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The world celebrates good leaders. However, its faithful followers hip that leads to the success of any ministry or program. Jesus invites us to practice the art of "faithful followership"
The world celebrates good leaders. However, its faithful followers hip that leads to the success of any ministry or program. Jesus invites us to practice the art of "faithful followership"
Join us each Wednesday at noon via ZOOM for an in depth study on the Revelation of Jo… Read More
Join us each Wednesday at noon via ZOOM for an in depth study on the Revelation of John. Study materials are available a https://godswordforyou.com
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Worshiping anyone other than God was typically reserved for political leaders and emperors. But that has al… Read More
50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53 and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
Worshiping anyone other than God was typically reserved for political leaders and emperors. But that has all changed for those who believe. Worship of Jesus is a sign of his union and communion with God. It’s offered out of reverence and respect for who he is and what he’s done. It has now become acceptable — even expected — that those who honor God will honor the Son, and those who worship God will worship the Son .
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious Christ, accept my worship of You as an indication of my belief and faith that You are the Son of God, risen and ascended.
Faithfulness can be a scary thing. First, one must have belief in what they are being faithful to. An… Read More
7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, 'He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.' This is my message for you." 8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, "Greetings!" And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."
Faithfulness can be a scary thing. First, one must have belief in what they are being faithful to. And then there is the issue of obedience. Once we have accepted the truth of our faith, there is the expectation that we will carry out the duties that have been given to us. If we fail in our faithfulness, then our mission fails. And yet, God continues to operate trusting that we will be faithful followers able to carry out the responsibilities of our faith. Jesus said to them, “Go,” and they went in faith to practice the art of faithful followership. In all of this time, neither the requirements nor Christ’s call upon us to go has changed.
Today’s Prayer —
Faithful God, as I go into the world in faith, increase my faithful followership through Your trust in me to carry out Your mission for Your church.
Those who claim to be disciples of Jesus Christ are a unique group of people (me included). We do phenomena… Read More
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
Those who claim to be disciples of Jesus Christ are a unique group of people (me included). We do phenomenal work in the name of Christ, and it’s noble work that needs to be done, and is worthy of celebrating. Feeding the hungry, tending to the sick, nurturing those who are in need — these are all important works for those of us who follow Christ’s teachings. But those works represent only one part of being a faithful follower of Christ. It is in fact, the easiest part. It is important to note that those things we do are secondary imperatives, not our primary objective of a faithful follower. While we each have a role to fulfill, being a faithful follower of Christ commands us as an action group to work intentionally in God’s world to accomplish God’s purpose for humanity. And the words which call us to action are simple words — go, make, baptize, teach, and obey. The growth of the Christian community is solely dependent upon faithful followership to the original commands of Christ. We balk at the “go and the making of disciples part” believing that this is the work of specialists. But our “faithful followership” of Christ is for all who accept the authority of Christ. And to accept the authority of Christ is to act in Christ’s gives evidence of the reality of God’s love and grace as a global experience that Christ is always with us.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious Christ, inspire me to become a faithful follower of Christ, intentionally teaching others as a living example of Christ’s love that to love one another is Your great mission for all humanity.
Our faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God is often in question by those who don’t believe as we believe. … Read More
13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason, I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Our faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God is often in question by those who don’t believe as we believe. They wonder how we can be so “sure” that Christ is the one. There are words to an old song that say, “Something within me, that holdeth the reins; something within me that banishes pain; something within me I cannot explain; all that I know is there is something within.” That something or rather someone, is the presence of the Holy spirit confirming what we believe to be true. It’s that same spirit that, through our faith, allows us to live satisfied with our relationship to the Holy Spirit.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious and loving God, thank You for confirming within me, that which I cannot explain but yet, speaks to me in ways that let me know Your truth.
The Holy Spirit of God dwells within each of us. That is God’s promise fulfilled. And it is that Spir… Read More
27 As for you, the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and so you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, abide in him.
28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he is revealed we may have confidence and not be put to shame before him at his coming.
The Holy Spirit of God dwells within each of us. That is God’s promise fulfilled. And it is that Spirit that instructs us about life and living and convicts us when we have strayed from the paths of God’s righteousness. There is, of course, always the challenge of either listening to the instruction of the Holy Spirit or following the dictates of our own will and mind, do what we want to do. Living in the Spirit is to be led by the Spirit. To be led by the Spirit is to trust in the Spirit. It is in that dwelling place that we receive confidence and satisfaction that our faith is secure.
Today’s Prayer —
Teach me, gracious Christ, to dwell securely in your Holy Spirit as Your Spirit dwells within me. Help me to discern with confidence Your true and perfect will that I may have a satisfied faith.
I was once intrigued by a television program that was being aired in Spanish. I listened for some time befo… Read More
12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. 13 And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.
14 Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
I was once intrigued by a television program that was being aired in Spanish. I listened for some time before I lost interest. The reason — I don’t speak or understand Spanish beyond those limited common phrases spoken on television. It seemed foolish to me to continue watching what I couldn’t understand. In the same way, conversations about spiritual matters must seem foolish to those who aren’t able to communicate with God or Christ on a spiritual level because they haven’t received the Holy Spirit of God. It is God who (through the gift of the Holy Spirit) opens the door of spiritual understanding. And if we don’t have understanding, how can we ever be satisfied by our faith. Believing we understand when we don’t is delusional. But having a clear understanding can bring a profound sense of satisfaction.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious Christ, continue open me to an understanding of spiritual things by the gift of Your Holy Spirit alive in me that I may always be satisfied by my faith.
We are often oblivious to the presence of the Holy Spirit living inside of us. Because of that, I’m not cer… Read More
10 But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
We are often oblivious to the presence of the Holy Spirit living inside of us. Because of that, I’m not certain that we consider how the life of the Spirit impacts our lives if we aren’t in decision-making mode. There are, however, promises from God that are provided to us to satisfy our questions about life, death, and what happens to us following death. The promises of God are designed to remove our anxieties and uncertainties as we experience our relationship to Christ because of the Holy Spirit. It is only by faith that we can trust in God’s word and grow in our relationship of trust and satisfaction with God through the Holy Spirit. And it is by the power of the Holy Spirit that we become satisfied.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving Christ, empower my faith (the awareness of Your Holy Spirit alive within me) to grow in trusting your word enough to find satisfaction in my faith.
God’s people have longed to hear God’s voice above the clamor of the world. And while we have not always wa… Read More
1 Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3 He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word.
God’s people have longed to hear God’s voice above the clamor of the world. And while we have not always wanted to hear what God has had to say, God has spoken. But we also express a curiosity about seeing God and knowing what God is like. God answered our dissatisfaction with our relationship by sending Jesus Christ to reflect the glory of God by his merciful and loving nature. It is God’s nature to always show mercy, and always to seek being in relationship with us, God’s creation. The gift of the Holy Spirit to all flesh is God’s confirmation that we’ve been sanctified through forgiveness. But more; it has also been given to us to satisfy our relationship to God through faith. There is no power that can undo what Christ has done, and no satisfaction greater than that which comes through faith.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving God and Christ, thank You for enabling me to experience Your glory through the gift of Your Holy Spirit and forgiveness revealed in Jesus Christ, the word.
Our desire to fully know God dates from antiquity. It’s borne of our desire to experience the fullness of G… Read More
18 Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The LORD’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.” 21 And the LORD continued, “See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; 23 then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.”
Our desire to fully know God dates from antiquity. It’s borne of our desire to experience the fullness of God in all of God’s glory. But we err in believing that those of us who are mortal are able to see beyond what is physical and view the spiritual reality of God. To that extent, God the Spirit, remains a mystery. Moses’ desire to see the immortal, invisible, wise only God, led him to the place of dissatisfaction in his life about him and his relationship to God. But the revelation of God can now be fully seen and experienced in Jesus Christ. Because of Christ, the gift of the Holy Spirit has allowed those of us who have not actually seen Christ to have confirmation of God’s reality in Christ and in us. And because of our relationship to Jesus Christ, we can now be satisfied by our faith.
Today’s Prayer —
Almighty God, strengthen my faith that I may be satisfied by the power of Your Holy Spirit alive in me. Bless me that I may see Your presence as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — as Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of my life and find satisfaction from my faith alone.
One of the strongest needs of the human family is the need to be in relationship. Relationship is the purpo… Read More
15 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
18 “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
25 "I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
One of the strongest needs of the human family is the need to be in relationship. Relationship is the purpose of our creation — that we would be in relationship with each other and with God. Yet it is and was difficult for people to believe in that which was invisible. Jesus’ presence (in some ways) spoiled the soup. He came to be the physical presence of God with us, thus satisfying our greatest need, that of a relationship with God.
Perhaps our greatest fear is losing that intimacy that comes with being in relationship with God. Those who lived in close relationship with Jesus quickly became attached to the love of God. When it was time or Jesus to leave, like any of us who have experienced what seems like the dissolution of a relationship, the disciples began to grieve. Jesus (God with us) was sensitive to that feeling of separation and loss and the dissatisfaction that accompanies the severing of emotional and spiritual ties. To solve this dilemma, God chose to send an Advocate, the Spirit of Truth to remain with us and remind us that God is always with us. Knowing that God is always with us can be deeply satisfying. We can know God by the presence of God’s Spirit, “poured out on all flesh” for the express purpose of uniting and sealing God’s relationship with humanity. Pentecost represents God’s the active sharing of God’s spirit making it available to all humanity so that our desire to know God is fully met and our need to experience God’s can be satisfied.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious God, empower me to live with the assurance of faith that satisfies all questions about Your reality and truth and confirms Your gift of Your Holy Spirit alive in me.
A lot of emphasis placed on the importance of being in unity with others. Solidarity is a valued and honore… Read More
20 My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — 23 I in them and you in me — so that they may be brought to complete unity.
A lot of emphasis placed on the importance of being in unity with others. Solidarity is a valued and honored tradition among those who believe they are working collectively to right a wrong, to bring justice to an unjust system, whether political or religious. Tragically, the comment is made, “God is on our side.” It’s said with the belief that God is standing with us in whatever position we take. And, yet being in unity with God begs another question: “Are we on God’s side?” When unity with God is in question or doubt, that is the question that requires a more profound answer. If we seek to make God a partner with us, rather than seeking to be in unity with God, there may be a faith collision ensuing that can place spiritual anxieties on high alert. In Jesus, we have the assurance that his plan is God’s plan, and both he and God agree. If we are in unity with God and Christ, then we seek to be on God’s side, rather than seek God to join in on our agenda.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious and loving God, thank You for providing the assurance in Christ that no matter what happens, my salvation and eternal safety are not in jeopardy.
We experience joy in our relationship with the Lord when our cries of distress have been heard. Out of God’… Read More
6 Blessed be the LORD,
for he has heard the sound of my pleadings.
7 The LORD is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts;
so I am helped, and my heart exults,
and with my song I give thanks to him.
8 The LORD is the strength of his people;
he is the saving refuge of his anointed.
9 O save your people, and bless your heritage;
be their shepherd, and carry them forever.
We experience joy in our relationship with the Lord when our cries of distress have been heard. Out of God’s discernment of our cries and God’s hearing, we can be assured of God’s actions. And though they may not always be certain about what we can expect from God, God is consistent. God is consistently our strength in weakness and our protection when we are vulnerable. When we look back in perspective, we may well come to understand that we have been spared more times that we give God credit for. It has often been said of those times when we know that God has saved and protected us, “He may not come when you want him, but he’s always right on time!”
Today’s Prayer —
Loving God, You and You alone are my protection from the world’s hostility. Continue to hear me when I cry out to You that I may rejoice in Your salvation.
In the broad landscape of things in life, from the greatest to the smallest, God is truly untouchable. Ther… Read More
6 Who can stand before his indignation?
Who can endure the heat of his anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire,
and by him the rocks are broken in pieces.
7 The LORD is good,
a stronghold in a day of trouble;
he protects those who take refuge in him,
8 even in a rushing flood.
In the broad landscape of things in life, from the greatest to the smallest, God is truly untouchable. There is no recourse to be taken against God, for whom we may exhibit human emotions and feelings. It is ridiculous to even try. And yet, within that truth is a greater truth. Not everyone needs to fear any retributive action from God. God’s gift to us was Jesus Christ who came to provide a hedge of protection throughout eternity. His hands are God’s hands. If we are in his hands, nothing can take us out. We need not fear hostility even though the storms of life rage and danger floods in to overwhelm us. Jesus and God are there as one, and therein lies our safety.
Today’s Prayer —
Almighty and powerful God, thank You for being my protector, offering safety and security from a hostile world that will last longer than eternity.
Safety and security are hallmarks of human need. We desire it from the cradle to the grave. Our desir… Read More
36 The LORD will vindicate his people
and relent concerning his servants
when he sees their strength is gone
and no one is left, slave or free.
37 He will say: “Now where are their gods,
the rock they took refuge in,
38 the gods who ate the fat of their sacrifices
and drank the wine of their drink offerings?
Let them rise up to help you!
Let them give you shelter!
39 “See now that I myself am he!
There is no god besides me.
I put to death and I bring to life,
I have wounded and I will heal,
and no one can deliver out of my hand.
Safety and security are hallmarks of human need. We desire it from the cradle to the grave. Our desire for security and safety from perceived hostile forces has driven the sale of guns in this nation to unprecedented levels. That we continue to seek more and more guns to ensure our safety seems to only heighten the presence of our insecurity. However, it also appears that safety and security are things we can experience in our lives as something more than a desire without guns. We are typically at the mercy of those we encounter on life’s journey to protect us. That usually means we’re at the mercy of the stronger over the weaker.
But God offers us a safety that extends beyond the mere boundaries of our earthly life’s parameters and brings us to a place of safety so secure that not even the strongest can violate its boundaries. It is a security and safety that even extends beyond death and comes through faith in Jesus Christ.
Today’s Prayer —
God of strength and love, enable me to find security in my faith that your omnipotence is my safeguard against hostility from outside sources.
Sometimes safety is found, not in what you see, but in what you believe deeply in your heart. The outside c… Read More
24 As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is what he promised us — eternal life.
Sometimes safety is found, not in what you see, but in what you believe deeply in your heart. The outside circumstances of our life have the potential to change with whatever direction the winds blow. But there is something credible and powerful in knowing something without a doubt. And that “knowing” is grounded by the reality that you are certain about what you know. When you are confident about what you know and that knowing is secured by a promise from a higher source, there is a safety that is provided that can fill a believer’s heart with a peace that passes all understanding.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious and generous Christ, fill me with the security found in your promise of eternal life. Enable me to experience that peace (in faith) that passes all understanding.
The full identity of Jesus is and has always been a matter of people’s questions and doubts. From the momen… Read More
45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote — Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.
47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
48“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”
The full identity of Jesus is and has always been a matter of people’s questions and doubts. From the moment his ministry began down through our own contemporary time and culture, Jesus remains a mystery to some, contested by others, and denied by still others. But there are also those who see Jesus and proclaim from a place deep within them that Jesus is the Son of God. Knowing and trusting Jesus as the Son of God gives people of faith a tremendous sense of safety and security, precisely because in Jesus, their term of service under sin is over and their iniquity is pardoned. The hostility that once existed between God and humanity is ended in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Today’s Prayer —
Precious God, may I dwell secure knowing that my faith in the one I call the Son of God provides safety through all eternity from the hostility of the world.
The world is sometimes a hostile place. Identify theft has increased our need to protect ourselves from tho… Read More
22 Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
The world is sometimes a hostile place. Identify theft has increased our need to protect ourselves from those who would misrepresent us by pretending to be us. Physical attacks by diseases from within threaten our lives in ways that leave us feeling vulnerable. The lingering effects of the latest pandemic witness to that truth. Questions about life and its origin, longevity and eternity are always topics of philosophical discussion. They too, at times, threaten our security about the past, the present, and our future in ways that are not necessarily hostile in terms of violence, but a threat to preconceived ideas of what we know or think we believe. And yet, there is a God who invites us to find safety in the eternal things where God is and place less assurance on those things which are transient. I once heard a comedian tell a joke in which he said: “Based on the history of the world, we’ll be dead a lot longer than we will have lived.” Perhaps that’s why Christ’s invites us to believe in things eternal, where our lives and presence with him are safe and can’t be taken away from him.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving and merciful God, fill me with the assurance in the promise of Your eternal protection and safety through my faith in Jesus Christ in a world where hostility comes from without and within.
Forgiveness is a highly underrated source of power in our world. Some people think of forgiveness as an act… Read More
47 Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” 48 Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Forgiveness is a highly underrated source of power in our world. Some people think of forgiveness as an act of weakness — something that we do or offer submissively rather than a power we have that allows us to do greater things than Christ. Forgiveness — the ability to place ourselves and our neighbors in a right relationship with God is the greatest power on the face of the earth and anywhere else. It is the power of God at work in us and through us, giving us the power to rebuild relationships that centers us in Christ. Forgiveness allows us to tell the story of a resurrected Christ who forgave us and offers forgiveness to anyone willing to accept it.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving and merciful God, empower me to practice to greatest act of all — to forgive others and tell the story of our resurrected Christ through the simple act of forgiveness.
The very essence of God is revealed in Jesus. While some people may doubt who he was, those of us who have… Read More
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers — all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
The very essence of God is revealed in Jesus. While some people may doubt who he was, those of us who have faith have been affirmed by God’s Holy Spirit that Jesus is and was God’s presence in the world. To know who Jesus is (that is, to be in a living relationship with him) is to have knowledge of who God is and what God is like. It’s impossible to experience the love of Christ and believe that he is somehow, different from God. Our faith provides us with proof beyond all doubt that Jesus and God are one. And yet, the greatest thing we can do is not to selfishly hold on to that information, but to share the entire story of Christ with others. That is truly one of the greatest things we can do in this life.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving God, continue to assure me that you did a great thing revealing yourself to in Jesus Christ. Empower me to do a great thing by sharing who You are and what you’ve done through him.
I believe it is the deepest desire of all people of faith to want to see the fullness of God. It seems for… Read More
17 The LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” 18 Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The LORD’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.
I believe it is the deepest desire of all people of faith to want to see the fullness of God. It seems for all practical purposes that it is impossible. Moses desired it but was unable to see God as God fully existed. He did however get to see all of God’s goodness, grace, and compassion. The blessing of Simeon was that he looked upon the face of the baby Jesus and knew that he had seen his Savior and his God. The greatness of God is displayed in his presence. We have been given that authority to be God’s greatness and presence in our time. Being God’s presence in the lives of people everywhere is perhaps the greatest thing we can ever do.
Today’s Prayer —
Holy and loving God, enable and empower others to see You, and that You made me for greatness through loving acts of mercy that I do in Your name.
Doing the greatest thing in God and Christ comes as a conferred gift of prayer. It is an essential part of God’s… Read More
25 “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
Doing the greatest thing in God and Christ comes as a conferred gift of prayer. It is an essential part of God’s grace. We didn’t ask for it. If we are to be honest, there are some of us who may even have doubts about it. But the initial act of our doing the greatest thing began with knowing and believing the truth about who Jesus is. That knowledge alone is powerful enough to save lives in this world for the next. We should be humbled that Christ has chosen us to experience God’s presence in our lives as an expression of God’s truth in the world. It is not our greatness, but God’s greatness working through us that enables us to share that truth with others.
Loving God, enable others to know the truth about You — that knowing You through faith comes with the built-in benefit of being capable of doing the greatest thing.
Our efforts to do the greatest thing in the world doesn’t have to come at great expense of time and energy from u… Read More
19 We know that we are God’s children, and that the whole world lies under the power of the evil one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
Our efforts to do the greatest thing in the world doesn’t have to come at great expense of time and energy from us. Once we have acknowledged that we’ve received grace from God, the ability to do a great thing is happens through our understanding of God’s truth. Doing a great thing — sharing the story of God’s love, forgiveness, and mercy isn’t an act of arrogance. It’s an act of love. We come to know God as God has chosen to reveal the truth of Christ to us. But it is that truth of knowing who Christ is and sharing that message allows us to do a great thing with our lives. We are in him and he is in us. There is nothing greater than our ability to share that truth.
Today’s Prayer —
Eternal Christ, empower me by Your presence in me to faithfully represent Your truth so that others may know that they, too, can do the greatest thing.
There are those for whom access to God has been deemed impossible. For them, the very idea of approaching G… Read More
15 He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16 and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. 17 So, he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.
There are those for whom access to God has been deemed impossible. For them, the very idea of approaching God sets behind the mental, emotional, and spiritual barriers of their own lack of faith. If they only knew Christ — who he was and what he did — they could approach God without fear or trepidation, graciously receiving the blessings that come gifted in a reconciled relationship to and with God. And with that reconciled relationship, they receive power to become children of God, and power to offer the truth about God to others — that they, too, are able to do the greatest thing — something greater than Christ has done.
Today’s Prayer —
Holy God, empower me to do the greatest thing — witnessing to others about Christ’s resurrection and God’s offer of forgiveness —to become the method by which others may be called to their greatness in you.
The desire to do great things is an aspiration of many people. There is also a common belief that in order… Read More
1 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way to the place where I am going." 5 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" 6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him."
8 Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." 9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.
The desire to do great things is an aspiration of many people. There is also a common belief that in order to do something great, it has to be “off the charts”. Accomplishing a great thing is sought in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s for personal glory. Sometimes doing something great isn’t sought at all but achieved because of an unavoidable circumstance. But if we think in terms of doing things greater than Christ, we think of turning to the chapter in life’s book titled, “It’s Never Going to Happen.” Christ, however, has rewritten the book and edited that chapter out. He has announced to us and all who are willing to understand that doing something greater that he has done can still be achieved through faith and divine intervention. It is a part of the Christian’s DNA. The trouble for us comes in realizing and understanding what we could do that would equal to the things Christ has done, and then realize what we have the ability to do greater things than that. The greatest that we believe Christ did were the miracles — walking on water, giving sight to the blind, healing the lame — things that Christ did boldly in front of everyone. Yet his greatest accomplishment was to forgive people and tell them about the love of God. Our leverage is that we have the benefit of his resurrection as evidence of his greatness and generations to inform a much greater audience. The greatest thing we can do is to tell others the story of God’s redeeming love through Christ.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious God, give us the courage to do this one great thing in Your name — proclaim Your resurrection to those in need of resurrection in their lives that they may come to know the saving power of Your forgiveness.
Life can be described in many ways. And as many ways as there are to describe it, there are probably ways i… Read More
37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. 40 These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
Life can be described in many ways. And as many ways as there are to describe it, there are probably ways in which people try to attain it. Some surround themselves with money. Others choose objects such as books, recordings from old vinyl to newly streamed. But once we get past those tangible things that define life, we are left with the spiritual component which is the most important. That life — real life — comes by faith in Jesus Christ and following him was rejected by those in his day and some in ours. And yet, it is by faith that we are more likely to hear his voice calling our name and we are more inclined to follow him after having heard him clearly. And when we have heard his voice and followed him, our life in him will be saturated with his life and ours will be a life both abundant and eternal.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving Christ, thank you for allowing me to hear your voice calling to me by faith, and to secure the gift of an abundant life through your name.
When we accept Jesus as our shepherd and follow him, we also acknowledge and accept David’s image of a good sheph… Read More
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
3 he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff —
they comfort me.
When we accept Jesus as our shepherd and follow him, we also acknowledge and accept David’s image of a good shepherd as our experience. There is abundant life at every turn. There is enough food, water, and rest for our sustenance and maintenance. There is also safety and security, the absence of even the fear of death. But there is also the promise of abundant life relative to what we can expect to experience in our relationship with our shepherd. There is comfort in knowing that God’s grace protects us. There is the additional benefit of knowing that we can be shown favor in the presence of those who despise us. Lifting up and edifying our spirits leads us to be unafraid of living and dwelling in the house of the Lord forever.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious God, I rejoice that you have chosen Jesus to be my emotional, physical, and spiritual support that leads me to life eternal.
Just as the sheep are supposed to be faithful when they are called to follow the shepherd, there is also an expec… Read More
1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? 3 You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock.
Just as the sheep are supposed to be faithful when they are called to follow the shepherd, there is also an expectation that the shepherd will be faithful to his responsibilities. God’s expectation from the shepherd is that he/she will act in caring ways toward the sheep, protecting them from danger giving them what they need to live while not exploiting the sheep for their own purposes. Following Jesus invites us to examine a much different picture of the shepherd than the one where the shepherd is labeled a “thief and a robber”. Following Jesus is an invitation to follow the shepherd who cares enough to lay down his life for the sheep. That is the ultimate act of caring a shepherd can provide. That’s the kind of shepherd Jesus is.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious Christ, enable me to clearly hear the voice of the good shepherd calling to me that I may receive the proper spiritual care you have desired for me.
It’s one thing to proclaim a relationship with someone. It’s another thing to claim that relationship by ut… Read More
46 Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47 As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. 48 They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49 But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”
It’s one thing to proclaim a relationship with someone. It’s another thing to claim that relationship by utilizing clearly defined objectives and the security that comes out of faithfulness to the relationship. The renowned preacher Billy Sunday once said, “Being in church on Sunday no more makes you a Christian than being in a garage makes you a car.” In other words, there’s a correlation to who we say we are and what we do. If we truly hear Jesus’ voice calling us and choose to follow him, then there is the expectation that if we follow him out of the sheep pen, we are expected to remain faithful to his command as his faithfulness voice.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving Christ, empower me to not only hear your voice, but to respond to it in faithfulness to our relationship by doing what you say do.
Often the liabilities of following Jesus are spoken of in terms of things Christians have to give up. There… Read More
27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
Often the liabilities of following Jesus are spoken of in terms of things Christians have to give up. There is perception that following Jesus is a limiting faith system that takes everything out of life. But there is another perspective which offers the fundamental realities of following Jesus as something that isn’t a liability, but as a benefit, or as something gained. Following Jesus means that we come to know Jesus more intimately because he knows us. It also points to security within that relationship as Jesus affirms that his follower’s future is a secure and eternal present and future life with God. That’s good news no matter who’s saying it.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious Christ, I celebrate and rejoice in the knowledge that you know me and have promised security and an intimate relationship with you.
Compassion is an integral part of a caring relationship. It doesn’t mean that the ones on whom you show com… Read More
34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So, he began teaching them many things.
Compassion is an integral part of a caring relationship. It doesn’t mean that the ones on whom you show compassion are necessarily perfect. It does mean that you may be able to look beyond their faults to supply their needs. That’s the nature of a good shepherd. The good shepherd knows that his flock may have some blemishes but is willing to look past those flaws to address them at the point of their need. As such, it is a gift to be able to see people’s needs above the flaws. Following someone who has that kind of compassion will rub off on the followers, so that they learn to do the same thing. And those who become the recipients of that gift of grace, find that their lives have been enriched and abundant. That’s the ultimate goal of a good shepherd – to enrich the lives of those to whom he had come near.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious Christ, as one who is called to follow you, teach me as one being shepherded by you to show compassion and provide abundantly the life which you have freely given to me.
We live in a world where many voices are calling out to us. They come from different places and spaces and… Read More
1 “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.
7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.
We live in a world where many voices are calling out to us. They come from different places and spaces and can be a distraction. Some of those voices calling us are calling to influence us in one way or another. “Come, go with me here.” “Let’s do this.” “Vote for me.” “Do this for me.” Some of the voices we hear calling to us are innocent in some ways, but nonetheless are designed to get us to follow them. Some of those voices are inviting us to compromise our integrity, even to the point of losing our life. These persons become shepherds to us in some respect. When they try to lead us in a direction that strikes against God’s desire for us or seek to satiate their personal need for power or control, then our lives and the extent to which they may become abundant are put at risk.
On the other hand, Jesus calls us to life. Jesus calls us to freedom. Jesus calls us into a life of a caring and being cared for through an intimate relationship with God. Following Jesus is invitation to enjoy a life free from the religious laws and rules that lead to sin and invites us into a life of freedom by grace. To follow Jesus is to be invited into a loving relationship where God’s grace abounds and life flows abundantly. Perhaps the best decision we can make is to hear Jesus’ voice and follow him.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving and caring Christ, in a world where there are many voices and distractions calling out to me, teach me to clearly hear your voice calling my name so that I will faithfully follow you.
One of the most difficult truths to deal with is the reality of our sins. It’s not that we do them. W… Read More
13 And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, 14 erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.
One of the most difficult truths to deal with is the reality of our sins. It’s not that we do them. We know we do. Our difficulty comes in letting them go. We carry them around reminding us of our imperfection and our guilt; or we carry them around to punish ourselves, believing apparently, that God is holding onto them to punish us as well. The truth of our God is found in many places but has tremendous weight and meaning as phrased in the words of this song:
My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh, my soul.
It is well with my soul.
How refreshing to accept God’s truth that we no longer carry our sins.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious God, allow me to cherish the freedom I receive when I come to Your truth that you have erased the record of my sins through Christ.
We don’t necessarily think of suffering as a good thing. Perhaps it’s because we work so hard in all our li… Read More
9 but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
10 It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
We don’t necessarily think of suffering as a good thing. Perhaps it’s because we work so hard in all our lifetime to avoid suffering at all costs. And yet suffering has a qualitative edge to it. Suffering that occurs because someone has violated a law has invited the actions of justice. We find some sense of satisfaction in our belief that “when you do the crime, you have to do the time.” But when suffering occurs without justification and is made visible for all to see, then God makes it right, and the sufferer is perfected through his suffering. Christ’s suffering was redemptive and perfected him before God. It also and was justified by God paying the wages of sin for everyone. Those who deny God’s truth have essentially chosen to pay the wages for their own sin. Most agree with God’s truth that the wages of sin is death.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious God, empower me to accept righteous suffering as verification of God’s truth that Christ is the pioneer of my salvation.
Ignorance is a difficult thing to justify. Sometimes ignorance is a choice we make. It comes from our… Read More
12 I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Ignorance is a difficult thing to justify. Sometimes ignorance is a choice we make. It comes from our weakness and refusal to accept God’s truth. There is a familiar saying that “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” That may be true in a world where laws, men, and women rule. Where ignorance of the law brings punishment from the justice of the world, ignorance of God’s truth brings a much different response. It brings with it the absence of the knowledge of God’s grace is a world where belief in God’s power may seem like foolishness, makes us seem wise. But God’s truth reveals the reality that God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength. God’s truth accomplishes things that no human knowledge or wisdom can overcome.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving God, help me to overcome the foolishness of the world to become wiser by living more intently into Your truth.
Coming to the truth is filled with the blessings of God. It additionally gives us the freedom to respond to… Read More
21 Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.
22 Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart.
Coming to the truth is filled with the blessings of God. It additionally gives us the freedom to respond to one another in ways that are pleasing to God and imitates the very nature of God present in our lives. To value others and love others in the same way that Christ loves us is the greatest testimony to God’s truth active and present in our world today. It’s shown as God’s truth in ways that others can actually see and either accept or reject. Love is God’s truth displayed in unmistakable ways, proved by public displays of affection (spiritual) showing how great the love by which he loved us. God asks nothing more than, in coming to God’s truth, we let our actions speak the truth of God in unmistakably loving ways.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving God, give me the freedom to openly share Your truth with others by the gracious acts of love I do in Your name that my life will be a witness to Your truth in me.
We do not all come to God’s truth at the same time. For some, it is revealed little by little until the eye… Read More
12 “A certain Ananias, who was a devout man according to the law and well-spoken of by all the Jews living there, 13 came to me; and standing beside me, he said, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight!’ In that very hour I regained my sight and saw him. 14 Then he said, ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear his own voice; 15 for you will be his witness to all the world of what you have seen and heard.
We do not all come to God’s truth at the same time. For some, it is revealed little by little until the eyes are opened and the truth stands before them with amazing clarity. Others come to the truth through the God’s revelation and the faithful witness and words of others simply being faithful and obedient to God’s truth in their lives. It’s not when we come to the truth that’s important (the earlier the better, however). It’s that we come to God’s truth, and what we do in response to God’s truth after it is revealed to us. It’s how we faithfully respond to the truth of God and share that truth from our own experience that others may know the truth and be set free.
Today’s Prayer —
God of love, let my life be a living example of Your truth’s power to raise people to new life so that others may receive my simple gift of belief and faithfulness.
The beauty of coming to God’s truth is that it doesn’t speak just for the current moment. Coming to God’s t… Read More
53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, ‘He is our God,’ 55 though you do not know him. But I know him; if I would say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.”
The beauty of coming to God’s truth is that it doesn’t speak just for the current moment. Coming to God’s truth answers all of our questions and reveals the truth across the ages and pages of history. It is not locked into a time warp but is as ancient as time and is more current than tomorrow’s news. And whatever glory comes from that powerful a revelation of truth is glory from the creator alone. When we come to God’s truth, it is God’s glory which rests upon us and enlightens the truth that we tell others by our lives and glorifies us in that truth.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious God, may Your truth (which has existed throughout the ages) continue to enlighten my life and generations to come that they may know and accept Your Grace and Truth.
Some people would say truth is subjective. Those who believe that have developed a carefully constructed wo… Read More
12 When Peter saw it, he addressed the people, “You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. 14 But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you.
17 “And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out,
Some people would say truth is subjective. Those who believe that have developed a carefully constructed world in which their truth is the only truth that matters. There! Now, we’ve said it; “Their truth.” It opens the very real possibility that there may in fact be as many truths as there are individual personalities to create them. But alongside those many truths stands God’s truth — and it stands in front of, behind, above, below, and around, yet superior to all other truths. God’s truth is the defining reality for each of us despite the truth we promote. But, of course, the question is: “What does it take us to come to God’s truth — to recognize that with God, there are no variations of fact or discernment. God’s truth is not altered by our ability to create our own stories of convenience. God’s truth is immovable and immutable. God’s truth stands despite all of our clever inventions. And it is in the light of God’s truth that we are invited to put our truths aside and accept the truth that is eternal.
Today’s Prayer —
God of truth and love, enable and empower me by faith to come to Your truth in all circumstances of life. Allow Your truth to guide my faith throughout my life that others may find their new life in Your truth.
The world has spent an inordinate amount of time trying to prove and disprove the events surrounding Jesus’ death… Read More
7 If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.
The world has spent an inordinate amount of time trying to prove and disprove the events surrounding Jesus’ death. The Shroud of Turin stands as evidence of one such exhaustive, ongoing examination. However, Jesus invites us to consider his works — things he’s done that give evidence to who he is. And our first tendency is to think about the miracles: the blind see, the lame walk, etc. But there is more tangible evidence as people’s lives are changed because of their relationship with Jesus. Addicts and those on the margins of life continue to find God’s grace and are made whole. He still invites us to believe because of the works themselves. There are myriads of people whose lives have been changed because of their relationship with Jesus Christ, and yet many still demand proof.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving God, help me to understand the miracle of transformed lives as evidence of the work that Christ continues to do in the world today.
The difficulty in believing in someone or something that you’ve never seen requires an act of faith. Faith is des… Read More
8 Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
The difficulty in believing in someone or something that you’ve never seen requires an act of faith. Faith is described as the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. And yet, the power of God is that God doesn’t allow our faith to be an empty vessel. The Spirit of God moves in us to substantiate the reality of that which we cannot see, but that which we know to be real. Our faith in Christ is not an illusion. It is the evidence of him whom we have not yet seen, but whom we know to be real. To that end, true faith is an awareness of the presence of God. Eyes are not a requirement.
Today’s Prayer —
Almighty and invisible God, enable my faith in You to be all the evidence I need to confirm Your reality in my life and Christ as my Savior.
Faith is our most powerful resource. Faith is that intangible element that enables us to hold on when every… Read More
5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
6 So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord — 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight.
Faith is our most powerful resource. Faith is that intangible element that enables us to hold on when everything around us says give up. Faith is what invites us to continue believing when every piece of evidence points toward doubting and denial. With faith, we are able to overcome overwhelming circumstances and rise to accomplish what some people believe to be impossible. This same faith confirms in us the reality of a God who cannot be seen, but who is more real than anyone or anything we have seen.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving and gracious God, empower me to grow in my relationship with You, not based on what I can see with my eyes, but by what I know deep within me.
We don’t often think of ourselves as having any power to affect things. And yet, God has conferred upon Chr… Read More
18 Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
We don’t often think of ourselves as having any power to affect things. And yet, God has conferred upon Christ the authority to empower us. And with that power we enter into the world just as Christ did. We are sent with the power of relationship and forgiveness. We have the power to bring people together and set people free. This is not something that we do in isolation. Our power to build up and set free is done in partnership with the Spirit of Christ and invites us to partner with each other to carry out this ministry. We ae sent just as he was sent, and he is with us in our faith.
Today’s Prayer —
Merciful Christ, enable my relationship with You to be one in which, as one who is sent, I go with joy to do the things You would have me to do in Your name.
Peace is an elusive quality in our lives. We are, perhaps, by nature an anxious people. We’re nervous… Read More
12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.
Peace is an elusive quality in our lives. We are, perhaps, by nature an anxious people. We’re nervous about life, and nervous about death. We’re nervous about living and dying and worried about not being able to live life to the full. And yet Christ comes to us offering us the peace of God. God’s peace moves beyond the absence of conflict but offers us the presence of a peace that somehow dispels our fears and anxieties. It comforts us and quiets all of the storms raging in our lives. The peace of Christ allows us to be a non-anxious presence to those who don’t know God’s peace.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious Christ, may Your peace be such a presence in my life that Your love becomes an overflowing fountain or comfort to everyone around me.
Unexpected experiences of encounters with God literally present in our world often catch us by surprise and frigh… Read More
5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” 8 And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
Unexpected experiences of encounters with God literally present in our world often catch us by surprise and frighten us. Perhaps it’s because we have become so accustomed to what is common, that we no longer expect to experience the holiness of God’s world in tangible ways. And yet, God invites us into those holy experiences, not to frighten us, but to assure us and affirm our faith. God allows us to experience these events so that we will ultimately come to know God as the God who invites us to live beyond our fears. Life lived behind a wall of fear is no life at all, and certainly not the life that moves us beyond the events of the cross or a personal encounter with God.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving God, empower me to move beyond my fears of encountering Your Holy world to live courageously in this world of which I am a daily participant.
We should not be surprised by how many times we are stopped by life’s events. We’re fearful and doubtful ab… Read More
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
We should not be surprised by how many times we are stopped by life’s events. We’re fearful and doubtful about many things that go on in our lives. We’re at times fearful and doubtful of what we see, and doubtful about things we can’t and don’t see. Things that cause us to be fearful and things in our lives that seem to be unbelievable can stop us dead in our tracks. The tragedies of life which cause us to freeze in amazement occur as spectacular moments to prevent us from living full, unimpeded lives of freedom. The invitation of Christ’s to move to life beyond the events of the cross came to those who experienced the resurrection of Jesus that first Easter morning, and to those of us who experience it now. A powerful event such as the resurrection that changed our relationship with God and humanity cannot stop at death’s door. There is a new life beyond the cross that says death is not the end of it. It is a life that begs us to live courageously unafraid of the present and confident about our future.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving God, empower and enable me to move in faith beyond those spectacular events in life that can prevent me from experiencing the abundance of life that awaits me beyond the cross.
The idea that there may be news too good to keep is neither new, nor novel. From the time that Jesus arrive… Read More
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,
The idea that there may be news too good to keep is neither new, nor novel. From the time that Jesus arrived, the admonition has been to tell someone the good news. It began with his own proclamation when he picked up the scroll of Isaiah (Luke 4:18) and continues to those willing to hear it today. News that is too good to keep is typically determined by its overall value and worth to the individual or the people whose lives upon whom it may have an impact. That the Savior has entered the world is great news. That the savior has accomplished his God-assigned task is the best news ever. And that we were and still are the benefactors of that news and grace is ‘news too good to keep’!
Today’s Prayer —
Holy and gracious God, enable me to always experience that joy about the story that’s too good to keep to myself so that I might share the story with others.
There will always be events that happen in our lives that we just will not be able to keep to ourselves. It… Read More
4 But now the LORD my God has given me rest on every side, and there is no adversary or disaster. 5 I intend, therefore, to build a temple for the Name of the LORD my God, as the LORD told my father David, when he said, ‘Your son whom I will put on the throne in your place will build the temple for my Name.’
6 “So give orders that cedars of Lebanon be cut for me. My men will work with yours, and I will pay you for your men whatever wages you set. You know that we have no one so skilled in felling timber as the Sidonians.”
7 When Hiram heard Solomon’s message, he was greatly pleased and said, “Praise be to the LORD today, for he has given David a wise son to rule over this great nation.”
There will always be events that happen in our lives that we just will not be able to keep to ourselves. It might be that a new home for God and God’s people is about to be built after years and years of what may have seemed like forever. But once the good news comes, especially after a dry season of despair, it is possible to approach the introduction of that good news with a heartfelt desire to simply run and tell someone, and proclaim out loud the blessings of the Lord! When the Lord adds a blessing that’s beyond understanding and it benefits you personally or corporately, it’s news that’s too good to keep.
Today’s Prayer —
Holy God, allow me to experience the exhilaration in life that news too good to keep can bring. May it resound in a joyful noise.
Holy Scripture is clear. Jesus appeared. And the expected outcome of his appearing was that one day e… Read More
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God, the Father.
Holy Scripture is clear. Jesus appeared. And the expected outcome of his appearing was that one day every knee in heaven and on earth, and under the earth would bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. I cannot imagine every tongue acknowledging and that confession somehow not be filled with a joyful noise, the expression of news that is too good to keep. And how could we keep quiet knowing that Christ has saved us?
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious and loving God, empower me to openly confess the news too good to keep to myself right now that Jesus Christ is Lord of all.
We are, at times, given the occasion to meet someone that creates a circumstance of unexpected joy in our lives…. Read More
22 When the camels had finished drinking, the man took out a gold nose ring weighing a beka and two gold bracelets weighing ten shekels. 23 Then he asked, “Whose daughter are you? Please tell me, is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?”
24 She answered him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel, the son that Milkah bore to Nahor.” 25 And she added, “We have plenty of straw and fodder, as well as room for you to spend the night.”
26 Then the man bowed down and worshiped the LORD, 27 saying, “Praise be to the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master. As for me, the LORD has led me on the journey to the house of my master’s relatives.”
28 The young woman ran and told her mother’s household about these things.
We are, at times, given the occasion to meet someone that creates a circumstance of unexpected joy in our lives. Because these situations often come as a surprise to us, it’s difficult to maintain our composure. It could simply be that someone important will be staying at our home. It was that way for Zaccheus when Jesus wanted to stay at his home. And it was that way for Rebekah at the bidding of Abraham’s servant. Sometimes it’s impossible to keep quiet about life changing events.
Today’s Prayer —
Almighty God, allow my experience at your entrance into my life to be the kind of experience that becomes news too good to keep.
To have good news is one thing. And perhaps to have discovered something that restores your hope, and repla… Read More
8 Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’
To have good news is one thing. And perhaps to have discovered something that restores your hope, and replaces something that was priceless is, perhaps, the greatest news of all. That kind of news can’t be celebrated alone. It needs to be shared with everyone you know, so that they can celebrate with you. The event of that resurrection morning fits right into that category. Once we were lost, but the news of an open tomb and salvation to life eternal is news that requires that we tell somebody. You just can’t keep news like that to yourself!
Today’s Prayer —
My God and King, empower me to become so filled with joy because of what Christ has done for me that I tell everybody I meet.
There are times when the news of something special changes our reality. If it’s really, really good news, w… Read More
10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.
21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
There are times when the news of something special changes our reality. If it’s really, really good news, we can become so overwhelmed at the reception of that good news that our desire to tell someone about it leaves us speechless. We may even resort to hand and arm gestures to convey the message without any results. Maybe this was not the case with Zechariah, but his inability to speak with words didn’t stop him from trying to motion to them with gestures. Sometimes there is news too good to keep but falls within God’s framework of divine time. Sometimes we have to wait to hear the good news, even if it is news too good to keep.
Have you ever received news so good that left you temporarily speechless?
Today’s Prayer —
Holy God, enable me to rise above the limitations of my inability to tell the good news, and empower my joy to tell the story of Your amazing grace.
There is nothing that moves us like fear and joy. Fear is often a great motivator because it raises the lev… Read More
1 After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, 'He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him. ' This is my message for you." 8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, "Greetings!" And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."
There is nothing that moves us like fear and joy. Fear is often a great motivator because it raises the level of adrenaline in our bodies to abnormal levels. Joy on the other hand creates an excitement level that keeps the adrenaline going. When receiving unexpected good news that gives us new hope, it’s often difficult not to connect our emotional high with our need to share what it is that makes us feel so joyful. The energy becomes much like a capped steam valve, and if we don’t find a way to release the energy, it can create explosive feelings of anxiety within us. Sometimes we have to fight those feelings of anxiety. But at other times, it’s normal, even healthy to release it. This can often be the case when there is news that’s too good to keep quiet about. Yes. Those who first found out about the resurrection may have first been overcome with feelings of fear. But how do we keep within ourselves the news that someone once thought dead, is alive again. That, brothers and sisters, is truly news too good to keep.
Today’s Prayer —
Almighty God, let me be filled to overflowing with joy at the good news of Your rising that I may tell the world of news that is truly too good to keep.
The very idea that there is no hope signals the end. It is the end of everything, for if there is no hope,… Read More
45 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 46 And about three o'clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" 47 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, "This man is calling for Elijah." 49 But the others said, "Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him." 50 Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last.
The very idea that there is no hope signals the end. It is the end of everything, for if there is no hope, then there is nothing to live for or toward. There is no apparent future. The realities of the past chase after us with its shadows seeking to devour us with bitter memories of what might have been. When we look for someone to save us and they do not come, there is the appearance that all hope is lost. The curtain of life falls and death takes the seat of the victor. A good reality check allows us to acknowledge what appears to be hopeless and forces us to look for a light at the end of what might be a very dark tunnel.
Today’s Prayer —
Holy and Almighty God, when there are times that it seems like all hope is lost, empower me to greet the darkness as a natural part of life.
Helplessness is an overwhelming feeling. It’s as if all time slows down and all activity within that enviro… Read More
11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is none to help. 12 Many bulls surround me, mighty ones of Bashan encircle me. 13 They open their mouths at me, like tearing, roaring lion. 14 My life ebbs away: all my bones are disjointed; my heart is like wax; melting within me; 15 my vigor dries up like a shard; my tongue cleaves to my palate; you commit me to the dust of death. 16 Dogs surround me; a pack of evil ones close in on me, like lions they maul my hands and feet. 17 I take the count of all my bones while they stare and gloat. 18 They divide my clothes among themselves, casting lots for my garments.
Helplessness is an overwhelming feeling. It’s as if all time slows down and all activity within that environment becomes magnified in its intensity. The actions of the people around you tend to become clearer, and there is a greater sense of your own self-awareness. It is difficult to accurately assess the outcome of one’s life in those closing moments of helplessness. What is also clear is the reality of a separation from all of the powers of assistance available. A real reality check is needed in that hour to accurately assess where we are and what is going on so that we don’t become delusional.
Today’s Prayer —
God of mercy and grace, enable me to do my own reality check when I’m faced with situations of helplessness in my life.
The institution of Holy Communion is not to be taken lightly. While the table of our Christ is an open tabl… Read More
23 For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." 25 In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
27. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves.
The institution of Holy Communion is not to be taken lightly. While the table of our Christ is an open table, the idea of a person doing their own reality check is crucial to receiving it. What we do at the table — receiving the body and blood of Christ as a recognition of his New Covenant with us — is a decision that can only be made by those who are willing to come. But it is a sacred feast. It was a meal that was good enough for the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
Today’s Prayer —
Holy and merciful God, let my reality check always remind of the importance of Holy Communion and that this meal was a meal fit for a King.
Long before the laying of a cloak over a puddle in the road for a lady to cross was chivalrous, people laid their… Read More
9 Then hurriedly they all took their cloaks and spread them for him on the bare steps; and they blew the trumpet, and proclaimed, "Jehu is king."
Long before the laying of a cloak over a puddle in the road for a lady to cross was chivalrous, people laid their robes in the dust of the road to act as walking mats for those who were of a Kingly nature. Today, people roll out the red carpet for dignitaries and people of importance. The parade into Jerusalem for Jesus and his exaltation was more than symbolic in that it represented the people’s proclamation and action that He was their King and their actions were not reserved for just anybody. This was God’s way of making the proclamation clear to those who knew the promise. Our reality check invites us to examine and explore how we acknowledge that Jesus is King in our lives.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious Christ, may the road that leads you into my heart always be filled with the palm branches of my own reality check proclaiming that you are King.
At a time in history when Jesus was entering the Holy City for Passover, the people shouted, “Hosanna in the high… Read More
9 After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying,
"Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!
At a time in history when Jesus was entering the Holy City for Passover, the people shouted, “Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” At the end of the age when we are in the presence of our Christ, the words will be, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” In the first instance, Hosanna means “O save us, Son of David”, admitting that Jesus is the Savior. In the second, it is clear that salvation belongs to Christ. One is exalted on High. The other is humble and sitting on a donkey. Yet they are the same King. Which is your reality?
Today’s Prayer —
My God and King, empower me to see beyond the reality check of this life to the reality of the life to come where all eyes will see Jesus as King.
When I was a child, my father would, from time to time, say, “Mark my word.” It was a term used at that tim… Read More
9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war-horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth.
When I was a child, my father would, from time to time, say, “Mark my word.” It was a term used at that time to indicate that what he had said would come to pass. Many years before Jesus came the prophet Zechariah said that Israel’s King would come to his people in the Holy City riding on a donkey. I would presume that no one in Zechariah’s time said, “Mark my word.” And yet, God has been faithful throughout eternity to bring to pass the assurance of the reality of God’s word. Those in Jesus’ day would have been encouraged by Zechariah’s proclamation. A reality check invites us to consider those times when God’s word became real in our lifetime.
Today’s Prayer —
Holy God, enable me to do a serious reality check on Your faithful promise to Your people. Assure my spirit within me that Your promises are my reality.
We typically enter Holy Week knowing what’s going to happen. Unlike those days when it was happening in rea… Read More
1 When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, "Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, just say this, "The Lord needs them.' And he will send them immediately." 4 This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,
5 "Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey."
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
"Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!"
10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, "Who is this?" 11 The crowds were saying, "This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee."
We typically enter Holy Week knowing what’s going to happen. Unlike those days when it was happening in real time, we live fully aware of the implications of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. And even today there is a certain excitement among us. Perhaps it’s because we know that a most special day is just around the corner. Perhaps it’s because this day, like so many other special days, begins the week with a parade (of sorts). Parades have typically always signaled the beginning of something important. But on this day, those who were an active part of the parade were out front, celebrating the entrance of their self-appointed King. There were still others who dared to ask the proverbial question, “Who is this?” The journey from the wilderness to faithfulness continues to beg us to answer the question. But it also is an invitation for us to do our own reality check. The disciples thought they had done everything they needed to do. We may be with them — needing to do a reality check to determine for ourselves who this might be in the court of our own private opinion.
Today’s Prayer —
Almighty and gracious God, empower me to make a reality check in my life about who I believe Jesus to be so that my reality and Your reality agree with one another
Far too often we only see what our eyes allow us to see. We have our hunches and our intuition, but at time… Read More
25 I became its servant according to God's commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Far too often we only see what our eyes allow us to see. We have our hunches and our intuition, but at times our hunches and intuitions leave us scratching our heads. What we don’t often see with our eyes are the promises of Christ’s being fulfilled in our lives or each other’s lives. We seem to be blind to the presence of God, even though the hope of the world, Jesus Christ, is working in us to accomplish God’s great purposes. I contend that grace is much easier to see when we stop looking for perfection in ourselves and others, choosing instead to love each other unconditionally.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious God, enable me to see that we are more than we appear. We are the presence of Your grace active and alive in the world.
If all we see when we look at each other is who we are physically, then we miss God’s most glorious act of grace…. Read More
11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. 15 God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. 16 So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.
If all we see when we look at each other is who we are physically, then we miss God’s most glorious act of grace. Within each of us lies the presence and reality of God’s love. Externally we are encased in the presence of God’s love. Maybe it is our unwillingness to love others as God has loved us that makes it so difficult for others to see beyond our physical presence into the spiritual reality of God’s love in us. We are more than flesh and bone. We represent the presence of God’s Spirit, grace, and love because God through Jesus Christ has placed it in us.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving God, enable and empower me to love others as You have loved me in a way that they might see that I am in You and You are in me.
We aren’t too far removed from our 1st Century Christian friends. While fornication literally pointed to “f… Read More
18 Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you were bought with a price; therefore, glorify God in your body.
We aren’t too far removed from our 1st Century Christian friends. While fornication literally pointed to “forsaking God, or following after idols”, it has found its way into our contemporary culture to entice us to worship other God’s physically. In today’s culture sex sells. Almost every advertisement — print, media, or otherwise — uses some form of sexuality to promote its product (young men and women physically appealing selling things that have nothing to do with how they look). And yet, we are drawn to that which the eye can see, turning people into objects. And none that I can think of ever promote the human body as the temple of the living God. Yet, for those of us who believe that we are the temple of the living God, we have become more than we appear.
Today’s Prayer —
Merciful God, help enable me to look beyond the aesthetic beauty of the human body to see each person as the dwelling place for Your Spirit.
The fruit of the Spirit is something that we all hope to experience in our lifetime. If it’s not something… Read More
22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self- control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.
The fruit of the Spirit is something that we all hope to experience in our lifetime. If it’s not something that reflects how we live, then we (at the very least) hope to experience it coming from others. And yet, if the Spirit is alive in us and we are guided by the Spirit, then the fruit of our lives will reflect something that’s not outwardly visible. We will be more than we appear to be, and what people will experience when they connect with us are the fruits of God’s presence in our lives being shared unselfishly in their lives.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious God, empower me to so live that what people experience when they are in my presence is Your presence and Spirit alive in me.
When James shouted “Adulterers!”, he wasn’t talking about our contemporary understanding of an affair with anothe… Read More
4 Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, "God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"?
When James shouted “Adulterers!”, he wasn’t talking about our contemporary understanding of an affair with another man or woman. He was speaking about an affair with anyone or anything that we willingly pursue taking our loyalty away from God. What we appear to be is often associated with whom we are loyal to and/or what we stand for. We sometimes fail our "fidelity-to-God-test” by not asking the right questions, or getting the right answers before we establish our position. The most agonizing question we can ask may point us back to our loyalty to God and Christ when we ask, “What would Jesus do?” The answer to that question may determine whether we have remained loyal to our God, or whether we have committed adultery with the world by clinging to the fealty of politics, race, or culture.
Today’s Prayer —
Holy God, give me a discerning Spirit so that my decisions are influenced by Your wisdom. Help me to appear as more than my human form.
It has been said that right is right. But apparently there is a distinction between what is right as it rel… Read More
7 Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. 8 If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. 9 So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time if we do not give up!
It has been said that right is right. But apparently there is a distinction between what is right as it relates to the flesh and what is right as it relates to the Spirit. It would appear that things we do to appease our flesh (this also means our emotional needs) come with the added caveat that our actions and the results of those actions could be corrupted. On the other hand, those things we do to appease our Spirits have a greater ability and opportunity to inspire and encourage life from God. Perhaps sowing to the spirit increases the yield of the Spirit, making us more spiritually than we appear to be in the flesh.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious God, empower me to plant and harvest blessings from Your Spirit so that my life will always be more than it appears to be.
We tend to believe (most of the time) that we are only human. That is our default. Whether we’re doin… Read More
3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason, the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
We tend to believe (most of the time) that we are only human. That is our default. Whether we’re doing something that displays a great weakness on our part, or whether we’re doing something that shows tremendous courage and strength, our claim is that we’re human. One is used to mask our faults, and the other is used to broadcast our strength. Those defaults, however, are typically based on our understanding of who we are from a physical perspective. We see our parts, both internally and externally, and presume that what we see is all of who we are. We live with the reality that our bodies will eventually die and that will be the end of us. And yet God has opened up another reality that we have to accept. Simply put: “that we are more than flesh and bone who live with a system of default that defines us on a human level but ignores that God-part that is alive in us.” To that end, we can default toward our humanity or default to our spirituality. Agreeing with God, God’s definition of us means that we accept that we are more than we appear to be.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious God, enable me to rise above the limiting lifestyle of my humanity to live the spirit-filled life you’ve called me to. Help me to always be mindful that because Your Spirit is alive in me, I am more than I appear to be.
There’s something about doing something repeatedly that speaks volumes about the impermanence of that thing we do… Read More
24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.
There’s something about doing something repeatedly that speaks volumes about the impermanence of that thing we do. And most of us enter into things knowing that nothing is one time forever. We have to do things repeatedly, at least in our world, in an effort to satisfy our attempts at the permanence of something even though we know that our efforts are temporary. Thank God that in Jesus, God has brought an end to repetitive sacrifices that have taken the lives of children and animals for our sins. In Jesus, God has accomplished what we couldn’t do by the shedding of his own blood once and for all.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious God, I thank You for Jesus Christ who offered His own blood as the perfect one-time sacrifice for the forgiveness of my sins each day.
It is our nature (at least for those who have accepted Christ) to believe that we have no responsibility at all f… Read More
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship. 2 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.
It is our nature (at least for those who have accepted Christ) to believe that we have no responsibility at all for making a sacrifice to God. However, while because of Jesus Christ we never have to make a sacrifice, we lose sight of the fact that now we have become God’s sacrifice to the world. Just as Christ was God’s sacrifice to the world, we have now taken on the role of being Christ-like — living sacrifices for the agenda of God to love everyone unconditionally. Our spiritual worship is not just believing in Christ, but believing and acting in ways that show that we have submitted to do the will of God just as Christ did the will of God.
Today’s Prayer —
Holy God, though my sacrifice be imperfect, enable me to be a living sacrifice for You that I might know Your good and perfect will in my life and live it.
There is a huge difference between knowledge and application — between theory and reality. In fact, we have… Read More
32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
There is a huge difference between knowledge and application — between theory and reality. In fact, we have old sayings that help us to understand that wisdom. Phrases like, ‘a miss is as good as a mile’, ‘close only counts in horseshoes’ and ‘almost catch a rabbit don’t make no soup’. These are all phrases we use to describe what it means to come up short. We can know what to do and somehow be just short of perfection because we can’t do what we know. Being not far from the Kingdom of God may come nowhere close to God’s perfect sacrifice offered to us in Jesus Christ.
Today’s Prayer —
Merciful God, teach me the true understanding of what it means to accept Your perfect sacrifice for those times when I come up short of perfection in my relationship of loving You and others.
For ages we’ve done things in an effort to appease God, believing that if we offered gifts and sacrifices, they w… Read More
21 The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal.”
22 But Samuel replied:
“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the LORD?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
For ages we’ve done things in an effort to appease God, believing that if we offered gifts and sacrifices, they would be acceptable and perfect. That we had to offer them repeatedly was proof enough that the sacrifice we offered could never achieve that goal of being perfect. What was better than all the sacrifices in the world was doing God’s will and becoming the people God desired for us to become. But that could never happen given our nature. What was needed was a sacrifice that was perfect — someone, not something that was good once for all.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious God, forgive me in those times when I’ve chosen my own sacrifice rather than trusting in Your sacrifice for me in Jesus Christ.
I’m not sure we often think about what happens when the righteous die for the unrighteous. Perhaps it’s because w… Read More
22 “He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”
I’m not sure we often think about what happens when the righteous die for the unrighteous. Perhaps it’s because we all know deep within ourselves that we never truly get what we deserve. All of our little hidden sins, both those we knowingly commit that never come to light are only known by us and perhaps the person we offended. Those sins we commit by omission are known only to God. And to that extent, we know we have not lived up to our responsibility as God’s children. So, if the punishment of sin is death, we deserve to die. But Jesus Christ (the righteous) died for us (the unrighteous), a perfect sacrifice for our sins.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving God, enable me to face the truth about my broken relationship with You and trust in your perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ for my sins.
A perfect sacrifice does more than give the illusion that things are in order. It sets them in order in inv… Read More
12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
A perfect sacrifice does more than give the illusion that things are in order. It sets them in order in invisible ways so that we may lead lives that are visible representations of our redeemed souls. And perhaps, therein lies the proof. There is something that happens within us that frees us from guilt caused by the repeated commission of our sins because we can rely on the One who became the perfect sacrifice for our sins. That doesn’t give us permission or freedom to live out of relationship with God because of our actions. But experiencing God’s forgiveness through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ has freed us once and for all, and once for all is a tremendous liberation. It is in every possible way, the perfect sacrifice for sin offered to us by God.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving God, keep me mindful of all that You have done in offering me the perfect sacrifice for my sin. Enable me to always live trusting in Your perfect sacrificial gift of grace in Jesus Christ.
The idea of giving up something in order to gain something else isn’t a new concept. It’s actually built in… Read More
4 It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
6 with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.
7 Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll —
I have come to do your will, my God.’”
8 First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” — though they were offered in accordance with the law. 9 Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
The idea of giving up something in order to gain something else isn’t a new concept. It’s actually built into the fabric of who we are. We have to make up our minds what we are willing to sacrifice in order to get something that’s important to us. That’s why people work, and why we do it day after day. We sacrifice our time and energy in order to get those financial rewards that then allow us to find the basic necessities of life. The fact that no “single” sacrifice of time and energy suffices to bring all our necessities to us all the time means that our sacrifice is not only imperfect, but it also means that what we’ve given in just one day is, in some ways, unacceptable. Working one day will never be enough to satisfy for all time. The perfect sacrifice, whether of time or energy — or any other commodity — would meet all of our needs for all time. Once would be enough. God, however, has managed to secure the perfect sacrifice in order for us to have that perfect, reconciled relationship with God, (and with each other if we’re willing to follow Jesus’ example.) God did it by providing the perfect and acceptable sacrifice of love once and for all through Jesus Christ.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving God, I give thanks to You that (through Jesus) You have provided the perfect and acceptable sacrifice for my sins. Enable and empower me to become a living sacrifice always seeking to do Your will.
The world is full of peculiar people who constantly look for proof of God’s reality, and yet, the proof of God is… Read More
31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.
The world is full of peculiar people who constantly look for proof of God's reality, and yet, the proof of God is all around us. They see people whose lives have been changed yet fail to see that their change has anything to do with the reality or the presence of God. The same could be said for people claiming to be believers who constantly search for proof of God. They’ve hardened their hearts, locking out faith in all the things that God has done before, yet searching instead and asking for proof of what God has done for them lately. God is not a “fast-food” delivery God who responds as soon as we place our prayers on the prayer list. There are times when the lesson to be learned can only be realized after we’ve faced life’s challenges and come out on the side of faith and trust that God is with us.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious God, enable me to recall and remember Your faithfulness throughout the ages so that my heart is not hardened and l will not continually test You, but trust You.
It is perhaps our nature to look beyond our behavior as an answer to why we find ourselves in a certain position… Read More
22 And if you say in your heart,
“Why have these things come upon me?”
it is for the greatness of your iniquity
that your skirts are lifted up,
and you are violated.
23 Can Ethiopians change their skin
or leopards their spots?
Then also you can do good
who are accustomed to do evil.
It is perhaps our nature to look beyond our behavior as an answer to why we find ourselves in a certain position in life. It seems that we have found ourselves incapable of living totally obedient lives to honor God. Yet, when we do it habitually, it is then that we ask the question, “Why is this happening to me?” While the answer is sometimes not simple, the greater question is, “Why do we persist in blaming God for our discomforted lives?” Why do we resent God for not rescuing us from our predicament when our resistance to God put us there? Perhaps the answer lies in making decisions that limit our culpability and allow us to trust God in all circumstances of life?
Today’s Prayer —
Loving God, enable me to have a change of heart from blaming You for the life predicaments I find myself in, and to own my part in it all.
A part of life reminds us that we are not in control. That realization compels us to seek someone to take responsibil… Read More
12 Yet even now, says the LORD,
return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
13 rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the LORD, your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
and relents from punishing.
14 Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
and leave a blessing behind him,
a grain offering and a drink offering
for the LORD, your God?
A part of life reminds us that we are not in control. That realization compels us to seek someone to take responsibility for what happens to us. And yet, we often forget that our control occurs as we realize we are in a relationship with God. We can choose to live in a constant relationship with God and hear God’s voice or ignore it. It’s not a part-time relationship where we walk in and out, but a relationship which is constant. Instead of questioning why we left God, we often question why God has left us. And yet the answer is simply to have a change of heart about the distractions and to return to God. It’s simple, but it’s not easy.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving God, enable and empower me to have a change of heart that compels me to stay with You and avoid the distractions that cause me to stray.
There appears to be a theme which runs throughout the Bible that suggests that God, more than anything else, want… Read More
34 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
There appears to be a theme which runs throughout the Bible that suggests that God, more than anything else, wants to be chosen by us. That God has chosen us is irrelevant at this point. God’s wants us to make a conscious decision to hear God’s voice over all the others. There is a sense that if we’re told the same thing over and over again and refuse to change, that we’ve hardened our hearts. It’s clear that we can’t change our minds about choosing God until we’ve had a change of heart about choosing God.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious God, forgive me in those times when I’ve chosen other gods and not listened to You. Change my heart that I might hear and come to You.
There is an old saying not heard much anymore, but just as valid: “You’ve made your bed; now you have to lie in i… Read More
10 I am the LORD your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.
11 “But my people did not listen to my voice;
Israel would not submit to me.
There is an old saying not heard much anymore, but just as valid: “You’ve made your bed; now you have to lie in it.” In some ways that explains many of the predicaments we find ourselves in, especially when we knowingly and willingly defy God. Hardening of the heart with respect to God can occur instantly or over a period of time when we feel that God is being inattentive to our circumstances. Like spoiled and brooding children, we cry out for the immediate and instant attention of God. What brings us out of those situations is when we have a change of heart and remember that God is faithful and has been true to His Word that he would never leave us nor forsake us. Coming to that reality can be a real heart shift for us.
Today’s Prayer —
Merciful God, enable me to know those times when my heart hardens against You. Lead me to have a change of heart to be obedient to you and remember Your faithfulness.
We are a forgetful people. Too often, we develop periodic amnesia and forget what God has done for us…. Read More
1 Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;
2 sing the glory of his name;
give to him glorious praise.
3 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you.
We are a forgetful people. Too often, we develop periodic amnesia and forget what God has done for us. Blind to the presence of God’s activity in our lives, we too often fail to see what God is doing. Often, we don’t trust that God will be with us in the future because we’re uncertain of God’s “now” presence with us. This forgetfulness leads us to places where our hearts are hardened. It’s then that we begin focusing on our circumstances while forgetting to worship God for the awesome deeds that God has already done. It’s a natural tendency, born out of our human relationship with God. It is, however, in our best interest to not harden our hearts, but to make a joyful noise to God, celebrating before others what our God has done, and trusting that God will again come through for us.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving Christ, keep me mindful of all that God has done, is doing, and will do so that I may praise God with a joyful heart, not a hardened one.
It is the nature of the human family (at least those who believe in God) to question the circumstances of our lif… Read More
1 O come, let us sing to the LORD;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
3 For the LORD is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and the dry land, which his hands have formed.
6 O come, let us worship and bow down,
let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
7 For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
O that today you would listen to his voice!
8 Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
9 when your ancestors tested me,
and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
10 For forty years I loathed that generation
and said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they do not regard my ways.”
11 Therefore in my anger I swore,
“They shall not enter my rest.”
It is the nature of the human family (at least those who believe in God) to question the circumstances of our life’s challenges. The proverbial word question “Why?” seems to leak from our mouths when we don’t have an answer or understanding of life’s challenges. And out of that word/question ‘why’, we seem to gravitate toward a belief system that says, “We don’t deserve what we’re getting.” That thought is typically accompanied by feelings of hurt and resentment because we’ve had to endure some situation that has challenged our faith and our memory of God’s presence in our lives. The tendency — at least for some and not all — is to become so frustrated with God because we haven’t been able to experience life as comfortably as we thought we should. Those feelings typically cause us to suffer from a fairly common disease called “hardening of the heart.” Symptoms of this disease are that we become resistant to what God is doing in us and through us. Protesting takes the place of praise. Worry takes the place of worship, and we begin looking and asking God for proof that we haven’t been left alone. It’s perhaps a better idea to search for places where we’ve hardened our hearts, remembering what God has done in the past, praising God for God’s faithfulness instead of living in fear and frustration.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving God, strengthen and empower me to search within myself to find those places where I have hardened my heart against You. Enable me to make a change of heart to fully embrace all You do for me and worship You.
There is no doubt that we all depend on something, especially as it relates to our relationship with God. M… Read More
10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”
There is no doubt that we all depend on something, especially as it relates to our relationship with God. Many people are dependent upon the notion that they are good people who do good things such that God will reward them for the good works they do. And while there might be a connection to the works’ we do in the name of God, those works will never earn us the right to be in that relationship. The plausibility and possibility of any relationship with God comes by virtue of an unearned guarantee from God and no one else.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious God, lead me to that place in my relationship with You, where living by faith I may come to rely Your unearned guarantee of grace.
Have you ever really thought about what it is to receive a gift? A gift is special in that it isn’t earned…. Read More
22b There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood — to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished — 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
Have you ever really thought about what it is to receive a gift? A gift is special in that it isn’t earned. If we earn something, it means that we had it coming to us or that we deserved whatever the gift might be. On the other hand, when we receive gift, it comes to us because the giver wants us to have it. It’s not earned, but it comes to us (typically) as an expression of love from the other person. That’s how it is with God’s love. God gives us the gift of grace. It is an unearned reward of a relationship built on faith.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving Christ, please help me to live my life by faith, yet, keep me open to receive Your unearned guarantee, the greatest expression Your love.
Uncertainty is a plague of fear. When we live in uncertainty, we find that we can’t trust much of anything…. Read More
21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22 But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.
23 Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed.
Uncertainty is a plague of fear. When we live in uncertainty, we find that we can’t trust much of anything. We can’t trust or depend on things being where we want them to be or rely on events happening as we would like or expect. The beauty of God’s promises is that they come with an irreversible, non-revocable guarantee that nails down with certainty all of the things that God promises. That they are promises from God, not based on the law, but on grace is our assurance and only point of comfort.
Today’s Prayer —
All-knowing God, enable and empower me to accept the free gift of salvation through faith, teaching me that I never earned the gift I received.
One of the ways we can dishonor a person’s gift to us is to not use it. In some ways it’s an insult. … Read More
21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
6:1 As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says,
“In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you.”
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
One of the ways we can dishonor a person’s gift to us is to not use it. In some ways it’s an insult. In other ways it’s simply accepting the gift in vain — taking it without any idea of its importance or desecrating the gift as if the lifetime guarantee was of no value. It may be, in some ways, very much like using the gift as if we earned it, as opposed to using it as if it was not only important, but that we understood its significance and value as a gift. When a gift is unearned, it may cause someone to revalue the gift for their own wellbeing.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving God, teach me as one who can know and learn the value of a gift. Enable me to honor the unearned guarantee as it is the gift.
We are forever separated from God because of our stubbornness. We at times know the right thing to do and d… Read More
6 Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.
7 Remember this and never forget how you aroused the anger of the LORD your God in the wilderness. From the day you left Egypt until you arrived here, you have been rebellious against the LORD.
We are forever separated from God because of our stubbornness. We at times know the right thing to do and don’t do it. We also know the wrong things not to do and do them anywa9 (read Romans 7:18-23). We know what to say, and refuse to say it. Our inability to do right and act right prevents us from establishing a relationship with God in which God is honored. So, if we can’t earn God’s love and acceptance by our lifestyle, our only choice is to accept God’s guarantee as an unearned gift. It is through the acceptance of the unearned guarantee that we find salvation and security.
Today’s Prayer —
Merciful God, enable and empower me to see myself for who I truly am — a person in need of the unearned guarantee of Your grace.
There is no more descriptive and satisfying scripture of truth and freedom than to know we have been saved by som… Read More
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
There is no more descriptive and satisfying scripture of truth and freedom than to know we have been saved by some other means than the works we do. Thinking or believing that what we do somehow earns God’s love dismisses God’s role in holding us accountable for the things we do wrong. That’s especially good news since we are all differently abled. Since no one could demand that God justify the situation of our sin and his righteousness, God took it upon God’s self and did it anyway. God gave us an unearned, guaranteed promise of eternal life through faith and grace for no other reason than God’s unmerited love for us all.
Today’s Prayer —
Merciful God, enable and empower me to see myself for who I truly am — a person in need of the unearned guarantee of Your grace.
We live in a world where guarantees are an expectation of the culture. This is especially true when we purc… Read More
1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about — but not before God. 3 What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
4 Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. 5 However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. 6 David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
8 Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord will never count against them.”
13 It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, 15 because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.
16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring — not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.
We live in a world where guarantees are an expectation of the culture. This is especially true when we purchase something. We expect that there will be a guarantee of the product we purchase, lease, rent, or own that will certifies that the product will be good for a specified time of ownership. If we’re fortunate, we might be offered a warranty good for the life of the item. But even then, the guarantee is earned depending on how well we care for the item. But all of those guarantees (even with their implied and expressed warranties) only cover items that we have purchased or earned. There is another system in place when we think about entering into a relationship with God and receiving a guarantee of that relationship. Much to our benefit, a guarantee from God can’t be purchased or earned. Our ability to be obedient never has the power to make God beholden to us. God’s guarantee of grace comes to us because God chooses to give it. We can’t afford to rely on our own merit to be acceptable with God.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious God, humble me so that, in faith, I will only trust in the unearned guarantee of Your grace to live in relationship with You and never rely on what I believe are my own good works to please You.
Knowing who we are requires a certain action on our part. It requires that we function according to the per… Read More
14 You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Knowing who we are requires a certain action on our part. It requires that we function according to the persons we claim to be. To be certain, there will be challenges to our identity. There will always be the opportunity to live contrary to who we truly are — as a lamp under a bushel basket. Knowing who we are is integral to living our lives with clarity and integrity. It’s by knowing who we are that we can serve our true function in the world.
Today’s Prayer —
Almighty God, enable me to see that knowing who I am empowers me to live my life with clarity and integrity as a child of God.
We don’t often think about it, but self-knowledge is a prerequisite for teaching others how to recognize their tr… Read More
19 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth — 21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal?
We don’t often think about it, but self-knowledge is a prerequisite for teaching others how to recognize their true selves. This is especially true when we think about character traits that are in concert with the persons we describe ourselves to be. It’s difficult to imagine a blind eye-doctor, deaf audiologist, or a speech therapist who can’t speak themselves. Likewise, it’s difficult for us to teach someone to be a Christian if we aren’t clear about who we are and haven’t taught ourselves to claim our identity.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious Christ, lead me into that holy place where I may learn who I truly am in You so that I might live my life as a witness to others.
Lack of clarity about who we are opens the door to faulty practices of faith that are misleading to us and others… Read More
23 Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices — mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
Lack of clarity about who we are opens the door to faulty practices of faith that are misleading to us and others. Perhaps in our culture, it’s appropriate to be divided about who we say we are and what we do. After all, everyone seems to be doing it. We even allow it in some circles. The question is about whether or not these actions lead to integrity of identity, or simply serve to confuse us and others about who we really are. It seems that knowing and practicing who we are is the key to a life of true witness.
Today’s Prayer —
All-knowing God, empower me to live my life in the full knowledge of who I am in You and with integrity before the world in which I live.
It is a special privilege to be called a child of God. It’s not a name that we take. It’s a name that… Read More
12 be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
13 Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. 14 Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; 15 for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a jealous God …
It is a special privilege to be called a child of God. It’s not a name that we take. It’s a name that is given to us. It’s a name by which we’ve been identified by God and one by which we identify ourselves (or at least should be). It then becomes a curious lifestyle that we live when claim we have one God who claims us but often give ourselves over to serving and worshiping other gods who have no claim on us at all. Knowing who we are is a strong inhibitor against serving and worshiping other gods. It’s also a strong incentive to worship the God who protects us.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving God, as one who claims my relationship to You to define who I am, enable and empower me to be faithful to no other God but You.
We are forever looking for God to do something to prove God’s identity to us. Perhaps that’s a part of who… Read More
28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?
We are forever looking for God to do something to prove God’s identity to us. Perhaps that’s a part of who we are — someone always unsure and unbelieving. And yet, unless we live as the people we claim to be, our lack of faith that becomes a challenge (or test) of God will probably do more to identify who we really to those who may be searching. Our identity — who we really are — is proven more by our faith than by our insecurities, doubts, and fears.
Today’s Prayer —
Merciful God, enable and empower me to wrestle my insecurities into submission such that my faith in You to do all things defines who I am.
There may, in fact, be some solace in recognizing that we are not alone in life’s challenges. It’s in those… Read More
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
There may, in fact, be some solace in recognizing that we are not alone in life’s challenges. It’s in those challenges where we succeed or we fail — where we find affirmation about who we are or live with the doubts of who we are. It’s also in those challenges that we can claim to know who we are as children of God who are at times tempted, at times succumb to those temptations, but who, through faith in Jesus Christ, can come boldly to the throne of grace to find mercy and help in time of need. That’s who we are.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving Christ, I give thanksgiving to you for clarifying my identity to you as one who is invited to boldly come to You for forgiveness and mercy.
Someone was once quoted as saying about those of us who define ourselves as Christian: “We should so live our liv… Read More
1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
Someone was once quoted as saying about those of us who define ourselves as Christian: “We should so live our lives that when we tell someone we are Christians, they are able to smile in affirmation rather than being surprised by the fact.” Perhaps people are surprised because some of us live our lives taking advantage of the grace we’ve been afforded rather than making a full faith effort to live according to how we identify ourselves. It may be that we choose to live our lives with aliases rather that coming to that place where there is consistency with who we say we are and the choices we make about our lives. One of the key things about how we live, the decisions we make in our life choices, and how others perceive us is knowing who we really are and knowing what it means to identify ourselves as children of God. We wear many hats throughout the day that define us for a specific moment in time. But knowing who we are makes a defining statement about who we believe ourselves to be, especially when we are tempted to make decisions that say otherwise.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious and loving God, enable and empower me to avoid the temptation of living my life with an identity other than the one I claim as Your child. Teach me to choose and live my relationship to You before the entire world.
Faith has many components. Of those variables of faith, we are called to respond to God in different circum… Read More
7 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
8 I keep my eyes always on the LORD.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Faith has many components. Of those variables of faith, we are called to respond to God in different circumstances, using those different parts of our faith. In one instance, faith may simply mean being aware of God’s presence and responding to the needs of those around us. In another setting, faith may mean trusting that God will provide for us. But to remain unshaken in our faith leaning on God’s wisdom and counsel gives our faith rock-solid status. Sometimes regardless of the circumstances it just may be all about being still and knowing that God is God.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving Christ, teach me through Your wisdom to listen to Your counsel so that I may always be unshakable in my faith.
Too often we think of faith as being nothing more than a spiritual exercise — something which, once the believing… Read More
1 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.
Too often we think of faith as being nothing more than a spiritual exercise — something which, once the believing is done, then so are we. But the truth is, faith requires wisdom beyond knowing of God. Someone once said that knowledge is knowing what to do; wisdom is knowing what to do next. We all know what to do in our faith. What we sometimes lack is the wisdom to move past our knowledge and take that extra step that may be more pragmatic than spiritual. Linking faith and wisdom is the key. Perhaps that wisdom comes from patiently waiting on God and preparing to receive him when he comes. Nothing is worse than being called on and being unprepared. The wisdom of a rock-solid faith is being prepared whenever Jesus should arrive in our lives.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious Christ, give me the wisdom of faith to know what to do, and the practical wisdom to know what to do next in serving You.
There is much religious conversation among Christians about how important it is to know Jesus Christ. And i… Read More
25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’
“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’
26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’
27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’
There is much religious conversation among Christians about how important it is to know Jesus Christ. And it is true that our relationship to God through Jesus Christ is critical to our transformation. But more important than whether we know Jesus or not is whether or not Jesus knows us. Knowing of Jesus doesn’t certify that we have an intimate and personal relationship with him. We’ve all heard of famous people and may even know someone who knows someone famous. That doesn’t mean we know the friend of our friend. Jesus’ knowledge of us goes beyond whether or not we were in his presence at church or at a fellowship meal. Jesus knows us through the acts of love and kindness we do for others, through common acts of prayer and devotion. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to have a little talk with Jesus and tell him all about our trials.
Today’s Prayer —
Precious Christ, enable and empower me to live knowing Your grace for me in such a way that You will know me through my acts of grace and mercy, as well as my prayers and outcries to you.
The argument of grace versus works has gone on for what seems like an eternity. Those who argue for grace m… Read More
13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.
The argument of grace versus works has gone on for what seems like an eternity. Those who argue for grace maintain that doing works leans toward earning God’s favor and love, which can’t be earned. Those who argue for works suggest that works are those things we do to in response to God’s love which (in turn) allows us to please God. But God judges our works through the intent of our hearts. Yes, we are justified by our faith, but people of faith have done egregious things in the name of God, and non-believers have done loving things from their heart. If not the unmerited grace of God working for us all, then all the kindnesses in the world aren’t sufficient. Perhaps it is a both faith and works and not each independent of the other.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving Christ, change my heart of faith so that my acts of love and mercy are driven by a rock-solid faith that works to please You.
Sometimes we forget that faith — our faith — is an action taken on our part on behalf of our belief in God…. Read More
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
Sometimes we forget that faith — our faith — is an action taken on our part on behalf of our belief in God. It is our way of connecting with the Holy Mystery. And yet our connection to God doesn’t necessarily resolve any of the practical issues that face us in life. That requires something different. It requires an act of grace (or unmerited love) that gives evidence that there is a strong faith-filled connection between all humanity. As such, our faith response is to provide them with what they need, just as God has provided us with what we need.
Today’s Prayer —
Merciful Christ, enable and empower me to merge my acts of love into a rock solid faith in You that showcases Your love and care for others through me.
We always live with the danger of people telling us things about God and Christ, and about our relationship with… Read More
29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.
We always live with the danger of people telling us things about God and Christ, and about our relationship with God that are offered in an effort to expand our wisdom and knowledge of God. Perhaps there’s weakness in us causing us to desire wisdom from that charismatic person who seems to know more than we do. And yet, sometimes people are more concerned with their own power and persuasion over others than leading them to an authentic and meaningful relationship with Christ. When it’s all about them, it can’t be about Christ.
Today’s Prayer —
Merciful Christ, enable and empower me to have discerning ears that the wolves of my generation might not destroy my rock-solid faith in You.
Faith is the foundation of our relationship with God. But we must also remind ourselves that at times our f… Read More
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
Faith is the foundation of our relationship with God. But we must also remind ourselves that at times our faith is shaky. Our shakiness exists partly because we live with the polarity and tension between believing and doing. The weight of that tension weighs heavy on the faith side as we are asked to inquire of ourselves if we know Jesus. The weight weighs heavy on the ‘doing’ side as we work to do things in Jesus name that are pleasing to God. And yet, it seems that doing things in Jesus’ name isn’t enough. There’s more to having a ‘rock-solid’ faith than simply doing things in Jesus’ name. Our faith is solidified by a life of following Godly wisdom — a wisdom that leads us to produce lives that bear evidence, not that we know Christ, but that Christ knows us and is guiding our life and works. And so, we seek to be in a relationship with God in which our faith has been tried and tested — a faith that has withstood the trials and storms of life and remains steadfast and faithful to Christ.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving Christ, empower and strengthen me to act on my faith so that my life bears the good fruit of a relationship with You —one that assures me that by my works You know me and that I have a rock-solid faith.
There are certain things we do in life, many of which are done to prove we are right. And I guess there is… Read More
31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, so that they may be saved.
There are certain things we do in life, many of which are done to prove we are right. And I guess there is something to be said for being right. However, being right usually has the disadvantage of telling someone else they are wrong, which may cause spiritual injury to another. What may be more important as Christians is that in all of our dealings, we try to give honor and glory to God. It’s at that point that the glory of God shines in us and through us, making God’s saving grace in Jesus Christ readily available to those we encounter.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious and loving God, empower me to do everything I do so that You may glorified by all of my actions, seeking to offend no one.
It’s amazing that we have so many wonderful gifts to be used to benefit the common good of the world, and y… Read More
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
It’s amazing that we have so many wonderful gifts to be used to benefit the common good of the world, and yet, we find ourselves lacking in our ability to harness those gifts in powerful ways of transformation. It is God’s desire that the gifts we’ve received from the Holy Spirit as trustees are shared with the world to be used to magnify God’s presence in the whole world. I seem to remember a parable about a man who buried his gift and didn’t use it.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving Christ, empower me to apply the gift of Your spirit given to me as a trustee of God so that others may receive the benefit of Your love in me.
One of the responsibilities of a trustee is that the thing we’ve been given to take care of doesn’t get abused or… Read More
1 Let mutual love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
One of the responsibilities of a trustee is that the thing we’ve been given to take care of doesn’t get abused or used for the wrong purpose. If what we’ve been entrusted with is the unconditional love of God, then to not use it in ways that foster God’s love to everyone is an abuse of that gift. As a trustee of God, displaying hospitality should be a hallmark of God’s welcoming nature. We never know whom we might encounter that might be in need of simple kindness, respect, love, and human warmth.
Today’s Prayer —
Holy and merciful God, enable me as a trustee of Your grace to always open the door of hospitality to others that you might be glorified.
When we think of being trustees of God, we don’t typically think that our range of responsibility reaches to thos… Read More
19 My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, 20 you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
When we think of being trustees of God, we don’t typically think that our range of responsibility reaches to those outside of our faith. And yet, displaying God’s love in ways that leads others back into the family of faith has the ability to hide those gaps in a person’s life, making them acceptable to us and the God in us. A part of being a trustee of God is to care for broken and damaged goods so that they may be restored. That’s what being entrusted with God’s grace does. It restores others.
Today’s Prayer —
God of grace and God of glory, empower me as a trustee of Your grace to put Your glory on display so that those who wander may be restored.
As trustees of God, it seems that there is more to life than simply keeping and maintain a trust. It also s… Read More
13 Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. 14 Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. 15 Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; f16 or it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
As trustees of God, it seems that there is more to life than simply keeping and maintain a trust. It also seems that we are called as trustees to represent the One who has entrusted us with this very important task. This is not unusual. The one who has been entrusted with the care of the house is the onsite representative until the homeowner returns. The same is true for those who are trustees of God. We represent God and as representatives and trustees, our actions and conduct should be in accordance with that of the owner.
Today’s Prayer —
God of love, empower me as Your trustee to always be representative of who You are in everything I do.
One of the most difficult things we will ever encounter is giving up our control. We live most of our lives… Read More
13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore, all have died. 15 And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.
One of the most difficult things we will ever encounter is giving up our control. We live most of our lives trying to become independent. All of a sudden, we enter into this relationship with God in which we are required to deny ourselves and live for a higher purpose than ourselves, and a higher purpose than we’ve done before. It’s hard to walk away from the things we’ve lived for to begin living for someone else’s dream. And yet, as trustees of God, we have a responsibility to put aside our lives momentarily in order to extend love and care for the lives of others.
Today’s Prayer —
Almighty God, enable and empower me to place your agenda for my life and living above mine. Teach me to understand that when I live for You, I am living for me.
From the beginning of time, we’ve been designated as the keeper of things. By keeper, I don’t mean one who… Read More
1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), 2 so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God.
6 For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does.
7 The end of all things is near; therefore, be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. 11 Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.
From the beginning of time, we’ve been designated as the keeper of things. By keeper, I don’t mean one who saves stuff to be brought out or revealed later. Some of us fail miserably at saving things. But, by keeper I mean that we have been given things that we have responsibility for. We’ve been given keys, cars, objects which seem to have no apparent value to us, and yet to the one who gave them to us, gave them to us in trust. Whatever the item was that was given, was given with the belief that we would keep and take care of the keys, the house, or the car — whatever item was entrusted to us. And they trusted that they would get them back in as good or better shape than they were given. In that way we literally became trustees of whatever we held.
Our first item of trust as humans was the earth. God gave it to us that we might take care of it. And yet the greatest gift of trust given to us by God isn’t the earth, but each other. We have been given each other as trustees of God with the responsibility to fulfill God’s will that we would take care of each other.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving God, empower me to live in the Spirit so that I may become Your trustee — a steward of Your grace who lives according to Your will, caring for the hearts and lives of others.
It is amazing what simply valuing others as an act of caring will do. It invites us to extend ourselves bey… Read More
7b Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8 so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.
It is amazing what simply valuing others as an act of caring will do. It invites us to extend ourselves beyond simply knowing people and adopt ways that offer caring — genuine caring — to others. It’s not just about using our mouths to tell people about Christ, but it’s about displaying love and caring in tangible ways that make the gospel of Jesus a reality as opposed to an abstract concept. It’s from our genuine caring that others become valued and valuable to us and the love of Christ becomes real to them.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious God, empower me to reach out to others through personal acts of caring so that the gospel is displayed to others in real ways.
A lack of caring and indifference is noticeably present in our world today. This is not true across the board, but it does lead people in some w… Read More
13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
A lack of caring and indifference is noticeably present in our world today. This is not true across the board, but it does lead people in some ways to show apathy towards their brothers and sisters. But what seems to be a problem in our world is always converted into an opportunity for the members of the body of Christ, the church. Our opportunity unfolds as an opportunity to show Christ’s loving care in a world that may not be ready to receive it. Any other way — by sniping and back-biting only leads to bitterness and self-destruction and showcases our lack of care in ways that denigrate Christ.
Conflict in the world and in the church has always created indifference and apathy toward others in some ways.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving God, empower and enable me to see the opportunities in Your world to value others, acknowledging their gifts, while showing care and concern to others so that Your grace may prevail.
The ministry of caring, actually, goes beyond acts of mercy. It’s exhibited in ways that simply invite us t… Read More
9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
The ministry of caring, actually, goes beyond acts of mercy. It’s exhibited in ways that simply invite us to offer words of encouragement — to build each other up in spirit. That is caring for each other in a very different way, and yet, it still says to the other person, “I care about you! I value you.” Sometimes a kind and encouraging word can do more to build a person up than a gift of appreciation. Or it could be said that a kind word as an act of caring is a gift of appreciation. It can do more to give value to someone else who may be feeling depressed because they’ve been devalued.
Today’s Prayer —
God of love and life, enable me to encourage others and build them up as an opportunity to create a more harmonious community in Your name.
Empathy is one of the most powerful ways to care for and be emotionally and spiritually present with others…. Read More
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Empathy is one of the most powerful ways to care for and be emotionally and spiritually present with others. It allows us to quietly cross the bridge of their discomfort or joy and join with them in deep expressions of their emotional situation. For some, it’s called the ministry of presence — of being with someone emotionally regardless of the circumstances they are in. Neither grief nor joy is anything that should be experienced alone. It is the act of care and caring to share God’s gift to our lives with others. It even means peacefully respecting them when they want to be alone.
Today’s Prayer —
God of love and grace, empower me to be sensitive and caring to the emotional needs of others. Teach me the art of valuing and caring for others with empathy and understanding.
There is no doubt in the world that we’re all different. Science has shown the power of God to create diversity in our lives. But because… Read More
4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;
There is no doubt in the world that we’re all different. Science has shown the power of God to create diversity in our lives. But because we are connected so closely, it’s important for us, just as the various parts of our bodies “acknowledge our dependence on one another”, and to offer the best that we have with what we’ve been given. Whether or not we know it or understand it, offering the best we have of God’s gift to us and to one another leads to our survival. It’s not just that I can survive on my own. As a member of God’s creation, we need each other to survive.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving and tender God, through our gifts, it is Your will that every need be supplied. We are important to each other and need each other to survive.
We’ve been created by God differently so that we would come to be interdependent rather than independent. T… Read More
28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.
We’ve been created by God differently so that we would come to be interdependent rather than independent. The value of our relationships with God and Christ depends on how we value and care for one another. We need each other for the success of Christ’s church because none of us can do it all alone. It’s therefore important for us to embrace who we are as different, and value each other as if we are the same. We can’t do anything alone, and so we need each other to do God’s work.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving God, help me to acknowledge the significance of the gifts of those who are placed around me. Teach me to care for them as a ministry of our Christ and Your church.
Most of us who live our lives in the Christian faith live them unaware of the spiritual gifts that God has given… Read More
14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
Most of us who live our lives in the Christian faith live them unaware of the spiritual gifts that God has given us. Our entrance into the spiritual church from the secular world makes us accustomed to giving value to those who are in leadership positions without recognizing those who work behind the scenes. That typically leads to value judgments about the importance or lack of importance of certain people within the body of Christ. However, it also leads us to the place where we become blind to the value of those God-given gifts and why those gifts are given. God gives us all of these remarkable gifts, not so that we can consider how important we are, but so that we might value the gifts that each person has, acknowledging them in caring ways. And so, the purpose of our gifts — God’s gifts to each of us — is so that we might dedicate ourselves to Christ in ways that we actually honor, value, and care for one another. It’s done so that the seemingly insignificant might value and care for those who seem significant and those who seem significant would acknowledge the value and extend care to those who seem insignificant. It’s both how we acknowledge the gifts that God gives each of us and helps us to recognize that we need each other.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious God, teach me to acknowledge and use Your gift to me as an instrument of Your grace to care for others and empower me to acknowledge Your gift to them as a something we all need to be whole.
For all that we are, and however we might see the world and those around us, we represent those in the world who… Read More
8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
For all that we are, and however we might see the world and those around us, we represent those in the world who are waiting to be restored. It’s a strange irony that God calls us — challenges us to continue the work of Christ by restoring people to life when we, too, are in need of the same healing condition of being restored. But therein is our glory. We know and depend on God’s faithfulness to bring us up from whatever condition we are in to restore us. Our job and Christian duty is to give restoring life by the love of Christ to those who are in need of restoration today.
Merciful God, awaken in me a sense of Your Holy Spirit present with me so that I may courageously restore life to others while I wait for You to restore me.
God has always been in the restoration business — taken people from one broken state to a renewed state of being…. Read More
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord — Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here — has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.
God has always been in the restoration business — taken people from one broken state to a renewed state of being. That’s the nature of restoration. It doesn’t put us back where we were as much as it gives us a new perspective and way of looking at the world and each other through our relationship to God. And we all need restoration in some ways. Ananias needed it to go to Paul and Paul needed it to begin his ministry in the name of Christ. Restoration energizes us, and when it’s done for others, they, too, feel more energy to live.
Loving God, open my eyes that I may see the value of restoring life to others in Your love and grace so that they may be energized to serve You.
Restoring life is not easy. Sometimes to make people whole again — to restore life to them — it means cross… Read More
9 Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”
11 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other.
Restoring life is not easy. Sometimes to make people whole again — to restore life to them — it means crossing traditions of faith, culture, politics, class, ethnicity, and law. And yet, there is no real law against making people’s lives better, especially if it’s done with the love of God at its center. The question we must ask ourselves is, “Are we willing to violate those traditions and boundaries to restore life to others for Christ’s sake?” It’s a simple question, but the correct and Godly answers may invoke the anger and indignation of those close to us. They may even invoke us to anger against God for requiring such a demand from us.
God of love and life, enable me to find the courage to stand against any cultural norms in order that I might restore the lives of others in Your name
The biggest destroyer of life in any age or culture is our unwillingness to embrace those who are different from… Read More
7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
The biggest destroyer of life in any age or culture is our unwillingness to embrace those who are different from us. According to this Scripture, the woman (who is a Samaritan) reminds Jesus he is crossing cultural boundaries because her experience is that the Jews have nothing to do with the Samaritans. In our world culture it is in some people’s minds a preference that the blacks have nothing to do with the whites, the Japanese have nothing to do with the Koreans, and the list goes on and on. In what was labeled the “Age of Aquarius” (a period of enlightenment from the 1960’s) a song writer once wrote the words: “There is a green one who won’t accept the blue one for living with a fat one trying to be a skinny one.” And it still continues in our world today. The road to restoring life begins when we put aside our differences and relate to each other as humans.
God of all creation, work in me to remove my biases so that I may become an agent of Your life-restoring powers in my encounters with others.
We are so good at the art of justifying ourselves. We want to be right (or righteous), and yet we’re not li… Read More
14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.
We are so good at the art of justifying ourselves. We want to be right (or righteous), and yet we’re not limited in what we will do to make ourselves appear popular and accepted by those who are closest to us. What’s clear is that God is not impressed by our self-justifying efforts. What’s in our hearts is more important than our social or cultural acceptance by groups. And sometimes our desire to be accepted by others prevents us from restoring life to others in ways acceptable to God.
Righteous God, empower Your Spirit to work in me that I may be justified and accepted by You in ways that inspire me to restore life to others.
In every act of righteousness toward God, there seems to be a test that comes to us, helping us to determine exac… Read More
3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
In every act of righteousness toward God, there seems to be a test that comes to us, helping us to determine exactly whose side of righteousness we’re on. And the test is more than about loyalty. The test is often one that gives us an opportunity to restore life to someone or to remove it. Capital punishment is such a hot-button issue because the choices are life and death. The same is true for any man or woman lying in the middle of the road. Our decision to walk by or to help is life and death for them — restoration or cessation of life.
Gracious God, when I find myself tested regarding my faithfulness to You, may I always decide in this life to choose to restore life rather than end it.
We are a people whose characteristic trait is to value life. It’s when life and lives are broken, or in som… Read More
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
We are a people whose characteristic trait is to value life. It’s when life and lives are broken, or in some ways devalued that we have a responsibility to step up to the plate and do what we can to restore to wholeness that life of an individual or those lives of a group. It sounds easy enough, but it requires some spiritual growth and resolve on our part. Many of the lives we encounter are broken because we — sometimes through negligence, prejudice and indifference — are responsible for their brokenness. It may be because they don’t represent who we are. It may be because we share our own personal biases against them. But the biggest reason why people are typically broken and devalued is because we have failed to see them as totally human. We are sometimes guilty of walking by those in our lives and communities who are lying broken and in the middle of life’s road because we have something more important to do, or we’re afraid to approach them. But if we are who Christ calls us to be, then our correct response is to be a neighborly one. We’re supposed to restore life and not dismiss it or neglect it
Loving God, empower me to see those broken and avoided souls on life’s highway in my community whose lives need to be valued. Grant that I may be the Samaritan among those in my community seeking to restore life to others.
How disappointing it is to desire something and not be able to get it. It cuts right through to the heart of our desi… Read More
2 You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so, you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.
How disappointing it is to desire something and not be able to get it. It cuts right through to the heart of our desire. And yet, our desires seem to be motivated by things that have little or nothing to do with God’s will, but more by our own selfish desires. When we lack wisdom, we lack not only the intelligence to know what’s best for us, but we lack the ability to manage it once we get it. Allowing wisdom to determine what we want and why we want it could cause our entire world change iin ways that benefit everyone.
Loving Christ, give me wisdom so that I might know the right things to ask for and the wisdom to be a good steward of all I receive.
Wisdom — at least God’s wisdom — invites us to come openly to God in search of those things that are hidden in our hearts —… Read More
7 "Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? 10 Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Wisdom — at least God’s wisdom — invites us to come openly to God in search of those things that are hidden in our hearts — things enabling us to accomplish God’s purposes in our world. And so, if we ask, search, and knock on the door of God’s wisdom, God is more than happy and willing to supply us with whatever it is we need to deal with our issues. The best gift we can receive from God is the wisdom to live a life that gives honor and glory to our God. Wisdom is the beginning of pleasing God.
Gracious Christ, enable and empower me to draw from the deep wells of Your wisdom that my every desire may be filled with wisdom from on high.
“Experience keeps a dear school — a fool will learn in no other.” Those are well remembered words from Benjamin Frank… Read More
20 Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice. 21 At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates, she speaks: 22 "How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? 23 Give heed to my reproof; I will pour out my thoughts to you; I will make my words known to you.
“Experience keeps a dear school — a fool will learn in no other.” Those are well remembered words from Benjamin Franklin. It begs us to explain why we will not take wisdom at its calling and give heed to it rather than embarking on a journey of the learned experience where pain, disappointment, misery, and a host of other things are the reward for our foolishness. It seems that if having anything was the deal on the table, wisdom enough to avoid life’s follies would be number one.
Gracious God, give me the wisdom to avoid making foolish decisions in life and to know that Your wisdom saves me from the lack of knowledge.
Many of our decisions are made without discernment about giving consideration to God’s will. To that end, we often fi… Read More
14 And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him.
Many of our decisions are made without discernment about giving consideration to God’s will. To that end, we often find ourselves wondering why it seems that our prayers fall on deaf ears. Knowing what to ask according to God’s will is not a matter of knowledge, but a matter or wisdom. Wisdom seeks to find and exercise God’s will in our decisions and in our activities. To do anything else might be based on knowledge, but wisdom acknowledges God in both the present circumstances and the future outcome.
Gracious and loving God, empower me in all of my requests to seek only Your will for my life, both in the present and in the future.
I play chess occasionally. Regardless of what people say, it’s a game that requires knowledge — knowledge about the b… Read More
6 For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; 7 he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk blamelessly, 8 guarding the paths of justice and preserving the way of his faithful ones.
I play chess occasionally. Regardless of what people say, it’s a game that requires knowledge — knowledge about the board, about the various techniques, about strategy and tactics. But knowledge without understanding can lead to foolish and dangerous moves that point the way to defeat and failure. However, coupling knowledge and understanding allows one to play the game with wisdom. Employing God’s wisdom incorporates knowledge and understanding that leads to good decisions, enabling us to avoid living our lives as defeated people.
All Wise and knowing God, enable me to employ Your wisdom when making any and all decisions about my life.
If we could ask for anything, I’m quite confident that wisdom would not be at the top of our list. When we think of things, we typically turn to… Read More
13 Happy are those who find wisdom, and those who get understanding, 14 for her income is better than silver, and her revenue better than gold. 15 She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. 16 Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.
If we could ask for anything, I’m quite confident that wisdom would not be at the top of our list. When we think of things, we typically turn to creature comforts and security — knowing that we will have a roof over our heads, that we’ll have enough to live on, and that perhaps our children will be secure when we’re gone. Those things can happen, but we think of them as being an outcome of material wealth, not wisdom. Wisdom ensures that “IF” we have “IT” we will have everything else we need.
Loving God, enable and empower me to know the true wealth of Your Wisdom that I may possess the riches and honor that Your wisdom provides.
There are many people who live with the dream of being rich beyond their wildest dreams. This can be determined by t… Read More
1 Solomon made a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt. He took Pharaoh's daughter and brought her into the city of David until he had finished building his own house and the house of the LORD and the wall around Jerusalem. 2 The people were sacrificing at the high places, however, because no house had yet been built for the name of the LORD.
3 Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father, only he sacrificed and made offerings at the high places. 4 And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place. Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. 5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.” 6 And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. 7 And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”
10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. 13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days.
There are many people who live with the dream of being rich beyond their wildest dreams. This can be determined by the number of people who attend gambling casinos and those who buy lottery tickets. Each one is hoping to hit it big and have enough to live on forever. But the records show that having huge amounts of money doesn’t mean keeping it all. Many who have won it all didn’t have the wisdom necessary to manage what they had. It leaves one wondering, is it money that we really need, or is it the wisdom of knowing what to do with our money. I would say that Solomon had the best request: not money, but wisdom. It’s like Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and everything else will be provided.”
Generous God, teach me through the gift of Your Spirit the wisdom of knowing what to do with the resources I’ve been blessed to receive. Empower me to know that the wisdom to know what to do with Your gifts serves me better that having them.
Being wishy-washy — uncertain of where we stand or what we stand for is almost never an admirable personality trait. … Read More
14 And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation.
15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.
Being wishy-washy — uncertain of where we stand or what we stand for is almost never an admirable personality trait. Perhaps it’s borne of the fear of being wrong. Indecision because we are weighing things out is one thing, but we eventually have to come to a place of decision about where we stand. This is especially true about our faith and convictions about God. Either God is or God isn’t where we place our trust and faith. But to move the line of faith in the sand without any conviction at all leaves us with lines drawn all over the place.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving God, enable me to draw a line of decision in the sands of my faith so that my beliefs and my relationship with You are not all over the place.
There is something reassuring about ordering our lives according to wha t we believe and say while being consistent in that… Read More
46 Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? 47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.
There is something reassuring about ordering our lives according to wha t we believe and say while being consistent in that. Now, of course, we’re human and prone to mistakes. However, to continually say we believe one thing while doing another says more about where the lines are drawn in the sands of our faith. It is impossible to consistently wear two faces before the crowd before becoming confused about which one is true. Hypocrisy begins when we tell ourselves and the world where the line of our faith is drawn, but the line is clearly drawn in another, far away from the line we speak about.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving God, empower me to live a faith that is consistent with where I say the lines of my faith are drawn so that my faithfulness to You has integrity.
God weeps for us when we have allowed ourselves to be “taken captive” by other gods. It’s a difficult thing for God t… Read More
16 Give glory to the LORD your God
before he brings darkness,
before your feet stumble
on the twilight mountains,
and while you look for light
he turns it into gloom
and makes it deep darkness.
17 But if you will not listen,
my soul will weep in secret for your pride;
my eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears,
because the LORD'S flock has been taken captive.
God weeps for us when we have allowed ourselves to be “taken captive” by other gods. It’s a difficult thing for God to watch as we continually proclaim our faith one way and live inconsistent with that faith from day to day. We have, at times, chosen other gods and then blamed God and others when our lives hit a bump. We are typically willing to blame anyone as long as it doesn’t fall on us. But there is profound truth that tells us that drawing the lines of faith to exclude God’s word is the fastest way for our lives to end up in darkness and destruction.
Today’s Prayer —
God of love and life, enable me to draw the lines of my faith in the sands of a life that includes You and faithfulness to Your word and will.
God’s expectation of faithfulness happens because we are chosen to experience it. There is also the expectation that… Read More
19 For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”
God’s expectation of faithfulness happens because we are chosen to experience it. There is also the expectation that we will live in a faithful relationship with our God so that God may live in faithful relationship with us through keeping God’s promises. The relationship of faithfulness is sealed by the promise of God. And yet, God cannot and will not honor what we do if we have chosen other gods to worship. God’s faithfulness is predicated in real ways on our faithfulness to live God’s will for our lives in justice and righteousness.
Today’s Prayer —
God of love, empower me to draw the lines of faithfulness to You in my life so that I may receive the blessings of Your promises to me.
There are times when we think of God’s requirements as a real pain. So many times we hear the “don’t do’s” of our fai… Read More
12 And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good?
There are times when we think of God’s requirements as a real pain. So many times we hear the “don’t do’s” of our faith. In reality, God wants only that which is for our own well-being. That’s where the stretch of faith comes in — seeing that God is trying to help us and not hurt us. Life might be so much easier if and when we could draw the lines of our faith around a principle that reminds us that God is for us. And if God is for us, God is more than the world against us. I believe that’s Scripture.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving and tender God, help me to see that the drawn lines of my faith that keep me obedient to You are for my benefit and not for harm.
We can’t imagine what it’s like to be told by God to leave everything we’re familiar with and to go to a place where we wou… Read More
2 And Stephen said:
“Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3 and said to him, Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.’
We can’t imagine what it’s like to be told by God to leave everything we’re familiar with and to go to a place where we would be a total stranger. And yet the situation is perfect for establishing a faithful relationship and trust in God. But that trust is only realized when we are able to draw the lines in the sands of our faith, as Abraham did, and trust that God is God, and that God is faithful. The question will always be before those who place their faith in God, “Where do we draw the lines of faith?” Hopefully, we can answer, “In our God.”
Today’s Prayer —
Loving God, enable and empower me to draw the lines of my faith in such a way that my actions are representative of my total trust in You.
Loyalty, faithfulness, commitment, core values and principles — these are all human qualities that everyone will reckon with in their lifetime. … Read More
1 Then Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He summoned the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel, and they presented themselves before God.
2 Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Long ago your ancestors, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the Euphrates River and worshiped other gods. 3 But I took your father Abraham from the land beyond the Euphrates and led him throughout Canaan and gave him many descendants.
14 “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods! 17 It was the LORD our God himself who brought us and our parents up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. 18 And the LORD drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the LORD, because he is our God.”
19 Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. 20 If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.”
21 But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the LORD.”
22 Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the LORD.”
“Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied.
23 “Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.”
24 And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the LORD our God and obey him.”
25 On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he reaffirmed for them decrees and laws.
Loyalty, faithfulness, commitment, core values and principles — these are all human qualities that everyone will reckon with in their lifetime. The question will eventually come down to: “Where do we stand, and how far will we go before we go no further?” It is an interesting question that typically comes at the point of decision on our part before the proverbial ‘line is drawn in the sand.’ That same question about where we stand in principle on certain other areas of our lives is equally important where God and faith are concerned. We surround ourselves with other gods and goddesses, some of them lifeless forms to which we pay homage which ascribe to certain ideals we hold sacred. Others are human vessels — a group of friends, a political ideology, or perhaps some person of importance to whom we raise to the level of a god in our lives. And that is where the point of decision is made in our faith as we ask and honestly answer the question, “Who and where are these other gods and goddesses in my life that I am worshiping and being loyal to over the God of all Creation?” When we have answered that question, we will have sufficiently drawn a line in the sand of our faith, choosing whom we will serve.
Today’s Prayer —
Loving God, enable me to clearly see and be honest about those other gods in my life that prevent me from being faithful to You. Empower me to draw immovable lines of loyalty in the sands of my faith so that I may serve You and You alone.
There is a significant difference in being free from the law of sin and death to practice the law of the Spirit. The… Read More
1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
There is a significant difference in being free from the law of sin and death to practice the law of the Spirit. The law of sin acts as a constant reminder of our inability to do what is right. The law of the Spirit blankets us with a forgiveness that frees us from the fear of facing God’s wrath because of a tally sheet of wrong. The spiritual law of forgiveness doesn’t free us to sin without consequences, but sets us free to live with the grace of God to move forward without fear of condemnation. Even in our darkest moments, the light of God’s grace shines upon us and is a constant reminder of the forgiveness we’ve received. It’s our constant awareness of our grace that should remind us to say, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
How does freedom from the law of sin and death and freedom to practice the law of the Spirit empower you to live differently?
Gracious and giving God, enable me to live my life knowing that through Your generous act of forgiveness, the chains of sin and death are gone.
The nature of our lives in Christ is really tied to the Great Commandment. It’s a more powerful connection to our rel… Read More
8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.
The nature of our lives in Christ is really tied to the Great Commandment. It’s a more powerful connection to our relationship between God and each other. For some mysterious reason, God has connected our love of each other and how we practice that love to our love of God and how we practice that love so that to say we love God, but to live and act in ways disrespectful of each other is no different than living in disrespect to God. This is essentially a confirmation of Holy Scripture when John stated, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. (1 Jon 5:20-21). Loving and honoring God and each other enables us to reach for the greatness that is within us all and allows the light of God’s glory to shine through us.
Gracious Christ, empower me to live my life that I may see my opportunity to love others as an occasion to reach for greatness of Your light shining in me and show my love for You.
Perhaps the greatest gift of God is the gift of forgiveness that comes by faith in Jesus Christ. We’re not always conscious… Read More
23 Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.
26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, . . .
Perhaps the greatest gift of God is the gift of forgiveness that comes by faith in Jesus Christ. We’re not always conscious of what it means to live each day having 10 commandments and an auxiliary and complimentary set of some 600 plus rules by which our lives are ordered and measured. It must have been a significant burden to end each day with nothing but a list of failures and the fear of facing God’s wrath and judgment. Being made righteous by faith ties us to God with the same bonds of freedom with which Abraham is tied. It is that grace of God in Jesus Christ that allows the greatness of God to shine in our lives. Thanks be to Christ and our God.
Merciful God, Your grace has freed me in ways for which I can never be grateful enough. Empower me to reach for the greatness I’ve received through my faith in You.
It’s difficult for us to view grace, faith, and law in the same light. It seems that the law is so restrictive and pu… Read More
28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.
It’s difficult for us to view grace, faith, and law in the same light. It seems that the law is so restrictive and punitive because it exposes all of our flaws. At the same time, grace is so liberating because it frees us from punishment by the law. Faith on the other hand is our ticket to freedom or judgment; freedom if we trust in grace by faith; judgment if we choose to hold ourselves to the letter of the law knowing how often we fail. And yet, we are constantly faced with the realization that the three are not disconnected. It’s not a matter of faith only. It is God’s grace, which offers us forgiveness. It is the law which reminds us of God’s righteousness. And it is faith in Christ which justifies us, making us righteous before God. It’s not one alone, but it is all three together.
Gracious God, empower me to reach for the greatness in me, always mindful of the faith that justifies me, the law which guides me, and the grace which saves me.
It’s an overwhelming thought to consider that everything that we did could be exposed and seen by everyone we knew. A… Read More
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible — and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:
“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
It’s an overwhelming thought to consider that everything that we did could be exposed and seen by everyone we knew. And if that were a real possibility, I imaging there would be some significant changes in our behavior or the way we do some things? My guess is that we would all be greatly affected by an open and uncensored exposure into our lives. And yet, God’s invitation to us is to live our lives as if we had nothing to hide. Somehow there is truth in the statement that everything that can be seen becomes light that reveals something about us. There is real power in living the truth of who we are, bringing our true selves out into the light. There is also a humbling sense of embarrassment if the truth of who we really are inside was made manifest to the world. Both can be humbling in the light of God’s truth.
God of Light, enable me to live my life in a way that, if exposed by light, reveals me reaching for the greatness You have placed in me as Your light to the world.
It’s not often that we think about whether or not the sharing of our faith has become effective. For the most part, we do w… Read More
4 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. 6 I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.
It’s not often that we think about whether or not the sharing of our faith has become effective. For the most part, we do what we do as well as we can and what it is — well, it is whatever it is. That wouldn’t be an acceptable outcome for our work. It wouldn’t be an acceptable outcome for the way we raise our children. None of us would keep a lightbulb in the lamp if it wasn’t functioning or being effective. We would work to make sure it was doing what it was created to do. Shouldn’t we be that way for God’s work? Shouldn’t we ensure that if we were created to shed the light of God’s grace in the earth that we are achieving our goals?
Loving Christ, enable me to reach for the greatness of Your grace and love to become as effective at loving others as You are at loving me.
Almost every person considered to be great in our time and culture has succumbed to certain laws and principle to achieve t… Read More
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Almost every person considered to be great in our time and culture has succumbed to certain laws and principle to achieve their level of greatness. And to be sure, there are certain rules that must be followed to enable them to achieve greatness in whatever form it occurs. Musicians, artists, athletes, engineers, doctors, lawyers, chefs, bakers, and candlestick makers must first excel at the fundamental laws of their profession. And it is their expertise that catapults them into the arena of greatness, first among their peers, and widely among the general public. It is in the perfecting of their craft that their light begins to shine that others may revel in their artistry or talent. But whatever the level of their expertise, they cannot abandon the basics of the rules. Those remain sacrosanct to their greatness.
The same is true for those of us who profess Christ. To be sure, there are certain fundamentals that cannot be abandoned (the law) that keep us true to who we are. But there are also the fundamentals of grace that breaks through the darkness of intolerance and exclusion. Once we’ve incorporated and perfected the fundamental rule of grace, it is then that our light begins to shine. It’s the glorious and radiant light of God-love shining forth from us that enables others to see the greatness of God’s light and what it’s capable of accomplishing. And if we do it well — let the light of God’s love shine — it can’t be hidden but becomes an attractive light to those around us.
Gracious Christ, empower me to reach for the greatness of Your radiant light shining in me so that the grace by which others experience Your love through me becomes a great light of attraction to all people.
There are many stories told in the Bible where people were with Jesus and never recognized him. Mary met him in the Garden… Read More
15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him
There are many stories told in the Bible where people were with Jesus and never recognized him. Mary met him in the Garden and didn’t know who he was. Paul heard his voice on the road to Damascus and was unable to determine who he was. Two disciples were on the road to Emmaus and were blind to Jesus’ presence.
Merciful God, allow my spirit to be open to the reality that you might be present anywhere and I might not recognize you. Teach me to love and serve all people in your name.
Biblical images of God as judge over his people are laced throughout the biblical text. And the notion of God as judge make… Read More
17 As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats.
Biblical images of God as judge over his people are laced throughout the biblical text. And the notion of God as judge makes some of us anxious. We don’t like to think that we’ve not been successful or faithful in pleasing God, and yet the ritual of separation as God makes righteous judgments about people seems to be a biblical reality. In God’s world GOAT has a much different meaning than “The Greatest of All Time.” And God’s goats seem to face a much different end than those who are esteemed among the people.
Loving God, order my steps that I may be found among the faithful and blessed as you judge righteously between those who have been faithful and those who have not.
There seems to be a concurrent them running through the reality of God’s judgment on humanity. Those who are blessed by the LORD stand to inheri… Read More
22 those the LORD blesses will inherit the land,
but those he curses will be destroyed.
There seems to be a concurrent them running through the reality of God’s judgment on humanity. Those who are blessed by the LORD stand to inherit all that God has promised to them. Those who have missed opportunities to actively care for the needy seem to be headed for a land where they will not have access to God, or in other words, be cut off. In a faith system that speaks of God’s tremendous grace through Jesus Christ, how can we make sure that we don’t miss opportunities to love others who seem to be our gateway into reconciliation and eternal life
Merciful God, lead me into a life of service and faith caring for those who are considered the least of your brothers and sisters that I may find my blessing among those you bless.
There is no doubt that our hearts are often in the right place. We’d like to see those who are hungry with food, those who are naked with clothe… Read More
15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
There is no doubt that our hearts are often in the right place. We’d like to see those who are hungry with food, those who are naked with clothes, those who are homeless with shelter, those who are sick with healthcare. And the list goes on. There is a part of the equation that makes us more likely to speak a blessing than to be a blessing.
Loving Christ, help me to go beyond offering well wishes to those in need to becoming a person whose heart is in and whose hands are personally involved showing love to my brothers and sisters.
Poor Job. Not only is he now numbered among the least of these God’s children, but his friends are leveling the charg… Read More
5 Is not your wickedness great?
Are not your sins endless?
6 You demanded security from your relatives for no reason;
you stripped people of their clothing, leaving them naked.
7 You gave no water to the weary
and you withheld food from the hungry,
Poor Job. Not only is he now numbered among the least of these God’s children, but his friends are leveling the charge against him that he is suffering from some large form of wicked behavior. He is accused of stealing and taking the clothes from the naked, making them thirst, and making the hungry go without bread. And yet, his friends, while laying the charges at his door, seem to be doing nothing to alleviate Job’s suffering. It’s as if they believe Job should not only pull himself up by his own bootstraps but should lend a hand to those in his same condition.
Gracious Christ, help me to do more than keeping my hungry brothers at arm’s length by only donating food. Empower me to engage in a personal relationship with the hungry.
The prophet Isaiah raises the issue of how we live in relationship with God and how we honor our relationship with God by l… Read More
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter —
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
The prophet Isaiah raises the issue of how we live in relationship with God and how we honor our relationship with God by living in relationship with others. There seems to be a strong connection between equity, the implementation of justice, and how we treat others less fortunate than we are. And, while Jesus lived several hundred years after Isaiah, the problems have not seemed to go away. The opportunities and God’s expectation that we will proactively engage the “least of Jesus’ brothers and sisters” at the point of their need seems to have fallen at our feet.
Loving God, enable me to see the needs of those around me with your eyes. Fill my heart with compassion that I will do all in your love and power to meet those needs.
Jesus has something to say about the way we live and the way we care for one another. Matthew has placed this event a… Read More
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.
Jesus has something to say about the way we live and the way we care for one another. Matthew has placed this event at the end of life’s accounting period when all human accounts on the books will be settled. The people are gathered before Jesus. And while the separation begins, no clue or reason is given at the time of the separation indicating why. And then suddenly the books of life are reconciled. One separated group has a much different fate than the other. They have seemingly lived parallel existences, each sharing the same experiences and having the same opportunities. Yet the outcome of their life’s fate seems to be tragically, yet radically different because one group has blindly missed the opportunities right before their very eyes. The other group receives a blessing because they unknowingly took advantage of an opportunity because a spirit of caring was innate to them. One group is blessed and invited into eternal life, while the other seems doomed to live with the results of poor life decisions made in the midst of great opportunities missed. In our world and culture, nursing homes are filled with lonely people who have no one to visit them. Prisons are filled with people (some of whom have been unjustly judged and imprisoned) with no one visiting them to offer hope except family (and sometimes not even family). Many people have empty bedrooms just for show and special guest while the homeless are left to sleep in extreme conditions. Grocery store shelves are lined with food while people go hungry.
Gracious God, so that I may live eternally with you, save me from the blindness and indifference in my heart which causes me to miss opportunities to minister to You present in those seen as the least of your brothers and sisters.
We often think of the baby Jesus at this time o… Read More
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, 12 training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
We often think of the baby Jesus at this time of year. However, his appearing had an impact on more than those who were aware of his birth. There were eternal consequences of his coming and the reason for his appearing. His coming was an invitation to join him in denouncing those things that were not a part of God’s true purpose for creating us. He was our realized hope to live holy lives, as much as possible, while we awaited Christ’s glorious return, and our restoration to our once perfect state.
Oh God of grace and mercy, grant that I may live my life in a way that honors Christ, my realized hope, until you come again to perfect me.
Humanity has lived in a relationship separated… Read More
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
Humanity has lived in a relationship separated from God for a long time. This might not be the case for everyone. But it is our nature to separate ourselves from the One who created us because of our self-will. It was our desire to do our own thing and not God’s will that created the atmosphere of sin with separated us from God. And that separation could not be repaired by us. Our continued desire to do what we wanted over what God wanted for us prevented us from closing the breach. Our only hope was that God would do something to save us. Jesus came to do what we could not do: to save us from our sins, thereby repairing and restoring us to a right relationship to God. Jesus became what we only hoped for without achievement — our realized hope.
Holy and gracious God, I thank You that when all hope was lost, You came into the world as our realized hope to save us to be in a right relationship with You.
God’s actions are filled with assurance and pro… Read More
27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 29 "Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."
God’s actions are filled with assurance and provide us the certainty that God will do as God has said. For Simeon, it was that he would not die until he had realized his hope — seen his Salvation with his own eyes. God was faithful. And when Simeon had received the promises of God made to him, he recognized the wonder of what he had just experienced. It may not be a bad thing for us to always be in an attitude of thanksgiving, praising God for receiving the promises made to us from ages past. God’s faithfulness to allow us to experience realized hope is a true blessing and joy. It gives us yet more hope to cling to until all of God’s promises are completed.
Holy God, Your faithfulness speaks Your truth to us. Grant that I may live as a witness to your faithfulness and the realized hope You’ve given through Your word.
Not much in life moves us any longer. We… Read More
62 Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. 63 He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, "His name is John." And all of them were amazed. 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. 66 All who heard them pondered them and said, "What then will this child become?" For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.
Not much in life moves us any longer. We have come to the point where we’ve seen it all, or we’ve either been there and done that and have a T-shirt and coffee mug to prove it. And yet, there are still those things of God we don’t know that leave us in the dark. We don’t and can’t know everything there is to know about God. Nor do we understand why God does what God does. And yet, when our hope becomes reality and we are able to acknowledge it, there is both a reason for fear and curiosity, as well as wonderment and joy, praising God that our realized hope has come.
God of grace and God of glory, enable me to continue to be surprised by the realized hope of God present in Jesus Christ and in my life.
The promise of God’s realized hope was planted… Read More
2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness — on them light has shined.
6 For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
The promise of God’s realized hope was planted in our hearts and minds hundreds of years before it would bear fruit. Promises that are a long time coming can wear on a person. But a promise fulfilled brings with it the best news. It can not only change the way we see things, but it can change how we respond to the promise. A promise fulfilled brings with it the realized hope of all who have waited, increasing and verifying any hope we have for the future. It is a cause for celebration whenever we see the light of reality confirming that our hope was not a false hope, but one that is confirmed in the fulfillment of the promise. God is now here. Our Emmanuel has come. And his name means more than we could ever ascribe to it. Our hope which has been realized in Jesus’ coming is more real than ever because it has reaffirmed our faith that other promises made by God yet unrealized will come to pass.
God of faithful promises, enable and allow me to live with such joy, that your presence among us allows us to know that our hope of salvation is realized and rekindled.
The idea of becoming, much less being children… Read More
23 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.
The idea of becoming, much less being children of God is (for the most part) beyond us. It’s difficult for us to make the mental transition from who we are as flesh and blood to who we are as Spiritual relatives of God. And yet, who we are is not a matter of flesh and blood as much as who we are is a matter of spirit. Our bodies fail and we lose confidence in their ability to continue. But our faith continues to breed hope within us and connects us to God and Christ in ways that our flesh and blood can never do. Faith then becomes our hope realized in ways more tangible than the world we see with our eyes.
Loving God, empower me to hold on to the belief that my relationship to You is secured by faith that Christ is Your realized hope for us all.
It’s difficult for us to imagine a world that i… Read More
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified to him and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me. ') 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known.
It’s difficult for us to imagine a world that is bathed in darkness. Most of us have never known a time when there wasn’t a light source from somewhere. And yet, there has always been and continues to be a pervasive darkness in people’s hearts and minds. That darkness is borne mostly out of our unwillingness to see what’s plainly before us. For the most part, we work hard to adjust to the darkness. We squint and self-dilate our pupils to compensate for the lack of light in order to actually adapt to the darkness that’s around us. And so, we limit ourselves to realms of darkness, learning to accept alternate forms of light even though they, too, are simply lighter forms of the darkness. And if that darkness we adjust to is simply the lack of hope, or the lies of self-deception we’d rather accept, then we learn to live without it. And hope becomes something that doesn’t lead us to anything real, only figments of what we dream about created from and in the darkness of our own lives. But God has chosen to open up the door of life so that our hope can not only be imagined, it can become as real as the God our faith confirms exists. And that reality is found in the Son, the true light that makes God known. His name is Jesus.
Gracious God, help me to experience the light and truth of Christ beyond what I see with my eyes. Help me to know that he is my realized hope alive in the world and alive in me.
Peace has been defined as something more than j… Read More
14 For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15 He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16 and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. 17 So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near;
Peace has been defined as something more than just the absence of conflict. Rev. Martin Luther King, using a biblical model, has called peace the presence of community. It’s difficult to create community when there is conflict and hostility between neighboring groups. And yet, Jesus is the one who came that we might put down our hostilities to live into the type of conflict and hostility free zone that represents God’s ideal world. Allowing God’s ideal world to consume us can fill us with a peaceful hope — a peace for everyone.
Loving Christ, empower me to live with a peaceful hope, seeking to imitate You by helping to destroy the hostilities that exists within Your human family.
We aren’t the first culture to seek immediate g… Read More
19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
We aren’t the first culture to seek immediate gratification. In our impatience, we want everything now. And we want it faster and faster. We don’t often consider that peace is a process. It takes time to work out the details. Like a baby being nurtured in its mother’s womb, a real and lasting peace must go through a process of growth, insuring that in the end, the peace will be a lasting peace. Our peaceful hope found in Jesus Christ arrived as God and the prophets had indicated, but the covenant of peace wasn’t signed until years after Jesus’ birth. What we hoped would be an immediate peace took 33 years to bring to effect. The first season of peaceful hope was just the beginning of the process. But because of Christ’s entrance into the world, God’s contract with humanity was introduced. We read through the contract for 33 years. It was then signed, sealed, and delivered, reconciling us to God by his blood, bringing peaceful hope to all who believe forever.
Loving God, You gave the gift of Your peace to us in Your Son who offers hope to all who believe. Grant that we may accept the peace offered and sealed through his blood shed on the cross.
It’s difficult for us to see a baby as being po… Read More
10 See, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the mother sheep..
It’s difficult for us to see a baby as being powerful. So much of his/her life is spent depending upon others to be strong for them. They must be cared for, fed and protected from any and everything that could harm them. And yet, a prophet suggests that one who is weak is the more powerful; that one who is helpless comes to rule with might; that one who is dependent upon others now, will feed those who come to depend on him and carry and protect them. It is within this Godly power that we find our peaceful hope.
Loving God, enable me to find my peace and hope in the future of a baby born with the power and dominion of a king You have consecrated.
There is nothing at all peaceful about a woman… Read More
9 Now why do you cry aloud?
Is there no king in you?
Has your counselor perished,
that pangs have seized you like a woman in labor?
10 Writhe and groan, O daughter Zion,
like a woman in labor;
for now you shall go forth from the city
and camp in the open country;
you shall go to Babylon.
There you shall be rescued,
there the Lord will redeem you
from the hands of your enemies.
There is nothing at all peaceful about a woman in labor. In fact, the idea of child bearing labor whether real or a metaphor, is nothing to sneeze at. In either case we long for it to be over — long to be rescued from the agony of our situation. It’s hard to hear the promises of God over the groans of our pain. And yet, it is precisely in hearing the promises of God despite our pain that we are invited to find a peaceful hope within our circumstances. Knowing that God will rescue us and bring us to safety gives us a peaceful hope.
Faithful God, help me to live in peaceful hope remembering Your promises and not focusing on the stress and difficulty of my own labor pains.
The one who is the Ancient of Days — the eterna… Read More
13 As I watched in the night visions,
I saw one like a human being
coming with the clouds of heaven.
And he came to the Ancient One
and was presented before him.
14 To him was given dominion
and glory and kingship,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not pass away,
and his kingship is one
that shall never be destroyed.
The one who is the Ancient of Days — the eternal God — is often understood as a powerful Spirit without human substance or form. And yet the image we have from Daniel is not of one who is born of the Spirit, but one who dares to come in the flesh. Could this be our God with us — the one with whom justice and equity are a part of their existence? The idea of someone in human form raises our hope level because we know this person will also usher in peace. Peaceful hope takes our anxieties away and fills us with trust in God.
Almighty God, open my eyes that I may see You in human form. Give me the peaceful hope of knowing that Your Kingdom will never be destroyed.
It is a time when all eyes begin to point towar… Read More
1 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.
It is a time when all eyes begin to point toward Bethlehem. It wasn’t a big place — hardly a dot on the map. And yet this is the place where the history of a people and of a nation and of the world would change. A city that was too busy, and filled with chaos to even take notice of the peaceful hope of God entering among them, now finds itself just a little removed by time from the delivery of God in their midst. Amid the chaos and distraction, peaceful hope made its way to Bethlehem to be delivered in peace.
Gracious God, enable me in this season of chaos and distraction to discover a peaceful hope moving into my world quietly without a lot of fanfare.
We each search for peace in our own way. … Read More
2 But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has brought forth;
then the rest of his kindred shall return
to the people of Israel.
4 And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth;
5 and he shall be the one of peace.
We each search for peace in our own way. Some of us seek peace away from others, secluded in the construct of our own little worlds. Some of us seek peace in places where conflict isn’t present – that could mean among our families or friends. Some of us seek peace as a way to protect ourselves from the chaos the world throws at us. And yet, all of our attempts to find a peaceful hope are crowded out of life by our anxieties, our insecurities, and our fears where we sit behind locked doors, nervous and afraid, sometimes surrounding ourselves with weapons, all with the hope that peace and safety are going to be a part of our reality. A peaceful hope rests secure, free from the anxieties that the fear of danger brings with it. The peaceful hope we long for is one that establishes a new norm where hope and peace are married together in the One for whom peace is natural. That can only be from the One in whom the Peace of God rests. He is the one we’ve been waiting for. He is the one in whom we model a peaceful hope and a non-anxious presence to the rest of the world.
Holy and loving God, in a world where danger, anxiety, insecurity and fear affect us all, enable me to show others that I am at peace and that my hope is in the one who is Your peace. His name is Jesus.
We receive a certain kind of surprise and joy w… Read More
18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. 19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress.
We receive a certain kind of surprise and joy when the news comes that we may be called out and honored because our circumstances are about to change. If we’ve been the object of ridicule and shame and then know we will be lifted up for any reason at all, it gives us a reason to rejoice and have hope. This is especially true if our tears of sadness are transformed into tears of joy, and our prayers of anguish have been answered. Even though our hope isn’t a reality, it has become a joyful hope, rather than an anxious one.
Holy God, enable me to live today in the joyful hope of a future being created by You in which I will experience Your delight in me.
The entire notion of moving from one who has li… Read More
8 For I the Lord love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. 9 Their descendants shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.
The entire notion of moving from one who has lived with injustice and wrongdoing into the arena where justice is the norm and vindication is soon to be instituted is enough to give a person joyful hope. When we think about the season of Christmas, it’s important for us to remember that God was on a mission to right the world — to create a situation in which those who had been left out and abased would be lifted up, honored, and blessed. Just the thought of it happening is enough to create joyful hope in those who lived with injustice. Just to trust that it will happen is enough to lift one’s spirits high.
Gracious God, enable me to live with the joyful hope that Your day of vindication and recompense for those who experience injustice is near.
There is nothing more joyful than knowing that… Read More
13 The glory of Lebanon shall come to you,
the cypress, the plane, and the pine,
to beautify the place of my sanctuary;
and I will glorify where my feet rest.
14 The descendants of those who oppressed you
shall come bending low to you,
and all who despised you
shall bow down at your feet;
they shall call you the City of the Lord,
the Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
There is nothing more joyful than knowing that our situation is being changed from bad to excellent. We can live with dreams and visions of what the change might be like for us. But, until that day of change comes, all we can do is live in hope of its coming. That time can be a time of high anxiety during the waiting period. But, with the certainty of that day coming — knowing that God’s promises are driving that day — our only hope will be a joyful hope knowing that God never fails. God’s steadfast love endures forever.
Merciful God, enable and empower me to live with the steadfast and joyful hope that Your promises are going to be fulfilled and that my life will change.
It takes a relationship of experience with God,… Read More
37 See, I am going to gather them from all the lands to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation; I will bring them back to this place, and I will settle them in safety. 38 They shall be my people, and I will be their God. 39 I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me for all time, for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40 I will make an everlasting covenant with them, never to draw back from doing good to them; and I will put the fear of me in their hearts, so that they may not turn from me. 41 I will rejoice in doing good to them, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.
It takes a relationship of experience with God, trusting that God’s word is faithful in order to be filled with a faith that can’t be moved. That kind of faith only serves to fill us with a quiet confidence that God will deliver on God’s promises. And while the time of our waiting can be an anxious time, it can also become a time that is filled with the joyful hope — the joy-filled hope of knowing that our God is faithful. It is God’s faithfulness that elicits feelings of joyful hope within us. That’s what it means to be blessed — to be filled with a hope that no one can take away.
Faithful God, help me to live remembering Your promises and Your faithfulness so that I may live a life filled with the joyful hope of Your coming.
It’s one thing to be given instructions on what… Read More
3 Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
4 Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
"Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
He will come and save you."
It’s one thing to be given instructions on what a proper response should be. It’s another thing entirely to be able to do it. And yet, we can find encouragement — and perhaps, too, the strength — to accomplish things that we couldn’t normally do if we can rely on the person who inspires the change in our hope. Such is the power of God to alter times and circumstances when God gives God’s word. It can change a fearful, strength-sapping experience into one in which we are filled with joyful hope that God will save us.
Almighty God, create in me the spirit and resolve to not just wait for Your promises absent of hope, but filled with joyful hope in Your faithfulness.
There is always a sense of excitement around so… Read More
10 Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! For lo, I will come and dwell in your midst, says the Lord. 11 Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord on that day, and shall be my people; and I will dwell in your midst. And you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.
There is always a sense of excitement around something as important as God coming to dwell with us. If we’re honest, we say it’s what we want and desire. We want to know that God is not a God who resides a long way off, but one who is close and accessible when we’re in need. Knowing (or believing) that God is coming gives us a reason to be filled with a joyful hope — a hope that settles everything in its place and places God at the center of that joy and hope.
Gracious God, fill me with the assurance and joy-filled hope of Your promises. Enable me in faith to experience joyful hope as I await Your coming.
It’s difficult for us to imagine being removed… Read More
14 Shout for joy, Fair Zion,
Cry aloud, O Israel!
Rejoice and be glad with all your heart,
15 The LORD has annulled the judgment against you,
He has swept away your foes.
Israel's Sovereign the LORD is within you;
You need fear misfortune no more.
16 In that day,
This shall be said to Jerusalem:
Have no fear, O Zion;
Let not your hands droop!
17 Your God the LORD is in your midst,
A warrior who brings triumph.
He will rejoice over you and be glad,
He will shout over you with jubilation.
He will soothe with His love
18 Those long disconsolate.
I will take away from you the woe
Over which you endured mockery.
19 At that time I will make [an end]
Of all who afflicted you.
And I will rescue the lame [sheep]
And gather the strayed;
And I will exchange their disgrace
For fame and renown in all the earth.
20 At that time I will gather you,
And at [that] time I will bring you [home];
For I will make you renowned and famous
Among all the peoples on earth,
When I restore your fortunes
Before their very eyes
— said the LORD.
It’s difficult for us to imagine being removed from our homeland, then taunted and chastised by our enemies, or even to imagine that our displacement has occurred because of a broken relationship with God in which our punishment was brought about by our own faithlessness. Our image of God doesn’t fit that picture. But what we might begin to imagine is what it’s like to be broken — broken by our failures, broken by poor relationships, broken because somewhere in our lives we feel we’ve failed ourselves, our children, our parents, or our friends. Sadness looms somewhere in all of our lives like a nightmare that comes back from time to time to revisit us and take us to those dark places we’d just as soon forget. And now, imagine this. We get the news that in those dark places, we’re no longer going to have to endure the humiliation, embarrassment, or degradation that broke us, whether it was because of someone else or because of something we’d done. Knowing that freedom is on the way fills us with a joyful hope of renewal — the joyful hope we experience while we wait for Jesus to come.
Gracious and loving God, as people who are sometimes broken by our enemies — by fear, betrayal, and tragedies caused by life, You alone remain our joyful hope for renewal and honor in all the earth.
One sure way to know that our hope is a prepared hope is through our prayers and th… Read More
9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
One sure way to know that our hope is a prepared hope is through our prayers and the prayers of others who are praying for us. To know that someone is praying for our wellbeing and that our lives are being lived in a way that is worthy of, and in line with God's will for us is enough to fill anyone with hope. We know that God answers prayer; and so, God's promises of inheritance fill us with a hope prepared for the day of his coming. And if God’s promises secure us, we can rest assured that our hope truly is a prepared hope.
Loving God, continue to create in me a hope that is prepared by the certainty of Your promises offered in and through the prayers of others for me.
There is a point at which all that we do to prepare ourselves becomes nothing more… Read More
13 Bring no more vain offerings;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—
I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
you shall eat the good of the land;
There is a point at which all that we do to prepare ourselves becomes nothing more than a futile effort to please. We either seek to please others and provide them with false ideas of who we are, or we seek to please ourselves in order to appear acceptable. We place a clean cloth over a dirty table hoping to hide the errors of our ways. A hope that is prepared comes ready to accept the terms of agreement set by the one whose standard we are required to meet. When we rely on God to prepare us, we need not fear if all that needs to be done is done. Our hopes are as prepared as they will ever need to be.
Gracious God, enable me to live with the assurance that it is Your preparation of me that secures my hope that I shall experience Your promises to me.
Our greatest hope is that God will finally and fully claim us. In some ways t… Read More
8 In the whole land, declares the LORD,
two thirds shall be cut off and perish,
and one third shall be left alive.
9 And I will put this third into the fire,
and refine them as one refines silver,
and test them as gold is tested.
They will call upon my name,
and I will answer them.
I will say, ‘They are my people’;
and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’”
Our greatest hope is that God will finally and fully claim us. In some ways that defines our relationship with God. That we would be cut off and considered unacceptable to God can destroy our hopes and leave us in fear of our eternal life. However, to be claimed does not necessarily translate into being prepared. Being prepared is in one sense the art of being ready. On the other hand it could mean being made ready. Just as a bride has those helping her to be prepared for her wedding, we too need help to be fully prepared to meet our God and Savior. When one is brought up to a qualifying standard, they are truly prepared, and their hope is prepared as well. God is the one who prepares us to meet our hope.
Merciful God, my hope rests secure in knowing that You will be the one who refines me, making me acceptable to You. You are my sure and prepared hope.
How does one prepare for something that they really are ill equipped to prepare for… Read More
11 The LORD utters his voice
before his army,
for his camp is exceedingly great;
he who executes his word is powerful.
For the day of the LORD is great and very awesome;
who can endure it?
12 “Yet even now,” declares the LORD,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;”
How does one prepare for something that they really are ill equipped to prepare for? When we think about what this season of Advent is truly all about, there is a sense of quiet peace while we wait for our hope to come. But how can that translate into an adequate preparation for someone like the God of all creation. If God's arrival were imminent, there would be an anxious terror within us. The best preparation we can make is to sincerely humble ourselves the best we know how. In that way we are prepared for the Lord to come where the humble will be exalted.
Loving God, create in me spirit of sincere humility, that in the time of your coming my hope may be truly prepared for Your arrival.
When we are faced with the prospect of good news — news that comes as the fulfillme… Read More
1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the LORD'S hand
double for all her sins.
3 A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
When we are faced with the prospect of good news — news that comes as the fulfillment of a promise — we are by nature excited. But to receive the good news and to be prepared for the coming promise are two entirely different things. There is always work to be done when we anticipate company or important guest’s arrivals. Sometimes that preparation stems from the hope that we will have done what we needed to do to make their arrival as pleasant as possible. You might say that when our hope is on the horizon, we must make room for its arrival and fulfillment in our lives.
Holy and loving God, enable me to do those things in my life to make your arrival one that indicates that I have a hope prepared for Your coming.
There are always things to do when trying to make ourselves ready for a royal guest… Read More
1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight.’”
There are always things to do when trying to make ourselves ready for a royal guest. Naturally we want our surroundings and ourselves to be acceptable. Our appearance is important, as we want to make a good impression. But more important than preparing ourselves is to make sure we've made adequate preparations for the one we are expecting. We certainly don't want their way cluttered upon arrival. We show that our hope is prepared when we’ve done what we could to ensure that our special guest’s arrival is unobstructed.
Loving God, enable me to do those things in my life to prepare a way for your entrance so that my hope will be a prepared hope, ready for you to come.
We are never so far removed from a situation as when we are unprepared to meet it…. Read More
1 “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?
For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.
We are never so far removed from a situation as when we are unprepared to meet it. It’s one thing to be surprised. Surprises usually happen when we have no knowledge that something is about to occur. But it’s another thing altogether when we know of an event, a meeting, or an important arrival and we’re caught off guard, not because we didn’t know, but because we weren’t prepared. Something of being unprepared speaks to the lack of hope within us. Something gets in the way of our trust, our faith and belief that something is really going to happen. However, when we are filled with the hope that what we want and most need — that what we’ve longed for and desired for so long is coming — there is something alive within our hope that pushes us to be prepared; to get ready. All of this presumes that we know how to prepare. There are circumstances that require more preparation than we can do ourselves. In spiritual matters, our inability to properly prepare ourselves then depends upon God, who can and does make us ready for His coming.
Gracious and loving God, in this season of hope, prepare me, yet again, for the coming of the Christ child. Help me to realize that it is You who purifies me and prepares me to be an acceptable offering when he comes.
There are times when we are blind to the things we don’t know. As one person has wisely admitted, “We don’t know what… Read More
27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29 so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 in order that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."
There are times when we are blind to the things we don’t know. As one person has wisely admitted, “We don’t know what we don’t know.” It seems an obvious answer to our own ignorance. Couple that with the fact that understanding who we are is a learning process. Also acknowledging that people tend to be more in tune with diminishing us than lifting us up can leave us feeling a little bruised in spirit. Even so, there are song with lyrics to remind us: “I may not be the best of anything or have the best of everything; sometimes I think that I’m the least of all. But I know someone who knows everything; and to me, He is my everything, and I am thankful just to know that I’m his child. His name is Jesus, the righteous Son of God.” Those words offer us all comfort and the wisdom of God, knowing that we don’t have to depend upon our own righteousness, but depending on the righteousness of God, the hope of who we can become can be an exciting hope.
Holy and loving God, continue to fill me with the knowledge and exciting hope that my reliance on Christ righteousness brings, and comfort me in this hope.
We presently live in a world where safety and security of all of its citizenry is in question. The rise in gun violence threats of violence agai… Read More
25 I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild animals from the land, so that they may live in the wild and sleep in the woods securely. 26 I will make them and the region around my hill a blessing; and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing.
We presently live in a world where safety and security of all of its citizenry is in question. The rise in gun violence threats of violence against racial groups have people on high alert about their safety whether in the cities or rural towns. And yet, we’re entering into the season of Advent where God’s promise of safety rings through Scripture as a hope for the people to look forward to. It may be something to excite our hopes, but it’s also apparently something that we will have to wait for. While it seems so far off in our culture and time, God’s promise is sure, and still gives us something exciting to hope for.
Gracious God, in these troubling times, help us to find reasons to live with excited hope about Your promises of safety and security for Your people.
Waiting is one of the most difficult things we do, especially if we’re waiting for something that we’ve longed for, but has… Read More
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Waiting is one of the most difficult things we do, especially if we’re waiting for something that we've longed for, but has been a long time coming. That waiting is amplified by the importance of the thing we’ve been waiting for. If all of our hopes are hinge on that one thing we’re waiting for, then there is a tension between our excitement in the thing we hope for and the patience with which we wait for it. Knowing that our hope is coming keeps us excited. But the timing of it, forces us to be patient, lest we turn ourselves into nervous wrecks while our minds scream the question, “When is it going to get here?” We soon learn that the difference between anxiety and anticipation. One is filled with patience, the other with nervous energy never trusting the outcome of our expectations.
Gracious God, in these anxious times, temper my excitement for all that I hope for with the patience brought about knowing You are faithful to Your word.
It is, perhaps, one of our greatest hopes that we live in safety. Our world seems to be in such turmoil that safety a… Read More
4 When you are disturbed, do not sin;
ponder it on your beds, and be silent.
5 Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord.
6 There are many who say, "O that we might see some good!
Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!"
7 You have put gladness in my heart
more than when their grain and wine abound.
8 I will both lie down and sleep in peace;
for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.
It is, perhaps, one of our greatest hopes that we live in safety. Our world seems to be in such turmoil that safety and security are issues. It is possible to surround ourselves with things, specifically weapons that kill, to protect ourselves from harm. But at that, in our disturbed minds, we run the risk of harming the innocents or injuring someone we believe is displeasing to God. Then comes the guilt or indifference from the harm we’ve done. Finding respite from our sins, then leads us to our own pitiful sacrifices to atone for our wrongdoings. Our comfort comes in realizing that God is our hope, and that in God’s faithfulness and care, we are able to be at peace and find safety only because God provides it.
Merciful God, fill me with the certain hope of Your faithfulness. Enable me to live within that hope knowing that You are my safety and security.
One of our greatest hopes is God’s promise of justice and righteousness. We try as much as we can to institute it as… Read More
1 A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. 2 The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 3 His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; 4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. 5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
One of our greatest hopes is God’s promise of justice and righteousness. We try as much as we can to institute it as a principle of our lives, but our humanity often clouds our judgment. Biases, prejudices, and our blindness to what is fair and just, keep objectivity and equity for everyone just out of our reach. But it is our hope in God’s promise that excites us. It is our faith that one day God will institute His justice, equity, righteousness and faithfulness. It will not then just be principles on which we hang our laurels or hopes that excite us, yet linger in a distant future. It will become a reality that we can all experience. That’s a hope we can all stay excited about.
Gracious God, excite in me the ongoing hope that Your promise of justice, equity and righteousness have and are still to become a reality in Jesus Christ.
The hope of God’s promise has been with God’s people for years. When those hopes have become a reality, God has alway… Read More
10 For thus says the Lord: Only when Babylon's seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.
The hope of God’s promise has been with God’s people for years. When those hopes have become a reality, God has always given us something new to hope in. And with each new promise and each new hope, God’s people have become excited. We’ve longed for those days when God would no longer be absent among us, but when God would let us find Him, and live into the fulfillment of God’s promises for us. Because we aren’t there yet, it is the hope of God’s promises that keep us excited.
Holy God, keep me continually living with the excited hope that one day, Your promises will become a reality in my life and future with You.
Nothing quite comes over us as powerful as the emotion of anticipation. We feel it in our bodies in ways that our bra… Read More
14 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: "The Lord is our righteousness."
Nothing quite comes over us as powerful as the emotion of anticipation. We feel it in our bodies in ways that our brain alerts us that something is about to happen. Our stomachs quiver. Our bodies begin to shake nervously. And our mind can’t or doesn’t stay focused on anything for very long before it’s drawn back to that one thing that we’re hoping for. Our restlessness kicks up in the excitement of our hope as we wait — and not patiently, but excitedly — looking perhaps for something that has been promised to us. And if we’ve waited for a long time, then it seems our excitement is in direct proportion to the time we’ve waited.
God gave us a promise long ago. It was a promise of certainty of God’s faithfulness. And that promise was so powerful that even today it awakens in us a fulfillment of that same hope — justice, and righteousness; safety and security; salvation and the presence of God among God’s people. It just might be that today those hopes are rekindled anew, not just because of our world situation, but because of our faith in Christ’s coming.
Holy and loving God, as we are called once again to remember your promises of salvation, we are also called to experience the exciting hope of His coming. Fill us with the excitement of renewed hope for the days of waiting still ahead.
We’ve become constrained in our praise of God. We’re constrained to the point of limiting how and where we offer up o… Read More
1 Praise the LORD!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!
2 Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!
3 Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
4 Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
5 Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD!
We’ve become constrained in our praise of God. We’re constrained to the point of limiting how and where we offer up our praise with regard to all things. Some of us prefer silence, or a quiet atmosphere of worship. Musically, some only want to hear the organ. The idea of drums and tambourines is offensive and too noisy for some. Some of us prefer the more contemporary sounds of electronic instruments, bass, guitars, horns, and drums. Still other’s only desire is to hear the choir, while smaller ensembles are welcomed by others. And dancing seems all but out of the question. Yet Scripture is clear. Praise God anywhere and everywhere; with musical instruments of every kind. Then, let everything that has breath praise God, while musicians express their rejoicings of the Spirit through playing.
Today’s Prayer —
Holy God, enable and empower me to openly give praise to You anytime, anywhere, and in every way for all You’ve done and are doing.
The idea of the God’s glory filling the space of the sanctuary eludes us. It’s certainly not one of those experiences… Read More
3 Now the cherubim were standing on the south side of the house, when the man went in, and a cloud filled the inner court. 4 And the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub to the threshold of the house, and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was filled with the brightness of the glory of the LORD.
The idea of the God’s glory filling the space of the sanctuary eludes us. It’s certainly not one of those experiences that fits into our contemporary understanding of God’s presence in sacred space. And it’s difficult to determine what our response might be if anything of that nature were to take place. But, I wonder if the brightness of God’s glory could be a result of God’s presence being seen in the faces of those present in a more contemporary age. After all, if we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and God’s Spirit is inside of us, it should be the glory of God that shines through us.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious God, enable and empower the brightness of Your glory to first be found in me that it might fill the space of Your sanctuary.
We experience life in different contexts. Some of us experience pain, disappointment, frustration and sorrow. But those are not the only experie… Read More
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
We bless you from the house of the LORD.
27 The LORD is God,
and he has made his light to shine upon us.
Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,
up to the horns of the altar!
28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God; I will extol you.
29 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!
We experience life in different contexts. Some of us experience pain, disappointment, frustration and sorrow. But those are not the only experiences we have. There is also joy, freedom, peace, comfort and satisfaction. That God has dared to allow us to experience the whole of life’s experiences means that we are not mono-dimensional. We’re allowed to experience the goodness of God, enabling us to praise God and understand God’s love in a personal way.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious and loving God, enable and empower me to continually give praise to You for Your goodness as I live and experience Your love daily.
I’m fairly confident that most people are more focused on what is going wrong in their lives than what is going right…. Read More
1 Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion,
and to you shall vows be performed.
2 O you who hear prayer,
to you shall all flesh come.
3 When iniquities prevail against me,
you atone for our transgressions.
4 Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
the holiness of your temple!
I’m fairly confident that most people are more focused on what is going wrong in their lives than what is going right. Mistakes we make have the ability to become distractions that eat at us and endlessly nag at us. It’s typically not until we find a corrective course through forgiveness and reconciliation that we are able to go on with our lives as normal until the next mistake — and there will be a next mistake. When God forgives us — and God does forgive us — and welcomes us back into a right relationship, it’s then that we realize that God is worthy and due all praise.
Today’s Prayer —
Merciful God, may my mouth be always filled with praise for You and Your love and mercy. Thank You for the grace that makes me whole again.
One of the most devastating things in life can be walking around in darkness, living with falsehoods and untruths, and not… Read More
3 Send out your light and your truth;
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling!
4 Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.
One of the most devastating things in life can be walking around in darkness, living with falsehoods and untruths, and not knowing (or believing) the truth. Nothing is more relieving than to discover that there is a light of truth that brings understanding and clarity of heart, mind, soul, and spirit. It is especially true that when that light and truth come from the wisdom of God, we find joy and release. Freedom from the lies of the past and clarity around the future when they come from God are all good reasons to give praise, making music to God’s ears.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious God, enable me to celebrate Your light and truth as guides to the pathways of my life. In Your truth, I find joy that empowers me to always praise You.
There are those of us who decry the use of other than what we’ve come to know as standard instrumentation in worship. We ac… Read More
1 David and the chiefs of the service also set apart for the service the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who prophesied with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals. The list of those who did the work and of their duties was: 2 Of the sons of Asaph: Zaccur, Joseph, Nethaniah, and Asharelah, sons of Asaph, under the direction of Asaph, who prophesied under the direction of the king. 3 Of Jeduthun, the sons of Jeduthun: Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei, Hashabiah, and Mattithiah, six, under the direction of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied with the lyre in thanksgiving and praise to the LORD.
There are those of us who decry the use of other than what we’ve come to know as standard instrumentation in worship. We accept the piano and the organ, but frown on other instruments as being inappropriate at times. The guitar has become more acceptable, and a study of Holy Scripture will show us that stringed instruments and percussion instruments, drums and cymbals were a regular part of praising God. Perhaps when we sing, “Give me that old time religion”, it will include drums, cymbals, tambourines and guitars.
Today’s Prayer —
Holy God, teach me to accept all musical instruments as an acceptable means of giving praise and thanksgiving to You.
For those of us who are believers in God, we often come to worship — to give praise to God for various reasons. Some of us… Read More
11 And when the priests came out of the Holy Place (for all the priests who were present had consecrated themselves, without regard to their divisions, 12 and all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, their sons and kinsmen, arrayed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps, and lyres, stood east of the altar with 120 priests who were trumpeters; 13 and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the LORD), and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the LORD,
“For he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever,”
the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, 14 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God.
For those of us who are believers in God, we often come to worship — to give praise to God for various reasons. Some of us come not to praise God but to learn and grow in our understanding of who God is in our lives. But there is always music when we come. There is always a song sung by those present. There are always those of us who lift up our voices to sing of God’s praises. I sometimes wonder if we know why.
A part of me believes that we praise God through song because it’s our tradition. Music is an intentional part of the worship experience, but we don’t necessarily do it because we are thankful. It should be realized that true praise of God comes as an expression of thanksgiving. Praise of God comes when we realize what God has done, is doing, and will do among us and for us. And if we join together in one voice of praise and thanksgiving using all of our musical talents to praise God, it is still possible for God’s presence to be an awe-inspiring event — one that leaves us helpless to do anything but stand awe-struck in silence before our God.
Today’s Prayer —
Holy and loving God, enable my praise and thanksgiving for You to so fill the earthly temple of my body and spirit that I stand helpless and in awe of You and Your awesome love for me.
Poet and author John Donne reminds us that “No man (person) is an island unto himself.” Each of us becomes what we are beca… Read More
10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.
For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”
Poet and author John Donne reminds us that “No man (person) is an island unto himself.” Each of us becomes what we are because we are touched by someone else’s life. That person may be sent by God to do the very things that open our eyes, enlightening us, and allowing us to move forward to do God’s work in profound ways. By whatever means it happens, we are moved to a position of new truth, proclaiming our new discoveries with new found dedication and enthusiasm.
Merciful God, open my eyes that, in my life, I may fully know the truth about who You are that my witness may proclaim the truth.
None of us are Holy enough or righteous enough on our own to do what God calls us to do. Each of us must undergo some… Read More
6 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
7 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”
None of us are Holy enough or righteous enough on our own to do what God calls us to do. Each of us must undergo some type of transformation to be truly useful to God. But for the person who embraces their change, a great and challenging future awaits them. The entire act of change begins with the act of humility. That requires an inward change of heart and mind. But then, we are always most useful to God after we’ve submitted our heart, mind, and spirit to God’s will.
Loving God, empower me to willingly embrace the changes You would make in my life so that I am fit to do whatever You would have me to do.
Many people think of God in a corporate way, meaning, their experience of God should be everyone’s experience of God. And yet, God has always ha… Read More
7 And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves. 8 So I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me. My radiant appearance was fearfully changed, and I retained no strength. 9 Then I heard the sound of his words, and as I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in deep sleep with my face to the ground.
Many people think of God in a corporate way, meaning, their experience of God should be everyone’s experience of God. And yet, God has always had a rather personal and intimate relationship with people. God reveals God’s self to one person in one way, while others all around that person are seemingly oblivious to that person’s experience. That kind of intimacy alone has the power to change people. And such is the mystery of a God who chooses to be revealed (or not) to those with whom God has business specific to God’s plan for humanity.
Gracious God, humble me to embrace those changes that You make in my life that allow me to share in a more intimate relationship with You.
In some ways, it is expected that we share in the experiences of the persons we follow. That can be true in other are… Read More
20 Remember the word that I said to you: A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.
In some ways, it is expected that we share in the experiences of the persons we follow. That can be true in other areas of life besides the things of God. And persecution is no different. We experience persecution often because of others misunderstanding of our position or faith, rather than their understanding. It’s borne out of their passion for what they believe, and we become guilty by association with those who are persecuted for no other reason than we shared the same belief, principle, or faith perspective.
Holy God, empower me through my faith in Jesus Christ to gain strength from those who would persecute me because of my faith in Jesus as the Christ.
People don’t always understand how transformation and change in your life can be such a radical departure from what you’ve… Read More
14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, 15 having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.
People don’t always understand how transformation and change in your life can be such a radical departure from what you’ve been or done before. Their desire to know is often based on the fact that they don’t fully understand how or why. Sometimes their desire to know springs from curiosity. Sometimes there is the desire to drag you back into a previous lifestyle. The reasons are varied and often extensive. Yet, in the midst of great personal change, it sometimes becomes necessary to explain your new found position.
Loving Christ, enable me when it becomes necessary to justify changes that You’ve made in my life, that I will be able to testify to Your truth in all things.
When we are passionate about something, that passion may be displayed in ways that might make other people uncomfortable…. Read More
1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
When we are passionate about something, that passion may be displayed in ways that might make other people uncomfortable. We label them overzealous and do what we can to avoid becoming who they are. If that person’s passion is properly directed, it has the potential to do enormous good for the individual and the world. We appreciate the passion that musicians, artists, athletes bring to their work. It makes the world a better place. However, if someone’s passion is misdirected, it has the potential to become terroristic in its execution. When that happens, it usually leaves most of us somewhat reticent to approach or be around such a person. God, however, has the ability to recognize the most beneficial characteristics of a person that can be used for God’s glory. God harnesses the passion that is misdirected and transforms it into a powerful tool of witness to God’s truth and glory. We are not always open to accept the changes that God wants to make in our lives. Sometimes God is compelled to do something radical inwardly to get the desired change outwardly.
Loving and gracious God, humble me to graciously embrace the change You would make in me. Enlighten me that I might truly know You, growing to become a more suitable witness to Your truth, and an instrument of Your divine plan.
Whatever is in the heart of people must come out at some point. We can only be true to who we are. Jesus spoke about this truth on several… Read More
38 “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Whatever is in the heart of people must come out at some point. We can only be true to who we are. Jesus spoke about this truth on several occasions indicating that good fruit can’t come from a bad tree, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. What is in us will undoubtedly be revealed to others as acts of the heart. It goes to say then, that if the Spirit of the Living God is alive inside of us, then those things we do will be life giving and borne of the Spirit of God. However, none of this could have happened before the fulfillment of the promise. God’s promise that we would receive the spirit has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Loving Christ, enable your Spirit alive in my heart to give evidence of the living waters of faith and love because of my relationship with you.
We are often anxious to know the truth. Our hearts search for it. Our minds are so curious about it that we dig up the earth, search for o… Read More
8 There is none like you among the gods,
O Lord, nor are there any works like yours.
9 All the nations you have made
shall come and worship before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.
10 For you are great and do
wondrous things; you alone are God.
11 Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may
walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.
We are often anxious to know the truth. Our hearts search for it. Our minds are so curious about it that we dig up the earth, search for old artifacts, look for signs, tangible and intangible, to know for certain that what we believe (or say we believe) has merit. When it comes to a God we can’t see, doing things that we can’t explain, in ways that we don’t understand, our knowledge about the truth becomes uncertain. But then, God gives us something within that informs us about the truth so we can be certain. And it’s not just that we somehow know. It’s that we know that we know that we know, and our knowledge of the way of the truth is unshakeable. God’s truth becomes our truth.
Almighty and eternal God, enable the presence of Your Spirit within me to be a witness to those who have not experienced You.
Confirmation of the Spirit is as much a fulfillment of God’s promises of the past as they are the reality of God’s presence here and now. David… Read More
29 Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.
Confirmation of the Spirit is as much a fulfillment of God’s promises of the past as they are the reality of God’s presence here and now. David knew about it and prophesied about it without having experienced it in the way we know it. He exhibited true faith. And now, those of us who are members of the body of the church of Christ live with the reality and fulfillment of God’s promises. We have received the Holy Spirit, and that Spirit dwells within us because Christ was necessary to effect the promise. For all purposes, practical and impractical, Christ is the promise and the Holy Spirit is God’s “in place warranty” that Christ and God are real.
Gracious Father, empower me to walk more humbly with you on my life’s journey as a confirmation of my experience of Your reality alive in me.
God’s promise has always been to deliver the Spirit of God to those who belonged to God’s family. God was nondiscriminatory in its distribution…. Read More
28 “And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even on the male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit.
God’s promise has always been to deliver the Spirit of God to those who belonged to God’s family. God was nondiscriminatory in its distribution. God’s Spirit was to go to old and young, men and women, slave and free alike. To that end, God’s desire is to be known among all people, not just those who claim to have some special dispensation of the Spirit. There is also the reality that the Spirit of God will know no boundaries. Wherever the people of God are, that’s where the Spirit of God will be present to dream the dreams and envision God’s vision for the world.
Almighty God, give me the openness to see, experience and the accept the presence of Your Holy Spirit working in the lives of others wherever I am.
The promise of the gift of the Spirit is not new. God’s promise of the presence of God’s Spirit as an available gift has been made know to the p… Read More
10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.
The promise of the gift of the Spirit is not new. God’s promise of the presence of God’s Spirit as an available gift has been made know to the prophets from the beginning. The reception of the gift is (in fact) a fulfillment of God’s promises. The Spirit’s purpose was singular — to make the presence of God a reality among the people of God. And with the promise comes a certain judgment. It is not a condemnation, but a judgment of revelation — that some have missed the opportunity to intimately commune with the Spirit of God, such that it becomes a sorrowful event. The situation almost begs us to recognize and accept the presence of the Spirit of Christ as a reality, and to mourn that all have not experienced God in this way.
Gracious God, grant that the awareness of my spiritual experience with your Holy Spirit continues to confirm the faithfulness of Your promises and that my faith is real.
The idea that, as humans, we might need help to negotiate the spiritual trials that would face us was not a new phenomenon to Jesus. He expresse… Read More
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
The idea that, as humans, we might need help to negotiate the spiritual trials that would face us was not a new phenomenon to Jesus. He expressed this reality even before the news of his departure was clear to the disciples. We have some difficulty acknowledging the presence of God within us. Perhaps it is because God is not an annoying presence that causes pain or anxiety. It may be because we are so unaware of God’s presence that we are lulled to sleep by God’s seeming inactivity in our day-to-day decisions. That may be because many of our decisions are not of a spiritual nature. But, when up against the wall and we seek that spiritual guidance that is so necessary, Jesus wants us to know that he is there.
Loving Christ, give me the comfort of knowing that in my day-to-day decisions, Your Spirit dwells in me and with me that I may experience You in real time.
God is often a silent partner in our lives. That is not to suggest that God is not with us. It is to suggest that we have a… Read More
4b “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
God is often a silent partner in our lives. That is not to suggest that God is not with us. It is to suggest that we have a basic insecurity about God’s presence when God is so silent. From time to time, God does speak to us, but often in non- traditional ways. To eliminate our frustration around what might appear to be God’s absence, God has provided an alternative to Christ’s physical presence by providing an eternal, ongoing, reality through which we can experience our Creator. God’s approach to our insecurities is to affirm us of God’s ongoing care for us through means other than a physical presence. This experience of God goes, in many real ways, to the heart of our experience with God. It is also a post-faith affirmation since those of us who believe in God have already taken the first step — believing that God is. This action of the part of God (to assure us that our experience of God is legitimate) is God’s way of giving us reassurance and affirmation that despite our insecurities, God is.
Eternal God, grant me the assurance of always knowing that no matter how uncertain life may become, I can always trust in You through Your Holy Spirit to be present with me.
It’s one thing to be let in the house. It’s another thing to be included as a part of the family with full rights, privilege… Read More
2 And the king took off his signet ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman.
It’s one thing to be let in the house. It’s another thing to be included as a part of the family with full rights, privileges, and benefits. In the biblical culture, there was a family ring signifying that one was a legitimate member of the family. It symbolized both connection and status and placed that person above the status of the hired help. When we are accepted by God we are placed above the status of hirelings. We are given the honor of becoming children of God. I believe that’s why Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” Whether we are adopted or born into the family, God has claimed us. Perhaps our ring is the symbolic cross.
Loving God, allow me to wear my family ring humbly. Help me to acknowledge all people as children of Yours and brothers and sisters of mine whether they are living in the house of have chosen to leave.
To experience God’s acceptance is an act of restoration. In it we find full reception back into the family. It’s as if we’ve been given a new le… Read More
3 Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. 4 And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” 5 And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by.
To experience God’s acceptance is an act of restoration. In it we find full reception back into the family. It’s as if we’ve been given a new lease on life. Perhaps that is (or was) at one time our fascination with getting new Easter clothes. It is an outward statement that we are not the same — that we are different than we were before being clothed with ‘pure vestments’ and restored. Being included in the family is a significant act of grace, especially when the separation was initiated by us, but the restoration was not. However, God is ready with new wardrobe indicating our acceptance back into the family
Gracious God, may we always experience the joy and peace that comes with knowing that we are always accepted and loved by You.
The act of humility required to return home can be inwardly revealing. It requires a “coming to oneself”. There is a s… Read More
14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.
The act of humility required to return home can be inwardly revealing. It requires a “coming to oneself”. There is a sense that when one ‘comes to themselves’ they return to their right mind. Suddenly things are in perspective and the world is no longer skewed or distorted. In that relationship with God, there is the presumption (and perhaps an act of recognition) that confession opens the door of acceptance so that those who are away admit that there is a need for God. Hence gone is the arrogance and self-sufficiency. Then comes the willingness of God to openly welcome those back who realize the need for God. Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for they know their need for God.
Almighty God, grant me the wisdom to always be aware of my need for you.
People becoming angry with God isn’t a new thing. There is often a feeling of resentment whenever we think or experie… Read More
1 But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the LORD, “Isn’t this what I said, LORD, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. 3 Now, LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
4 But the LORD replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
People becoming angry with God isn’t a new thing. There is often a feeling of resentment whenever we think or experience someone receiving a blessing when we feel we deserve better or more. We feel slighted and resentful. And yet, there is a need for us to come to an understanding that perhaps our resentment is an acknowledgment that we’re not as grateful for the blessings we receive and experience as we are resentful that someone else may be getting more than we feel they deserve. This feeling of resentment can be coupled to a feeling of entitlement. It’s an ugly character trait. And as I’ve always heard, “God don’t like ugly!”
Gracious God, grant me the spirit of acceptance that my jealousy or resentment because of Your compassion towards them will not become a barrier to a right relationship with You.
There are scores of children who have found shame and embarrassment at how they have squandered their inheritance. There is… Read More
3 He who loves wisdom makes his father glad,
but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth
There are scores of children who have found shame and embarrassment at how they have squandered their inheritance. There is no doubt that the child who left acted unwisely. He squandered what he had. And more seriously, he has wasted his present and future resources. He now has nothing to look forward to and only regret to look back on. It is a tragedy when we live for the immediacy of the moment — when we seek what has become a cultural norm of instant gratification. Perhaps it is reflected in the restlessness of people thinking and believing that the next best thing is somewhere other than the place where they are. And so, off they go in search of a bigger, better deal, only to realize that there’s no place like home. Even still, pride keeps some from returning home.
Loving God, give me the wisdom to recognize that sometimes it’s better to accept the blessings of my present circumstances than to allow anger to drive me to self-destruction.
In a culture strong in traditions, the first born has certain inalienable rights that cannot be changed, regardless of events. The maternal rela… Read More
17 but he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the firstfruits of his strength. The right of the firstborn is his.
In a culture strong in traditions, the first born has certain inalienable rights that cannot be changed, regardless of events. The maternal relationship or the love of the father for the mother doesn’t matter. What’s important is birth order, especially when it comes to the inheritance due the children. This can often be a cause of enmity between siblings, especially when one seems favored over another. And perhaps it’s especially true when the scales of equality seem unbalanced. There’s an old comedy routine dedicated to the theme, “Mom always liked you best.” And when the child asks to step outside the cultural bounds of relationship, because of sibling jealousy, one might feel it better to leave and make it on their own than live in what might be perceived as an unfair environment? But what happens when the youngest child considers his parent as good as dead, asking for the inheritance even before there is an actual death? How does the order of birth play into the significance of legacy and inheritance? And what is the parent supposed to think when the child proclaims them dead while they are still alive?
Eternal God, strengthen my understanding that Your love for me is not based on when I was born, but upon acknowledging that my life rests in my relationship with You.
Acceptance is difficult, whether we are seeking acceptance from each other or, whether we are seeking acceptance from God…. Read More
11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
Acceptance is difficult, whether we are seeking acceptance from each other or, whether we are seeking acceptance from God. Mix in a bit of arrogance gone wild, pride, and selfishness and it becomes easy to see why other people’s acceptance of us may be difficult.
On the other hand, when we, like the older son, presume our faithfulness to anything, (done out of duty and not love) buys us a place of honor and both entitlement then it’s easy to become resentful of someone who appears to have taken advantage of a situation and then appears to get rewarded. We become angry and resentful of others and their actions, while at the same time disregarding the grace we receive each day, believing that somehow life just isn’t fair to us.
The truth is, we’re often willing to overlook our worst traits and consider them trivial in light of other people’s unacceptable characteristics. The only way (then) to acceptance is to eat a heaping helping of humble pie, admit we all fall short of reaching perfection, and offer ourselves humbly back into relationship with God knowing that God accepts and loves us just as we are. It’s there that we experience God as the one who seeks to restore, to heal, to bring us back into relationship, happy that we have returned to the one which we once considered as good as dead, or whether we’ve felt we’ve always deserved more than we’ve received. God’s love for us is so great, that we are loved and accepted whatever we believe the status of our relationship is.
Gracious God, allow me to come to my right mind and recognize that Your love for me has no limits and is always available to me. Let me live each day assured that Your love for me is unearned; that You love me, and I’m helpless to do anything about it.
The test of a person’s faith is not the depth of their belief in God when things are going well. Experiencing God thr… Read More
8 For you have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling;
9 I will walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.
10 I believed, even when I spoke:
“I am greatly afflicted”.
The test of a person’s faith is not the depth of their belief in God when things are going well. Experiencing God through faith is realized when suffering has invaded our lives. David said, “I believed, even when I spoke, “I am greatly afflicted.” Job’s encounter with God led him to believe God, even in the midst of his suffering. And who can forget the words of our Christ, hanging on the cross and saying, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Faith that believed, not just in fair weather, but in foul is the test to pass, primarily because faith in the face of difficulty invites confirmation that the rewards one receives are irrelevant to the suffering one endures.
Loving God, help me to seek to experience You, not just when things are going well, but in the midst of my suffering let me know You are near.
To experience God is to get to know God intimately. To a large extent, that means placing the reality of God and how… Read More
7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
To experience God is to get to know God intimately. To a large extent, that means placing the reality of God and how we experience God on a spiritual level. For Paul, it meant not just believing in God, but sharing in the experience of God in Jesus Christ so that Christ’s suffering became his suffering (spiritually) and Christ’s glory could become his glory. To experience God in faith, then, is to encounter God at the point of sacrifice. It is that place where we stop depending on our merits and trust in the merits of Him who has experienced what it is to be human, who gave up everything so that we might only depend on the power of His grace.
Gracious God, keep me keenly aware of Your grace made available to me so that I may experience You at times when I have failed to be faithful.
Those who worship the Spirit of God must use that which is invisible to give honor, praise and glory to the invisible throu… Read More
21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Those who worship the Spirit of God must use that which is invisible to give honor, praise and glory to the invisible through the invisible. No one has ever seen God. God is Spirit. And yet, no one has ever denied that we have spirit. But, has anyone ever seen our spirit. My guess is that the answer is, “No.” People may have seen evidence of our spirit. And yet, we believe in our spirit and celebrate the resultant power of our spirit to accomplish remarkable things. What we see is the product of our Spirit. And are we nothing more than a product of the Spirit of God. Imagine — that which others cannot see in us is a product of that which we cannot see — God.
Loving God, may I acknowledge each day that my spirit which I cannot see is born of Your spirit, which is also unseen and alive in me. Grant that I may always experience Your spirit alive in me.
Our world is filled with “things”, all of which came about before there was any proof that they were possible. The need for… Read More
22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.
Our world is filled with “things”, all of which came about before there was any proof that they were possible. The need for a hole was enough to spark someone’s imagination to first, imagine a drill, and then create it. Even the lowly wheel (perhaps copied from something found in nature) was imagined before it came into being. More contemporary language says, “If you can conceive it and believe it, then you can achieve it.” This is nothing more than a paraphrase of Jesus’ statement. And yet at the core of the statement is faith — faith in what we believe is possible, even when we can’t lay our hands on it, or fully imagine what it may become. Faith is enough to motivate us to bring about that which is invisible and bring its unrealized vision into reality. This is the creative power of God at work in us.
Gracious God, give us all the wisdom to trust that through faith in you, we will be able to experience You in ways that make everything else understandable.
There is nothing surprising about our hope. What we look forward to is abundant with the ideas of things we can’t pre… Read More
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
There is nothing surprising about our hope. What we look forward to is abundant with the ideas of things we can’t presently see. We believe that there is life that follows after this life though we can’t see it. We believe in the wind, that it blows and caresses our skin, yet we can’t see it. We’ve acknowledged the temporary nature of our world, but have, in faith, believed that there is something more permanent outside of our human existence. To experience God through faith is to hope for that beyond what we can see.
Gracious God, bless me to continue to experience You in the unseen things of our world. Help me to grow in faith that my hopes are secure through my faith in You.
The creative power of God is captured in these words of Scripture. God existed and created out of nothing what we now experi… Read More
1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
The creative power of God is captured in these words of Scripture. God existed and created out of nothing what we now experience as our reality. There was only darkness and it covered everything. And out of this nothingness God spoke. Science would lead us to creation with a Big Bang Theory. I have yet to see an explosion of any kind without a dissipation of energy and light. And there was light. But could a world designed with so much order come about from a random explosion? Could the formation of DNA and the litany of creative order be pure coincidence. Some say it is. But our faith says that it is not coincidence, but God-incidence. The entire creative process was God’s activity in the creative process from the beginning. Our faith supports our belief — is (in fact) our belief.
Almighty God, as I experience the vast expanse of Your created universe from the open sky to the smallest flower, I grow in my faith that I have experienced You in their existence. Empower me to continue to find assurance and discover Your presence in every living thing.
Experiencing God has a beginning point. That beginning point is not in God, so much, but is in the place where God is reveal… Read More
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. 5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Experiencing God has a beginning point. That beginning point is not in God, so much, but is in the place where God is revealed to us. In essence, experiencing God is the beginning point and foundation of all that we can see and all that we can know. It is the place we technically call faith. Faith, as we understand it is the place where we believe in God before we have a relationship with God. But it is not a blind belief. It is a belief that is grounded in the witness of those who have come before. It is testified to in the lives of Abraham, Enoch, and even the blood of Abel. That faith is certified by the presence of our world. Our belief and faith is captured in our own belief in things which we can’t see but we can imagine, and is borne in our hope. Our faith is an awareness of the presence of God through God’s revelation of God’s self to us. So, we can know without understanding and believe in the presence without having to see the substance. We see the product of God’s reality through faith, and through faith can actually touch the reality of God.
Gracious and eternal God, grant to me the peace that comes from knowing that Your reality is greater than anything I could imagine, but is evidenced in a belief that gives me hope. Strengthen my faith to always keep me certain of Your reality.
James doesn’t mince his words when he speaks about having confidence in approaching God. And if we’re honest with ourselves,… Read More
5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
James doesn’t mince his words when he speaks about having confidence in approaching God. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we lack a generous amount confidence when it comes to drawing near to God. There is a prayer of confession that leads off with “God, we are not the people we like others to think we are.” Perhaps it is because we know who we are and even more to the point, God knows who we are. And so, we live in some fear that God will not accept us. But the invitation is to approach God and God will approach us. The outcome of approaching God is that we can share a deeper sense of intimacy with God, leading to greater confidence. Perhaps a humble refrain of the hymn, “Just As I Am” will create just enough humility that we can approach God with confidence.
Today’s Prayer –
Eternal and gracious God, empower my faith to give me the confidence to draw near to You seeking forgiveness, even when I know that I have failed you. Allow me to have confidence that you are always close to me.
It is a powerful feeling to be able to stand on your own. We live in culture where making it on your own is a powerful state… Read More
8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.
It is a powerful feeling to be able to stand on your own. We live in culture where making it on your own is a powerful statement of accomplishment and strength. But a more powerful statement is made when we can admit that we can’t stand on our own merit. When we can face the reality that we have failed in our relationship with God, that we have fallen short of God’s glory — well, that too, is a powerful statement. And to know that we can put our trust in someone else — that, in fact, God has provided a perfect gift of grace — then, it is in that gift of grace that we can begin to find a bold confidence and strength in our faith, not in ourselves. Our confidence in our faith grows with our trust in the gift of God’s grace.
Today’s Prayer –
All loving God, thank you for .your wonderful gift of grace through faith. Grant that each day my confidence in Your grace will serve to increase my faith and strengthen my relationship with you
Coming to God is not something that we do on our own initially. We don’t search for God as much as we are allowed to discove… Read More
41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
Coming to God is not something that we do on our own initially. We don’t search for God as much as we are allowed to discover God. And it would seem that even that discovery is done by the Holy Spirit on behalf of God. It would seem then that drawing near to God (or approaching God) would give us confidence to approach God because we have been invited. There is a different level of confidence we possess when we’ve been invited to the party and are not just attending at the behest of a close friend. God desires intimacy with us; that is why God extends to us the invitation.
Today’s Prayer –
All loving God, thank you for extending an invitation to me that I might draw closer to you. Grant that my confidence in my relationship with you might grow always knowing that I can approach you because you have invited me.
Jesus has been given many titles. We’ve called him our Emmanuel, Prince of Peace, Savior, Lord of Lords and King of Kings, a… Read More
19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
Jesus has been given many titles. We’ve called him our Emmanuel, Prince of Peace, Savior, Lord of Lords and King of Kings, and other names appropriate to his role in our salvation. It is not often that we think of him as a High Priest. A High Priest offers sacrifices to God on behalf of the people as atonement for our sins. A High Priest has the authority to stand before God. But our High Priest is different in that Jesus has endured life as a mortal and has acted as a forerunner on our behalf. Jesus stands before God pleading our case for salvation, having offered his body as the sacrifice.
Today’s Prayer –
Gracious, I give thanks to You for providing me a High Priest who not only stands before you pleading my case, but who has first-hand knowledge of my human experience. Grant that I may have full confidence in his sacrifice of atonement for my salvation.
We live with the clear distinction between us and Christ. Our relationship with God has been severed on many occasions…. Read More
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.
We live with the clear distinction between us and Christ. Our relationship with God has been severed on many occasions. When we live in a relationship separated from God by our willfulness, it is called sin. However, Jesus was never in a broken relationship with God. His life was a life lived totally in union with the will of God. The life of God was in Him and the love of God poured out from him. God had appointed Jesus to do what Jesus did in faith, always giving honor to his God and not taking human credit for his actions. He had no sin but became sin for us all that we might not have sin. Satan had no hold on him. He was sinless, and it is through his sinlessness are we restored to a right relationship with God through faith.
Today’s Prayer –
Almighty God, open my heart to accept the power of Christ and his sacrifice of love to take away my sin. Give me the confidence to approach you humbly yet boldly in the name of Jesus that I might experience the peace that only Christ can give.
We don’t often allow the humanity of Christ to drift forward in our consciousness. We frequently hold Jesus in such high God… Read More
1 Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned — every one — to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
We don’t often allow the humanity of Christ to drift forward in our consciousness. We frequently hold Jesus in such high Godly esteem that we often diminish or neglect the human part of his life. Many people will refuse to believe that Jesus was divine (or, God present in flesh). Others will accept his divinity but are willing to overlook his humanity. For those of us who believe, his humanity and his divinity merge together in ways that let us know that he was both God in the flesh and Spirit. Jesus understood as much as anyone what we go through as humans and therefore empathizes with our human condition.
Today’s Prayer –
Loving God, enable me to gain confidence in my relationship with You through my understanding that Christ has lived through the human experience and understands what we go through.
It’s a difficult thing to overcome fear, but not impossible. One of the benefits to overcoming fear is gaining confidence. We gain confidence in ourse… Read More
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
It’s a difficult thing to overcome fear, but not impossible. One of the benefits to overcoming fear is gaining confidence. We gain confidence in ourselves and attain a certain resolve that allows us act in ways that highlight our confidence. Of course, there is a danger in gaining too much confidence. One of those dangers is becoming so confident that we become arrogant: arrogant in our beliefs, arrogant in our truths, arrogant in our faith. There is a very fine line between confidence and arrogance. It’s difficult to tell when we step over the line. However, one of the major signs of arrogance is a loss of respect for the other. In our relationship with God, it is important to have a healthy fear (respect) for the Lord. But our God loves us so much that we are encouraged to have confidence in our relationship. We are invited to rest assured in our relationship with God; confident and not arrogant so that we may “walk humbly with” our God.
Today’s Prayer –
Loving God, remove all of my anxieties about drawing near to you. Give me the courage to approach you with boldness and humility that I may walk with you in confidence and in peace.
Moving and living in a culture that expresses being ‘woke’ as a negative virtue of liberalism, perhaps needs to be revisited…. Read More
33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake.
Moving and living in a culture that expresses being ‘woke’ as a negative virtue of liberalism, perhaps needs to be revisited. Both in our scripture for today and Sunday’s scripture (Eph. 6:18) the admonition for God’s people is to “keep alert”, and to be awake. If we’re going to be ‘woke’ or awake, perhaps we should be remaining alert to those evils that tend to destroy us spiritually or awake to the presence of God’s love present around us. Whatever the circumstances, being awake (or woke) and alert to those spiritual dangers that compromise our relationship with God are of the highest priority.
Loving Christ, give me the wisdom and ability to remain alert and awake to those times when my spirit is being challenged by the world we live in.
Prayer (at times) seems like such a powerless form of protection. Yet, prayer is actually one of the most powerful weap… Read More
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Prayer (at times) seems like such a powerless form of protection. Yet, prayer is actually one of the most powerful weapons to use when engaging in spiritual warfare. Sometimes we find ourselves unable to speak because we can't find ‘the Word of God’ or we’re unable to find just the right words to say. At times, life so overwhelms us that we find ourselves speechless. It’s at those times of weakness that the spiritual armor of prayer is our most potent offense and defense. The spirit is able to communicate with God in ways that we can’t in a language of groans too deep for words. It’s at those times God is able to hear our petitions even though we can’t articulate them with our mouths.
Holy God, teach me to rely more each day on prayer as a way to defend myself against those unseen spiritual enemies that seek to destroy me and my relationship with You.
We have all (at times) underestimated the power of God’s word. We sometimes believe that the more we say or the louder we sa… Read More
12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
We have all (at times) underestimated the power of God’s word. We sometimes believe that the more we say or the louder we say it will have the power to persuade people to believe and trust what we are saying. While at times we are comforted by other’s acceptance of what we say, we have in those moments been less likely to influence people. The danger that lies within is sometimes our willingness to distort God’s word to accomplish our purposes. Satan did it to Jesus in the wilderness. I’m convinced that we’re capable of doing it as well to achieve our purposes. But God’s word brings a power of its own to separate the truth from the lie, and the will of our flesh from the power and will of God’s Word.
Almighty God, grant me the wisdom to rely on Your Holy word to help me discern Your will above mine, and Your truth above all other proposed truths.
Often today we find ourselves being led by what we see, or what we thought we saw, or what we hear, or thought we heard. The… Read More
Isaiah 11:3-4a, 5
3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
5 Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his loins.
Often today we find ourselves being led by what we see, or what we thought we saw, or what we hear, or thought we heard. There has always been a disconnect between what someone said, what someone meant, what we heard and what we understood in our hearing. That misunderstanding is what explains why two persons can see the same accident and supply two vastly different explanations of how it happened and often leads to unfair judgments. Perhaps it’s because everyone tends to tell the story that points people in the direction of favoring their particular truth. God tends to take a different view. Instead of discerning base on hearing, God’s understanding is based on what is right for the poor and God will be faithful to that.
Gracious God, help me to strengthen my spirit through a process of discerning what is righteous and fair, giving me the wisdom to know the difference between Your will and my preferences.
Suffering has never been one of the strongest human desires. It’s not something that appears in the top 10 of our ‘be like J… Read More
1 Peter 4:1-2
1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.
Suffering has never been one of the strongest human desires. It’s not something that appears in the top 10 of our ‘be like Jesus’ to do list. And if we’re honest, we never put ourselves in a position of having to physically suffer for what we believe in. Our Scripture reminds us to “arm ourselves” mentally, or as is recorded in Philippians, “Have this same mind in you that was in Christ Jesus …”. One way to accomplish this is to always “having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness …”. There is no greater joy than having suffered for righteousness’ sake.
Loving God, empower me to arm myself with the same mind and thinking of Jesus that if I suffer, I will know that I suffered for the righteousness’ sake to glorify You.
We often live in a world where often physical and mental strength receive the highest praise. And yet, not very often is the… Read More
16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith — that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
We often live in a world where often physical and mental strength receive the highest praise. And yet, not very often is the idea of becoming spiritually strengthened promoted. Nevertheless, being spiritually strengthened is God’s recommended pursuit for those born of the Spirit of Christ. It’s not for the purpose of saying we are Spiritually strong, but for the ultimate purpose of understanding the love of Christ in all of its power. Knowing the full power of Christ and his love brings us to a deeper and more profound understanding of God.
Loving God, give me the wisdom to grow my spiritual muscles so that I may gain a greater understanding of You and Your love in Jesus Christ.
American Express Card once ran an advertisement created to help people understand that when unpredictable financial situations ari… Read More
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
American Express Card once ran an advertisement created to help people understand that when unpredictable financial situations arise American Express card can be relied on for that needed layer of financial security. Their catch phrase was, “American Express – Never leave home without it.” It is important to remember the necessity of carrying certain things with us when we leave home. Because we’ve come to depend so heavily on our mobile device, leaving home without it is a cause for panic with most people. If rain is in the forecast, an umbrella is a must for those who will be out in the environment. Yet, I’m not sure that we give the same amount of consideration to our care where spiritual matters are concerned. At times we take our faith for granted, accepting whatever truth is placed before us, sometimes going along with the crowd failing to discern what’s right from what’s popular.
Where our spiritual lives are concerned, God invites us to always be aware of the spiritual forces that represent a danger to us. So, like the encouragement to “never leave home without our American Express Card” We are encouraged to always be prepared for the world by putting on the full armor of God and never leaving home without it. The last thing God wants for us is to be hurt by unseen spiritual forces because we left home spiritually unprotected from those things that could compromise our relationship with God.
Almighty God, enable me to always be adorned in those spiritual safeguards You’ve provided for my safety so that I will always be able to stand strong against every evil scheme directed toward me.
Lives are touched and changed when the story about God is conveyed with integrity. It doesn’t matter about your background or what… Read More
17 But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy 18 they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” 21 And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.
Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.
Lives are touched and changed when the story about God is conveyed with integrity. It doesn’t matter about your background or what one might be going through. It is the story we tell others about “this life” — a life lived in relationship with God that seems to be the way to do evangelism. The power of belief comes from having heard the story. And to hear the story, its important for those of us who believe to tell our story. It may be the most convincing story of all.
Today’s Prayer — Loving Christ, empower me to put aside whatever issues may prevent me from telling others the story of my life with You.
Having a story to tell doesn’t necessarily lead others to believe. It’s simply a reflection of the truth about our relations… Read More
24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”
Having a story to tell doesn’t necessarily lead others to believe. It’s simply a reflection of the truth about our relationship with God. There may be times when God’s activity in our lives simply goes beyond what others are able to believe. And yet, what others are able or willing to believe shouldn’t interfere with our willingness or ability to tell our story. Perhaps, it will be our story that might explain something that has occurred to them that they hadn’t thought about. Who knows how God will work?
Today’s Prayer — Holy and gracious God, empower me to continue telling others the story of my faith, regardless of how unusual my story might be to others.
Telling our story or finding God’s reality and presence in the midst of story isn’t new. God’s presence and activity in our… Read More
37 But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. 38 Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.”
Telling our story or finding God’s reality and presence in the midst of story isn’t new. God’s presence and activity in our lives and world has always been revealed in the stories of others. It’s reflected in the stories of saints of the past. Today, the continuing message of God to others is reliant upon our story and what we’ve experienced in our relationship with God. Our story is the most contemporary story we can tell of God’s reality.
Daily Prayer — Loving God, give me the courage and wisdom to continue to tell others of Your love through the experiences of the Bible and my story.
The very beginning of our faith journey begins with the story. And while it’s true that the story has been forthcoming for a… Read More
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
The very beginning of our faith journey begins with the story. And while it’s true that the story has been forthcoming for a long time, it was, in fact, John the Baptist who had the responsibility of being a verbal witness to the One who was coming into the world. John’s voice has been silent for a number of years, but not his story. His story has become our story to tell about the One who has not only come, but who is now raised and lives forever.
Daily Prayer — Almighty God, let me be faithful in my relationship to continue telling the story of how you came into my world that I might see you more clearly.
The story of Saul’s conversion is really a two part story. The first part tells of his encounter with Jesus Christ and being blinded. The second story… Read More
12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’
The story of Saul’s conversion is really a two part story. The first part tells of his encounter with Jesus Christ and being blinded. The second story is about Ananias sharing the story of God in ways that connect him to Saul. Two different people — the same story of redemption. It’s possible that God can allow two people to share the same story of God’s reality in our world. Two people sharing the same story is a powerful witness to the reality of God.
Today, think of those who shared the same story of God in different ways ( example: John the Baptist and Jesus, Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch, David and Jonathan).
Daily Prayer — Gracious God, enable me to see the connecting relationship between my story and those of others as a witness to Your presence in my life.
We often shy away from telling others about our relationship with God. It may be that we’re afraid that they won’t believe us. It… Read More
5 As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.
6 In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.
We often shy away from telling others about our relationship with God. It may be that we’re afraid that they won’t believe us. It may be that we’ll offend them with what we believe is true about God. Nevertheless, telling others our story is like sowing seeds of faith. We don’t know whether the seeds we plant will bring forth fruit. We don’t even know how we came to believe. What is true is that telling our story is one way to plant the seeds of faith in others. God will provide the increase.
· Have you ever shared your story of your relationship with God to anyone?
· How did they come to know and accept God because you shared your story?
Today’s Prayer — Loving God, empower me, when the world around me is caving in, to rely on a faith that cannot be seen except through my trust in You.
Jesus tells many stories about God through a form of storytelling called the parable. His efforts were an attempt to get people to… Read More
He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”
With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.
Jesus tells many stories about God through a form of storytelling called the parable. His efforts were an attempt to get people to see the everyday reality of God all around them — to allow them to connect to the reality of God through their everyday lives. Some people understood it. Some people didn’t. Perhaps because no one had endeavored to tell stories about God and their relationship with God in that way before. Perhaps it was because they refused to see God in the context of everyday events and images. And yet in all of these years, God hasn’t changed. Nor has our way of communicating and connecting others to the realities of God. Even in this twenty-first century context of experiencing the things about God, we endeavor to get people to see God and God’s truth through the telling of stories. Yes, we use the bible story. But the most powerful story we can tell is one in which we are the characters in the story we tell. It’s our story of our relationship with God that’s most likely to attract others to God’s truth.
Gracious and eternal God, enable and empower me to tell my story of my relationship with You in such a way that others may see and understand You and Your Kingdom more clearly.
Judgment comes to us whether we want it or not. Perhaps it has already come when we face and accept the truth about ourselves. Truth has a… Read More
19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God."
Judgment comes to us whether we want it or not. Perhaps it has already come when we face and accept the truth about ourselves. Truth has an ability to cast a light of revelation about who we really are and what we are really about. Is there grace? Absolutely, but grace without a look into the mirror of truth is a grace forced to cover a multitude of sins unrealized. Allowing ourselves to look into the mirror of our own life is shows that God is responsible for any transformation.
Holy God, allow me to look without hesitation into the mirror of Your truth so that my life may witness to Your power to transform me through grace.
I would imagine that the greatest sadness we experience is the pain that comes our failure to please God, or to show God’s love to someone who needs i… Read More
23 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel! 25 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.
I would imagine that the greatest sadness we experience is the pain that comes our failure to please God, or to show God’s love to someone who needs it because we’ve misjudged them. Perhaps the latter is the more painful because it usually means that we are now faced with the need to admit we were wrong. And yet it is that truth — admitting that we were wrong that shows we were willing to stand in the mirror of our own failings and see a God of grace.
Loving Christ, help me to stand without fear in the mirror of Your truth so that I may receive grace when I fall short and offer grace to others like me.
Being judgmental has been the immovable stain on who we are as Christians and people in general. It has led to us being labeled hypocrites, amon… Read More
1 Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. 2 You say, "We know that God's judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth." 3 Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God?
Being judgmental has been the immovable stain on who we are as Christians and people in general. It has led to us being labeled hypocrites, among other things. The fact that the word of God forbids us to judge has not stopped us. And yet, the truth is still there that for every finger we point at others, there are three of our own pointing back at us. Perhaps a deeper look into the mirror of our own lives would invite us to seek the kind of spiritual transformation that the Holy Spirit desires to do in us.
Loving Christ, lead me away from the criticism of others and move me deeper into the transformational relationship of self-understanding found in You.
When we are in the position of having to view sin and crime, we understand sin or crime to be a very targeted assessment. We see what others hav… Read More
7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." 8 And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus straightened up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" 11 She said, "No one, sir." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again."
When we are in the position of having to view sin and crime, we understand sin or crime to be a very targeted assessment. We see what others have done specifically and reason that we’ve never done anything as bad as the thing(s) they’ve done. We therefore judge that they must be guilty and we, more innocent than they. Christ, however, sees sin and judgment, not by a particular sin, but by the violation of the much narrower spiritual code of love and forgiveness. How the world would change if we saw others as God saw us in God’s mirror of grace.
Gracious and forgiving Christ, transform me so that I can only judge others if I, myself, can stand on my own record of righteousness.
There is something about looking in the mirror from time to time that is revealing. If we’re honest with ourselves, we can see where we’ve chang… Read More
9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
There is something about looking in the mirror from time to time that is revealing. If we’re honest with ourselves, we can see where we’ve changed. We can also see where change has been slow. We can see where we’ve grown. We can also see where growth has been stunted. Our inability to see clearly what needs to be changed is, in some ways, due to our lack of total self-understanding. We don’t know why we do what we do? Fortunately, God does. And God will lead us into full transformation in God’s time and at God’s speed.
Loving God, empower me to see myself more clearly in Your mirror of truth so that I may come to a greater understanding of myself and others.
It’s not very often that we think of self-knowledge and understanding as critical to who we are. It’s possible to get post graduate education in… Read More
21 He said to them, "Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? 22 For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. 23 Let anyone with ears to hear listen!"
It’s not very often that we think of self-knowledge and understanding as critical to who we are. It’s possible to get post graduate education in the world and never be compelled to examine who we really are. But the discovery of who we are as children of God isn’t meant to be hidden. It isn’t meant to be secret. It would benefit the entire world if we could admit that we fall short of the glory of God. If we don’t confess it, it will eventually become evident.
Gracious Christ, enable and encourage me to look into the mirror of Your truth and admit what soon becomes everyone’s reality — we all need Your grace.
What appears to be a disconnected model of philosophy for living actually translates into a meaningful model for the Christian life. It is, perh… Read More
37 "Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back." 39 He also told them a parable: "Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher. 41 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 42 Or how can you say to your neighbor, "Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye.
What appears to be a disconnected model of philosophy for living actually translates into a meaningful model for the Christian life. It is, perhaps, because when we seek God‘s wisdom, we are ourselves blind to what God is trying to reveal to us. Or perhaps it’s because we, too, are prone to make errors in judgment without knowing another person’s story, hurting people and needing forgiveness when we meant no ill intent, or simply withholding a needed grace from someone because we’ve judged incorrectly. If we could all see through the eyes of Christ, these human typos could be eliminated from the human landscape. Life in the mirror is a unique invitation by God to enter into self-evaluation, but more importantly understanding of others. We so easily see what’s wrong with others and know all too well how to fix them. However, fixing ourselves is a greater problem. If we’d spend greater amounts of time trying to understand our weaknesses, we might have a deeper insight into another person’s weaknesses. True change happens when we have a greater understanding of ourselves after looking at ourselves in the mirror.
Holy and gracious God, give me the courage to look in the mirror that reflects my life and see where change is needed. Enable me to humbly submit to your transforming power so that I may be made anew in your image.
Poor Job. Not only is he now numbered among the least of these God’s children, but his friends are leveling the charg… Read More
5 Is not your wickedness great?
Are not your sins endless?
6 You demanded security from your relatives for no reason;
you stripped people of their clothing, leaving them naked.
7 You gave no water to the weary
and you withheld food from the hungry,
Poor Job. Not only is he now numbered among the least of these God’s children, but his friends are leveling the charge against him that he is suffering from some large form of wicked behavior. He is accused of stealing and taking the clothes from the naked, making them thirst, and making the hungry go without bread. And yet, his friends, while laying the charges at his door, seem to be doing nothing to alleviate Job’s suffering. It’s as if they believe Job should not only pull himself up by his own bootstraps but should lend a hand to those in his same condition.
Gracious Christ, help me to do more than keeping my hungry brothers at arm’s length by only donating food. Empower me to engage in a personal relationship with the hungry.
The Adult Ministries group at Mason Memorial Community Church is a spiritual group who’s goal is to help others grow to a mature faith in God while providing comradery and fellowship with the congregation. To be a focus point in our community, we select projects which will help the needs of others.
Some of the Adult Ministry’s projects/activities are as follows:
1. Sack lunches at the Willa Gill Center
2. Thanksgiving and/or Christmas Baskets
3. Angel tree gifts for children at Christmas
4. Parents Night Out which gives adults in the community and church time to fellowship along with Bible study and dinner. We also distribute Gospel/Bible tracts for discussion.
5. Sponsor an Annual Gospel Musical
6. Purchase gift cards for groceries & pharmaceuticals to help people in need in our congregation & community
7. Christmas caroling at nursing homes where our members reside The Adult Ministry group is always open to new ideas/suggestions and members. We embrace Matthew 9:37 “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few”.
The United Methodist Men’s ministry of our local church is a core group of men, partnering with their pastor, to invite and initiate spiritual growth opportunities for all men of the church. Everyone has different gifts, graces, and areas of interest. Therefore, opportunities for participation include diverse ministries of the church, such as
We encourage leading and participating on committees, teaching Sunday school classes, youth ministries, scouting, mentoring, and assisting in leading worship service. The focus is both inward and outward. Inward — concentrating on those who attend and participate in the ministries within the church, and outward — to all men, assisting them to engage in the process of spiritual growth.
Our mission is to support spiritual growth among men, helping men to mature as disciples as they encourage spiritual formation in others.
Our goal is to empower the ministry of Jesus Christ through men within our congregation as we seek to capture the vision of God for our church —
“to become a living example of Jesus Christ active in service to our community.”
Churches United for Justice is a diverse and growing coalition of 17 churches throughout Wyandotte County. Members of these local parishes in Wyandotte county have come together based on the biblical imperative to “… do justice, ff.” (Micah 6:8), as well as Jesus’ reminder that while giving to the church is good, people of faith should pay more attention to the weightier matters of faith, justice, mercy, and faithfulness. (Matthew 23:23). In each of these reflections, justice is seen as primary for the health of the community and personal relationships. Justice in a biblical sense is the quality of being fair and reasonable. This often requires systemic change within communities.
The faiths participating in Churches United for Justice include United Methodist, Baptist, Philadelphia Bible, Peace and Fellowship, Church of Christ and Episcopal. These faith communities have come together believing that justice is a primary issue of faith and is the foundation of healthy relationships that build community.
Our church’s faith community participation is and will be in conjunction with the organization’s effort to focus on the need for affordable housing and curbing violence in our community.
Lead Organizer: Amber Adams
Associate Organizer: Brett Eisenhauer
Team Leader: Karen Shepherd