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Seeking Peace Along a Hard Road

Blessed Father, we desire to break bread with You, to walk with You & enjoy Your company. Make our hearts burn within us as we meet with You, unfolding Your Word in our hearts. Help us to see, hear & gain wisdom. Prepare us for the difficulties & joys of the day, so we may rely on You & give You glory no matter what may come. We seek You out for these blessings of faith & for the sake of Your glory being shown through us.
We pray this in Jesus’ Name, amen.

Luke 24: 13-35
13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

I long for these moments & experiences. As Christians, we long for the Lord’s presence, we desire to walk with Him, listen to Him & experience what these two experienced along the road to Emmaus. There is no greater joy than to be able to give our whole selves over to the will & mystery of the Lord, to be bundled up in His arms & to close out every sound but the sweetness of His voice. Swift & powerful, His tongue comforts & convicts, He cuts to the root of our sin & draws us up into the highest heaven. It is almost indescribable. But we long for these moments. We want every weekend worship gathering to be a place where we meet with Him like this, every moment spent in the Word like this, every encounter with a stranger, friend or family member like this when we share our faith with them.

But we must also be reminded of these two on the road. They were consumed, troubled & sad. They had expectations, desires for redemption & they wanted to see God’s hand move in a mighty & powerful way. And it took Jesus’ presence to bring them comfort. His Words, His presence, His laughter, teaching & prayer to open their eyes to what God had done & was continuing to do.

If we would feel His presence, then we must draw near & listen. We must hear what He says, and leave behind what fills our mind, giving it all over to Him in these moments where we need to draw near. While Jesus spoke, they were silent. They listened. They didn’t interrupt every third word, they weren’t engrossed in another activity. Their focus was undivided & therefore laser focused on everything He had to say. It was time spent just with Jesus. Unrushed, untouched, unadulterated. Just them & just Him.

If we want to feel the comforting presence of Jesus, then we need to give Him our attention. We need to listen & remove distractions. If we are broken & hurting inside, if life’s events are too much to handle & understand, then we need to trust Him with those moments & draw near to Him & Him alone.

Praise God for His Holy Spirit who can & does walk with us, even within us, through these moments of our day-to-day life. What a precious gift to know He is with us, moving, present & speaking to us. We simply need to seek Him out for peace & be still, trusting in His footsteps along the way.

Father, we bless Your holy Name! We praise the movement of Your Word in our hearts!
Teach us to listen & be still. remind us of Your presence & may we feel that sweet stillness in our spirits as we draw near to You along life’s road. Again, we pray in Jesus’ Name, amen.

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Warning & Encouragement

Father, there are days when it seems as though the end is right around the corner. There are days when we see that things could still be much worse than they seem. Your grace & patience with us exceeds my understanding & at the same time I know there are people who have not yet heard the Gospel & so You extend Your grace for them. A broken world produces broken people & broken situations. We long for everything to be made right & so we wait in Your timing, mercy & grace. Please give us strength & conviction to do Your will in the days that are left. You have given us words of warning, hope & purpose in Your Word. Help us live in them. In Jesus’ Name I pray, amen.

Luke 21
10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. 13 This will be your opportunity to bear witness. 14 Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. 17 You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.

Political news cycles feed our insecurities. Reporters, announcers & personalities drive division deep into our hearts & they make bitter enemies out of us all. We are markets & demographics to be played, one against the other & it is done for a profit. Rallies are held, positions are laid out & civil conversation between opposing viewpoints becomes impossible. There is an expectation for aggression & so many are all too happy to fulfill that expectation. Jesus warned of wars & rumors of wars. This is the consequence of living in a world broken by sin. Dividing lines become boundary markers & eventually markers of delineation & peaceful discourse is traded for angry glances & presupposed opinions.  Not all wars involve physical front lines. The deeper ones, the spiritual kind,  just require hate & distrust, a line in the sand.

Jesus warned of natural disasters & signs from heaven. Famine, loss, pain & hopelessness. People will hurt, suffer & know deprivation from life giving food & water. But lack isn’t a sign of the end’s arrival, just of its coming. We don’t like to see suffering, & sometimes ignorance keeps it at arm’s length for a while. We don’t like to see suffering, but sometimes anger with a system helps to remove compassion’s responsibility for action from us for a moment. We still have to bear witness in these moments & hard times. We speak up & we act.

Jesus told us we wouldn’t know what to say in these moments & that we wouldn’t need to worry about what to say. He promised to give us a mouth & wisdom that speaks undeniable truth. He told us that these moments of division, fear & hardship would be our opportunity to bear witness for Him & the Gospel. We do not compromise the truth, but we also communicate the truth in love, with gentleness & respect. We do not play the world’s games. Are there moments for righteous indignation? Yes, but we are not perfect in it like Jesus, and we must be on guard in those moments not to lapse into sin.

So, then, listen. We who follow Christ are not like those who get swept up into the fray with political pundits & cultural furor. We avoid foolish arguments & emotional pleas meant to divide. We don’t get sucked into Fox News & MSNBC’s net of arguments & carried away in the torrents of fear & suspicion of one another. Jesus said this was our moment to bear witness, not step in conformity with secular mindsets. We take every thought captive & we live in awareness of the times. We look for signs & we interpret the hour of mankind, but we do not get carried along in the waves of hopelessness that makes deeper enemies of us all. We identify the real enemy that thrives on division & distrust & we live aware of his methods & plots. We stand firm. We bear witness & we show this world a better way. Jesus said we would see these days, but that it was our opportunity to bear witness, not get swept away by them.

We will be delivered up to authorities & family members alike because we walk with Jesus. In following His lead, we will see persecution, but we do not operate as this world does. We bear witness to it without becoming like it. We see & observe, but we do not stoop down to their tactics. We have a cross to bear as witnesses for Christ. We have an expectation & a model to live out as we show this world God’s plan for peace. We will be mocked. We will be hated. We will be fought against. Jesus promised us as much. But we live differently, we walk & talk differently & we have different objectives. We long to see people saved & brought into the family of God, no matter who they are. Secular divisions drive us apart, but in Christ we seek out anyone & everyone & we love our enemies. We pray for those who persecute us. We bear witness to the world & we don’t play according to their rules. We bear up with the endurance Christ offers & the strength given through the Holy Spirit. We are wise as serpents & innocent as doves. We are different. We bring hope.

Season your speech today & let the Lord have His way in your heart, uncovering motives & removing worldly impulses, tearing down walls that keep you from first expressing love. There will be wars & rumors of wars. People will continue to divide, playing politics & games that draw out differences. But we bear witness to the truth, to mercy & peace as we walk daily with Jesus in the rhythms of His grace, we endure to the end.
He is our hope & nothing else will do.

Purified, Redeemed & Given Peace

Father, bring us Your peace. Through Jesus Christ You have offered to us grace beyond measure. You have inaugurated our entry into Your presence with His blood, purified us and saved us from the wrath due us in Your judgment. Thank You for putting away our sin by this sacrifice. Thank You for promising us life beyond life and death. Thank You for the blessing of the greater picture of existence with You through Him. Thank You for the presence of Your Holy Spirit in this in-between time. Amen.

Hebrews 9:15-28
15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. 16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

This is a lot to take in, isn’t it? Centuries of human effort, ritual purification, sacrifice and an obvious inability to maintain moral standards left us reeling. We were desperate, the children of God were in need of relief, and the world needed a savior without even knowing they needed Him. Try as we might to deny sin’s presence in our life, we rationalize all our decisions, seek out our own way and call the effort worthwhile. We stubbornly stand in pride and deny correction when it comes.We’ve all stood silently in this place. We know our own hearts, even if we don’t speak what we feel all the time.

Emotionally and spiritually bankrupt, God saw our deep need to be cleansed, redeemed and brought into real peace with Him. We need to remember this, drink it in & rest in Him.

And so comes Jesus.
Pause a minute. Breathe & speak His Name.

Heaven’s sacrifice once for all who would come.
Final.
He loves You deeply.
Pause again. Breathe & speak His Name, Jesus.

We needed Him so badly. Our efforts always temporary, we needed relief. And so He brings us peace by removing the need for the effort, and taking it upon Himself. This is the richness of the love of God, this is the depth of His grace. This loving Father, making sacrifice on behalf of His children, so that we might bring Him glory and that He might sing over us in His peace.

Jesus is the One who stood in the gap. The Father the One who sacrifices. The Holy Spirit the One who indwells us as we are being made holy – Our Triune God gathering us into His love.

Pause a minute. Breathe & abide in the rest He provides. Breathe. Trust in our Great High Priest who offered Himself up as the sacrifice.

Breathe.
Rest.
Speak the Name of Jesus.
Trust in Him & Praise His Name.
Walk in the rhythms of His grace today.

Father, bring us Your peace. Through Jesus Christ You have offered to us grace beyond measure. You have inaugurated our entry into Your presence with His blood, purified us and saved us from the wrath due us in Your judgment. Thank You for putting away our sin by this sacrifice. Thank You for promising us life beyond life and death. Thank You for the blessing of the greater picture of existence with You through Him. Thank You for the presence of Your Holy Spirit in this in-between time. Amen.

Generous God, Generous Love

Bless the LORD o, my soul! How excellent is His greatness!

Ephesians 4:1-14
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Bask in that for a moment will you? Listen again to what you just read. Rest in words of grace and provision, forgiveness and the mystery of the opening of the will of God to His people. Remember the sealing of the Holy Spirit that came to you when your faith came into being, and your submitted your heart to His, being baptized into His baptism for the praise of His glory.

Remember.

This is our resting place, within the generosity of God. We deserved death as the payment for our sins, for our rejection of His will and Lordship over us. We were guilty, broken and damned. There is no sadder state than the one we occupied before we met Christ, no condition more hopeless. We were sinners in the hands of a just, wrathful and holy God. Hell and desolation were our destination, separated from Him for eternity, goats, chaff & weeds all.

But through Christ Jesus we have stepped out of darkness and into His glorious light!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
Praise God all creatures here below!
Praise God above, you heavenly host!
Praise Father, Son & Holy Ghost!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

Dwell in this blessed truth today, if you are in Christ! If you are not, listen to the words of promise above, the words of hope and expectation. Ask God to open the eyes of your heart, the ears of your soul, so that you might see and hear what so many already enjoy and find their peace within. God is generous with His grace. He is generous with His love.

Praise God!

God’s Plans & the Plans of Men

A brief Sunday morning devotional.

Lord God, we know full well that our ways are not Your ways, that we often take the beauty of what You intend and attempt to recreate it in our own image. Father, please forgive our broken motives, and draw our hearts toward correction in You. Only when we humbly bow & obey will we find true beauty, purpose and joy in You. Grant us Your grace again today, and give us strength to walk with our Master, Jesus. Amen,

Galatians 4:21-31
21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written,

“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;
    break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
    than those of the one who has a husband.”

28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.

We cannot seriously desire to trade the promises of God for the desires of our flesh. Yet, we hand over the eternal & holy for the temporary & twisted. We are given accounts like Abraham’s as a reminder of the consequences that come, the split allegiances that form, and the lives that are broken in the process. The life that attempts to pursue both God & personal desire is always going to deal with these problems. That is to say, we will all deal with these from time to time as our ability to follow God is still struggling with the desire to sin.

When we come to these daily crossroads, we need to remember that simple phrase that Paul uses here when speaking to the church in Galatia, “Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.” And we need to remember what that entails for us, and what He intends for us.

It is so easy to get caught up in the moment, and to struggle with those earthly pulls & influences. But God has something more, something better in mind for His children. We need to be intentional, take time daily, and bend our knee to the One who has paid the price for our salvation. A conscious surrender to Him is a conscious surrender to this better way, this simpler way, that honors God above self & promise over immediate gratification.

“So brothers, we are not children of the slave, but of the free woman.” We are heirs with Christ Jesus. Draw near to Him & leave the old ways behind.

You are known by God

Do you think that the Queen of England ever forgets her status? Do you think she ever gets up in the morning, looks around the royal bedchambers, notices a staff member setting up the tray for her morning tea, opening the curtains, laying out her things and wonders, “Well, who is this and why are they doing all this?”
No. Of course not. She’s the queen, and that life is what is afforded for her. It is part of her rank and status that she would be so cared for & so well attended. While she may have no real power, she is still beloved by those who are hers.

We often forget what we have been afforded in Christ. We look around at the world God has created, at he provision He has laid out for us, we forget how dearly loved we are. We forget =Whose= we are and we fall into the trap of disbelieving just how deeply and how greatly we are loved.

Galatians 4:1-11
I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything,
but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11 I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.

God has made provision for =you= in Jesus Christ. He has shown the depth of His love, and breadth of His grace. He has given us a wonderful gift beyond measure. But so often we see and observe, and we turn back to what we once had. That is what Paul is dealing with in this portion of his letter to the Galatian church. Why would we turn back to the life that once had us, to the pain that once ensnared us? Why would you turn back to death once you have been brought back to life?

But we do it every day.

We leave behind the rich appointments of grace to wallow in the filth of our own sin.

This is why we are daily glad for grace, and for the presence of the Holy Spirit that corrects us.  There is mourning that comes with this realization, but it is a mourning that is infused with hope.

Lamentations 3:19-26
19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
    the wormwood and the gall!
20 My soul continually remembers it
    and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
    to the soul who seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.

You are deeply loved and dearly bought when you are clothed with Christ. You are afforded a richness that comes with being drawn into the presence of the Living God. Jesus gave proof to His disciples after He was resurrected by doing something simple, He ate with them. He wanted them to see that this was the new reality, the new normal. The life they had been appointed to was past and there was something new on the way. This is what Jesus does for us, this is what God has laid out for us. It’s all for =His= glory, but as heirs, we share in the glorious promises of righteousness.

Luke 24:36-49
36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

God will take great care to clothe us, care for us and shower us with His love. We are His children, deeply loved, dearly bought. Just as Christ did simple things, like eating fish, to convince His disciples that things really were as they were, even thought it was beyond hope, maybe even beyond belief, He was alive again and there, present with them. Just as He did that, we need to remember that every day, through many convincing proofs, God reminds us that He is present with us, loving us. He is our Abba, our Father, our Daddy & He cares very much for us.

Rest in His arms today. Let Him sing over you. May the joy of the Lord be your strength.

Foolish Hearts

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Psalm 14

1The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
    They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
    there is none who does good.

The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man,
    to see if there are any who understand,
    who seek after God.

They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
    there is none who does good,
    not even one.

Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers
    who eat up my people as they eat bread
    and do not call upon the Lord?

There they are in great terror,
    for God is with the generation of the righteous.
You would shame the plans of the poor,
    but the Lord is his refuge.

Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
    When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people,
    let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.

 

There aren’t a lot of praises coming from 2016 in Western Culture this year. Most people in the media and online have made it clear that they are glad that the books on 2016 are closed and that there’s a new year laid out before us. There always seemed to be news of celebrity deaths, we endured one of the most excruciating political seasons in in recent memory and if there was ever a year to complain about something, be offended by something or to get upset over seemingly trivial things, 2016 was the year.

As Christians, we have long since learned to look to God for what is good in this life. It isn’t prepared for us by our culture, it isn’t fostered by the mass media and it certainly isn’t perpetuated by trends on social media. The world cries out, lost in its godlessness, and is repeatedly upset and devastated when things don’t go in a way that perpetuate the image for life that they have built for themselves. It is an adolescent mindset, an entitled worldview that constantly screams for everything to go the way they want.

This world is broken, and in our obvious need for a Savior, those whose hearts are set alongside the agenda of sin and worldliness continue to cry out that there cannot be a savior. They want so desperately to be their own. But what hubris! What a mass of pride wells up from within this mindset, from within these hearts! You would think that the evidence would be plain in front of them, but sin-stained hearts create blind eyes, deaf ears and hard hearts.

They openly mock the ones who find hope in the wasteland, who claim a joy they cannot obtain. They shame us, revile us and try their best to silence us, but the Good News of Jesus Christ cannot be silenced. Behold! There is a voice that cries out in the wilderness: “Make a straight path for the LORD! ”

Matthew 3:1-12
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 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.’”

Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Where Herod silenced John the Baptist, the world tries to silence us. John called out Herod’s sin, and as bearers of the Truth of Jesus Christ, we call out sin still today. And the world will not have it, through anger and violence and loud rhetoric, pounded relentlessly in our faces, we are told to be silent, to be still, to keep our beliefs to ourselves. And we feel like Jeremiah the Prophet, persecuted by those within our own culture, workplaces, families and schools. We are denounced, rejected and ridiculed. The truth is not welcome.

Jeremiah 20:1-13
O Lord, you have deceived me,

    and I was deceived;
you are stronger than I,
    and you have prevailed.
I have become a laughingstock all the day;
    everyone mocks me.
For whenever I speak, I cry out,
    I shout, “Violence and destruction!”
For the word of the Lord has become for me
    a reproach and derision all day long.
If I say, “I will not mention him,
    or speak any more in his name,”
there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
    shut up in my bones,
and I am weary with holding it in,
    and I cannot.
10 For I hear many whispering.
    Terror is on every side!
“Denounce him! Let us denounce him!”
    say all my close friends,
    watching for my fall.
“Perhaps he will be deceived;
    then we can overcome him
    and take our revenge on him.”
11 But the Lord is with me as a dread warrior;
    therefore my persecutors will stumble;
    they will not overcome me.
They will be greatly shamed,
    for they will not succeed.
Their eternal dishonor
    will never be forgotten.
12 O Lord of hosts, who tests the righteous,
    who sees the heart and the mind,
let me see your vengeance upon them,
    for to you have I committed my cause.

13 Sing to the Lord;
    praise the Lord!
For he has delivered the life of the needy
    from the hand of evildoers.

But even when things seem bleak, when we feel like we aren’t allowed to have a voice, we must remember that God is with us. Jesus promised us this before He ascended into heaven (Matthew 28,) we are never alone. Even as Elijah had to hide in the wilderness and was fed by ravens (1 Kings 17), God will sustain His church, He will provide and be a refuge for those who bear His Name and who stand boldly for the truth.

Be resolved to be bold. It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in man.(Psalm 118:8) The Lord is with you.

Lord, help us believe, that we might see You come.
Let our souls rise up to meet You, as the day rises to meet the sun.Give us the boldness of John, the endurance of Jeremiah and the faith of Elijah.
May we honor You above our own need for comfort, may we never be content in siding with the world’s agenda. Let us instead be your ambassadors of grace through Jesus Christ our Lord, standing firm in Your truth. Amen.

The Song of our Life

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Do you remember that feeling? What did it feel like on that day, in that moment when you surrendered your life to Christ? Can you still remember the lightness in your spirit, the joy that overtook you? Can you recall the emotions, the thoughts flying through your mind, the echoes of His love reverberating through your body?

What a glorious day!
Do you remember?
Have you seen a friend or loved one experience this moment for themselves? Have you walk this road with them, led them through times of discussion, questions and prayer? Do you remember the joy you felt as you watched the Holy Spirit begin to infiltrate their mind and heart? Do you remember?

Do you remember what it was like rejoicing for them, with them, because of them as they came up out of the waters of baptism? Do you remember wiping that tear from your eye? Do you remember that understanding that God truly had been at work in you in order for this person to be in this place at this time? Do you remember what it was like being part of something so much bigger than yourself?

This is the best song of our hearts, the magnum opus of our life, that God would take the single note of our life and blend it with the notes of others, creating a hymn of joy for His Name’s sake! In faith we followed, and in faithfulness, He followed through. He did just as He had promised. Do you remember?

The joy that comes from leaving sin behind, and pursuing the life that God intends, when His wrath was taken from us and placed on Jesus. Do you remember that feeling? When you truly felt for the first time, that you were beginning to grasp the weight of what Jesus had done for you. Do you remember? Did you cry? Did it break your heart? Were tears running down your face? Did you find yourself sobbing? Do you remember?

Do you remember the relief that came over you when you realized that you were square with God? Do you recall the peace that washed over you when you realized that you could indeed stand before your perfect and holy Creator-King and, because you are clothed with Christ, you could withstand the meeting? Are you reminded of this every time you take communion, when you humbly draw near to Him?

If we remember these things, then you’ll understand the heart of Isaiah as he penned these words over 2400 years ago. Listen and remember:

You will say in that day:
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
    for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
    that you might comfort me.

“Behold, God is my salvation;
    I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
    and he has become my salvation.”

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day:

“Give thanks to the Lord,
    call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
    proclaim that his name is exalted.

“Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
    let this be made known in all the earth.
Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
    for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”
Isaiah 12:1-6 (ESV)

Give thanks to the LORD for He is good! His love endures forever!
Sing, O daughter Zion! Cry out to Him, O Bride of Christ
!
Exalt in the Lord your Maker! Rejoice in His great love!
He has bent the swords into plowshares, and has drawn the nations to Himself!
From everlasting to everlasting, He is God.
He is glorified, and will glorify Himself! Amen & Amen!
Sing out, O my soul, and praise the One who saves us from death,
Spread His glory across the earth, spread it to all mankind!

Gather men, women and children from every tongue and tribe and nation to rejoice in the song of the Lamb who was slain, yet lives!
He alone is worthy!

The Little Ones

“If I could relive my life, I would devote my entire ministry to reaching children for God!”
  — Dwight L. Moody, evangelist

“Safety and security don’t just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.”
  — Nelson Mandela, Former President of South Africa

Today is the day of the ‘holy innocents.’ It is the day we remember the taking of the lives of toddlers and infants by King Herod, who was paranoid and frightened over the possibility of a contender to his supposed power. When the wise men came and informed Herod about this new born King of the Jews, he was so threatened, that he chose to kill the children of his own people rather than investigate the matter, or seek out other options. So twisted was his heart, and so desperate was his grasp on power, that he thought nothing of this massacre of innocent life.

We still live in this same world today. People are so desperate for power over their lives, so keyed up about seeing their agendas pressed through, that they will literally do the same thing as Herod, but on a much larger scale. When we talk about dark and evil people, Hitler always caps the list, Joseph Stalin and Pol Pot are his quick companions, and there are others. But none of them have measured up to the horror of the American people, and the industry of death that we perpetuate through companies like Planned Parenthood and the political agendas of those who claim to value people from one side of their mouth while opening the door for murder with the other. The haphazard abortion of our unborn children, the murder of innocents, still rings loud and clear as an ‘unfortunate reality’ or an ‘unchangeable component’ of our society. If Rachel cried out and refused to be comforted over the death of her children in Bethlehem, then why are we so quick to lower our voices? Does this have to be reality, or can we seek victory through Jesus in this matter as well?

Matthew 2:16-18
16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
    weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
    she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

This quote is well known, but quickly forgotten in our grasping culture:

“It’s the greatest poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”
  — Mother Teresa

But this is exactly what Herod did, and this is what American culture still does today. We should weep with Rachel, we should deeply mourn over the millions who are still dying daily in the midst of a culture of abundance and self-worship. They may not be brought before Molech in name any more, but our nation’s children are still being sacrificed on an altar for the worship of self, and of convenience. The unholy slaughter, this assault on the image-bearers of God still goes on.

So, cry out because of injustice. Weep openly for the lives of those lost who could not defend themselves, and had too few defenders. Pray to God, asking Him to move, and allowing your life to be moved by Him. Do not allow time or difficulty to keep you from repeatedly speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves.

And pray:
Remember the lives of Your little ones, Lord,
and break the sword of the oppressor.

If we desire to live in the rhythms of grace, then we need to make sure that a grace-filled hand is extended to those who work in the abortion industry. We must make the effort to reach out to those who perpetuate lies based in political agendas and selfish desire with a voice that lifts up the value of human life, that speaks for those who are silenced, and who never stops beating the drum of forgiveness in Christ while there is still time to be forgiven. Be a voice for adoption, be a voice for children. Light the way to Christ.

Matthew 19
13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

“Anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me.”
  — Fred Rogers

“When I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments — tenderness for what he is and respect for what he may become.”
  — Louis Pasteur

Ways to support life right now:
Support A Woman’s Choice/Necole’s Place in Louisville, KY
Like AWC/NP on Facebook

Visit the NRLC website
Like the NRLC on Facebook

Contact the American President

PHONE NUMBERS
Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414

TTY/TTD
Comments: 202-456-6213
Visitor’s Office: 202-456-2121

Write a letter:
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Reach out to your elected officials in America:
https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials

Coming back around

1468409082_turning20a20corner
A year has passed.
I’m blowing the dust off the blog, and getting back into my writing. I initially took a break because I found that my motivations for writing had lapsed from being devotional toward becoming a walk through a lesson plan. Being a teacher by nature, I struggle with this quite often, and so I have to mix up my methods to keep my heart in the right place as I have my daily encounters with God.

It’s silly to say that a lot has happened over the past year, because a lot naturally happens in the course of 366 days (it’s a leap year) but it really has for us. I’m not going to try to walk through all of that today, but bits and pieces will make their way through over time.

For now, suffice it to say, I am beginning a new rotation through my devotional time. I am two weeks into a new prayer schedule that I am really enjoying, and my desire to be up and moving super early is coming back.

I may reflect on my daily reading, my prayer time or even on something from another author or minister during this time. I have several people who ask me questions about faith & practice on a regular basis, so I may work through my thoughts & answers in this format, too.

Regardless of where we may find ourselves a year out from the last time I wrote, may God bless you & keep you. May He make His face to shine upon you & bring you His peace.

In Christ,
Ben

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