Christ proved his power to forgive sin, by showing his power to cure the man sick of the palsy. And his curing diseases was a figure of his pardoning sin, for sin is the disease of the soul; when it is pardoned, it is healed. When we see what Christ does in healing souls, we must own that we never saw the like. Most men think themselves whole; they feel no need of a physician, therefore despise or neglect Christ and his gospel. But the convinced, humbled sinner, who despairs of all help, excepting from the Saviour, will show his faith by applying to him without delay.

The Cure…

A man with a nagging cough tried all the over-the-counter remedies he could find, but none worked. Finally he went to a doctor, who quickly discovered that he was suffering from pneumonia. The man was trying to ease the symptoms when what he needed was a cure. The doctor treated the deeper, more serious problem and in a short time the cough was gone.

When Jesus was in Capernaum, a large crowd came to the home where He was staying (Mk. 2:1-2). As He was teaching, some men made an opening in the roof and lowered a paralyzed man on a mat. Jesus initially responded not by healing the man but by saying, ”Son, your sins are forgiven” (v.5). The deepest need of the man was not physical but spiritual. Then, to show His authority to forgive, Jesus healed the man and sent him on his way- not only with legs that moved but with a heart that was forgiven (v.12).

The world is full of pain and problems. It’s tempting to spend a lot of time and resources to treat the surface symptoms and feel that we have done our part. Like Jesus, however, we need to deal with the heart issues. We need to tell people that their sins can be forgiven through faith in Christ. The gospel holds the cure for our deepest need.

 

November 8
Principles of Morality and Marriage
All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power.
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me:
It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment. For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that.
But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.
But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?
Now concerning virgins: I have no commandment from the Lord; yet I give judgment as one whom the Lord in His merczy has made trustworthy. I suppose therefore that this is good because of the present distress-that it is good for a man to remain as he is: Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you.
But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none, those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess, and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away.
But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord-how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world-how he may please his wife. There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world-how she may please her husband. And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.
A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. But she is happier if she remains as she is, according to my judgment-and I think I also have the Spirit of God.
1 Corinthians 6:12-7:16, 25-35, 39-40
WORSHIP
You are my hiding place and my shield;
I hope in Your word.
Depart from me, you evildoers,
For I will keep the commandments of my God!
Uphold me according to Your word, that I may live;
And do not let me be ashamed of my hope.
Psalm 119:114-116
WISDOM
The rich and the poor have this in common,
The LORD is the maker of them all.
Proverbs 22:2

Quote of the Day

When I first began examining the evidences for Christianity, I discovered that belief in the Resurrection does not constitute a blind leap into a dark chasm but rather a step into the light.”
~Hank Hanegraaff (from “Is the Resurrection a Myth?“)

Today’s Answer

Too Busy for the Great Commission?
Chuck Swindoll

If you were to do a little fun research to discover the sheer quantity of activities that happen each day in America, you’d be amazed. Consider, for example, the number of cups of coffee consumed, the number of babies born, the number of people who take a taxi, bury a pet, get divorced, go to the hospital, watch prime-time television, ride on an airplane, and go to school.

So what? That’s trivia, right? When you multiply all those things by 365, you get the general idea that there’s a fair amount of energy, money, activity, and trauma going on in a year’s time. And that’s just in America – representing only a portion of the world’s population. We may not be big, but we’re busy. In fact, we are so busy it’s easy to get selfishly swept up in the whirlwind of our own little playground sandwiched between the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans . . . blessed beyond measure and rich beyond comparison.

Every so often it’s helpful to stop the annual merry-go-round, get off, look objectively, and think clearly. It’s not only helpful, it’s essential for the Christian. In this circus-like American lifestyle of ours, we tend to be deafened by the blare of our own band and blinded by the lights of our own spots, shining – always shining – on the ring of our own choice.

That needs to change. We need to hear the voice of the Ringmaster as He raises His hand to stop the band:

“We interrupt this program to bring all of you a reminder that the world in which you live is not the whole world . . . but only a very small part of the world for which I died.”

The Great Commission is still “the Great Commission,” not “The Limited Agreement for My Corner of America.” He still looks out across a wide world and weeps over men and women and children who do not know – have never heard – His healing, life-giving Name.

Taken from “The Big Picture” by Insight for Liviing Ministries (used by permission).

 

LOVE IS THE ANSWER

He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight.  Psalm 72:14

When a bomb ripped through a church in Alexandria, Egypt on New Year’s Day, 2011, Christians across the western world reeled with shock. Twenty-one believers were killed in the attack and many others were wounded. While Christians in the west watched the news reports with disbelief, local believers say the attack came as no surprise.

Responses to the vicious attack were varied. While some cried for revenge, others have responded differently trusting God to redeem these lives.

One explanatory story from Egypt is this:

Devil: “I just killed 21 of your family.”

Jesus: “You didn’t kill 21 of my family. You just sent them on ahead to me, and you mobilized the church to pray.”

Brother Andrew writes:

What is your first thought when someone offends you? Anger? Indignation? Perhaps, if we’re honest, our hearts even want to see some kind of retaliation or revenge. But you know, Jesus is clear: revenge is not the answer. Love is. Especially when it comes to the Muslim world.

That’s why, instead of retaliating when we read of a bomb attack against our fellow believers, I suggest our response should be repentance! Repentance that we have not prayed, have not cared, have not gone to the Muslim world to proclaim the true life and freedom we have in Jesus!

Let’s keep asking God to truly change our hearts—that we might love, serve and pray more fervently…for the advancement of His kingdom and the glory of His name in the Muslim world and beyond!

RESPONSE: Today I will seek to keep my eyes on Jesus and try to understand things from His perspective.

PRAYERLord, change my heart so I am filled with Your compassion and thus love, serve and pray more fervently.

 

November 8

Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God.–HEB. x. 9.

Teach me to do Thy will, for Thou art my God.–PS. cxliii. 10.

Lo! I come with joy to do
The Father’s blessed will;
Him in outward works pursue,
And serve His pleasure still.
Faithful to my Lord’s commands,
I still would choose the better part;
Serve with careful Martha’s hands,
And loving Mary’s heart.
C. WESLEY.

A soul cannot be regarded as truly subdued and consecrated in its will, and as having passed into union with the Divine will, until it has a disposition to do promptly and faithfully all that God requires, as well as to endure patiently and thankfully all that He imposes.
T. C. UPHAM.

When we have learned to offer up every duty connected with our situation in life as a sacrifice to God, a settled employment becomes just a settled habit of prayer.
THOMAS ERSKINE.

“Do the duty which lies nearest thee,” which thou knowest to be a duty. hy second duty will already have become clearer.
T. CARLYLE.

 

TODAY‘S

Christian Quote

Faith for my deliverance is not faith in God. Faith means, whether I am visibly delivered or not, I will stick to my belief that God is love.

– Oswald Chambers
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A Prayer for Fiercehearted Women
By Holley Gerth

“Be strong, and let your heart be courageous, all you who put your hope in the LORD.” Psalm 31:24 (CSB)

I didn’t know loving people would be so hard.

I silently say this to God in a coffee shop on an ordinary Tuesday morning. I’m sitting at a table with a scratched wood surface and above me folk music comes through the speakers. My latte is half-cold and my mood is threatening to become lukewarm, too.

Haven’t we all been there?

I think back to another moment in a coffee shop when I was around 30 years old, wide-eyed and naïve, full of dreams. This is the age where I was both tender and ambitious. I thought I could save the world and conveniently forgot someone already had.

I’m looking 40 in the face now, and I have a few more wrinkles around my eyes. A few more scars on my heart. I also have a wound still healing from recent words that cut like a sword all the way down to the bone.

For a long time I didn’t understand that broken people have sharp edges. And if we dare to love, to make a difference, to put ourselves out there, then inevitably we will sometimes end up startled and bleeding.

I wish someone had whispered this in my ear years ago, leaned right in and said, “Oh, yes, a lifetime with Jesus is going to be a wonderful adventure. There’s going to be joy and hope and beautiful relationships. But, listen, there’s something else you need to know: You’re not going on holiday, you’re going into battle.”

I imagine I wouldn’t have liked or understood this at the time.

I probably wouldn’t even have believed it, or I might have told the person they needed to be more positive.

But later when the arrows started flying, I would have suddenly thought, “Oh, yes, I’m glad someone warned me.”

Perhaps that’s why today I’m writing all this down … to remind myself and, in case you haven’t heard yet, to gently tell you, too: We need to know we’re in a battle, because otherwise we’ll become disillusioned and discouraged.

We’ll think we must be doing something wrong or even that God has tricked us. We’ll retreat when it’s time to advance. We’ll hide when it’s time to charge. We’ll be caught off-guard instead of guarding our hearts. We’ll even misunderstand who we’re fighting. It’s not ever other humans; it’s always the darkness itself.

I recently saw the movie Wonder Woman and in one scene, she crosses a space called “No Man’s Land.” She walks with her head held high. She deflects the gunfire on behalf of others. She does what no one else has been able to so far.

As I watched, tears came to my eyes because I know what this is like, how it feels. There is beauty in the battle. There is strength. There is victory. “Be strong, and let your heart be courageous, all you who put your hope in the LORD” (Psalm 31:24).

But it’s okay if sometimes we still need to whisper to Jesus, “This is harder than I thought it would be.” If that’s you today, then know you’re not alone. Also know feeling this way isn’t failure; it’s confirmation you are a warrior, mightier than you know, stronger than you’ve yet to see.

Love is a soft word in our culture. But in the Kingdom it’s a war cry.

And so we fight on — we serve and encourage and work and pray and change diapers and change the world. Because we are women of God, and this is what we do; this is who we are. We are a beautiful, fiercehearted force. We cannot be defeated.

Lord, You know how hard it is to live and love in this world sometimes, because You’ve been here, too. Thank You for Your compassion toward us and Your promise to bring us through whatever we may face. Through You, we have strength, grace and victory. I pray You will empower me to keep fighting today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

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Why Christians Can Be Both Humble and Certain

Michael J. Kruger

One of the most common objections made to the absolute claims of Christianity is that Christians are arrogant. Christians are arrogant to claim that they are right; arrogant to claim others are wrong; arrogant to claim that truth can be known. Unfortunately, in the midst of such accusations, no one bothers to ask which definition of humility is being used. Over the years, the definition of humility has undergone a gradual but nonetheless profound change. Especially in the intellectual community. In the modern day, humility has basically become synonymous with another word: uncertainty. To be uncertain is to be humble. To be certain is to be arrogant. Thus, the cardinal sin in the intellectual world is to claim to know anything for sure.

Of course, this shift presents a real problem for Christianity. Christians believe that God has revealed himself clearly in his Word. Thus, when it comes to key historical questions (Who was Jesus? What did he say? What did he do?) or key theological questions (Who is God? What is Heaven? How does one get there?), Christians believe they have a basis on which they can claim certainty: God’s revelation. Indeed, to claim we don’t know the truth about such matters would be to deny God, and to deny his Word. (This doesn’t mean, of course, that Christians are certain about everything; but there can be certainty about these basic Christian truths).

Thus, for Christians, humility and uncertainty are not synonymous. One can be certain and humble at the same time. How? For this simple reason: Christians believe that they understand truth only because God has revealed it to them (1 Corinthians 1:26-30).  In other words, Christians are humble because their understanding of truth is not based on their own intelligence, their own research, their own acumen. Rather, it is 100% dependent on the grace of God. Christian knowledge is a dependent knowledge. And that leads to humility (1 Corinthians 1:31). This obviously doesn’t mean all Christians are personally humble. But, it does mean they should be, and have adequate grounds to be.

Although Christians have a basis on which they can be humble and certain at the same time, that is not necessarily the case with other worldviews. Take the atheist for instance. He is quite certain of a great many things (contrary to his claim that one cannot be certain of anything). He is certain either that God does not exist (hard atheism), or certain that one cannot know whether God exists (soft atheism). And, in his critique of Christianity, he is quite certain that Christians are mistaken in their claims to be certain. In essence, the atheist is claiming, “I know enough about the world to know that a person cannot possibly have a basis for certainty.” That in itself is a pretty dogmatic claim.

But, on what is the atheist basing these far reaching claims about the universe? His own finite, fallen, human mind. He has access only to his own limited, knowledge. So, now we should ask the question again: Who is being arrogant? The Christian or the atheist? Both claim certainty on a great many transcendental issues. But one does so while claiming to be dependent on the one who would know such things (God), and the other does so dependent on only themselves. If either position is a posture of arrogance, it would not be the Christian one.

No doubt, the atheist would object to this line of reasoning on the grounds that he rejects the Bible as divine revelation. But, this misses the point entirely. The issue is not whether he is convinced of the Bible’s truth, but rather the question is which worldview, the Christian’s or the atheist’s, has a rational basis for claiming certainty about transcendental matters. Only the Christian has such a basis. And since his knowledge of such things is dependent on divine grace, he can be humble and certain at the same time.

 

Devotionals Daily: A Year with Jesus

Good Morning, Lord
By Sheila Walsh

Today I will choose to be open with a trusted fellow believer about one of my failures or weaknesses and let God minister to me through that person.

What comes to mind when you hear the word righteous? Maybe you think of Jesus himself, the Righteous One. But maybe you think of folks trying to be superhero believers. Do you realize, though, that we become righteous by admitting our weaknesses to one another, not by covering up our sins and weaknesses? Do you know that we gain healing and strength when we allow our brothers and sisters to know us and pray for us?

When we try to become superheroes, we hide our failures, we say noth­ing about our doubts, we don’t confess our sins to one another, and we don’t receive prayer from fellow believers. The result of such feigned perfection is loneliness, and we set ourselves up as an easy target for the enemy. Instead, we who name Jesus as our Savior and Lord must be willing to admit our needs, but so often we feel obliged to grin like Cheshire cats so we will be “good witnesses.” This pretense results in isolation from God and one another, not Christian community; stagnation, not spiritual growth; staying stuck, not experiencing freedom in Christ.

© 2010 by Sheila Walsh

 

The “Nubbies”

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. – Romans 5:1

A psychologist friend recently told me about Cliff–a client he described as “a believer after God’s own heart.”

After years of service to The Lord, Cliff’s wife developed aggressive cancer.  Many people joined Cliff in prayer for his wife, but she declined rapidly and died.  Through it all, Cliff didn’t break his determined gaze upon Christ.  Instead of allowing the tragedy to shake his faith, he allowed his experience of pain, suffering, confusion, and grief to push him deeper into the arms of the living God.

Cliff knew two things, and held to them tenaciously. The first was that God was good.  He didn’t understand the circumstances surrounding his wife’s sickness, or why she had to suffer and die.  But he knew a reason resided with God, and that he would come to understand in the light of eternity.  The second thing Cliff held to was his certainty that God loved him–in spite of everything, no matter what, and through it all.

When you’re in severe pain or distress, life becomes pretty simple. You’re in survival mode, and you have neither the heart nor the strength to spread your emotional energy around. As Chuck Swindoll might say, “Life gets boiled down to the nubbies.”

When pain or distress boils your life down to the “nubbies,” do what Cliff did. Keep it simple. Grab hold of what you know is true about the living God, and hold on like a pit bull.

“The nearer the dawn the darker the night.” -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

 

The Daily Word of Hope Devotional


Bible Fun Fact: Amen is the last word in the Bible and means: So be it.

The Database

Then David gave to Solomon his son the plans for the porch of the temple, for its houses, for its treasuries, for its upper rooms, for its inner rooms, for the place of the mercy seat; and the plans of all that he had by the Spirit, 1 Chronicles 28:11 WEB

David gave Solomon all the plans for the new temple that he was to build, but all of those plans were originally given to David by the Holy Spirit. Even though Solomon was the wisest man that ever lived, his great wisdom was given to him by God, and wisdom is still available to God’s people today if we will trust Him.

A long time ago, before there was Google, before cell phones, when the DOS or UNIX command line was the standard computer interface, the Lord began ‘inviting’ me to work on computers for others. To me, it was just a hobby. I was trying to get through seminary and had no plans of working in the computer field. I loved electronics, but I felt that it was beyond my capability because I did not have the education, nor the skills needed for that.

He would cause people to call me and if I would just agree to go, He would always give me the ability to fix the problem. Strangers would somehow get my phone number and call me with ‘Please come! You are our last hope!’ It was always scary because He pushed me into increasingly deeper things, with no one to turn to for advice but Him.

One day an accountant’s office called me to come look at their customer database. One of the computers on the network had crashed with the database open, and it had corrupted some of the tables. I had very little experience with DOS networks, or really any network at that time.

This database was very valuable to them as it contained the tax returns of hundreds of clients over the last few years, and they had no backup. I did not even want to go, but they told me that they had no one else to call, and they did not know what else to do. I wanted to say ‘No’ but I felt the Lord saying ‘Go.’ So I went.

It was around a 40 minute drive for me because they were in Pawley’s Island South Carolina, and I was in Conway. I prayed all the way there: ‘Lord I can’t do this without You.’ When I arrived, they walked me to the server and with butterflies in my stomach, I began to look it over. This was the first database that I had ever worked on before. The office gathered around and began watching me, and then suddenly I knew what to do. After a few commands, I had successfully repaired the database and they were back to work. They were my client for the next fifteen years.

The Lord added clients like that one by one and soon I was taking care of accountants offices, banks, lawyers, insurance companies, doctors offices and more. As long as I would go, He would go with me and make me successful. This continued on until He pushed me into ministry. That was His original plan, but He needed to prepare me first.

You do not have to walk alone today. There is a wisdom beyond the natural that is within your reach. When you are faced with things that you do not know how to do, turn to God, pray, and listen. Many times the answer will come. You are not alone while He is on the throne.

Prayer: Heavenly Father please send me the Comforter that You promised, Your precious Holy Spirit. Walk with me and talk with me today, help me to recognize when You are speaking. I want more of You in my life, in the name of Jesus Christ I pray.

 

Evie Polsley November 8, 2017
I Feel Like I Can’t Breathe
EVIE POLSLEY

“I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27 (NLT)

Do you ever have those days when you can’t find time to breathe?

The other day I was looking at 12 loads of laundry, with no food in the house besides goldfish crackers. It seemed like I could make a man out of the dust that clung to every item in our home, we had at least five different events on the calendar, my husband’s work schedule had doubled and I had a Sunday school lesson to get ready for church and a huge presentation for work the next week.

That night I fell into bed feeling exhausted and frustrated as the list of everything I didn’t accomplish ran through my mind. It felt like my head had hardly hit the pillow when my 9-year-old flew into the bathroom with an upset stomach. That woke-up my 2-year-old, who started asking every 10 minutes, “Mommy, it morning? I get out of bed?” In my exhaustion and stress, let’s just say, it was not my best mom moment.

The next morning, “mom guilt” set in. My normal, laid-back self had turned into a screaming, sleep-deprived, crazy woman. As I cried out my stress — which is what I do — I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a moment to just sit back and breathe.

I’m not talking about a spa day or even half an hour. I mean 15 minutes not consumed with something from the never-ending to-do list. One night I even caught myself walking in my sleep into the kitchen to clean.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m very thankful for the life God’s given me. I have an amazing husband, extremely loveable kids and a wonderful job. But even amidst the blessings of life, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all there is to do and forget to pause and just breathe.

As I lay on the floor crying, I began to wonder …

When was the last time I focused on just me and God? When had I opened my Bible and just breathed in His words and basked in his goodness? It had been a while.

During lunch at work the next day, I pulled out my phone, plugged in my headphones, and started listening to my audio Bible. I inhaled and exhaled as I meditated on Jesus’ spoken words found in today’s key verse:

“I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27).

I felt it. As the calming narrator’s voice said those familiar and healing words, that gift of peace washed over me. For a few moments, the to-do lists were gone, and the stress faded away. I was transported to an intimate setting, hearing my Savior promise a Helper to His disciples and realizing His words are for me, too.

“If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you” John 14:15-16 (NLT).

I am never abandoned! In my anxiety, in my joy. When I am at my best, when I am at my worst. The Holy Spirit is guiding me and reminding me of Jesus’ teachings.

On those days when I can’t seem to find a moment to take a breath, I need to connect with the life-giving Word of God that is living and breathing. The lists will never fully go away. There will always be another crisis or another responsibility. But there will also always be a peace that can only be found by taking time to breathe in God’s rejuvenating words of life.

Dear God, I’m sorry for the times I forget to connect with You to just spend time together. For when I get my priorities mixed up and put other things above You. Thank You for Your Holy Spirit, who is my Advocate and who guides me and teaches me — especially through the times when I can’t see straight. I am thankful for Your love and peace that sustains me and for the promise that You’ll never leave me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Click here to listen to: John 14:15-29.

>Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” (NLT)

Psalm 29:11, “The Lord gives his people strength. The Lord blesses them with peace.” (NLT)

RELATED RESOURCES:
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REFLECT AND RESPOND:
What’s God asking you to give over to Him in order to discover His peace? How often are you connecting with God and nurturing your relationship with Him?

Take your to-do list and pray over it, asking God to reveal to you places and times for you to breathe and reconnect with Him even in your busy daily schedule.

(c) 2017 by Evie Polsley. All rights reserved.

 

Today’s Scripture

“Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path.” (Galatians 6:1)

Thoughts for Today

When care-fronting a love one struggling with a life-controlling problem, focus on the facts, not on your personal conclusions.

It’s so easy to see some and assume more, but it is vital to focus on observations and facts instead of what you think or imagine. Make statements about what you have actually seen and heard. Don’t voice conclusions you personally have drawn.

Consider this …

Another element of care-fronting is to focus on descriptions, not on judgments. Your role is not to judge the behaviors as good or bad–the facts speak for themselves. Keep the lines of communication open by never placing a value judgment on the other person’s behavior. By describing rather than judging, you put yourself in a neutral role of reporting on what has been seen rather than judging that behavior as right or wrong.

John 8:3-11 teaches much about care-fronting. A woman was caught in adultery. The self-righteous religious teachers and Pharisees brought her to Jesus. To help her? No. They weren’t loving or caring toward her. They wanted to trap Jesus and in the process cruelly judged and condemned the woman.

Jesus didn’t accuse her. There was no question the woman had sinned. She knew that and so did everyone there. Jesus didn’t condemn her, but neither did he ignore the fact of her sin. He had a kind and respectful attitude. “Go and sin no more.”

Prayer …

Father, help me to stop letting my imagination get carried away and to focus only on what I know about this situation. And when I communicate with my loved one, help me not to judge. Give me a heart to love and help as Jesus did. In his name . . .

 

Charisma Media

Now, nudists are invading local restaurants.
Now, nudists are invading local restaurants. (StockSnap/Pixabay/Public Domain)

The nudist movement has been preaching social nudity for ages and has made headway in beaches, campsites and pools. Now, nudists are invading local restaurants.

Paris just opened its first-ever naked restaurant. Named O’nature. The restaurant is publicly open to the publicly nude. The rule is to drop your clothes at the door before you’re seated in one of the 40 chairs.

This news didn’t surprise me, but what did was my subsequent research on Christian nudists. Yes, they exist. In fact, there is a Christian nudist movement called Naturist Christians. I won’t link to the website due to its graphic nature.

“When seeking to educate and promote our values, we have found that sometimes seeing examples means more than anything else. Here we present photos of people living their lives naturally, without clothes, without shame, and as God created it,” the site reads.

Christian nudists theologies are another perversion of God’s Word. God may have created man naked, but He Himself created clothes of animal skin for mankind after the fall (Gen. 3).

After that moment, nakedness largely carried a shameful connotation. When Noah got drunk and lay uncovered in his tent, for example, his sons Shem and Japheth walked into the tent backwards to cover him rather than looking upon his nudity (Gen. 9). Ham, by contrast, looked upon his father’s nakedness and did nothing. That resulted in Noah cursing him.

Nakedness is also mentioned in a negative context in Exodus 20:26, Isaiah 47:3, Ezekiel 16:35-36, Luke 8:27, Revelation 3:17, Revelation 16:15 and several other Scriptures. The pattern is clear: Nudity outside the marriage bed is a disgrace.

Indeed, there’s a demonic influence to the nudist movement, and it’s especially troubling to see Christians embracing it. Luke 8:27-31 makes the connection to an unclean spirit evident:

When He stepped out on land, a man from the city who had demons for a long time met Him. He wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, “What have You to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I plead with You, do not torment me.”  For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. It often had seized him, and he was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles. But he broke the shackles and was driven by the demon into the wilderness.

 Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

He said, “Legion,” because many demons had entered him. And they begged Him not to command them to go out into the abyss.

How did Jesus address this nudist? By casting the devil out of him!

This is all part of the tsunami of perversion I wrote about in 2015. Let’s pray that those who are walking in deception will break free, and those who are free now will not fall into deception.

Jennifer LeClaire is senior leader of Awakening House of Prayer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, founder of the Ignite Network and founder of the Awakening Blaze prayer movement. She is author of over 25 books. Find her online at jenniferleclaire.org or email her at info@jenniferleclaire.org.

 

Hindrances to Christ’s Rule
TGIF Today God Is First Volume 1 by Os Hillman
November 08, 2017

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” 2 Corinthians 10:4

The Bible says when Christ comes to live in your heart, old things are passed away, all things become new (see 2 Cor. 5:17). The Lord has put a new Spirit in us. Previously, I could not understand why so many of us who proclaimed Christ had such little impact on the kingdom of darkness. It seemed to me that our culture should be impacted much more if His children walked in the light as Jesus did. Jesus impacted His culture like no other man.

I saw many workplace believers, who proclaimed Christ, living no differently than a person who had not claimed Him as Lord. These men and women had a form of religion, but little power that reflected Christ’s rule in their lives. Then one day God took me through a time of testing that led to a discovery of generational influences that impacted the way I viewed people and circumstances on a subconscious basis. I discovered this was a stronghold that had been implanted many generations earlier. Because the stronghold operated on a subconscious level, it was not easily recognizable. Strongholds keep us from being free to reflect Christ in and through our lives because they require allegiance until they are dealt with. Strongholds can often be so hidden that we would not even identify them as evil. A stronghold of fear, control, rebellion, insecurity, idolatry, pride, or bitterness may be hidden until it is revealed through circumstances.

All strongholds are built in our lives as a result of seeking to meet one or more of seven basic needs God has created in us. Once we believe a lie that God cannot meet a need without our effort, we open our spirit to a stronghold. The more lies we believe, the more we invite these strongholds to take root in our lives. Are you ineffective in your Christian experience? Are there besetting sins that seem to recur in your life? You may find that satan has built a fortress in your heart that has been there many generations. You must ask God’s forgiveness for entertaining this stronghold, and you must renounce it. Then as Christ renews your mind and heart, you will see Christ’s power released in your life like never before.

 

Passion for Praise: ‘Sing it Out!’

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Tell the world [all the wonderful things God has done to save and bless you] — sing it out!

LifeLessons4
life_lessons_13
I have been knocked down, AGAIN…….
Life-leassons-learn-quotes1
You are MY Rock, O Lord!!
HarshLessons1
Lessons, and more lessons…….I learn them well this time, I pray!
Forgive1
Am I stronger then?
Amazing1
Faith I have, plenty of…….
Lastly……….one for us “old” folks….
25-Life-lessons-best-of
God bless you all!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I remember…

Pray4

TODAY’S DAILY PRAYER

a small branch with a bunch of acornsHas the Lord ever abandoned anyone who held him in constant reverence? Has the Lord ever ignored anyone who prayed to him? The Lord is kind and merciful; he forgives our sins and keeps us safe in time of trouble. Ecclesiasticus 2:10–11, TEV

Dear Father in heaven, Mighty God in heaven and on earth, quicken us by the Word you have sent and by all you have done for us in your mercy and steadfast love. Keep us eager and joyful even in difficult and troubled days. Grant us unfailing trust in you, to give us firm ground under our feet so that we can always thank and glorify you. For you, O Lord, are our God. You are our Father, and you will never forsake your children in all eternity. Amen.

Daily Dig

Caffeine for your conscience

TODAY’S DAILY DIG

Spotted FeatherWe are all children of God, and his servants!…Do you think that he has no servants besides you, and that if you had devoted yourself to his service with your whole strength you could have done all that he needs – all that is needful for the establishment of his kingdom? You say you would do twice, ten times, a hundred times, more than you did. But if you did ten thousand times ten thousand more than all people have done, what would that have been in the work of God? A mere nothing! God’s work, like himself, is infinite. God’s work is you. Come to him, and be not a laborer but a child, and you will become a partner of the infinite God and of his world.

 

 

Verse of the Day

Inspirational illustration of 2 Corinthians 9:7

Thoughts on Today’s Verse…

God is working in us to conform our character and will to be like his own. God is a giver. God finds delight in generously blessing us. Now he asks us to do the same. Giving is not some arbitrary task given us to support our churches and ministries; no, giving is part of our character transformation to become more like God. It may be one of the truest ways we have placed our allegiance, dependence, and priorities in the gracious work of God.

My Prayer…

Father, forgive me for the times I have been miserly with the abundance you have shared with me. Make me a conduit of blessings. I know that all I have is yours. Please help me use it as you would. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

BIBLE STUDY BUDDY

Read 1 Timothy 1:3-11…

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer 4. or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God�s work- which is by faith. 5. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6. Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. 7. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.

 

8. We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10. for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers- and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11. that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary
1 Timothy 1:11

v5-11 Whatever tends to weaken love to God, or love to the brethren, tends to defeat the end of the commandment. The design of the gospel is answered, when sinners, through repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ, are brought to exercise Christian love. And as believers were righteous persons in God’s appointed way, the law was not against them. But unless we are made righteous by faith in Christ, really repenting and forsaking sin, we are yet under the curse of the law, even according to the gospel of the blessed God, and are unfit to share the holy happiness of heaven.

What The Law Can’t Do…

Evangelist Fred Brown used three illustrations to explain the proper use of God’s law. First, he likened the law to a dentist’s mirror. With that little mirror he can spot cavities. But the dentist doesn’t drill with the mirror. The mirror can reveal a cavity, but it can never repair it.

Brown then compared the law to a flashlight. If the lights in your home suddenly go out, you use a flashlight to guide you through the darkness to the electrical box. The flashlight enables you to see the blown fuse or tripped circuit-breaker, but you don’t insert the flashlight in its place.

In his third image, Brown likened the law to a plumb line. A builder uses a weighted string to see if his work is properly aligned. If he discovers a mistake, he doesn’t use the plumb line to correct it. He uses his hammer and saw.

The apostle Paul said, ”We know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully” (1 Tim. 1:8). The law of God reveals the problem of sin, but it doesn’t provide a solution. The answer is found in Jesus Christ. He bore our guilt on the cross and now offers us new life. When we put our faith in Him as our personal Savior, He forgives us and enables us to live by His strength in ways that please Him. What the law can’t do, Christ can. Have you asked Him to be your Savior?

 

 

November 7
Stewards of God’s Mysteries
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?
Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.
For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.
Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.
Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?
You are already full! You are already rich! You have reigned as kings without us-and indeed I could wish you did reign, that we also might reign with you! For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.
I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me. For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.
Now some are puffed up, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?
I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner-not even to eat with such a person.
For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”
1 Corinthians 3:1-17; 4:1-21; 5:9-13
WORSHIP
Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.
I have sworn and confirmed
That I will keep Your righteous judgments.
I am afflicted very much;
Revive me, O LORD, according to Your word.
Psalm 119:105-107
WISDOM
A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
Loving favor rather than silver and gold.
Proverbs 22:1

Quote of the Day

“The evidence of the Spirit’s control is revealed in a person’s character. Those who have yielded their lives to Christ’s leadership are continually being transformed into His likeness.”
~Charles Stanley (from “How Do We Live a Spirit-Filled Life?“)

Today’s Answer

How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?
J. Vernon McGee

The Bible doesn’t say that a loving God sends anyone to hell, and yet they do go to hell. But they don’t go there because God sends them; it’s the only place for those who have rejected Jesus Christ and have no capacity for God whatsoever.

When you say that He’s a loving God, you’ve only described one part of God. God also is righteous and just and holy. And if you think that you can violate all the different attributes of God and then depend on His love to save you, you’re entirely wrong. Because you cannot insult and blaspheme against God. He’s told us that we’re sinners and cannot come into His presence, that we do not seek after God, that we’re alienated from Him.

Do you think He’s going to bring you into His presence when you have ignored Him and turned your back upon Him? No. He is a holy God. He had to give His Son to die on the cross for our sins, and if you’re going to reject the only way He could work out for your salvation then you must understand that this is the place for you.

Don’t say that a loving God sends people to hell. Say that there is a holy God, and when you do not meet His standard you cannot go into His heaven where He is. That ought to be very obvious to you. In your home I’m sure that you have a standard and there are certain people that you would not let come in. God does the same thing. You have to meet His standard if you’re going to heaven.

There’s only one place for the lost who have rejected the Lord Jesus Christ and that’s with the devil and his demons. Don’t say that a loving God is going to send you to hell – He’s not. The thing that’s going to send you to hell is that you’re a sinner and you don’t want to admit it. That’s the problem with the human family. It’s a self will, a desire to want to go their way. Yet God has provided a way for you to come. And any time you want to make the turn, a loving God will save you.

Taken from Q&A with McGee (used by permission).

 

 

November 7

I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision.–ACTS xxvi. 19.

The Lord our God will we serve, and His voice will we obey.–JOSH. xxiv. 24.

I will shun no toil or woe,
Where Thou leadest I will go,
Be my pathway plain or rough;
If but every hour may be
Spent in work that pleases Thee,
Ah, dear Lord, it is enough!
G. TERSTEEGEN.

All these longings and doubts, and this inward distress, are the voice of the Good Shepherd in your heart, seeking to call you out of all that is contrary to His will. Oh, let me entreat of you not to turn away from His gentle pleadings.
H. W. SMITH.

The fear of man brings a snare. By halting in our duty and giving back in the time of trial, our hands grow weaker, our ears grow dull as to hearing the language of the true Shepherd; so that when we look at the way of the righteous, it seems as though it was not for us to follow them.
J. WOOLMAN.

 

JOY IN THE MORNING

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  James 1:27

God’s love compels us to feed the hungry, empower the poor, defend the weak and help those who are suffering. When we do these things, it includes encouraging and strengthening those persecuted for their faith in Christ. The Church has often led the way in education and medical services in developing countries until governments or other local agencies take over.

Brother Andrew says that giving humanitarian aid is a picture of Jesus knocking at the door of our hearts (our lives) in Revelation chapter 3. The doors of many hearts in the church are closed to acts of mercy and love in action. Therefore, Jesus stands knocking at the door of our hearts asking that we open that door and let Him in. His coming into our lives enables us to do acts of love.

“They killed my husband before my very own eyes. As if that wasn’t enough, they destroyed everything by burning down our house including my dear husband’s workshop.” These were the words of Esther, the widow whose husband was killed by jihadists in Nigeria in January 2010.

For the mother of seven, life became unbearable. The house that her children called home no longer existed and the daunting absence of an income was an inevitable reality. To worsen their circumstances, the in-laws abandoned Esther and her children. Surrounded by walls of a room too small for eight people, depression threatened to overshadow her and Esther cried night and day, asking God for a way out.

She truly needed a shoulder to lean on. A friend told us her story and from there Open Doors provided financial support for this family. As a result the family was able to move into an apartment in a Christian area, with enough room for everyone. The new home lent enough space for Esther to even start working from home. She is a tailor by profession and hopes to rent a shop in the near future.

Esther thought it wise to take some of the money and start a vegetable garden on a small scale. The idea is to feed her family and at the same time generate an income from it. She is confident that her vegetable business will grow to the point where she will be able to send the children to school.

“If Open Doors had not come to my aid,” Esther concluded with tears, “what would have become of me and my children? For all I know, we all would have been dead, either by the hands of Jihadists or hunger. As for my husband’s killers – though it’s been difficult – through your prayers and encouragement I’ve been able to forgive them.”

RESPONSE: Today I will live in awareness of those around me needing help and respond appropriately.

PRAYERLord, give me Your compassion for people in need. May I be an agent of Your love today.

 

In the Line of Fire, with Michael Brown

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Someone tagged Dr. Brown in this photo online.
Someone tagged Dr. Brown in this photo online. (Courtesy/Michael Brown)

On Sunday, the day of the church massacre, cultural commentator David French tweeted, “The amount of anti-Christian hate on Twitter the same day Christians were massacred is stunning and chilling.”

If ever there was a time when we might have expected sympathy for Christians, or at least restraint in attacking them, the opposite proved true far too many times. Why?

On Fox News, Laura Ingraham noted that some of the reactions to the shooting pointed to “elite hostility to people of faith,” stating that “hostility to faith infects the popular culture.” She also spoke of a rising “militant secularism,” drawing attention to comments which mocked the prayers of believers on behalf of those affected by Sunday’s church massacre.

This is more than heartless and tactless. It is intentional and quite focused: Faith in God is to be mocked, in particular Christian faith, and when Christians are slaughtered during a church service, that is the perfect time to pile on.

To paraphrase: “Where was your God, you stupid Christians? A lot of good your praying did! Go ahead and stick your head in the sand some more and keep praying to your imaginary deity. You deserve each other!”

On Sunday, someone posted a picture on my Twitter account of three lions holding up signs that looked like those held up by cows on popular Chick-Fil-A ads. Except these signs were not saying, “Eat Mor Chikin.” The signs read, “Eat Mor Cristins,” with a caption adding: “America. Yeah. It’s getting that way.”

Unfortunately, at this point in time, these sentiments should not surprise us at all, as despicable and ugly as they may be. The truth be told, there is an increasing, palpable hostility towards the gospel in some quarters in America, and it can easily be explained.

First, it is a natural fruit of the harsh and condescending “new atheism,” which continues to poison many hearts and minds with its venom. God is not simply to be rejected; He is to mocked and ridiculed, as are His followers.

Second, the hatred is a result of the culture wars, in which conservative Christians are targeted because of their opposition to LGBT activism and abortion. Bible-believing Christians are commonly compared to ISIS, accused of wanting to establish a Taliban-type theocracy, and called bigots and haters and Nazis. (Just search for any of these key words as AskDrBrown.org for a plethora of relevant articles. You’ll even find examples of gay activists calling for us to be thrown to the lions.)

On a regular basis, I receive death-wishes (in perverse and graphic terms); on occasion, I receive death threats. And this is quite common for those of us on the front lines.

Others, whose voices may not be as prominent, receive ugly, personal attacks on social media, and those attacks are filled with malice and bile.

Consequently, when tragedy strikes conservative Christians, it brings the hatred against us to the surface, especially when we respond with faith in God.

Third, evangelical Christians in particular are lumped together with President Trump, as if we are responsible for (or in support of) every statement he makes and every stand he takes. To the extent that he is divisive, we are blamed for his shortcomings, and just as many on the right despised President Obama, many on the left despise President Trump. And as they despise him, they also despise us.

Fourth, the darkness hates the light, and this is an age-old battle that will continue until Jesus returns. To the extent we stand for sexual purity and biblical morality, and to the extent we preach Jesus as the only true way to God, we will be mocked and scorned.

That’s the way it has always been, and that’s the way it will always be, and that’s why we must not deceive ourselves in terms of the cultural climate in America. The hostility against us is reaching a crescendo, and things could get even uglier in the days ahead.

That’s why we should remember the words that Peter wrote almost 2,000 years ago: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though some strange thing happened to you. But rejoice insofar as you share in Christ’s sufferings, so that you may rejoice and be glad also in the revelation of His glory. If you are reproached because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. Let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or an evildoer, or even as a busybody. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God because of it”. (1 Pet. 4:12-16).

And that’s why we should also remember the words of Jesus, who called us to pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44), as well as the words of Paul, who called us to overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21).

Many of those who ridicule us viciously today will be preaching our message tomorrow, and some of the finest gospel ministers in the world were once profane gospel mockers. So, we can expect more abuse in the coming days. We can also expect some of our abusers to have a change of heart as they encounter the God whom they mock.

Dr. Michael Brown(www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is Saving a Sick America: A Prescription for Moral and Cultural Transformation. Connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

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A Time to Mourn

People worship at a candlelight vigil in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
People worship at a candlelight vigil in Sutherland Springs, Texas. (REUTERS/Sergio Flores)

Ecclesiastes wrote that there is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Eccl. 3:4). Now is a time to mourn, a time to weep. Now is a time to grieve with those who grieve and hurt with those who hurt. And now is a time to turn to the Lord and ask Him to have mercy on our nation and heal our land.

Who can imagine the pain of the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas, a town of just a few hundred?

Already 26 are confirmed dead, ranging in age from 5 to 72, all them shot while worshiping in their local Baptist church. One of them was the pastor’s 14-year-old daughter.

Twenty more are reported wounded, meaning that most of those in the service were shot. Can we even begin to wrap our minds around this?

Every family in this town has been affected. Dreams have been destroyed. Plans for a bright future have been demolished. What a massive, unspeakable tragedy.

You wake up on a Sunday morning on a beautiful fall morning, you head over to the church building to sing to the Lord and pray and hear a message. And you never make it home. Or your spouse or child or grandparent never makes it home. Or you’re airlifted from the service in critical condition; your whole life turned upside down.

Can we let this sink in until our hearts are breaking? Can we let this sink in until we share some of the burden with our brothers and sisters in Texas?

At times like this, we are consumed with questions, wanting to know why and how.

What we do know about the murderer? What motivated him? Why did he launch his attack on a Sunday morning? What could have been done to prevent this? Why does God allow such things to happen?

Those are all valid questions, and there will be plenty of time to seek valid answers. But now is a time to mourn and pray. Can we at least take a few minutes to stop what we’re doing, turn off the news and cry out to the Lord?

At times like this, it’s all too easy to politicize the pain, to argue for stricter gun control or to argue for better church security or to blame one political party or another.

All this has already been done today, setting the internet on fire with tweets and countertweets, none of which I will link here, since that will only distract us or annoy us or enflame us.

Perhaps there’s something more constructive we can do right now? Perhaps praying and grieving is more appropriate? Perhaps asking the Lord to help those who are suffering would be a better use of our time, at least for a few minutes?

I understand that both advocates of gun control and advocates of more gun security care about the loss of life and want to prevent it. We are united in the desire to see the carnage stop. But again, there’s a time for political debate and there’s a time to cease from political debate, at least for a few hours or a day. Now is one of those times where political debate can wait.

There is a community traumatized.

There are bloody bodies lying on the floor of a little church building, which is now an active crime scene.

There are children fighting for their lives in neighboring hospitals.

There are parents and families in shock.

The least we could do is feel some of their pain and ask God for comfort and intervention.

And let’s not get into online battles with the mockers who say there’s no need to pray, since God didn’t stop this from happening in the first place. Don’t let them dishonor the name of the Lord we love, the same Lord that these victims and their families loved, the same Lord who is at work even now in the midst of the agony, the same Lord who has welcomed 26 of His children into His heavenly presence.

This is now the second mass shooting in five weeks and the second church shooting in six weeks. (The Las Vegas massacre took place on October 1. The church shooting in Tennessee took place on September 24.) And it’s the second mass murder of the week, with the car attack taking place just six days ago. And all this comes on the heels of dozens dying in forest fires and millions being affected by hurricanes. Is this not enough to drive us to our knees?

America is hurting right now, and in many ways, we are a very sick nation. Only God can heal our land.

Turning to Him with all our hearts and souls in repentance and prayer is our only hope—and the only hope of the people of Sutherland Springs.

Let’s join them in their grief, as we appeal to our Father for mercy. There’s nothing more important we can do.

Dr. Michael Brown(www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is Saving a Sick America: A Prescription for Moral and Cultural Transformation. Connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

 

 

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Whatever Happened To The Gospel Of Jesus Christ?

If your church does not regularly share the gospel, maybe they don’t know it as well as they think they do.

Half a Gospel

General William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, was about the most fervent and passionate man I’ve read about in witnessing to the lost. He once said, “Most Christian organizations would like to send their workers to Bible College for five years. I would like to send our workers to hell for five minutes. That would prepare them for a lifetime of compassionate ministry.” Shortly before his death in 1912 he said, “The chief danger that confronts the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, heaven without hell.” Sadly, many pastors have watered down the gospel message making it a Pablum of inoffensive messages that have no meat, but just basic elementary platitudes like “God loves you,” “Come as you are,” and “Just give your heart to Jesus,” even though this is not how the gospel is presented. Yes, God loves us, but He loves those who have trusted in Christ, and is opposed to all who reject the Son. By taking out the need for repentance, confession of sin, the need to strive for holy living, and making the priority of our lives to glorify God, we’ve rendered the gospel into a Dr. “feel good” talk program that only addresses the outside and not the inside. Why did Jesus speak so much about hell? It was because He cared enough to warn people about the wrath to come. One of the most unloving things you can do is to be silent about Christ, and giving only half the gospel is like saying a half-truth, and a half-truth is a whole lie, so half a gospel is no gospel at all. Jesus reveals what the gospel is. It was just “after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). The gospel is not just “believe” because even the demons believe, (James 2:19) but they’ve never repented. I can believe in chairs but if I never sit in them, have I really trusted in them? The point is, I must act on that belief.

Saved From What?

I had a friend who years ago picked up a hitchhiker and asked where the young man was going. He said he was on his way to his aunts to stay until he enrolled in a local college for the summer, so my friend asked him, “Have you been saved?” to which the young man asked, “Saved from what?” That’s a good question. If you were to ask a believer what they thought that they had been saved from, you might hear a variety of answers: We are saved from our sins, we are saved from hell, but what are we really saved from? We are saved from God! And more precisely, we are sparred the wrath of God. God has not appointed us to wrath anymore (1st Thess 5:9), and that’s good because, “It’s a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31). The Greek word for “fearful” is “inspiring fear, terrible, formidable,” and “affected with fear,” and we’re left with this rhetorical question: Who can deliver out the hands of an angry God!? Jesus alone can deliver us from God’s wrath, and He has done so for everyone who’s trusted in Him. Jesus tried telling the self-righteous that it was God Who they should fear and not man, and said “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt 1:28). If you are not saved, imagine being called before God, and having rejected Jesus Christ, and in some cases, having insulted His character and blasphemed His name, you now stand alone before Him. You have no advocate and no one to represent you. Without your trusting in Christ, the wrath of God that was placed on Jesus will then be placed on you. Can anyone imagine a worse scenario? But this happens every day. Multiple thousands of people die and are judged (Heb 9:27). There is no escaping the wrath of God except through Christ.

WilliamBooth

The Perishing

Today, over 150,000 people will die, and that is a very conservative figure since more may be added from terrorist acts or natural disasters, so using the conservative number, that’s over six thousand an hour and approximately one hundred every minute. About 1/3rd of the world is Christian (about 2.4 billion), and these people represent not only the largest group on earth, but also represent the world’s largest religion, although that number might be too high because not everyone who professes to be a believer truly is a believer (Matt 7:21-23), but what this means is that today, at minimum, over 100,000 people will die outside of faith in Christ, meaning their souls will be condemned since after death, comes the judgment (Heb 9:27), so my question is; “How can we sit idly by while so many are slipping into this hopeless eternity?” Where are the weeping Jeremiahs today? Surely it grieves the heart of God to see thousands of people lost every day, and we know that God “takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezk 18:32).

Spurgeon’s Passion

Charles Spurgeon is another man I admire because he had a huge heart for the lost. He said, “If you are a true follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, you cannot be at ease while souls are being lost! I fear that it would not matter in the least to some professors whether a whole nation was lost or saved! They would be just as comfortable, whatever happened. But they who have the spirit of Christ and are in sympathy with Him, have hearts of companion, so that the loss of any one sinner fills them with dismay—and the penitence of any one sinner makes their heart rejoice with exceeding joy” (1903, Sermon #2821)! Charles Spurgeon also said, “Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you are not saved yourself. Be sure of that.” I know that’s very strong, and you may not agree with him, but we must preach about the wrath of God and the reality of hell because Jesus did. The grace of God is not relevant until it’s placed against the wrath of God. This was the heart of Frances Crosby who wrote, “Rescue the Perishing,” singing, “Rescue the perishing, care for the dying, Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave; Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen, Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.”

Law to the Proud

If I were a doctor and came out and handed you a prescription, you’d probably be surprised and think, you don’t need this because you feel just fine, but if I came to you and showed you some x-rays and blood tests which indicated you have a fatal disease, you’d suddenly become very interested in the medicine. That’s what the law does in moving us to see the value of grace….it is law to the proud and grace to the humble. The law shows us what sin is (Rom 7:7, and “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God” (Rom 3:19). In other words, it takes our excuses away, like saying, “I’m a good person,” when in fact, we’re all guilty before God. If someone says they’re a good person, I would say maybe they do some good things, but no…we’re not good (Rom 3:10-12). Only God is good. The law is designed to show us the impossibility of keeping it. That doesn’t mean we don’t strive to live by it, but we know we can never keep it perfectly. Only Jesus did, and we need His righteousness attributed to us (2nd Cor 5:21).

Conclusion

How well do you know the gospel? What if you had to share it with a dying person? What if, right after calling 911, you saw a man who has been in a terrible car accident and may have only about three minutes to live, if that? Could anyone explain how they might be saved in less than three minutes? If they can’t, then they don’t know the gospel well enough to explain it. It would be beneficial to know certain Scriptures like Romans 10:9-13, Acts 4:12, and Acts 16:30-31, Romans 3:10-12, 23, 6:23, 1st Corinthians 15:3-4, 2nd Corinthians 5:21, and a few others. The last time I checked, over 76% of people who don’t attend church had never been asked, meaning the fields are ripe but the laborers are few. Are you willing to be used by God to seek the lost? Do you know the gospel well enough to share it?

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.

 

TODAY‘S

Christian Quote

If man is man and God is God, to live without prayer is not merely an awful thing: it is an infinitely foolish thing.

– Phillips Brooks
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A Prayer for When Time Doesn’t Heal a Broken Heart
By Tracie Miles

“He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.” Psalm 147:3 (NLT)

I thought they were dead for sure.

Twenty years ago, I planted four gardenia bushes against the back wall of my house, because I’d always loved the dainty, white petals and their sweet, clean fragrance. But I never imagined those tiny bushes would one day be bigger around than my arms could stretch and stand as tall as I am. And I definitely never imagined that every spring and summer we’d be blessed with hundreds of gardenia flowers for weeks.

Eventually, my children learned to share my excitement each April when tiny little buds would begin peeking out amongst the lush green leaves. Then we’d anxiously await May and June when all four bushes would explode with beautiful white blossoms. I’d cut blossoms off the bushes and tuck them into a vase on my kitchen table, enjoying the scent which permeated my home.

But then, it happened.

Last year, I hired someone to trim the bushes due to their enormous size. A few months later when they looked like stacks of scraggly sticks, I became worried. Then this past spring, my fears became reality. It was then I learned it hadn’t been the right time of year for trimming bushes.

April rolled around. No gardenias. Then May. No gardenias. When June came and went and still no gardenias, I gave up hope, certain they were dead foreverNever to thrive or be beautiful again. Heavy sigh. Sniff.

But lo and behold, in July, one gorgeous little bloom suddenly popped out. I was so excited I took a picture and texted my kids, then I plucked that one little fragrant flower and put it into a tiny vase. Over the next week, more buds appeared, and within weeks, each bush had several blossoms.

My daughter Kaitlyn, who shared my justified despair over our beloved flower bushes, came home and saw the scattered blooms tucked in the sparse foliage. Her face lit up, and she excitedly exclaimed, “See Mom! I told you they weren’t dead. They just needed time to recover and heal.”

I stopped and thought about that simple, yet profound, statement. And a smile crept across my face. As I walked back into the house holding my little bouquet of freshly cut gardenias, today’s key verse, Psalm 147:3, came to mind: “He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.”

In this verse, we’re reminded that even when we feel alone in our brokenness, we’re not alone at all. God is always with those who are hurting, and He sees their broken hearts. Then the verse says He “bandages” their wounds. It takes time for wounds to heal, especially emotional ones, but it also takes the intervention of a Savior who will tenderly nurse our wounds until healing has taken place.

Over the past several years, my heart has been broken in ways I didn’t know it could break. For many months, I thought I would never feel alive, thriving or beautiful ever again. Although my heart is not completely healed yet, God has been close by my side during the journey to recovery, and I know that without Him, no amount of time could heal the wounds only He can see. But now, my heart’s slowly begun to blossom again, much like my gardenia bushes as they struggle to bloom again.

Maybe today you’re wondering if your heart can ever heal from hurts, circumstances or losses inflicted. If so, allow yourself to believe God sees you, hears you and loves you. He knows you can’t do it on your own, and He wants you to know He is there to help you begin feeling alive, thriving and beautiful again, too.

Anytime we’re wounded, it takes time to recover and heal. Our bodies heal on

their own because that’s the way we were created, but when our hearts are broken, it takes much more than time — it takes Jesus.

Lord, please heal my broken heart. Fill me with the peace and joy I know can only come from You during this hard time. Walk closely beside me during my journey to healing and recovery that I know is possible through Your power alone. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

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3 Simple Ways to Bless the Socks off Your Pastor

Stephen Altrogge

Contrary to the popular conception of the pastor who only works one day a week (see Reverend Lovejoy from The Simpsons), real pastoral ministry is tough, draining, and emotionally taxing. It’s not for the faint of heart. It requires a unique combination of battle toughness and fatherly tenderness. A pastor is closely connected to the lives of the people he serves, and vicariously experiences both the joy and heartbreak that his people experience. When a young man gets married, the pastor rejoices. When the same young man gets cancer, the pastor is heartbroken. When a couple has a child, the pastor is elated. When the same couple gets divorced five years later, the pastor is heartbroken.

Given the unique challenges of pastoral ministry, pastors desperately need encouragement. Encouragement is what keeps the pastor going. Encouragement is fuel for the pastoral engine. It’s like a spiritual adrenaline shot.

Because I’m not currently a pastor, I can write this post, which, in the past, would have seemed self-serving. So how can you encourage your pastor? Here are some simple ways.

PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO HIS SERMONS, THEN THANK HIM FOR SPECIFIC ASPECTS OF HIS SERMONS

Preaching is a funny thing. A pastor can spend anywhere between 10 to 30 hours on a sermon. This sermon prep involves prayerfully wrestling through difficult passages (have you ever tried explaining Revelation?), figuring out how best to apply the passage to everyday life (what does an Ethiopian eunuch have in common with a stay-at-home mom?), and organizing the sermon in a coherent manner. On Sunday he stands up in front of his congregation and pours himself out for forty minutes, and then it’s over. Thirty hours of prep for a forty-minute sermon. And he has to do the same thing again next week, and the week after that, and the week after that. It’s a joyful, exhausting, delighful, brutal grind.

If you want to bless your pastor, thank him very specifically for each sermon. Don’t simply say, “Lovely sermon, pastor.” Instead, thank him for specific phrases, specific application points, and specific ways God used the sermon to change and challenge you. This specific encouragement will echo in his mind as he prepares his next sermon. Pay close attention, then thank your pastor specifically.

CHEERFULLY SUPPORT YOUR PASTOR’S LEADERSHIP

This doesn’t mean that you blindly support your pastor, no matter what decision he makes. This isn’t 1984, groupthink, follow-the-leader kind of support. It simply means that you maintain a general attitude of cheerful support toward your pastor, knowing that he is seeking to lead the church to the best of his ability, for the glory of God. I think this is the heart behind Hebrews 13:17, which says:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Do you want your pastor to experience joy? Then cheerfully submit to his leadership. When you have the opportunity, thank your pastor for specific aspects of his leadership. Does your pastor place a strong leadership emphasis on sound doctrine? Thank him for that. Does your pastor place a strong leadership emphasis on evangelism? Thank him for that. Does your pastor place a strong leadership emphasis on mentoring others? Thank him for that. You can encourage your pastor by cheerfully supporting his leadership.

TAKE LEADERSHIP INITIATIVE

One of the things that constantly haunts pastors is the sense that there is always more to be done and not enough time to do it. There is more evangelism to be done, more Bible studies to be started, more homebound folks to visit, more community outreach to initiate. Most pastors are burdened by all they are leaving undone.

If you want to bless the socks off of your pastor, take the initiative in ministry. Instead of asking your pastor to start more Bible studies, ask your pastor if you can start a Bible study. Instead of asking your pastor to create a prayer team, ask your pastor if you can start a prayer team. Instead of asking your pastor for more women’s ministry, ask your pastor if you can start a women’s ministry.

The work of ministry is not primarily done by pastors; it’s done by the members of the church. Ephesians 4:11–12 tells us that the pastor is supposed to equip the people in his church for the work of ministry:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…

Do you want to bless your pastor? Step up to the plate and take some initiative. Don’t blame your pastor for the absence of a particular ministry. Rather, be the one who starts that ministry.

Trust me: your pastor is desperate for encouragement. Pastoral ministry is often done behind the scenes, with little or no thanks. And Satan loves to discourage pastors, because few things are more dangerous than a faith-filled, thoroughly encouraged pastor. Encourage your pastor today. It’s for your good and his.

Stephen Altrogge is a writer, pastor, and knows a lot about Star Wars. Find out more at The Blazing Center.

 

Share Your Story – Tuesday, November 7th 2017

“I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today.”
NKJV

In Acts 22, Paul shares his ‘God story’, his testimony. Why is he doing this? Is it so others will be amazed at his religious upbringing or at the depth of his biblical training? Is it to glorify his past? No, Paul is sharing his testimony to lead others to Christ by explaining who he was before Jesus, what Jesus did, and the joy that he now has because of Jesus.

This is one of the most effective ways of sharing your faith.You see, people can argue about historical facts and they can disagree over cultural details, but people cannot argue with the fact that you found love, joy and forgiveness at the foot of the cross. Brother or sister, don’t be shy about telling your ‘God story’. Tell it to as many as will listen and you will be amazed at how God will use it to change the lives of those around you.

Life Lesson: Share your God story often with people.

Lord,
Thank You for loving me and saving me. Though I was a sinner, You sought me out and saved me from who I was so that I could live for You forever. Please give me courage and opportunity to share my testimony with others and forgive me for times when I had opportunities to share and did not. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Living to tell what He died to say,
Pastor David McGee
Cross the Bridge
crossthebridge.com

Scripture quotations marked ‘NKJV™’ are taken from the New King James Version*.
Copyright (c) 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright (c) 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2017 Cross the Bridge.

 

Devotionals Daily: A Year with Jesus

Inspired You
by Marian Parsons

Discovering the Inspired You

Perhaps you’re in that place, that same wallowing-in-self-pity place I was in a few years ago, or you’re just churning through the daily routine of your life. You might be able to concede that you could have untapped creative talents or possibly some mad furniture refinishing skills, but you’re too drained and uninspired at the end of the day to test them out. You go to bed feeling like it’s a victory that your house doesn’t look like it belongs on an episode of Hoarders. Well, it’s time to get out of survival mode and start thriving.

Working on your home is a great way to unearth hidden abilities or rediscover ones that have gotten a little dusty while you raised your family or worked long hours in an office. God has given you talents for a reason—so you can feel fulfilled using them and then share them with others. Putting your gifts to good use will bring so much joy to your life, and that joy will be evident to your family and friends. It’s hard to hide the immense satisfaction you can experience when you make a slipcover for the lumpy, faded recliner you inherited from you bachelor uncle. You’ll ooze excitement over a headboard you made with big-girl tools all by yourself. (Oh yes.) And while you’re experiencing that creative spark, the reward of a job well done, and the intense joy of a tidy space, you’ll also be creating a beautiful and inviting space for you, your family, and all who enter your home as a big bonus. As God breathes new life into your heart, it will spill over into your home. And that’s so much better than the instant gratification you’d get with a TV makeover.

© 2012 by Marian Parsons

 

Narrow and Healthy

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” –  >John 14:6

A friend of mine once wrote a children’s book about heaven.  When checking out the reviews of his book, he came across a reviewer who said she was attracted by the book’s title and artwork.  Then she noted how her excitement was replaced by dismay when the author claimed the only way to heaven was through Jesus Christ. The reviewer was deeply offended by what she called the book’s “obvious bias against non-Christians.”

We live in times where tolerance and diversity are the buzz words–particularly in the world of religion.  How could any faith be called “healthy” that claimed only one way to God?

But have you listened to the advocates of this thought?  Their message is that the way to salvation is through our moral virtue.  “Be good, do good, and it’ll all work out.”

My problem with that is this:  I’m not that good a person–certainly not good enough to stand before God on the basis of my own feeble virtue.  What about you?

As unpopular as it might be, the truth is, we are all sinners.  But thankfully God made a way for us to come to Him and not be seen as such–through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus. Maybe it’s narrow–but it’s true!

“Jesus came to raise the dead.  He did not come to teach the teachable.  He did not come to improve the improvable; He did not come to reform the reformable. None of those things works.” – Robert Farrerr Capon (1925-    )

 

The Daily Word of Hope Devotional

Bible Fun Fact: The last place we see the Ark of the Covenant in the Bible is in (2 Chr 35:3).

Just Around the Corner

And they went a three days journey in the wilderness of Etham and camped at Marah. And they set out from Marah and came to Elim; at Elim there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they camped there. Numbers 33:8 ESV

The Israelites had been traveling for three days through a desert wasteland when they arrived at Marah, thirsty and out of water. The water at Marah was bitter (poisoned) and they could not drink it so they began to grumble against Moses. When Moses prayed, God showed him a tree that he threw into the water and it became sweet.

Their very next stop was Elim, where there were twelve springs of water. An abundance of water, a spring for each of the twelve tribes and even seventy palm trees for them to rest under. More than they asked for. This test was no water in sight, but it was just around the corner. The next test was no food in sight, but it was just around the corner.

Do not give up when what you need is not yet in sight. It is just a test of your faith. You will have the chance to trust God, or to murmur and complain each time. What you need is waiting just around the next corner.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I know that You love me and the things that I need, You will provide for me. I choose to trust You today, in the name of Jesus I pray.

 

Today’s Scripture

“A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26 NLT)

Thoughts for Today

Care-fronting says to the other person that you care about them enough to confront them about the issues that are important to you.

Your purpose is to gently help your loved one with a life-controlling problem see themselves as they really are. With caring confrontation you chip chip away–bit by bit–the wall of delusion that hides the reality of the downward spiral of their life-controlling problem.

Consider this … 

For the rest of this week, we will look at some of the practical elements of caring confrontation. The first element: focus on the action, not on the actor.

We need to be careful not to criticize or label a person as “bad.” Instead, focus on the behaviors causing the problem. The action, not the actor.

When the person tries to use a defense like rationalizing or anger or denial, always bring the discussion back to the behaviors. Emphasize what your loved one does rather than attacking him or her personally.

Prayer …

Lord, I need your strength and your wisdom. In my frustration, I know I’ve often looked at my loved one as a bad person because of what he does. Help me focus on his behavior instead. In Jesus’ name . . .

 

 

The Value of Hard Places
TGIF Today God Is First Volume 1 by Os Hillman
November 07, 2017

“So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” 2 Corinthians 4:12

Being forced into hard places gives us a whole new perspective on life. Things we once valued no longer hold the same value. Small things become big things, and what we once thought big no longer holds such importance.

These hard places allow us to identify with the sufferings of others. It keeps us from having a shallow view of the hardships of others and allows us to truly identify with them. Those who speak of such trials from no experience often judge others who have had such hardship. It is a superficiality of Christian experience that often permeates shallow believers.

Those who have walked in hard places immediately have a kinship with others who have walked there also. They do not need to explain; they merely look at one another with mutual respect and admiration for their common experience. They know that death has worked a special thing in them. This death leads to life in others because of the hard places God has taken them through.

It is impossible to appreciate any valley experience while you are in it. However, once you have reached the top of the mountain, you are able to appreciate what terrain you have passed through. You marvel at what you were able to walk through. The valley of the shadow of death has yielded more than you ever thought possible. You are able to appreciate the beauty of the experience and lay aside the sorrow and pain it may have produced.

Death works in you for a greater purpose. If you are there today, be assured that God is producing something of much greater value than you will ever know.

 

Passion for Praise: ‘Recognize the LORD’

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

O nations of the world, recognize the LORD; recognize that the LORD is glorious and strong. Give to the LORD the glory he deserves! Bring your offering and come into his courts.

LifeLessons3
Yesterday I received a prophesy, through a woman I don’t know……I joined a Group on Facebook and put my name on the list, begging for a word from God, and I got it……this woman told me that God was saying to her that He is near the brokenhearted…….Lord, this brought me to tears!!  All the suffering I am doing since my falling out with the family up in Scranton and it has brought me to my knees…….
WishUponAStar
So, this is what I do………and here are just a few thoughts……

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NoRegrets

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