Sunday Blogging

 

 Daily Prayer for July 19

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9–10, NIV

Lord our God, we rejoice that we may be called your children. In our weakness we ask you to shelter us in your hands. Strengthen us in the hope and faith that our lives will surely go the right way, not through our strength but through your protection. Grant that through your Spirit we may come to know more and more that you are with us. Help us to be alert in our daily life and to listen whenever you want to say something to us. Reveal the power and glory of your kingdom in many people, to the glory of your name, and hasten the coming on earth of all that is good and true. Amen.

 

Daily Dig

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fan shellsWhen despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the green heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Source: The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry

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            ~~~Dion Todd

The Monument

But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. Genesis 19:26 WEB

When God told Abram to leave his country, he brought along his nephew Lot. In time, the families grew and prospered so much they had to separate from each other. Lot and his family then moved to the city of Sodom. It was an extremely wicked, prideful city, and eventually their sins caught up with them.

Because of Abraham, angels visited Lot and told him to get his family out of Sodom before the destruction began. The angels told them when they left, to not look behind them. So Lot’s family all left the city together. Lot’s wife went out of the city with the family, but she stopped, lingered, and looked back longingly at what she was leaving behind. She became a pillar of salt. She became a monument.

In our life God is always calling us forward, always stretching our faith, and as long as we live, we are not finished. He is infinitely smart, and we only know a fraction of what He has in store for us. We will still be learning about God while in heaven. To think that we know everything about Him now is hubris, and prideful deception. He has given us enough truth to live by today, but tomorrow we will learn even more. None of us know everything.

If you take a broad look at denominations, you will always see they are formed this way: A revelation, a movement, then a monument. Each one starts with a new revelation about something they believe, it becomes a movement and gathers a following. Eventually what they believe is written out in a ‘Statement of faith’ and then whatever is not included in that statement, is rejected, and whoever does not agree with them, are wrong. What started out as something new and fresh, ironically now rejects anything new, and it becomes an unchanging monument.

Old wineskins become brittle and will not hold new wine, so God has to use someone else. He moves on and reveals something new to those that are willing to listen, and soon another movement is formed around that truth. Revelation, movement, monument, is the pattern as God restores His church from the dark ages.

God is full of surprises, and to think that He is predictable is a mistake. I know that He said ‘I change not’ and He does not, but our understanding certainly does. The fact is that no one walked on water, until a couple of people did (Matthew 14:29). No one raised the dead, until someone did (Acts 20:9). No one cast out evil spirits with a handkerchief, until someone did (Acts 19:11). Bread had never rained from heaven, until the day that it did (Exodus 16:14). Unless scripture clearly prohibits something, be open and ‘Test all things, keeping what is good’ (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Do not despise prophecies (1 Thessalonians 5:20).

Stay stretchable today and allow God to do something new in your life. Do not write off everything new that comes your way as not of God, especially things that are clearly discussed in the Bible. Keep looking forward and not behind you. Do not stop listening to God, do not stop growing, or you will become just another monument along the path.

Prayer: Heavenly Father please let me see through Your eyes what You are doing today. I choose to believe that You are alive, that You love me, and that You are listening to me today. I want to ally myself with You and walk hand in hand. Come and be a part of my life today, help me be stretchable and teachable, in the name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen!

Bible Fun Fact: God once used a poultice of figs to heal a boil on Hezekiah (Is. 38:21).

 

 

Unstoppable! ‘Gifted, Gracious, and Going’

 

Among the prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch of Syria were Barnabas, Simeon (called “the black man”), Lucius (from Cyrene), Manaen (the childhood companion of King Herod Antipas), and Saul. One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Appoint Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them.” So after more fasting and prayer, the men laid their hands on them and sent them on their way.

— Acts 13:1-3 NLT

Key Thought

Barnabas and Saul returned to Antioch from their trip to take needed financial support to the impoverished believers in Jerusalem. Luke listed five prominent leaders in the church in Antioch. They came from a variety of different backgrounds, reflecting the diverse church. They had broken through all sorts of barriers culturally. The Holy Spirit grew them into a gifted and gracious church, eager to share their fellowship, funds, and very best leaders. While worshiping and fasting — always an invitation for God to be praised and for them to be open to God’s leading — the Spirit challenged them to send Barnabas and Saul, two of their most vital leaders, out on your mission to the world. They obeyed the Spirit and began a missionary journey to reach people in other parts of the world. We should long to be like them — gifted with dynamic leaders, gracious in sharing their fellowship and funds, as well as being willing to send their best to take the Good News to the world!

Today’s Prayer

O Father, move in your people through the Holy Spirit. Stir up leaders in all parts of the world. Speak into the hearts of those who are worshiping and fasting to know your will for them. Fashion more of our churches to be like the early church in Antioch, welcoming all sorts of people into our fellowship and committed to go all over the world to share the love and grace of Jesus with all people. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

Daily Wisdom:

Illustration of James 5:15 — And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.

Passion for Praise: ‘All Glory to Him!’

Illustration of Romans 11:33-36 — Oh, how great are God's riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the LORD's thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice? And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back? For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.

A Year with Jesus: ‘Guidance from the Holy Spirit’

Note from Jesus

Dear Precious Disciple,

The conference that you read about in the verses below occurred in Jerusalem. The focus of that conference was what should be done about Gentiles becoming Christians. There was a controversy concerning whether Gentile Christians would have to follow the law of Moses fully to be accepted into My family. The decision was crucial for the future of the mission of My church. At risk was the worldwide mission to the nations, the mission I had given before I ascended back to the Father. The wrong answer at this point in the development of the early church would have limited My movement to being nothing more than another sect of Judaism. However, the disciples at the conference came to the correct answer because they trusted in the leading of the Holy Spirit.

I had promised My disciples that I would send the Holy Spirit to them to be with them and to empower them to be My witnesses all over the world (Acts 1:8), and they believed it!

I promised them that the Holy Spirit would be their Helper and their Counselor Who would guide them into all truth (John 16:13), and they trusted that what I told them was true.

They had experienced the Holy Spirit responding to their worship of prayer and fasting by calling Barnabas and Paul into the mission field (Acts 13:1-3), and they sent out these great disciples as missionaries.

So when it came time to make this huge decision about Gentile Christians, what did they do? They relied on the Holy Spirit to lead them. Peter said that Cornelius’ conversion happened because “God decided” to include Gentiles, and He confirmed their inclusion by sending the Holy Spirit to Cornelius and his household. So they described the final decision they reached this way: “It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” They were confident that the Holy Spirit was helping to provide them a clear path forward as they prayed and worked together on a resolution of their controversy.

So here’s My point: You need to trust in the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit as you seek to live out My mission in your world. The power and the guidance of the Holy Spirit are gifts I have left you as you wait for My return!

Verses to Live

These words that Luke wrote in Acts show how My disciples in the early church relied on the Holy Spirit to help them make a crucial decision. They made this monumental decision with certainty because they were convicted that the Holy Spirit was guiding them. I want you to trust that the Holy Spirit will also guide you in your decisions as you seek to live out My mission to reach the lost world.

Upon arrival [of Paul, Barnabas, and others from Antioch] in Jerusalem, the church, the apostles, and the elders welcomed them warmly; and they reported all they had seen God do. But there were some believers present who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees. They stood up and asserted,

Pharisees:

No, this is not acceptable. These people must be circumcised, and we must require them to keep the whole Mosaic law.

The apostles and elders met privately to discuss how this issue should be resolved. There was a lot of debate, and finally Peter stood up.

Peter:

My brothers, you all know that in the early days of our movement, God decided that I should be the one through whom the first outsiders would hear the good news and become believers. God knows the human heart, and He showed approval of their hearts by giving them the Holy Spirit just as He did for us. In cleansing their hearts by faith, God has made no distinction between them and us. So it makes no sense to me that some of you are testing God by burdening His disciples with a load that neither our forefathers nor we have been able to carry. No, we all believe that we will be liberated through the grace of the Lord Jesus — they also will be rescued in the same way.

There was silence among them while Barnabas and Paul reported all the miraculous signs and wonders God had done through them among outsiders.

When they finished, James spoke.

James:

My brothers, hear me. Simon Peter reminded us how God first included outsiders in His favor, taking people from among them for His name. This resonates with the words of the prophets:

“After this, I will return and rebuild the house of David, which has fallen into ruins. From its wreckage I will rebuild it; so all the nations may seek the Eternal One — including every person among the outsiders who has been called by My name.”

This is the word of the Lord, Who has been revealing these things since ancient times. So here is my counsel: we should not burden these outsiders who are turning to God. We should instead write a letter, instructing them to abstain from four things: first, things associated with idol worship; second, sexual immorality; third, food killed by strangling; and fourth, blood. My reason for these four exceptions is that in every city there are Jewish communities where, for generations, the laws of Moses have been proclaimed; and on every Sabbath, Moses is read in synagogues everywhere.

This seemed like a good idea to the apostles, the elders, and the entire church. They commissioned men from among them and sent them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent two prominent men among the believers, Judas (also known as Barsabbas) and Silas, to deliver this letter:

The brotherhood, including the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, send greetings to the outsider believers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia. We have heard that certain people from among us — without authorization from us — have said things that, in turn, upset you and unsettle your minds. We have decided unanimously to choose and send two representatives, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul who, as you know, have risked their lives for our Lord Jesus the Anointed. These representatives, Judas and Silas, will confirm verbally what you will read in this letter. It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to keep you free from all burdens except these four: abstain from anything sacrificed to idols, from blood, from food killed by strangling, and from sexual immorality. Avoid these things, and you will be just fine. Farewell.

So the men were sent to Antioch. When they arrived, they gathered the community together and read the letter. The community rejoiced at the resolution to the controversy.
(Acts 15:4-31)

Response in Prayer

O Father, bless the leaders in our churches today. Give them hearts that yearn for Your will and a passion to lead us to live out Your mission to our lost world. Give them a willingness to work together to achieve that mission and a commitment to rely on Your Spirit to lead them to consensus and to clarity about the directions that they are to lead us. We need Your wisdom, guidance, and direction for our lives and for our churches. We ask for Your leading through the influence of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

 

 

 

Life Is Not Essential

B.D. McClay
B.D. McClay is Senior Editor of The Hedgehog Review. She has written for various publications, including Commonweal, The Outline, and The New Yorker.

“Life is not essential” is, in some ways, the lesson we are learning from coronavirus. By this I mean to lean, in part, on the distinction, not much heard before the pandemic but ubiquitous since it began, between essential and unessential workers. “Essential” quickly assumed a moral quality. There was scrutiny over what went under the heading—why liquor stores but not bookstores? There was judgment about what fell outside—deserved, in one sense, when you consider that many essential workers (grocery-store cashiers, food delivery drivers) make penury wages, something that was a moral outrage before and only became more so.

“Our society no longer believes in anything but bare life,” Giorgio Agamben wrote, in one of a series of briefly infamous missives critical of coronavirus-induced lockdowns. “It is obvious that Italians are disposed to sacrifice practically everything—the normal conditions of life, social relationships, work, even friendships, affections, and religious and political convictions—to the danger of getting sick.” As the protests that have spread throughout the United States and even worldwide over the killing of George Floyd have demonstrated, this was not exactly true. If some things are worth sacrificing the pleasures of life for, other things are worth risking life’s pains.  The willingness to do both is encouraging, if you think those were the right decisions; not, if not. (For the record, not to be coy: I do.) Life is not essential in this other sense too: sometimes you risk it.

If some things are worth sacrificing the pleasures of life for, other things are worth risking life’s pains.

Most of us would identify Agamben’s list (“the normal conditions of life, social relationships, work, even friendships, affections, and religious and political convictions”) as the things that make life something richer than surviving. In this sense I have more sympathy for his point of view than perhaps one would expect. People who insist on casting resistance to this sacrifice as selfishness are taking a narrow view of a situation that is lonely, stressful, and in some cases financially disastrous. They are not looking squarely at, for instance, what it means to be home all the time if your home is itself dangerous.

But even if you’re in the best possible situation, employed and safe, there’s not much to do. Coronavirus has created a situation that is stressful enough to have practically destroyed my short-term memory but that is also, somehow, crushingly boring. You look out your window. Has everything simply stopped?

***

In Marlen Haushofer’s novel The Wall, a nameless, slightly pathetic middle-class widow—mother to two “rather unpleasant, loveless and argumentative semi-adults,” friend to various people who feel sorry for her—falls asleep in a friend’s hunting lodge and wakes to discover that she is the only person left in the world. The hunting lodge, suddenly pressed into service as a farm, is surrounded by an invisible wall, outside of which nothing remains alive but is instead eternally suspended. The Wall is the record that she keeps, even though nobody will ever be left to read it when she eventually dies.

Like Robinson Crusoe before her, our heroine inherits various objects she uses to survive as she suddenly and without any experience takes on trying to care for animals, grow crops, and keep house without any help; she remains painfully aware that as her supplies dwindle, they can’t be replaced. Her chores and her inventory are the only thing like a plot that The Wall has; it is a kind of masterpiece of tedium, the same thing over and over, punctuated only by sudden acts of violence. “I still had ten boxes of matches, about four thousand altogether,” she muses to herself.

According to my calculations I could last five years with these. Today I know I calculated more or less correctly; my supplies will last another two and a half years, if I’m very economical. . . . And yet I still nurture an insane hope. I can only smile upon it indulgently. With the same stubborn independence, as a child I had hoped that I should never have to die. I see this hope like a blind mole, crouched within me, brooding over his delusion. As I can’t drive him from me, I have to endure him.

I found myself thinking of this passage often as I sized up the sixteen roles of toilet paper I’d purchased in the early days of March. I watched their number steadily tick down without being replaced. I can’t say that I was ever really afraid I would run out altogether. But everything I used reminded me that it would be frustrating to replace. And during the stretch of the pandemic when really nobody was out, it did feel a little like I was living in an empty city with just my dog, demanding his daily walks, for company. Of course, I wasn’t; there were lots of people. But it’s a weird thing in New York to be able to walk for any stretch in the middle of the day and see nobody else.

 

 

 

When Life Is Not Fair, How Do You Respond?

life is not fair - "Come Alone With Me" 3

When have you uttered those four words, “Life is not fair?” How do you respond when that happens? Today is a Guest Post by Sally Philbrick Smith. In the following devotion, she discusses that issue:

Life Is Not Fair

“Mother, you rocked my world when at age six you told me that life is not fair,” confided our adult daughter Carla. “That was the first life lesson that shocked me, and I’ve never forgotten it. Everything at our house was fair in my mind from the choice of cereals to chores.

Every one of us could name a time when we felt that life has not been fair to us. My mother remembered to her deathbed the shame of being accused of cheating in front of her grade school class. I did not believe my mother was innocent just because she said that she was. No, I believed her because I knew my mother. I never saw her treat another person unkindly. If the check-out clerk gave her three cents too much, she would return it to the store. If I asked her to tell the person calling on the phone that I was not in, she refused. “I’m not lying for you, Sally. If you don’t want to talk to that person, you’d better run outside quickly.” I wish that I had a nickel today for every time that I was not “in” but ran “out” the door like blazes.

Biblical Examples When Life Is Not Fair

The Bible calls Job a “righteous” man. God’s favor was on every part of Job’s life…that is until his servant ran into his house breathlessly one day to tell him the bad news. Job lost all ten children, his crops, barns, animals and all other possessions in a huge storm. Not fair! Is this how God treats His own?

Joseph was chosen by God while still a child living at home. Before he was grown, his eleven jealous brothers sold him into slavery. While serving in Potiphar’s house, Joseph was wrongly accused of rape and spent the next thirteen years in prison. A fellow inmate told Joseph that when he got out, he would plead for Joseph’s release. But he forgot his pledge. Not fair!

Daniel was raised in a God-fearing family of nobility. He was handsome and showed aptitude for every kind of learning. The future looked promising for Daniel until the Babylonians with their fast horses and iron chariots roared into his city. After besieging Jerusalem, these idol-worshiping warriors kidnapped Daniel and other young men of his caliber. He was ripped from his family, home, school, country and everything that was familiar to him. Their goal was to remake Daniel and his friends into Babylonians and teach them to serve their king. He was forced to learn a new language, wear clothes unfamiliar to him and eat food too rich for a Jewish diet. Where is a loving God in all of this? Not fair!

Amy Carmichael

Amy Carmichael left a comfortable life and set aside her own dreams to follow the Lord’s call to India as one of its earliest Christian missionaries. Soon after she arrived, an accident changed her life. She stepped in a hole and badly injured a foot. For the remainder of her life and ministry, this foot caused acute pain and discomfort with every step.

That’s not fair, Lord. She left all to share the wonderful news of the Savior with those who had never heard, and you allowed this to happen to her? What were you thinking?

The Decision We Must Make

When life is not fair, we each have a decision to make. We can say:

(1) I don’t see God or understand anything that is happening. If there is a God, he doesn’t care about me. He’s the ultimate absentee father. People in Malachi’s day thought the same thing:

“You have said harsh things against me,” says the Lord. “Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’ You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape’” (Malachi 3:13-14).

(2) Or, we can choose to stand on what we do know about God and proclaim:

I don’t understand where God is right now. Nor do I know yet His purpose in these circumstances.

What I do know is that He cares for me with a lavish love and wants what is best for my life. He will use this circumstance for my good in molding me into His image. I can’t see His hand right now, but I trust His heart completely.

Isaiah 55:8-9: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” God is a righteous judge. This life is a training ground for the life to come.

The Betrayal Barrier

Dr. R. T. Kendall, the senior minister of Westminster Chapel in London, refers to this as the “betrayal barrier.” It is his opinion that 100 percent of all true believers will go through a period when God seems to let them down. This may be as a new Christian just starting out, or one in the middle or at end of life. Most people bail out or turn their back on God without giving Him the opportunity to “work everything together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28). Dr. Kendall believes over 90% of us fail to break through this feeling of betrayal and abandonment by God.

Another Choice

But what about those God-fearing believers who hang on all the tighter to God when things seem out of control? Joseph held fast to his faith and God used him to save the lives of a nation suffering a seven-year-drought. When Job refused the advice “to curse God and die,” the Lord God took note and restored to him over abundantly above all that he could ask or imagine. The Bible says in Job 42:12, “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first.” Because Daniel remained faithful, King Darius issued a decree to his vast empire that all must fear, worship and reverence the living God of Daniel.

Close to Home

A close couple friend of ours received the devastating news that the wife had a very fast aggressive cancer. They called to tell us the diagnosis. Though their hearts were rupturing, they stated with quiet confidence: “No one knows what this year will bring. But one thing is for sure. He will be with us and He is enough.”

Another friend of ours was given a death sentence by her doctor. “Well, Lord, I guess I’ll see You sooner than I thought,” she said to herself. Ben, a seventeen-year-old relative is a scholar and athlete. He was looking forward to his last year of high school when cancer came from his blind side and knocked him down. Ben’s response? “I had planned to enter my senior year, but God has me on a different path now.”

How Will You Respond?

Every demand on me as a child of the Living God is a demand on the One who lives inside me. Our commitment to each other goes beyond any circumstances the world, the flesh or the devil can throw at me. Proverbs 24:10 says: “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 17:7-8 tell us how to build our strength in the Lord. We are to send our roots down deep and wide to tap into the unending strength of the Lord. He will walk through the dark way with us and bring us out on the other side. We can claim with the prophet Nehemiah that “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”

This life is not fair. But for us believers, the next life is totally fair.”1

1(c) 2012, Sally Philbrick Smith, “Come Alone with Me” 3, Used by permission. All Rights Reserved. 

Personal Words from Guest Sally Philbrick Smith

As a young mother, the Holy Spirit pierced my spirit by saying: “If you do not record what I am doing in your life, you will forget my works and blessings.” After 40 years of journaling, the Lord then led me to put selected stories into a booklet for others. “Come Alone With Me” is a result of my obedience to Him.

*This is one of Sally’s longer devotionals, but I felt it had an important message we all need to hear often. She also wrote two others: “Come Alone with Me,”and  “Come Alone with Me” 2. Sally’s strong faith is exemplified in her personal stories and devotions. I shared her post several years ago, but the message has even greater impact during these Covid-19 times when we see economic challenge, sickness, and death all around us. I pray it will encourage your heart as it did mine.

My Personal Prayer for You

Lord, when life is not fair, how easy it is for us to jump to the conclusion that You don’t care. Forgive us when we respond too quickly in our haste to blame someone or something–even You. Thank You that You love us passionately and want us to trust You even more in uncertain times like the ones in which we live. Nothing will ever seem right or fair in this life, because sin is a part of our world. But You will work out everything for our good–if we will trust Your timing and respond to You as our Sovereign Lord and Savior.

You will give us peace in our hearts even in the midst of unfairness, confusion, and disappointment in our lives and in our world. And one day, You will turn the tables. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that You are indeed Lord. You will bring true justice, wholeness, and fairness. And those who choose to respond to Your loving invitation of salvation will see and experience Your perfection and beauty forever. Death will be no more. Thank You for Your promises, Lord.

Day-votedly Yours,

Rebecca

It’s Your Turn

What about you? How have you responded when life is not fair? What did God teach you about Himself during that time? I love to hear from readers. You can always write me through my contact page. Just fill out the basic name and address info, and then the email will come to me. I will never share your name or info with anyone without your permission.

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Summertime!!

Daily Prayer for June 21

Father! You have given them to me, and I want them to be with me where I am, so that they may see my glory, the glory you gave me; for you loved me before the world was made. John 17:24, TEV

Lord our God, we thank you that you have revealed your glory in your Son Jesus Christ. We thank you that today we can still see and feel the glorious grace which streams out from Jesus Christ in his victory over the world, the powerful help which benefits all those who find faith. Grant that a further glory may be revealed, faith dwelling in the hearts of all people, faith that can conquer all the need and suffering on earth, faith that is the power to look to you, to become inwardly quiet in you, and to hope in you at all times. Then your help will come quickly, more quickly than we can imagine. It will come on us unawares, for the Savior has said, “See, I shall come quickly.” We want to hope and believe and trust till the end. Amen.

 

Your Daily Dig

Annemarie Arnold
God alone is the truth, without beginning or end! Only through him do we live. We belong to him, to him alone. We are allowed to belong to him, to serve him with all the strength of our heart, spirit, and body. We stand before him as children. Without him we are nothing, without him there is only darkness and despair. Oh God, may the night never overcome us again, the darkness of being separated from you! Help us to the light, to the light of your love, that we may be set on fire by your light, to be burned and consumed like a candle.

 

 

Thank you for all you do

In spite of COVID-19 and the turmoil across the country and around the world, today is a day to honor the fathers, grandfathers, and father figures who have been so important in our lives.

 

For all the guidance, care, love and strength you’ve offered, thank you!

 

May God bless you, and Happy Father’s Day!

 

Your Operation Blessing Team

 

 

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                ~~~Dion Todd

Lean On Me

He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore I will rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest on me. Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then am I strong.’ 2 Corinthians 12:9 WEB

So many times in life I have had to face complex problems which I did not understand or know the answer to. It seemed that God would arrange situations where there would be no one else to turn to but Him. This was before the Internet became available, and people called me for answers, that I sometimes did not have. Of course there would always be pressure to fix the problem, and sometimes when I had exhausted all of my abilities and ran out of ideas, panic would start rising inside me.

Finally I would take a break, calm down, walk outside and pray for a few minutes. Then the answer would suddenly come, and the problem would soon be resolved. Jobs where I spent some time in prayer first, often came off without a hitch, but men hate asking for directions, and it was the times that I began growing cocky and felt like I could handle it that always got me into trouble. Paul said that when he was weak, he was actually strong.

I can see now that God was saying: ‘Lean on Me.’ He intentionally put me in high pressure situations with no one to turn to but Him, and He always had the answer. We never walk alone as a Christian. We are to be dependent on the Lord every step of the way. The Holy Spirit can teach us ‘all’ things (John 14:26).

God lives inside of us and He wants to be a part of our lives, but often we get too busy to inquire of Him though He is right there. Jesus said: ‘But when they deliver you up, don’t be anxious how or what you will say, for it will be given you in that hour what you will say. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you’ (Matthew 10:19).

This verse reveals a few things:

1) The Spirit of our Father lives inside of us.

2) ‘It will be given you in that hour’ is the answer that we need.

3) We should not be anxious. It actually can cause us to be spiritually deaf. We must calm ourselves and get quiet to hear that still, small, voice.

Lean on God for the answer, He has it. Include Him in your day. While you look everywhere else and exhaust all of your ideas, He is there patiently waiting for you to ask. The Holy Spirit that helped create the universe is available and can help you with this if you will only take the time to ask Him.

Prayer: Heavenly Father I lean on You! Please teach me Lord what I don’t know. Help me to see the bigger picture. Walk with me and talk with me today. I want more of Your presence in my life. In the name of Jesus Christ I pray.

Bible Fun Fact: The bible is not arranged in chronological order but by categories like major prophets, minor prophets, poetry.

 

 

Unstoppable! ‘God’s Spirit’

 

[Peter continued telling the story of Cornelius’ conversion:] “The Holy Spirit told me to go with [the messengers Cornelius had sent] and not to worry that they were Gentiles. These six brothers here accompanied me, and we soon entered the home of the man who had sent for us.”

— Acts 11:12 NLT

Key Thought

God had used all sorts of ways to reveal his desire for Peter to go and speak the Good News of Jesus to Cornelius and his relatives and friends. With the arrival of Cornelius’ three messengers (Acts 11:11), the Holy Spirit made sure the message was clear. The Spirit said, “Go! Don’t worry that they are Gentiles!” Heaven expended great effort to awaken Peter and the early church to Jesus’ last words: “Go!”* Following Christ is not about trying to attract people to something but about our going to them with the message and love of Jesus. And for Jesus, our “going” is not limited to nearby; it involves going “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). We are to go as witnesses with the message of Jesus. Going is a vital part of our DNA as disciples of the Son of God who came to us, for us!

* See Matthew 28:19-20; cf. Luke 24:44-49.

Today’s Prayer

Dear Father in heaven, may your Kingdom come on earth. May the world see your will being done through our actions here on earth. Inspire us and empower us to go and take the message of Jesus into all the world. Use us to bring your grace to those who have not heard and your love to those who are trapped without hope. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

Daily Wisdom:

Illustration of James 5:19-20 — My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

Passion for Praise:

Illustration of Psalm 63:6-8 — I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night. Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely.

Spiritual Warfare: ‘Good Spiritual Health’

God’s Power for Our Battles

Dear friend, I know that you are spiritually well. I pray that you’re doing well in every other way and that you’re healthy. I was very happy when some believers came and told us that you are living according to the truth.

Lord, I truly desire to be spiritually healthy—even more than I want to be physically well. Help me to be in Your Word and in prayer continually so the world doesn’t suck me in to all their evil practices. I want to live in light of Your truth, Lord, and make You proud. Shine Your light through my life. Let others look at me and see You and Your deep love for them. Open their eyes to the benefits of living according to Your Holy Word. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

A Year with Jesus: ‘Servants to the Nations’

Note from Jesus

Dear Friend,

Two powerful themes from the Bible converge in this one story in today’s Scripture about Philip and the Ethiopian dignitary:

  1. After My resurrection, I poured out the Spirit at Pentecost and the good news message about Me spread throughout the Mediterranean world, and then far beyond this part of the world. My message spread out from Jerusalem just as I had promised (Luke 24:45-49Acts 1:8). The early disciples reached three of the Mediterranean area’s four major cities to serve as hubs to send My message down the major highways and seaways to the nearby regions and to the rest of the world. The four largest cities at this time were Antioch in Syria, Ephesus, Rome, and Alexandria. Acts tells the story of how the good news of the kingdom of God reached the first three. Just as My disciples took the good news to all the Mediterranean region when they left Jerusalem because of persecution (Acts 8:1-4Acts 11:19-22), Luke hints that the “dignitary from Ethiopia” took My message with him as he returned home to Ethiopia (Africa).
  2. The last half of the prophetic book of Isaiah has a series of prophetic songs calling My people (Israel) to be the servant of the LORD — the servant who would lead the nations to follow the great “I AM” of Israel. In your day, these prophetic songs are called the “Servant Songs” of Isaiah (Isaiah 42:1-9Isaiah 49:1-13Isaiah 50:4-11Isaiah 52:13-15 with Isaiah 53:1-12). When Israel did not fulfill the call of these prophetic songs, I came as their complete fulfillment. The Ethiopian was reading from one of these songs (Isaiah 52:13-15 with Isaiah 53:1-12) when the Spirit sent Philip to share My story with him. The passage the Ethiopian was reading has been known to most of My followers over the centuries. They have recognized this song as speaking about My sacrifice on the cross for them. Philip began with this song that looked forward to Me as the suffering servant and taught him about Me and then baptized him.

I want you to recognize several important principles from the Ethiopian’s conversion:

  • Long before I came to earth (1 Peter 1:20), the Father had the plan to save the lost world He loves (John 3:16-17).
  • The Spirit inspired the prophets with messages that were intended to convict the people in their time, yet the messages also pointed to the Father’s plan to send Me to the world to save the world (1 Peter 1:10-122 Peter 1:19-21).
  • This plan always included the salvation of all people, just as Israel was to be a blessing and bring all people to honor the great “I AM” as the only true and living God (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10Genesis 12:1-3).
  • The fulfillment of this world-wide salvation began to unfold through the leading of the Holy Spirit and the willingness of My disciples to share My story with all people (John 12:20-33).

The Father has the plan to save the world. As the primary part of that plan, I came as the Savior of the world. After My sacrificial death and return to the Father, the Spirit empowered My disciples to share that message with the world. Acts tells how My story was initially told to the Mediterranean world.

Verses to Live

As the book of Acts unfolds, you read about the Holy Spirit leading My disciples to share the saving message about Me (Acts 1:8). They began, first, to share that message with those in Jerusalem and then those in all of Judea. In Acts 8, you see the message shared in Samaria. In future readings from Acts, you will see the message go throughout the Mediterranean world. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, nothing had the power to stop that message. As Luke tells this unfolding story, the events in Acts 8 are huge stepping stones in the triumph of the good news about Me. Just as those early disciples fearlessly shared My message with their world, I want you to share that same message with your world. As you do, the Holy Spirit will lead and empower you, too!

A heavenly messenger brought this short message from the Lord to Philip during his time preaching in Samaria:

Messenger of the Lord:

Leave Samaria. Go south to the Jerusalem-Gaza road.

The message was especially unusual because this road runs through the middle of uninhabited desert. But Philip got up, left the excitement of Samaria, and did as he was told to do. Along this road, Philip saw a chariot in the distance. In the chariot was a dignitary from Ethiopia (the treasurer for Queen Candace), an African man who had been castrated. He had gone north to Jerusalem to worship at the Jewish temple, and he was now heading southwest on his way home. He was seated in the chariot and was reading aloud from a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.

Philip received another prompting from the Holy Spirit:

Holy Spirit:

Go over to the chariot and climb on board.

So he started running until he was even with the chariot. Philip heard the Ethiopian reading aloud and recognized the words from the prophet Isaiah.

Philip:

Do you understand the meaning of what you’re reading?

The Ethiopian:

How can I understand it unless I have a mentor?

Then he invited Philip to sit in the chariot. Here’s the passage he was reading from the Hebrew Scriptures:

Like a sheep, He was led to be slaughtered.

Like a lamb about to be shorn of its wool,
He was completely silent.

He was humiliated, and He received no justice.
Who can describe His peers? Who would treat Him this way?
For they snuffed out His life.

The Ethiopian:

Here’s my first question. Is the prophet describing his own situation, or is he describing someone else’s calamity?

That began a conversation in which Philip used the passage to explain the good news of Jesus. Eventually the chariot passed a body of water beside the road.

The Ethiopian:

Since there is water here, is there anything that might prevent me from being ceremonially washed through baptism and identified as a disciple of Jesus?

[Philip:] 1

[If you believe in your heart that Jesus the Anointed is God’s Son, then nothing can stop you.]

[The Ethiopian said that he believed.]

He commanded the charioteer to stop the horses. Then Philip and the Ethiopian official walked together into the water. There Philip baptized him… When they came out of the water, Philip was immediately caught up by the Holy Spirit and taken from the sight of the Ethiopian, who climbed back into his chariot and continued on his journey, overflowing with joy. Philip found himself at a town called Azotus (formerly the Philistine capital city of Ashdod, on the Mediterranean); and from there he traveled north again, proclaiming the good news in town after town until he came to Caesarea.
(Acts 8:26-40)


1The brackets indicate material not found in all manuscripts.


Response in Prayer

O Father, awaken us, Your people, the church that Jesus bought with His blood, to share Your message of grace and the Lord Jesus’ triumph over death and sin. Empower us by the Holy Spirit to be wise, courageous, gracious, and persistent in sharing this message. We want in our day, O God, to be your servants to the nations! In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

 

 

LIFE LESSONS LIVED

Been there, done that.

IS BEING HUMANE ENOUGH?

The anger is everywhere.  Why?  I understand that our Protect and Serve departments need an overhaul, but it seems to be going far beyond that. Shouldn’t simply being a decent human being toward another human being be the top priority?

I have been around since 1959 and have seen a ton of protests and riots: the good, the bad, and the ugly of them.  One of my most memorable was the Martin Luther King political march of 1965.

I also remember the bra-burnings going on in all different places after the Miss America protest by feminists and civil rights advocates.  I, myself, did my own bit when I was a Freshman in high school by streaking.  (FYI:  Fun but not the next day and someone got photos, and my dad was not happy.)  Right this moment, I cannot recall the reason we girls did it.  This was in 1973, which was still a time of equal rights for women (it seems like we are still fighting this battle today).  Thinking back, streaking was probably not the best way to get our message across.

Just what is the best way to get critical human messages across to the world?  In my opinion, it would be passive mass protests.  Once they become violent or angry, it gives the whole message a sour meaning.  The world initially saw the inhumane treatment of Police officers against a black man.  Now, what do they see?

  • More police brutality?
  • Not enough being done to fix the problem?
  • Too much being done to fix the problem?
  • Protests turning into riots and looting?
  • Loss of police protection (Yes, I have been reading articles on this very subject – sad but true they are quitting and fewer recruits now.)?
  • More anger and violence?

What if we pushed a bigger agenda?  OK, I may sound a bit like Gandhi here:

Gandhi

*You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.

Mahatma Gandhi

*The true democrat is he who with purely nonviolent means defends his liberty and, therefore, his country’s and ultimately that of the whole of mankind.

Mahatma Gandhi

*To call woman the weaker sex is a libel; it is man’s injustice to woman. If by strength is meant brute strength, then, indeed, is woman less brute than man. If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man’s superior. Has she not greater intuition, is she not more self-sacrificing, has she not greater powers of endurance, has she not greater courage? Without her, man could not be. If nonviolence is the law of our being, the future is with woman. Who can make a more effective appeal to the heart than woman?

Mahatma Gandhi

I am not perfect (not even close).  I am female, old, white, and love a perfectly cooked steak.  There is no way I will ever come close to the path that Gandhi led, but I do strive to be better than I was yesterday.  I have had lots of bad stuff happen to me in my life, more than many others I know, but I still try to remain optimistic.  Somedays that is a really tough decision to keep.  Maybe it is a bit ridiculous to believe, but I think we need to take a few steps back, starting with our kids.

BRING BACK THE IMAGINATION CLASSES!

This may sound like a stupid-simple idea but hear me out.  I grew up with art, music, crafting, and if it was not taught in school, it was found in my 4-H group.  I believe that when we are encouraged to use our imagination, we understand the things around us better. I also think that it is the perfect way to express feelings.  If sad, I go to create something.  It instantly brings me a sense of self-worth and pride in accomplishing something all on my own.  If angry, go gardening.  When I am most upset, I can rip out weeds at a massive pace.  I also like to build things with wood when I am upset.  Ramming a drill through a piece of plank or hammering the snot out of a nail is a great release for me.  If happy, I SING!!  At the top of my lungs, off-key, and as much as I want.  I don’t care if anyone hears it, but if they laugh along with me and my lousy singing, all the better.

fat lady sings

I like to believe that to be creative and imaginative is to be human.  When we encourage more of those ideals, we encourage many more ways to resolve issues peacefully, I hope.

Maybe if we push more on “everything” matters, especially being humane to each other, things will change for the better without all the violence in the process.  A simple difference of opinion will NEVER make me give up on my friends.  Our differentiation is what brings us together.

group of reindeer buds

You can also check me out at:  https://helbergfarmstories.com/ for fun stories from our farm.

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Paraproskodian sentence for this post:

“I always take life with a grain of salt, plus a slice of lemon, and a shot of tequila”

 

 

 

Could Mass Marches Across America
be Preparing the Way
for a Nationwide Christ Awakening?

 

In the Atlantic magazine this week, a headline about the demonstrations across America read: “The town square has come roaring back.” It certainly has around my home.

This past Sunday, I experienced one of the most profound moments of my life as I joined a march.

In many ways, it duplicated what hundreds of thousands of Americans have encountered the past few days in nearly 900 community-wide, overwhelmingly peaceful protest marches for racial justice and equality—held both in major cities and rural villages.

But my march experience became something more for me: Those hours of walking and cheering and praying (yes, praying) stirred in me a wholly unexpected—and yet thoroughly thrilling—hope about what the Spirit of God may be doing in the midst of these daily dramas occurring throughout our nation.

Frankly, I’m wondering if the Spirit of God may be at work across the land, maximizing the ferment in all these events for God’s grander purposes of redemption.

Have you ever considered the possibility that, from coast to coast, we may be witnessing the “birth pangs” of the nationwide Christ Awakening for which countless Christians have been praying for decades?

I have.

Looking through my “King Jesus glasses,” I’m beginning to wonder if this historic initiative is moving our nation in Christ’s direction—and, I would argue, at Christ’s direction—preparing us for a national spiritual revolution.

In other words, let’s ask: Could it be that our nation is moving in Christ’s direction—moving toward him during this time of turmoil—because Jesus himself is directing the outcome, using all that seems disruptive to prepare us for the solution: a nationwide Christ Awakening?

No surprise if this is so! It is just what Jesus taught us about how his reign often works. He said he unleashes it like a small amount of invisible leaven embedded in a lump of dough, causing it to swell up in readiness for the oven (Matthew 13).

Let me show you what I see going on and why I have a growing hope in God about what is coming next. I believe you’ll find it well worth your time.

Let me take you inside the surprising developments that unfolded during our protest last Sunday.

 

Have you joined a protest march where you live anytime in the past couple of weeks? If not, come with me into mine.

On a warm Sunday afternoon, about 3000 fellow citizens of my little community (just 20 minutes from Times Square) banded together, flowing like a mighty river.

It’s true that we were marching in protest. But remember the word “protest” has two meanings, one negative and one more positive: (1) to openly express objection or disapproval; OR (2) to make a solemn or earnest declaration.

Even so, in both senses, we visibly protested but without any violence, as also has been true for 95% of the demonstrations nationwide in the past two weeks. We did so about the following concerns:

AGAINST racism but FOR racial justice and equality.

AGAINST the carnage within the Black community but FOR social, economic, and psychological healing and restoration for our fellow citizens.

AGAINST violence (police and otherwise) but FOR reconciliation (among the races and the classes).

AGAINST the division and strife that is tearing our nation apart but FOR a national moral reset full of forgiveness, compassion, and love.

It was these strong themes that, at least for me, gave me a fresh “feel” for how the Bible describes the kingdom of God. We “protested” for the principles and values, priorities and passions, and emphases on human dignity, community, and flourishing that are highlighted by God’s kingdom ways.

At one point, I was reminded of Jesus’ response to a religious leader who correctly identified the two highest priorities for Israel: Love God and love neighbors. “You are not far from the kingdom of God,” Jesus reassured him.

In the same way, I felt I could say to that multitude on Sunday afternoon: “What you are  calling out for indicates that you—and this whole march—are so much closer to what life in the kingdom of God looks like than probably most of you know.” 

For example, a whole lot of the ideals found in the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7) were being articulated and embraced that day, even if many who marched with me were unaware of the passage.

Therefore, as I said above: Looking through my “King Jesus glasses,” I’m beginning to wonder if this historic initiative is moving our nation in Christ’s direction and at Christ’s direction, preparing us for a nationwide Christ Awakening.

In addition, kingdom-type concerns were echoed by many of the homemade signs people carried as we walked along. Consider this sampling:

A young Black woman’s sign declared: “Who I am is enough!”—suggesting the truth that human dignity has nothing to do with skin tone because each of us has been made in God’s image.

A White woman’s sign admitted: “I can’t understand” (that is, understand the horrendous Black experience in America). Yet it went on to say, “but I can STAND” (that is, stand on behalf of all who are devastated and oppressed by the unjust world around them). This is clearly a kingdom-type calling.

One White man made his point in rhyme: “White silence is White violence.” He meant that for the majority culture—the culture primarily in power—to ignore the suffering of the Black community and its many poor is inexcusable IF, in fact, we could have done something about it. Similarly, God’s kingdom calls its citizens to love others the way Christ loved us by laying down his life for us to make us whole.

Or finally, take this sign: “BLACK lives matter because ALL lives matter.” In other words, if God’s kingdom is “pro-life” (and it is), then that means God’s kingdom is equally, totally pro-BLACK life, in the womb and in the world, just as much as it is pro-MY-life. We always need to act like this toward one another.

Now I’ve given you more reasons why I believe this historic initiative is moving our nation in Christ’s direction and at Christ’s direction, preparing us for a nationwide Christ Awakening.

Today, I got an email from a friend, an internationally respected Christian leader who lives in Houston. He shared his own protest experience from last week. What he reported reinforced my hunch:

I joined about 70,000 as we marched through the downtown to Houston City Hall. Somehow it felt to me like this was a “spiritual manifestation” as many pastors and ministry leaders took the initiative and prayed in the midst of a whole lot of hurting people.

His gathering, too, was bumping up against the kingdom of God!

Could such events as his and mine, taking place from coast to coast, serve as precursors of—and be preparing the way for—a coming Christ Awakening?

Let’s think about this a little more.

What was the impact of the kingdom truths that rang out to the multitude on Sunday?

Flooding the roadway, the thousands who walked the miles with me finally assembled at our Memorial Field. For ninety minutes, we listened to various leaders who solicited countless waves of applause from the crowd as one speaker after another proclaimed the moral urgencies impinging on the future of our nation.

Though the audience was diverse in race and age, most of the speakers were Black GenXer’s, our future leaders. Their talks brimmed with wisdom and graciousness—not anger or resentment. Their appeals were reminiscent of the biblical fervor of a Martin Luther King.

None of them showed anything but humility and respect, even as they passionately called for justice and righteousness, for new perspectives and new policies, and for transformed relationships with law enforcement on behalf of the historically abused and beleaguered African American peoples of our land.

Once again, like the placards in the parade, appeals from the platform were full of kingdom-type values. There was almost a call for Christlikeness at times, whether each speaker had those thoughts in mind or not.

In other words, the event highlighted priorities I would expect any follower of Jesus to endorse and practice. And they were shared with a spirit of love that resembled the love of Christ, which is the heart and soul of God’s kingdom.

The Black leaders also expressed their deeply felt gratitude that afternoon for the unprecedented support coming from the 80% of the audience who were White.

We were urged to work together in coming days with the local Black communities to ensure that this time the results would be different—that what former Newark mayor Sen. Cory Booker called this week a “moral moment” for our nation would ultimately become a “movement” for the realization of the American promise for all of its citizens of all races.

Without a doubt, our gathering echoed the nearness of the kingdom of God! Could hundreds of similar events, taking place all over America, actually be precursors of—and helping to prepare the way for—the coming Christ Awakening?

Furthermore, get this:

The official program at the field opened intentionally with the local Catholic priest leading the crowd (of Christians, non-Christian, Hindus, and other religions) in a spontaneous prayer asking God to “pour out your love on us and through us so that together we may work for your justice for all peoples in our nation.” The gathering responded unexpectedly in one voice with a hearty AMEN!

“You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

So, let me put it to YOU:

Do you think it is possible that everything we’re seeing right now is moving us, directly or indirectly, in Christ’s direction and doing so at Christ’s direction? Could it be that all this turbulence is actually setting the stage for a nationwide Christ Awakening?

Put another way: Are we in a season similar to what the ministry of John the Baptist was all about?

The Bible says John’s primary assignment with the multitudes at the Jordan River was to “prepare the way of the Lord” with them (as the Gospels call it, quoting from Isaiah 40).

John got the people to rise up in anticipation, restless for what Jesus alone could bring—even though neither John nor they knew what to expect, what shape it would take, what the Messiah himself would look like, how he would be revealed to them, or how he would take action—nor what would happen after that.

Essentially, John did all he could do: He preached to them about “kingdom values”—declaring that “the Kingdom is at hand”—in order to bring the crowds into a genuine spirit of brokenness and repentance as well as abounding hope, in readiness for the next chapter.

Finally, the next chapter did begin. It proved to be nothing short of a genuine “Christ Awakening” (as we might call it)—a spiritual revolution that spread throughout the life of the nation. The Jordon uprising spread everywhere starting the day “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” appeared at the river’s edge. It was a whole-life revival—a kingdom of God breakthrough—that has been redeeming and reconstituting peoples among the nations ever since.

Now, the Church in our nation is poised for a similar impact of Christ upon our lives together and then through us upon the whole country—as people in every part of our land begin to become wholly alive to the whole vision of God’s Son today.

The ramifications of this Spirit-driven movement for the kind of moral and social transformation that tens of thousands are marching for are incalculable.

It is that great hope that causes me to believe that what’s happening all around us at this moment is moving us in Christ’s direction and at Christ’s direction, preparing us for a nationwide Christ Awakening.

But I must not end my story without telling you about one sacred moment that Sunday afternoon that really opened my eyes!

There on the open field, there came a point in the program where the crowd was asked to drop to our knees and spend eight minutes and forty-three seconds in total silence in honor of George Floyd—reflecting the agony he endured for that same amount of time while his precious life was being snuffed out of him.

Eight minutes. In silence. On our knees. The entire gathering. A scene I could hardly take in. (At the top of this blog post is the picture I took of that moment.)

The experience took on even more meaning for me as I reflected on it later that day. It represented a prophetic act—a harbinger of an extraordinary outpouring of Christ and his salvation upon our nation, which is so desperately needed.

For me, thousands of knees on the ground recalled the biblical teaching that before seeking “kingdom” values such as racial justice, equality, and reconciliation, we must undergo a change in our HEARTS as Americans—beginning with God’s pe0ple in America. Our hearts must be surrendered to the King himself—Jesus.

The truth is that all of us qualify for a level of soul surgery so radical that we must come before our Redeemer in silence, admitting to him that we can never bring about this spiritual transformation on our own.

Yes, being on our knees for nearly ten minutes honored George Floyd. But it also served to portray how broken and helpless all of us are apart from some form of divine intervention within us and among us by our righteous Redeemer.

In the silence, whether most in the gathering knew it or not, we were kneeling before the Throne of Glory (where George Floyd, a Jesus follower, abides right now), dramatizing our need for a powerful, regenerating work in our innermost beings by the Lord of our salvation—for the sake of all the other George Floyds in our society and also for the healing of our nation as a whole.

Even in the midst of the current protests rising out of anger, woundedness, griefs, and fears, many Americans—believers and unbelievers alike—instinctively realize that without deeply reordered hearts, all our good resolves for moral and social renovation will fall flat no matter how many hundreds of thousands participate in countless marches.

Christians especially know, deep down, that striving for the flourishing of the Black community in America as well as for the reformation of our society from top to bottom–marks of God’s kingdom—can never be sustained apart from a widespread impact of the Gospel that radically overhauls our lives and loves, our principles and priorities, by the saving power of the reigning Christ.

There is only one solution for our crisis of the spirit. There is only one answer to the ultimate questions we face about race. There’s only one hope to match the energy, the vision, the appeals, and the soul-cries ascending from this daily, national uprising. It is the person and work of our victorious Lord Jesus Christ. Consider:

The revolution of our hearts, to deliver us from racism and anger and division—can spring only from the purposeful, penetrating, redemptive work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The kingdom promises of God that fulfill the deepest longings of our hearts for ourselves and our people can be entered into only through the great Promise Keeper, our Lord Jesus Christ.

The healing reconciliation among the races—especially Black and White—and the transforming regeneration of structural changes that so many are seeking will be found only through opening wide the gates to receive the active reign of our Lord Jesus Christ among us.

The righteousness, justice, and restoration of wholeness we are so desperate for, individually and as a nation, can truly begin only with full surrender to Jesus Christ as Lord of all.

The realization of the highest ideals of the “American experiment” for ALL of our citizens—but especially for the Black community— can still be ours. But it will come solely through the revelation and inbreaking of the righteous, reconciling, reforming, reviving work of our Lord Jesus Christ—and only as we embrace it daily and apply it comprehensively.

So, as needed, let’s keep on marching in our streets with our feet. But above all, let’s keep on marching to the Throne by our prayers—“marching” on our knees, as it were—seeking a fuller demonstration of the glory, greatness and goodness of God’s Son.

A “kairos” hour is upon us. We must be about the business of preparing the way of the Lord. We must get ready to welcome, enter into, and then spread, the coming Christ Awakening. That is the movement that offers the one true hope for America at this crossroads.

Most of all, it provides us our greatest opportunity to see Jesus highly exalted as Lord and Savior, reviving the Church and restoring the soul of our nation.

Today, Isaiah 40, which was brought to life in the ministry of John the Baptist, calls Christians everywhere to take similar actions in our generation on behalf of Christ, for the coming Christ Awakening and triumphant advances of his kingdom that lie just ahead of us.

Let these commands become your “marching orders,” as well, every day among the people where you live:

Thunder in the desert!
“Prepare for God’s arrival!
Make the road straight and smooth,
a highway fit for our God.
Fill in the valleys,
level off the hills,
smooth out the ruts,
clear out the rocks.
Then God’s bright glory will shine
and everyone will see it.
Yes. Just as God has said.”

 

 

Humor—

Mother Goose and Grimm for 6/21/2020

Aunty Acid for 6/21/2020

Emotions Greeting Cards ~ Funnies Page ~ Father's Day

LIFE MATTERS: SUNDAY FUNNIES - FATHER'S DAY

Happy Father's Day!! | Sithy Things

 

 

 

 

 

Late Sunday Blogging

 

Daily Prayer for January 19

But you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us or Israel acknowledge us; you, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name. Isaiah 63:16, NIV

Lord God, we thank you as we look back to the times throughout the ages when your servants lifted a voice to witness that you are our Father, that you lead the peoples to their true goal. However long it may take, we thank you for allowing us to be part of this witness. We thank you that so much love and goodness still shine into our time as a light to the nations. Watch over us. May your Spirit grow stronger and stronger within us. Bring the redemption proclaimed by your servants, and let your light dawn over all lands to the honor of your name. Amen.

 

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Daily Dig for January 19

Else Schubert-Christaller

When you see wicked people living in lust and happiness while godly ones live in poverty and pain, let your trust in God be great and humble. Who are you, that you should have the impudence to know the ways of the One, or search the paths of the Incomprehensible? It is enough that you know what is required for your own righteousness. So be silent before God’s righteousness, which is far beyond your grasp.

Source: Judische Legenden, 1929

 

Verse of the Day~~~

Image result for Ephesians 1:17-20

 

I pray … also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know … his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead…

—Ephesians 1:17-20

Thoughts on Today’s Verse…

I still don’t understand resurrection. I get the concept. I believe God did raise Jesus. Every once in a while, I experience that power through the Spirit’s work in my life strengthening me for ministry, helping me love others in tough situations, comforting me when I’m broken, giving me insight when I study the Word, and strengthening me in the face of temptation. I am humbled, thrilled, and left longing for more. I want others I love to experience this awesome power. I’m sure it’s the same with you. So let’s join together today, thousands of us all around world, and let’s pray for God to empower those closest to us to discover his power and to do great things through his Spirit who lives in them.

My Prayer…

Loving God, Almighty Father, please empower me today to live for you in glorious and wonderful ways. But Father, I don’t just pray that I may do this, please empower those that I love to live for you. (Add the specific names of folks you want God to bless in this way.) May we all know that the power in us tore away the bars of death that held Jesus captive. May we experience this transforming power and use it to your glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

Devotional  ~~~ Charles H. Spurgeon

Evening, January 19
Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures. Luke (24:45)

He whom we viewed last evening as opening Scripture, we here perceive opening the understanding. In the first work he has many fellow-labourers, but in the second he stands alone; many can bring the Scriptures to the mind, but the Lord alone can prepare the mind to receive the Scriptures. Our Lord Jesus differs from all other teachers; they reach the ear, but he instructs the heart; they deal with the outward letter, but he imparts an inward taste for the truth, by which we perceive its savour and spirit. The most unlearned of men become ripe scholars in the school of grace when the Lord Jesus by his Holy Spirit unfolds the mysteries of the kingdom to them, and grants the divine anointing by which they are enabled to behold the invisible. Happy are we if we have had our understandings cleared and strengthened by the Master! How many men of profound learning are ignorant of eternal things! They know the killing letter of revelation, but its killing spirit they cannot discern; they have a veil upon their hearts which the eyes of carnal reason cannot penetrate. Such was our case a little time ago; we who now see were once utterly blind; truth was to us as beauty in the dark, a thing unnoticed and neglected. Had it not been for the love of Jesus we should have remained to this moment in utter ignorance, for without his gracious opening of our understanding, we could no more have attained to spiritual knowledge than an infant can climb the Pyramids, or an ostrich fly up to the stars. Jesus’ College is the only one in which God’s truth can be really learned; other schools may teach us what is to be believed, but Christ’s alone can show us how to believe it. Let us sit at the feet of Jesus, and by earnest prayer call in his blessed aid that our dull wits may grow brighter, and our feeble understandings may receive heavenly things.

 

What Jesus Did! ‘Gone in an Instant’

After Jesus left the synagogue with James and John, they went to Simon and Andrew’s home. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with a high fever. They told Jesus about her right away. So he went to her bedside, took her by the hand, and helped her sit up. Then the fever left her, and she prepared a meal for them.

Key Thought

Jesus left no doubt in his power over illness; he saw the illness and cured it. It was gone in an instant. With the touch of Jesus’ hand and the power of his grace, Peter’s mother-in-law went from bedridden to healthy hostess preparing a meal. As impressive as this kind of miracle is, think about the change that same grace makes in our spiritual lives. Salvation is a great miracle in each life God’s grace and Jesus’ love touch. Our sin is gone in an instant. Our future is changed for the better in an instant. Our hopes are raised in an instant. While our lives as disciples are progressions of transformation to become more like Christ, our outlook and purpose are changed in an instant. Such is the power, love, and grace of our Lord!

Today’s Prayer

Father in heaven, thank you for the life-changing power of your grace demonstrated to me in the sacrifice of Jesus and the work of your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

Unstoppable! ‘The Pentecost Everything Changed’

On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place.

Key Thought

The Jewish people had celebrated Pentecost each year for centuries. However, as Acts 2 shows us, this Pentecost changed everything! The Holy Spirit inspired and empowered the apostles to preach the Good News about Jesus. Those who responded to the message were baptized, forgiven, and filled with the Spirit. People from all over that part of the world became part of Jesus’ family. The Spirit launched a new movement that would change the world and all of history. We cannot overestimate the significance of this Pentecost and the power of the Holy Spirit, who made it special!

Today’s Prayer

Almighty God, I recognize that you have worked throughout human history. I see your power at work as Jesus poured out the Spirit on that unique Pentecost. I also believe that Jesus poured out the Spirit on me when I confessed Jesus and put him on as my Lord in baptism. Please open my eyes to see the significance of my own personal Pentecost. Thank you for the gift of your presence in me through the Holy Spirit. I offer my life to be used and infused by the Spirit. In the name of Jesus, I dedicate myself to serve the cause of Christ, and in his name, I pray. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

Daily Wisdom:

Illustration of Proverbs 14:7 — Stay away from a foolish man,for you will not find knowledge on his lips.

Passion for Praise: ‘Source of All Comfort’

Illustration of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 — All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

Spiritual Warfare: ‘Stand Strong in Faith to Defeat Satan’

God’s Power for Our Battles

Control yourselves and be careful! The devil, your enemy, goes around like a roaring lion looking for someone to eat.Refuse to give in to him, by standing strong in your faith. You know that your Christian family all over the world is having the same kinds of suffering.

Today’s Prayer

Lord, my covenant with You has made Satan my enemy. Deliver me from him and from all the evil schemes he has planned for my life. I know he’s looking for a way to destroy me, Lord, so lead me far away from where he wants me to be. And when suffering in this life makes me feel all alone, remind me that Christians all over the world are suffering the same injustices that I am. Grant me endurance. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

A Year with Jesus: ‘Going Deeper than the Old Commands’

Note from Jesus

Dear Precious One,

Today’s message is very important because many in your religious world turn grace into an excuse to do whatever they want rather than seeing it as a joyous reason to live for the Father. In My days on earth, some accused Me of being easy on sin and negligent on ritualistic obedience to the traditions. So it is important that you not only receive the teaching that you will read below but that you also pay close attention to the emphasis.

The words I say are hard words to obey. However, I want you to obey them — to put them into practice, to make them real in your daily life. I’m not giving you a few more rules to obey so that you can feel superior to others who are not as good at being religious. What I want is for your heart to yearn for God’s righteous character as well as His gracious compassion.

There are two things I want you to realize as you read and take My words below to heart.

First, I speak with authority. My authority doesn’t depend on human sources because I speak with divine authority. Moses and the prophets spoke for God, but I fulfilled the law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17). My words are more important than those from Moses and the prophets because I AM the Son of God (Hebrews 1:1-2)! My words matter eternally. My words must also matter to you and how you choose to live.

Second, I want your heart. I want you to move beyond surface obedience to My teaching. Keep asking this simple question: “Lord Jesus, what is the Father’s intent for my heart and my behavior in this truth?” The Father and I have given you the Holy Spirit to help you hear My answer each day (John 14:23-27Titus 3:3-7).

If you do this, you will be a true child of your Father — the Father of all grace and mercy for all those who seek to honor Him!

Verses to Live

I came to help you see through the vain rule-keeping approach to religion. I want you to look deep into the heart and the will of the Father. So you will notice that I stated what the existing teachings were in My day (the underlined portions below) and that I then intensified the meanings of those truths to point you to the heart of the Father (the portions in bold text).

Jesus:

Do not think that I have come to overturn or do away with the law or the words of our prophets. To the contrary: I have not come to overturn them but to fulfill them.

This, beloved, is the truth: until heaven and earth disappear, not one letter, not one pen stroke, will disappear from the sacred law — for everything, everything in the sacred law will be fulfilled and accomplished. Anyone who breaks even the smallest, most obscure commandment — not to mention teaches others to do the same — will be called small and obscure in the kingdom of heaven. Those who practice the law and teach others how to live the law will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you this: you will not enter the kingdom of heaven unless your righteousness goes deeper than the Pharisees’, even more righteous than the most learned learner of the law.

As you know, long ago God instructed Moses to tell His people, “Do not murder; those who murder will be judged and punished.”But here is the even harder truth: anyone who is angry with his brother will be judged for his anger. Anyone who taunts his friend, speaks contemptuously toward him, or calls him “Loser” or “Fool” or “Scum,” will have to answer to the high court. And anyone who calls his brother a fool may find himself in the fires of hell.

Therefore, if you are bringing an offering to God and you remember that your brother is angry at you or holds a grudge against you, then leave your gift before the altar, go to your brother, repent and forgive one another, be reconciled, and then return to the altar to offer your gift to God.

If someone sues you, settle things with him quickly. Talk to him as you are walking to court; otherwise, he may turn matters over to the judge, and the judge may turn you over to an officer, and you may land in jail. I tell you this: you will not emerge from prison until you have paid your last penny.

As you know, long ago God forbade His people to commit adultery. You may think you have abided by this Commandment, walked the straight and narrow, but I tell you this: any man who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery in his heart. If your right eye leads you into sin, gouge it out and throw it in the garbage — for better you lose one part of your body than march your entire body through the gates of sin and into hell. And if your right hand leads you into sin, cut it off and throw it away — for better you lose one part of your body than march your entire body through the gates of sin and into hell.

And here is something else: you have read in Deuteronomy that anyone who divorces his wife must do so fairly — he must give her the requisite certificate of divorce and send her on her way, free and unfettered. But I tell you this: unless your wife cheats on you, you must not divorce her, period. Nor are you to marry someone who has been married and divorces, for a divorced person who remarries commits adultery.

You know that God expects us to abide by the oaths we swear and the promises we make.But I tell you this: do not ever swear an oath. What is an oath? You cannot say, “I swear by heaven” — for heaven is not yours to swear by; it is God’s throne. And you cannot say, “I swear by this good earth,” for the earth is not yours to swear by; it is God’s footstool. And you cannot say, “I swear by the holy city Jerusalem,” for it is not yours to swear by; it is the city of God, the capital of the King of kings. You cannot even say that you swear by your own head, for God has dominion over your hands, your lips, your head. It is He Who determines if your hair be straight or curly, white or black; it is He Who rules over even this small scrap of creation. You need not swear an oath — any impulse to do so is of evil. Simply let your “yes” be “yes,” and let your “no” be “no.”

You know that Hebrew Scripture sets this standard of justice and punishment: take an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.But I say this, don’t fight against the one who is working evil against you. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, you are to turn and offer him your left cheek. If someone connives to get your shirt, give him your jacket as well. If someone forces you to walk with him for a mile, walk with him for two instead. If someone asks you for something, give it to him. If someone wants to borrow something from you, do not turn away.

You have been taught to love your neighbor and hate your enemy.But I tell you this: love your enemies. Pray for those who torment you and persecute you — in so doing, you become children of your Father in heaven. He, after all, loves each of us — good and evil, kind and cruel. He causes the sun to rise and shine on evil and good alike. He causes the rain to water the fields of the righteous and the fields of the sinner. It is easy to love those who love you — even a tax collector can love those who love him. And it is easy to greet your friends — even outsiders do that! But you are called to something higher: “Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

(Matthew 5:17-48)

Response in Prayer

O Father, give me the wisdom to always see Your grace and the courage to live Your will in the challenging truths I have heard from Jesus today. I long, dear Father, to have my heart shaped by Jesus’ teaching and to have my heart conformed by the Holy Spirit to be like Your heart. Transform me, O Father, to You and to Your will. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

 

 

   —Dion Todd

Quality Over Quantity

But you, when you pray, enter into your inner chamber, and having shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. In praying, don’t use vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their much speaking. Matthew 6:6 WEB

As the speaker walked up to the pulpit, I could feel the hair on the back of my neck rising. I just knew that he was going to call on me to pray in front of the whole church again. They always asked someone to open the service with prayer, and some people had long beautiful prayers. Not me. I avoided PDP as much as possible: Public displays of prayer.

As I came to know the Lord better I realized that fearing public prayer was not right, but making a performance out of it was not right either. God does not care if I have a stutter when I pray. Moses had a speech impediment and was still the chosen one. Jesus said, ‘When you give, When you pray, When you fast’ but you never do any of those things to impress others. If you do then you have your reward already, the praise of men.

It is not the quantity of prayer, but the quality. Leave the long beautiful public speeches to the politicians and when you really want to connect with God, get somewhere quiet, pray, and listen. Talk to Him as you would a friend. After all, He knows you better than anyone else and nothing that you do or say is in secret to begin with. He hears the way that you talk around your friends. He also reads your texts.

Also never, ever, ever, be ashamed of Jesus. When you get backed into a corner on your faith, that is when you need to take a stand and say: ‘Yes, I love Jesus!’ and not like Peter who said ‘I do not know the Man.’ Jesus said, ‘For whoever will be ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed, when He comes in his glory, and the glory of the Father, and of the Holy Angels’ (Luke 9:26).

James wrote, ‘The effective, earnest prayer of a righteous man is powerfully effective. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and it didn’t rain on the earth for three years and six months. He prayed again, and the sky gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit’ (James 5:16’18).

Prayer is very powerful. We often have not, because we never asked God for it, so make your needs known to Him. Don’t be afraid of praying, anywhere. God loves you and He wants to hear from you today.

Prayer: Heavenly Father I thank You for today. I want You to know that I welcome You to be a part of my life. Please guide me, teach me, mold me, I yield my will to You. In the name of Jesus Christ I pray.

Bible Fun Fact: Rehoboam, the son of Solomon had 88 children! (2Chr. 11:21).

 

God’s Holy Fire: ‘Metamorphosis’

Illustration of 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 NLT —  And the Lord — who is the Spirit — makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away [a veil like the metaphorical veil that kept the Jews from understanding the old covenant]. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord — who is the Spirit — makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.— 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 NLT

Key Thought

A caterpillar changes into a butterfly — the process of metamorphosis. This type of transformation is the word image painted for us in this message from Scripture“…as we are changed into his [Jesus’] glorious image.” While we are ordinary humans, with ordinary human powers and ordinary human lives, we can become extraordinary because of the work of the Spirit. While we are limited to our natural abilities — however well we may have developed them, we are given the freedom to overcome our natural limitations and failures by the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit to transform us to be more and more like Jesus. And how does this transformation happen? It happens supernaturally, by the power of the Holy Spirit as we both contemplate and reflect the glory of Jesus.

Today’s Prayer

Father, thank you for giving me the supernatural ability to become more and more like Jesus. O Holy Spirit, please take control and conform me to the character and compassion of Jesus as I commit to knowing him and displaying his life to those around me. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

 

 

No Fear Here!

How Being Alive in Christ Today
Can Free You From Anxieties About Tomorrow

ChristNow.com Guest Blog Post
by Dr. Jeff Ebert

Happy New Year, everyone! It’s 2020! We’re a few days into it and so far, so good. No major catastrophes thus far. But what lies ahead? That’s the problem, right? We’re wondering and worrying about what lies ahead because we know by experience that tough things are coming.

That’s life! Life is a series of problems mingled with accomplishments, and we hope the joys will outweigh the sorrows. How do we get ready for that? Since we know there will be rough roads ahead, how can we be spiritually proactive and prepare for the tough stuff beforehand so that we’re ready to respond in the best way possible?

I think that’s why some folks make New Year’s resolutions—as a way of tackling some of the key issues in their lives ahead of time concerning health, relationships, finances, fitness, and so on. Make a goal and move toward it. That’s a positive thing.

My Own Number One Heart Issue

So, a couple months ago, I asked myself: What is the number one issue for my heart that prevents me from really experiencing the abundant life that I know God wants me to have?

And that was so easy for me to answer. So easy. Anxiety.

Anxiety: Worrying about the future. Anticipating all the negatives. Getting stressed about what might happen.

In his book “Anxious for Nothing,” Max Lucado defines anxiety this way:

An edginess, a dread. A cold wind that won’t stop howling. It’s not so much a storm as the certainty that one is coming. Airplanes fall out of the sky. Bull markets go bear. Terrorists terrorize. The other shoe will drop—it’s just a matter of time. [Anxiety] is a low-grade fear [but] anxiety and fear are cousins, not twins. Fear sees a threat. Anxiety imagines one.

Did you get that? Anxiety imagines a threat. Anxiety is anticipating a negative future and feeling all the negative emotions ahead of time.

Anxiety is like meteor showers of “what ifs” that keep bouncing off your brain. Anxiety is a free-floating dread, and I know that feeling.

It usually hits me in the middle of the night. What if this happens? What if that happens? My mind gets on the hamster wheel of worry. Round and round it goes. Soon, my imagination kicks in, and then the negative possibilities seem endless. And I know you know that feeling, too.

I won’t bore you with all of the statistics, but according to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety is one of the top mental health challenges facing our culture. Over fifty million people have diagnosable anxiety disorders, including panic attacks, phobias, and other things. Stress-related illnesses cost businesses over $300 billion a year in medical bills and lost productivity. Billions of dollars are spent on prescription medications.

Anxiety is everywhere. The Institute says, and I quote, “Anxiety disorders are the number one mental health problem . . . among women and are second only to alcohol and drug abuse among men.” Their conclusion is that the United States is the most anxious nation in the world!

Can You Guess What’s the
Most Popular Bible Verse for 2019?

But you know what? I didn’t need the National Institute of Mental Health to tell me that. I figured it out another way: when I read what was announced as the most popular Bible verse for 2019.

The YouVersion Bible App is the most widely used app for people to read or listen to the Bible on their phone or tablet. They have over 400 million users worldwide and offer more than 2,000 different versions of the Bible in more than 1,350 languages. They can track what verses people search for or read the most.

And according to their data, the most popular verse in the Bible this past year was Philippians 4:6, which reads:

Don’t be anxious about anything, but in every situation,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving
present your requests to God.

Don’t be anxious about anything; instead, pray about everything. That’s the most sought-after biblical advice for the year 2019.

And what is equally amazing is that data from the Kindle ebook reader showed that the most highlighted verse of the Bible on Kindle devices in 2019 was—you guessed it—Philippians 4:6. Don’t be anxious about anything; instead, pray about everything.

Two different sources gave us exactly the same data! That should really tell us something.

What Does This Fact Tell Us?

First of all, you see that a lot of people are dealing with anxiety—it’s not just me! It’s not just you! If you struggle with anxious thoughts and worries, you are not alone. Christians and non-Christians alike struggle with the tensions and pressures that come from worrying over the “what-ifs” of life. So, you’re not a bad person if you struggle with anxiety. You’re normal. You’re absolutely normal. If you ever thought that somehow you must be the only person on planet earth who struggles with anxious thoughts, you’re not! It’s a big club!

Even the people who don’t look anxious probably are. They’re just better at hiding it. That’s often true of me. I know that with my personality, I am kind of like a duck swimming across a pond. On the surface, I can look calm and serene. No ruffled feathers. Smooth sailing. But under the surface, my little webbed feet are going a mile a minute! Right?

This is an “everybody issue.” Everyone deals with anxiety at some level. So, if you wrestle with anxiety, you are not freakishly different! You are just like the rest of us. So, that’s at least one less thing you need to worry about. (You’re welcome!)

Jesus Followers Are Not Exempt

As Christians, we have to recognize that we, too, will find ourselves wrestling with all kinds of anxieties.

Just thumb through the pages of Scripture, and you’ll see how often the people in those stories had to deal with their fears and phobias—Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Ruth, David, Esther, Mary, Peter—even Jesus. For example, in John 12, we see that Jesus, facing the imminence of the cross, confessed, “Now is my heart troubled.”

Read through Scripture, and you’ll see how often God came to his people with the message, “Don’t be afraid.” Do you know that “Fear not!” is actually the most repeated command in the Bible?

Dr. Lloyd Ogilvie wrote in his book “Facing the Future Without Fear” that there are 366 “fear nots” in the Bible, one for every day of the year, including leap year day! God doesn’t want us to go a single day without hearing his word of comfort: “Fear not!”

So, though we are like everyone else on the planet when it comes to experiencing anxiety, we also have something special. We have access to God’s grace through Christ by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit to help us deal with the worries and fears that lead us toward anxiety.

If we’re going to get a handle on how to deal with our anxious thoughts, we must recognize the tools that we have from the Lord to help us—maybe not to eliminate anxiety altogether, but at least to shave it down to a manageable size so that it’s not robbing us of our joy, our happiness, our sleep, or our health.

Two Truths to Set Us Free From Our Fears

Anxiety is all mental, so that’s where we need to fight the battle—in our thoughts, in our minds. And we do that first and foremost by reminding ourselves of God’s truth. Here are two eternal truths that we should remember to better prepare us to face our fears.

(1) In Christ, we are already fully accepted by God. If you’ve given your life to Christ, then you are already declared righteous in God’s sight. Christ on the cross not only purchased forgiveness for your sin but also gave you his perfect righteousness. You are clothed—you are enveloped—by the righteousness of Christ so that when the Father looks at you now, he sees only the goodness and holiness of Christ surrounding you. And because of that, you are already accepted by him—and that’s an eternal thing.

It’s not about you holding on to Christ—no, salvation is all about Christ holding on to you. That means even in your darkest moments, when you might feel that you don’t have the strength or courage to hold on to your faith, Christ has promised to hold on to you. And nothing can break his grip.

Severe anxiety can lead people to falsely believe that they are alone or abandoned by God, or that because they are so filled with fear, they are not worthy of God’s loving care.

That’s false. No matter what happens, no matter what you are worried about, no matter how far down the worry hole you’ve fallen, nothing can take you out of God’s grace. That’s the great promise the Apostle Paul articulates in Romans 8:38-39:

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NLT, emphasis added)

Neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow. Nothing is going to separate you from the Lord. Period.

That’s what theologians call “the preservation of the saints.” Saints—that includes you. “Saints” in the Bible means the people chosen by God—those called by him. And that’s you, secured by his grace and his grace alone through Jesus Christ.

So, the first truth to tuck away in your brain is that you are fully accepted by God even with all the mess and sin in your life. Even with all your worries and fears. You are fully loved as God’s adopted child. He cherishes you and wants you to be close to him.

(2) Because of the grace of Christ, you are being made new. Being made new: This both happened to you and is happening to you—simultaneously.

You were made new the moment Christ became Lord of your life. That’s what I was just talking about. You were made new in God’s eyes through the work of Christ. You are changed because of what Christ has done, and you are continuing to change as you grow in Christ right now.

I know it’s a bit of a paradox, but you are in the ongoing process of spiritual growth by cooperating with—by working with—the Holy Spirit to become more and more like Christ.

This defines the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. It is a continuous process of change because we’ve all got a long way to go before we become like Jesus. There’s lots of room for improvement for every one of us. And how we deal with anxiety is one of those growth areas.

Wherever you are now—and it’s different for everyone—take the next step toward Christ. And since anxiety is such a huge problem area for most of us, let’s work on taking your next step toward Christ and your life in him, whatever that may be.

Again, Max Lucado observes in Anxious for Nothing:

It is not God’s will that you lead a life of perpetual anxiety. It is not his will that you face every day with dread and trepidation. He made you for more than a life of breath-stealing angst and mind-splitting worry. He has a new chapter for your life. And he is ready to write it.

Hang a Sign on Your Heart That Reads
“NO FEAR HERE!”

So, as you enter 2020, let me challenge you to begin your journey by memorizing the entire paragraph of Philippians 4:4-9.

Memorize it. Some of you maybe already have a practice of memorizing Scripture. Great! This will be easy for you. Others, I’m sure, have never memorized anything in the Bible. Well, this is a great place to start because the primary way to overcome anxiety with its fearful, future projections is to fill your mind with the truth of God’s Word, and there is no better way to do that than to memorize Scripture.

Memorize these verses so that you can instantly bring them to mind—so you can bring this weapon into the battle that is going on in your head when you start to slip over the edge into your usual pattern of worry.

You’ve got to be able to interrupt the pattern that you have going on in your mind right then that leads your thoughts toward anxiety and fearful outcomes. The best way to do that is to inject God’s positive promises into your thoughts and flip the script. Memorized Scripture is the very best tool you’ll ever have to do just that.

Say and pray this passage at least once every day. Write it out on a notecard. Stick it in your pocket or tape it to your bathroom mirror—whatever works for you. But read it, rephrase it, reflect on it, chew on it, and let its truth fill your mind!

Why don’t you read Philippians 4:4-9 out loud right here and now:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Now keep that up as many days as possible. Own it. Make it yours. Use the truth of God to combat the false fears that come your way.

Peace in Christ: The Guaranteed Outcome

What a great promise at the end: The peace of God. The peace of God is with you, in you, around you, protecting your heart and mind through and in the reigning Son of God.

Christ’s peace protects us from the onslaught of things that we could worry about.

For Christians and for non-Christians, the presence of anxiety in our lives is unavoidable. Still, it doesn’t have to become a prison. It can be replaced with FREEDOM and PEACE!

In this regard, a closer relationship with Jesus isn’t optional for us. It’s essential!

As we learn about God’s character and love and wisdom, it draws us closer to Christ. And as we grow closer to Jesus, he promises to guide us in the best way to live. Our relationship with the Lord can lead us to greater peace as he comes alongside us through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

One Other Practical Next Step

Here’s a resource I’d recommend that you get. It’s a booklet by Max Lucado entitled “Less Fret, More Faith.” It’s a very simple, short workbook that highlights some great antianxiety strategies to practice in your daily walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. It is available very inexpensively on Amazon.

Let’s pray that 2020 is the year that we grow into the person Christ wants us to be through his life-changing love—so that there will be “no fear here!”

 


About the Author

Dr. Jeff Ebert has been the Senior Pastor of the New Providence Presbyterian Church in New Providence, NJ, near New York City since 1999. His passion is to make Jesus Christ relevant to real life through challenging preaching and creative leadership. Jeff earned an M. Div. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a D. Min. from Columbia Theological Seminary. Prior to coming to New Jersey, Jeff was an associate pastor for congregations in Philadelphia and Cincinnati and also served eight years as an Area Director for Young Life. Jeff has a strong commitment to missions, and he travels internationally at least once a year. In his spare time, Jeff enjoys writing fiction and teaching Japanese martial arts. Jeff and his wife, Donna, have one son who works in Manhattan.

 

Beneath the Tree of Life

A Reading from Surprised by Scripture

N. T. Wright

Tree of Life at Sunset, sculpture by Kester, Hilario Nhatugueja, Fiel dos Santos, and Adelino Serafim Maté

Tree of Life at Sunset, sculpture by Kester, Hilario Nhatugueja, Fiel dos Santos, and Adelino Serafim Maté
Photograph by Developing Dreams / Flickr

In passages like this we see, with the eye of the apocalyptic visionary, the astonishingly powerful beauty of God’s new creation, beauty that should serve as an inspiration to artists and, through their work, to all of us as we seek to give birth to the life of the new creation within the old. The golden city, perfectly proportioned, equal in length and breadth and even, remarkably, height, has, says John, the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal. The wall is built of jasper, while the city itself is pure gold, clear as glass. The foundations are adorned with jewels: jasper, sapphire, agate, emerald, onyx, cornelian, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth, and amethyst. The twelve gates are twelve pearls, while the streets of the city are pure gold, transparent as glass. I confess that my knowledge of jewelry is so poor that I can’t at once envisage those shining foundations, but I know that whoever wrote this passage delighted in them and wanted readers to do the same, relishing them one by one and in their glittering combination.

In the great vision of John, the temple has disappeared because the whole city has become a temple.

I know too that the idea of city streets paved with gold had nothing to do with fabulous wealth – pity the poor human race, when dazzling beauty is reduced to purely monetary function! – but rather with the most ravishing and wonderful beauty imaginable. This is the apocalyptic vision of the beauty of God. And it is given to us not so that in desiring to belong to that city we forget the present world and our obligations within it, but so that we will work to bring glimpses of that glory into the present world, in the peacemaking that anticipates the Isaianic vision of the wolf, the lamb, and the vegetarian lion; in the doing of justice that anticipates the final rule of the true Messiah; in the work of healing that springs from the water of life flowing from the city into the world around; and not least in the glorious art that gives birth to genuine beauty within a world full of ugliness, which bridges the gap between Isaiah’s present and future visions, a world full of glory and a world to be filled yet more completely.

Tree of Life, sculpture made of machine gun parts, detail

Tree of Life, sculpture made of machine gun parts, detail

As an aid to this reflection, and to the vocations that follow from it, let me close with a truly remarkable example of the sort of thing I mean. In Revelation 22, the river of life flows from the city to irrigate the surrounding countryside, and on its banks grows the tree of life: not a single tree, as in Genesis, but many trees, now freely available, bearing fruit each month and with leaves for healing. This image of the tree of life and the radical and beautiful healing it promises has generated an extraordinary work of art, commissioned jointly by the British Museum and Christian Aid, and created by artists in Mozambique after the end of that country’s long and bitter civil war.

The work is a sculpture of the tree of life. It stands nine or ten feet tall, with branches spreading nine or ten feet in all directions. In it and under its shade are birds and animals. And the whole thing – tree, creatures, and all – is made entirely from decommissioned weapons: bits and pieces of old AK-47s, bullets and machetes and all the horrible paraphernalia of war, most of them made in peaceful Western countries and exported to Mozambique so that the government aid given by the West to that poor country would flow back to our own industries. The point – and it is a stunningly beautiful object at several levels – is that this particular “Tree of Life” reflects the Isaianic promise that swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. The tree stands as a reminder both of the horror of the world, with its multiple human follies and tragedies, and of the hope of new creation. It has an immediate and powerful message for the people of Mozambique, who had forgotten how to hope, had forgotten that there might be such a thing as peace, as they are invited to sit under the tree and enjoy its fruit and its healing. But it is also a sign of what genuine art can be, taking a symbol from the original creation, building into it full recognition of horrors of the present world that by themselves would lead us to despair, and celebrating the promise for the new world, a world filled with God’s glory as the waters cover the sea. It offers celebration without naïveté, sorrow without cynicism, and hope without sentimentality. Standing before it is like glimpsing an apocalyptic vision, a vision of the beauty of God.

Reflecting on this vision ought to inform and direct our thinking and action in many fields of inquiry and endeavor. But for the moment we might do well simply to pause in contemplation and gratitude. This is the vision of God’s new heavens and new earth; within that vision, each of us has a particular calling – prophetic, artistic, political, theological, scientific, whatever it may be – by which God will call us to bring signs of that new world to birth within the old one, where vision is still limited and widows still weep.


Source: Surprised by Scripture (New York: HarperOne, 2014). Used by permission of the publisher.

 

 

balance - Ten Simple Ways to Add Balance to Your Days

Finding Balance

Seasons of life run their course, and no matter who we are or at what stage we’re at, we often see balance as an impossibility.

You can focus on a project you love and not even miss eating, or you may procrastinate your unpleasant tasks and bow to the tyranny of the urgent. You can help others reach their dreams but never realize your own. Or you may even teach about intimacy with God but never spend time with Him yourself. Do any of those fit you?

We can usually find an excuse to fit every situation: It’s the kids, my boss, my husband or wife.  It’s my health, my editor, or my age in life. Believe me, I’ve offered my share of excuses along with you. But I long for this thing called balance, don’t you?

Keeping Life in Balance

Keeping life balanced is not easy for anyone, but here are ten simple ways that help me daily. Maybe it will give you a good place to start: 

  • Spend some time alone with God—prayer, Bible study, meditation.

  • Encourage someone else by doing something nice for them–a loved one, neighbor, friend, or stranger.

  • Complete something that is necessary (not your favorite, but good for you).

  • Add a physical exercise—walking, aerobics, jogging, weight training.

  • Do something you enjoy.

  • Include a mental exercise—reading, writing, journaling, working a puzzle.

  • Learn something new—from a textbook, magazine, newspaper, blog.

  • Laugh out loud.

  • Record a blessing—give thanks, writing down if possible.

  • Give something away: a compliment, a gift, time, your testimony, a kind deed, money, or goods.

Try placing this list near your computer, on your desk, in the bathroom, or on the refrigerator—wherever you’ll see it the most often.

Balance is a Discipline and a Grace

Sound too disciplined? In his book Freedom of Simplicity, (HarperOne, 1997), Richard Foster says that simplicity is both a discipline and a grace (“because it is given to us by God”).

Adding balance to your day is similar. Surprisingly enough, these “simple ways” may not be so simple, but the more you work at it, like any discipline, the more you’ll be giving a wise gift—to yourself—to God–and to others.

“Mark a life of discipline and live wisely; don’t squander your precious life” (Proverbs 8:32, The Message).

*You might also enjoy this post I wrote, called Simple Words to Live By.

My Personal Prayer for You

Lord, you know and understand our struggle to find balance for our lives. Help us to put You first–in the center of our lives–so that we won’t squander the precious life and gifts You offer to us. Give us boldness to try new things and to discover the joy and freedom of truly living simply, yet purposefully. We’re tossing our excuses, donning discipline, and embracing You and the wisdom You so graciously promise to us. Thank You for Your constant help and faithfulness.

Day-votedly Yours,

Rebecca

It’s Your Turn

Which of these simple ways are most challenging for you? What other ways do you add balance to your days? I’d love to hear from you anytime. You can always write me through my contact page. Just fill out the basic name and address info, and then the e-mail will come to me. Your name or info is not shared with anyone.

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Daily Prayer for November 10

“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, NIV

Lord our God, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, who was and is and is to come, the Almighty, we thank you for this wonderful message, which is meant for us too, even though our lives often seem empty and sad. But behold, you make all things new for each one of us. Even though we have long tormented ourselves, the light of life will dawn at last and we will be able to rejoice. Continue to protect us and our community. Wake us to new life, for you have called us to believe and to endure to the end. Whatever sorrows and hardships may come, we will remain faithful, O Lord our God. This is our promise to you. We will persevere and say joyfully, “Jesus Christ is coming to make all things new.” Amen.

 

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Daily Dig for November 10

Thomas Merton

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy if anything can.

Source: Quoted in Catholic Voices in a World on Fire

 

     —Dion Todd

We all have issues in our lives that keep us from being perfect. If one of them is blocking you from moving forward in your life, read today‘s encouraging message!

Someday Never Comes

‘He said to another, ‘Follow me!’ But he said, ‘Lord, allow me first to go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Leave the dead to bury their own dead, but you go and announce the Kingdom of God.’ Another also said, ‘I want to follow you, Lord, but first allow me to bid farewell to those who are at my house.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God.’ Luke 9:59 WEB

Jesus called some people to follow Him, but they began to make excuses. Two said that while they would really like to follow Him, they had some things to do first. The third one replied that he needed to bury his father. Though if the man’s father had been a corpse at home, then he would not have been with Jesus, but occupied with the funeral. So the story implies that he wanted to stay at home until his father died one day.

Jesus called them, they all said they wanted to go, but each one had reasons why they could not do that right now. There is no telling what they missed in life. They might have been listed with Peter, James and John if they would have accepted His call. It could have been them walking on the water with Peter and Jesus, but their life was too busy. What a scary thought.

I have talked with people who desperately need change in their lives, but they always put it off to a future date. Instead of getting serious with God, they would say something like: ‘Let me deal with this first.’ Then a decade goes by and they still have not dealt with it. Your life is passing by you right now and there is nothing more important than your relationship with Jesus. Turn to Him, and then He will help you put your house in order.

There have been times that I have stumbled while walking with the Lord, sometimes for long periods. Like the prodigal son, when I came to my senses (Luke 15:17), I would go and pray for a while and every single time it has been: “Welcome back! Now let’s go forward.” The past has never been a problem with God and the moment that you are ready to face it, He will wash it from you. He is only interested in our future.

God knows our life is fleeting, and He wants us to make the most of it. Jesus asked those people to follow Him, and they began to make excuses why they could not at this time. That tells us that not everyone who is called, actually goes. Don’t let your past hold you back from your future. The ones who made excuses, went back home to their plows. You can do that, but the ones who followed Him became the ones that we read about today.

When you stumble, repent, get up, and keep going. Take the risk. Don’t look back. This is real. Jesus never said that it would be easy to follow Him. The Apostles led lives filled with trials and tribulations, while also filled with unspeakable joy. Let us be so full of the Holy Spirit that we bring change to our surroundings like they did.

Prayer: Heavenly Father please guide me, teach me, draw me and my family to You. Use me today just as I am and if there is something that needs to change, reveal it to me so that I can deal with it. Please lead me into divine encounters, in the name of Jesus Christ I pray.

Bible Fun Fact: As a sign to Hezekiah, God caused the sun‘s shadow on a sundial to go back ten degrees (Isa 38:7-8).

 

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Sunday’s Bible Art…

 

What Jesus Did! ‘The Lord Needs It!’

After telling this story, Jesus went on toward Jerusalem, walking ahead of his disciples. As he came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he sent two disciples ahead. “Go into that village over there,” he told them. “As you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks, ‘Why are you untying that colt?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it.'” So they went and found the colt, just as Jesus had said. And sure enough, as they were untying it, the owners asked them, “Why are you untying that colt?” And the disciples simply replied, “The Lord needs it.” So they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their garments over it for him to ride on.

Key Thought

What an attitude! If the Lord needs it, I’ll offer it. If the Lord wants it, I’ll do it. No questions asked. No explanation needed. No hesitation found. We’ve seen a rich man turn back from following Jesus because the Lord told him to do something he wouldn’t do (Luke 18:21-23). That is not the case here. “The Lord needs it!” Such a simple explanation was met with an equally simple response — no words, just compliance. Little did the owners know that their act of submission and obedience to Jesus’ need would bring about such a glorious event — the Triumphal Entry that is described in the following verses. So the question each of us needs to ask ourself today is this: “What does the Lord need from me?” May our responses be the same as the unnamed owners of the donkey.

Today’s Prayer

God of glory and grace, my heavenly Father, please work on my heart. Do what is necessary to keep it soft and responsive to your will. May I always be open to whatever your Son needs of me. May I respond without hesitation. May you be glorified and your Kingdom be served in my willingness to obey. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

Daily Wisdom:

Illustration of Proverbs 25:25 — Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land.

Passion for Praise: ‘He Alone is Your God!’

Illustration of Deuteronomy 10:21 NLT — He alone is your God, the only one who is worthy of your praise, the one who has done these mighty miracles that you have seen with your own eyes.

Spiritual Warfare: ‘Spousal Mistreatment Hinders Prayer’

God’s Power for Our Battles

In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.

Lord, thank You for my spouse. Thank You that she has put up with me and encouraged me and been faithful to me in spite of my self-centeredness and pride. Help her to forgive me for being so flippant and unappreciative in the past, Lord, and help me from now on to express my love for her more often and with more tenderness. I confess that I do this not only to obey Your instructions here but also so my prayers for others won’t be hindered anymore. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

A Year with Jesus: ‘Be Holy!’

Note from Jesus

Dear Holy One,

You are a saint! The term means “holy one.” That is what you are because of your redemption purchased with My blood. I have made you a “priest” and part of “a royal order of priests who offer up spiritual sacrifices.” Like “living stones” you are being “assembled” into the holy dwelling place for Us — Father, Son, and Spirit. Being a saint means that you have dedicated and set apart your life to live for the Father’s purpose in your world.

I know a common saying in your world is, “I’m no saint!” However, if you have been reborn into My family, if you are truly My disciple, then you are not only a child of the Father, you are also a saint! You are a person living for God’s purposes and seeking to reflect God’s righteous character and gracious compassion in your life. You are part of My holy people who are a “royal order of priests, a holy nation… so that you may proclaim the wondrous acts of the One Who called you out of inky darkness into shimmering light.” Don’t downplay what I have made of you. Don’t shortchange the role I have asked you to fulfill in a world of darkness and decay.

Peter’s point in the verses below is clear: Be holy! Live up to who you are!

“Be holy in all you do” because of Who your Father is: He is holy, so you must reflect that holiness in all that you do.

Be holy because you know a great “price was paid to redeem you” from your old life that led to destruction. Your redemption price was paid by My “precious blood” when I offered Myself as the “perfect and unblemished sacrificial lamb.”

Be holy because you have been reborn through the living and enduring “word of God.”

Be holy because “you have tasted and found the Lord to be good.

Be holy because you are part of “a holy order of priests who offer up spiritual sacrifices.” You are being “assembled into a spiritual” temple where We live.

Be holy because you are “chosen” and “royal” and because you are designated to be “holy”! As Peter says it, you are “God’s own”!

Be holy because “you don’t belong in this world. You are resident aliens living in exile” among people who don’t understand you or appreciate you. However, as they get to know you, as they see your honorable behavior, as they witness your holy life, and as you live obediently to My will, you will be light to their darkness and salt to their decay (Matthew 5:13-16). Your influence upon the world around you will matter.

Be holy. Live up to who you are. Be who the Father has made you to be based on your faith and rebirth into Our family. Even if you suffer for your faith, be holy in the face of suffering knowing that your example and sacrifice will influence others to know Me and be ready for My return.

Verses to Live

The following collection of verses comes from 1 Peter chapters 1 and 2. Peter wrote to folks facing trials and persecutions. He knew their suffering, especially suffering for doing what was right, was unfair. His first answer about how they should deal with their situation, the answer that I shared in My note yesterday, focused on praise. The disciples needed to rejoice in their living hope they had in Me. Today’s verses are Peter’s reminder to them of their new and exalted identity as My people who were purchased by My sacrifice and called to a clear purpose — “so that you may proclaim the wondrous acts of the One Who called you out of inky darkness into shimmering light.” Tomorrow’s verses will emphasize that if they were going to suffer, they needed to make sure they suffered for doing what was right and not for doing what was wrong.

So get yourselves ready, prepare your minds to act, control yourselves, and look forward in hope as you focus on the grace that comes when Jesus the Anointed returns and is completely revealed to you. Be like obedient children as you put aside the desires you used to pursue when you didn’t know better. Since the One Who called you is holy, be holy in all you do. For the Scripture says, “You are to be holy, for I am holy.” If you call on the Father Who judges everyone without partiality according to their actions, then you should live in reverence and awe while you live out the days of your exile.

You know that a price was paid to redeem you from following the empty ways handed on to you by your ancestors; it was not paid with things that perish (like silver and gold), but with the precious blood of the Anointed, Who was like a perfect and unblemished sacrificial lamb. God determined to send Him before the world began, but He came into the world in these last days for your sake. Through Him, you’ve been brought to trust in God, Who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him for the very reason that your faith and hope are in Him.

Now that you have taken care to purify your souls through your submission to the truth, you can experience real love for each other. So love each other deeply from a pure heart. You have been reborn — not from seed that eventually dies but from seed that is eternal — through the word of God that lives and endures forever
(1 Peter 1:13-23)

So get rid of hatefulness and deception, of insincerity and jealousy and slander. Be like newborn babies, crying out for spiritual milk that will help you grow into salvation if you have tasted and found the Lord to be good.

Come to Him — the living stone — Who was rejected by people but accepted by God as chosen and precious. Like living stones, let yourselves be assembled into a spiritual house, a holy order of priests who offer up spiritual sacrifices that will be acceptable to God through Jesus the Anointed.
(1 Peter 2:1-5)

But you are a chosen people, set aside to be a royal order of priests, a holy nation, God’s own; so that you may proclaim the wondrous acts of the One Who called you out of inky darkness into shimmering light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received it.

Beloved, remember you don’t belong in this world. You are resident aliens living in exile, so resist those desires of the flesh that battle against the soul. Live honorably among the outsiders so that, even when some may be inclined to call you criminals, when they see your good works, they might give glory to God when He returns in judgment.
(1 Peter 2:9-12)

Response in Prayer

O Father, forgive me for not valuing who I am in Jesus. Forgive me for not living up to what You have made me and declared me to be. Too often I get caught up in the day-to-day messes of my world. I so easily forget that You have put me where I am to be a witness to Your grace, mercy, and redemption. I need strength to be bold. I yearn for holy wisdom. I long to boldly proclaim Your wondrous grace that has delivered me from my darkness into Your “shimmering light” of salvation and purpose. I ask for this strength and courage in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

Timely Truths

Loving Someone You Can’t Stand

How do we get past our dislike?

by Alan Smith (07/13/2013)

Doctor:

“I see you’re over a month late for your appointment. Don’t you know that nervous disorders require prompt and regular attention? What’s your excuse?”

Patient:

“I was just following your orders, Doc.”

Doctor:

“Following my orders? What are you talking about? I gave you no such order.”

Patient:

“You told me to avoid people who irritate me.”

Unfortunately, we don’t always have the option of avoiding people who irritate, people who hurt us, people who offend us. In fact, sometimes those who irritate us the most are found right in our home (or in our church building). So how should we deal with them?

Milton Jones has written a wonderful book entitled “How to Love Someone You Can’t Stand” which I highly recommend (you can find it at Amazon.com). In this book, Jones lists six godly principles which are derived from Romans 12:

The bottom line is that we do not
overcome evil with evil by retaliating!
  • Manage your mouth: Bless and don’t curse.

    Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them (Romans 12:14 NLT).

  • Put yourself in the other person’s place and try to understand their feelings, thoughts and position.

    Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all (Romans 12:15-16)!

  • Never, never, never take revenge.

    Never pay back evil with more evil…
    Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God
     (Romans 12:17-19).

  • Plan ahead to do something beautiful.

    Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable (Romans 12:17).

  • Don’t just win the war, win the peace.

    Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone (Romans 12:18).

  • Make room for God.

    Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. (Romans 12:19).

The bottom line is that we do not overcome evil with evil by retaliating and seeking to “get even”. The only way to overcome evil is with good:

Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good (Romans 12:21).

It is never easy to respond to those who do us wrong in a way that is godly, but it is only by following the example of Jesus Christ that we can truly have an influence on the world around us.

But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps… (1 Peter 2:19-20).

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Sundays Are God’s

 

 Daily Prayer for October 27

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:8–10, NIV

Lord God, we thank you for your voice even when it is stern and we must go through hardship and suffering. Your voice speaks to us, and in your voice we can be glad and victorious in our life on earth. Come into our lives. May each of us realize that all we have gone through has been for the good. Be God and Lord over the nations. Be a refuge for all people. Grant that the sin and distress of this terrible time may soon pass and that we may hear your words, “Be comforted. I will come soon. All these terrors must pass by. My will is being done. My name must be honored. My kingdom and my rule are coming. So take heart and at all times look to your God and Father in heaven.” Amen.

 

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Daily Dig for October 27

Walt Whitman

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and the sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyranny, and argue not concerning God.

Source: Leaves of Grass

 

 

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    —Dion Todd

Crickets And Bill Collectors

My face is red with weeping. Deep darkness is on my eyelids. Although there is no violence in my hands, and my prayer is pure. Job 16:16 WEB

Bills steadily piled up at our house, with no income to pay them. I had just spent a couple of months of intensely seeking the Lord, praying with my face to the carpet for two hours a day, and soaking in His presence like a warm blanket. Then suddenly our business dried up, and as the months passed, I began to feel alone, and abandoned. When I tried to pray, I no longer got an answer. When I tried to worship, there was no presence. When we gave, we just had less. When we fasted, we were just hungry. I know that He will never leave you nor forsake you, but I could only hear crickets, and bill collectors.

During that season, I learned this: When a school teacher is teaching the class, they will answer any questions that you have. But when the test begins, there is silence in the classroom. The teacher won’t give you the answers. You are supposed to use the knowledge that you recently learned to pass the test. The teacher is still there, but they do not speak until the test is over.

Job was a righteous man who went through a test. When everything fell apart, there was only silence. God showed up at the end of it and Job was restored. In my life, I went through a test. After several months of no work and intense pressure, we were packing to move out of our home. It ended abruptly and in twenty-four hours everything changed for us. The Lord put us into ministry, I became a pastor, and a friend stepped in and paid all of our bills for the month. The test was over, His presence returned, and like David and Job, we recovered all.

If all that you hear are crickets and bill collectors, know that this is just a test. Keep the faith, do not give up today. Keep praying, and try to stay positive. It will eventually pass and you will be taken to a new level. As Job sat there on the ground having lost everything, he probably did not see the blessings that were soon coming, for the Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life, more than the beginning (Job 42:12).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I come to You and ask for mercy. Please bring the things that You have taught me back to my remembrance. Give me the grace to pass the tests that I face. Fulfill Your will in my life, in the name of Jesus Christ I pray.

Bible Fun Fact: There are no words that begin with x in the KJV Bible.

 

 

What Jesus Did! ‘The Danger of Riches’

When Jesus saw [that the rich man was sad when told he should surrender his wealth, Jesus] said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God! In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”

Key Thought

While material riches can be a great blessing and can be used to bless many in need and to do great things for the Kingdom, riches may also be a trap to us. The Gospel of Luke lets us hear Jesus teach repeatedly about the danger of riches. Jesus’ point here is that riches can be an incredible danger to the heart of believers. This rich man was the living example of this danger. As the apostle Paul warned, greed and a desire for riches can become idolatry and destroy us (Colossians 3:5-6). Let’s make sure that every area of our lives, including our use of material things, is yielded to the lordship of Jesus.

Today’s Prayer

Father, thank you for your many material blessings. Help me use these blessings to your glory. I do not want anything to interfere with my total devotion to you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

Daily Wisdom:

Illustration of Matthew 6:34 — Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Passion for Praise: ‘Giving Me Victory’

Illustration of Psalm 118:21 NLT — I thank you [O LORD] for answering my prayer and giving me victory.

Spiritual Warfare: ‘Be Respectful, Regardless’

God’s Power for Our Battles

Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as an excuse to do evil.Live as servants of God. Show respect for all people: Love the brothers and sisters of God’s family, respect God, honor the king. Slaves, yield to the authority of your masters with all respect, not only those who are good and kind, but also those who are dishonest.

 Prayer

Lord, Satan has been quite successful as of late in getting us all angry and impatient with each other. It seems he has put his best workers in Hollywood and in government, and that strategy has worked well. Help us to show respect and love for each other; even if those who are in power are urging us to hate and slander. Help us to turn off our media and learn to love our neighbor all over again. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

A Year with Jesus: ‘Focus on What Is Core’

Note from Jesus

Dear Beloved,

I walked the streets and footpaths of Galilee, Samaria, and Judea two thousand years ago. I came as God incarnate and gave Myself as a sacrifice for your sins and everyone else’s sin (1 John 2:1-2). The ultimate validation of Who I AM and of the efficacy of My sacrifice was My resurrection (Acts 13:26-33). Through the years, those who believe in Me and commit themselves to Me have come together to form My church. However, Satan has consistently used a tried and proven method to sabotage My disciples’ work to build My church. The evil one gets people arguing about religious things that are not that important. If he can distract My followers with useless, foolish, and selfish arguments, he knows that they will lose their focus on the core truths of their faith. Paul’s letters of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, as well as the letters of 2 Peter and Jude, speak directly to these problems. In today’s verses from 1 Timothy and Titus, Paul addressed similar issues with Timothy who was in Ephesus and with Titus who was in Crete.

Paul spoke in lofty words about “God’s family” to remind My leaders and those to whom they ministered that My church is precious. My church is not just a thing or an idea. The church is the blood-bought family of people who have the purpose of being My blessing and bringing My redemption to their lost world. However, to do the work of redemption, the people of My family have to remain focused on the core truths of the gospel. Without this focus, their fellowship can devolve into personality clashes. If this primary focus is lost or if there are arguments over inconsequential semi-religious issues, My people can be trapped by immorality in all of its forms.

In today’s verses, you see Paul as he addressed the issues that were distracting My beloved disciples in Crete (where Titus ministered) and in Ephesus (where Timothy served). He pointed these disciples away from the distracting issues of false teaching, “worldly fables,” and “sensual cravings and pleasures.” Paul encouraged Timothy and Titus to point My beloved disciples in Crete and Ephesus in the direction of the core gospel and the life-change that true faith puts in place of the world’s foolish and destructive counterfeit approaches to life. Notice that some of the core teachings involve the following subjects:

  • My identity as the Christ, Son of God, and Savior
  • God’s promises about Me and My fulfillment of My mission on earth
  • The validation of My resurrection and return to glory
  • The proclamation of the gospel all over the world
  • The importance of godliness in all things
  • My return to completely redeem and save you
  • The Father’s great grace, mercy, and loving-kindness toward you when you were living in sin
  • Your rebirth through faith and the power of the Holy Spirit
  • The significance of baptism
  • The importance of living a humble and holy life full of good deeds

Verses to Live

My beloved disciple, I want you to focus on the core things of your faith. To the delight of the evil one, many people want to distract you from these core things. You can always find a way to argue about religious ideas. Instead, stick to what is core. Refuse to get distracted by what is not essential, by false teaching, or by the lure of immorality. I called you to be salt in a world of decay and light in a world of darkness (Matthew 5:13-16). Paul urged Timothy and Titus to teach the people to whom they ministered to be the same!

[Paul] am writing all this to you, hoping I can come to you before too long; but in case I am delayed, you will know how one ought to behave as a member of God’s family — the assembly of the living God, the pillar and foundation that support the truth — and I think you will agree that the mystery of godliness is great:

He was revealed in the flesh,
proven right in the Spirit;

He was seen by the heavenly messengers,
preached to outsider nations.

He was believed in the world,
taken up to the heavens in glory.

But even so, the Spirit very clearly tells us that in the last times some will abandon the true faith because of their devotion to spirits sent to deceive and sabotage, and mistakenly they will end up following the doctrine of demons. They will be carried away through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences have been branded with a red-hot iron, saying, “Don’t marry. Don’t eat such-and-such foods.” But God created all these to be received with gratitude by people who hold fast to the faith and really comprehend the truth. For everything God made is good. That means nothing should be rejected as long as it’s received with a grateful heart, for by God’s word and prayer, it is made holy.

Place these truths before the brothers and sisters. If you do, you will be a good servant of Jesus the Anointed, raised and fed on words of true belief, trained in the good instruction you have so clearly followed. Reject worldly fables. Refuse old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself toward godliness. Although training your body has certain payoffs, godliness benefits all things — holding promise for life here and now and promise for the life that is coming. This statement is worthy of trust and our full acceptance. This is what we work so hard for! This is why we are constantly struggling: because we have an assured hope fixed upon a living God Who is the Savior of all humankind — especially all of us who believe.
(1 Timothy 3:14-161 Timothy 4:1-10)

Be ready to do what is good and honorable. Don’t tear down another person with your words. Instead, keep the peace, and be considerate. Be truly humble toward everyone because there was a time when we, too, were foolish, rebellious, and deceived — we were slaves to sensual cravings and pleasures; and we spent our lives being spiteful, envious, hated by many, and hating one another. But then something happened: God our Savior and His overpowering love and kindness for humankind entered our world; He came to save us. It’s not that we earned it by doing good works or righteous deeds; He came because He is merciful. He brought us out of our old ways of living to a new beginning through the washing of regeneration; and He made us completely new through the Holy Spirit, Who was poured out in abundance through Jesus the Anointed, our Savior. All of this happened so that through His grace we would be accepted into God’s covenant family and appointed to be His heirs, full of the hope that comes from knowing you have eternal life. This is a faithful statement of what we believe.
(Titus 3:1-8)

Response in Prayer

O Father, forgive me when I become distracted by the latest religious fad, by the newest debate about hard-to-understand things, or by the lure of immorality. There are times when each of these has tugged at my heart, distracted my mind, and muddied the clarity of my devotion. I believe that Jesus died for my sins. I believe that He was buried in a grave suffering the sting of mortality. I also believe that He rose from the dead victorious over sin, death, and hell for the lost people He came to save. Because of this, dear Father, I believe that my faith in Jesus and my participation with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection through baptism have given me the assurance of life forever with You. I believe that the Holy Spirit has given me a new birth into a new way of life because of Your grace. Thank You for Your mercy. Empower me, please dear Father, as I commit to living for You. I want my life to be full of good deeds to honor and thank You. You have done so much for me. I want to be Your salt and light in a world of decay and darkness. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

 

 

The Flaming Herald, by Bert Farias

(Photo by Ronê Ferreira from Pexels)

In a recent interview with CNN’s Don Lemon, former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke was asked if he thinks religious institutions like churches, charities and even colleges/universities should lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage. Here’s O’Rourke’s response:

“Yes, there can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break, for anyone, or any institution, any organization in America that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us.”

The writing is on the wall. Persecution of the church is coming and is already here. The spirit of antichrist and atheism is gaining momentum in our nation. The warning signs are in plain view for all churches and ministries to see. If it can happen in other nations it can happen here. America is not exempt. Could some within our shores soon be imprisoned or even killed for their faith?

Although O’Rourke said “any institution or organization” should have its tax-exempt status removed if it opposes gay marriage, Lemon’s question originally only referenced “colleges, churches and charities.” Lemon did not not include mosques in his original question. Islamists have killed gays. Yet Democrats love Islam. How utterly illogical and lunatic is that? America was founded on Christian faith and principles that gave us our freedom, but now these evil men desire to enslave us through their antichrist and anti-biblical laws.

There has also been some talk among some Democratic candidates about proposing a federal law that any church or ministry that taught publicly against the gay lifestyle or same-sex marriage would be stripped of its 501-C3 nonprofit status. Among other negative results from this, it would mean that people’s tithes and offerings would not be tax-exempt; all special permits for bulk mailing would be revoked; all land, equipment and housing for ministers would fall under taxable laws; and in general, this would cause thousands of churches that are already in financial trouble to close its operations.

Their antichrist thinking is this: since same sex marriage is now law, everyone must obey the laws and support this issue. These despicable politicians are no longer hiding their belief that government should exercise control over religion, or should I say Christ and His true Church. They are of their father the devil: liars and murderers, haters of Christ and true Christians. They love their own like Islam and false religionists. That is why you never hear cases of discrimination being made against Islamic centers and mosques or Muslim businesses. Gays don’t go to a Muslim bakery and ask for a gay wedding cake. Gays don’t sue Muslims for discrimination. This world’s system is only against Christ and His true Church.

Christ likened the last days before His return to the days of Noah and Lot. In Genesis 19 we see Sodom promoting abominations of old and young men having homosexual relations. Biblical commentaries tell us that when strangers came to the city of Sodom the men placed beds in the street, tying the strangers to the bed, and physically abusing them—thus the reason Lot requested that the two men (angels) not go outside the door of his house, as it would be dangerous. America has been doing the same for sometime now. Gay rights, gay pride, gay parades, gay marriage and every perverse thing are legal and celebrated.

Tax Exempt Status Is Not a Reward

Allow me to educate some of these ignorant politicians. The tax exempt non-profit status actually exists not for a reward, as these Democrats profess, but for humanitarian services to be granted to the poor, needy, and less fortunate. They are ignorant of their own laws and now want to use them to penalize true Christian non-profits thus punishing millions from receiving their services, because they somehow believe our faith and holy convictions, which are centuries and millenniums old, are discriminatory.

In actuality, they want to reward the 4% LGBTQ community and punish the Christian right to free speech and worship of God. It is now becoming culturally acceptable to discriminate and infringe on the deeply religious convictions of millions of Bible believers.

It Is Time for Faithful Disobedience

Beloved, it is time for faithful disobedience to antichrist laws that are under discussion and consideration by our own government.

When man’s law contradicts divine law, the kingdom of God must follow the rules of heaven and not of men.

But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

The Medes passed a law that men could not pray to any God in Babylon, but Daniel refused to follow it and prayed three times a day. Another law was passed to bow down before an idol or be burned in a furnace, and three Jewish young men refused to bow. Conviction and faith overruled human laws and agendas that were contrary to God’s law.

“Be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up” (Dan. 3:18b).

These God haters and evil champions of humanism are desiring to take away the religious freedom and personal convictions of millions of Americans and will use “rules of intimidation” to accomplish their goals. It is a demonic agenda. The true Christian faith and belief system is under assault, similar to how the Soviet Union arrested and killed Christians when they came under the rule of ungodly dictators.

These agents of Satan and evil men will wax worse and worse until Christ’s coming. They want power and control that will lead to a progressive society totally void of God’s laws and judgments. To them, the Bible is an outdated book that has no place in today’s world. Last year, one state proposed to ban the Bible to counsel any person living the gay lifestyle.

Listen to me very carefully. We are coming to a showdown that we have never seen before in modern America, and as it was in the days of Elijah, Christians must decide now whose side they are on. We are coming into a time of faithful disobedience.

“How long will you stay between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him, but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Kings 18:21b). 

 

 

 

Humor…

Aunty says….

 Aunty Acid for 10/27/2019

Momma…

 Momma for 10/27/2019

Maxine…

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Misc……

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Restful Sunday

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Daily Prayer for October 20

Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. Psalm 33:8–10, NIV

Lord our God, we gather together in your presence and ask you to let your light shine in our hearts to strengthen us in times of need and trouble. May we come to know that through all the storms and distress of the world, you are mighty in protecting and sheltering those who trust in you. May we realize the power of your kingdom. Even if all the kingdoms of the world rise in rebellion, you are with us. You are with those who have set their hope on your kingdom and who go on hoping that even in evil days something must happen through your great and holy rule. Amen.

It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart. —Mahatma Gandhi

Now and at the Hour

Joseph Michael Fino

What business does a man have in a hospital room – in the brief moment at the end of a long life lived everywhere and with everyone else – holding a hand and loving every year of a life he knows nothing about? There have been so many rooms that when I imagine the fifth floor of Calvary Hospital each nameplate at each doorjamb rapidly morphs into the next. There is only one constant: a janitor in a green jumpsuit waxing the linoleum floor. He waxes widely, slowly, left to right then reverse, Eddie Vedder growling through his headphones.
Mary Pal, Waiting, cheesecloth and acrylic on linen, 2008

Mary Pal, Waiting, cheesecloth and acrylic on linen, 2008
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These names, changing and changing, persist somehow within me unchanged. These faces find me. They surprise me, coming into focus without me even closing my eyes – staring out a car window into a leafless wood or at a clean slice of blueberry pie or at the Host. I have awoken at night with a name and a prayer on my lips – “pray for us now and at the hour of our death” – often wondering if, at this moment, the petition might be redundant. What joins a man to another he’s known for so few hours at a time? Could it have something to do with that thoughtless-heartless monster, Cancer, pulverizing any hapless cell underskin? Alexander. Rose. Madelyn.

Intimacy is not just for familiars at home. Death, at certain of her portals, can be intensely intimate.

Are you there?I catch myself wondering of a leaking, breathing corpus laid out on a hospital bed, eyes open and vacant. Life has its way of deceiving us. Sometimes the soul feels so loosely attached to a body, like a tooth you could tie a string around and – slam! – dislodge. Other times the soul feels so securely lodged in a patient that you expect heaven itself to descend and lift them both together behind its jeweled walls, into its duskless day. In either case it is the body, I like to think, that is steeped in soul, and it is Death who deceives if one thinks we can be finally ripped asunder.

It’s strange, too, to insert yourself into a relationship – of spouses, say – at its most tender and delicate apex. “Married fifty-five years,” a man said to me while looking over my shoulder – the way you might catch a new dad gaze longingly upon an incubated premie – at his wife. Every day at three he prayed the rosary from an upholstered chair at her bedside. The last time I saw her was early one afternoon. She woke from sleep to find me praying a chaplet. Too weak to talk, too gracious not to smile with just the wrinkles around her eyes. Loraine.

It’s not that they haunt me, these names and faces; the word is too strong and with the wrong connotations. But the names don’t go away, like leaves on the scrim of a rapid are submerged by the turmoil of currents, only to reemerge in a different bend of the river at a different hour.

Pastoring souls through the valley of death is a work one carries out long after a corpse is bagged, downed through the elevator shaft, and later downed more deeply into the earth, since, as we all seem to expect, a life goes on living this day and every day. Another name appears beside the door, but the flock doesn’t diminish. Each remains at the pastor’s side through the shadowed valley. They have become his own. Some you meet as “Kathleen,” for example. But the prayers you offer in memoriam are for an Aunt Kath.I was not prepared for the affection of families.

I was not prepared for the silent communion one has with the incommunicative. The presence of another, as silent and unresponsive as it may be, is unique, always unrepeatable and mournable. I was not prepared for the angry: the woman whose skin lagged off her bones and whose voice came like a foghorn (“No! Arrrggg!!”) whenever she saw me. I am ashamed to say I never learned her name.

Mary Pal, Lighthouse Keeper, cheesecloth on canvas, 2018

Mary Pal, Lighthouse Keeper, cheesecloth on canvas, 2018
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I was not prepared for the agony. When I saw Deborah, she was in teeth-grinding torture. Each visit I found her sidelong, her fists clenched around the bars of the hospital bed, terror being worked out in her eyes. I would give her the Eucharist. She chewed Him, I thought at first, like one taking revenge, as if she could mortally masticate the living God.

As I knelt at her side and watched her commune, I saw her eyes, wide and looking around, still working out that terror, and saw that her heart was not on vengeance. I was looking upon something I couldn’t understand – like a child who walks in on adults reconciling.

I never felt very priestly at Calvary. The sacrifices were always offered by others, the sheep already in the teeth of wolves. Nor did God need me to make his visits. Marta: “Listen. I want to tell you something. I think God visited me. I woke up at night and he was there.”

“How did you know he was there?”

“He was running his fingers through my hair. It’s going to be OK, he said. That’s just what he said. It’s going to be OK.”

“And do you believe him?”

She looked very serious when she replied, “Yes. I do.” Then added, “I wanted to tell you because no one else would believe me. They would say it’s the drugs or my sickness or that I’m getting old, losing my mind.”

The first time I met Marta, she received a phone call from her sister just after I placed the Host in her mouth. She answered the phone and, in aggravated argument, managed to utter a couple expletives before swallowing. That was weeks earlier. The last time I ever saw her, she slept – cradled in the morphine drip, matted hair, thin as a rail – for the entire rosary I prayed from the armchair.

It impressed me how she received the word God spoke at her bedside. It’s going to be OK wasn’t negated by her imminent death. In her mind, there was no contradiction between word and event. The two were of a piece, sacramental. “He was running his fingers through my hair,” she had said. The prophet Ezekiel records that the Lord “will rescue [his sheep] from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.” I wonder sometimes if that day of clouds and thick darkness might describe, not the day of scattering, but the day in which the sheep are finally rescued.

People die. That has been for me the least welcome aspect of this assignment. It’s the kind of thing you foreknow, but foreknowledge is different than experiential knowledge. The former is abstracted. The latter, visceral.

Mary Pal, Looking Back, cheesecloth on buckram,  2013

Mary Pal, Looking Back, cheesecloth on buckram, 2013
View Larger

Maggie lay in a persistent vegetative state. As I read to her the fourteenth chapter of John’s Gospel, I found myself absorbed in her presence. The way a child absorbs himself in a brook which he looks upon from its grassy banks for the moveless movement of minnows. In the clean water, he might see them translucent and swimming still; he might see them, if he’s patient, spurt upcreek like light.

There is a lot to life that we don’t see, won’t touch, until it touches us and pulls us into its depths. After greeting Guillermo, apparently incommunicative – a touch on the shoulder, a word spoken from my knees to his upward-staring face – I visited with his daughter and granddaughter. We all prayed together. Then, after taking Guillermo’s hand to say goodbye, I was jolted by his stonemason grip and a groan which bore into me his deep gratitude.

 

 

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Daily Dig for October 20

Eberhard Arnold

In Jesus, God has opened his heart to us. He has turned his face to us. He comes to us, reveals his thoughts, and shows us who he is and what he wills. He gives us everything we need and wants to perfect the work he has begun in us. Amazingly, we feeble and insignificant beings are the object of his concern. Out of the incomprehensible love of his heart, God loves each of us quite personally. In his concern for humankind, God seeks out all people and invites them to take part in his new creation.

Source: The Prayer God Answers

 

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What Jesus Did! ‘Not an Issue of Justice Now, But of Faith’ —

Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”

Key Thought

One of the hardest things we face as human beings is injustice, especially when that injustice is directed toward us and is ongoing and persistent. Yet tens of thousands of believers in Jesus face injustice, hardship, brutality, and persecution each year. When believers face these hard times, it is difficult to believe that they will ever receive justice. It is especially disturbing when those in power are corrupt and are the ones treating them unfairly. However, Jesus reminds us that the issue isn’t injustice we may face now but faithfulness. God will settle accounts and bring justice. The real question is whether or not we’ll stick in there and not give up under fire. Hang in! Pray for the Father to hear you! Don’t give up, for God will not only bring justice, but he will also bring salvation and victory.

Today’s Prayer

Father, through your Holy Spirit, please inspire me to faithful endurance no matter what circumstances or evil people Satan may bring my way. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

Daily Wisdom:

Illustration of Amos 5:14 — Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is.

 

Passion for Praise: ‘In the Nick of Time’

Illustration of Psalm 107:17-21 MESSAGE — Some of you were sick because you'd lived a bad life, your bodies feeling the effects of your sin... so miserable you thought you'd be better off dead. Then you called out to GOD in your desperate condition; he got you out in the nick of time. He spoke the word that healed you, that pulled you back from the brink of death. So thank GOD for his marvelous love, for his miracle mercy to the children he loves.

 

Spiritual Warfare: ‘God Enriches Life and Brightens Your Future’

God’s Power for Our Battles

You, Lord, are all I want! You are my choice, and you keep me safe. You make my life pleasant, and my future is bright. I praise you, Lord, for being my guide. Even in the darkest night, your teachings fill my mind. I will always look to you, as you stand beside me and protect me from fear.

— Psalm 16:5-8 CEV

Prayer

Lord, I chose You; I choose Jesus. Your guidance is what I need most. When life is dark and foreboding, Your commandments fill my mind and my heart and help me see a promising future. Keep me safe and I travel Your path, Lord, and guide my steps through each part of the journey. Lead on, Lord, and I will do my best to follow faithfully. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

A Year with Jesus: ‘Antidote to Uncertainty: Thankfulness’

Note from Jesus

Dear Child of Grace,

You have been blessed with grace because of the Father’s love (John 3:16-18Colossians 1:12-14). That grace was embodied by My coming to earth in human flesh, My life of service, My atoning death on the Cross, and My victorious resurrection (Colossians 1:15-23) and continues to be yours through the Holy Spirit that has been given to you (Ephesians 1:13-14). You shared in this grace through your baptism because of your faith (Colossians 2:9-15). Your future in glory is secure in Me as I reign over all things (Colossians 3:1-4Ephesians 1:18-22). So rejoice! Be thankful! Praise your Father in heaven for His bountiful grace that has brought you to a life full of love, hope, and peace in Me!

The Colossian Christians had forgotten the importance of being thankful. So in his short letter to them, Paul began by giving thanks for them. He called on them repeatedly to be thankful. As important as prayer was to Paul, he reminded these Colossian brothers and sisters to always “be thankful when you pray.” In fact, Paul wanted all of their lives to be lived “sending thanks” in My name to the Father!

So why is thankfulness so important? There are many reasons. Thankfulness reminds you that you receive all your blessings from the Father. Thankfulness reminds you of all that you have been given so you are not constantly greedy for more. For the Colossians, however, thankfulness had an added purpose. This purpose can also apply to you. False teachers slip into My people like wolves disguised as sheep. Their smooth sounding words and their claim to special knowledge can create an itch of concern in the hearts of My people who can become uncertain because they are concerned that they may have missed something important. They can be enticed by new teaching that sounds special and especially spiritual. On the other hand, thankfulness roots you in the things you have received from the Father through My death, burial, and resurrection. Thankfulness reminds you that life’s most important grace, My sacrifice for you, is sufficient to bring you to My glory. As Paul warned the Galatians, anything added to the simple gospel about Me is not gospel; it is false teaching and must be opposed (Galatians 1:6-9). Paul wanted the Christian brothers and sisters to follow this important exhortation about thankfulness:

Let your roots grow down deeply in Him, and let Him build you up on a firm foundation. Be strong in the faith, just as you were taught, and always spill over with thankfulness.
(Colossians 2:7)

So, dear child of My Father, give thanks! Praise God for what you have received. Be filled to overflowing with thanksgiving because you have received grace and the assurance that life ahead of you will be glorious!

Verses to Live

The following verses are the thread of thankfulness that Paul wove into the tapestry of his letter to the Colossians. Read these verses several times. Pause after each section and ask the Holy Spirit to help you receive, incorporate, and display the principles you find in that section. Be blessed! Most of all, learn the grace of being thankful!

As always, we’ve been praying for you, thanking God, the Father of our Lord Jesus the Anointed, ever since we heard of your faith in Jesus the Anointed and your love for His holy ones — faith and love that emerge from the hope you have heard about in the word of truth — the gospel — the very hope that awaits you in heaven.
(Colossians 1:3-5)

Since the day we got this good news about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We ask:

Father, may they clearly know Your will and achieve the height and depth of spiritual wisdom and understanding. May their lives be a credit to You, Lord; and what’s more, may they continue to delight You by doing every good work and growing in the true knowledge that comes from being close to You. Strengthen them with Your infinite power, according to Your glorious might, so that they will have everything they need to hold on and endure hardship patiently and joyfully. Thank You, Father, as You have made us eligible to receive our portion of the inheritance given to all those set apart by the light. You have rescued us from dark powers and brought us safely into the kingdom of Your Son, Whom You love and in Whom we are redeemed and forgiven of our sins [through His blood].

(Colossians 1:9-14)

Now that you have welcomed the Anointed One, Jesus the Lord, into your lives, continue to journey with Him and allow Him to shape your lives. Let your roots grow down deeply in Him, and let Him build you up on a firm foundation. Be strong in the faith, just as you were taught, and always spill over with thankfulness.
(Colossians 2:6-7)

Since you are all set apart by God, made holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a holy way of life: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Put up with one another. Forgive. Pardon any offenses against one another, as the Lord has pardoned you, because you should act in kind. But above all these, put on love! Love is the perfect tie to bind these together. Let your hearts fall under the rule of the Anointed’s peace (the peace you were called to as one body), and be thankful.

Let the word of the Anointed One richly inhabit your lives. With all wisdom teach, counsel, and instruct one another. Sing the psalms, compose hymns and songs inspired by the Spirit, and keep on singing — sing to God from hearts full and spilling over with thankfulness. Surely, no matter what you are doing (speaking, writing, or working), do it all in the name of Jesus our Master, sending thanks through Him to God our Father.
(Colossians 3:12-17)

Pray, and keep praying. Be alert and thankful when you pray. And while you are at it, add us to your prayers. Pray that God would open doors and windows and minds and eyes and hearts for the word so we can go on telling the mystery of the Anointed, for this is exactly why I am currently imprisoned. Pray that I will proclaim this message clearly and fearlessly as I should.
(Colossians 4:2-4).


Emphasis added by placing the words related to thankfulness in bold.


Response in Prayer

O Father of grace and God of glory, thank You! Thank You for the vastness of the universe. Thank You for the mysteries and beauty of this earth. Thank You most of all for grace through the gift of Your Son, Jesus. Thank You for your enduring and transforming presence through the Holy Spirit. Thank You that I will one day see you face-to-face in all of Your glory. Thank you! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Illustration of  —

 

 

—Dion Todd

To be used by God can sometimes mean loving the unlovely. He loves the lost, and if you are standing near them, then you might just become His means to reach them. He will use your hands as His own. He will use your mouth to speak His words.If you want to learn more about how to do this, read today‘s message.

The Body Snatcher

I will seek that which was lost, and will bring back that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick; Ezekiel 34:16 WEB

As the tears flowed down my face, I knew they weren’t mine. I had a rough upbringing. I could count the people that I trusted on one hand, and still have a couple of fingers left. Yet, as I laid hands on this hopelessly lost rogue, who had stolen so many things in the past, and was even now wanted by the police, I could feel such compassion welling up inside me.

It was just one hard hearted person, praying for another hard hearted person, but the Lord melted us both. These feelings were not mine. I did not even want this person in my yard, but I had been abducted by the Holy Spirit. God loved this lost soul, and He had sent him to my house to ask for prayer that day because he was in a really bad situation. For some reason he looked up to me, probably because I had invited him to church a few times.

I didn’t like this person, but when he asked me to pray for him, I submitted to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. The moment that I touched him, we all started weeping. It was a divine encounter and I could feel the Lord breaking through years of pain and disappointments. I could literally feel how much God loved this poor soul who was lost, alone, scared, and hurting. The arrest warrants with his name on it did not affect the love of God for him, nor push Him away. Our Heavenly Father understood him when no one else did. I could see that even though society rejected him, Jesus accepted him.

If you are lost, know that the Lord is seeking you today and that He is not mad at you. He wants you to come back to Him. God loves the lost, and He wants to bring them all into His family. What they have done in the past does not matter. He will wash them as white as snow. If you are standing near them, then you might just become His means to reach them. He will use your hands as His own. He will use your mouth to speak His words. The Holy Spirit is the Ultimate Body Snatcher.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please lead me into divine encounters and conversations. Open the door, and I will step through it. I will be Your hands on this earth. Here I am, use me, in the name of Jesus Christ.

Bible Fun Fact: Saul was so afraid when they tried to make him king, he hid in some luggage so they couldn’t find him (1 Sam 10:22).

 

 

Humor…

 

 Aunty Acid for 10/20/2019

 Momma for 10/20/2019

Image result for Maxine humor

 

 

 

 

Happy Sunday!

 

Daily Prayer for October 13

And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir. Galatians 4:6–7, RSV

Dear Father in heaven, we come before you as your children, longing to be assured through your Spirit that we are and may remain your children. We long to live to the glory of your name under the shelter and guidance of the Lord Jesus in expectation of the great day which shall fulfill all promises made to us. Strengthen us, especially in dark and troubled days. Help us when danger threatens and when evil tries to make headway among us. Deliver us from all evil, for yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

 

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Daily Dig for October 13

J. Heinrich Arnold

Who is God, and how can we find him? One answer to this question is that something of the light of God already lies deep in each of our hearts. At times, this is to be felt only in a deep longing for goodness, justice, purity, or faithfulness. But if such a longing turns to faith, we will find God. The early Christians said that if we seek God we will find him, because he is everywhere. There is no boundary that cannot be crossed, no hindrance that cannot be overcome, to find him. We cannot excuse ourselves for not finding faith. If we knock at the door, it will open.

Source: Discipleship

 

 

—Dion Todd

Lost And Found

Yahweh’s angel found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain on the way to Shur. He said, ‘Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where did you come from? Where are you going?’ She said, ‘I am fleeing from the face of my mistress Sarai.’ Genesis 16:7 WEB

Hagar wandered alone in the desert. She had always done what she was told, but now it had become too much and she had ran from the painful life that she knew. She was pregnant, having to care for herself, and far away from where she should have been in life.

Hagar means: ‘A stranger; one that fears.’ She was an outsider in her own house. The Angel of the Lord found her lost in the desert and told her to return and submit because God had plans for her and her unborn child.

Even when Hagar did everything wrong, God found her and took care of her. He spoke of her future, and took her mind off the pain in her past. She broke down and called the Lord ‘You are the God who sees me.’

Each time I have messed up and later returned to the Lord in prayer, He spoke about the future, not about the past. If you miss the Lord, He will find you. We often worry too much and ask ‘Is this what God wants me to do?’ until we get paralyzed and do nothing at all. You cannot steer a car that is not moving, but once it starts moving, then you can correct its course.

When we get stalled in life, we pray and then try and make the best decision. Sometimes it ends with: ‘Lord, unless you tell us no, then we are going to do this.’ When you get off course, He will bring you back with a word (Isaiah 30:21).

If you feel that the Lord wants you do something but you have been held back because you may be wrong, or you have run away from it, know that He will always find you. The Lord still seeks out those who are lost.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I thank You for Your forgiveness. Help me get back on my feet and give me the grace to stand strong for I cannot do this without You. I give you permission to pull me back up and push me forward when I stall. In the name of Jesus Christ I pray.

Bible Fun Fact: Elephants are never mentioned in the Bible. However, ivory, which comes from elephants’ tusks, is mentioned 13 times.

 

 

The Backstory: Former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger was sentenced on Wednesday (Oct. 2, 2019) to serve ten years in prison for the fatal 2018 shooting of an innocent man, Botham Jean, whom she shot when she mistakenly entered his apartment believing it was her own.

But in a remarkable act of kindness, the brother of the victim, Brandt Jean, took the witness stand and spoke directly to Guyger, urging her to give her life to Christ, and finally hugged her in the courtroom before she was led off to prison. (See a video clip of this extraordinary moment here.)

  • I don’t want to say twice or for the hundredth time … how much you’ve taken from us. I think you know that … I hope you go to God with all the guilt and all the bad things you may have done in the past. Each and every one of us may have done something that we’re not supposed to do … I forgive you, and I know if you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you …
  • I love you just like anyone else … I personally want the best for you … I want the best for you because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want you to do, and the best would be to give your life to Christ. I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do. Again, I love you as a person, and I don’t wish anything bad on you.

Then he asked Judge Kemp if he could hug Guyger, a request the judge granted. He stepped off the witness stand and met Guyger in front of the judge’s bench.They strongly embraced each other as Guyger broke into tears.

Moments later, the judge spoke to Guyger privately, also hugged her, and gave her words of hope. Then the judge went to her chamber behind the courtroom and handed Guyger her personal Bible that she had used for years.

The Front Story: Whether they knew it or not, everyone sitting in that courtroom last week—plus millions who saw it on the nightly newscasts—were witnessing a  “preview” of the coming day when the promise of Colossians 1:18-20 will be fulfilled to the uttermost for the entire universe:

[Christ] was supreme in the beginning and—
leading the resurrection parade—
he is supreme in the end. 
From beginning to end he’s there,
towering far above everything, everyone…Everything of God finds its proper place in him…
all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe…
get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies,
all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.

(The Message, emphasis added)

kindredKGgrace

How to Bloom with Joy in the Midst of Brokenness

by Bekah Bowman

“Those who plant in tears will harvest with great joy. They weep as they go plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.” (Psalm 126:5-6)

My Broken Narrative

I begin my broken-story narrative on February 10, 2014–the day my son, Titus, had a seizure. What followed was a massive and swift wave that rocked our lives hard between fear, anger, mystery and defeat.

April 7, 2015, Titus was diagnosed with a rare, genetic, and fatal disease. The doctor had no treatment he could prescribe, no cure in sigh. We were going to lose our boy. And worse yet, our youngest son, Ely, was also in danger of having the disease.  We were encouraged to get him tested as well.

June 25, 2015, Ely’s test came back. To the visual eye he had no signs of the disease, but then again–he was too young to show any symptoms.  The phone call while on vacation held an answer. “I’m sorry, Rebekah, but he has it too,” the genetic counselor had said. He too would live this hard journey, growing older and growing robbed. As my boys grew, their skills and abilities were stripped away. And, for my oldest, eventually so was his life.

There we were left in a puddled mess of agonizing tears. The first diagnosis day left me despondent. I began to research and connect with other families with the same disease. My heart started to grasp the severity of the monster living inside Titus as I braved Google and asked questions. The second diagnosis day absolutely gutted me. This evil was to take away all my children. The days following both diagnoses, I cried at the sight of everything. I witnessed beautiful brotherly moments and tears poured down my face as I watched. My thoughts traveled to the unknown of the future and I wondered how much longer I would get to witness these boys playing together.

I witnessed seizures and outbursts, boys going blind, falling, shaking, choking, crying in pain, muscles cramping, lungs drowning. And I’d cry out and yell out, wondering how long? How long was this suffering to be endured?

Hope in the Deep-Down Dark

In the rage, fear, and desperation, I fell into a deep, dark hole. I fully expected to be alone down there. But I wasn’t. Christ met me there. He met me there with a promise that came wrapped in a broken and crucified Man.

His promise held three important lifelines for me there in my state of darkness and brokenness:

1. Even in that broken place, He was there.

He came all the way to brokenness to show me how wide and how long and how deep His love is for me. And He folded all the way into brokenness to show me how trustworthy His promise of victory and redemption will always be.

2. Victory and redemption were mine to hold.

Yes, even while I was still broken, I was victorious. There is and always will be Holy Adventure to be had right here in our present moments because Jesus has overcome!

3. Joy exists in these dark places.

Joy is not a reflection of how I feel, but of my God’s consistent, faithful character. I Am, He promises. He does not change. In the pit of disease and death, there is praise to be lifted up. For Jesus, has brought victory over death. Even as it all felt hopeless and pain-filled, His Joy brought me to clarity so I could see above the storm I was surrounded by.

Joy is not a reflection of how I feel, but of my God’s consistent, faithful character. I Am, He promises. He does not change. In the pit of disease and death, there is praise to be lifted up. For Jesus, has brought victory over death.

And so, I moved forward in those dark days and learned to look back. When I look back, I can see His faithfulness and trustworthiness. It is in the looking back that I can call out proof of His protection, His provision, His goodness, His presence!

And then I learned to look around, right there, in my present. For it was right there, when I open my eyes, where I discovered gifts in the mundane hamster wheel of life and in the broken, jaded edges. Goodness was before me and waiting to be beholden. Casting away the bitterness over what had been stolen and the fear of future what-ifs, gifted me the ability to be right there in my present moment, peering into what was in front of me right then.

And finally, I looked forward. Not in an anxious “what-if” kind of way, but in an expectant anticipation. Because what is held in that future day is the fullest fruition of the victory and redemption I get to claim right here, right now.

Finding My Manifesto

On a day I was overtaken by His love and in awe at the capacity of joy my heart still held onto, God sank the “Can’t Steal My Joy Manifesto” deep into my soul. Right there, in the middle of sickness, death and loss, my heart sang out of His goodness, His provision, His grace, victory and JOY!

I journaled:

Want to know why I can’t be plucked from the garden of joy? When that hand of hate, jealousy, anger, bitterness or selfishness tries to pull me out, my roots cling tight, dive deep, wrap around the other roots growing deep. One tries to pull my flower out, but they really have to contend with a mass of roots that have intertwined below.

This web of deep strong roots is a result of God’s love. He is deep in us and when we face a storm on the surface–my leaves and petals taking a beating no flower could appear to endure–He holds tight to my roots, weaves them through the roots of other flowers. As the storm goes on, I don’t wilt. I don’t become uprooted. I firmly stand my ground in the soil of LIFE. And others around me too! God has weaved us together and we will stand strong, united and beautiful in the storm. We will add radiant colors in the gray skies, sweet smells as bitter rain comes down because our roots are DEEP.

It doesn’t matter what happens on the surface–deep is where our roots are pulling nutrients. He is providing everything we need to stay up.

But… we do look beaten.

Save us, Lord! You see our plight and You cling tight. I might feel this unbearable storm, but You keep together the most important part of me–my soul. When I, a summer flower, bloom in the dead of frigid winter, people wonder, How?

My roots are held deep in love and warmth, surviving and thriving in unthinkable conditions. You give life that doesn’t make sense. It appears impossible to live in such a way, a bloomed flower in dead winter. Only a good, redemptive God can give that kind of life. Thank you for deep roots in you, God. For clinging to me deep in my soul so I can survive. Thank you for winding my roots around such strong, wise roots of others. You have won and will continue to win in my heart. Nothing can hold you back. So please Lord, radiate strong from my being, through my broken stem and beaten leaves right to my new and beautiful bloom.

Finding Unity in Brokenness and Journeying Together

Brokenness is a unified human condition. We all know what our beaten leaves and broken stem represent. But at the end of our broken stem is a faithful, redemptive bloom. One that reflects the unchanging beauty of Christ that is in ALL of us. Perhaps, when we look at the bloom, our stems and leaves become (dare I say it?) inconsequential; not because they don’t hurt anymore–oh they do! But because we can see beyond it and know that hope is always worth holding on to because redemption is coming, and in fact, is already happening here and now.

May you see your bloom. May you know deep in your soul just how much Jesus really, really loves you. Hold on. Hold on to those hope-filled roots, God’s strength and victory always before you, beside you, under you, and all around you.

“…please, Lord, radiate strong from my being, through my broken stem and beaten leaves, right to my new and beautiful bloom. My broken stem shows my weakness, and my new bloom shows that You take brokenness and make it SO beautiful… Bloom beautiful in me, despite my ugly, broken stem.” (Can’t Steal My Joy: The Journey to a Different Kind of Brave by Bekah Bowman)

“…please, Lord, radiate strong from my being, through my broken stem and beaten leaves, right to my new and beautiful bloom. My broken stem shows my weakness, and my new bloom shows that You take brokenness and make it SO beautiful… Bloom beautiful in me, despite my ugly, broken stem.”
(Can’t Steal My Joy: The Journey to a Different Kind of Brave by Bekah Bowman)

Bekah Bowman is a wife to a track coach, and mom to Titus and Ely. When she isn’t writing, you might find Bekah spending time with her family, working as the Volunteer Manager for her community’s local Guardian ad Litem (CASA) program, or jumping in on an indoor soccer game. She loves coffee, fresh journals, and meaningful conversation. And most of all, she loves being a small part of God’s Big Story. Visit Bekah’s blog, or find her on Facebook and Instagram.

 

 

 

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What Jesus Did! ‘Just Like in Noah’s Day’

[Jesus said,] “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days, the people enjoyed banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat and the flood came and destroyed them all.”

Key Thought

Noah’s message and preparation went totally unappreciated by his contemporaries. They ignored his warnings about God’s impending judgment and their need to repent. They went on doing what they had always done, even as the rain started to fall. When Jesus returns in his glory, those who have lived for him will be waiting in expectation for his return and be overjoyed. However, those who have ignored his call to follow him and who have spurned his grace will be caught off guard just as much as those in Noah’s day were. It’s sad. It’s tragic. Let’s try to make a difference in as many of those lives as we can!

Today’s Prayer

Father, I know Jesus will come with glory. I know that his return will catch many off guard. Please use me to help those around me to be prepared and full of joy at the return of Jesus, in whose name I pray. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

Daily Wisdom:

Illustration of Matthew 5:4 — Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Passion for Praise: ‘Joy, Gladness, and Shouting’

Illustration of Psalm 70:4 NLT — May all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness in you. May those who love your salvation repeatedly shout, "God is great!"

Spiritual Warfare: ‘Be Thankful, Prayerful, Vocal, and Glad in Him’

God’s Power for Our Battles

Give thanks to the Lord and pray to him.Tell the nations what he has done. Sing to him; sing praises to him. Tell about all his miracles. Be glad that you are his; let those who seek the Lord be happy. Depend on the Lord and his strength; always go to him for help.

Illustration of 1 Chronicles 16:8-11 NCV — Give thanks to the Lord and pray to him. Tell the nations what he has done. Sing to him; sing praises to him. Tell about all his miracles. Be glad that you are his; let those who seek the Lord be happy. Depend on the Lord and his strength; always go to him for help.

Today’s Prayer

Lord, I thank You and praise Your Holy Name. I pray to You because You are the Chosen One, the One I can always depend on for strength and constant help. I sing of Your greatness and kindness and glory, Lord, and I pledge to tell others of how You have rescued me again and again. You are the God of miracles and hope, and my heart rejoices in Your love for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

A Year with Jesus: ‘God’s Suffering Servant’

Note from Jesus

Dear Follower,

The Father’s role for Me when I came to earth as the Son of God shocked many people. They expected a warrior or kingly ruler who would restore Israel to prominence and power among the nations of the world. Even my cousin and forerunner, John the Baptizer, had questions about whether I was the Messiah. So I reminded this great servant that I was doing the things that are in the description of the Messiah given by Isaiah (Isaiah 35:4-6):

John sent two of his disciples to ask the Lord, “Are You the Promised One, or shall we keep looking for someone else?”

They came to Jesus and asked their question exactly as directed by John the Baptist.

Before He answered John’s messengers, Jesus cured many from various diseases, health conditions, and evil spirits. He even caused many blind people to regain their sight.

Jesus (to John’s disciples):

Go and tell John what you’ve witnessed with your own eyes and ears: the blind are seeing again, the lame are walking again, the lepers are clean again, the deaf hear again, the dead live again, and good news is preached to the poor. Whoever is not offended by Me is blessed indeed.

(Luke 7:19-23)

I came to earth as the servant promised in Isaiah. I repeatedly tried to help people hear this truth about My identity; here are two examples of what I said about Myself:

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to liberate the lost.”
(Luke 19:10)

“You know that among the nations of the world the great ones lord it over the little people and act like tyrants. But that is not the way it will be among you. Whoever would be great among you must serve and minister. Whoever wants to be great among you must be slave of all. Even the Son of Man came not to be served but to be a servant — to offer His life as a ransom for others.”
(Mark 10:42-45)

In the second passage of Scripture below, My apostle Paul dealt with problems in the church in Philippi. He used My example and My role as the servant of the LORD to be the foundation of his teaching. My disciples in Philippi needed to have the same mind, the same attitude, as I displayed in honoring the Father when I accepted My role as a servant. I want you to remember My role, My willingness to honor God in that role. More than remembering, I want you to adopt this servant lifestyle as your own!

Verses to Live

As you read the following verses, ask the Holy Spirit to imprint My example on your heart. First, you will read Isaiah’s words of description for the LORD’s Suffering Servant. Then you will read Paul’s exhortation for My disciples to have this same attitude. As Paul wrote to the Philippians from prison, he wanted them to grasp fully that they must have this one mind as they lived in relationship with each other. I want you to have this same mind as you live in relationship with other believers!

Indeed, who would ever believe it?
Who would possibly accept what we’ve been told?
Who has witnessed the awesome power and plan of the Eternal in action?
Out of emptiness he came, like a tender shoot from rock-hard ground.
He didn’t look like anything or anyone of consequence —
he had no physical beauty to attract our attention.

So he was despised and forsaken by men,
this man of suffering, grief’s patient friend.
As if he was a person to avoid, we looked the other way;
he was despised, forsaken, and we took no notice of him.

Yet it was our suffering he carried,
our pain and distress, our sick-to-the-soul-ness.
We just figured that God had rejected him,
that God was the reason he hurt so badly.

But he was hurt because of us; he suffered so.
Our wrongdoing wounded and crushed him.
He endured the breaking that made us whole.
The injuries he suffered became our healing.

We all have wandered off, like shepherdless sheep,
scattered by our aimless striving and endless pursuits;
The Eternal One laid on him, this silent sufferer,
the sins of us all.

And in the face of such oppression and suffering — silence.
Not a word of protest, not a finger raised to stop it.
Like a sheep to a shearing, like a lamb to be slaughtered,
he went — oh so quietly, oh so willingly.

Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away.
From this generation, who was there to complain?
Who was there to cry “Foul”?
He was, after all, cut off from the land of the living,
Smacked and struck, not on his account,
because of how my people (my people!)
Disregarded the lines between right and wrong.
They snuffed out his life.

And when he was dead, he was buried with the disgraced
in borrowed space (among the rich),
Even though he did no wrong by word or deed.

Yet the Eternal One planned to crush him all along,
to bring him to grief, this innocent servant of God.
When he puts his life in sin’s dark place, in the pit of wrongdoing,
this servant of God will see his children and have his days prolonged.
For in His servant’s hand, the Eternal’s deepest desire will come to pass and flourish.

As a result of the trials and troubles that wrack his soul,
God’s servant will see light and be content
Because He knows, really understands, what it’s about; as God says,
“My just servant will justify countless others by taking on their punishment and bearing it away.

Because he exposed his very self —
laid bare his soul to the vicious grasping of death —
And was counted among the worst, I will count him among the best.
I will allot this one, My servant, a share in all that is of any value,

Because he took on himself the sin of many
and acted on behalf of those who broke My law.”
(Isaiah 53:1-12)

In other words, adopt the mind-set of Jesus the Anointed. Live with His attitude in your hearts. Remember:

Though He was in the form of God,
He chose not to cling to equality with God;

But He poured Himself out to fill a vessel brand new;
a servant in form
and a man indeed.

The very likeness of humanity,

He humbled Himself,
obedient to death —
a merciless death on the cross!

So God raised Him up to the highest place
and gave Him the name above all.

So when His name is called,
every knee will bow,
in heaven, on earth, and below.

And every tongue will confess
“Jesus, the Anointed One, is Lord,”
to the glory of God our Father!

(Philippians 2:6-11)

Response in Prayer

Lord God, thank You for Jesus as Your example of a servant. Jesus’ example is both convicting and inspiring. I pledge to honor Jesus by following His example as a servant. I ask for the power of the Holy Spirit to help me as I seek to follow Jesus’ example and not my own selfish desires. In Jesus’ name, I pray and ask for this grace. Amen.

Illustration

Illustration of  —

 

 

 

 

A Little Humor…

 Aunty Acid for 10/13/2019

 

 

 

 

Summer Is Ending??

 

 

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Daily Prayer for August 25

Do not conform 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

Grant us your Spirit, Lord our God, that we may discern your good, acceptable, and perfect will. Give us joy in fighting on your side, so that what is good, acceptable, and perfect may be given to the world. Wherever we are and whatever work we do, give us zeal to serve you and be guided by you so that your will may be done and your kingdom come, so that already today we may find happiness even though only in hope. Amen.

 

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Daily Dig for August 25

Guiseppe Mazzini

No true society can exist without a common faith and common purpose. …What we need, what the people need – and what the age is crying for that it may find an issue from the slough of selfishness, doubt, and negation in which it is submerged – is faith, in which our souls, ceasing to wander in search of individual ends, can march together in consciousness of one origin, one law, and one goal. Every strong faith that arises on the ruins of old and outlived beliefs changes the existing social order, for every strong faith inevitably influences all departments of human activity. In different forms and different degrees, humanity repeats the words of the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come on earth as in heaven.”

Source: Mazzini

 

 

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The Daily Word of Hope Devotional



While I Breathe

let’s hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering; for he who promised is faithful. Let’s consider how to provoke one another to love and good works, not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:23 WEB

My home state of South Carolina carries this inscription on the state seal: ‘Dum Spiro Spero.’ In Latin, this phrase means “While I breathe, I hope.’ This is a profound statement because where there is hope, there is life. When all hope is gone, it usually ends. That is a goal of Refreshing Hope Ministries, to refresh your hope each day. As long as you are still sucking air, you can make it through this.

Hope is incredibly powerful at driving away doubt, fear, darkness, and discouragement. Despair is defined as ‘the complete loss or absence of hope.’ Most of us know what despair sounds like because we listen to it all day in our minds, trying to beat us down, trying to get us to give up our hope, to discourage us and get us to stop.

Hope is like the sunlight that chases away the darkness. Hope says: “This will turn out well for me. Something good is coming my way. I will beat this, I will be healed. They will be OK. This is not the end. I can do better! God has got a plan for me and I am going to see this through. I can do this. I will overcome and my breakthrough is coming soon! This enemy is going down!”

Do not give up your hope in the goodness of God during the dark times. It is all that you have left. God is going to do the things that He has promised you. He is completely faithful and has nothing but the best intentions for you. Even when this life is over, it is not the end. It will be the beginning of really living. The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me (Hebrews 13:6). While you breathe, hope.

Prayer: Heavenly Father I choose to trust in You. I know that You are there for me and I am so thankful for all that You do. Please restore my hope and let Your Son shine through me, in the name of Jesus Christ I pray.

Bible Fun Fact: Moses was the most meek (humble) man on the face of the Earth (Num 12:3).

 

 

What Jesus Did! ‘One Last Chance!’

Then Jesus told this story: “A man planted a fig tree in his garden and came again and again to see if there was any fruit on it, but he was always disappointed. Finally, he said to his gardener, ‘I’ve waited three years, and there hasn’t been a single fig! Cut it down. It’s just taking up space in the garden.’ The gardener answered, ‘Sir, give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer. If we get figs next year, fine. If not, then you can cut it down.'”

Key Thought

At the end of Luke 12, Jesus reminded his disciples to be ready always and live with a sense of urgency about his return. In the first part of chapter 13, Jesus called on people to repent. Now, in today’s verses, Jesus is basically reminding us that we are on borrowed time. We need to repent now. We’ve been extended a season of grace to become fruitful, so we’ve got to be fruitful. No more playing around with religion. No more hypocrisy. No more religious talk without spiritual commitment and spiritual living. It’s put up or shut up time. It’s time to be fruitful.

Today’s Prayer

Holy and righteous Father, I know that now is the time you want me to be fruitful and that you want me to live for you with passion today and every day. Help me overcome my religious procrastination. Bless me as I seek to lay aside my fears and inhibitions about following you. Empower me to live with holiness, urgency, and a sense of joyous expectation. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

 

Daily Wisdom: Proverbs 14:30

Illustration of Proverbs 14:30 — A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

 

Passion for Praise: ‘Once More!’

Illustration of Jeremiah 33:10-11 — [For this is what the LORD says] There will be heard once more the sounds of joy and laughter. The joyful voices of bridegrooms and brides will be heard again, along with the joyous songs of people bringing thanksgiving offerings to the LORD. They will sing, 'Give thanks to the LORD of Heaven's Armies, for the LORD is good. His faithful love endures forever!' For I will restore the prosperity of this land to what it was in the past, says the LORD.

 

Spiritual Warfare: ‘Brought Near by the Blood of Christ’

God’s Power for Our Battles

Illustration of Ephesians 2:12-13 NLT — In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.

Lord, all my life I have lived in hope. I hope for a better world; I hope for peace; I hope for eternity in heaven with You. Thank You for making my hope into an assured future reality through the saving blood of Your Son Jesus Christ. Now help me share that hope with others around me who have lived without it. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

A Year with Jesus: ‘Our Glorious Future’

Note from Jesus

Dear Follower,

Resurrection is coming. I will return for those who belong to Me. At My coming, everyone who belongs to Me will be given an immortal body. Just as you have carried the body that has been part of your human existence and that is mortal because of Adam’s rebellion against the Father, you also will be transformed because of My victory over death. You will have an immortal body far more glorious than you can fully imagine. My resurrection from the dead is the assurance of your resurrection. My glorious body after My resurrection is the assurance of your glorious body after your resurrection.

I know you would like to know all the details about life after death. Let it be enough to know that when you are My disciple, the Holy Spirit Who is alive in you ensures that you will never be separated from Me and that your resurrection is assured (Romans 8:32-391 Corinthians 15:21-26). When death claims your physical body, you come to be with Me (Philippians 1:19-242 Corinthians 5:1-8). Then, when the Father says it is time, I will return and change all who belong to Me to have immortal bodies to share in the resurrection and reunion (Philippians 3:20-21). You will share in the glory of all that the Father has promised you.

Your future existence in this immortal state is impossible for you to grasp fully now. Paul helps you catch a glimpse of this glorious future by using an example from your earthly existence. A seed that you place in the ground is not particularly beautiful. It is simple and earthy. But when it is placed in the ground and dies to its current existence, a transformation happens that is a part of a new life. The seed germinates, grows, and becomes something glorious. The seed is not glorious when compared to the flower of the fully-grown plant. Your physical bodies, though marvelously made, are just a seed compared to the glory of the new bodily existence that you will enjoy with Me when we share in glory together.

Death is an intruder that wounds hearts. However, when someone you love and who is My disciple is separated from you by death, remember that death is not only My enemy but that I also have ultimately defeated death and its power. While death may separate you for a short time from those you love, My resurrection ensures your resurrection and your reunion with all those who are Mine! So, no matter what your earthly life throws at you — how it disappoints you, wounds you, beats you down, or discourages you — I have defeated death. Death will not have the ultimate victory over you. Death will not determine the ultimate outcome of your life. You are Mine! Your future glory beyond death is in My hands! Transformation, reunion, victory, and a life in glory are your future!

Verses to Live

The following words come from what many people have called the resurrection chapter of the Bible. Paul wanted the Corinthian Christians to know that because I was raised from the dead, they will also be raised from the dead. Please, take the time to savor Paul’s words. Dwell on them. Let them give you hope. Commit the phrases that mean the most to you to memory for those times when you need them most. Remember, your faith in Me is not wasted, and your hope in Me is not in vain!

Now if we have told you about the Anointed One (how He has risen from the dead and appeared to us fully alive), then how can you stand there and say there is no such thing as resurrection from death? Friends, if there is no resurrection of the dead, then even the Anointed hasn’t been raised; if that is so, then all our preaching has been for nothing and your faith in the message is worthless. And what’s worse, all of us who have been preaching the gospel are now guilty of misrepresenting God because we have been spreading the news that He raised the Anointed One from the dead (which must be a lie if what you are saying about the dead not being raised is the truth).

Please listen. If you say, “the dead are not raised,” then what you are telling me is that the Anointed One has not been raised. Friends, if the Anointed has not been raised from the dead, then your faith is worth less than yesterday’s garbage, you are all doomed in your sins, and all the dearly departed who trusted in His liberation are left decaying in the ground. If what we have hoped for in the Anointed doesn’t take us beyond this life, then we are world-class fools, deserving everyone’s pity.

But the Anointed One was raised from death’s slumber and is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep in death.
(1 Corinthians 15:12-20)

Now I know what some of you are thinking: “Just how are the dead going to be raised? What kind of bodies will they have when they come back to life?”

Don’t be a fool! The seed you plant doesn’t produce life unless it dies. Right? The seed doesn’t have the same look, the same body, if you will, of what it will have once it starts to grow. It starts out a single, naked seed — whether wheat or some other grain, it doesn’t matter — and God gives to that seed a body just as He has desired. For each of the different kinds of seeds God prepares a unique body.

Or look at it this way: not all flesh is the same. Right? There is skin flesh on humans, furry flesh on animals, feathery flesh on birds, and scaly flesh on fish. Likewise there are bodies made for the heavens and bodies made for the earth. The heavenly bodies have a different kind of glory or luminescence compared to bodies below. Even among the heavenly bodies, there is a different level of brilliance: the sun shines differently than the moon, the moon differently than the stars, and the stars themselves differ in their brightness.

It’s like this with the resurrection of those who have died. The body planted in the earth decays. But the body raised from the earth cannot decay. The body is planted in disgrace and weakness. But the body is raised in splendor and power. The body planted in the earth was animated by the physical, material realm. But the body raised from the earth will be animated by the spiritual. Since there is a physical, material body, there will also be a spiritual body.

That’s why it was written, “The first man Adam became a living soul”; the last Adam has become a life-giving spirit. Everything has an order. The body is not animated first by the spiritual but the physical; then the spiritual becomes its life-giving source. The first man, Adam, came from the earth and was made from dust; the second man, Jesus, has come from heaven. The earth man shares his earth nature with all those made of earth; likewise the heavenly man shares His heavenly nature with all those made of heaven. Just as we have carried the image of the earth man in our bodies, we will also carry the image of the heavenly man in our new bodies at the resurrection.

Now listen to this: brothers and sisters, this present body is not able to inherit the kingdom of God any more than decay can inherit that which lasts forever. Stay close because I am going to tell you a mystery — something you may have trouble understanding: we will not all fall asleep in death, but we will all be transformed. It will all happen so fast, in a blink, a mere flutter of the eye. The last trumpet will call, and the dead will be raised from their graves with a body that does not, cannot decay. All of us will be changed! We’ll step out of our mortal clothes and slide into immortal bodies, replacing everything that is subject to death with eternal life. And, when we are all redressed with bodies that do not, cannot decay, when we put immortality over our mortal frames, then it will be as Scripture says:

Life everlasting has victoriously swallowed death.

Hey, Death! What happened to your big win?

Hey, Death! What happened to your sting?

Sin came into this world, and death’s sting followed. Then sin took aim at the law and gained power over those who follow the law. Thank God, then, for our Lord Jesus, the Anointed, the Liberating King, Who brought us victory over the grave.

My dear brothers and sisters, stay firmly planted — be unshakable — do many good works in the name of God, and know that all your labor is not for nothing when it is for God.
(1 Corinthians 15:35-58)

Response in Prayer

O Father, please carve these words on my heart so that I can remember them when times of discouragement come because of the death of those I love. Bring these words back to me when I face my own mortality. I cannot help, dear Father, but think of those who are hanging onto these words right now as they are being martyred for their faith by those who preach hate and death in the name of religion. Please, dear Father, work in our human history to stop this hate-based genocide of our Christian brothers and sisters and their children because of their faith. And, dear Father, please give those who face death because of their faith in Jesus a sense of His being with them every step of the way until they are blessed by His presence with them until death is swallowed up in life. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Illustration of  —

 

 

I Was Afraid!
Hi Mary Immediato,                                                     Print

My first child was five months old when the doctors gave the report. The surgery would require removing his skull from the soft spot down to his eyebrows and all the way to each temple on the sides of his head. If I did not allow the surgery, the consequences would be horrible. The doctors said without the surgery things would only get worse and was impossible for anything to get better. God had so recently given a miracle for my wife to conceive this child, but now we were facing this life altering situation. I was afraid of what might happen if I did not allow the surgery to be done, but I was also afraid of what would happen if I did allow it. This “fear” was not panic or torment. Neither was it the fear of the Day of Judgment that John speaks of. I John 4:17-18. My fear was the understanding that either course I took could have unbearable consequences.

I did not believe I had great faith at all in that hour. I could not say, “I know God will give a miracle.” The only thing I could do was pray and seek God. At times I would take my son to the church alone to walk with him in my arms and seek God for an answer. When asked what we were going to do, I would simply say “I do not know.” Then one day in the middle of a Sunday morning service, God spoke three words to my heart: “It’s all right!” We canceled the surgery, and soon it became evident that the “impossible” was happening, and my child would be perfectly whole. God had heard my cry, even though I was afraid!

I know it shatters our theology, but the Bible is clear that there was an occasion when Jesus was afraid. Speaking of this, the apostle wrote, “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;” Hebrews 5:7. This passage is referring to Jesus in Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion. There he prayed and “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Luke 22:44.

Peter, James, and John were present when Jesus “…began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.” Mark 14:33-34. I am certain they had never seen Jesus like this before. Just a week before this, although troubled about what was ahead, Jesus spoke boldly concerning his death. He had told them, “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.”John 12:27. Now his words seemed different as he prayed, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me…” Matthew 26:39.

Jesus knew the agony that awaited him in just a few hours. The prophets had already foretold his sufferings. His “visage” would be “marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:” Isaiah 52:14. He would be “…brought as a lamb to the slaughter…” Isaiah 53:7. The Psalms spoke prophetically of Christ, saying, they “…plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows.” Psalms 129:3.

Jesus also knew David was speaking of him when he said, “They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.” Psalms 22:13-18.

It was never in doubt that Jesus would choose to go to the cross. He prayed, “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.”Matthew 26:42. Jesus was not in a panic. He was not ready to run away. But he was in great apprehension about the agony that was just a few hours away. He said, “The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.” Mark 14:38. We sometimes forget that although he is the Son of God, he is also the son of man. Jesus had no sin, but he did have feeling. In the hour of his “fear,” he did the one thing that every person should take notice of. He called upon the one who “…was able to save him from death…” Hebrews 5:7.

I have seen many people attempt to deny their “fears” so they can have “faith.” Such a course almost always ends in confusion. Faith in God is revealed more by what you do when you are “afraid” than it is when you are full of confidence. In his hour of fear and apprehension, Jesus called upon the Father who sent an angel to strengthen him. Luke 22:43.It is based on such truths as this that the apostle writes, For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted (tested) like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16. Jesus Christ understands the feeling of your infirmity  …and he can be touched by you. You can call upon him today!

We currently have seven volumes of our weekly Simply Christ gospel messages inBehold the Lamb Books available without charge upon request. Click HERE to request your free Simply Christ volume or other Behold the Lamb Books and eBooks. You can also help us share the gospel by sharing Behold the Lamb andSimply Christ with others. Facebook

God Bless,
Pastor Keith Surface
Calvary Outreach Ministries

 

 

Humor Time….

Momma…

 Momma for 8/25/2019

Aunty Acid…

 Aunty Acid for 8/25/2019

Politics??

 Michael Ramirez for 8/22/2019

Some Maxine Humor…

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Sleepy Sunday

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Daily Prayer for August 11

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the Lord returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes. Isaiah 52:7–8, NIV

Lord our God, grant that we may be your watchmen, who can understand what you mean for our time. We thank you for all you have already done, for every change to the good among the nations. For the nations must bow to your will so that nothing happens unless accomplished by you. Judge us wherever necessary. Open our eyes to see where we are wrong and where something does not go according to your Spirit. Be with us and give us strength. Raise up more watchmen everywhere, in every place and in every home. Wherever something happens to move people’s hearts, let the watchmen proclaim, “This comes from God. It does not matter how much we suffer. This comes from Jesus Christ, who suffered and died, but who rose again.” Raise up such watchmen among young and old everywhere on earth, to the glory of your name. Let there be a people who go to meet you with shouts of joy and thanksgiving. Amen.

 

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Daily Dig for August 11

Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt

In all that happens, good or bad, Christ is present. So instead of resignation and worry, we should always trust that things will change, even if we have to go through hell first. For the purpose of life is Christ. God has promised to re-create heaven and earth and bring the whole world into the light of the Savior. “I am making everything new!” (Rev. 21:1–5). This is our hearts’ deepest longing, that Christ reconciles the whole cosmos. He is the ruler over all, and his light will fill the entire universe.

Source: The Gospel of God’s Reign

 

 

The Daily Word of Hope Devotional

—Dion Todd

Like Paul, we are to discipline our bodies and make it obey us, rather than following what it desires. Extremes are dangerous and we all need boundaries in our life. How do you maintain a healthy balance? If you have ever wondered, then this is for you. 

Too Much Happiness

Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Philippians 4:5 KJV

There are so many things in this life that God has given us to enjoy, and He does want us to have pleasure while we are here. Relationships, eating, drinking, work, health, exercise, hobbies, are all valuable pursuits. However, none of these are to become the end goal and sole focus of your life.

Anytime something becomes more important in your life than God, then the cart is getting in front of the horse. Before long your life will take on an unhealthy balance. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit and it almost the opposite of addiction. Like Paul, we are to discipline our bodies and make it obey us, rather than following what it desires.

‘But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.’ (1 Corinthians 9:27).

Jesus told a parable in Luke 12:21 about a man who hoarded wealth and the last verse was: “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” The problem was the man was ‘not rich toward God’ not because he was wealthy. God wants you to have wealth, but not for wealth to have control you. God wants you to have food, but not for food to have control over you.

So put God first in your life. Involve Him in your work, in your relationships, in your hobbies, pray over your meals, and during your workouts. If you do this, then things will balance and He will show you when enough is enough. When He is invited into your life, He will take part in your activities and help you maintain a healthy balance. Moderation in all things, including moderation.

Prayer: Heavenly Father I thank You so much for all that You have given me. Please help me discipline my life and learn when to say no. Help me to know when enough is enough. Teach me Your way and give me a clear vision of the bigger picture. Make me steadfast, in the name of Jesus Christ I pray.

Bible Fun Fact: Lions killed people 3 times in the Bible (1 Kg 13:23-24)(1 Kg 20:35-36)(Dan 6:24).

 

 

What Jesus Did! ‘Beyond the Harsh Words, to Graciousness!’

[Jesus said,] “What is the price of five sparrows — two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” — Luke 12:6-7 NLT

 

Key Thought

Jesus’ words in the previous sentences were strong; some would even say his words were harsh. Jesus reminded us, however, that God’s desire is not to punish, harm, or bring retribution on us. His desire is to love and bless us. One clear example is simply to look in the created world and see how he has provided for all sorts of animals and birds because of his loving care. Long before anyone had ever heard of organizations like PETA or the Humane Society, God showed his love by giving each creature its space and place. Yet we are definitely more valuable than any animal or any other thing that God created. Jesus wants us to know how precious we are to God, so he taught this lesson in Luke 12 and then went out and demonstrated it on the cross!

Today’s Prayer

Father, thank you for knowing me, valuing me, and loving me. Most of all, dear Father, thank you for sending Jesus to show your great love for me. In Jesus’ name, I offer my deepest thanks and praise. Amen.

 

Daily Wisdom:

Illustration of 1 Peter 3:15 — But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

 

Today’s Verse:

Illustration of Matthew 7:12 — So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Thoughts on Today’s Verse…

Ah! The “Golden Rule” is so straightforward, isn’t it? Sometimes we make things, especially religious things, far too complicated and complex. I love the Bible because it is so often practical and plain when God deals with our behavior. You want to know how to treat someone? Then do for them what would be a blessing if it was done to you! If it wouldn’t bless, encourage, build up, support, comfort, or help you, then don’t do it to them. If it would hurt, wound, depress, spite, or discourage you, then don’t do it to them. Treat others with the same dignity, kindness, love, respect, and tenderness with which you would like to be treated. Simple to understand; revolutionary to do!

My Prayer…

Almighty God, thank you for making some things so simple to understand. Please fill my heart with your love as I try to live the “Golden Rule” in my relationships. In the name of the Lord Jesus I pray. Amen.

 

A Year with Jesus: ‘Scour Away the Filth’

Note from Jesus

Dear Faithful Follower,

Even when Paul first worked with the Corinthians, he sought to help them turn from the unbridled immorality that was a part of their city’s culture. This lifestyle change was a predictable challenge that My new disciples faced in most places (1 Thessalonians 1:8-101 Thessalonians 4:1-12).

The grip of their immoral past was hard to break. Many activities in Corinth were tied to the worship of idols and the pervasive paganism of the city. The Corinthians encountered cultic prostitution at the pagan temples. Meat bought in their city market was first sacrificed to the idols before being available for sale. Pagan celebrations involving sexual immorality and drunkenness were connected to feasts and trade guild meetings. Pagan celebrations and sacrifices went with athletic contests and theater productions.

Paul tried to teach these new Christians that their lives were to be holy. Their lives were to be lived in total dedication to honor Us — Father, Son, and Spirit. This sense of holy purpose meant their bodies were sacred and should be used to glorify Us (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). Paul had repeatedly taught them, both when physically present and through letters, about their need to practice holiness in all things. This teaching meant getting away and staying far away from sexual immorality, idolatry, and paganism.

In Paul’s letter that you know as 1 Corinthians, he referred to a previous letter to the Corinthian Christians and his earlier teaching about avoiding immorality (1 Corinthians 5:9). That previous teaching was very similar to what you find in a passage from 2 Corinthians included in the verses below. As you read these verses, try to think through the implications of Paul’s teachings for you in your culture. How will you apply these teachings to your world so saturated in sexual immorality, false religions, greed, and materialism?

How are you going to live as My holy person in your immoral culture and influence that culture for good?

How are you going to influence your culture while not letting the bad parts of your culture influence you?

As you live and serve Me in the culture around you, what are the limits of Christian fellowship?

These are hard questions. Rather than answer these questions for you, I am asking you to wrestle with them as you follow Me. I want your heart to belong to Me. If your heart belongs to Me, you will work through these questions seeking to honor Me with a holy life that demonstrates My compassionate concern for the lost. Think through what Paul wrote and see how his teachings apply to you. When you read his teachings this way, you will have more empathy for the Corinthians. You will get a clearer understanding of the challenges they faced in their day if they obeyed Paul’s teaching. You will also be better prepared to face similar challenges in your day.

Verses to Live

How are you going to impact your culture with My character and compassion without getting entangled and soiled with its immorality?

In the verses below, you find two readings from Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. The first passage is one verse from 1 Corinthians and refers to what Paul taught in a previous letter that he wrote the Christians in Corinth. The second section is from 2 Corinthians and addresses the same matters as referenced in the first passage. The final short paragraph is Paul’s exhortation to the people based on what he had written in the previous verses. This part is at the heart of what I want you to incorporate into your life.

In the letter I wrote to you previously, I made it clear that you are not to band together with those who have embraced immoral lives.
(1 Corinthians 5:9)

Don’t develop partnerships with those who are not followers of Jesus’ teachings. For what real connection can exist between righteousness and rebellion? How can light participate in darkness? What harmony can exist between the Anointed and Satan? Do the faithful and the faithless have anything in common? Can the temple of God find common ground with idols? Don’t you see that we house the temple of the living God within us? Remember when He said,

“I will make My home with them and walk among them.
I will be their God,
and they will be My people.

“So then turn away from them,
turn away and leave without looking back,” says the Lord.

“Stay away from anything unclean, anything impure,
and I will welcome you.

“And I will be for you as a father,
and you will be for Me as sons and daughters,”
says the Lord Almighty!

Because we have these promises, dearly loved ones, out of respect for God we should scour the filth from our flesh and spirit and move toward perfect beauty and holiness.
(2 Corinthians 6:14-182 Corinthians 7:1)

Response in Prayer

Father, make me Yours completely. Set me apart from those who do not know You. I want to display Your grace to others and live Your holiness before them. May my whole spirit, soul, and body be kept free from any sort of sin as I await the glorious coming of My Lord and Savior Jesus, the Anointed. You, O God, are faithful. I know that You can be trusted to make this happen in me to Your glory. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

This prayer is adapted from Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24.

Illustration of  —

 

 

 

Sunday Humor…

 

 Aunty Acid for 8/11/2019

 Momma for 8/11/2019

National Son's and Daughter's Day - August 11

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Image result for animated sons and daughters jokes
National Presidential Joke Day - August 11
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God bless you all!!

Let Freedom Ring!

 

Daily Prayer for July 7

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23, NIV

Lord our God, we thank you for all you have done for us, for all you are doing for us, for deliverance from need and death. We thank you for all the signs you give us that you hear our prayer when, without wavering or weakening, we set our hopes on you. We thank you that we can be without fear of sin and death, for you stand by us in everything. In spite of our imperfections you show us your goodness again and again. May the light in our hearts never be extinguished, the light that enables us to look into heaven and earth and see the good that is on its way to us today. May joy remain with us, and may we have the strength to be a community that follows the paths of life which bring praise and honor to you. Amen.

 

 

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Daily Dig for July 7

Dorothy Day

Paperwork, cleaning the house, dealing with the innumerable visitors who come all through the day, answering the phone, keeping patience and acting intelligently, which is to find some meaning in all that happens – these things, too, are the works of peace.

Source: The Catholic Worker, Dec. 1965

 

 

Verse of the Day

for Sunday, July 7, 2019

Inspirational illustration of Isaiah 6:2-3

Thoughts on Today’s Verse…

Jesus taught us that worship is not about a place, but about our Father (John 4:21-24). Knowing that our Father is worshipped by the heavenly hosts should inspire us, humble us, and motivate us to do the same, no matter where we may find ourselves. Above all other qualities, God is holy. Three times the heavenly beings acknowledge his holiness — he is special, undefiled, pure, perfect, and something much more than everyday and mundane. His glory fills the earth and sky. He is bigger than all we can imagine. He is worthy of our worship, reverence, and awe.

My Prayer…

Holy God, Holy Father, Holy King of the ages, I praise you for the wonderful gift of your grace. I know that in comparison to your glory, I am not worthy to be in your presence. But you have made me worthy and holy by the sacrificial blood of Jesus, the Lamb slain for my sins. Thank you for this incredible gift so that I may worship you as I should! In Jesus’ name I praise you. Amen.

 

 

 

—Dion Todd

to provide for those who mourn in Zion, to give to them a garland for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of Yahweh, that he may be glorified. Isaiah 61:3 WEB

Have you ever felt so down, so lethargic, that you begin to ask yourself ‘What is the point of it all?’ There are many things in this verse but the one that I want to mention today is the ‘spirit of heaviness’, better known by its bona fide name: ‘Depression.’

It can settle on anyone given the right circumstances and none of us are immune to it. We all like to think that we have it together, but really we are just one phone call away from crying at any given moment.

Once when we were overworked and nearly burned out, we went to an exhilarating praise and worship conference that lasted for three days. After the first night, I began to feel lighter, and brighter. Each hour that we spent there seemed to bring renewal, a refreshing of our spirit, like standing under a waterfall.

When I had arrived, I was pretty down and cynical, but afterwards, I was as light as a feather and cheerful. By the time I left the conference, I felt like I was walking on air and didn’t have a care in the world. I would not have cared if the world were ending. That time soaking in praise and worship brought immediate change in our life. We had exchanged the spirit of heaviness for the garment of praise.

Praise and depression are polar opposites and repel each other. If you are down, depressed, heavy, you will not feel like praising the Lord. If you are praising the Lord, then you will not feel like being depressed. If you are feeling ‘heavy’ today, find some good praise and worship music and soak in it for an hour. Listen to it while working. Begin to praise the Lord along with it, and that spirit of heaviness will flee out of hearing range. The garment of praise drives away the spirit of heaviness.

Prayer: Heavenly Father I praise You today, please deliver me from the spirit of heaviness. Fill my life with Your presence, bring the right people, the right music, and the right opportunities into my life, in the name of Jesus Christ I pray.

Bible Fun Fact: The 10 commandments had writing on both sides (Ex 32:15).

 

 

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What Jesus Did! ‘Blessed Eyes!’ — Luke 10:23-24

Illustration of Luke 10:23-24 NLT — "Blessed are the eyes that see what you have seen.

Key Thought

The apostles were common men given an incredible blessing. They were blessed to be able to see God’s ultimate promise fulfilled and embodied in Jesus. We have received their testimony to this Word, this fulfillment of God’s promises, in the Gospels. We are incredibly blessed, indeed. Jesus is the tuning fork of all revelation and the fulfillment of all of God’s plans. If we are going to understand Scripture and God’s plan for salvation, we begin with Jesus. Let’s rejoice at the privilege of living in the light of the glory of Christ.

Today’s Prayer

Father, how can I ever thank you properly for the incredible grace of knowing Jesus, and in knowing Jesus, understanding your incredible love and grace? Never let me lose my sense of wonder at knowing Jesus, in whose name I offer my devotion, thanks, and praise. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

 

Daily Wisdom: Psalm 119:1

Illustration of Psalm 119:1 — Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD.

 

Passion for Praise: ‘You Unfailing Love’

Illustration of Psalm 63:3-5 — Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you! I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer. You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy.

 

A Year with Jesus: ‘First Mission Is Completed!’

Note from Jesus

Dear Disciple,

In today’s verses, Luke writes about the last part of Paul and Barnabas’ first missionary journey. As you saw yesterday, they developed a strategic rhythm in sharing the gospel. They would share My message first in the synagogues with Jews and God-fearers. Then, when resistance and opposition mounted, they would go to non-Jews in that same city. The methodology was quite effective. However, it brought a lot of resistance among some in the Jewish community:

Finally the Jews and outsiders who opposed them joined forces and enlisted the political leaders in their plan to beat and stone Paul and Barnabas. They learned of the plan and escaped to Lystra and Derbe in Lycaonia, and the surrounding countryside, where they continued proclaiming the good news.
(Acts 14:5-7)

This resistance, even when in the form of persecution, did not stop Barnabas and Paul. The power of the Holy Spirit and the joy of My grace buoyed them. Furthermore, the resistance did not keep additional people from believing their message.

Along the way, Barnabas and Paul met some challenges that were quite different from the ones of their Jewish upbringing. In places where superstition and false religion were the customs, Barnabas and Paul found their miracles didn’t always point people to Me. Instead, the miracles sometimes created confusion and false worship of the miracle workers. Rather than accept the worship and adulation of the crowds, Paul and Barnabas taught the truth and pointed the people to Me:

Friends! No! No! Don’t do this! [That is, don’t worship us, Paul and Barnabas.] We’re just humans like all of you! We’re not here to be worshiped! We’re here to bring you good news — good news that you should turn from these worthless forms of worship and instead serve the living God, the God Who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that they contain.

Soon, My faithful emissaries, Barnabas and Paul, were facing attacks from hostile non-believing Jews, non-Jews who did not understand their message, and political leaders who were incited by leading Jewish officials to oppose My messengers. To prepare the new believers for what was ahead, Barnabas and Paul did two very important things. First, they warned these new believers that they must face “many persecutions as we enter the kingdom of God.” Second, they appointed leaders — godly older men called elders — to help guide these new communities of believers. When they returned to Antioch (in Syria) where they began their mission efforts, they reported on the great work We — Father, Son, and Spirit — had led them to do and empowered them to accomplish.

Verses to Live

As you read the verses below, a new era in the life of My people and a new era in sharing My message had fully begun. Now there were disciples of different nationalities, cultures, and languages coming into My family. This diversity was a glorious beginning. However, many roadblocks, difficulties, hardships, and persecutions lay ahead. But nothing could stop the advancement of the good message of the Father’s grace. That message focused on what I had done in My life, teaching, death, burial, resurrection, exaltation and sending of the Spirit. This message was empowered and validated by the Holy Spirit.

This first mission of Barnabas and Paul wasn’t easy. But when they returned, they could truthfully say, “Our first mission is completed!”

In Lystra they [Paul and Barnabas] met a man who had been crippled since birth; his feet were completely useless. He listened to Paul speak, and Paul could see in this man’s face that he had faith to be healed.

Paul (shouting):

Stand up on your own two feet, man!

The man jumped up and walked! When the crowds saw this, they started shouting in Lycaonian.

Crowd:

The gods have come down to us! They’ve come in human form!

They decided that Barnabas was Zeus and Paul was Hermes (since he was the main speaker). Before they knew it, the priest of Zeus, whose temple was prominent in that city, came to the city gates with oxen and garlands of flowers so the Lycaonians could offer sacrifices in worship to Paul and Barnabas! When they heard of this, Paul and Barnabas were beside themselves with frustration — they ripped their tunics as an expression of disapproval and rushed out into the crowd.

Paul and Barnabas (shouting):

Friends! No! No! Don’t do this! We’re just humans like all of you! We’re not here to be worshiped! We’re here to bring you good news — good news that you should turn from these worthless forms of worship and instead serve the living God, the God Who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that they contain. Through all previous generations, God has allowed all the nations to follow their own customs and religions, but even then God revealed Himself by doing good to you — giving you rain for your crops and fruitful harvests season after season, filling your stomachs with food and your hearts with joy.

In spite of these words, they were barely able to keep the crowds from making sacrifices to them.

Then unbelieving Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and incited the crowds against the Lord’s emissaries. The crowds turned on Paul, stoned him, dragged him out of the city, and left him there, thinking he was dead. As the disciples gathered around him, he suddenly rose to his feet and returned to the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe. After they proclaimed the good news there and taught many disciples, they returned to some of the cities they had recently visited — Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch in Pisidia. In each place, they brought strength to the disciples, encouraging them to remain true to the faith.

Paul and Barnabas:

We must go through many persecutions as we enter the kingdom of God.

In each church, they would appoint leaders, pray and fast together, and entrust them to the Lord in Whom they had come to believe.

They then passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. They preached their message in Perga and then went to the port of Attalia. There they set sail for Antioch, where they were first entrusted to the grace of God for the mission they had now completed. They called the church together when they arrived and reported all God had done with and through them, how God had welcomed outsiders through the doorway of faith. They stayed with the disciples in Antioch for quite a while.
(Acts 14:8-28)

Response in Prayer

O Father, I want to have the same joyful courage in my time as Paul and Barnabas demonstrated. I know that living the values of Your kingdom and sharing Your grace with others will not always be appreciated. However, I also know that the world needs these kingdom values. I know that so many need to discover Your saving grace. Help me please, dear LORD, to know how to share your message effectively and not worry about the hardships that may come from bringing Your grace to the unbelieving world. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

 

 

Christ in the Comic Strips

Which Cartoon Above Best Represents the Gospel Most Christians Hear Today?

Today, far too many Christians and churches across America find themselves captive to a paralyzing “crisis of Christology”—a disastrous shortfall in how we see, seek, savor, and speak of God’s Son for ALL he is right now as Lord and King of all.

Primarily, this is because of how many of us have come to Christ to start with. Unfortunately, the saying that “the Jesus we win them with is the Jesus we keep them with” is too often true. That Jesus is “too small.”

In this guest blog post, Brian Steele, pastor at Christ the King Community Church in Bellingham, Washington, analyzes the situation in a very creative way—using “comics”!

He gives us fresh insights to help us walk with Jesus and share him in view of how great our Lord Jesus Christ really is! These challenging excerpts come from his new book, The Field Guide to Finding God’s Really Real Kingdom, coming out in September.

– David Bryant

The following is excerpted and adapted from Brian Steele’s book, The Field Guide to Finding God’s Really Real Kingdom, which will be released in the fall of 2019. Feedback and conversation are welcome at kingdomfieldguide@gmail.com.


Christ in the Comic Strips

Christ the Bridge Girder?

A popular comic is often used in evangelism and mission trips to illustrate the gospel message.1 The image does voice some truth of the gospel. But it more loudly proclaims what David Bryant has termed the “Crisis of Christology.”

A solitary person is shown pondering the impossible gap between God and man. The poor soul’s sin carries a death penalty, and the flames of hell perilously await below. In using this comic, the evangelist typically points out to a lost sinner the good news—that Christ’s payment on the cross bridges this chasm so that he can reach eternal life with God.

This carries some truth—but it’s only a partial truth that creates a peril. Does this partial truth even begin to describe the treasure hidden in the field of Matthew 13:44? Is that the fullness of what Jesus meant that the “kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:15)? Is this how Jesus instructed his disciples to preach the gospel of the kingdom (Matthew 24:14)? If that’s the fullness of the gospel, then Christ is little more than a bridge girder—some metal truss whose sole function is to span a fiery chasm and get walked over. That is a crisis of Christology.

In a church desperately needing a Christ awakening, the gospel often gets reduced to some version of “Jesus died for you. Believe in him, escape hell, and go to heaven.” However, that’s not the gospel of the kingdom. Why? Because it doesn’t address God’s kingdom nor the exalted King. I wish this were a straw man argument. An evangelist who avoids the news of the kingdom undercuts the news that there is now a new King ruling.

The Gospel of the Kingdom

The gospel of the kingdom is good news about the kingdom. And if we don’t shareabout the kingdom then are we really about the kingdom?

To be fair, the gospel of the kingdom is difficult to preach to people who don’t seem to have mental categories for kingdoms. To be honest, for full disclosure, I’ve even led a missionary effort in Honduras where we used this very same comic strip to share the gospel in a mountainside village.We painted this mural on a water tank.

Please hear me carefully on this. The cross of Jesus does bridge the gap between God and us. We are delivered from the eternal consequences of our sin by the sacrifice of Jesus. But we contribute to the crisis of Christology if we avoid preaching, teaching, and sharing about the kingdom.

A typical pushback in American churches is that people “don’t understand kingdoms” since we live in a country that rebelled against a king. But shouldn’t that same logic prevent teaching about justification, sanctification, substitutionary atonement, or eternal punishment for sins? Aren’t these ideas even stranger than the concept of a kingdom? For that matter, shouldn’t the math teacher avoid instruction on differential equations since the students don’t understand calculus? Perhaps the foreign language teacher should avoid Spanish since the students speak English.

The position of “we don’t understand kingdoms” falls apart when you look at the media consumed by western cultures. Our movies, TV shows, and video games are absolutely dominated by kingdom narratives. Every year people spend billions of dollars consuming kingdom stories. Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey—all of them are kingdom stories. The opening weekend of Marvel’s “End Game” movie netted $1.2 billion alone. That is a kingdom story if it is nothing else. At the heart of all these movies are the burning questions “Who will reign? Who deserves the throne? Who is king?” Practically all of the entertainment we consume has kingdom themes. We are desperately starving and thirsty for kingdom narratives. Why? Because we were made and designed to live in an eternal kingdom. The kingdom narrative is etched in our very DNA.

Our problem is not that people don’t understand kingdoms. Our problem is that people only understand kingdoms. But we have stripped the kingdom from the gospel. Tragically, in modern culture, virtually the only place you can go and not hear a really good kingdom story is in the church—the body of Christ the King.

The Zoom Problem

Somehow, in our gospel presentations, we zoom in very tightly on atonement theology and often completely miss the larger picture of the kingdom that atonement secures for us.

In our Christological-Crises worldview, we almost entirely focus tightly on the wounds of the sacrificial Lamb hanging on the cross. But then in our limited frame, we miss the sign hanging above that Lamb on the cross that reads, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (John 19:19).

Ironically, when Pilate wrote the inscription above Jesus on the cross, he used three languages—Aramaic, Latin, and Greek—so that the widest possible audience would understand that Jesus’ claim to be king landed him on the cross. Yet our modern gospel too often doesn’t bring that same message for its audience. Yes, Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead. But don’t stop there. Please! He is the crucified and risen King who began to bring his kingdom to earth as it is in heaven. The marks inscribed on the sign above the crucified King are at least as important as the marks of the nails in the hands and feet of the risen King. This is getting towards the gospel of the kingdom.

When the Apostle Paul met with the elders of the church in Ephesus, he had a very instructional conversation with them. He insisted that he didn’t hold anything back but declared to them the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). But what were the dominant theme and primary content of that whole counsel? Paul says that he had testified to the “gospel of grace” and “gone about proclaiming the kingdom” (Acts 20:24-25).

Paul is very concerned that the leaders of the Ephesian church know he gave them a complete account of the gospel. Nothing was withheld by Paul for their benefit. As Paul summarized his teaching, what was the content? Repentance, faith, the lordship of Jesus, and the gospel of grace. Isn’t all of this captured in our comic strip of the poor soul looking to cross the chasm of eternal fire? Yes, except there’s something else. Paul went about “proclaiming the kingdom” (vs.20:25). Anything else? Yes, he was calling people to faith not just in Jesus but in the Lord Jesus Christ (vs. 20:21). His call wasn’t just to prompt people to believe that Jesus exists. Paul was prompting people to give their loyalty, obedience, and trust to Jesus as the Christ—the King. His gospel was immersed through and through with God’s work to establish his kingdom.

It couldn’t be otherwise. The whole counsel of God without the kingdom of God is not the whole counsel of God just as the gospel of the kingdom without the kingdom is not the gospel of the kingdom. The gospel must necessarily include the kingdom. Sharing the gospel without the kingdom is like selling a new car without the engine. Or, more accurately, it is like selling a car without the car. Paul is defending himself against the potential allegation that he’s sold the church in Ephesus a lemon.

Was it only in Ephesus that, for some reason, Paul spoke about the kingdom? Was there some cultural reason for him to put the gospel in a kingdom frame there that’s not needed elsewhere? Not at all. The kingdom was a universal and constant theme as Paul shared the gospel of the kingdom in all of his writings, in all of the places he visited, to all audiences—both Jewish and Greek.

There’s no coincidence that the book of Acts is bookended with kingdom proclamations. Acts begins with Jesus in Jerusalem “appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:1-3). And the book of Acts ends with Paul in Rome saying that from morning until evening he “testified to the kingdom of God” (28:23-24) and that he lived there for two whole years “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ” (30-31).

The author Luke bookended his account with Jesus and Paul teaching about the kingdom to let us know that is the whole context by which we can understand everything in between.

We Need a New Comic Strip

Perhaps we can hijack that popular comic strip and bend it towards a gospel that includes the kingdom. Would it look something like my own adapted version below?

That’s more like it! Jesus Christ—the King—left his throne in heaven to bring the good reign of his kingdom to earth, making the way, securing his victory, by suffering on the cross. Why? He did it to bring the blessing of God to every family and every nation on earth. It is a campaign of conquest. Not to enslave but to set free. Not to subjugate but to empower. Not to rob but to give. Jesus came bringing crowns with him to restore our rightful place of ruling with him for eternity—beginning right here and now. This is the good news of the kingdom. The news is that Christ is now King. The wicked tyrant of darkness has been defeated and deposed. Our participation in that evil mutiny can be forgiven, and we can be adopted into the royal family of light—becoming heirs of the kingdom. In that, we begin to understand the treasure hidden in the field (Matthew 13:44).

The Kingdom Story of Scripture

The very narrative arc of scripture has become collateral damage through the crisis of Christology. If you can’t see Jesus for who he is as the supreme King of Kings, then you can’t see the grand sweep of his kingdom coming from the opening to the close of scripture.

The Bible is a kingdom story. Period.

If we want a one-verse summary of the Bible’s narrative arc, then Revelation 11:15 will do nicely: “The kingdoms of this earth have become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”

A three-verse suite of passages also neatly ties the story together. First, YHWH told Moses, “I will make you a kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6). Then Peter told the early church, “you are a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). Finally, the Apostle John tells us in his vision, “you have made them a kingdom of priests” (Revelation 5:10).

Still not convinced the Bible is a kingdom story? Look at the six most common nouns in the whole of scripture:

1. Lord (used 7,484 times)

2. God (3,969)

3. One (2,485)

4. Son (2,331)

5. King (2,314)

6. People (2,213)

Ernest Hemingway is purported to have made a bet with friends that he could write a novel in six words. He wrote: “For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.” I believe these six most common nouns in the Bible listed above capture the narrative arc of the kingdom story: “Lord God One. Son King. People.”Or it could also be written, “Lord God. One Son. King-People.”

Take the biblical text from the passion narratives of the four gospels and make a word cloud. Now, look at the central, most important word in the account of Christ’s betrayal, trial, and crucifixion.

Why is “king” the central word of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John’s passion narratives? Because the Bible is a kingdom story. And Jesus is King.

The four major covenants also have explicit kingdom purposes.

Covenant

Kingdom Purpose

References

Abrahamic

-Populate the citizenry

-Locate the King’s territory

-Mandate the King’s mission

Genesis 12:1-3; 15:1-6; 17:1-8

Mosaic

-Consecrate the royal citizens

Regulate the relationships

-Cultivate the law of love

Exodus 19-24

Davidic

Coronate the King

-Elevate the King’s glory

-Insulate the King’s realm

2 Samuel 7;

1 Chronicles 17:1-14

New Covenant

-Commemorate the King’s triumph

-Anticipate the King’s return

-Delegate power to the King’s people

Matthew 26:26-29;

Mark 14:22-25;

Luke 22:14-20;

1 Corinthians 11:17-26

Each of these themes is also captured in the updated gospel comic above. Go back and look at the second comic. Per the Abrahamic Covenant, can you see “all of the families of the earth being blessed” through the “Son of Abraham”? In fulfillment of the Mosaic Covenant, can you see how the loving rule of the Anointed One is brought to bear in the kingdom citizens as they love the Lord their God and neighbors? Per the Davidic Covenant, can you see the “Son of David” extending the rule of his eternal throne to the whole world? And per the New Covenant, can you see the bread and cup reminding kingdom citizens not to forget the victory of the cross nor the coming ultimate consummation of the King’s rule?

Resurfacing the Romans Road

Often the “kingdomless” gospel shared with people draws a few passages from Paul’s letter to the Romans—and we call this the “Roman Road of Salvation.” However, the typical Roman Road leaves out Paul’s emphasis on God’s kingdom and instead has a narrow focus on faith, sin, and forgiveness. The hearer is left with only a walk across the gulf of flames by the cross of Jesus. But if we must go down a Roman Road, can we at least always include the kingdom context that immersed Paul’s theology?

For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17)

If we must draw comics of this cosmic story, can we at least reflect the resounding heartbeat of that story? Doesn’t this updated gospel comic better reflect the core message these Bible passages present as the “gospel of the kingdom”?

For a Christ awakening, let’s take instruction from Jesus’ parable of the four soils (Matthew 13:1-23). Read that parable closely. The seed is the “word of the kingdom” (vs. 19). The good soil represents those who “hear and understand” the word of the kingdom (vs. 23). If that’s true, let’s speak and teach the word of the kingdom so that people can hear and understand the word of the kingdom, yielding a crop of thirty, sixty, or even a hundredfold.

It might seem silly to spend so much time looking at comic strips. But there is something extremely powerful in those simple drawings because they represent the stories in our heads. And stories are powerful. Stories shape our worldview. Personal stories literally control what we can see. The story in your head drives your life in the world.

God’s kingdom is really real. Jesus Christ is the really real king. The story in our head must align with the reality of the world. If our personal narrative does not include God’s kingdom, then we aren’t living as if Jesus is King. And if we are not living as if Jesus is King, we have a true crisis of Christology. In choosing your comic, you are choosing your Christ.

 

Pastor Brian Steele began looking at the parable of the hidden treasure in Matthew 13:44 in 2012. Since then, seven years of research, meditation, prayer, and study of that single parable has led him to be fully convinced he has still only scratched the surface of the riches of Christ and his kingdom. This cumulative work will be released in a series of books to help others discover the greatness of God’s kingdom. The first book in the series, The Field Guide to Finding God’s Really Real Kingdom, will be released in the fall of 2019.

In addition to being a pastor at Christ the King Community Church in Bellingham, WA, Brian is also a professional geologist and is in (partial) recovery from a birdwatching addiction. He loves exploring alpine wildernesses of the North Cascades while living in Whatcom County, WA, with his wife, Katie.

 

 

 

Comics and Humor…

 Crankshaft for 7/6/2019

 Specktickles for 7/6/2019

 Aunty Acid for 7/7/2019

 Momma for 7/7/2019

 

 

 

 

 

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