This Is My Son…

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Daily Prayer for January 13
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Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt
Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, RSV

Dear Father in heaven, give us childlike hearts so that we may understand everything in the right way. Grant us work that bears fruit in spite of our faults and weaknesses, because we want to work with the understanding given by love. Father in heaven, you know that we are faced day and night with many difficulties and setbacks. But you see us, and you will help us so that your name may be honored, your kingdom may come, and your will may be done on earth as in heaven. Amen.

 

 

Sacred Christmas

SUNDAY, JANUARY 13
The Baptism of the Lord

The Presence of God

Dear Jesus, today I call on you, but not to ask for anything. I’d like only to dwell in your presence. May my heart respond to your love.

Freedom

God my creator, you gave me life and the gift of freedom. Through your love I exist in this world. May I never take the gift of life for granted. May I always respect others’ right to life.

Consciousness

I ask how I am today. Am I particularly tired, stressed, or anxious? If any of these characteristics apply, can I try to let go of the concerns that disturb me?

The Word

The Word of God comes down to us through the Scriptures. May the Holy Spirit enlighten my mind and my heart to respond to the Gospel teachings.

Luke 3:15–16, 21–22
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
  • Jesus came to baptize us with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Such an encounter is rarely calm and filled with certainty. It’s interesting that Jesus, who was following God’s will, received the confirmation of the Father saying, “You are my Son, the Beloved . . .” Baptism brings change and activity, and it calls for courage and faith.
  • Can you pause today and allow God’s words to linger with you: “You are my beloved child . . .”?

Conversation

I begin to talk with Jesus about the Scripture I have just read. What part of it strikes a chord in me? Perhaps the words of a friend—or some story I have heard recently—will rise to the surface in my consciousness. If so, does the story throw light on what the Scripture passage may be saying to me?

Conclusion

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be,
World without end. Amen.

Sunday Connection

Sunday Connection

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Sunday Scripture readings. The Sunday Connection provides useful background and activities to better understand the upcoming Sunday’s Scripture readings, helping you to connect the Scripture to daily life in a meaningful way.

First Reading
Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11 (The first reading from Cycle A may also be chosen, Isaiah 42:1-4,6-7.)
Isaiah tells the people to prepare a way for the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 104:1b-4,24-25,27-30 (The psalm from Cycle A may also be chosen, Psalm 29:1-2,3-4,9-10.)
A prayer praising God’s greatness

Second Reading
Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7 (The second reading from Cycle A may also be chosen, Acts of the Apostles 10:34-38.)
Jesus Christ saved us and renewed us with his Holy Spirit.

Gospel Reading
Luke 3:15-16,21-22
Jesus is baptized by John.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. In today’s Gospel, as in the other Gospel accounts of Jesus’ baptism, we hear John the Baptist address the confusion of the people who thought that John might be the Messiah. In response, John contrasts the baptism that he performs with the Baptism that Jesus will inaugurate. John the Baptist says that he has baptized with water, but that someone will come and baptize with the Holy Spirit. The type of baptism that John performed was not yet a Christian Baptism; it was a preparation for Christian Baptism through which sins are forgiven and the gift of the Holy Spirit is received.

The baptism of Jesus is reported in each of the three Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Clearly, it was an event of great significance for Jesus and for the early Christian community. The Evangelists Mark and Luke report the story from Jesus’ perspective; the voice from heaven is addressed to Jesus. Compare this to Matthew’s Gospel in which the voice from heaven speaks to everyone. In Luke, however, the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus during his time of prayer after his baptism. Through his Gospel, Luke will show Jesus to be a person of prayer who withdraws regularly from the crowds and his disciples to pray to his Father.

The baptism of Jesus is considered a manifestation of God in Jesus, another “epiphany.” On this, the last day of the Christmas season, our Gospel reveals to us Jesus’ relation to God: the son of Mary and Joseph is also God’s own Son. In Luke’s Gospel, all three members of the Trinity are manifested here: God the Father in the voice, the Holy Spirit descending, and Jesus the Son. At the beginning of his Gospel, Luke is communicating to us important information about the identity of Jesus. In the verses that follow, Luke lists the genealogy of Jesus, tracing Jesus’ ancestry back to the first person, Adam, who is also identified as the son of God. We, the children of Adam and Eve, are again made children of God through Baptism.

 

 

 

3 Ways to Find God in Winter - text over a snowflake background

I happen to like a midwestern winter: cold, barren, dark, and windy. I enjoy bundling up and walking on winter days, with or without snow. The introvert in me looks forward to spending those dark evenings with books, knitting projects, writing projects, cooking, and pots of tea. Something in me connects to the sacred in winter—because I believe that each season is sacred in its own way.

But I know that many people struggle to find anything to love during this season. They don’t do well in the cold, or they tend toward depression for lack of natural light. In the same way I dread the heavy humidity and inescapable heat of summer, others want to find an escape route from winter. If God is present always, we will find the divine even in this cold season.

1. Use the opportunity for deeper prayer.

When the season changes to a time of year that feels ill-suited, it’s good to recognize that we are grieving a loss. The gentle summer air is gone; the flowers are gone; many of the outdoor sights and sounds of people are gone. Perhaps we can use this time to pray over other losses. As I grieve the daylight that no longer surrounds me on the way to and from work, I can pray something like, “Lord, I know this sadness is attached to other, deeper, causes of sadness. Help me identify them and sit with them here and let you comfort me.”

2. Explore other sources of joy.

You really can’t savor a robust pot of chili in July—not the way you can savor it in January. During the winter, we have a different set of joys and comforts, so let’s dive right into them! Read to your kids or your spouse. Collect memories into scrapbooks, something that’s not as attractive when the weather invites you to the beach or backyard. Don’t think of winter activities as default options you’re left with but as entirely different yet wonderful pleasures.

3. Identify winter-worthy ways to serve.

If my needs shift in the winter, then it’s likely that some of the people I know face the same struggles. Are these long, dark months prime time for visiting others and filling the time with conversation or a feel-good movie? If I dread being cold, might that remind me to buy gloves and heavy socks to donate to organizations that supply people in need? Would February be a good month for a three-week Bible study in small groups—the opportunity to gather in homes or at the church and focus on the Light of the World?

Winter may not be your first choice as a season. Yet it carries its specific gifts and purposes. May you enjoy them in the weeks to come.

 

 

January 13: Avoiding the Unavoidable
Genesis 24; Matthew 16–17; Ecclesiastes 5:8–11

It’s common to put people in our lives on hold, even if we love them, until something forces us to pay attention. Forgetting those who are closest to us is a frightening thought. Peter, Jesus’ disciple, likely realized that people were making a similar mistake in their relationship with Jesus.
In the district of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asks His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Matt 16:13–14). At first, they respond with the expected: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, and the prophets—suggesting that Jesus is an esteemed and powerful prophet, but not more. Then Jesus asks the are-you-paying-attention question: “But who do you say that I am?” (Matt 16:15).
Simon Peter understood this, blurting out, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” (Matt 16:16). Jesus asked about the Son of Man, emphasizing His humanity; Peter responds by emphasizing both His status as the anointed one of God (the Christ) and His divinity, as God’s Son (which also has kingly implications).
Peter does all this in Caesarea Philippi, a place full of altars and idols to other deities. Caesar was worshiped and celebrated as god’s son there. Peter, surrounded by people worshiping the king of the known world, calls Jesus king.
Jesus responds by affirming that God has revealed this to Peter. And He states that following Him means completely giving up ourselves and being willing to suffer like Christ (Matt 16:24–25).
Just like a relationship with a spouse, parent, sibling, or friend, if we think Jesus is less than He is, we will inevitably misunderstand Him. And if we understand our relationship with Him to be anything less than life altering, we treat Him like someone we have fallen out of love with. The one who died for our sins wants and deserves so much more.

Who are you not noticing in your life that you should be? What parts of your relationship with Christ are you overlooking?

JOHN D. BARRY

 

 

Christmas: January 13th

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Baptism of Our Lord. This brings to an end the season of Christmas. The Church recalls Our Lord’s second manifestation or epiphany which occurred on the occasion of His baptism in the Jordan. Jesus descended into the River to sanctify its waters and to give them the power to beget sons of God. The event takes on the importance of a second creation in which the entire Trinity intervenes.

In the Eastern Church this feast is called Theophany because at the baptism of Christ in the River Jordan God appeared in three persons. The baptism of John was a sort of sacramental preparatory for the Baptism of Christ. It moved men to sentiments of repentance and induced them to confess their sins. Christ did not need the baptism of John. Although He appeared in the “substance of our flesh” and was recognized “outwardly like unto ourselves”, He was absolutely sinless and impeccable. He conferred upon the water the power of the true Baptism which would remove all the sins of the world: “Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him Who takes away the sin of the world”.

Many of the incidents which accompanied Christ’s baptism are symbolical of what happened at our Baptism. At Christ’s baptism the Holy Spirit descended upon Him; at our Baptism the Trinity took its abode in our soul. At His baptism Christ was proclaimed the “Beloved Son” of the Father; at our Baptism we become the adopted sons of God. At Christ’s baptism the heavens were opened; at our Baptism heaven was opened to us. At His baptism Jesus prayed; after our Baptism we must pray to avoid actual sin.

— Excerpted from Msgr. Rudolph G. Bandas

COLLECT PRAYER

Almighty ever-living God, who, when Christ had been baptized in the River Jordan and as the Holy Spirit descended upon him, solemnly declared him your beloved Son, grant that your children by adoption, reborn of water and the Holy Spirit, may always be well pleasing to you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

 

 

Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening Devotional
1 Kings 22:48

01/13/AM

“Jehoshaphat made ships of Tharshish to go to Ophir for gold: but they went not; for the ships were broken at Ezion-geber.”
1Ki 22:48

Solomon’s ships had returned in safety, but Jehoshaphat’s vessels never reached the land of gold. Providence prospers one, and frustrates the desires of another, in the same business and at the same spot, yet the Great Ruler is as good and wise at one time as another. May we have grace to-day, in the remembrance of this text, to bless the Lord for ships broken at Ezion-geber, as well as for vessels freighted with temporal blessings; let us not envy the more successful, nor murmur at our losses as though we were singularly and specially tried. Like Jehoshaphat, we may be precious in the Lord’s sight, although our schemes end in disappointment.

The secret cause of Jehoshaphat’s loss is well worthy of notice, for it is the root of very much of the suffering of the Lord’s people; it was his alliance with a sinful family, his fellowship with sinners. In 2Ch 20:37, we are told that the Lord sent a prophet to declare, “Because thou hast joined thyself with Ahaziah, the Lord hath broken thy works.” This was a fatherly chastisement, which appears to have been blest to him; for in the verse which succeeds our morning’s text we find him refusing to allow his servants to sail in the same vessels with those of the wicked king. Would to God that Jehoshaphat’s experience might be a warning to the rest of the Lord’s people, to avoid being unequally yoked together with unbelievers! A life of misery is usually the lot of those who are united in marriage, or in any other way of their own choosing, with the men of the world. O for such love to Jesus that, like Him, we may be holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners; for if it be not so with us, we may expect to hear it often said, “The Lord hath broken thy works.”

 

 

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Daily Dig for January 13

Dom Helder Camara

At first sight, the situation of this world suggests despair. For Christians, however, the last word is always hope. Despite everything, we have no use for a misleading or alienating hope that looks only to eternal life – as though eternity didn’t start here and now, because it is here and now that we build an eternal life.

Source: “The Degradation of the Worlds and the Renovation of the Earth,” speech, 1972

 

 

Verse of the Day….Reflect on it….

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If you are doing God’s work, the enemy will try to tear it down and you with it. For His wisdom to overcome, read today‘s message!

A Great Work

Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, Come, let us meet together in one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief. I sent messengers to them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I can’t come down: why should the work cease, while I leave it, and come down to you? Nehemiah 6:2 WEB

Nehemiah was organizing the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem after it had been destroyed and the people carried away into exile. When he began, his enemies laughed at him, but then as the gaps in the wall started to close, they became much more serious. They plotted to kill him in order to stop the wall from being completed.

Nehemiah’s enemies planned to invite him to a banquet and assassinate him so that all the people following him would stop the work that he had started. When they tried to lure Nehemiah into their trap, he simply replied “I am doing a great work, and I cannot come down.” Then he continued on and they completed the wall while working with a trowel in one hand, and a sword in the other (Nehemiah 4:17).

Our enemy may start out using laughs, jeers, and gossip to attack us, but if we keep on with God’s work, he will devise much sneakier traps and distractions for us that scale to our level. He has done this a long time, and he knows what works. Like someone inspecting a wall, he keeps searching for the small cracks to get in through, and once in, it is hard to get him back out.

The enemy’s plan is to get you distracted, trip you, make you fall, to make your testimony worthless. To make the salt lose its flavor. To stop the work. To stop God from fulfilling His plan in your life. To steal, to kill, and destroy (John 10:10). When you are tempted, remember that you are doing a great work, and that you cannot come down.

Prayer: Heavenly Father please give me a clear vision and reveal the traps that the enemy has set for me. Help me to focus on the work at hand and not be distracted. Fulfill Your will in my life, in the name of Jesus Christ I pray.

Bible Fun Fact: Noah was also used for a girls name (Joshua 17:3).

 

 

Heartlight

‘Moving Beyond a Little Religious Excitement’

Note from Jesus

Dear Follower,

My half-brother James warned that simply believing in the existence of God was nothing special — even the demons believe in God and shudder in fear at His power (James 2:19). In today’s story from My life on earth, you meet a man tortured by a demonic spirit. This demonic spirit knew My name and knew Who I AM. In fear, this demonic presence shouted at Me to leave because it knew that I would cast out every tidbit of demonic influence that had a hold on this man. And that is what I did. My power over evil was demonstrated as I cast the demon out of the man with just a few words.

People were excited and amazed at My power. However, don’t confuse their reactions with meaningful faith. Don’t confuse their reactions with discipleship. Believing in Who I AM, saying the right words, getting excited about My power, even doing some things in My name, should never be confused with being My disciple (Matthew 7:21-23). A disciple follows his or her teacher to become like the teacher (Luke 6:40).

My disciples follow Me to become like Me. They do what I call them to do. They put into practice what I teach. So in many ways, the excitement of the crowd and the fear of the demons in today’s story are very much the same things: a lot of emotion and commotion without devotion to Me.

As we journey through this year together, I hope that you will move beyond mere emotion and religious commotion to heartfelt devotion!

Verses to Live

Even though the religious leaders should have recognized Me during My time on earth, most of them did not. However, the demon in today’s story did recognize Me and even confessed Me before the people in the synagogue, albeit in a confrontational way. Your response to Me needs to be much more than a confession of Who I AM. Just as the demon-possessed man’s life was dramatically changed by My power, your life should also change dramatically because of Me. Your life should acknowledge Me just as your words do.

Next He [Jesus] went to Capernaum, another Galilean city. Again He was in the synagogue teaching on the Sabbath, and as before, the people were enthralled by His words. He had a way of saying things — a special authority, a unique power.

In attendance that day was a man with a demonic spirit.

Demon-Possessed Man (screaming at Jesus):

Get out of here! Leave us alone! What’s Your agenda, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know Who You are: You’re the Holy One, the One sent by God!

Jesus (firmly rebuking the demon):

Be quiet. Get out of that man!

Then the demonic spirit immediately threw the man into a fit, and he collapsed right there in the middle of the synagogue. It was clear the demon had come out, and the man was completely fine after that. Everyone was shocked to see this, and they couldn’t help but talk about it.

Synagogue Members:

What’s this about? What’s the meaning of this message? Jesus speaks with authority, and He has power to command demonic spirits to go away.

The excitement about Jesus spread into every corner of the surrounding region.
(Luke 4:31-37)

Response in Prayer

Almighty God, open my eyes, my ears, my heart, and my mind to fully see Jesus for Who He is. I want to follow Him with wholehearted devotion. I offer You my life to be a follower of Jesus. Shape me to become like my Savior as I journey with Him each day. In the name of the Lord Jesus, I pray. Amen.

 

 

 

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Tis the Season….for Miracles!

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Daily Prayer for November 25

Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt

The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice… The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all peoples see his glory. Psalm 97:1, 6, NIV

Lord our God, we turn to you, for you are our help. Hear our prayer, we beseech you; let our cry rise to you so that you may send your mighty help in our generation. Continue to protect us from all evil, from death and destruction. Protect us because we are your children. As your children we turn to you, the almighty God, who can make everything work together for good. Be merciful to us, O Lord God. Help us for your name’s sake. Help, Lord, for you alone can bring everything to a good end. So we stand before you in Jesus Christ, holding to every word you have given us and knowing for certain that you hear us. Amen.

 

TODAY’S DAILY DIG

winterberryAdvent hope is a certainty of faith that shows itself in action through mutual responsibility for the whole of life. The church of Christ is the fellowship of this hope. It believes so unreservedly that it is convinced that the divine must conquer the demonic, that love must conquer hate, that the all-embracing must conquer the isolated. Certainty tolerates no limitation. God embraces everything. When we trust in him for the future, we trust for the present. When we have faith in him, our faith holds true for everything that touches our lives.

Source: When the Time Was Fulfilled

 

 

Plough Weekly

Prison Voices…

Dear Friend,

Nineteen-year-old Bobby Bostic was sentenced to 240 years in prison for robbery, kidnapping, and other crimes. Now, at age thirty-nine, he still has no chance of parole, though the judge who originally told him he would “die in the Department of Corrections” deeply regrets her decision. From behind bars, Bobby writes of redemption from an unexpected source: “I signed up for garden duty just to get out of my cell …”

“I did not leave just became easy to overlook / easy to forget” In his lyric poem “reenter,” Cozine Welch Jr. calls out the distance between those who ought to be close. In “look …” he takes us behind bars to see – truly see – the men who stand in the prison common room. (Cozine is now an editor at Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing. Check it out!)

“Societies never know it, but the war of an artist with his society is a lover’s war.” From our Plough Quarterly issue on art and community, don’t miss James Baldwin on an artist’s responsibility to express truths discovered only in the aloneness of birth, suffering, love, and dying.

Till next week,

Maureen Swinger
PS: A retired police chief and an ex–gang member have teamed up to address dozens of school assemblies in New York and New Jersey. Their message to young people: forgive. Plough asked them to reflect on their unlikely friendship:

The Courage to Forgive

Plough: How come a former cop and a former gang member are on speaking terms?

Charles Williams: Clearly we used to be enemies on different ends of the gun, even if we didn’t know each other. As a young officer with the New York City Housing Authority police department in the 1980s, I was assigned to patrol in the South Bronx just when the crack epidemic hit. My job was to restore or keep peace, while Hashim, with all due respect, was out to cause havoc and chaos. Had we crossed paths back then, we both would have pulled our guns. And if one of us had made the wrong move, there’s a good chance we could have killed each other.

Even as I say that now, I get emotional because the man sitting next to me is my brother, my best friend. How did we get here? Hashim and I are very different, but we have at least two things in common: we’re both human beings, and we’ve both experienced the power of forgiveness.

Hashim, what’s the story from your side?

Hashim Garrett: I grew up in Brooklyn. After my parents separated, I lived with my mother and her boyfriend, who had a drinking problem. While under the influence, he would become abusive and would bang on the metal door of our home. Hearing him, I would lie on the floor of my room crying and praying: “Dear God, please make him stop, in Jesus Christ’s name” – even though I was born Muslim.

I was bullied at school, so when I was thirteen I decided to befriend my bullies and joined their gang. Sometimes I would shoot people for money, sometimes just for the thrill. At age fifteen, I found a new group of friends – they were big guys, age eighteen to twenty-one. In that gang, the dirty work was reserved for me, since if we were caught, I as a juvenile would be eligible for a reduced sentence. After a while I realized I was being used and began to object when asked to do things. Ultimately, they decided that they would get rid of me.

On May 7, 1990, my so-called friends knocked on my door and asked me to come outside. I should have known something was wrong, because one of them said, “Yo, when you come out, don’t bring the guns.”

 

 

Verse of the Day

Inspirational illustration of Colossians 3:17

Thoughts on Today’s Verse…

Everything! All! No matter what we say, no matter what we do, it is to be offered as a gift of thanks to God with Jesus’ name, power, and honor attached! This makes all of life our worship and thanksgiving to God. There’s no such thing as going to worship, if we live, if we talk, if we act it’s worship and should always involve thanksgiving. So how has your worship been lately?

My Prayer…

Almighty and Most Holy God, I want all of my life to be lived out to your glory, a living testament of thanks to you for the grace you have given me in Jesus. While I do not always do this as well as I would like, I lovingly offer you my words, my actions, my heart and my mind to bring you glory by doing your will. Please, use your Spirit to remove the areas of self-deception from my life so that weakness and hypocrisy will not rob my discipleship of its intended worship of your majesty. In the name of Jesus, my gracious Lord, I pray. Amen.

 

 

 

What Jesus Did! ‘Frightened or Fearless?’

The Jewish leaders replied [to Pilate], “By our law [Jesus]ought to die because he called himself the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this, he was more frightened than ever. He took Jesus back into the headquarters again and asked him, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave no answer.

Key Thought

Pilate was trying to find a way out of dealing with Jesus. He knew Jesus was innocent, but couldn’t appease the crowd. What if Jesus was who he said he was? How could he convict an innocent man? How could he keep his constituents happy? Who was this Jesus and where was he from? Pilate would lose his integrity unless he released Jesus. He couldn’t release Jesus without infuriating the crowd. Jesus would not answer him. Jesus refused to be a pawn in Pilate’s political game. Jesus followed the will of his Father, and no one would deter his commitment to righteousness. Facing a choice about Jesus’ identity, Pilate the ruler showed fear, gave up his integrity, and became a prisoner to the fickle will of the mob. In the face of death, Jesus showed courage, displayed integrity, and demonstrated the freedom to be who he was truly committed to being no matter the will of the crowd. The stark differences in their choices and character remind us of the importance of the choices we make about Jesus and the will of God.

Today’s Prayer

Righteous and holy God, what can I say to convey my thanks and appreciation of the horrible price paid for my sin? Thank you! Please purify me, and strengthen me so that my life from this day forward deepens in your character and in my love for Jesus, my Savior, in whose name I pray. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

 

Passion for Praise: ‘Abundant Thanksgivings to God’

Illustration of 2 Corinthians 9:12-15 MESSAGE — Carrying out this social relief work involves far more than helping meet the bare needs of poor Christians. It also produces abundant and bountiful thanksgivings to God. This relief offering is a prod to live at your very best, showing your gratitude to God by being openly obedient to the plain meaning of the Message of Christ. You show your gratitude through your generous offerings to your needy brothers and sisters, and really toward everyone. Meanwhile, moved by the extravagance of God in your lives, they'll respond by praying for you in passionate intercession for whatever you need. Thank God for this gift, his gift. No language can praise it enough!

 

A Year with Jesus: ‘War and Hell’s Defeat’

Note from Jesus

Dear Beloved,

The images in My Revelation to John are strong and powerful. Today’s images are a reminder that My incarnation and ministry on earth were more than just My living a good life and doing kind deeds. My coming to earth was the beginning of the final battle in the Father’s war against Satan. I came to save the people of the world, including you, from Satan’s demonic forces and evil’s grip on your world. I came to bring deliverance for the people of God. I came to defeat Satan and assure you that the final victory over Satan and his banishment to hell are certain.

Satan has his heart set on evil. When I came to earth, I defeated the evil one because of My willing surrender to the will of the Father. Because of My victory over Satan, the Father brought you the promise of victory over sin, death, and hell. Not only did the Father deliver Me from My death brought on by Satan’s influence, but He also delivered you through My resurrection. The Father banished Satan from heaven (Luke 10:18). Satan’s recognition that his presence and power on earth were limited made him determined to use his influence for evil. Even though his power was limited, he has repeatedly unleashed violence and evil against Me and My people. His being cast down from heaven and My resurrection signaled that his defeat will one day be final and complete.

My sacrifice (“the blood of the Lamb”) and My people’s faithfulness (“by… the word of their witnesses… [and their willingness to] not hold on to their lives, even under the threat of death”) have assured My people of victory over hell’s power and fury. Despite Satan’s anger and evil intentions, he will not defeat My people. Their faithfulness unto death ensures their ultimate victory with Me in the presence of the Father. However, as long as I have not returned for you, My people, Satan roams the earth and seeks to claim more victims. What Peter warned is true:

Most importantly, be disciplined and stay on guard. Your enemy the devil is prowling around outside like a roaring lion, just waiting and hoping for the chance to devour someone.
(1 Peter 5:8)

My resurrection from the dead and My exaltation to the right hand of the Father on high have assured My people ultimate victory — whether through life or death. So Peter finished his warning with this assurance:

Resist him [the devil] and be strong in your faith, knowing that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are fellow sufferers with you. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of grace Who has called you to His everlasting presence through Jesus the Anointed will restore you, support you, strengthen you, and ground you. For all power belongs to God, now and forever. Amen.
(1 Peter 5:9-11)

What Peter says in plain language, I revealed to John in vision and imagery. But if you listen through the imagery in the verses below, you will hear the same message. Satan is evil. He views all people, especially those who are Mine, with murderous intent. He will inflict wounds on My precious followers. But these wounds are not permanent. Evil’s defeat is assured; in fact, it has already occurred (Colossians 1:13Hebrews 2:14-15). That is the reason you can depend on Our power being available to you through the Spirit to defeat temptation as well as to provide ultimate victory through your resurrection. Satan knows this. So be faithful. Resist him. Trust in My victory that will also be yours when I return in glory. While your part of the battle may be fierce, know that both present-day victory and ultimate victory are yours and sharing in My glory is assured.

Verses to Live

While the war of good and evil is fierce and cosmic in scope, the images you read in today’s verses paint My truth in powerful and graphic detail. The victory has been won over Satan, evil, the demonic forces, and the power of hell. However, being cast down out of heaven, Satan still wages war on earth until I return to banish him forever. Take heart in knowing that My people will be preserved, and those who are faithful unto death are not lost as casualties in the fight. In their death, they are ushered into My presence and eternal glory.

As I looked, a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman came into view clothed in the radiance of the sun, standing with the moon under her feet, and she was crowned with a wreath of twelve stars on her head. She was painfully pregnant and was crying out in the agony of labor. Then a second sign appeared in heaven, ominous, foreboding: a great red dragon, with seven crowned heads and ten horns. The dragon’s tail brushed one-third of the stars from the sky and hurled them down to the earth. The dragon crouched in front of the laboring woman, waiting to devour her child the moment it was born.

She gave birth to a male child, who is destined to rule the nations with an iron scepter. Before the dragon could bite and devour her son, the child was whisked away and brought to God and His throne. The woman fled into the wilderness, where God had prepared a place of refuge and safety where she could find sustenance for 1,260 days.

A battle broke out in heaven. Michael, along with his heavenly messengers, clashed against the dragon. The dragon and his messengers returned the fight, but they did not prevail and were defeated. As a result, there was no place left for them in heaven. So the great dragon, that ancient serpent who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world, was cast down to the earth along with his messengers. Then I heard a great voice in heaven.

A Voice:

Now the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God
and the authority of His Anointed One have come.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
who relentlessly accuses them day and night before our God,
has been cast down and silenced.

By the blood of the Lamb
and the word of their witnesses,
they have become victorious over him,
For they did not hold on to their lives, even under threat of death.
Therefore, rejoice, all you heavens;
celebrate, all you who live in them.
But disaster will befall the earth and the sea,
for the devil has come down to your spheres,
And he is incredibly angry
because he knows his time is nearly over.

When the dragon realized he had been cast down to the earth, he pursued the mother of the male infant. In order to escape the serpent, she was given the two wings of the great eagle to fly deeper into the wilderness to her own special place where she would find sustenance for a time, and times, and half a time. Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a raging river that chased after the woman, trying to sweep her away in the flood. But the earth came to her rescue. It opened its gaping mouth and swallowed the river that spewed from the dragon’s mouth. As a result, the dragon was enraged at the woman and went away to make war on the rest of her children — those who keep the commandments of God and hold fast to the testimony of Jesus.

And the dragon stood waiting on the sand of the seashore.
(Revelation 12:1-17Revelation 13:1)

Response in Prayer

Father, I confess that war against hell’s fury and Satan’s deadly attacks wear me down. When I see what is happening to my brothers and sisters who are facing hardship and persecution, I can become discouraged. When evil seems to triumph over good, when those in power seem corrupt, and when good people are hurt and killed for their faith, we — Your disciples — find it hard to keep our hope alive. But I know that over the long course of history, Your people have faced greater hardship, and things seemed far worse, and You intervened in clear ways to deliver them. So now I ask, dear Father, that You bring deliverance for our brothers and sisters who are facing such horrible persecution in many parts of the world. Give them deliverance and show Your power over evil and protect your people from hell’s fury. I do trust that Jesus has conquered Satan, but please display hell’s defeat in our day or send Jesus to deliver us in His ultimate triumph. In the name of Jesus my Savior, I pray. Amen.

 

 

Bible Fun Fact: The people of Lud were famous as archers (Isa 66:19).

Sometimes while serving God, it becomes difficult. We work so hard for Him, but then our life takes a turn for the worse and we wrestle with understanding it. Sometimes we get upset and begin to complain, but God understands why. Read the message today to find out how He taught us that in our life. 

He Understands

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable. Isaiah 40:28 ESV

Tired and in a bad mood, we arrived home. We had worked at the church all day once again, and a new tax bill came while we were gone. We now owed five hundred dollars for additional taxes. Angrily I said, “If we had spent the time working in our business that we spent working at the church over the last month, we would have the money to pay this.”

When we went to church that Sunday, one of the elders handed me an envelope and said that the church felt that they should pay us something for all the work that we had been doing recently. I knew before I opened it what was inside, it was a check for five hundred dollars. Without us mentioning the tax bill, God had told them the amount to give us and when we needed it.

God understands. He knows what you are going through. The temper tantrums that we throw don’t even matter. He knows what you feel inside and why you act the way that you do. Don’t give up when you stumble, get up.

Prayer: Father, I trust that You will take care of me. You know my needs before I ask and I know that you are a rewarder of those that seek You. Please be with me this day and work Your perfect will in my life, in the name of Jesus.

 

 

By Love Transformed

His Faith and Our Faith

For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” —Romans 1:17

It is one thing for us to believe it once and be electrified and be thrilled, to have our world turned upside down, but quite another to keep believing it. The devil will come alongside and tell you that it can’t be true, and he appeals to our natural reasoning. He appeals to what we know to be true about ourselves, that we are sinners. If he can, he will bring us right back to our bondage.

It was Martin Luther who rediscovered the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith. Luther was a very conscientious person. He had a sensitive conscience and was known to go to confession not only every day but sometimes two or three times a day, because after spending an hour confessing his sins, he would come back an hour or two later remembering there was a sin he didn’t confess.

But during these days he was also reading Romans, as well as Galatians and certain of the Psalms. Here he had a breakthrough, largely from Romans 1:17. When Luther saw that what Paul was saying was that faith alone pleases God, and it satisfies, to use Luther’s term, “the passive justice of God,” his world was changed. He, in fact, woke up the world by his own world being turned upside down. He did not know that he would turn the world upside down by simply trying to save his own soul. The interesting thing is that Paul too rediscovered this teaching. Paul realized that Abraham saw it long before, and David saw it.

The principal thing that we are to see is that we are justified by the combination of two things: what Jesus did  for us and our own faith in Him. Or, to put it another way: His faith and our faith. These two things must come together.

Excerpted from The God of the Bible (Authentic Media, 2002).

 

 

 

Scrooge is Redeemed

“‘Spirit!’ Scrooge cried, tight clutching at its robe, ‘hear me! I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I would have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this, if I am past all hope?’ …

“‘Good Spirit,’ he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: ‘Your nature intercedes for me, and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life? … I will honor Christmas in my heart. I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this tombstone!’

“In his agony, he caught the spectral hand. It sought to free itself, but he was strong in his entreaty, and detained it. The Spirit, stronger yet, repulsed him.

“Holding up his hands in a last prayer to have his fate reversed, he saw an alteration in the Phantom’s hood and dress. It shrunk, collapsed, and dwindled down into a bedpost.

“Yes! and the bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in! …

“‘I don’t know what to do!’ cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath; and making a perfect Laocoon of himself with his stockings. ‘I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!'”

God est Love

God is a decision
to embrace the good in me and in others.
God is a force, a spirit, a choice, a verb.
I do God
by bringing love to every situation.
God is love.
God is the essence of being.
God is the ultimate mystery.
God is the ultimate reality.
God is not up there somewhere controlling everything.
God loves me into existence.
I do nothing to deserve God’s love;
God just loves me.
To know God, I give myself away.
It’s do, then know — not know, then do.
I am a creature on a journey.
I am happy to be a creature.
It is good to be a creature.
I reflect the essence of God.
My response to the love of God is love.
I love God by loving my neighbor.
My neighbor is anyone I encounter.
My neighbor is anyone with whom I have a relationship
– close, distant, direct or indirect.
In God I find peace in chaos, light in darkness, without denying reality.
The evolving human species has just been born.
I exist therefore I am loved.
I am saved in this world.
I let God worry about the next.
I am part of God’s life.
God’s love is the true drink.
If I love, God lives in me.
I bloom where I am planted.
I pray for guidance and strength.
God is revealed in Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed,
the Law and the Prophets and many other spiritual teachings.
God is revealed in Jesus.
Jesus is the word of God (love) made flesh.
Jesus is love (the word of God) incarnate.
Jesus is love – the bread of life.
Jesus gives himself away, fully, without reserve.
Jesus gives himself away so that I may be nourished.
Jesus is the example of how to live.
“What did Jesus teach?” That is the question.
Love as Jesus loves and all will be well.
I try to do my best – that is all I can do.
My soul is all that I am and all that I will become.
My soul will exist after my body ceases.
I will not be surprised by what follows this life.
I will die – am I afraid to die?
Yes, but I know God will take care of me.

 

 

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God bless you all!!!

 

 

Gratitude Is An Attitude

Sunday Top2

 

 

Revival Prayer1

Daily Prayer for November 18

Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9, NIV

Lord our God, we stand before you and rejoice that you want to be our Helper, our Father. We live in a dark and evil time when whole nations groan and lament. Our need rises to you in heaven, and we cry out, “Help us, Lord our God!” Help that your will may be done in all things and that your kingdom may come. Our task is to pray to you at all times, calling, “Come, O Lord God, in Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior of all the world!” For in east and west, in south and north, among all nations, Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior. Praise to your name that you have given us this Lord. Amen.

 

TODAY’S DAILY DIG

Indian CornThe endless, useless urge to look on life comprehensively, to take a bird’s-eye view of ourselves and judge the dimensions of what we have or have not done: this is life as landscape, or life as a résumé. But life is incremental, and though a worthwhile life is a gathering together of all that one is, good and bad, successful and not, the paradox is that we can never really see this one thing that all of our increments (and decrements, I suppose) add up to. “Early we receive a call,” writes Czeslaw Milosz, “yet it remains incomprehensible, and only late do we discover how obedient we were.”

Source: My Bright Abyss

 

 

 

Rags to Riches

Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. Dan. 2:48 ESV

Daniel, who was born of royal family, was taken prisoner when Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem in 597 BC. He was taken from his homeland, made a eunuch and a servant in Babylon against his will. It wasn’t the happiest of starts, but in due time, God raised him up to second-in-command and he was the wisest man in Babylon.

Joseph was born his father’s favorite, but then sold into slavery, served time in prison, and then was promoted to second-in-command to Pharaoh. Moses was raised and educated as Pharaoh’s royal family, then spent forty years tending sheep in the wilderness, but became the most powerful man living on earth. David was anointed by Samuel and then ran from Saul for years before he actually became the king.

God has a plan for you. Before it comes to pass though, there is a time of proving, pruning, and maturing. To us, it often looks like just plain waiting. Do not get discouraged while you are in the wilderness. God is completely faithful and the things that He has spoken to you, He will bring to pass. You cannot have a rags to riches story without the rags.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I wait on You. I thank You so much for all that You are doing in my life and I know that You will guide me down the best possible path. Have Your way in my life, in the name of Jesus I pray.

 

Bible Fun Fact: A man who was a newlywed was exempt from military service for a year (Deut 24:5).

†  Seventy-Two Hours  †

And when David and his men came to the city, they found it burned with fire, and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him raised their voices and wept until they had no more strength to weep. 1 Samuel 30:2–4 ESV

David stood amidst the burned ashes of his city with tears running down his face. Though he was anointed as king years ago, he had been running from Saul ever since. Now while the men were away, Amalekites had burned the city and carried off all of their wives and children. His own men were talking of stoning him to death. This was a difficult time for David. One that would break most men, but he strengthened himself in God (1 Sam 30:6).

In seventy-two hours, everything changed (2 Sam 1:2). With God’s help, David rescued their families and recovered all (1 Sam 30:18). Saul died during a battle with the Philistines (1 Sam 31:3). They made David king over Judah (2 Sam 2:4). The breakthrough was so close and things that had not changed for years, were now only hours away. David did not know this and if he had given up and fallen on his sword, he would have missed the greatest years of his life.

It is always darkest right before the breakthrough. The battle can become so intense that you want to quit, but hang on. A lot can change in seventy-two hours. You are closer than ever to seeing the promises of God fulfilled in your life.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me a heart like David that will trust You even in the face of adversity. Strengthen me Lord and help me to see past the problem, in the name of Jesus I pray. 

Also please join our online community at www.refreshinghope.org and you will find Hope, Christian friends, Encouragement and people that are willing to pray for you. Have a blessed day!

Pastor Dion

 

 

 

Today’s Verse: John 17:17

Illustration of John 17:17 — Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.

Thoughts on Today’s Verse…

God’s promises, God’s Scripture, and God’s clearest message of all, his Son, are truth. But only the last of these is truth, grace, deliverer, friend, Lord, Savior, brother, Redeemer…

My Prayer…

O God, give me a holy passion to know your truth and live it in both word and deed. Make my life a reflection of your Word, who both proclaimed and lived your truth. In the name of Jesus, your ultimate Word, I pray. Amen.

 

Daily Wisdom: Psalm 84:12

Illustration of Psalm 84:12 — O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.

 

A Year with Jesus: ‘Glory Awaits!’

Note from Jesus

Dear Beloved,

As My apostle Paul’s death grew near, he was confident of his deliverance as well as My return. Hear his beautiful words of faith:

For I am already being poured out, and the last drops of this drink offering are all that remain; it’s almost time for me to leave. I have fought the good fight, I have stayed on course and finished the race, and through it all, I have kept believing. I look forward to what’s in store for me: a crown of righteousness that the Lord — the always right and just judge — will give me that day (but it is not only for me, but for all those who love and long for His appearing).
(2 Timothy 4:6-8)

Glory awaits. A new heaven and a new earth await. Your reward for a life of faithfulness awaits. There will come a time when your suffering will melt away into the glorious deliverance that I will bring you. I will bring justice and comfort for all who have waited patiently and endured injustice, hardship, pain, and anguish for My sake (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

Throughout the centuries since My first coming to earth, My disciples have awaited My triumphant return. I have not forgotten. I will return at the time appointed by the Father (Mark 13:32). I will come, and you will share in My glory because you have placed your faith, your life, and your future in My hands (Colossians 3:1-4). So be faithful. Don’t give in to despair. Remember My promises for those who long for My appearing: At the end of time, I will bring the fullness of My kingdom and the full experience of My glory to My people forever. Your adoption into glory with Me is coming and will bring everlasting grace to you!

Verses to Live

Your world is struggling with its brokenness and decay. You struggle with your own mortality and the injustice and unfairness in your world. You are tired of saying goodbye in death to precious people you love. If you are bone-weary because of physical, emotional, and spiritual pain, please know, dear beloved, that these problems will all disappear with My return. Glory awaits!

Now I’m sure of this: the sufferings we endure now are not even worth comparing to the glory that is coming and will be revealed in us. For all of creation is waiting, yearning for the time when the children of God will be revealed.

You see, all of creation has collapsed into emptiness, not by its own choosing, but by God’s. Still He placed within it a deep and abiding hope that creation would one day be liberated from its slavery to corruption and experience the glorious freedom of the children of God. For we know that all creation groans in unison with birthing pains up until now.

And there is more; it’s not just creation—all of us are groaning together too. Though we have already tasted the firstfruits of the Spirit, we are longing for the total redemption of our bodies that comes when our adoption as children of God is complete— for we have been saved in this hope and for this future. But hope does not involve what we already have or see. For who goes around hoping for what he already has? But if we wait expectantly for things we have never seen, then we hope with true perseverance and eager anticipation.
(Romans 8:18-25)

The day of the Lord will come unexpectedly like a thief in the night; and on that day, the sky will vanish with a roar, the elements will melt with intense heat, and the earth and all the works done on it will be seen as they truly are. Knowing that one day all this will come to pass, think what sort of people you ought to be — how you should be living faithful and godly lives, waiting hopefully for and hastening the coming of God’s day when the heavens will vanish in flames and the elements melt away with intense heat. What will happen next, and what we hope for, is what God promised: a new heaven and a new earth where justice reigns.
(2 Peter 3:10-13)

I looked again and could hardly believe my eyes. Everything above me was new. Everything below me was new. Everything around me was new because the heaven and earth that had been passed away, and the sea was gone, completely. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride on her wedding day, adorned for her husband and for His eyes only. And I heard a great voice, coming from the throne.

A Voice:

See, the home of God is with His people.

He will live among them;
They will be His people,
And God Himself will be with them. The prophecies are fulfilled:

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Death will be no more;
Mourning no more, crying no more, pain no more,

For the first things have gone away.

(Revelation 21:1-4)

Response in Prayer

O God, my Father, give me strength, courage, endurance, and faith to trust in Jesus’ coming. I long for that day, Father. I trust that justice, mercy, and grace are on the way and will triumph over injustice, violence, and death and that I will share in Jesus’ reign for ever and ever. In His name, I pray. Amen.

 

Passion for Praise: ‘Death is Swallowed Up in Victory!’

Illustration of 1 Corinthians 15:53-55 NLT — For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

 

ChristNOW

7 Priority Thanksgiving Day Prayers
Most Christians Have Never Prayed

 

Editor’s Note: On November 22, millions of Christian families across America will begin their Thanksgiving Day feast with prayer. They will thank God for all kinds of blessings—financial, health, family, church, including unexpected godsends or miracles in 2018.

But there is a whole other category of prayers of thanksgiving that needs to be included as we unite around the table. Truth be told, they should take priority, becoming the ones we express first. More importantly, this special reason for gratitude ought to be prayed daily, in one form or another, throughout the year.

Yet, for many of us, this seven-fold agenda probably has never crossed our minds.

However, as David Bryant shares in this week’s blog post, these dynamic declarations of gratitude to God are at the heart of our walk with Christ. For sure, along with a multitude of believers, we’ll all be expressing these seven key prayers before all of heaven on that glorious “Final Thanksgiving Day” when our King returns in victory—and we’ll keep doing so forever!

 

“Thanks Be to God for His
Unspeakable Gift!”

What is the greatest gift you’ve ever received? Is there one blessing above all others that has ignited your heart with undying gratitude? Is there any work of God’s grace toward you that fills your daily prayers with appreciation and praise?

Christians know from Scripture, there’s only one answer to all three questions: our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul tells us so in 2 Corinthians 9:15. Here it is in four translations (with emphasis added):

  • Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! (RSV)
  • Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (NIV)
  • Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words! (NLT)
  • Thank God for this gift, his gift. No language can praise it enough! (MSG)

In the context, Paul is speaking of Jesus and all the blessings that come to us through him. For example, the apostle reflects in the previous chapter:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

Jesus is the greatest gift any of us will ever receive. All other gifts—in fact, all the promises of God—are showered on us through him.

Yet we’re told in verse 15, he’s the one gift that is inexpressible, indescribable, beyond human description—unspeakable.

So, how can any Thanksgiving Day prayer be shaped by something—by someone—so lofty, so profound, so amazing that current vocabulary fails to do him justice?

Moreover, Paul increases the difficulty of our challenge in Ephesians 3:8 when he adds that in God’s Son are found “riches” that are “inexhaustible” (MSG), “boundless” (NIV), “endless” (NLT).

So, even if I’m able to come up with words to express gratitude for how we have “received grace upon grace out of Christ’s fullness” (John 1), there will never be an end to my discoveries of all the treasures found in my Savior!

No wonder the Bible declares that our Father “has blessed us in the heavenlyrealms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1, NIV, emphasis added). “Heavenly” means we have topics for prayers of thanksgiving defined by eternal, cosmic, angelic realities beyond this world—and defined by who Jesus is, where he sits, and what his current saving reign means for you and me.

Still, as impossible as it may seem, Christians are called to take hold of words and declare with their tongues heartfelt thanks to God the best we know how. We are to “rejoice evermore” and “in everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5, NKJV)—most of all, as we give thanks for Jesus, the one gift that subsumes all others—including in 2018.

Create a New Way to Pray
at Your Thanksgiving Table This Year

What I want to do for the remainder of this blog post is give you SEVEN facets of this one grand gift, suggesting a few key questions for you to answer about each.

Then, I want you to use your answers to compose seven single-paragraph prayers—basically by turning each separate answer for each main topic into an expression of thanksgiving to the Father for the Son, based on what your answers inspire for you.

Finally, I suggest that you type your seven thanksgiving paragraphs on a  sheet of paper and make a copy for each person sharing Thanksgiving with you. Before the meal begins, ask seven guests to each read one of the prayers out loud while everyone else prays along silently.

Encourage everyone to see each prayer as a new kind of Thanksgiving prayer that most of them have never prayed before. Also, remind them that all seven prayers are really one prayer—all about the one Person who is the greatest blessing any of us could possibly celebrate in the past year.

NOTE: The seven topics for these seven prayers are based on the “7 groundbreaking keys” explored in over 600 pages in my latest book, Christ Is NOW!— in case you would like to explore any of this in more depth for yourself.

 

(1) Thanks for the gift of who Christ is TO us

Prompts to help you shape your prayer:

  • What is one insight Jesus helped you to see more clearly about the nature and ways of God this past year?
  • What is one new truth about Jesus’ majesty and supremacy you discovered in your study of the Bible this past year?
  • What is one name or title for Jesus (out of over 300 in Scripture) that brought special joy and meaning at some point in your life this past year?
  • In 2018, what was one time your identity as one who belongs to God’s Son blessed you?

Compose Thanksgiving Prayer #1. Drawing on your four answers, create a one-paragraph prayer thanking the Father for the gift of who Christ is TO us.

(2) Thanks for the gift of who Christ is FOR us

Prompts to help you shape your prayer:

  • What blesses you about knowing that Jesus can fully understand you in whatever you’re going through because for our sakes he became one of us?
  • At what one specific moment in 2018 did Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for your sins take on a deeper meaning for you, filling you with gratitude for all he suffered for you?
  • What does it mean to you that Jesus conquered death forever? This past year how has this truth brought you comfort or filled you with renewed hope?
  • Are you thankful for a moment this past year when the truth about Jesus’ victorious reign today increased your confidence to face a challenge?

Compose Thanksgiving Prayer #2. Drawing on your four answers, create a one-paragraph prayer thanking the Father for the gift of who Christ is FOR us.

(3) Thanks for the gift of who Christ is OVER us

Prompts to help you shape your prayer:

  • Was there one time this past year when the truth that Jesus reigns over the workings of creation filled you with praise?
  • Was there a time this past year when the truth that Jesus overrules in the unfolding of world history gave you new reasons to celebrate?
  • Was there a time this past year when the truth that Jesus is in full control of the designs of global leaders brought you a measure of reassurance and hope?
  • Was there a time this past year when the truth that Jesus is advancing his kingdom among earth’s people filled you with renewed excitement about what lies ahead for the gospel?
  • Was there a time this past year when you witnessed Jesus reigning over the forces of darkness in a way that removed fear from you and ignited bold faith in you?

Compose Thanksgiving Prayer #3. Drawing on your five answers, create a one-paragraph prayer thanking the Father for the gift of who Christ is OVER us.

(4) Thanks for the gift of who Christ is BEFORE us

Prompts to help you shape your prayer:

  • Christ has gone before us into the future to bring it back to us right now. What is one way you’ve seen him do that for you this past year?
  • Jesus has gone before us into the heavens to take us there with him right now. What is one way this reality has encouraged you this past year?
  • Christ has gone before us into the promises of God to make them ours too, right now. Is there one promise of Scripture that you’ve had fulfilled in your life this past year through Christ?
  • Jesus has gone before us into the world to open up a way for us to serve him right now. What is one way this past year our Savior opened a new way to share him with someone else?

Compose Thanksgiving Prayer #4. Drawing on your four answers, create a one-paragraph prayer thanking the Father for the gift of who Christ is BEFORE us.

(5) Thanks for the gift of who Christ is WITHIN us

Prompts to help you form your prayer:

  • What is one way you have experienced Christ’s indwelling presence in your life this past year?
  • What is one way your Christian fellowship has experienced Jesus’ presence among you this past year?
  • The Spirit of God dwells in us in order to extend the reign of Christ in us and to reveal more of Christ to us. What is one time you experienced his ministry to you this past year?
  • Can you recall one time this past year you enjoyed the blessing of your unity with other believers as a result of how Jesus was working among you?

Compose Thanksgiving Prayer #5. Drawing on your four answers, create a one-paragraph prayer thanking the Father for the gift of who Christ is WITHIN us.

(6) Thanks for the gift of who Christ is THROUGH us

Prompts to help you form your prayer:

  • Where have you recently seen evidence of the extension of Christ’s ascension and reign, either where you live or somewhere among the nations?
  • What one work of mission and gospel ministry through a body of believers have you become aware of this past year that fills you with excitement, anticipation, and gratitude?
  • In what one special way has the Lord Jesus worked through your life to touch someone in the Body of Christ—and about which you’re grateful?
  • In what one special way has the Lord Jesus worked through your life to touch someone who has not become a Christian yet—and about which you’re grateful?
  • Can you recall a time in 2018 when your growing vision of the greatness and glory of Christ inspired you to reach out to someone else to help them see more of who he is?

Compose Thanksgiving Prayer #6. Drawing on your five answers, create a one-paragraph prayer thanking the Father for the gift of who Christ is THROUGH us.

(7) Thanks for the gift of who Christ is UPON us

Prompts to help you form your prayer:

  • Where have you seen some evidence that Christ’s reign is advancing among the nations (or where you live) with new empowerment—for which you give thanks?
  • Where have you experienced a work of the Spirit in your life (such as a miracle or a healing or some other form of divine intervention) that seemed like a “foretaste” of what it will be like when Jesus returns to reign over all things?
  • At what point this past year did it feel to you like Jesus was taking charge in some new way, deepening and increasing something he was already doing in you?
  • Have you seen any signs of the beginnings of a “Christ Awakening” locally or elsewhere that suggest to you a greater work of Christ is about to take place?
  • What is there about the coming Consummation—the new heavens and earth—that has become more real to you and more precious to you?

Compose Thanksgiving Prayer #7. Drawing on your five answers, create a one-paragraph prayer thanking the Father for the gift of who Christ is UPON us.

 

OK . . . It’s Time to Pray!

One of St. Augustine’s most famous quotes (I have it on a plaque in my office, in fact) goes like this:

Those who have Christ have everything.
Those who have everything
but do not have Christ have nothing.
And those who have everything plus Christ
have no more than those who have Christ alone.

Those who have Christ have EVERYTHING! That’s why the top priority prayer we should all be praying on Thanksgiving Day is praise and gratitude for ALL Jesus is and all we have in him. Moreover, we should be praying like this all year long! So let me end that way with this prayer:

Dear Father, thank you for your unspeakable gift, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thank you for all your Son means TO us—especially for all the ways he reveals to us your nature and your heart and brings us into his relationship with you.

Thank you for all your Son means FOR us—for his four-fold salvation by his incarnation, his crucifixion, his resurrection, and his ascension.

Thank you for all your Son means OVER us—as he reigns among the nations and in our lives, defeating all enemies and securing the future of all creation as well as our destinies.

Thank you for all your Son means BEFORE us—as he precedes us and makes a way for us into all you have for us in the future, in the heavens, in the promises, and in the world.

Thank you for all your Son means WITHIN us—as he manifests his presence and power by living out his life in each of us and all of us together.

Thank you for all your Son means THROUGH us—as he unleashes his ministry gifts and his gospel mission to bless others by how he uses us as his servants.

Thank you for all your Son means UPON us—as he gives us today more and more preliminary experiences of the Consummation by the power of his Spirit and as he prepares us to share in even greater displays of his supremacy in the ages to come. AMEN.

May you have a blessed Thanksgiving as you praise the Father from whom comes every good and perfect gift—especially the supreme gift of our Lord Jesus Christ! Our thanksgiving for that indescribable gift will continue for all eternity!

 

About the Author

Over the past 40 years, David Bryant has been defined by many as a “messenger of hope” and a “Christ proclaimer” to the Church throughout the world. Formerly a minister-at-large with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI), and chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, David now provides leadership to ChristNow.com and to Proclaim Hope!, whose mission is to foster and serve Christ-awakening movements. Order his widely read books at DavidBryantBooks.com.

 

 

 

Mickey Mouse Birthday - November 18

MICKEY MOUSE BIRTHDAY

Making his debut on November 18, 1928, we commemorate the birth of that ever lovable mouse that was once a rabbit called Oswald. To get to the beginning of the story, we have to go back to 1927 when Walt Disney first sketched a floppy eared bunny while under contract to Universal Studios. The events that unraveled brought us Mickey Mouse.

HOW TO OBSERVE

Wish Mickey Mouse a Happy Birthday! Use #MickeyMouseBirthday to share on social media.

HISTORY

Mickey Mouse came under the roller coaster events of Oswald’s success and Universal’s disappointing contract negotiations. Disney Bros. Studio took their leave of both the studio and Oswald and set to work creating a character who would go on to lead the company into the future.

From a rabbit named Oswald to a mouse named Mortimer, eventually, the squeaky-voiced rodent was dubbed Mickey. He flopped in two animated short films without any success. Then on November 18, 1928, Mickey’s star was born. The first animation synchronized to music and sound effects, Steamboat Willie premiered in New York.

Within a year, a Mickey Mouse Club popped up in Salem, Oregon. This particular club offered admission as a fundraiser for the Salvation Army with a donation of either a potato or a small toy and a penny. According to a December 22, 1929, Statesman Journal (Salem, Oregon) article, $12 and three truckloads of potatoes and toys collected by eager new members.

Remember, the stock market crashed just 20 days before Mickey Mouse was born. That a cute little mouse could bring smiles to the faces of children at an uncertain time really isn’t such a surprise.

Generally, new members joined the club by completing an admission form obtained from a local merchant and attending meetings held during matinees at local movie houses. The price of admission often was reduced for good deeds and report cards. By the end of 1930, the Mickey Mouse Clubs had spread across the country.

In 1935, animator Fred Moore gave Mickey a new look that enabled a more fluid movement to the animation.

A makeover in 1935 by animator Fred Moore gave Mickey the look we are familiar with today. The big eyes, white gloves, and the pert little nose. More lovable than ever before, he propelled himself even further into the hearts of children everywhere.

His companions Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto joined him along the way, bringing vaudevillian comedy with them.

 

Then…..

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Now…..

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Sunday Puzzle…

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Following My Spirit Animal…

0822-wolf-howl

TODAY’S DAILY PRAYER

purple sand cherry flowersPraise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. Psalm 103:1–3, NIV

Lord our God, O Holy One, we thank you that we may lay aside our own nature and be lifted in spirit above all that is temporal and human and have joy in you. In spite of all the evil surrounding us, in spite of the thousandfold misery of humankind, we may still rejoice in you, in all you do and will yet do for us. Grant that we may go on rejoicing, having joy together, helping instead of burdening each other, until this earth is filled with the jubilation of those you have so richly blest. Forgive us all our sins. Heal us in mind and body. Deliver us from all the corruption that tries to take hold of our souls. Amen.

 

TODAY’S DAILY DIG

bfly13The church is never true to itself when it is living for itself, for if it is chiefly concerned with saving its own life, it will lose it. The nature of the church is such that it must always be engaged in finding new ways by which to transcend itself. Its main responsibility is always outside its own walls in the redemption of common life. That is why we call it a redemptive society. There are many kinds of religion, but redemptive religion, from the Christian point of view, is always that in which we are spent on those areas of existence that are located beyond ourselves and our own borders.

 

 

 

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Prayer to Overcome Jealousy and Envy

Heavenly Father, I give thanks and praise, blessed to be among those sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called to be saints together with all those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I thank you for Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Proverbs 27:4 Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?

Proverbs 14:30 A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.

Binding the spirit of jealousy

Wonderful Counselor, I bind that spirit of jealousy that’s attempting to consume my life. I curse it out completely in the name of Jesus, for it is more than cruelty and overwhelming fury.

Remove it now, mighty God, along with the hatred, anger, fear and insecurities that fuel it.

James 3:16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

Set me free

Everlasting Father, I desire to be as holy as You are. Set me free of the thoughts that consume my mind which cause the jealousy to arise. Substitute the negativity and cruelty within my heart with Your peace and love, and gentle kindness.

James 4:2-3 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. Yet, you do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

Overcoming envy

Prince of Peace, help those who are struggling today. May they experience Your love and show love in return to all they come into contact with.

Help me to not be envious towards my neighbors and friends but rather to be happy for them and encourage them to go even further. Cleanse me of anything that breaks Your heart, oh Savior.

Help me live a righteous life, Heavenly Father. Because on this day I declare it, I decree it and speak it into my life, in JESUS’ mighty name, Amen!!!

James 3:14-15 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.

Galatians 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Prayer to Overcome Jealousy and envy

 

 

bible reading

 

 

 

Strang Report, by Steve Strang, Founder of Charisma magazine

How Jesus Is Redeeming the Scandal of Rock ‘N’ Roll

Music is a big part of our culture—and not just in secular circles. Music is huge in terms of worship, especially in the evangelical and charismatic communities.

I can remember the days (when I was quite young) when it was scandalous to have a drum set in the church. Some church leadership opposed early contemporary Christian music, but for the most part, those attitudes have changed.

Recently, a friend of mine named Mark Joseph wrote a book called Rock Gets Religion,in which he delves into the tension religious youth encounter when they engage in the world of rock ‘n’ roll. After all, rock music once exalted—and was even defined by—a culture of hedonism and debauchery. Now, though, many upstanding citizens and even godly men and women are taking their place in the rock music industry. Mark’s book lays out the case for people of faith to keep making their music in the midst of popular culture.

Mark is the brother of Ken Joseph, whom I visited once in Japan where he was a missionary. His missionary parents had gone to Japan in the early 1950s after General Douglas MacArthur called for missionaries. Mark’s late father, Ken Joseph Sr., was a friend of Robert Walker and well aware of Christian Life Magazine, so I have known him for many years.

I don’t often write about music, though some of that is generational. Truth be told, I enjoy music, and I try to keep up with trends. My son Cameron’s Relevant magazine really focuses on music because that’s so important to Millennials. My son Chandler, a Millennial, makes his living as a musician and is quite good. (You can check out his music on Saskatchewan. How is that for a shameless promotion by his dad?)

It’s hard to be successful in the music industry and maintain a strong faith—and Mark makes that point clear in his book. But in order to reach the maximum number of people with their music, Mark says, Christian musicians have to be willing to reach people where they are. He points out that the more Christians participate in mainstream culture, the more we will see that culture reflecting our values.

I recently interviewed Mark on my podcast, “The Strang Report.” Listen to the interview below to learn how we as Christians can impact society, especially the music industry.

 

 

 

<em>Joan of Arc listening to his voice</em> | Léon-François Bénouville

Saint Joan of Arc

Saint of the Day for May 30

(January 61412 – May 30, 1431)

https://www.franciscanmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/SODMay30.mp3

 

Saint Joan of Arc’s Story

Burned at the stake as a heretic after a politically-motivated trial, Joan was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920.

Born of a fairly well-to-do peasant couple in Domremy-Greux southeast of Paris, Joan was only 12 when she experienced a vision and heard voices that she later identified as Saints Michael the Archangel, Catherine of Alexandria, and Margaret of Antioch.

During the Hundred Years War, Joan led French troops against the English and recaptured the cities of Orléans and Troyes. This enabled Charles VII to be crowned as king in Reims in 1429. Captured near Compiegne the following year, Joan was sold to the English and placed on trial for heresy and witchcraft. Professors at the University of Paris supported Bishop Pierre Cauchon of Beauvis, the judge at her trial; Cardinal Henry Beaufort of Winchester, England, participated in the questioning of Joan in prison. In the end, she was condemned for wearing men’s clothes. The English resented France’s military success–to which Joan contributed.

On this day in 1431, Joan was burned at the stake in Rouen, and her ashes were scattered in the Seine River. A second Church trial 25 years later nullified the earlier verdict, which was reached under political pressure.

Remembered by most people for her military exploits, Joan had a great love for the sacraments, which strengthened her compassion toward the poor. Popular devotion to her increased greatly in 19th-century France and later among French soldiers during World War I. Theologian George Tavard writes that her life “offers a perfect example of the conjunction of contemplation and action” because her spiritual insight is that there should be a “unity of heaven and earth.”

Joan of Arc has been the subject of many books, plays, operas and movies.


Reflection

“Joan of Arc is like a shooting star across the landscape of French and English history, amid the stories of the Church’s saints and into our consciousness. Women identify with her; men admire her courage. She challenges us in fundamental ways. Despite the fact that more than 500 years have passed since she lived, her issues of mysticism, calling, identity, trust and betrayal, conflict and focus are our issues still.” (Joan of Arc: God’s Warrior, by Barbara Beckwith)


Saint Joan of Arc is the Patron Saint of:

France
Military Members

 

 

What Jesus Did! ‘Many Put Their Faith in Him’

Illustration of John 7:30-31 NLT — "After all,"   ——   "would you expect the Messiah to do more miraculous signs than this man has done?"

Key Thought

Even with pressure from the authorities not to believe, many put their faith in Jesus. Why? They saw what he did and recognized that there had to be a divine power behind it. When unbelievers look at our churches, the body of Christ, what do they see? Do they see compelling deeds that cry out that God has to be behind what is being done because otherwise, we couldn’t do what we do? Or, do they see predictable “church stuff”? Jesus promised that we would do even greater things than he did. So let’s go out and be what he called us to be and do the life-changing work of the Kingdom and not just the housekeeping work of “churchiness.”

Today’s Prayer

Dear LORD, God Almighty, please ignite my congregation of Christians and me in particular to a higher calling and a bigger vision of what you want to do with us. Use us in our community, and beyond, to do the work of Jesus, and use us in ways that we don’t even think are possible. Most of all, dear Father, help your work through us to lead others to believe. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

Daily Wisdom: Job 5:17

Illustration of Job 5:17 — "Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty."

Spiritual Warfare: ‘God Does What Seems Impossible’

God’s Power for Our Battles

Illustration of Luke 18:27 GWT — Jesus said, "The things that are impossible for people to do are possible for God to do."

Today’s Prayer

Lord, I confess that my faith is still small. I look at my problems and try to fix them with my ideas, human analysis, and earth-bound thinking. My kneejerk reaction to any trial I face is to figure out what I can do. Then, I turn to You later — when I’ve completely exhausted every human answer to my difficult situation. Forgive me. In the future, I ask that the Holy Spirit help me to lean on You. — to seek You in prayer, first. Your ways are far above my ways. Your solutions are always better than anything I can imagine and better than any method I can apply. Your ways accomplish Your purposes. From now on, Lord, please remind me to pray before I attempt any solution based on human wisdom. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

God’s Motives
TGIF Today God Is First Volume 1 by Os Hillman
May 30, 2018

“He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.” – 2 Samuel 22:20

Questioning someone’s motives for their activities can become an overriding response to those to whom we relate. Wrong motives can result in broken relationships, poor business decisions, and falling out of God’s will. Sometimes we do not know the motive of another person. It is wrong for us to assume what their motive is until we have confidence that we know their intentions. When we respond or react prematurely, we become judge and jury over them.

God has a motive for every one of His children. His desire is to bring us into a spacious place. He wants us to go beyond our borders of safety and security so that we might experience life at a level that goes beyond ourselves. What do you think of when you think of a “spacious place”? No limitations? A large, grassy field? Open air? These are positive images. Sometimes these spacious places encourage us to step out in faith into areas where we’ve never ventured. Sometimes we need to be rescued by the Lord. When Peter walked on the water, God was inviting him to a spacious place. He went beyond the borders of his boat and ventured into a whole new world. He didn’t have complete success in his venturing out, but it was a process that would lead him to the next victory in his faith walk with Jesus. Sometimes failure is what is needed in order to move us to the next level of faith with God. However, we must be willing to fail and let God rescue us.

The Lord delights in this process. His motive for His children is always love. It is always to bring us to a new level of trust and dependence on Him.

 

 

Verse of the Day

Inspirational illustration of Psalm 56:4

Thoughts on Today’s Verse…

One of the powerful things about having a Bible, a repository of God’s words, is that its age and varied countries and cultures remind us how enduring God’s truth actually is. Yet it is God in whom we put our trust! His enduring presence through cultures, centuries, and countries reminds us that eternity is outside our grasp but the Eternal One holds us in his.

My Prayer…

O Great and Eternal God, thank you that your are more stable than the ground on which I stand, more enduring than the mountain peaks I admire, and more constant than the waves upon the oceans that I love. I trust my life and my future and soul with you. I want to please you in the way I live. I want my life to be marked by consistent faithfulness to you. In the name of Jesus I ask this prayer. Amen.

 

 

 

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Daily Prayer for May 7

Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt

We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. l John 4:13, NIV

Dear Father in heaven, we thank you with all our hearts because we know you are holding us by your hand and leading us on all our ways, in spite of all contradiction, strife, distress, and confusion within ourselves. What are all these compared to your love, which does not let us go but watches over us and finally brings us to what is good? Release us from our many burdens. Free our spirits and our souls more and more until we can do nothing but give praise and thanks with heart, soul, and strength for all you are to us. Amen.

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Verse of the Day

Inspirational illustration of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Thoughts on Today’s Verse…

Where does your heart live? That’s what these verses are all about. It’s about where we spend the most time with our hearts. Is there a constant awareness in your life that God is present? Is he the unseen but always present companion in all your ups and downs? Or is God here when it is convenient and gone when things are busy or we feel that everything is going okay? Joy comes from knowing we are never alone. Prayer is the ongoing conversation we have, Spirit to Spirit, child to Abba, human with God. Thanksgiving and joy are the great reminders that we have been blessed no matter what the outward circumstances imply.

My Prayer…

Precious and Righteous Father, thank you for being there, always. Give me a deeper appreciation and a more profound awareness of your presence today. May my life reflect the joy you have given me by saving me by grace. And may my heart always find its home in you. Through the name of Jesus my Savior and friend I pray. Amen.

 

 

 

In the Line of Fire, with Michael Brown

Which Is the Smallest and Most Rejected Minority in America?

People pray at the Freedom March.

How would you answer this question? Which group is the smallest, most rejected minority in our country?

African-Americans have certainly suffered terribly through our history. But they are not the smallest minority today, making up roughly 12 percent of the population. And, despite ongoing issues they face, African Americans are certainly not the most rejected.

Perhaps it is Native Americans? They make up less than 1 percent of our population, so they are certainly very small. And their suffering over the centuries has been intense, with their communities facing immense difficulties to this hour.

But they are neglected more than rejected. To most of our country, Native Americans are, sadly, out of sight and out of mind. And there is another, suffering minority that is smaller still.

What about the LGBT community? They too are quite small (perhaps equaling 3 percent of our population; estimates vary). And to this day, many who identify as LGBT suffer hatred and discrimination.

But the truth be told, LGBT’s are more celebrated than denigrated, more protected than rejected, more powerful than powerless.

Ironically, the group that can lay claim to being the smallest and most rejected minority in America today once was part of the LGBT community. They once identified as gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender, but they no longer do. Today, they are “ex-gay” or “ex-trans.”

Their numbers are very small, since they came out of a small community to start with. And it is only a small percentage of that small group who make a break with the rest of the LGBT community.

Most of them make that break because of their religious faith, often newly found. Others make the break simply because they no longer want to identify as gay or bi- or trans. But for making that break, they pay a steep price.

They are mocked and maligned and bullied by the community they once called home.

They are told they do not exist. They are assured they will fail. Their motives are questioned. They are called liars and mercenaries. They are even mocked for being so small in number (even if they number in the thousands or tens of thousands, that represents the tiniest slice of the population).

All this simply because they want to lead a new life, because they do not embrace their same-sex attractions (or, their gender confusion).

Shouldn’t they be applauded for their courage? Shouldn’t they be lauded for doing what they feel is right?

Really now, what can possibly be wrong with a man wanting to be married to a woman, having natural children of his own? Why on earth should he be penalized for that?

What can possibly be wrong with a woman wanting to be at home in her own body? Why on earth should she be criticized for that?

And why is it that we put ex-gays and ex-trans individuals under such intense pressure? If they have one slip-up, they’re called phonies. If they still struggle with attractions or gender confusion, they are told they haven’t changed. But why?

There are plenty of former alcoholics who fell off the wagon for a season, only to get back on track. Do we ridicule them or empathize with them and show them compassion? Many of them identify as recovering alcoholics. Why can’t someone identify as a recovering homosexual?

There are plenty of former porn addicts who still struggle with temptation. Do we tell them they will never be free, or do we encourage them to resist their temptations?

But when it comes to someone being ex-gay, things are very different. If you still struggle with temptation, even if you don’t yield to it, you’re told you’re living in denial. If you mess up once, you’re discouraged from trying again. Why the double standard?

I personally know ex-gays who have experienced a complete and total change. They have become heterosexual and have been happily married for many years.

I know others who have seen a marked decrease in same-sex attractions along with an increase in opposite-sex attractions. Some of them are in successful heterosexual relationships.

I know others who remain same-sex attracted but who say no to those attractions. They are happy to be celibate, finding joy and purpose and satisfaction in life without being in a sexual or romantic relationship.

And I know others who tried to come out of homosexual practice, only to fall back and embrace their homosexuality. But their very real failures and struggles do not negate the success enjoyed by the others.

Why, then, can’t the LGBT community accept it when someone says, “I was once out and proud as a gay person; now I’m out and proud as an ex-gay person”? Why, instead, do LGBT’s commonly mock and attack and ridicule those who identify as ex-gay (or, ex-trans)?

The reason is simple: If it is possible for someone to change from gay to straight, either through the gospel or through counseling (or both), then the whole “innate and immutable” argument goes out the window. (The same can be said for someone who is ex-trans.)

In other words, one of the foundations of LGBT is activism is that, “We’re born this way and we can’t change. Gay is the new black. (Or, trans is the new black.) This is who we are. Our sexual identity is as innate and immutable as our skin color.”

That’s why those who say, “I used to be gay, but I’m free today” must be maligned. Their existence must be denied. Their ultimate failure must be assured.

If change is possible – again, through divine intervention or through counseling or both—then the whole push for “LGBT rights” can be questioned.

I’m aware, of course, that for many who identify as LGBT, this is an intensely personal issue. They tried to change and could not, leading to depression and even attempts at suicide. They had bad experiences with counseling. They were rejected by their churches or families. And they finally found relief when they embraced their gay (or trans) identity.

The moment they hear of someone who claims to be “ex-gay” or “ex-trans,” those old wounds are opened and they feel personally attacked.

To such people I would say this: Just as you must live your own life before God, allow others to do the same. Just as you have the right to self-determination, allow that to others as well. And just as you despise bullying, don’t bully others.

This past weekend, a small group of ex-LGBTs held a rally in Washington, DC, called the “Freedom March.” Although I have met many such people around the country, I expected that the turnout would be tiny. And it was.

That’s because the great majority of those who came out of homosexual practice and transgender identification simply want to live their lives. They are not known or celebrated. They are on no one’s payroll. They are changed, and they are the better for it.

But I do know that many of them feel alone and misunderstood. That’s why one ex-gay counselor, Chris Doyle, founded Voice for the Voiceless. Its mission is “to defend the rights of former homosexuals, individuals with unwanted same-sex attraction, and their families.”

It is a mission all of us should support, especially those of us in the faith community. If anyone should be encouraged and embraced, it is these precious men and women, some of whom are still in the healing process.

And this is in keeping with the New Testament writings, which say plainly that, just as some of us once engaged in sexual immorality or adultery or theft or lying or greed or idolatry or homosexual practice, we do so no longer. If the Son of God sets us free, we are free indeed. (See John 8:31-36; 1 Cor. 6:9-11. For our six-minute, animated video, go here.)

So, I say to the ex-gay, ex-trans community, you are not alone. We are standing together with you. More importantly, the Lord is standing with you. Be strong in Him.

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.

 

 

A Prayer for When You Feel Unworthy
By Lindsay Snyder

We must learn to receive His love, because we love only because He has first loved us – 1 John 4:19

Unworthiness! I didn’t know you had a name. I thought you were my thoughts; you have lied to me for a really long time.

I took you on, unworthiness, as my identity, and didn’t even know it.

great-i-am

I never knew you could be so destructive, lie so deeply about who I was. I am going to tell on you now, so you can’t lie to others like you did to me.

Six things to remember when you are dealing with the LIE of unworthiness:

1. We have to know deep down that God REALLY does loves us!

I know, I know, God loves us, it’s sounds so cliché. But why is it so hard to remember? Why does it seem distant and hard to really grab onto sometimes? Probably because the idea of an intangible, seemingly busy God loving us doesn’t make a lot of sense. But I challenge you to think about it like a real relationship.

We must learn to receive His love, because we love only because He has first loved us (1 John 4:19).

2. We have to know deep down that He is for us.

As life continues to beat us up, we have to remember that life will do that, but He is for us, He is our refuge, our strength, our ever present help in time of need (Psalm 46:1) He is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), His Spirit is kindness, love, self-control, joy, peace, gentleness and patience (Galatians 5:22-23).

3. We have to know deep down that God is good.

The kindness of God is what leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4); it is His kindness in the middle of our mess that we need to look for and be thankful for and keep at the forefront of our hearts. We need to see the good in our life and yes, sometimes that means fighting to see it.

4. We have to pray to let Him have His way.

We pray and ask for our desires, and then we release and surrender our will to His perfect will. Yes, that sweet and super hard way of surrender: reminding ourselves of God’s faithfulness in our past and grabbing onto Hope Himself for our future. We did our part, we asked, knocked and sought our way and our will, and now, we say “God, you know best, so your way not mine.”

5. We have to let others speak into our lives without being offended. And then ask God, is there anything to learn here?

Funny how God can speak through seemingly small situations. I encourage you to seek the learning, look and listen in every situation for what He might want to show you, to free you from.

6. We have to believe that we are adopted by a perfect Heavenly Father, who deems us worthy.

We are adopted and grafted into a family of royalty; seriously, that is in the Bible. We are a co-heir with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We are worthy because He deems us worthy. We are valuable because of who our Daddy is, no matter what the ‘dust people’ on this earth say about us.

If you’re struggling to feel worthy today, here is a prayer you can pray:

Lord, I know that Your Word tells me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I know I am your child; I know that I am saved by your grace. You are kind, good, merciful and gracious, and because You are all of those things, I know You are all of those things for me. When I feel unworthy, help me stop looking at and comparing myself to others, but fix my gaze on You. Through You I will always see my worth clearly. Thank you for your gracious love toward me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

 

 

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Is It Sinful To Have Fear And Doubt?

Almost everyone’s had a time of doubt and fear, so what does the Bible say about fear and doubt? Is it sinful?

Doubt

Doubt is a feeling of not knowing what to believe or what to do, or the condition of being uncertain or it’s an uncertainty about something or someone, or even having difficulty believing in something or someone, but fear is more debilitating than doubt because fear is a feeling that can be induced by a perceived danger or a real threat. This causes a change in our metabolic and organ functions and can ultimately create a change in our behavior, so as you can see, doubt isn’t the same thing as fear. Fear can create a dysfunctional life, affecting work, family, and other personal relationships, but doubt is something that we all experience from time to time. Doubt isn’t exactly cynicism, but it’s more about having an uncertainty about a particular expectation or upcoming event, but both fear and doubt can creep into a believer’s life and stymie their walk with Christ…and as we shall read, fear and doubt are contagious.

Fear

As I said, fear is contagious, and perhaps the reason why is given when Israel was being oppressed by the Midian’s. God called Gideon to lead a small force to rid the nation of Midianite raiding parties. When Gideon had assembled over 30,000 men, “The LORD said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me’” (Judge 7:2), so God tells Gideon, “’Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.’ Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained” (Judges 7:3). I believe the reason why God removed the men who were fearful was because fear in contagious. When you see the battles between nations in the Bible, quite often, when one army flees, the others do too, so fear is like a disease…if you are around it, you can “catch it,” so this may be why God sent all 22,000 of the fearful men home.

Self-Preservation

Even though doubting is not as bad as being fearful, doubt can still rob you of your joy, assurance, and self-confidence. When we begin to doubt ourselves, and perhaps even doubt others, we’re projecting defeat before it ever happens. It’s like we wave the white flag of surrender before the battle begins. That’s how doubt can affect us, but when that doubt grows into fear, it can be especially crippling, however not all fear is bad. In some cases, fear can actually be a good thing and for several reasons. It can keep us from taking unnecessary risks or placing ourselves in danger. Fear can keep us alive. There’s a natural tendency for self-preservation in every one of us, and that type of fear is not debilitating, but is life-preserving, so fear is good for some things, but it can be bad when there’s no real reason to fear. If it’s a rational fear, it can keep us alive, but an irrational fear can make our lives miserable, and perhaps the lives of those around us.

The Wisdom of Fear

One type of fear that is beneficial is the fear of the Lord, because the fear of the Lord is the very beginning of wisdom (Prov 9:10). This kind fear isn’t the fear that comes from the judgement of God. The Apostle John wrote, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18), so if you fear God’s judgment, you are either unsaved or you don’t understand that Jesus took the judgement that was due us. Some fear kept people from being receiving eternal life, like many of the Jews who believed in Jesus, but “for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him” (John 7:13). Even though many “of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue because they’d be put out of the synagogue” (John 12:42), so fear can be good, but fear can also be very bad, and yes, fear can be sinful. The only thing we should fear is God, but if someone’s rejected Jesus Christ, Jesus warned them, saying “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 10:28). On one occasion, the disciples were in a boat with Jesus when “a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling” (Mark 4:37), but Jesus “awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him” (Mark 4:39-41)? At first, they feared the storm, but when Jesus rebuked the storm, calming it, they feared Jesus more, but this was not a sinful fear but a fear of Who they were with…and it was God!

Conclusion

Fear and doubt are normal for some things, but when fear and doubt join hands in our minds, they can be debilitating, and these two can be exceedingly hard to get out of your mind. It takes the Word of God to calm the fear of man and bring him peace…and it’s a peace that surpasses all human understanding (Phil 4:7). The peace of God comes from being at peace with God, and when we’re at peace with God, we have no reason to fear. Jesus left us with His own peace, telling the disciples, “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). If you have trusted in Christ, you have no more reason to fear. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and it is the fulfillment of wisdom, but that’s a healthy fear, not one of being struck down by God or fearing His judgment. To fear God means to reverence the Word of God and God Himself. The day is coming when God says, “I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD” (Jer 23:4). Today is the day to remove all doubt and fear, and you can do that when you repent and put your trust in Christ. Then, there is no more reason to fear, and I can say that with absolutely certainty, and without a doubt.

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.

 

 

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Beyond Sunday: A Good Requirement

[Editor’s note: Beyond Sunday is a Monday refresher to carry you through the week.]

Focus Verse of the Week

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

Classic Commentary

Those who are fully convinced of sin, and of their misery and danger by reason of it, would give all the world, if they had it, for peace and pardon. Yet they do not offer aright. The sacrifices had value from their reference to Christ; it was impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin. And all proposals of peace, except those according to the gospel, are absurd. They could not answer the demands of Divine justice, nor satisfy the wrong done to the honor of God by sin, nor would they serve at all in place of holiness of the heart and reformation of the life.

Men will part with anything rather than their sins; but they part with nothing so as to be accepted of God, unless they do part with their sins. Moral duties are commanded because they are good for man. In keeping God’s commandments there is a great reward, as well as after keeping them. God has not only made it known, but made it plain.

The good which God requires of us is, not the paying a price for the pardon of sin and acceptance with God, but love to himself; and what is there unreasonable, or hard, in this? Every thought within us must be brought down, to be brought into obedience to God, if we would walk comfortably with him. We must do this as penitent sinners, in dependence on the Redeemer and his atonement. Blessed be the Lord that he is ever ready to give his grace to the humble, waiting penitent.  

(Adapted from Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible, Micah 6.)

A Thought to Keep

We would rather be good employees, helpful volunteers, and even generous givers before we give up our secret sins. But the Lord will not be satisfied with any sacrifice except our hearts. When we humble ourselves before him, he is always ready to accept us.

 

 

Saint Rose Venerini (when she was a Blessed) | Unknown

 Saint Rose Venerini (when she was a Blessed) | Unknown

Saint Rose Venerini

Saint of the Day for May 7

(February 9, 1656 – May 7, 1728)

https://www.franciscanmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/SOD_May07.mp3

 

Saint Rose Venerini’s Story

Rose was born at Viterbo in Italy, the daughter of a doctor. Following the death of her fiancé she entered a convent, but soon returned home to care for her newly widowed mother. Meanwhile, Rose invited the women of the neighborhood to recite the rosary in her home, forming a sort of sodality with them.

As she looked to her future under the spiritual guidance of a Jesuit priest, Rose became convinced that she was called to become a teacher in the world rather than a contemplative nun in a convent. Clearly, she made the right choice: She was a born teacher, and the free school for girls she opened in 1685 was well received.

Soon the cardinal invited her to oversee the training of teachers and the administration of schools in his diocese of Montefiascone. As Rose’s reputation grew, she was called upon to organize schools in many parts of Italy, including Rome. Her disposition was right for the task as well, for Rose often met considerable opposition but was never deterred.

She died in Rome in 1728, where a number of miracles were attributed to her. She was beatified in 1952 and canonized in 2006. The sodality, or group of women she had invited to prayer, was ultimately given the rank of a religious congregation. Today, the so-called Venerini Sisters can be found in the United States and elsewhere, working among Italian immigrants.


Reflection

Whatever state of life God calls us to, we bring with us an assortment of experiences, interests and gifts—however small they seem to us. Rose’s life stands as a reminder that all we are is meant to be put to service wherever we find ourselves.

 

 

Help Us, Lord!
Pastor Mark Jeske

Does the concept of a national day of prayer resonate with you? I could understand if it didn’t. You may say that it’s not the government’s job to call people to prayer–it’s the church’s job. And in a sense you’d be right.

But any government has a lot to gain from inviting its citizens to pray for the country’s well-being. Since Christians (me included) are so often lazy and forgetful, we can stand the reminder. Besides, God himself encourages believers to intercede with him on behalf of their fellow citizens: “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:7).

If God had blessings in reserve that he would dump out upon the corrupt and violent Babylonian Empire at Jeremiah’s time, how much more could he be holding in reserve above the skies of our country today? What if he’s just waiting for his children to ask? Imagine if all the Christians in our country would ask for less violence, less injustice, more prosperity, and more peace?

This is not to say that our country deserves God’s blessings because it is a Christian country. In many ways it is not. But God answers prayer not on the basis of the merits of the petitioner. He answers prayer on the basis of the pure grace purchased for us by his Son, Jesus. Help us, Lord!

 

 

Equipping the Called

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. – Ephesians 3:20
When God called Moses to go before Pharaoh, Moses basically told God that He was making a mistake choosing him. God became angry, but Moses made an impact. God understood the fear Moses was experiencing and provided him with an assistant.
You often think that God can’t or wouldn’t use you because of your past mistakes, or because you’re not worthy. Do you think you’re going to limit God and His power to use the most unlikely people in the most unlikely situations? I don’t think so. I heard a pastor say, “God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called!” I love that, because it means that God works through people like me who are the underdogs . . . the outcasts . . . the defeated.
Remember the story of Balaam . . . how God spoke through his donkey? If he can use a donkey, he can use you, or even me! The Bible shows example after example of God using the least likely people to accomplish His will. David to slay Goliath. Moses to speak to Pharaoh. Gideon and a band of three hundred men to defeat the Midianites. A ragtag team of fishermen to turn the world on its heels with the good news of Jesus.
They all had in common a willingness to be used by God. He just wants you to make yourself available to Him. You don’t have to have it all together. If you wait for that, you’ll never be ready. And don’t get caught in the paralysis of analysis. Just express your willingness to be used by God for His purpose, and take the first step to do something today. Don’t limit yourself. God doesn’t!
“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” – Walt Disney (1901-1966)
Devotionals Daily: A Year with Jesus

From Devotions for the Beach

Breakfast on the Beach

Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord. – John 21:12

It had been a tough morning, to be sure. Following Jesus’ death, several disciples returned to their regularly scheduled programming. They got up early, took their fishing nets, and . . . nothing. Not a bite. Until some guy stood on the shore and called out a weird suggestion to throw their nets in from the other side of the boat.

I wonder if any of them grumbled brief ly, “What difference does it make which side of the boat we throw the nets from? Who is this guy?” But by then, they were desperate enough to try anything.

Suddenly, when their nets were heavy, the same question took on a different meaning, because they knew the answer. John shouted, “It is the Lord!” and Peter could not get to Jesus fast enough. Other than suggesting that they add some of the fresh catch to His spread, Jesus’ sole response was “Come and eat breakfast.”

Now, wait just a minute. When read in context, the scripture notes that this is Jesus’ third post-resurrection appearance, a miracle unto itself. After all, these men saw Him perish on the cross. And not only that, He’s preparing a meal on the beach—not as a ghost or apparition, but as a physical being able to lift things and build a fire, etc. Then, after their own efforts had been useless, He provides an abundance of fish with one simple instruction. And after these marvels, He simply says, “Come and eat breakfast”?

Yes.

We create so much unnecessary hoopla in our own regularly scheduled pro­gramming. We plan, we implement, and we work hard . . . and get frustrated when nothing comes of it. Desperate and empty, we finally look to Jesus as a last resort—because we don’t recognize who He is. And sometimes, really, all He’s asking is that we come join Him and take part in what He’s prepared and created. The rest will come.

So declutter your mind of plans, schedules, and “to do” lists. Instead, look out upon the waves, wiggle your toes in the sand, absorb the sights, smells, and sounds, and enjoy the moment for what it is—not what it means, not what lies ahead, not how you arrived here. There will be another time for that. For now, just be present with Him.

After all, in the best relationships, sometimes words are unnecessary.

Lord Jesus, I bring no words, no petitions with me right now. Just a moment to be still and commune with You in gratitude and love, using all of my senses to absorb and celebrate Your beautiful creation.

 

 

What Jesus Did! ‘Too Close to Home?’

Illustration of John 6:41-42 NLT — "I am the bread that came down from heaven."   ——   "Isn't this Jesus, the son of Joseph? We know his father and mother. How can he say, 'I came down from heaven'?"

Key Thought

“I came down from heaven!” That is the claim of Jesus’ life and ministry in the Gospel of John. Either he is the Son of God, come from heaven — from God the Father — or he is not. Believing that Jesus is God’s Son has never been easy. However, let’s not dismiss the claim too quickly or easily simply because it doesn’t fit into our oversimplified and greatly prejudicial boxes of human judgment. Some people correctly looked at Jesus and saw a Savior come from God. Others saw him simply as the boy from the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth. What you decide matters eternally … and you must decide.

Today’s Prayer

Father, thank you for sending Jesus. Thank you for having him enter our world as one of us. I am comforted to know that he faced the challenges of my world and still triumphed over sin and death. Through your Spirit, keep my passion and interest in your Son aroused. Don’t let me outlive my faith or ever take Jesus for granted. In the name of my Lord and Christ, I pray. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

Daily Wisdom: Proverbs 17:1

Illustration of Proverbs 17:1 — Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.

Spiritual Warfare: ‘Those Whose Heart is Completely His’

God’s Power for Our Battles

For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars.

Lord, You are the heart Knower. You are able to discern my true nature and how my intentions are wholesome. It is so encouraging to know that You are actively searching for people who are wholehearted in their faithfulness and dedication to You. I want to be one of the people You strongly support because of my pure heart. Help me to have that kind of heart. Strengthen me to be the example that makes others want to know You and serve You. My life is in Your hands, Lord, and I trust You with it. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Today’s Scripture

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” – Galatians 6:10 NIV

Thoughts for Today

God gives us opportunities to do good to all people, especially to those in the family of believers. Today’s scripture encourages us to use every opportunity that comes.

How often do we hear of a friend’s need and simply respond with an “I’ll pray for you.” Sometimes that’s all we can do. However, many times we could give some practical assistance as well. But that might be inconvenient. Or costly. “As we have opportunity, let us do good.” .

And then there is the homeless man on the street corner whom we pretend not to see. Or the lady who lives across town and needs a ride to church. Inconvenient. Or the friend dealing with a crisis who just needs to talk. But I have so much to do today. “As we have opportunity, let us do good.”

Consider this …

Sometimes our lives are not characterized by caring and kindness. We are too busy, too caught up in ourselves and our own troubles, too isolated. Just imagine what would happen in the body of Christ if we each begin to show compassion and brotherly kindness at every opportunity?

Let us start each day with a prayer asking God to help us use every opportunity to do good. Let us be sensitive to the Holy Spirit so we will seize those opportunities and not run from them.

Prayer

Father, forgive me for sometimes being selfish, not wanting to help someone because it is inconvenient or uncomfortable. Teach me to seize every opportunity to do good. In Jesus’ name . . .

 

 

 

Changing Besetting Habits – The $10 Challenge
TGIF Today God Is First Volume 1 by Os Hillman
May 07, 2018

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” – John 8:34

“I hate being late,” my friend lamented. “It has been a problem for me all my life.”

“Do you really want to change that?” I asked.

“Yes, I do.”

“All right. Every time you are late to work or anywhere else where you have committed to be at a particular time you must give me $25.”

“No way!” my friend responded. “I would go broke! But I will do $10.”

“All right, $10 it is. It has to be a large enough amount of money for it to hurt your pocketbook.”

“Believe me, that will hurt,” my friend said. About a month later my friend found great motivation to be on time to every place she had to be. In the first week, I got only $10 from my friend. The next week, $20. The third week, nothing. By the fifth week, my friend had changed a lifelong habit that had hindered her all her life. In order for my friend not to be resentful of me for the money she had to give, we put it in a jar to be given to some other Christian cause. This ensured my motive was only for her best interest.

Some might be reading this now and say it is legalism. For my friend it was freedom. For the first time she had some means of changing a behavior that had caused her problems in relationships and her own work habits. Psychologists tell us that it takes 21 days to form a habit. So, if you need to change some habit, you need to be actively engaged in that new behavior at least 21 days. My friend needed help to change a habit she didn’t like about herself. It took another individual to hold her accountable, and it took a potential loss of something to provide the added incentive.

A successful businessman was experiencing a difficult marriage. When counseling the couple over dinner one night, a friend of mine noticed that the man often criticized his wife. After further counsel it was determined the man simply could not love his wife. My friend asked him if he truly wanted to see change in his marriage. When the man said he did, my friend said, “Every time you criticize your wife you must agree to give me $100.” This man was well-off and needed substantial incentive to change his behavior. After the man rebelled and retorted, he agreed in front of his wife. A few weeks later a report came back that things were changing. This man did not want to write any checks to my friend. Although it was a competitive game to the man, it was also yielding some positive changes in his marriage. He began to acquire the habit of avoiding criticism of his wife, which was killing her spirit.

What are the habits that keep you from becoming all that God may want you to become? Do you desire change enough to be accountable in a way that it costs you something when you fail? Ask a friend to hold you accountable in an area that needs change. You will find new freedom as you conquer old besetting habits.

 

 

National Paste-Up Day May 7

NATIONAL PASTE-UP DAY

National Paste Up Day is observed each year on May 7.  This day is about remembering those times before desktop publishing and computerized digital imaging when newspapers, magazines and catalogs were compiled by hand and those that worked so tediously in their positions.  Paste-up refers to a method of preparing and laying out pages of publication.  A paste-up artist was also known as a layout artist, mechanical artist, production artist or compositor.  Part of the daily duties of the paste-up artist would be to cut the type into sections and arrange it carefully across multiple columns.  The headline and other typographic elements were often created and supplied separately by the typesetter, leaving it to the paste-up artist to determine their final position on the page.

HOW TO OBSERVE

Word processing technology today seems to have eliminated the art of paste-up.  Bring back the art of paste-up using #NationalPasteUp and share your paste-up art on social media.

HISTORY

Within our research, we were unable to find the creator or origin of National Paste-Up Day.

 

 

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And now, some Monday Wisdom…..

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Image result for Monday Wisdom?

 

 

 

 

Thoroughly Thursday!

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Daily Prayer for May 3

Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt

But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:20-21, NIV

Dear Father in heaven, we thank you that the Savior has been with us on the earth and that in our day we can still follow him and wait for your will and your rulership. For you are Almighty God, and your kingdom must come, your will must be done, and all promises be fulfilled. Carry out your will, we ask and beseech you. Establish your kingdom among all nations, even if today this is possible with only a few. For through your working, hearts can change so that your name may be praised and all promises may be fulfilled. Thanks be to you for allowing us to live in such great hope. Stay by us in our work on earth so that it may be done in your service. In every situation deepen our longing for the Savior to come and establish your kingdom. Be with us during the night and bless us in your great goodness and faithfulness. Amen.

 

 

Verse of the Day

Inspirational illustration of Romans 12:12

Thoughts on Today’s Verse…

Sometimes the key to survival is simply “setting our jaw” and going on faithfully trusting that God is there helping us, despite the apparent and outward circumstances. Choosing joy through hope rather than despair, choosing patient endurance in times of affliction, and choosing faithfulness in prayer are all decisions of the will trusting that the God who raised Jesus from the dead can also change our circumstances because he hears our voice.

My Prayer…

Create in me, O Mighty God, a resolute and steadfast heart so that I might persevere with joy no matter what the difficulty. This I ask in the name of your faithful Son. Amen.

 

 

 

bible reading

How We All Can Preserve the National Day of Prayer

It is time that all faiths unite.

There is an assault on people of faith, and perhaps all faiths.

If the freedom of religion is going to continue, we all better pay attention. As we look towards the horizon in gaining a new president in 2016, the time is crucial for all Americans to reflect on what liberties are at stake. No matter what our political agendas may entail—as a people of a democracy—we need to unite.

The National Day of Prayer is supposed to encourage all religions to set aside differences and pray. The annual observance happens on the first Thursday of May. It was started in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress and President Harry S. Truman signed it into law. Congress wrote:

“Prayer has indeed been a vital force in the growth and development of this Nation. It would certainly be appropriate if, pursuant to this resolution, and the proclamation it urges, the people of this country were to unite in a day of prayer each year, each in accordance with his own religious faith, thus reaffirming in a dramatic manner the deep religious conviction which has prevailed throughout the history of the United States.”

A day of prayer is not a novelty. The Continental Congress called a day for the colonists to seek God regarding the forming of a new nation in 1775. Abraham Lincoln called a day of national prayer and fasting in 1863.

“Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer,” Lincoln proclaimed.

“And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.”

President Ronald Reagan designated in 1988 that the National Day of Prayer be held on the first Thursday in May.

However, the day is continuously challenged.

Many found the NDP unconstitutional. Federal Judge Barbara Crabb wrote that it violated the First Amendment, but it was overturned in 2010. The Freedom from Religion Foundation has worked to end the bias and to stop the “evangelicals from hijacking the Constitution.” The non-profit organization posted its objections and asked that the U.S. end the discrimination in that lawsuit on its website.

“Our founders did not pray when they adopted our Constitution, which shows their intent to separate religion from government. The Constitution’s only references to religion are exclusionary. The U.S. President and elected officials have neither the moral nor the constitutional authority to dictate to Americans to pray, much less to tell citizens what to pray about, to set aside an entire day for prayer every year, and to gather with others “to turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.”

The National Day of Prayer Task Force helps mobilize the Christian community and represents “Judeo-Christian expression of the national observance, based on our understanding that this country was birthed in prayer and in reverence for the God of the Bible.” The organization is fighting to keep NDP on the books.

Dion Elmore is the Chief Communications Officer of the Prayer Task Force and shared “While the National Day of Prayer has been challenged by atheistic special interest groups the last few years, the Federal Courts have upheld its constitutionality and in turn our religious freedom.”

If you’re passionate about NDP, get involved. Work with local religious organizations and keep the community in loop on your progress. Get involved with ministries outside your own. Invite people to pray for the city and nation no matter what their faith is.

It’s a time to unite, not divide.

Some final questions to ponder: Should people who disagree with NDP have a right to have the day deleted from history, and is it a violation of their freedoms?

Regardless, as a nation we should unite, and no matter what faith inspires you, finding common ground with others allows for religious tolerance. This includes all people.

 

 

 

A Prayer for Our Nation on this National Day of Prayer
By Debbie McDaniel

“Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name. Daniel 9:19

In 1952 President Harry Truman signed a bill into law, making the National Day of Prayer for America an annual event on the first Thursday of May, encouraging millions across our nation to unite together to pray.

We’ve come a long way since that day.  And now, maybe more than ever, our nation needs our continued prayers for God’s healing, help, and peace.

Yet, sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin or how to pray. We just know we have a deep ache in our hearts that cries out for God’s mercy, and a longing to see him heal our land. And maybe other times we wonder how effective our prayers even are.

But no matter how we feel, we can be confident that God is faithful. He is aware and His Spirit is at work, over all that swirls around us in our nation today. That same power that broke prison chains, raised Lazarus from the dead, and parted the Red Sea, the same power that healed the blind man, and delivered the delirious from demons, that same power is at work still today.

He is the same. Yesterday, today, and forever.

May we stand together as believers, and pray for God to heal our land, and strengthen His people. May we pray for all those in authority. May we pray for God’s miraculous intervening, for blind eyes to be opened, for many to see the power of our Lord as never before.

We are never left to fend for ourselves, wrestling in worry, consumed with fear, or driven towards hate. He reminds us that He is with us, He will help us, and hasn’t lost control, but has a plan. And His purposes will prevail.

We can be assured, that He hears our prayers, He knows our needs. There’s great power in uniting together, turning our hearts towards God, and praying on behalf of America, our nation.

At this important time in our nation’s history, we can do nothing more important than pray.

Remembering today this powerful truth upon which this nation was founded. We are “One Nation Under God.” He is where our real hope is found, not in our leaders, not in our economy, not in the condition of our nation today, or any other day.  “…my hope comes from Him.” Ps. 62:5

Prayer for National Day of Prayer:

Dear God,

Thank you for your great power. We praise you for your Truth. We’re grateful that you have set us free from the clutching grasp of sin and death.

Would you be with your people, extending your grace, granting your freedom, providing your protection, and empowering with your strength. We ask that you’d bring about an awakening of your presence to America as never seen before. We ask that your Name be proclaimed, that all plans to silence the Name of Jesus would be thwarted and crushed.

We pray that many would come to know you as Lord and Savior, we pray that many would see your Light, that you would open blind eyes and release those still imprisoned.

We pray that you would unify your people for the glory of your Name, that all who call themselves Christians would rise up, believing your great Truth.

Wake us up Lord! Remind us to live aware, to redeem the time, to listen to your words, to be willing to make a difference in this land.

We pray for all those in authority, that you would give them your wisdom and discernment as they lead. We ask that you would appoint strong, faithful men and women to serve this nation and our people.

We pray for your great healing on America. Shine your face on us dear God. We need you now, more than ever before. Our times are in your hands.

Thank you that you are rich in mercy and full of grace. Thank you that you are forgiving and merciful. Thank you that you are strong and mighty. Thank you that you are for us and that you fight for us still today. Bring honor to your Name, Oh Lord, for You alone are worthy.

 

 

 

National Day of Prayer

Prayer — The Fabric of the American Culture

Today, May 3, 2018, is America’s National Day of Prayer. It became a permanent fixture on America’s calendar of national observances in May of 1988 when President Ronald Reagan signed a bill into law designating the first Thursday of May as America’s official, annual National Day of Prayer. I had the privilege, as a member of America’s National Prayer Committee, to be in the White House that day to watch President Reagan sign this unprecedented historic document. Today, it may surprise you to know that more than 45,000 different public gatherings will be held all across America — on state capitol steps, in churches and in public arenas, including a national celebration in the famed Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol building. It is estimated that some 5 million Americans, and possibly many more, will participate in some way in united, public prayer on this very day. But how did this all begin?

From the earliest days of our republic, prayer has been foundational to the very fabric of our culture. Proclamations for a National Day of Thanksgiving, Fasting and Prayer were common. For example, from 1775, when the first Thanksgiving proclamation was issued, and up to 1815, a 40-year span, 42 different proclamations for prayer were issued (an average of about one per year). Of those 42, 13 focused on “Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer.” I’ll highlight two of these proclamations, one from our nation’s earliest years and another from the Civil War almost a century later.

In 1777 a proclamation called for a Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer that was to include “humble penitence confessing [our] manifold sins and aggravated transgressions imploring through Jesus Christ our Lord, the pardoning mercies of almighty God…” What amazing wording. The proclamation ends with this directive: “All servile labor and recreation are hereby forbidden on said day!” Imagine that wording getting by the “politically correct” censors of our day!

But perhaps most memorable of such national proclamations was issued in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln challenged all Americans:

…to confess their sins… and the sins of our nation…
and to recognize the sublime truths… of Holy Scriptures,
and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed
whose God is the Lord…

Fast forward to 1952 and our modern National Day of Prayer. During the Korean War, a young 34-year-old evangelist named Billy Graham stated in early 1952 that it would be deeply significant “at this time of crisis to see the leaders of our country kneeling before almighty God in prayer.” Congressman Percy Priest of Tennessee heard these words from the young evangelist and referred to them before Congress as “a challenge to our nation for a National Day of Prayer.”

No doubt these words reached President Truman’s desk, perhaps beside the president’s famed plaque that read “The Buck Stops Here,” because in April of 1952 Truman signed a bill stating “a National Day of Prayer must be declared by each subsequent President at an appropriate date of his choosing.”

Although this was surely a positive development, the phrase “an appropriate date of his choosing” was too general and lacked the impact of a fixed day, like Memorial Day, Thanksgiving or Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Furthermore, no broad coalition of spiritual leaders existed at the time to promote the cause.

That changed in the mid-1970s when Vonette Bright, co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ with her husband, Bill, caught the vision. In 1976, Vonette hosted a meeting at the Christian Embassy in Washington during which seeds for a National Prayer Committee were planted. I had the privilege of being in that meeting, and all of us present felt that God was giving birth to something destined to become a new movement of prayer for our nation. The National Prayer Committee became official in 1979 and began contending (“lobbying” might be a better word) for a fixed National Day of Prayer.

Breakthrough came in 1986 when Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, at the encouragement of the National Prayer Committee, offered a bill before the Senate for just such a fixed day. Almost immediately, 13 senators and 90 congressmen endorsed the bill. Two respected rabbis — Joshua Haberman and Marc Tanenbaum — also voiced full support of the bill. On May 5, 1988, the bill passed the Senate unanimously, followed quickly by overwhelming passage in the House. Final victory came Thursday, May 8, 1988, when President Ronald Reagan signed the bill into law. The first Thursday of May was now America’s official, annual National Day of Prayer!

Today, America’s National Day of Prayer is thriving. Not only will some 5 million Americans participate in some form of united, public prayer, but Christians in other nations will join in as well. And I am rather certain, when all this praying is completed — somewhere in the last time zone in America, the Hawaiian Islands — all will have prayed in agreement with President Lincoln’s words, that both “the Holy Scriptures and history itself” prove “that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord!”

Editor’s Note:

Dick Eastman is the International President of Every Home for Christ, a global evangelism ministry with 189 offices throughout the world. Dick is also a founding member of America’s National Prayer Committee and has served as its president for more than 20 years.

 

 

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3 Things We Teach Our Children When We Pray

By Ken Berding

Last week I posted a piece in which I encouraged each of us to actually pray when we pray. Since then my thoughts about prayer have moved in another direction, particularly as it relates to the training of our children. I am becoming increasingly convinced that one of the most significant ways we convey spiritual truth to our children is through our prayers. I believe that when we pray with our children, our children learn about our relationship with the Lord and what we believe about God. Let’s look at three things we teach our children when they listen to us pray.

1.  When we pray, our children learn that we have a sincere relationship with the Lord.

This past Sunday I was talking with a friend about what children learn when they listen to their parents pray. He shared with me that when he was growing up his father’s prayers were formulaic and seemed artificial to him. But in recent years my friend has noticed a change in his elderly father’s relationship with the Lord. What’s significant is that the chief way he has come to recognize the change is by listening to the way his father prays.

I grew up with a mother who had a sensitive relationship with the Lord, and I knew it from the way that she prayed. When I was a child she used to tell me that even if all my friends stopped being my friends, Jesus would always be my friend. I believed her. The reason I believed her is that when she prayed I could tell that she was talking to her closest friend.

 2.  When we pray, our children learn that we actually believe that God can and will answer our prayers.

Honestly, learning how to pray in groups in the United States has been kind of tough for me. When my wife and I lived in the Middle East, we were often around Christians who were expecting God to do big things. We knew it because of the way that they prayed. But one message has come through loudly and clearly to me in most of the prayer meetings I have attended in the United States: we don’t actually believe anything is going to happen when we pray! I want my children to know that when we pray, we are speaking to a God who is strong enough to answer our prayers and who cares deeply enough to act on our behalf.

(Please note that you don’t generate such faith by trying really hard to believe; rather you increasingly develop sensitivity to the Holy Spirit who helps you know how to pray and who increases your faith as you pray in dependence upon him. But that is another topic for another day.)

 3.  When we pray, our children learn what we believe about God.

I’ve thought more about this since reading Fred Sanders’s recently released book, The Deep Things of God:  How the Trinity Changes Everything. The basic biblical pattern is praying to the Father, on the basis of what the Son has done, empowered by the Spirit. It is, of course, possible that we could communicate to our children a deficient view of the Trinity by praying always to Jesus as a friend, or being overly Spirit-focused in our prayers. (I am not saying that a prayer thanking Jesus for his death on the cross or a prayer to the Holy Spirit asking for him to empower you for witness is wrong, just that it isn’t the biblical pattern.)

Your children will learn from you that God is holy by listening to the way you confess your sins; that God is a God of power when you worship him; that God truly cares when you call upon him in your time of need, and so on.

When I’m alone with the Lord, one of the prayers I pray more than any other is: “Lord, I want it to be real. I don’t want to be a fake. I need your grace to live out what I teach.” And now, by God’s grace, I want my children to see the same thing in me. I don’t pray for them; I pray to the Lord. But I think it’s good to remember that our children are listening.

 

 

 Detail of reredos | Polytych by Maestà | Wikimedia

Saints Philip and James

Saint of the Day for May 3

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https://www.franciscanmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/SODMay03.mp3

 

Saints Philip and James’ Story

James, Son of Alphaeus: We know nothing of this man except his name, and, of course, the fact that Jesus chose him to be one of the 12 pillars of the New Israel, his Church. He is not the James of Acts, son of Clopas, “brother” of Jesus and later bishop of Jerusalem and the traditional author of the Letter of James. James, son of Alphaeus, is also known as James the Lesser to avoid confusing him with James the son of Zebedee, also an apostle and known as James the Greater.

Philip: Philip came from the same town as Peter and Andrew, Bethsaida in Galilee. Jesus called him directly, whereupon he sought out Nathanael and told him of the “one about whom Moses wrote” (Jn 1:45).

Like the other apostles, Philip took a long time coming to realize who Jesus was. On one occasion, when Jesus saw the great multitude following him and wanted to give them food, he asked Philip where they should buy bread for the people to eat. Saint John comments, “[Jesus] said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do” (Jn 6:6). Philip answered, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little [bit]” (Jn 6:7).

John’s story is not a put-down of Philip. It was simply necessary for these men who were to be the foundation stones of the Church to see the clear distinction between humanity’s total helplessness apart from God and the human ability to be a bearer of divine power by God’s gift.

On another occasion, we can almost hear the exasperation in Jesus’s voice. After Thomas had complained that they did not know where Jesus was going, Jesus said, “I am the way … If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (Jn 14:6a, 7). Then Philip said, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us” (Jn 14:8). Enough! Jesus answered, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9a).

Possibly because Philip bore a Greek name or because he was thought to be close to Jesus, some gentile proselytes came to him and asked him to introduce them to Jesus. Philip went to Andrew, and Andrew went to Jesus. Jesus’s reply in John’s Gospel is indirect; Jesus says that now his “hour” has come, that in a short time he will give his life for Jew and gentile alike.


Reflection

As in the case of the other apostles, we see in James and Philip human men who became foundation stones of the Church, and we are reminded again that holiness and its consequent apostolate are entirely the gift of God, not a matter of human achieving. All power is God’s power, even the power of human freedom to accept his gifts. “You will be clothed with power from on high,” Jesus told Philip and the others. Their first commission had been to expel unclean spirits, heal diseases, announce the kingdom. They learned, gradually, that these externals were sacraments of an even greater miracle inside their persons—the divine power to love like God.


Saints Philip and James are the Patron Saints of:

Uruguay

 

 

Crosswalk the Devotional

The Day I Rolled Down the Window
by John UpChurch, Crosswalk.com Contributor

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  1 John 4:18 

The guy had no teeth on top. Sadly, I noticed that first. His cigarette dangled between gum and lip.

While my wife jogged into Walgreens, this guy passed up dozens of other open spaces to squeeze his red coupe between our Prius and a truck that stuck slightly over the white line. He glanced over at us for only a moment before his window stuttered down and a mud-and-oil stained mitt poked out of the window to wave at my daughters in the backseat.

I confess. I didn’t exactly feel neighborly.

And then the guy began speaking and pointing to our car. I couldn’t hear a word through the glass, but that didn’t stop him from mumbling around his cigarette, which was probably 80% ash. Smiling from the silliness of it, I zipped the passenger-side window down and wondered what would compel him to speak to a complete stranger in a parking lot.

Gas mileage. Seriously.

This random guy in the parking lot of Walgreens wanted to compare gas mileage. At least, that’s what opened the door for conversation. From there, I learned what he did (shoeing horses), found out how his work had hurt his back (bulging disk), saw a picture of his prized new jackdaw (I had no clue either), and realized how much you can love a guy with no upper teeth.

He was real. He had no pretensions, no conceit, no desire to be anything more than he was. You got the raw, muddy man. And, sadly, I would never have spoken to the guy on my own if he hadn’t put his huge hand and ashy cigarette out the window. Sadly, I didn’t want to get messy.

But, really, love is all about the uncomfortable mess–just as God revealed in my life. To Him, I once looked much worse than toothless, much dirtier than mud-covered. But Jesus didn’t care. He saw something through all that muck He loved. And am I ever glad He did.

Intersecting Faith and Life: Love means getting close to people who are nothing like us. God may put people there for us to reach out to that don’t fit our ideal image of people we want to be around. They could reek of smoke, have few teeth, or even champion political views we don’t like. It’s enough to make us squirm.

But there’s one key here that we cannot forget: He loves them. Jesus touched the diseased, dirty, and destitute. He wasn’t afraid of engaging with the unpopular and scandalous. Instead, He specifically sought out those that no one else would. His grace knew no social barrier.

We can’t let being uncomfortable prevent us from sharing that love.

For Further Reading
>1 John 1:1
>James 2:1

 

 

Be a Joshua

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9

All through the Old Testament book of Joshua, the Lord says, “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid.” What a message for us!

As I read through the book I was amazed at how when the Lord spoke to Joshua, Joshua never stood before the Lord with excuses.  He didn’t attempt to refute why he couldn’t capture the territory the Lord had already given him. He never grumbled and complained about his childhood or his feelings of inadequacy or his anxiety or anything else you can think of. He simply moved forward in faith. As a consequence he led the entire nation of Israel to conquer and settle in the Promised Land.

If you would arise each day with the same simple faith of Joshua, a faith that simply trusted the Lord as shown by your actions and behavior, just think about what area of your life you could capture. You could turn the tables on the enemies of your past . . . on the abuse and neglect and fear and hurt. You can capture that enemy territory.

The Lord has already captured that area of your life for you. He wants to hand it over to you so you can obtain victory!

In what area of your life do you need to see the walls come tumbling down?

“Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.” – John Wayne (1907-1979)

 

 

Devotionals Daily: A Year with Jesus

From How to Raise Selfless Kids in a Self-Centered World by Dave Stone

Years ago a friend told me that if you catch several crabs and place them in a basket, you won’t need a lid.

“Won’t they just crawl up and out?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “If one of them starts its ascent and rises to the top, the others will pull him back down.”

Modern society is a study in crab behavior. We’re swimming in a sea of sarcasm. We gossip and talk back and criticize and spew out negativity. We undermine our enemies—and even our friends—without thinking twice about it. From the playground to the boardroom, tearing others down has become commonplace.

If you don’t think so, just look around you. Whenever anyone gets too much praise or attention, some crabby person will feel it’s time to bring the person back down. Kids who discourage other kids and run them down typically belong to parents who specialize in belittling. They are parroting their parents.

But that’s not the way Jesus lived.

Jesus was a cheerleader, a congratulator, an encourager—and for some of the most unexpected people too. He went around touching lepers, welcoming prostitutes, forgiving adulterers. He even went to dinner with a hated tax collector named Zacchaeus when the so-called “holy people” of Jericho wouldn’t give him the time of day. And Zacchaeus changed his ways on the spot, paid back four times what he had gained by cheating people, and became a follower of the Rabbi who accepted him as he was (Luke 19:1–9).

Encouragement breathes life into people. It gives them a second chance. Jesus knew the truth: you never make yourself look big by making others look small.

 

 

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Go to Jesus

A very present help.
Psalm 46:1

Covenant blessings are not meant only to be observed but to be appropriated. Even our Lord Jesus is given to us for our present use. Believer, you do not make use of Christ as you ought to do. When you are in trouble, why do you not tell Him all your grief? Does He not have a sympathizing heart, and can He not comfort and relieve you? No, you are going to all your friends, except your best Friend, and telling your story everywhere, except into the heart of your Lord.

Are you burdened with this day’s sins? Here is a fountain filled with blood: Use it, saint, use it. Has a sense of guilt returned upon you? The pardoning grace of Jesus may be proved again and again. Come to Him at once for cleansing. Do you deplore your weakness? He is your strength: Why not lean upon Him? Do you feel naked? Come here, soul; put on the robe of Jesus’ righteousness. Do not stand looking at it, but wear it. Strip off your own righteousness, and your own fears too: Put on the fair white linen, for it was meant to be worn.

Do you feel yourself sick? Call upon the Beloved Physician, and He will give the medicine that will revive you. You are poor, but remember you have a kinsman, who is incredibly wealthy. What! Will you not go to Him and ask Him to give you from His abundance when He has promised that you will be joint heir with Him and has credited all that He is and all that He has to your account? There is nothing Christ dislikes more than for His people to make a show of coming to Him and yet not to use Him. He loves to be employed by us. The more burdens we put on His shoulders, the more precious He will be to us.

Let us be simple with Him, then,
Not backward, stiff, or cold,
As though our Bethlehem could be
What Sinai was of old.

 

 

What Jesus Did! ‘Give Us Daily Bread’

[Jesus said,] “The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “Sir,” [the people] said, “give us that bread every day.”

Key Thought

The people’s request is a valid one. Jesus even taught us to pray for our “daily bread.” The problem is that requests for physical blessings are sometimes substituted for requests for a relationship with Christ and for an intimate walk with God. “Daily bread” sustains for only a day. The bread God most longs to give us sustains forever. What have you set your sights upon: “daily bread” or the eternal “bread of life”? Our goal is to pursue the latter, depending on God to give us the former! Pursue God’s eternal bread of life, and you get both. Pursue daily bread, and you get eternal hunger.

Today’s Prayer

O LORD God, my Father in heaven, please fill my heart with a passion for the right bread. Please give me the true bread of life to sustain, nourish, and fill me. I believe that Jesus not only has the words of life but that he also is the true bread that has come from you to give me life. Give me a holy passion to know him and to be filled by him. I pray this in his name. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

Daily Wisdom: Proverbs 17:3

Illustration of Proverbs 17:3 — The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart.

Spiritual Warfare: ‘God Commands You to Store up for Yourself’

God’s Power for Our Battles

Don’t store treasures for yourselves here on earth where moths and rust will destroy them and thieves can break in and steal them. But store your treasures in heaven where they cannot be destroyed by moths or rust and where thieves cannot break in and steal them.

Illustration of Matthew 6:19-20 NCV — Don't store treasures for yourselves here on earth where moths and rust will destroy them and thieves can break in and steal them.  But store your treasures in heaven where they cannot be destroyed by moths or rust and where thieves cannot break in and steal them.
Lord, I used to think that it was selfish to store up treasure for myself, but now I realize that You commanded us to do just that. Thank You for reminding me what kind of treasures will last, and where they need to be stored. Help me now, Lord, to be rich in giving to others and to the church and also to be wealthy in good deeds and acts of kindness. Help me always to remember that treasure stored here won’t last and that doing good deeds adds enormously to my eternal bank account. I want to have credits for my eternal life, so lead me to do good. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Today’s Scripture

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” – Hebrews 10:24-25 NLT

Thoughts for Today

We can show love for the family of believers by thinking of ways to motivate one another to reach out with acts of love and good works.

Notice this scripture doesn’t call us just to motivate one another. It says to think of ways to motivate one another. We aren’t supposed to motivate others just when the opportunity presents itself (although we should do that). We are supposed to think of ways to motivate one another. To pray for ways to encourage one another. God wants us to be proactive in motivating others to do good. .

Consider this …

Today’s scripture tells us that meeting together is an important ingredient to motivating and encouraging one another. We can’t motivate people if we don’t see them! Meeting together to encourage one another strengthens us as the body of Christ.

Today’s world brings great challenges. Financial challenges. Family challenges. Ministry challenges. The battle between sin and righteousness grows sharper. We need to be courageous to reach out to lost and hurting people. We need to motivate one another to acts of love and good works to win those people to Jesus. This is not a time for isolation or withdrawal. This is a time for us to seek God together as never before and to continually motivate one another to do what God is calling us to do.

Prayer

Father, open my eyes to the needs of my brothers and sisters. Show me how to encourage them and motive them to acts of love and good works. In Jesus’ name . . .

 

 

 

Our Labor in the Lord
TGIF Today God Is First Volume 1 by Os Hillman
May 03, 2018

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” – 1 Corinthians 15:58

There is a paradigm shift going on among a remnant of workplace believers today. That paradigm shift is a focus on using our business and work life as a platform for ministry versus a platform solely for material success. There is a remnant of workplace believers throughout the world today who understand their birthright in the workplace is to reflect Christ fully in and through their work. It is reflected by a commitment to use their resources and skills to provide a product of excellence with the overall motive to affect people for Jesus Christ. The difference is that these individuals have an overriding ministry objective to their work.

When the apostle Paul tells us to fully work unto the Lord, he does not mean we must be working as missionaries in “full-time Christian effort.” He understands that all of life is holy and sacred to God. If our motive is to serve God where we are, then our labor “in the Lord is not in vain.”

As you begin your work today, ask God if you are working with the primary motive of reflecting His life and character through your work on this day. Let nothing move you from this motive being central to your activity. The Lord will reflect His power and leading in and through your life when this becomes your primary motive.

 

 

National Specially-Abled Pets Day May 3

NATIONAL SPECIALLY-ABLED PETS DAY

Annually on May 3, National Specially-abled Pets Day is celebrated.  This day is set aside to educate the public about caring for disabled pets. National Specially-Abled Pets Day features disabled animals looking for a home.  It also encourages animal lovers to consider choosing a disabled pet when they are looking at adopting a new pet family member.

HOW TO OBSERVE

Use #SpeciallyAbledPetsDay to post on social media.

HISTORY

National Specially-abled Pets Day was launched by animal advocate, author and pet lifestyle expert Colleen Paige. The Animal Miracle Foundation helps to educate the public and celebrates these amazing and heroic animals. For more information visit www.disabledpetday.com.

On a personal note…..

Blind but not Unseeing….

I cannot see you Mommy, when you cuddle me so near.
And yet I know you love me, it’s in the words I hear.
I cannot see you Daddy, when you hold me by your side
But still I know you love me when you tell me so with pride.
I cannot see to run and play out in the sun so bright
For here inside my tiny head it’s always dark as night.
I cannot see the treats you give when I am extra good
But I can wag my tail in Thanks just like a good dog should.
“She cannot see. The dog’s no good” is what some folks might say
“She can’t be trained, she’ll never learn, She must be put away.”
But not you, Mom and Daddy, You know that it’s alright
Because I love you just as much as any dog with sight.
You hold me close, you give me love and we will never part
Because I’m blind with just my eyes, I see you in my heart.

Our tiniest fur baby, Zelda, has suddenly gone blind……she had ear infections that we got treated and she “‘gator-rolled” for about 2 days or so while she had these infections. Now, just when we thought she was well, I began to notice that she was still sorta walking sideways, and then she leaped out of her Daddy’s arms for no reason……..that night, after a nap, she awoke and I could tell she was blind…..she stares off into the distance……she bumps into walls and things…..she turns her head at the sound of our voices, trying to find us. Oh, Lord, I can’t bear the thought! Our baby fell asleep in daylight and awoke to darkness!! WHY????? Please, give her back her eyes! I am not ready to lose her!

 

 

 

 

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Holy Saturday

Easter story: What happened on Holy Saturday and why is it important?

 

Easter story: What happened on Holy Saturday and why is it important?

To those of you celebrating Easter tomorrow, we wish you a happy day (especially given your Lenten fast will finally be over). Although many people know plenty about Good Friday and Easter Sunday, but not so many people know what happened on Holy Saturday. This year, it falls today (March 31), and it represents a significant moment in the Christian calendar.

 

In the Bible, it tells how Jesus was crucified on Good Friday. Holy Saturday represents the last day before Easter Sunday and the end of Holy Week in preparation for Sunday’s celebrations. It’s on this day that Jesus was in his tomb, and the time of the Harrowing of Hell. This is, according to scripture, when Jesus descended into hell after his crucifixion and before his resurrection, and preached the the ‘imprisoned souls’ there.

 

It’s thought that this is the symbolism of Jesus ‘releasing’ the sinners from their punishment. Some texts say that he took Adam and Eve out of hell at this point, too. On Holy Saturday, some Catholics also pray for the Virgin Mary as Our Lady of Solitude, and reflect on the grief she must have felt at the loss of her son.

 

Fasting is not as stringent on this day as Good Friday, but many people still participate. Mass is also uncommon on this day, and if it does take place, it’s usually a solemn affair. Depending on the type of Christianity practiced, there may be a vigil after sundown on Holy Saturday to mark the start of Easter.

 

Other names for Holy Saturday:

Great Saturday

The Great Sabbath

Black Saturday

Joyous Saturday

Easter Even

The Saturday of Light

 

 

Pray Daily1

Daily Prayer for March 31

Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt

We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 1 John 5:20, NIV

Lord our God, we turn our faces to you and plead with you to come to us earthly and often tormented people. May we find strength in the Lord Jesus Christ, through whom redemption is promised to us all. May your kingdom at last be revealed and everything change for the better even though we do not see it yet. May we always honor your name above all others, for you are our Father and we want to hold fast to your grace that lets us call you Father. In our troubled times we want to have enduring faith that you can bring a new time when good shall at last emerge from all the distress. Grant that every broken and needy person may experience your help, your grace, and your salvation, and may know that these always surround us, if only our eyes are open to see and recognize them. So we want to thank and praise you at all times, and at last know the joy of eternity, to your glory and honor. Amen.

 

Pieta

An Easter Reflection

Annemarie Keiderling

 Anyone who has stepped into the vast courtyard of St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome knows the feeling of awe that comes over a person at the sheer size of the place. I was pushing a baby buggy as I walked in. This was my first trip with my little boy, three months old, and suddenly my baby and I felt very small and a rush of protective anxiety came over me. I picked up my precious, sleeping bundle and, leaving the buggy next to one of the pillars, walked up the stairs hugging my son close to me.

As I approached the basilica, my eyes were automatically drawn upward to that massive dome, arching up like the sky itself. I stepped inside and gazed at the mighty pillars, the hosts of saints and apostles standing motionless above my head, the gleaming gold lamps around St. Peter’s tomb. Around me, crowds of people streamed in and out, chattering their international tongues.

Suddenly I caught sight of a particular statue. I had seen photographs of Michelangelo’s Pieta, but had forgotten that it would be here. Its power was overwhelming and drew me like a magnet. I walked up close. Here was a mother just like me, and in her face I could see the same passion of love, a love beyond explaining and like no other, that I felt for my own child. But in her face was also a suffering I had never known. I remembered the “sword that cut through her heart” and I held my son closer, wondering how she survived it.

I remember that sword again as I read about the many mothers who have lost sons and daughters in the war. I know their grief is one with Mary’s grief on Good Friday. I think of the mothers whose sons do return, but who look into their eyes and see wounds—wounds to their spirit where a mother’s caress cannot reach.

I remember Jesus’ words to the women who followed him as he bore his cross:

“Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts than never gave suck”

Are we living in those days now? Will my heart someday be pierced by a sword also? How many mothers have felt its stabbing pain this year? I have not lost a son or a daughter. Not yet. But I think every mother can feel Mary’s pain. I would like to protect my innocent children, as Mary wanted to protect her little baby Jesus. But there is evil and darkness in the world and none of us is safe from its power.

But there is something else in Mary’s face. I see her love and her pain, but I also see deep reverence. The body cradled in her lap is her child, but also her God. She knows she is holding a soul of greatness as far beyond the wretchedness that killed him, as the sky towers over a clod of earth.

In her face is the promise of Easter and of resurrection. It is dark, overwhelmingly dark for all those suffering mothers and wives here in America, and down in Iraq. But I believe there will come a day, like Easter came for Mary. Two days ago was Palm Sunday. We all remembered the Palm Sunday long ago, but this year we should especially hold to the promise of the Palm Sunday that is coming:

Behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands…These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb…[He] will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

 

 

 

Living Lent Daily

March 31
Holy Saturday
Contemplating the Resurrected Jesus

Facing the full impact of Jesus’ humiliating and painful death on the cross is the only way to experience the real joy of the Resurrection. We ask to share the joy of Jesus resurrected from the dead, but the depth of that shared joy comes only after we share with Jesus something of what he experienced in his Crucifixion. He still has the wounds, even in glory; the horror is not undone by the Resurrection. Rather, with the Resurrection we find that his Crucifixion and death are not the last word. Here is a magnificent sign of God’s forgiving love: even the worst we can do will not deter God from the desire to embrace us in friendship.

May the honest horror of the Crucifixion help bring me to a deeper celebration of the Resurrection.

Holy Week Action

► Pray for those entering the Church tonight at the Easter Vigil.

► Reflect with Arts & Faith: Holy Saturday.

The Easter Vigil’s many readings walk us through the story of God and God’s people. As we reach the Gospel, we arrive with Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome at the empty tomb of Jesus. Jacopo di Cione’s altarpiece detail captures the moment of encounter between the three women and the mysterious men dressed in white, angels heralding the Resurrection, just as they heralded the birth of Christ many years before.

The image is splendidly detailed: the women bring their spices in small, ornate boxes, as they approach the tomb on a lawn spotted with delicate flowers. The tomb is an ornate sarcophagus carved with decorative patterns. The fine robes on the women are in bold jewel tones, and the angels’ robes are trimmed delicately with gold. The angels wear small tiaras, and their colorful wings hint at heavenly glory through their rainbow of feathers. The golden embossed halos, also signs of the heavenly realm, add another dimension to the image.

Even in the midst of this detailed representation, Mary Magdalene receives special attention. Her traditional red garments and loose red hair allow us to identify her. Behind the spice box she holds, we see another object tucked into her robes, resembling a white scroll. The scroll encapsulates the words offered to her by the angel; it is a symbol of the message she is sent to share. It is also a symbol of the new law, the new reality brought about by Christ in light of his Resurrection; elsewhere in Christian art we will see Peter and Paul with the scroll as a sign of their apostleship and service to the new law of Christ. Mary Magdalene will carry the tucked away scroll and its message of the Resurrection and pass it along to Peter and the disciples, serving as the first apostle to the Apostles themselves.

Immersed in the stories of God and God’s people which climax with the Good News of the Resurrection, the Easter Vigil is replete with scrolls, handed on to each of us to go and share. Like Mary Magdalene and the disciples after her, we are all sent with the Good News to all the world.

 

Read A Eulogy for Jesus by Jurell Sison.

This post is based on Week Seven of An Ignatian Prayer Adventure. It was an assignment from my spiritual director, who suggested writing a eulogy for Jesus because of how close I became to him in my imaginative prayer. While some of this piece is not historically or scripturally accurate, the words express my experience with Christ in prayer. The setting of this particular reflection took place after laying Jesus in the tomb and before the Resurrection.

Good morning, family, friends, and loved ones of our dearest friend Jesus.

While my history with Rabbi Jesus goes a long way, I met with him often, following as one of his disciples. And I, along with a couple others, was with him until the end.

I’d like to share a few words about our dear friend, Jesus. My first memory of him was at his birth. I remember Mary asking if I wanted to hold him. I was hesitant, but she placed him in my hands before I could do anything. I couldn’t stop gazing at him, and Mary stayed close by—embracing me and quietly whispering, “You’re part of the family now.” And it was then that I realized how much love would come into this child’s life.

Jesus showed love in his life just like his mother—by staying close, embracing, and whispering confidently to everyone, “You are a part of the family now.”

As he grew older, I became a faithful follower. I watched him change lives. I watched him inspire. I watched him challenge the current understanding of who we are called to love. I can’t tell you how many times I felt unworthy to follow him. At times I didn’t even understand the mission, but I knew he had faith in me. He brought out the greatness within me.

This is what Jesus did throughout his life. Not only did he teach about God’s love, but he lived God’s love. His actions brought out the best of people. He came to people that were on the margins—“the unworthy”—and made them aware of the greatness buried deep beneath the cultural and societal norms. With love and tenderness, he met people where they were, showing them they had worth. He showed them that they, too, were able to love and be loved. Jesus gave people a renewed sense of their lives.

We walked from town to town telling people that God loves them and that God forgives them. What’s more, we told them that we loved them—and we meant it, Jesus especially. If there was one thing he was good at, it was helping people grow into their own human dignity—moving people towards the full humanity that God calls all of us to live.

This is what Jesus did, for all those people, and for me. Jesus saved me.

My friends, today, Jesus is alive in my heart. And while his death was incredibly agonizing and unjust, it would be an even bigger injustice not to honor, remember, and celebrate his life.

May we never forget Jesus’ mission and dream for the world. May we continue to follow and share his dream with every people and every nation. It’s what he would have wanted.

My Lord, it has been an incredible honor. I love you. I miss you. I will see you soon.

 

Read an Easter Vigil reflection by Gary Smith, SJ.

This afternoon I was at Oliji, a village of Madi-speaking Catholics next to the Nile led by a well-organized young catechist named Andruga. The liturgy was under a tree again, since part of the chapel roof burned down when leaders tried to smoke out a colony of termites.

A large and enthusiastic crowd—maybe three hundred people—greeted me as I pulled in to the village an hour before Mass. I heard confessions, not understanding much but able to absolve in Madi. Midway through the confessions, which took place under the chapel tree, a powerful thunderstorm blew through, forcing us to continue under a section of the chapel roof that was still intact.

Because of security issues on the roads after dark, I needed to start the vigil at 4:00 p.m., which took the punch out of the Service of Light. But adjustment is easy for people who adjust all the time. There were thirty-one baptisms. By the time I was through anointing all the little heads and chests, three-quarters of the babies were screaming. The people loved it, though, and at the conclusion of the ceremony everyone applauded and the women ululated and the choir unleashed some wonderful music. Like a speeding locomotive, we blazed into the Easter Gloria.

After Mass, Andruga and I, with many of the women, walked to the edge of the village to visit a sick woman named Lucietta. Andruga wanted me to anoint her and give her communion. The women assisted her out of her hut to a mat underneath a tree, formed a circle around her, and sang and prayed: Oliji’s cloud of witnesses. Lucietta probably weighed about eighty pounds, and in her serene and welcoming face I could detect a hint of a Parkinson’s-like tremor. She looked old but did not know her age. She remained silent throughout the ceremony, a ritual with which she was familiar, having many times before been part of the circle.

After the women finished, I knelt in front of Lucietta and anointed her hands and head, then gave her communion. I carefully took her beautiful, tremulous face in my hands, tilting her head so that she could look into my eyes, and blessed her. In such a moment, when the near-death anointed one looks at me, everything I have ever studied about sacraments of encounter becomes clear. I rested silently before an obvious and splendid truth: this touch was an encounter with the heart of God.

She asked me in Madi, “What is your name?”

I responded in Madi, “My name is Gary, Abuna Gary.”

She peered into my face, smiled, and exclaimed, “This is a Madi name!” (There is a Madi word, gaari, that means “bicycle.”) Then she slowly said, “Abuna Gaari” and laughed. I laughed. The cloud of witnesses laughed.

We left her sitting prayerfully on her mat and headed for the pickup—Andruga, those wonderful women, and me, Father Bicycle. Later, driving on the bumpy road toward Adjumani, dusk settling in, I commented to Ratib that if I was going to fight for God, all I wanted backing me up were the women of Oliji, armed with the most powerful of weapons: their prayer. Ratib, a Madi and a Muslim, nodded reflectively and said, “A good choice, Father, a good choice.”

 

 

Easter Sunday – The Resurrection of the Lord -At the Easter Vigil in the Holy Night of Easter

Reading 1 Gn 1:1—2:2

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth,
the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss,
while a mighty wind swept over the waters.

Then God said,
“Let there be light,” and there was light.
God saw how good the light was.
God then separated the light from the darkness.
God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.”
Thus evening came, and morning followed—the first day.

Then God said,
“Let there be a dome in the middle of the waters,
to separate one body of water from the other.”
And so it happened:
God made the dome,
and it separated the water above the dome from the water below it.
God called the dome “the sky.”
Evening came, and morning followed—the second day.

Then God said,
“Let the water under the sky be gathered into a single basin,
so that the dry land may appear.”
And so it happened:
the water under the sky was gathered into its basin,
and the dry land appeared.
God called the dry land “the earth, ”
and the basin of the water he called “the sea.”
God saw how good it was.
Then God said,
“Let the earth bring forth vegetation:
every kind of plant that bears seed
and every kind of fruit tree on earth
that bears fruit with its seed in it.”
And so it happened:
the earth brought forth every kind of plant that bears seed
and every kind of fruit tree on earth
that bears fruit with its seed in it.
God saw how good it was.
Evening came, and morning followed—the third day.

Then God said:
“Let there be lights in the dome of the sky,
to separate day from night.
Let them mark the fixed times, the days and the years,
and serve as luminaries in the dome of the sky,
to shed light upon the earth.”
And so it happened:
God made the two great lights,
the greater one to govern the day,
and the lesser one to govern the night;
and he made the stars.
God set them in the dome of the sky,
to shed light upon the earth,
to govern the day and the night,
and to separate the light from the darkness.
God saw how good it was.
Evening came, and morning followed—the fourth day.

Then God said,
“Let the water teem with an abundance of living creatures,
and on the earth let birds fly beneath the dome of the sky.”
And so it happened:
God created the great sea monsters
and all kinds of swimming creatures with which the water teems,
and all kinds of winged birds.
God saw how good it was, and God blessed them, saying,
“Be fertile, multiply, and fill the water of the seas;
and let the birds multiply on the earth.”
Evening came, and morning followed—the fifth day.

Then God said,
“Let the earth bring forth all kinds of living creatures:
cattle, creeping things, and wild animals of all kinds.”
And so it happened:
God made all kinds of wild animals, all kinds of cattle,
and all kinds of creeping things of the earth.
God saw how good it was.
Then God said:
“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.
Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea,
the birds of the air, and the cattle,
and over all the wild animals
and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.”
God created man in his image;
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them, saying:
“Be fertile and multiply;
fill the earth and subdue it.
Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air,
and all the living things that move on the earth.”
God also said:
“See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth
and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food;
and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air,
and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground,
I give all the green plants for food.”
And so it happened.
God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good.
Evening came, and morning followed—the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed.
Since on the seventh day God was finished
with the work he had been doing,
he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken.

or Gn 1:1, 26-31a

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth,
God said: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.
Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea,
the birds of the air, and the cattle,
and over all the wild animals
and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.”
God created man in his image;
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them, saying:
“Be fertile and multiply;
fill the earth and subdue it.
Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air,
and all the living things that move on the earth.”
God also said:
“See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth
and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food;
and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air,
and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground,
I give all the green plants for food.”
And so it happened.
God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 104:1-2, 5-6, 10, 12, 13-14, 24, 35 

R. (30) Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!
You are clothed with majesty and glory,
robed in light as with a cloak.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
You fixed the earth upon its foundation,
not to be moved forever;
with the ocean, as with a garment, you covered it;
above the mountains the waters stood.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
You send forth springs into the watercourses
that wind among the mountains.
Beside them the birds of heaven dwell;
from among the branches they send forth their song.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
You water the mountains from your palace;
the earth is replete with the fruit of your works.
You raise grass for the cattle,
and vegetation for man’s use,
Producing bread from the earth.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
How manifold are your works, O LORD!
In wisdom you have wrought them all—the earth is full of your creatures.
Bless the LORD, O my soul! Alleluia.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.

or Ps 33:4-5, 6-7, 12-13, 20 and 22

R. (5b) The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made;
by the breath of his mouth all their host.
He gathers the waters of the sea as in a flask;
in cellars he confines the deep.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
From heaven the LORD looks down;
he sees all mankind.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us
who have put our hope in you.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.

Reading 2 Gn 22:1-18

God put Abraham to the test.
He called to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am, ” he replied.
Then God said:
“Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love,
and go to the land of Moriah.
There you shall offer him up as a holocaust
on a height that I will point out to you.”
Early the next morning Abraham saddled his donkey,
took with him his son Isaac and two of his servants as well,
and with the wood that he had cut for the holocaust,
set out for the place of which God had told him.

On the third day Abraham got sight of the place from afar.
Then he said to his servants:
“Both of you stay here with the donkey,
while the boy and I go on over yonder.
We will worship and then come back to you.”
Thereupon Abraham took the wood for the holocaust
and laid it on his son Isaac’s shoulders,
while he himself carried the fire and the knife.
As the two walked on together, Isaac spoke to his father Abraham:
“Father!” Isaac said.
“Yes, son, ” he replied.
Isaac continued, “Here are the fire and the wood,
but where is the sheep for the holocaust?”
“Son,” Abraham answered,
“God himself will provide the sheep for the holocaust.”
Then the two continued going forward.

When they came to the place of which God had told him,
Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it.
Next he tied up his son Isaac,
and put him on top of the wood on the altar.
Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son.
But the LORD’s messenger called to him from heaven,
“Abraham, Abraham!”
“Here I am!” he answered.
“Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the messenger.
“Do not do the least thing to him.
I know now how devoted you are to God,
since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.”
As Abraham looked about,
he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket.
So he went and took the ram
and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son.
Abraham named the site Yahweh-yireh;
hence people now say, “On the mountain the LORD will see.”

Again the LORD’s messenger called to Abraham from heaven and said:
“I swear by myself, declares the LORD,
that because you acted as you did
in not withholding from me your beloved son,
I will bless you abundantly
and make your descendants as countless
as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore;
your descendants shall take possession
of the gates of their enemies,
and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing—
all this because you obeyed my command.”

or Gn22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18

God put Abraham to the test.
He called to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am, ” he replied.
Then God said:
“Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love,
and go to the land of Moriah.
There you shall offer him up as a holocaust
on a height that I will point out to you.”

When they came to the place of which God had told him,
Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it.
Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son.
But the LORD’s messenger called to him from heaven,
“Abraham, Abraham!”
“Here I am, ” he answered.
“Do not lay your hand on the boy, ” said the messenger.
“Do not do the least thing to him.
I know now how devoted you are to God,
since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.”
As Abraham looked about,
he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket.
So he went and took the ram
and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son.

Again the LORD’s messenger called to Abraham from heaven and said:
“I swear by myself, declares the LORD,
that because you acted as you did
in not withholding from me your beloved son,
I will bless you abundantly
and make your descendants as countless
as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore;
your descendants shall take possession
of the gates of their enemies,
and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing—
all this because you obeyed my command.”

Responsorial Psalm  Ps 16:5, 8, 9-10, 11

R. (1) You are my inheritance, O Lord.
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
my body, too, abides in confidence;
because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.

Reading 3 Ex 14:15—15:1

The LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me?
Tell the Israelites to go forward.
And you, lift up your staff and, with hand outstretched over the sea,
split the sea in two,
that the Israelites may pass through it on dry land.
But I will make the Egyptians so obstinate
that they will go in after them.
Then I will receive glory through Pharaoh and all his army,
his chariots and charioteers.
The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD,
when I receive glory through Pharaoh
and his chariots and charioteers.”

The angel of God, who had been leading Israel’s camp,
now moved and went around behind them.
The column of cloud also, leaving the front,
took up its place behind them,
so that it came between the camp of the Egyptians
and that of Israel.
But the cloud now became dark, and thus the night passed
without the rival camps coming any closer together
all night long.
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea,
and the LORD swept the sea
with a strong east wind throughout the night
and so turned it into dry land.
When the water was thus divided,
the Israelites marched into the midst of the sea on dry land,
with the water like a wall to their right and to their left.

The Egyptians followed in pursuit;
all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and charioteers went after them
right into the midst of the sea.
In the night watch just before dawn
the LORD cast through the column of the fiery cloud
upon the Egyptian force a glance that threw it into a panic;
and he so clogged their chariot wheels
that they could hardly drive.
With that the Egyptians sounded the retreat before Israel,
because the LORD was fighting for them against the Egyptians.

Then the LORD told Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea,
that the water may flow back upon the Egyptians,
upon their chariots and their charioteers.”
So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea,
and at dawn the sea flowed back to its normal depth.
The Egyptians were fleeing head on toward the sea,
when the LORD hurled them into its midst.
As the water flowed back,
it covered the chariots and the charioteers of Pharaoh’s whole army
which had followed the Israelites into the sea.
Not a single one of them escaped.
But the Israelites had marched on dry land
through the midst of the sea,
with the water like a wall to their right and to their left.
Thus the LORD saved Israel on that day
from the power of the Egyptians.
When Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the seashore
and beheld the great power that the LORD
had shown against the Egyptians,
they feared the LORD and believed in him and in his servant Moses.

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD:
I will sing to the LORD, for he is gloriously triumphant;
horse and chariot he has cast into the sea.

Responsorial Psalm Ex 15:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 17-18

R. (1b) Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.
I will sing to the LORD, for he is gloriously triumphant;
horse and chariot he has cast into the sea.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
He is my God, I praise him;
the God of my father, I extol him.
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.
The LORD is a warrior,
LORD is his name!
Pharaoh’s chariots and army he hurled into the sea;
the elite of his officers were submerged in the Red Sea.
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.
The flood waters covered them,
they sank into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O LORD, magnificent in power,
your right hand, O LORD, has shattered the enemy.
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.
You brought in the people you redeemed
and planted them on the mountain of your inheritance—
the place where you made your seat, O LORD,
the sanctuary, LORD, which your hands established.
The LORD shall reign forever and ever.
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.

Reading 4 Is 54:5-14

The One who has become your husband is your Maker;
his name is the LORD of hosts;
your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel,
called God of all the earth.
The LORD calls you back,
like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit,
a wife married in youth and then cast off,
says your God.
For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with great tenderness I will take you back.
In an outburst of wrath, for a moment
I hid my face from you;
but with enduring love I take pity on you,
says the LORD, your redeemer.
This is for me like the days of Noah,
when I swore that the waters of Noah
should never again deluge the earth;
so I have sworn not to be angry with you,
or to rebuke you.
Though the mountains leave their place
and the hills be shaken,
my love shall never leave you
nor my covenant of peace be shaken,
says the LORD, who has mercy on you.
O afflicted one, storm-battered and unconsoled,
I lay your pavements in carnelians,
and your foundations in sapphires;
I will make your battlements of rubies,
your gates of carbuncles,
and all your walls of precious stones.
All your children shall be taught by the LORD,
and great shall be the peace of your children.
In justice shall you be established,
far from the fear of oppression,
where destruction cannot come near you.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13

R. (2a) I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
I will extol you, O LORD, for you drew me clear
and did not let my enemies rejoice over me.
O LORD, you brought me up from the netherworld;
you preserved me from among those going down into the pit.
R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
Sing praise to the LORD, you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger lasts but a moment;
a lifetime, his good will.
At nightfall, weeping enters in,
but with the dawn, rejoicing.
R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
Hear, O LORD, and have pity on me;
O LORD, be my helper.
You changed my mourning into dancing;
O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.
R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.

Reading 5 Is 55:1-11

Thus says the LORD:
All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!
You who have no money,
come, receive grain and eat;
come, without paying and without cost,
drink wine and milk!
Why spend your money for what is not bread,
your wages for what fails to satisfy?
Heed me, and you shall eat well,
you shall delight in rich fare.
Come to me heedfully,
listen, that you may have life.
I will renew with you the everlasting covenant,
the benefits assured to David.
As I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander of nations,
so shall you summon a nation you knew not,
and nations that knew you not shall run to you,
because of the LORD, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, who has glorified you.

Seek the LORD while he may be found,
call him while he is near.
Let the scoundrel forsake his way,
and the wicked man his thoughts;
let him turn to the LORD for mercy;
to our God, who is generous in forgiving.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
As high as the heavens are above the earth,
so high are my ways above your ways
and my thoughts above your thoughts.

For just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
and do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
so shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
my word shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.

Responsorial Psalm  Is 12:2-3, 4, 5-6

R. (3) You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
God indeed is my savior;
I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
With joy you will draw water
at the fountain of salvation.
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name;
among the nations make known his deeds,
proclaim how exalted is his name.
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement;
let this be known throughout all the earth.
Shout with exultation, O city of Zion,
for great in your midst
is the Holy One of Israel!
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.

Reading 6 Bar 3:9-15, 32C4:4

Hear, O Israel, the commandments of life:
listen, and know prudence!
How is it, Israel,
that you are in the land of your foes,
grown old in a foreign land,
defiled with the dead,
accounted with those destined for the netherworld?
You have forsaken the fountain of wisdom!
Had you walked in the way of God,
you would have dwelt in enduring peace.
Learn where prudence is,
where strength, where understanding;
that you may know also
where are length of days, and life,
where light of the eyes, and peace.
Who has found the place of wisdom,
who has entered into her treasuries?

The One who knows all things knows her;
he has probed her by his knowledge—
The One who established the earth for all time,
and filled it with four-footed beasts;
he who dismisses the light, and it departs,
calls it, and it obeys him trembling;
before whom the stars at their posts
shine and rejoice;
when he calls them, they answer, “Here we are!”
shining with joy for their Maker.
Such is our God;
no other is to be compared to him:
He has traced out the whole way of understanding,
and has given her to Jacob, his servant,
to Israel, his beloved son.

Since then she has appeared on earth,
and moved among people.
She is the book of the precepts of God,
the law that endures forever;
all who cling to her will live,
but those will die who forsake her.
Turn, O Jacob, and receive her:
walk by her light toward splendor.
Give not your glory to another,
your privileges to an alien race.
Blessed are we, O Israel;
for what pleases God is known to us!

Responsorial Psalm  Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 11

R. (John 6:68c) Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul;
the decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.
R. Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the command of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eye.
R. Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever;
the ordinances of the LORD are true,
all of them just.
R. Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.
They are more precious than gold,
than a heap of purest gold;
sweeter also than syrup
or honey from the comb.
R. Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.

Reading 7 Ez 36:16-17a, 18-28

The word of the LORD came to me, saying:
Son of man, when the house of Israel lived in their land,
they defiled it by their conduct and deeds.
Therefore I poured out my fury upon them
because of the blood that they poured out on the ground,
and because they defiled it with idols.
I scattered them among the nations,
dispersing them over foreign lands;
according to their conduct and deeds I judged them.
But when they came among the nations wherever they came,
they served to profane my holy name,
because it was said of them: “These are the people of the LORD,
yet they had to leave their land.”
So I have relented because of my holy name
which the house of Israel profaned
among the nations where they came.
Therefore say to the house of Israel: Thus says the Lord GOD:
Not for your sakes do I act, house of Israel,
but for the sake of my holy name,
which you profaned among the nations to which you came.
I will prove the holiness of my great name, profaned among the nations,
in whose midst you have profaned it.
Thus the nations shall know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD,
when in their sight I prove my holiness through you.
For I will take you away from among the nations,
gather you from all the foreign lands,
and bring you back to your own land.
I will sprinkle clean water upon you
to cleanse you from all your impurities,
and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you,
taking from your bodies your stony hearts
and giving you natural hearts.
I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes,
careful to observe my decrees.
You shall live in the land I gave your fathers;
you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

Responsorial Psalm – When baptism is celebrated. Ps 42:3, 5; 43:3, 4

R. (42:2) Like a deer that longs for running streams, my soul longs for you, my God.
Athirst is my soul for God, the living God.
When shall I go and behold the face of God?
R. Like a deer that longs for running streams, my soul longs for you, my God.
I went with the throng
and led them in procession to the house of God,
Amid loud cries of joy and thanksgiving,
with the multitude keeping festival.
R. Like a deer that longs for running streams, my soul longs for you, my God.
Send forth your light and your fidelity;
they shall lead me on
And bring me to your holy mountain,
to your dwelling-place.
R. Like a deer that longs for running streams, my soul longs for you, my God.
Then will I go in to the altar of God,
the God of my gladness and joy;
then will I give you thanks upon the harp,
O God, my God!
R. Like a deer that longs for running streams, my soul longs for you, my God.
 

When baptism is not celebrated. Is 12:2-3, 4bcd, 5-6

R. (3) You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
God indeed is my savior;
I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
With joy you will draw water
at the fountain of salvation.
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name;
among the nations make known his deeds,
proclaim how exalted is his name.
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement;
let this be known throughout all the earth.
Shout with exultation, O city of Zion,
for great in your midst
is the Holy One of Israel!
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.

When baptism is not celebrated Ps 51:12-13, 14-15, 18-19

R. (12a) Create a clean heart in me, O God.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
R. Create a clean heart in me, O God.
Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners shall return to you.
R. Create a clean heart in me, O God.
For you are not pleased with sacrifices;
should I offer a holocaust, you would not accept it.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
R. Create a clean heart in me, O God.

Epistle Rom 6:3-11

Brothers and sisters:
Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death?
We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death,
so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father,
we too might live in newness of life.

For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his,
we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.
We know that our old self was crucified with him,
so that our sinful body might be done away with,
that we might no longer be in slavery to sin.
For a dead person has been absolved from sin.
If, then, we have died with Christ,
we believe that we shall also live with him.
We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more;
death no longer has power over him.
As to his death, he died to sin once and for all;
as to his life, he lives for God.
Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin
and living for God in Christ Jesus.

Responsorial Psalm  Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23

R. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
R. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
The right hand of the LORD has struck with power;
the right hand of the LORD is exalted.
I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the LORD.
R. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.
R. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mk 16:1-7

When the sabbath was over,
Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome
bought spices so that they might go and anoint him.
Very early when the sun had risen,
on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb.
They were saying to one another,
“Who will roll back the stone for us
from the entrance to the tomb?”
When they looked up,
they saw that the stone had been rolled back;
it was very large.
On entering the tomb they saw a young man
sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe,
and they were utterly amazed.
He said to them, “Do not be amazed!
You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.
He has been raised; he is not here.
Behold the place where they laid him.
But go and tell his disciples and Peter,
‘He is going before you to Galilee;
there you will see him, as he told you.'”

– – –
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 52:13—53:12

See, my servant shall prosper,
he shall be raised high and greatly exalted.
Even as many were amazed at himC
so marred was his look beyond human semblance
and his appearance beyond that of the sons of manC
so shall he startle many nations,
because of him kings shall stand speechless;
for those who have not been told shall see,
those who have not heard shall ponder it.

Who would believe what we have heard?
To whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
He grew up like a sapling before him,
like a shoot from the parched earth;
there was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him,
nor appearance that would attract us to him.
He was spurned and avoided by people,
a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity,
one of those from whom people hide their faces,
spurned, and we held him in no esteem.

Yet it was our infirmities that he bore,
our sufferings that he endured,
while we thought of him as stricken,
as one smitten by God and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our offenses,
crushed for our sins;
upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole,
by his stripes we were healed.
We had all gone astray like sheep,
each following his own way;
but the LORD laid upon him
the guilt of us all.

Though he was harshly treated, he submitted
and opened not his mouth;
like a lamb led to the slaughter
or a sheep before the shearers,
he was silent and opened not his mouth.
Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away,
and who would have thought any more of his destiny?
When he was cut off from the land of the living,
and smitten for the sin of his people,
a grave was assigned him among the wicked
and a burial place with evildoers,
though he had done no wrong
nor spoken any falsehood.
But the LORD was pleased
to crush him in infirmity.

If he gives his life as an offering for sin,
he shall see his descendants in a long life,
and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him.

Because of his affliction
he shall see the light in fullness of days;
through his suffering, my servant shall justify many,
and their guilt he shall bear.
Therefore I will give him his portion among the great,
and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty,
because he surrendered himself to death
and was counted among the wicked;
and he shall take away the sins of many,
and win pardon for their offenses.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25

R. (Lk 23:46) Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.
In you, O LORD, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me.
Into your hands I commend my spirit;
you will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God.
R. Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.
For all my foes I am an object of reproach,
a laughingstock to my neighbors, and a dread to my friends;
they who see me abroad flee from me.
I am forgotten like the unremembered dead;
I am like a dish that is broken.
R. Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.
But my trust is in you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.
In your hands is my destiny; rescue me
from the clutches of my enemies and my persecutors.”
R. Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.
Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your kindness.
Take courage and be stouthearted,
all you who hope in the LORD.
R. Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.

Reading 2 Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9

Brothers and sisters:
Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens,
Jesus, the Son of God,
let us hold fast to our confession.
For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
but one who has similarly been tested in every way,
yet without sin.
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace
to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.

In the days when Christ was in the flesh,
he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears
to the one who was able to save him from death,
and he was heard because of his reverence.
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered;
and when he was made perfect,
he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

Verse Before the Gospel Phil 2:8-9

Christ became obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name which is above every other name.

Gospel Jn 18:1—19:42

Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley
to where there was a garden,
into which he and his disciples entered.
Judas his betrayer also knew the place,
because Jesus had often met there with his disciples.
So Judas got a band of soldiers and guards
from the chief priests and the Pharisees
and went there with lanterns, torches, and weapons.
Jesus, knowing everything that was going to happen to him,
went out and said to them, “Whom are you looking for?”
They answered him, “Jesus the Nazorean.”
He said to them, “I AM.”
Judas his betrayer was also with them.
When he said to them, “I AM, “
they turned away and fell to the ground.
So he again asked them,
“Whom are you looking for?”
They said, “Jesus the Nazorean.”
Jesus answered,
“I told you that I AM.
So if you are looking for me, let these men go.”
This was to fulfill what he had said,
“I have not lost any of those you gave me.”
Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it,
struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear.
The slave’s name was Malchus.
Jesus said to Peter,
“Put your sword into its scabbard.
Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?”

So the band of soldiers, the tribune, and the Jewish guards seized Jesus,
bound him, and brought him to Annas first.
He was the father-in-law of Caiaphas,
who was high priest that year.
It was Caiaphas who had counseled the Jews
that it was better that one man should die rather than the people.

Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus.
Now the other disciple was known to the high priest,
and he entered the courtyard of the high priest with Jesus.
But Peter stood at the gate outside.
So the other disciple, the acquaintance of the high priest,
went out and spoke to the gatekeeper and brought Peter in.
Then the maid who was the gatekeeper said to Peter,
“You are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?”
He said, “I am not.”
Now the slaves and the guards were standing around a charcoal fire
that they had made, because it was cold,
and were warming themselves.
Peter was also standing there keeping warm.

The high priest questioned Jesus
about his disciples and about his doctrine.
Jesus answered him,
“I have spoken publicly to the world.
I have always taught in a synagogue
or in the temple area where all the Jews gather,
and in secret I have said nothing. Why ask me?
Ask those who heard me what I said to them.
They know what I said.”
When he had said this,
one of the temple guards standing there struck Jesus and said,
“Is this the way you answer the high priest?”
Jesus answered him,
“If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong;
but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?”
Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Now Simon Peter was standing there keeping warm.
And they said to him,
“You are not one of his disciples, are you?”
He denied it and said,
“I am not.”
One of the slaves of the high priest,
a relative of the one whose ear Peter had cut off, said,
“Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?”
Again Peter denied it.
And immediately the cock crowed.

Then they brought Jesus from Caiaphas to the praetorium.
It was morning.
And they themselves did not enter the praetorium,
in order not to be defiled so that they could eat the Passover.
So Pilate came out to them and said,
“What charge do you bring against this man?”
They answered and said to him,
“If he were not a criminal,
we would not have handed him over to you.”
At this, Pilate said to them,
“Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law.”
The Jews answered him,
“We do not have the right to execute anyone, “
in order that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled
that he said indicating the kind of death he would die.
So Pilate went back into the praetorium
and summoned Jesus and said to him,
“Are you the King of the Jews?”
Jesus answered,
“Do you say this on your own
or have others told you about me?”
Pilate answered,
“I am not a Jew, am I?
Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me.
What have you done?”
Jesus answered,
“My kingdom does not belong to this world.
If my kingdom did belong to this world,
my attendants would be fighting
to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.
But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”
So Pilate said to him,
“Then you are a king?”
Jesus answered,
“You say I am a king.
For this I was born and for this I came into the world,
to testify to the truth.
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

When he had said this,
he again went out to the Jews and said to them,
“I find no guilt in him.
But you have a custom that I release one prisoner to you at Passover.
Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?”
They cried out again,
“Not this one but Barabbas!”
Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged.
And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head,
and clothed him in a purple cloak,
and they came to him and said,
“Hail, King of the Jews!”
And they struck him repeatedly.
Once more Pilate went out and said to them,
“Look, I am bringing him out to you,
so that you may know that I find no guilt in him.”
So Jesus came out,
wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak.
And he said to them, “Behold, the man!”
When the chief priests and the guards saw him they cried out,
“Crucify him, crucify him!”
Pilate said to them,
“Take him yourselves and crucify him.
I find no guilt in him.”
The Jews answered,
“We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die,
because he made himself the Son of God.”
Now when Pilate heard this statement,
he became even more afraid,
and went back into the praetorium and said to Jesus,
“Where are you from?”
Jesus did not answer him.
So Pilate said to him,
“Do you not speak to me?
Do you not know that I have power to release you
and I have power to crucify you?”
Jesus answered him,
“You would have no power over me
if it had not been given to you from above.
For this reason the one who handed me over to you
has the greater sin.”
Consequently, Pilate tried to release him; but the Jews cried out,
“If you release him, you are not a Friend of Caesar.
Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”

When Pilate heard these words he brought Jesus out
and seated him on the judge’s bench
in the place called Stone Pavement, in Hebrew, Gabbatha.
It was preparation day for Passover, and it was about noon.
And he said to the Jews,
“Behold, your king!”
They cried out,
“Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!”
Pilate said to them,
“Shall I crucify your king?”
The chief priests answered,
“We have no king but Caesar.”
Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

So they took Jesus, and, carrying the cross himself,
he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull,
in Hebrew, Golgotha.
There they crucified him, and with him two others,
one on either side, with Jesus in the middle.
Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross.
It read,
“Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.”
Now many of the Jews read this inscription,
because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city;
and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.
So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate,
“Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’
but that he said, ‘I am the King of the Jews’.”
Pilate answered,
“What I have written, I have written.”

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus,
they took his clothes and divided them into four shares,
a share for each soldier.
They also took his tunic, but the tunic was seamless,
woven in one piece from the top down.
So they said to one another,
“Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be, “
in order that the passage of Scripture might be fulfilled that says:
They divided my garments among them,
and for my vesture they cast lots.
This is what the soldiers did.
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother
and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary of Magdala.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved
he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.”
Then he said to the disciple,
“Behold, your mother.”
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

After this, aware that everything was now finished,
in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled,
Jesus said, “I thirst.”
There was a vessel filled with common wine.
So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop
and put it up to his mouth.
When Jesus had taken the wine, he said,
“It is finished.”
And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.

Here all kneel and pause for a short time.

Now since it was preparation day,
in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath,
for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one,
the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken
and that they be taken down.
So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first
and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus.
But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead,
they did not break his legs,
but one soldier thrust his lance into his side,
and immediately blood and water flowed out.
An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true;
he knows that he is speaking the truth,
so that you also may come to believe.
For this happened so that the Scripture passage might be fulfilled:
Not a bone of it will be broken.
And again another passage says:
They will look upon him whom they have pierced.

After this, Joseph of Arimathea,
secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews,
asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus.
And Pilate permitted it.
So he came and took his body.
Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night,
also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes
weighing about one hundred pounds.
They took the body of Jesus
and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices,
according to the Jewish burial custom.
Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden,
and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried.
So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day;
for the tomb was close by.

– – –
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.

 

 

bible reading

 

Easter is a time when we commemorate the death of Jesus and celebrate His resurrection. It is also a time when we reflect on what it means to be a Christian. We do this by looking closely at Jesus’ journey leading up to the cross. Most of the traditional Easter stories and pageants celebrated in churches remember the male disciples and their supporting roles. We think of the all-male Last Supper, Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial and the thieves’ redemption. We often don’t hear about or even think about the women that played a role in Jesus’ life and the events surrounding His death and resurrection too. Unfortunately, too often women’s stories have taken second place to the interests and needs of male biblical writers and male leaders in Christian churches over the centuries. But their stories are just as important. These three women were named Mary and played a significant role in the Easter story.

Mary of Bethany

Mary of Bethany is one of the most beautiful characters in all of Scripture, preparing the way for the Lord’s burial. Mary was the sister of Martha, and her brother was Lazarus from whom Jesus raised from the dead. We see Mary three different times in the Bible, beginning with the incident in her home of her sister, Martha referenced in Luke 10:38-42, where Jesus, and presumably the disciples who traveled with Him, were being entertained. This is probably her most recognized feature. Martha was so distressed, distracted with serving and frustrated that her sister wasn’t helping that she actually rebuked Jesus, accusing Him of not caring that Mary sat at His feet while she did all the work. Jesus’ response gives us our first insight into Mary of Bethany. Jesus commended her for “choosing the better,” meaning that Mary’s desire to be near her Lord and hang onto His every word was far more beneficial than running herself ragged with preparations for a meal. Jesus further said that choosing the better thing, learning of the Lord, would not be taken away from Mary. Her priority in life was Christ, the knowledge of Him, and the nearness to Him has chosen what will last through eternity.

We also see Mary of Bethany just days before Christ’s crucifixion, referenced in Matthew 26:1-6, Mark 14:3-9 and John 12:1-8. A meal had been prepared at the home of Simon the leper, probably a leper who had been healed by Jesus and had become one of His followers. Martha was again serving while the resurrected Lazarus reclined at the table with Jesus and the disciples. At some point, Mary broke open an alabaster jar, poured a pint of very expensive perfume on Jesus’ head and feet, and wiped them with her hair. In spite of criticism from the disciples about the wasting of the costly perfume, Mary said nothing. Just as the first incident, Mary allowed Jesus to defend her, which He does, saying that she has kept this perfume for His burial and has done a beautiful act of service to Him which would be memorialized through the ages. We can learn valuable lessons from studying her connection to Jesus in those key moments.

Mary, Mother of Jesus

Jesus’ mother, Mary of Nazareth, remained by Jesus’ side from His first breath to His last, her loyalty unwavering. As is true with Jesus, we know nothing of Mary’s physical appearance or demeanor. But the historical sources give us a rather detailed picture of Mary’s character. Mary seems on the surface to be an ordinary Jewish woman whose life was indistinguishable from many others. She cooked, sewed and cleaned. She prayed, conversed and served the needs of her family. Yet, what we see in her biblical stories of Jesus’ birth shows that Mary’s life was extraordinary. This didn’t lie in herself; it was a divine gift. By the free choice of God the Father, she was predestined to be the mother of the Redeemer. By His mercy, God filled her soul with His grace and His presence.

There are indications throughout the Bible that show that Mary, as a mother, was interested in what her son was doing. At the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, she was among the group of disciples who followed Him. What was she thinking as she watched her son die in such an excruciating manner? Did she remember Simeon’s prediction just after Jesus’ birth? Simeon said, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed – and a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:34-35). As Jesus hung on the cross, His hands and feet pierced, her soul was being pierced by the sword of grief. His words meant that God knew Jesus would be crucified and had a plan to use Jesus’ suffering. Even though she didn’t completely understand His call, she remained by His side because of her unconditional love for Him.

Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene was the most important woman disciple in the movement of Jesus and continues to be one of the most mysterious and controversial figures in religious history. Many popular depictions of Mary Magdalene don’t do her story justice or speak her truth as a true disciple of Christ. When Mary and the other women, along with the twelve joined Jesus, they were taking a serious risk. Jesus was spurred into action after the arrest of John the Baptist. Much of John the Baptist’s ministry took place on the east bank of the Jordan in Herod’s territory of Parea. When John was imprisoned, Jesus took up his ministry in Herod’s territory of Galilee which was viewed by Herod, not only as a challenge but also a threat. Despite the risk, Mary Magdalene was committed to Jesus’ ministry. Mary Magdalene, delivered of seven demons, bravely supported her Teacher through His darkest hours during the resurrection, then proclaimed His glorious resurrection. She was committed to Jesus and His mission, no matter the costs.

This Easter, remember these three biblical women who had very close encounters with Jesus. Their intimate encounters with Jesus will deepen your faith in God who so loved the world that He gave His only Son.

 

 

Your Daily Prayer Devotional Banner

A Prayer for When the World Makes You Anxious
By Kelly Balarie

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. (Phil 4:8)

I watch the evening news. And, I’m convinced they shouldn’t no longer call it evening news, friends, they should call it: The Anxiety Hour. Do you watch it too? Do you feel it crawl all over you?

You see the tears. You see the evil. You see the injustice. You see the pain. You see the prognosis. You see no answers. You feel helpless.

If you could do something to change anything, you would. But, you feel small, unable. You assure yourself, even your loudest call would ring hallow and uncared for, in this echo-chamber called the world.

There is an undercurrent of fear. The tensions under the surface of forced calmness are like riptides. They are rising. We all see them. We want to turn away. Pretend. Run. Hide. Shiver. Shake.

Yet, is this what Jesus called us to? Self-preservation and dread? Worry and anxiety?

Might we consider: The news is not evil, but how our heart distrusts God easily could be?

If we fill our mind with the grim, we can hardly keep our mind set on Him. We can’t see if we are blinded by the anger that boils over in our heart. We get distracted and what emerges doesn’t look like love. It doesn’t look like Jesus.

And what hits me is this: Jesus never called us hone in on what’s wrong with everything, he called us to remember God is in control – of everything. This is peace. 

Dear God, I am prone to worry. I let the happenings of the world, the elections and the economy sit heavy on me. I need to find your peace. I invite you to restructure my thinking. May my hope be you. May my peace be you. May you help love flow out from me. Give me clarity. May I change what I am able to change and release what I can’t. May I know that the greatest joy is staying where you are. God, thank you that you have the whole world in your hands. I need not fear because you are the best manager, orchestrator and caretaker. You made it all. I believe in your plan. Amen.

 

 

On Saturday
by Max Lucado

John didn’t know on that Friday what you and I now know. He didn’t know that Friday’s tragedy would be Sunday’s triumph. John would later confess that he “did not yet understand from the Scriptures that Jesus must rise from the dead” (John 20:9).

That’s why what he did on Saturday is so important.

We don’t know anything about this day; we have no passage to read, no knowledge to share. All we know is this: When Sunday came, John was still present. When Mary Magdalene came looking for him, she found him.

Jesus was dead. The Master’s body was lifeless. John’s friend and future were buried. But John had not left. Why? Was he waiting for the resurrection? No. As far as he knew, the lips were forever silent and the hands forever still. He wasn’t expecting a Sunday surprise. Then why was he here?

You’d think he would have left. Who was to say that the men who crucified Christ wouldn’t come after him? The crowds were pleased with one crucifixion; the religious leaders might have called for more. Why didn’t John get out of town?

Perhaps the answer was pragmatic; perhaps he was taking care of Jesus’ mother. Or perhaps he didn’t have anywhere else to go. Could be he didn’t have any money or energy or direction … or all of the above.

Or maybe he lingered because he loved Jesus.

To others, Jesus was a miracle worker. To others, Jesus was a master teacher. To others, Jesus was the hope of Israel. But to John, he was all of these and more. To John, Jesus was a friend.

You don’t abandon a friend—not even when that friend is dead. John stayed close to Jesus.

He had a habit of doing this. He was close to Jesus in the upper room. He was close to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was at the foot of the cross at the crucifixion, and he was a quick walk from the tomb at the burial.

Did he understand Jesus? No.

Was he glad Jesus did what he did? No.

But did he leave Jesus? No.

What about you? When you’re in John’s position, what do you do? When it’s Saturday in your life, how do you react? When you are somewhere between yesterday’s tragedy and tomorrow’s triumph, what do you do? Do you leave God—or do you linger near him?

John chose to linger. And because he lingered on Saturday, he was around on Sunday to see the miracle.

From He Chose the Nails
Copyright (W Publishing Group, 2001) Max Lucado

 

 

Crosswalk the Devotional

Easter: All That Matters vs. All I Live For
by Shawn McEvoy, Crosswalk.com Editorial Director

He has risen, just as He said.
Matthew 28:6, NIV

What would I ever do if someone I knew came back from the dead? Especially if he had said he would, and if he had spent a couple nights in a grave already?

Seriously, what would I do? What would you do? Wouldn’t I blab to everyone I know – and most people I don’t – about this miraculous event? Heck, I tell everyone when I’m feeling under the weather or when I saw a good movie.

Then factor in that the same guy was now telling us that because of what he had done, none of the rest of us would ever have to suffer death. What’s more, simply by believing what we had seen, no matter our background, history, race, or education, we could restore our long-lost connection with the Almighty, and live forever.

Man… unfortunately, I’m having a hard time conceiving what I would do. Or, even if I can conceive it, I can’t quite believe it, because honestly, I have seen this, I do believe this, and yet my daily reaction to it doesn’t exactly line up with The Acts of the Apostles.

Has the news of a resurrected savior really become passe?

Why don’t I want to read Acts?

What am I afraid of?

That I’ll be rejected?

(He who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit (1 Thess. 4:8)).

That I won’t be powerful enough?

(God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline (2 Tim. 1:7)).

That the good news isn’t relevant enough?

Salvation and the message of the resurrection, the miracle of born again-ness, is a salve to all wounds.

This Easter I’ll join choruses like “He’s Alive” while pondering and praising the miracle, but when it comes time for the next day of my life to begin, a day and a life that means nothing if not lived for my Savior, it’ll be all about me again and my troubles and making my way and who cut me off and what I have to get done and who I don’t like and what can we complain about today.

Yuck.

I want this Easter to be real. Because I did see it happen (so to speak; the resulting spread of those who ran to the corners of the earth to tell the story with no regard for personal safety is traceable to this day), it is real, and I’m cheating life and people God loves if I’m not shouting those facts from every corner and rooftop I can find. Everything else is just window dressing; “Christian living” is often just how we pass all our extra time in this country where so many of our basic needs are so easily met, and where we can cordon ourselves off from each other. What matters in life?

That there is life, and…
how it came about that there might never be death, but…
there are still dead men walking.
Really, why else are we here if not to keep excitedly shouting the truth of the miracle as if we’d just experienced it with our own eyes yesterday?

Intersecting Faith & Life: For the longest time, I’ve felt a leading in my heart to launch out into a complete study of the book of Acts, something I’ve never fully done. For some reason, I continue to put it off. But in my quest this year to make Easter real, I’m beginning a study of what those who witnessed the resurrection couldn’t keep themselves from going out and doing. Care to join me?

Further Reading
Acts 1:1

 

 

The Grandness of God

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” – Revelation 1:8
Recently a team of astronomers announced they have conclusive proof that a powerful black hole is 50 million light years away. Since the early 1900’s Albert Einstein predicted there were black holes as a part of his theory of relativity. At first black holes were only a theory and based on math formulas. For many years as¬tronomers have been trying to prove the existence of these black holes in space. Now with the help of the Hubble Space Telescope, scientists can prove the existence of these black holes.
Fifty million light years. As I thought about that distance, it was more than my mind could imagine. We usually talk about size with words like big, large, extra large, and huge. A black hole is bigger than big . . . it defies our comprehension.
This science news also gave me a new appreciation for how big and how grand God is. The opening line of the Bible says “God created the heavens and the earth”. Yet despite the grandness of the heavens, God cares about the intimate details of my life. In the New Testament book of Matthew, Jesus says that God knows when a sparrow falls to the ground and that even the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
I challenge you today to consider how big the world is, but also realize that we can have an intimate relationship with the God who created it.
“People see God every day, they just don’t recognize him.” -Pearl Baily (1918-1988)
Devotionals Daily: A Year with Jesus

From A Charles Dickens Devotional

Childhood Innocence

“You must be tired, sir,” said he as he placed a chair near the fire, “how can I thank you?”

“By taking more care of your grandchild . . . , my good friend,” I replied.

“More care!” said the old man in a shrill voice, “more care of Nelly! . . .”

He said this with such evident surprise that I was perplexed what answer to make . . . “I don’t think you consider—” I began.

“I don’t consider!” cried the old man interrupting me, “I don’t consider her! Ah, how little you know of the truth!” . . .

While we were sitting thus, . . . the door of the closet opened, and the child returned, . . . She busied herself immediately in preparing supper, and . . . I was surprised to see that . . . everything was done by the child, and that there appeared to be no other persons but ourselves in the house. I took advantage of a moment when she was absent to venture a hint on this point, to which the old man replied that there were few grown persons as trustworthy or as careful as she.

“It always grieves me,” I observed, . . . “to contemplate the initiation of children into the ways of life, when they are scarcely more than infants. It checks their confidence and simplicity—two of the best qualities that Heaven gives them—and demands that they share our sorrows before they are capable of entering into our enjoyments.”

From The Old Curiosity Shop

Little Nell, a child not yet fourteen years of age, was forced to grow up too soon while caring for her grandfather, the owner of the Old Curiosity Shop. Not only did she care for the old man day and night, but Nell was forced to live with him as a pauper in the streets of London after a bad debt cost the grandfather his shop. Nell’s story is a sad one and a prime example of Victorian sentimentality in the literature of Dickens’s time.

When we read what Dickens says about a child’s confidence and simplicity being taken away too soon, we might be reminded of what Jesus said in Matthew 18:3–4: “Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus recognized the pure simplicity and innocence of a child’s faith, untarnished by the issues of adulthood. He warned us against allowing our straightforward faith in God to be commandeered by the world. Has your faith been compromised by worldly demands, or is it rooted in childlike humility? Remember, it is always possible for you to approach God with the unwavering faith of a child.

“I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”– Luke 10:21 NIV

 

 

 

What Jesus Did! ‘You Gotta Be Kiddin’ Me’

But this miracle happened on the Sabbath, so the Jewish leaders objected. They said to the man who was cured, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!” But he replied, “The man who healed me told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.'” “Who said such a thing as that?” they demanded. The man didn’t know, for Jesus had disappeared into the crowd.

— John 5:9b-13 NLT

Key Thought

You don’t know who healed you? You’ve been trying to get into the pool all these years and now that you are healed, you don’t know the name of the person who did it? Didn’t you ask? Was it irrelevant to you? Even more, you want to blame him for your actions on the Sabbath? Come on, that’s not the way other folks acted when Jesus healed them. Yes, Jesus did slip away in the crowd, but how did this man let that happen without finding out who he was? Here is a man who doesn’t want to take responsibility or go out on a limb for anyone or anything. Here is a man with potentially a far greater testimony than the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) but instead of sharing his story with others, he’s still trying to dodge responsibility. “It’s not my fault … I don’t know …” And when he does finally learn the name of his healer, instead of saying “Thank you!” he turns him in to the authorities, as we will see in the next verses. How sad! Which brings to mind a crucial question for us: Who or what am I in this “Jesus thing” for? Myself and what I want, or my Lord and what he wills?

Today’s Prayer

Cleanse my heart, O God, and teach me to love what you love and despise what you despise. Give me a heart to tell your story of grace in my life so others can know that Jesus is the one who has healed me through and through. I pray in his mighty name. Amen.


The phraseology of the first sentence of this prayer was inspired by the song, “The Things God Loves” by Wayne Watson. Here is a verse from that song:

I’ll be a friend to You
Move as the Spirit moves
Dance unrestrained with joy
Or welcome crying eyes

Bless as I have been blessed
Hunger for righteousness
Love all the things You love
And hate what You despise

Related Scripture Readings

 

Passion for Praise: ‘How Good!’

Illustration of Psalm 147:1 — Praise the LORD! How good to sing praises to our God! How delightful and how fitting!

 

 

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Chase Away Sinful Thoughts

Then Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it for herself on the rock, from the beginning of harvest until rain fell upon them from the heavens. And she did not allow the birds of the air to come upon them by day, or the beasts of the field by night. 2 Samuel 21:10

If the love of a woman to her slain sons could make her prolong her mournful vigil for so long a period, shall we grow tired of considering the sufferings of our blessed Lord? She drove away the birds of prey, and shall not we chase from our meditations those worldly and sinful thoughts that defile both our minds and the sacred themes upon which we are occupied?

Be gone, you birds of evil wing! Leave the sacrifice alone! She bore the heat of summer, the night dews and the rains, unsheltered and alone. Sleep was chased from her weeping eyes: her heart was too full for slumber. Consider how she loved her children! Shall Rizpah endure while we quit at the first little inconvenience or trial? Are we such cowards that we cannot bear to suffer with our Lord? She chased away even the wild beasts with unusual courage, and will we not be ready to encounter every foe for Jesus’ sake? Her children were slain by other hands than hers, and yet she wept and watched.

What ought we to do who have by our sins crucified our Lord? Our obligations are boundless; our love should be fervent and our repentance thorough. To watch with Jesus should be our business, to protect His honor our occupation, to abide by His cross our solace. Those ghastly corpses might well have frightened Rizpah, especially by night, but in our Lord, at whose cross we are sitting, there is nothing revolting but everything attractive. Never was living beauty so enchanting as a dying Savior.

Jesus, we will watch with You still, and may You graciously unveil Yourself to us; then shall we not sit beneath sackcloth but in a royal pavilion.

 

 

Verse of the Day

for Saturday, March 31, 2018

Inspirational illustration of Isaiah 53:5-6

Thoughts on Today’s Verse…

I don’t know how Jesus could stand up under its weight. He had my sin, your sin, our sin. He allowed it to be placed upon him so that we would not have to bear the consequences of it all. But in that sacrifice, as horrible as it was, we find ourselves healed — cured of the most awful disease a person can have, a sin-sick soul. He was pierced, crushed, and punished for our sins. In their place, he has left us his transforming peace and a place to belong.

My Prayer…

God of peace, fill my soul with the wonder of your grace. Let me not forget the cost of your love. Stir in me the constant and abiding memory of your redemptive grace. Thank you. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

 

 

 

Prophetic Insight newsletter

Prophecy: It’s Showtime!

In the spirit, I saw on giant marquees in front of theaters, hotels and many buildings throughout the world, the words, “It’s Showtime!” The Lord was announcing to Planet Earth that He was coming to show up in a sovereign way to heal, deliver and manifest His glory.

It was a kairos time to show and tell cities and nations what He had to offer. Just when we thought every light on Earth had gone out and the stars had fallen from their sockets, His light was returning to the world, expelling darkness.

I was amazed as I saw Him overruling people’s belief systems and revealing Himself to them. He was touching atheists who didn’t believe in Him, but He believed in them. Witches, those who follow the occult, Hollywood stars and many of His own people who through great trials, afflictions and hope deferred had turned away from Him were still being pursued by Him.

It was a day of His appearing once again as He was making public appearances throughout the world by visions and dreams to individuals, including world leaders and mass gatherings. To many, He was the uninvited guest who had invited Himself.

Bill Yount has been a member of Bridge of Life in Hagerstown, Maryland, where he is now an elder, and a home missionary for the past 40 years. He faithfully served in prison ministry at Mount Hope Inc. for 23 years and now travels full-time, ministering in churches and Aglow circles. He is currently an adviser at large for Aglow International. Bill has authored several prophetic books. His latest book is: The Power of Real / Transparent Prophetic Encouragement. His prophetic email list is:billyountweekly.com. Visit Bill’s website at billyount.com.

 

 

Image result for Blessings on Holy Saturday

 

Stay blessed!!!

 

 

 

 

Broken…

Pray Time1

TODAY’S DAILY PRAYER

green leaves with red berriesWhen the Lord brought us back to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! How we laughed, how we sang for joy! Then the other nations said about us, “The Lord did great things for them.” Indeed he did great things for us; how happy we were! Psalm 126:1–3, TEV

Dear Father in heaven, we hope in you and in your promise, which we hold in our hearts as our most precious possession. Protect us when times grow hard. May your Spirit come. May your Spirit constantly reveal your Word and give your promise to the hearts of many so that they may share in the hope, the faith, and the struggle for the great day. On that day we will be allowed to rejoice, exulting with all people because your salvation comes for the whole world. Amen.

 

 

Verse of the Day

Inspirational illustration of Psalm 80:19

Thoughts on Today’s Verse…

In the days of Jesus’ birth, there was a group of devout and lowly people who still looked for God’s redemption. They knew that salvation could not, and would not, come without great cost — not just to themselves, but also to God. Isaiah had hinted about this in his Servant Songs (see Isaiah 53). They had experienced in their own history. So with honest hearts, they confessed that they didn’t have the power to bring salvation and deliverance. This power had to come from God and had to be released to people who were seeking God’s transformation in their lives. They needed to ask God for it! They needed to seek his face, his presence, in their daily lives. So must we!

My Prayer…

O LORD, God of heaven and earth, Ruler of all creation, I praise you. I praise you for your power and glory. I praise you for your wisdom and creativity. I praise you for your mercy and righteousness. I praise you, because you alone are worthy of my praise. O LORD, you alone can bring me full salvation. Please, shine your face upon me. Please, make your presence known in my life. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

 

 

BIBLE STUDY BUDDY 

Image result for John 1:1-14.

Read John 1:1-14.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2. He was with God in the beginning. 3. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

6. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

9. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God- 13. children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary
John 1:14

John the Baptist came to bear witness concerning Jesus. Nothing more fully shows the darkness of men’s minds, than that when the Light had appeared, there needed a witness to call attention to it. Christ was the true Light; that great Light which deserves to be called so. By his Spirit and grace he enlightens all that are enlightened to salvation; and those that are not enlightened by him, perish in darkness. Christ was in the world when he took our nature upon him, and dwelt among us. The Son of the Highest was here in this lower world. He was in the world, but not of it. He came to save a lost world, because it was a world of his own making. Yet the world knew him not. When he comes as a Judge, the world shall know him. Many say that they are Christ’s own, yet do not receive him, because they will not part with their sins, nor have him to reign over them. All the children of God are born again. This new birth is through the word of God as the means, 1Pe 1:23, and by the Spirit of God as the Author. By his Divine presence Christ always was in the world. But now that the fulness of time was come, he was, after another manner, God manifested in the flesh. But observe the beams of his Divine glory, which darted through this veil of flesh. Men discover their weaknesses to those most familiar with them, but it was not so with Christ; those most intimate with him saw most of his glory. Although he was in the form of a servant, as to outward circumstances, yet, in respect of graces, his form was like the Son of God His Divine glory appeared in the holiness of his doctrine, and in his miracles. He was full of grace, fully acceptable to his Father, therefore qualified to plead for us; and full of truth, fully aware of the things he was to reveal.

They Wouldn’t Let Him In….

It’s been over 60 years since I read the poem The Death of the Hired Man. I still recall these lines: ”Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

Those words are deeply etched in my memory, I believe, because my parents and brothers expressed that kind of love for me. I knew that my own family would warmly receive me whenever I came home.

In sharp contrast to my experience, Jesus ”came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (Jn. 1:11). He was rejected by the ones who should have accepted Him.

He was the one who created them (Jn. 1:3), yet He gave up heaven’s glory to be born a human being. He came to His own people to be their Savior and King. He reached out to them and gave them every reason to love Him. But they turned Him away and crucified Him.

That was not the end, however. Even Jesus’ death on the cross was an expression of His love. He died to pay the penalty for our sin, and His resurrection guarantees that all who believe in Him will be victorious over death and enjoy eternity in His presence.

Jesus is still reaching out and seeking those who will accept Him into their hearts. Have you let Him in?

-Herbert Vander Lugt

 

December 19

Last Words from a Mentor to His Protege

2 Timothy 3Psalms 144:1-4Proverbs 28:13

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.

But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra-what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica-Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. And Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come-and the books, especially the parchments.

Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words.

At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them.

But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!
2 Timothy 3:1-4:18

WORSHIP

Blessed be the LORD my Rock,
Who trains my hands for war,
And my fingers for battle-
My lovingkindness and my fortress,
My high tower and my deliverer,
My shield and the One in whom I take refuge,
Who subdues my people under me.
LORD, what is man, that You take knowledge of him?
Or the son of man, that You are mindful of him?
Man is like a breath;
His days are like a passing shadow.
Psalm 144:1-4

WISDOM

He who covers his sins will not prosper,
But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.
Proverbs 28:13

 


Daily Advent Prayer
Third Week of Advent

“Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall declare your praise.”

Collect:

O God, who through your Only Begotten Son
have made us a new creation,
look kindly, we pray,
on the handiwork of your mercy,
and at your Son’s coming
cleanse us from every stain
of the old way of life.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. *

Today’s Readings

Daily Meditation:

On that day, you need not be ashamed
of all your deeds, your rebellious actions against me.

The Lord’s coming promises us a time
when we need not fear. It will indeed be a time
of purifying, a time of humility and trust in God.
We ask for the grace to be like the child
whose mind is changed and says, “Yes”
to our Lord’s call.

Come, O Lord, do not delay;
forgive the sins of your people.

Today’s Daily Reflection

Intercessions:

God the almighty Father stretched forth his hand again to
take possession of the remnant of his people. Let us
make our prayer to him:
Lord, may your kingdom come.

Lord, grant that our works of penance may please you,
– and that we may be ready for your kingdom which is so near.

Prepare a path in our hearts for the coming of your Word,
– and let his glory be revealed among us.

Bring low the mountains of our pride,
– and fill up the valleys of our weakness.

Break down the wall of hatred that divides the nations,
-and make level for mankind the paths to peace.

O ROOT OF JESSE,
that stands for an ensign of the people,
before whom the kings keep silence
and unto whom the Gentiles shall make supplication:

Come, to deliver us, and tarry not.

Closing Prayer:

Lord of such compassionate wisdom,
How often do I exalt myself and ignore you?
I look over the heads of my more humble brothers and sisters,
not seeing how they rely on you so much more than I do.
Help me to learn from them to make you
the center of my life.

You invite me to not be ashamed of what I have done in my life,
but instead offer me a refuge.

Let me call out to you; hear me:
Give me the grace to see those around me who are brokenhearted.
Guide me in staying with them in their sorrows.
I ask for the courage to help them in all the ways they need it
and to be your servant on this earth.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel
!

May the Lord bless us,
protect us from all evil
and bring us to everlasting life.
Amen.

LoveWorthFinding

Ministries of Adrian Rogers

Daily Treasures

The Holy Spirit Is A Person

Ephesians 5:18 commands us to “be filled with the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is not a substance or a thing—the Holy Spirit is a Person.

When asked about the Messiah, Jesus said, “I am He” (John 4:26).

If you saw me wearing a blue tie, you wouldn’t say, “It wore a blue tie.” You would say, “He had on a blue tie.”

Don’t de-personalize the Holy Spirit. Don’t think of being filled with the Spirit as if you are some kind of a vessel and the Holy Spirit is some kind of a liquid. Or don’t think of yourself as a battery and the Holy Spirit as an electrical charge.

The Spirit is a person and you are a temple. First Corinthians 6:19 says, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?”

To be filled with the Holy Spirit simply means, Lord I am committed to You.

 

 

Getting Established in the Faith

If you are a new believer in Christ, or know someone who is, I want to talk to you today.  I want to share with you four things that will help you get established in your faith.

1. Read your Bible every day. That’s food for your spirit. Psalm 119:11 says, Your Word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.  It is vital you spend time in God’s Word.

2. Pray every day. Spend time talking to God and then listening in your heart for His answers.  As 1 Thessalonians 5:17 admonishes us, Pray without ceasing.  This is a vital part of your growth and protection as a believer.

3. Fellowship with other believers. Do not get isolated from the church.  Do not get isolated from the rest of the body.  Scripture tells us to not forsake the assembling of yourselves together, as is the manner of some (Hebrews 10:25).  In fact, it is important to get integrated into a smaller circle of fellowship.  You need to get connected relationally.  There is a real safety in that.

4. Listen to your spiritual leaders.  Go to church whenever the doors are open, and go expecting God to speak to you through the teaching and preaching.  One translation of Hebrews 13:17 says, Give ear to your spiritual leaders and be willing to do what they say for their work is to watch over your souls. Become a part of a strong Bible-believing fellowship and take heed to what is taught.

If you will do those things:  read your Bible every day, pray every day, get involved in a smaller circle of fellowship and listen to your spiritual leaders, you will be all right.

 

How Close You Can Get, and Miss it All

The saddest story of Christmas is how those closest to Christ’s birth completely missed that first Christmas; and that tragedy has continued to this day. You can be so close and yet so far away!

The real purpose of Christmas was shown by God at Christ’s birth, God confronted the world with the only gift everyone really needs.

Christmas is about the gift no one seeks but everyone needs.

God so loved the world that He sent Jesus to save lost people from their sins.

God came to provide the only gift that everyone absolutely, critically needs—the substitutionary death of His Son, who came to meet our critical, eternal-life-threatening need prompted by our sins.

So the gift of Christmas is Christ’s work of salvation. That gift involves meeting the critical needs each of us have in our lost, sinful and fallen condition.

Today as we continue to see those elements of salvation that Christ’s birth has brought, we do so by asking the question, “How close can someone get to Christ and His gift of Christmas and not be saved?”

The answer is sadly that you can get very close. Missing Jesus and His salvation is seen most vividly in the story of Christmas. Those closest to the coming of Christ were most untouched by it! In both Luke and Matthew’s record we find that you can grow up in the shadow of God’s Temple, hear God’s Word every day of your life, meet the Wise men themselves, explain the Old Testament to them—and still miss everything, if it is not inside your heart and mind.

ACQUAINTANCE vs. KNOWLEDGE

Christmas is a time to remember that Jesus came to save us from sin and live within us. Beware of getting so close in every way—but in your heart, to Christ. Beware of being acquainted with Christ but never knowing Him. Webster’s Dictionary says that knowledge has three levels: recognitionacquaintance, and experience. Knowing Christ means a personal experience of His grace that leads us to partake of His salvation.

How close can you get to Jesus and still be too far away? That is what the religious leaders of Christ’s day demonstrate to us this Christmas. So close they got, and yet so far away they remained. It is possible to be as close as them, and yet miss all that Christ and Christmas have to offer.

Matthew 2 and Luke 1 introduce us the chief priests and scribes, with daily immersion in the Scriptures, endless hours of singing and serving, and constant exposure to all that God had left to point to Him and His salvation—they only held God’s Word externally—never in their wills and souls. God was only near in their mouths—and not in their hearts.

Christmas is a time to remember that Jesus came to save us from sin and live within us. Beware of getting so close in every way—but in your heart, to Christ. Beware of being acquainted with Christ but never knowing Him.

 

 

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The Fountain of Life

Matthew 26:27-28
And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.”

Imagine digging in your back yard while planting some flowers. You overturn a slab of sod and a thin spurt of water shoots upward. You watch as the water trickles onto a patch of brown, dry grass, and to your amazement, the grass slowly turns green. The water then flows toward your tomato plants and immediately the wilted leaves stand upright and the tomatoes blush red. You run into your house, grab a cup, and run back out to this tiny fountain. You fill your cup, then drink it in one long gulp. Suddenly, you feel invigorated.

You run back into the house, look in the mirror, and notice that some of your wrinkles are ironed out, leaving a youthful complexion that you haven’t seen in years. Your jaw drops in amazement as the realization hits you: you have discovered the Fountain of Youth!

What would you do with this fantastic discovery? Would you share it with your spouse, your children, your older sister or brother? Would you tell your mother who is dying of cancer? Would you invite all of the families in your neighborhood to a barbecue and give them all they wanted to drink? Of course you would! Who would be selfish enough to keep so great a discovery to himself?

Yet we, who have been partakers of the greatest discovery the world has ever known—namely, eternal life through faith in Christ—keep it to ourselves most of the time.

Has it ever occurred to you that the more you value Christ’s sacrifice, the higher your priority will be in sharing Him with others? If you do not consider His mercy to be the most significant thing that has ever been given to you, then you will not consider it worth sharing. This would be the most terrible of all tragedies. For if there is one discovery that should never be hidden nor taken for granted, it is the fountain of living water which Christ has offered through His gift of salvation; a fountain wide enough for all to drink and deep enough for all to bathe.

Romans 10:14 says, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?”

How well are you doing at sharing your faith with others? Are you taking Christ’s sacrifice for granted, covering it over with dirt and hoping no one will ever know that you are a Christian? Let me urge you to fervently tell the world about this miraculous, incredible discovery . . . the Fountain of Living Water.

Prayer Point: Take time to thank God for His sacrifice on the cross and for sending that person who first shared the news with you. Pray that you will cease from taking Christ’s sacrifice for granted, but rather, that God will bring you to people who need the living water.

Extra Refreshment: Read John 4:1-45.

Stephen Davey is Senior Pastor of Colonial Baptist Church and President of Shepherds Theological Seminary, as well as principal Bible teacher on the Wisdom for the Heart broadcast.

 

A Divine Birth Announcement

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. . . . Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” –Luke 2:8, 10 (NKJV)

If you are a parent, then you can remember the first people you called after you became one. You gave them the weight and length of the baby and the actual time when he or she was born. You shared the news with those who were closest to you.

When God announced the birth of His Son, whom did He tell first? It seems likely that He would have started with Caesar Augustus. He could have sent the angel Gabriel to appear in Caesar’s court and announce, “Check this out, buddy. You are not God! The Savior of the world has arrived!”

Or He might have had Gabriel appear to the religious leaders and say, “Wake up! The Messiah has been born! The One you talk about, the One you pray for–He is here!”

But that didn’t happen. Instead, God first announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds. We tend to romanticize the shepherds along with everyone else in the Christmas story, but we don’t understand who they were. In this culture, shepherds lived at the bottom of the social ladder.

Shepherds were so despised that their testimonies were not even allowed in a court of law. Shepherds did the work that no one else wanted to do. They worked hard, but they were perceived as unclean because they could not observe the ceremonial hand washings. They were the outcasts, the nobodies.

The only people less-regarded than shepherds were those who were suffering from leprosy. Yet God decided to announce His news to some shepherds in the fields as they kept watch over their flocks at night. This was the modus operandi of Jesus, from birth to death. He always appealed to the outcast, to the common, to the ordinary. And that should give hope to ordinary people like us.

Social media summary: This divine birth announcement is addressed to you!

Copyright (c) 2015 by Harvest Ministries. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright (c) 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

The Key to Success!

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God – >Romans 5:3-5

Looking for an edge in life? Consider this: God is the key to any success you may have in learning to control your desires. He must be your strength, your counselor, and your sure foundation.

Why is God so important? Because He’s the source and fulfillment of all human life, including yours.  In other words, you were created by God as well as for God. We often forget the latter.

St. Augustine made this beautiful confession nearly seventeen centuries ago: “Our hearts are restless until they find rest in You, O Lord.” It was true for him then, and it’s true for you now.

“My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” (Psalm 84:2)

“Whoever drinks the water I give Him,” said Jesus, “will never thirst…[it] will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 14:4)

“I am the bread of life,” said Jesus, “He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)

Behind all your cravings is a craving for God. And this craving can only be filled through a relationship with Jesus Christ–your true food and drink.

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” – Michelangelo (1475-1564)

 

The Daily Word of Hope Devotional

Bible Fun Fact: The book of Acts was written about 64 A.D. in Greece.

My Redeemer Lives

But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives. In the end, he will stand upon the earth. After my skin is destroyed, then I will see God in my flesh, whom I, even I, will see on my side. My eyes will see, and not as a stranger. Job 19:25 WEB

Job is the oldest book in the Bible, except for the first ten chapters of Genesis. Wealth in this book was still measured in livestock. Yet even then, Job already knew that there was life beyond the natural, and that after his skin was destroyed, that he would see God with his own eyes. When Job went through horrible circumstances, like losing his ten children, all of his wealth, and then his health, he still clung to this hope. Job held tightly to his faith during his darkest hours. Later, it was all restored double and the end of his life, was better than the beginning.

Know today, that whatever this life hands you, there is something beyond the trouble. There is something more important than what you are facing. This life is only temporary and not the final destination for us. Even death is not the end for believers, but merely a transition.

If you cannot get the work load done, it will be OK, just do your best and don’t be stressed. When you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders, stop a moment and ask for His help. Jesus said that His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 10:30). What then have we picked up? Jesus said: ‘But take heed to yourselves and be on your guard, lest your hearts be overburdened and depressed (weighed down) with the giddiness and headache and nausea of self-indulgence, drunkenness, and worldly worries and cares pertaining to [the business of] this life’ (Luke 21:34 AMP).

So the cares of this world, the business of life, are heavy and can be a headache. Lighten up, look at the big picture, and I mean eternity. What eternal value does this current project have? Live a little, laugh a little, take a moment during the day to tell the Father that you love Him, and do it with a thankful smile. He will still be on the throne whether you meet that deadline or not, for our Redeemer lives.

Prayer: Heavenly Father please bring Your balance to my life. Help me to take it one day at a time and remove this burden from my shoulders. My help comes from the Lord. I have put my trust in God, what can man do to me? Walk with me today Lord, in the name of Jesus Christ I pray.

 

Today’s Scripture

“Moses built an altar there and named it Yahweh-nissi (which means ‘the LORD is my banner’).” – Exodus 17:15 NLT

Thoughts for Today

In Exodus 17, we learn that while at Rephidim, the Israelites were attacked by the Amalekites. Moses instructed Joshua to select men for battle and then went to the top of the hill with the staff of God in his hand. As long as his hands were raised, the Israelites experienced victory, but when his hands were lowered, they suffered loss. Aaron and Hur helped Moses by holding his hands up when he tired. After the Israelites had defeated the Amalekites, Moses built an altar and called it Jehovah-nissi – the Lord is my banner.” The Israelites had won the battle with the Lord as their banner.

And so we can win the battles we face in life if we will always remember that the Lord is our banner. Just as Moses did, we must persistently surrender all that we are to the Lord and recognize our dependence on him.

When we want to represent a country, school, organization or cause, we adopt its flag/mission/standards as our banner representing our motivation, goals, standards, allegiance. As Christians, God is our banner, representing all that he is. Love, power, grace, compassion, light, protection … and so much more. When we are willing to stay focused on him and recognize him as our source, he will bring victory in our lives.

Consider this …

Is God truly the banner that represents every area of your life? Are you living for him first and foremost? Or is he sometimes replaced by your devotion to other people or things … self … relationships … ambition … doctrine … peace at any cost. This week we are going to reflect on some of the things that may replace God as our banner and remind ourselves to refocus on him.

Prayer

Lord, I thank you that you are my banner. Sometimes I choose not to walk under your banner. Instead, I put my faith in myself … or other people … or things … instead of you. I put my desires above yours. Please forgive me and help me stay under your banner. In Jesus’ name …

 

Passion for Praise: ‘God Makes Things Right’

GOD is gracious — it is he who makes things right, our most compassionate God. GOD takes the side of the helpless; when I was at the end of my rope, he saved me. I said to myself, “Relax and rest. GOD has showered you with blessings.”

My Mind1
Yes, so much has happened and my Christmas THIS year is wrecked and in shambles……I don’t know why these people are abusing me this way, except to think that it must all be part of being persecuted for my Christianity!
My honey….the love of my life…….is up there, at his Mom’s……being kept drugged up so they can control him……..isn’t this sweet?  I don’t even know if I want him back!  He calls that his “permanent home”, whatever this means…..but, HE said it…this isn’t his home………so what does it all mean?  It has all been LIES???
They are all SO GOOD at what they are doing…..I have NO experience with the subterfuge, lies, and conniving…….Oh God, please help me get through………
Waiting1
Maybe…….
imagesedzalt58
Is this what I’ve been doing?  It’s for sure that a few of them are snakes……….
God bless everyone!!!!

Almost There…

Your Daily Prayer Devotional Banner

An Advent Prayer to Our Prince of Peace
by Lisa Appelo

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him — the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD. Isaiah 11:1-2 [NIV]

This passage talks about stumps and shoots. We have several big oak trees in our yard and when one of them started endangering the house, we had it cut all the way down to a stump. A few months later? New green shoots with glossy green leaves began growing right out of that stump.

born-is-the-king

That’s the picture that the prophet Isaiah uses. Seven hundred years before Jesus was ever born, Isaiah prophesied that a Messiah would come from the root of Jesse. Jesse was the father of King David, an ancestor of both Mary and Joseph. While nearly all of King David’s royal line would be wiped out, God promised a Messiah would come from the stump of Jesse.

Out of what looked like a dead royal line — when a pagan, Roman government rather than a Hebrew king ruled over Israel — God brought about that new shoot: the Messiah – Jesus.

Jesus, didn’t rule like King David with an earthly palace or majestic throne or royal robes conquering enemy nations through a mighty army. Instead, Jesus came in poverty and humility, to reveal a heavenly kingdom and to conquer the curse of sin through his own death.

Advent Prayer:

O Father, we praise you that before the foundation of the world You chose Jesus, our Messiah, to come to earth and show us the Way to the heavenly kingdom and to be the Way to the heavenly kingdom. We thank you for making room for us who are redeemed in Your heavenly Kingdom.

Jesus, we worship you as King of Kings and Lord of lords. You are my King. You have rule over my heart and my life, my thoughts and time and goals. I bow to You only and give you full and free reign over my life. Help me not to grip anything so tightly that I am unwilling to release it to You. You are a just King; our Prince of Peace. Help me to desire Your kingdom above that of my own making and bow to Your will above my own.

Holy Spirit, lead me in the ways of the heavenly kingdom. Teach me wisdom from above and guide me in truth. Help me to have eyes that see and ears that hear all that God has for me. Help me to know the Lord, to fully understand His might, to fear turning away from Him and to know His grace.

We love you Lord. With all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our mind and all of our strength we love you. We lavish you with our worship. We come to adore You today. Amen.

Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord
That hath made Heaven and earth of nought
And with his blood mankind has bought.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!

 

Daily Treasures

Victory Over Temptation

If God really loves us, why doesn’t He make it impossible for us to be tempted? Well, if God did that, you and I would lose something.

I played football back in the old days, and we would practice long hours to take a bag of air across a white line in a pasture. While we were trying to do that, there was a group of fellows on the other side who were saying we couldn’t do that. And we’d go back and forth to get our way.

Now, I have figured it out: what football teams need to do is come up to the field about 2 a.m. when the other team is not out there. Then they can take that ball and shove it over that white line as many times as they want.

But where is the victory in that? You’re right—there is no victory without opposition

God has not called you to a life of ease. He has called you to a life of victory through His Son Jesus Christ. “Now thanks be unto God, which always causes us to triumph in Christ, and makes manifest the savour of His knowledge by us in every place” (2 Corinthians 2:14).

 

 

BIBLE STUDY BUDDY 

Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-11…There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 7. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9. to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10. to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

Image result for 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.

We Need One Another…

The Peterson ranch in Wyoming is framed by mile after mile of fencing. Not only is the entire spread fenced in, Clyde Peterson has it subdivided with barbed-wire so he can move the cattle from section to section. A single grazing spot may be bordered by as many as 600 fenceposts. Each cedar post is important. If one is knocked down, the entire herd can escape over the fallen section.

The same principle holds true in other areas of life. If one machine breaks down, the whole assembly line grinds to a halt. If one screw drops out of a carburetor, the car runs erratically. If a single microchip fails, an entire computer system may malfunction.

A local church is no different. Every worker is vital: the Sunday school teacher, the organist, the sound-system operator, the nursery worker, the greeter. If one slacks off, the entire effort suffers.

Are you feeling unimportant- as if you’re just one more fencepost in a long row? Does it seem that what you’re doing is hardly worth the effort? Remember what the apostle Paul wrote: No matter what your capacity, if you are working for the Lord, it is ”for the profit of all” (1 Cor. 12:7).

As one single fencepost is crucial to the rancher, you too are important to God- and to the rest of us!

 

Verse of the Day

Inspirational illustration of Philippians 2:7-8

Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening Devotional
Philippians 2:8

“He humbled Himself.”
—Php 2:8

Jesus is the great teacher of lowliness of heart. We need daily to learn of Him. See the Master taking a towel and washing His disciples’ feet! Follower of Christ, wilt thou not humble thyself? See Him as the Servant of servants, and surely thou canst not be proud! Is not this sentence the compendium of His biography, “He humbled Himself”? Was He not on earth always stripping off first one robe of honour and then another, till, naked, He was fastened to the cross, and there did He not empty out His inmost self, pouring out His life-blood, giving up for all of us, till they laid Him penniless in a borrowed grave? How low was our dear Redeemer brought! How then can we be proud? Stand at the foot of the cross, and count the purple drops by which you have been cleansed; see the thorn-crown; mark His scourged shoulders, still gushing with encrimsoned rills; see hands and feet given up to the rough iron, and His whole self to mockery and scorn; see the bitterness, and the pangs, and the throes of inward grief, showing themselves in His outward frame; hear the thrilling shriek, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” And if you do not lie prostrate on the ground before that cross, you have never seen it: if you are not humbled in the presence of Jesus, you do not know Him. You were so lost that nothing could save you but the sacrifice of God’s only begotten. Think of that, and as Jesus stooped for you, bow yourself in lowliness at His feet. A sense of Christ’s amazing love to us has a greater tendency to humble us than even a consciousness of our own guilt. May the Lord bring us in contemplation to Calvary, then our position will no longer be that of the pompous man of pride, but we shall take the humble place of one who loves much because much has been forgiven him. Pride cannot live beneath the cross. Let us sit there and learn our lesson, and then rise and carry it into practice.

Thoughts on Today’s Verse…

Christianity is not for wimps or the faint of heart. Our example is described by words like… “made himself of no reputation” …”servant” …”humbled himself” …”became obedient” …”death on a cross!” That’s tough stuff. And that is our example. The story of the Jesus may begin with a sweet child, but it also begins with him being placed where animals ate their food. While it may be powerful and precious, it is not saccharine and fake sentiment. It is about the price paid to redeem and the people who are different because they know their Redeemer.

My Prayer…

Almighty God, loving Father, thank you for placing the Gospel story in the real world where I live. Jesus, thank you for being a Savior who has come into my world and faced its toughest edges. Help me as I learn to be sacrificial, obedient, and humble so that I can be used to help others find your grace. In the name of Jesus, the Lord. Amen.

 

 

Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown(Revelations 3:11).

George Mueller bears this testimony, “When it pleased God in July, 1829, to reveal to my heart the truth of the personal return of the Lord Jesus, and to show me that I had made a great mistake in looking for the conversion of the world, the effect that it produced upon me was this: From my inmost soul I was stirred up to feel compassion for perishing sinners, and for the slumbering world around me lying in the wicked one, and considered, ‘Ought I not to do what I can for the Lord Jesus while He tarries, and to rouse a slumbering church?”‘

There may be many hard years of hard work before the consummation, but the signs are to me so encouraging that I would not be unbelieving if I saw the wing of the apocalyptic angel spread for its last triumphal flight in this day’s sunset; or if tomorrow morning the ocean cables should thrill us with the news that Christ the Lord had alighted on Mount Olivet or Mount Calvary to proclaim universal dominion.

O you dead churches wake up! O Christ, descend! Scarred temple, take the crown! Bruised hand, take the sceptre! Wounded foot, step the throne! Thine is the kingdom.
–Rev. T. DeWitt Talmage, D. D.

It may be in the evening,
When the work of the day is done,
And you have time to sit in the twilight,
And watch the sinking sun,
While the long bright day dies slowly
Over the sea,
And the hours grow quiet and holy
With thoughts of Me;
While you hear the village children
Passing along the street
Among those passing footsteps
May come the sound of My Feet.
Therefore I tell you, Watch!
By the light of the evening star
When the room is growing dusky
As the clouds afar,
Let the door be on the latch In your home,
For it may be through the gloaming
I will come.

 

How to Stay Connected
By Janet Conley

Yesterday we discovered the second key to effective prayer is to stay connected to God.  The critical question is:  How do we do that?

While there are many things we can do, I want to focus on two things.  First of all, if you want to have a close relationship with God, it is important to realize just how much He desires to have a close relationship with you.

This is an amazing truth when you stop to think about it.  He is Almighty God, and yet He wants to have a close relationship with you.

Romans 5:11 in the New Living Translation says, Now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

Through Jesus, God made us to be His friends!  So connecting with God starts with remembering He desires to be your closest friend.

Second, you need to practice His presence.  Right now God is with you.  He is everywhere you go.  He is at your job; He is at your home; He is with you wherever you might be, even in the hardest time of your life.

The last part of Hebrews 13:5 says, For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.

There was a monk in the seventeenth century named Brother Lawrence who wrote a book called The Practice of the Presence of God.  In the monastery there were chimes that rang every hour, and Brother Lawrence would use that as a reminder to connect with God.

If you have a PDA or a wristwatch or a cell phone, you might consider setting it to go off throughout the day to remind you that God is with you.  Each time it goes off, spend a few moments communing with Him.  Practice His presence.  That will help you  stay connected to God.

 

December 6

This God is our God for ever and ever: He will be our guide even unto death.–PS. xlviii. 14.

For the Lord shall be thy confidence.–PROV. iii. 26.

Be still, my soul! Thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past:
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake,
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
J. BORTHWJCK.

He has kept and folded us from ten thousand ills when we did not know it: in the midst of our security we should have perished every hour, but that He sheltered us “from the terror by night and from the arrow that flieth by day”–from the powers of evil that walk in darkness, from snares of our own evil will. He has kept us even against ourselves, and saved us even from our own undoing. Let us read the traces of His hand in all our ways, in all the events, the chances, the changes of this troubled state. It is He that folds and feeds us, that makes us to go in and out,–to be faint, or to find pasture,–to lie down by the still waters, or to walk by the way that is parched and desert.
H. E. MANNING.

We are never without help. We have no right to say of any good work, it is too hard for me to do, or of any sorrow, it is too hard for me to bear; or of any sinful habit, it is too hard for me to overcome.
ELIZABETH CHARLES.

 

December 6
Walking the Walk in the Church
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles-if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.
To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height- to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head-Christ-from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 3:1-4:3, 11-32
WORSHIP
Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
To Him who struck Egypt in their firstborn,
For His mercy endures forever;
And brought out Israel from among them,
For His mercy endures forever;
With a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm,
For His mercy endures forever.
Psalm 136:1, 10-12
WISDOM
As snow in summer and rain in harvest,
So honor is not fitting for a fool.
Proverbs 26:1
Prophetic Insight newsletter
Bloodhound (Pixabay/markfizzwig)

Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:5, “remembering the genuine faith that first lived in your grandmohter Lois and your mother Eunice and that I am persuaded lives in you also.”

I sense the Father saying, “I am downloading the faith of grandmothers not only into their children, but unleashing a major downloading of their faith into the third generation–their grandchildren!”

I was reading recently in Francis Frangipane’s book, This Day We Fight!,  that Francis wondered how he was drawn to the Lord like many of us in the early ’70s when there seemed to be no corporate prayer from pastors or churches praying for an outpouring upon young people. Upon asking the Lord what activated this major move of the Spirit, the Lord responded to Francis, “I heard the cries of a million praying mothers crying out to Me for their children, across all denominations!”

A Mother’s Prayers Are Powerful, but Oh, the Power of a Grandmother’s Prayers

You have probably heard it said that parents are the “law” and grandparents are “grace.” I believe perhaps grandparents, especially grandmas, may have an edge of prayer-power to influence their grandchildren because “with years comes understanding, and with the ancient there is wisdom.”

I wonder why so many grandparents seem to be having to raise their grandchildren because of broken marriages today. In spite of these tragedies, I sense these grandchildren are being greatly influenced through godly grandparents, especially grandmothers. And God is turning it around for good.

Grandmothers Not Only Spoil Their Grandchildren, They Spoil the Enemy’s Plans for Them

I saw bloodhounds from heaven being released to pursue this “third” generation. I saw grandmothers pleading the blood of Jesus over their grandchildren, and these bloodhounds were picking up the scent of that blood as they began to outrun and overtake them at every turn, for there was now no more hiding place!

Some grandchildren were climbing up trees to escape these eternal prayers, but these bloodhounds were at the bottom, barking and out-waiting many of them as they began to cry out and call upon the name of the Lord to be saved!

We are now in the “third” day move of God on the earth. Watch and expect the third generation to come in, hounded by the prayers of their grandmothers.

As Christmas is approaching, I hear the angels singing over this third generation, “Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go. We’ll be home with bells on.” 

Bill Younthas been a member of Bridge of Life in Hagerstown, Maryland, for the past 36 years, where he is now an elder and a home missionary. He is currently an adviser at large for Aglow International. Bill faithfully served in prison ministry at Mount Hope for 23 years and now travels full-time, both in the U.S. and internationally, ministering in churches and Aglow circles. Humility and humor characterize his ministry as he brings forth a fresh word that is “in season,” proclaiming the word of the Lord. The shofar, or ram’s horn, is often used in his meetings, breaking the powers of darkness over regions, churches and households. The shofar represents God’s breath blowing into the nostrils of His people, reviving them and awakening the lost. Many of God’s messages, which Bill ministers prophetically, come out of his everyday life with his family and friends. Please visit Bill’s website atbillyount.com.

 

 

TODAY‘S

Christian Quote

The Majesty of God’s RuleThe LORD is king, he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed, he is girded with strength. He has established the world; it shall never be moved; your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting.
The floods have lifted up, O Lord the floods 

have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring. More majestic than the thunders of mighty waters, more majestic than the waves of the sea, majestic on high is the LORD! Your decrees are very sure; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore. Note: Today’s Gospel reading is Mark 16:1-8. Find a Bible translation.

– Psalm 93
Pray-Every-Day-Neon-Sign4

A Prayer to Keep the Enemy from Stealing Your Joy
By Debbie McDaniel

“The joy of the Lord is my strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)

Don’t let the enemy steal your joy today. He’ll try you know. You may not even realize it until it’s too late.

From the moment your feet hit the floor, he’ll do all that he can to distract you, to overwhelm you, to frustrate you, and to stir up worry and strife. Often his ways are subtle, other times they’re clearer. It’s what he does best. Stealing. Killing. Destroying.

Just say “no.” Don’t let him win.

We have a choice of who we listen to and what we believe. Recognize who is at the root of it all, and push past his lies; step over his traps.

God gives us the power through His Holy Spirit to live free from the entanglement of sin. He gives us the power to live strong. He gives wisdom and discernment to make the right choices. He gives joy deep inside. He offers the assurance, that no matter what we face, He is with us.

May His grace, peace, and joy cover your day. He is with you.

Prayer:

Dear God, at the start of each day, help us to recognize you above all else. Enlighten the eyes of our heart that we might see you, and notice how you’re at work through our lives. Give us wisdom to make the best choices, fill us with a desire to seek after you more than anything else in this world. Let your Spirit and power breathe in us, through us, again, fresh and new. Thank you that you are greater than anything we may face in our day. Thank you that your presence goes with us, and that your joy is never dependent on our circumstances, but it is our true and lasting strength, no matter what we’re up against. We ask that your peace lead us, that it would guard our hearts and minds in you. We ask for your grace to cover our lives this day. We love you Lord…we need you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

 

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12 Things to Thank God for in the Midst of Affliction

Mark Altrogge

One of the most important things we must do when we suffer is to give thanks. I don’t say this lightly and I know many believers who have endured unimaginable pain and tragedy.  Giving thanks in the midst of agony and affliction is certainly not easy to do. 

Yet Ephesians 5:20 tells us we should give thanks “always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” and 1 Thess 5:18 says to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Giving thanks helps us focus on God in our affliction, steers us away from complaining, strengthens our faith, and brings glory to Jesus.

There are many things we can give thanks for when we suffer, but here are 12 that I try to remember:

1) That God is sovereign and in complete control of the intensity and the duration of your affliction.

I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose’ Is 46:9-10

2) That God’s love and mercies never cease

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. Lam 3:22-23

3) That Jesus will never leave nor forsake you.

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Heb 13:5

4) That God is with you in your affliction

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. Is 43:2

5) That God hears your every prayer

The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry. Ps 34:15

When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles. Ps 34:17

6) That God is using this affliction to make you like Christ.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:28–29

7) That this affliction is momentary and light compared to the eternal reward it is producing

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison… 2 Cor 4:17

8) That Jesus is your sympathetic High Priest who intercedes for you constantly

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Heb 4:15

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Heb 7:25

9) That God is near you in your pain

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit. Ps 34:18

10) That Jesus is your refuge, strength, and strong tower you can run to.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Ps 46:1, ESV

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. Pr 18:10

11) That God has saved you, washed away your sins, and adopted you as his own child.

Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Rom 4:7

12) That someday Jesus will wipe away every tear from your eyes and you will see his glorious face.

He 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

Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.

 

What Are You Telling Yourself?
By Savannah Parvu

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2 (NIV)

I’m not good enough. Nobody loves me. I’m worthless. I can’t believe I did that again. I am such a failure. Everyone is better off without me. I will never be good enough. It’s all my fault.

Does that sound familiar?

Those are some of the things that I used to tell myself all the time and occasionally one or two still slip into my mind from time to time. As women we are so hard on ourselves and we beat ourselves up over the little things.

Our Scripture today says that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. Our mind becomes stuck in this negative way of thinking and it can become a form of self-destruction.

After all, our thoughts lead to our feelings and our feelings lead to our actions. It all begins with a thought and the only way to change that is to renew our minds.

How do you renew your mind?

By taking every thought captive and making it obedient to Christ, as 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to do. Rather than telling yourself that nobody loves you, replace that thought with God loves you.

You’re not worthless, Christ died for you. You are good enough because God made you complete and lacking nothing.

You will never be happy if you continue to beat yourself up with negative thoughts.

Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, make your thoughts obedient to Christ and focus on the truth and in doing so you will in turn be happier.

It doesn’t happen overnight and is a continual process, but with the help of the Lord you can do it!

What are the things you are telling yourself?

Write down the negative things that you are telling yourself and then look in scripture to find TRUTH to replace that thought with.

Dear Lord, thank You for making us complete and lacking nothing. Help us not to be so hard on ourselves and beat ourselves up. Help us to transform our minds by focusing on Your truths. Amen.

(c) 2017 by Savannah Parvu. All rights reserved.

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Comfort food for your soul is always on our menuand friends are always close enough to hug.  We invite you to join us daily, as our writer’s share how the Lord continues to transform them into His glorious image.

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Stop by Encouragement Café and listen as the girls share life. Find podcasts, videos, Bible studies, prayer, resources and daily helpings of hope, laughter and friendship around our table. We’ve saved a seat just for you!

 

Devotionals Daily: A Year with Jesus

From The Joshua Code by O.S. Hawkins

Gone Fishing

“Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Mark 1:17 NASB

Follow Me. Those were two words spoken so often by our Lord. He came upon a group of fishermen who were engrossed in their lifetime fishing business, looked them squarely in the eyes, and called them to put away their nets and follow Him on a life-transforming journey. In Capernaum, Jesus saw a Jew taking up tax money for the Roman oppressors. Again, He spoke those two simple words, and Matthew put down his money pouch and followed after Him. Over and over in the Gospels we hear this simple call. When we heed Jesus’ call today and become His followers, we then become interested in what He is interested in. Jesus revealed to us that He had “come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). The truth is, if we are genuinely following Jesus, we are also fishing.

It has always been of peculiar interest to me that, when it came time to pick His team, whom He would train and then send out with a commission to reach entire nations, Jesus picked rough, callous-handed men who had spent their lives in the fishing business. He did not go to the institutions of higher learning looking for the best and the brightest. He did not go to the halls of government looking for those with gifted persuasive powers. He did not go to the yeshivas and pick those most knowledgeable in the Torah. He went to Galilee, to a bunch of ragtag fishermen, and called them to follow Him with the promise that He would make them become “fishers of men.” Why them? Why fishermen?

My family and I lived on the Atlantic coast for fifteen years among many people whose livelihoods were related to fishing. On occasion I would take a seaplane from Fort Lauderdale to the little island of Bimini in search of the elusive bonefish of the Bimini flats, pound for pound the greatest sport fish anywhere. My guide was always the legendary “Bonefish Sam” Ellis. He was old even then, but he could still spot a dorsal fin from a football field away. We would fish all day under the blistering island sun. Once, while on my way home, flying back toward the sunset, I wrote down a few words in my journal to describe this seasoned legend of the flats. It dawned on me that what I saw in Bonefish Sam is what Jesus is looking for in His followers today. And these traits are at the very heart of why He called fishermen to follow Him.

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©Joshua Code 2012 by O.S. Hawkins

 

Confession

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. – 1 Timothy 6:12

In the Bible, the word “confess” means “to speak the same thing.” So when it tells us to confess, it means we’re to say the same thing God says–to agree with Him–about the attitudes and actions of our lives.

As you can see, then, confession has two aspects: speaking the truth about ourselves and the truth about God.

For example, if we’re confessing greed, we can also confess God’s promise to supply our needs.  The Bible says the same God who takes care of you will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to you in Christ Jesus.

“We own up to minor failings, but only so as to convince others that we have no major ones.” – La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680)

 

The Daily Word of Hope Devotional

Bible Fun Fact: The 7th verse of the 7th chapter of the 7th book is Judges 7:7

Broken Radios

Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have sinned; for I have transgressed the commandment of Yahweh, and your words, because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice. 1 Samuel 15:24 WEB

The Lord sent Saul on a quest, but he failed because of his fear of man. The Lord told Saul through the prophet Samuel to completely wipe out the Amalekites, but for a short-term gain, Saul ‘overlooked’ the commands of the Lord and kept the best cattle, the sheep, and the enemy king as plunder.

The Lord wanted them all destroyed as they were probably demon-infested just like the swine became in Gerasenes (Mark 5:13). Saul wanted to please the people more than God, so he allowed them to keep the live stock as plunder, and they brought the demons home with them. When they killed the live stock and the demons lost their current house, they just wandered around until they could enter the people around them. (Luke 11:24).

Samuel told Saul ‘Because you have rejected Yahweh’s word, he has also rejected you from being king’. Then Saul pleaded with him to stay so that he would not be embarrassed in front of the people. What the people would think was on the forefront of his mind, not that he had just lost the kingship. After this, God moved on and anointed David. Where Saul was fearful and failed, David had a strong faith in God and even faced Goliath as a youth, when Saul and his army would not.

A mentor of mine worked at an electronics repair shop when he was a young man. One day his boss told him to be sure and replace a certain part on every radio that came through, whether it needed it or not, simply because the part had a good markup. He silently ignored the request and after a couple of weeks, the boss came back and asked him why he was not doing what he had told him.

My friend was married with young children, so he really need the job, but he explained to them that he was a Christian and he could not do that. He told them that he would understand if they needed to let him go, but that he could not compromise on this because it was against his faith. They became angry at first, and he thought that he was on his way out. Instead of firing him, they promoted him and gave him a key to the shop because they knew that he could be trusted.

If you are ever given a choice between obeying God or man, always choose God. It will work out for your good regardless of what may happen in the short term, for He has your back when you are obedient to His word. The fear of man is always a short-term gain, but God’s plan is for eternity.

Prayer: Heavenly Father please guide me today and help me make the right decisions. Let Your voice ring through in such a way that I cannot miss it, and give me the grace and wisdom to do what is right. In the name of Jesus Christ I pray.

 

Today’s Scripture

“If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins–make a clean breast of them–he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God–make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows our ignorance of God.” 1 John 1:8-10 MSG

Thoughts for Today

Overcoming life-controlling problems is a process. It is important to acknowledge that you have a problem and come to Jesus for help. Your next step should be to get real–with yourself and with God.

Take an inventory of your life. Think about the ways you have been denying the reality of your condition. Have you been isolating yourself? Keeping your struggle a secret? Making light of it or rationalizing that it is OK?

Have you blamed other people and circumstances for your problem instead of accepting responsibility? Perhaps you point your finger at your parents or spouse or friends. Maybe you blame a job loss or even your childhood.

Consider this … 

Think about the ways your behavior has affected other people. Have you lost their respect and confidence? Are you experiencing strained relationships or problems with your children?

Determine to be honest about your problem and to accept responsibility for your behavior. Repent for what you’ve done and turn to Jesus for the hope that only he can give. Change won’t be easy. And you may suffer natural consequences of past failures. But begin to focus on your new hope in Christ. He will not disappoint you in your time of personal searching and change.

Prayer

Father, forgive me for blaming people and circumstances for my behavior. I’m ready to accept responsibility for my situation. Forgive me for my sin. I thank you for helping me through this time of change. In Jesus’ name …

 

 

Disappointments
TGIF Today God Is First Volume 1 by Os Hillman
December 06, 2017

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. – Proverbs 13:12

Life is filled with disappointments. Many of God’s greatest servants experienced deep disappointment in their journeys of faithfulness to God. Joseph, after spending years as a slave and in jail for crimes that he did not commit, revealed deep disappointment when he was forgotten another two years in prison. John the Baptist, when awaiting execution, doubted whether Jesus was, in fact, the Christ because he was sitting there awaiting his death. Elijah, losing all hope and despondent to the point of death, asked God to take his life in the desert; and Peter, who left his fishing business and invested three years of his life only to watch his Savior crucified, wondered whether the purpose of those three years could be justified.

When life doesn’t add up, it leaves the heart sick. When we have done all we know to do and the formula has not worked, it leaves us questioning. These are times that try the very souls of men. There is no human sense to be made of it. We are left with a choice: to cling or not to cling. There are times when holding on to our Master’s robe is all that we can do. It is all that He wants us to do.

The heights by great men reached and kept

Were not obtained by sudden flight;

But they, while their companions slept,

Were toiling upward in the night.

Standing on what too long we bore,

With shoulders bent and downcast eyes,

We may discern-unseen before-

A path to higher destinies!

~Longfellow

There is only one answer to life’s disappointments. Like the psalmist, we must “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken” (Ps. 62:5-6).

 

Passion for Praise: ‘Not to Us!’

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name goes all the glory for your unfailing love and faithfulness.

— Psalm 115:1 NLT
Love Is
I truly love my close, little family here……my two sons, the one especially, are trying to make this year’s Christmas great for me……..Steven worries that it may be our last Christmas together…..oh, I hope not!  As for the others in Pennsylvania….I am sure that they’ll have their usual holiday cheer…….eat, drink, and make merry, and nary a thought to ME……..you know…..it’s crazy for it to hurt me as it does so why do I let it?  I have people HERE who REALLY know what caring is all about!  I’ve long realized that I made mistakes in the raising of my children…….they have no real hearts for compassion, charity, not even for love.  At least my two sons here are no longer under their influence….I truly believe that evil lives up there and that it will one day soon take the place of God for them, if it hasn’t already…….I pray for them but I fear they’re all lost already!!
StandWithGod1
And this is how I truly feel!  Let them say that I’m “bitter” and “lazy” and even “no good”…..what does this prove about THEIR morality?
My Problem1
But it’s okay…….I will go on loving, even when I’m hated!
Crying1
Oh, I don’t keep count……..
Yesterday, I had a memory flash…..of the day that my little girl was struck down and run over by some careless driver……..I was gone to pick up our babysitter and when I got back, there were cops everywhere……..my brother-in-law, Bill, took me to the hospital……my baby girl was already in surgery……her Dad was a wreck, blaming himself, but I held him and told him that it wasn’t his fault…..You know, looking back now, I am wondering why God didn’t send His Angel to heal my little girl as He did with my son, Rick………why wasn’t she given a miracle?  Didn’t she deserve it?  Was it because God knew that one day she would crush her Mother’s heart and spirit?
Whispers1
God bless everyone!!!
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