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Thursday, December 5, 2019

Go Tell It On The Mountain


Matthew 16:13 (ESV)
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

Go tell it the on the mountain
Over the hills and everywhere
Go tell it on the mountain
That Jesus Christ is Lord

This soulful rendition of “Go Tell It On The Mountain” was arranged and performed by Pittsburgh local music legend, B.E. Taylor, a man of deep faith who passed away. Alexis is a native of Pittsburgh herself, and B.E. Taylor’s music has been the soundtrack of the Christmas season for many families

In many ways, the pursuit of Christian faith and the spiritual journey can be characterized by that question – “Who do you say Jesus is?”
Peter himself was quizzed on this topic by Jesus in Matthew 16:13. When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

Everyday, we’re challenged to answer the same question – “Who is Jesus to me?”
A prophet? A man? Fictional character in an old story? A guy with some good ideas, but ended up getting himself killed?

Or is he Lord? Savior? Messiah? Son of the living God?

Is He reigning over your life – or does He add a flavor of spirituality to your worldview?

The answer to the question of who Jesus is to you is the most critical inquiry of our lives. Everything else – how we live, work, raise a family, be a friend, worship…everything – is built upon the foundation of our answer to that question.

Christmas is a time for reflection on God’s goodness, mercy, and the joy that he brings.

“So, go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is Lord”

Dear Lord, we often find ourselves confused about who You are and what You do in our lives. Although we try to confess your name, we struggle and fall apart at times. May we know your mercy this Christmas, and pray that You build us up stronger in identity and understanding of how you work in this world. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Come and Worship


Matthew 2:2 (ESV)
Saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Angels from the realms of Glory
Wing your flight o’er the Earth
Ye who sang creation’s story
Now proclaim the Messiah’s birth
Come and Worship
Come and Worship
Come and Worship
Worship Christ the Newborn King

Christmas is a season for reflection on worship, and we’re called to come and worship the newborn king!

This wonderful worship song, “Come and Worship” depicts a two-fold action.

1.) Come
All are invited to come and approach God.

2.) Worship
This is an act of reverence. An act of praise.

Much of Jesus’ ministry was surrounded by a flurry of people who were always coming and going. The Gospels depict many wrestling with their obligations and desires before committing to following Jesus.

For example, one man wanted to bury his father before following Jesus (Mt. 8:21-22), while another wanted to say goodbye to their family (Luke 9:61-21). The Gospels also depict a man described as a “rich young ruler” who couldn’t bear to give up his wealth to follow Jesus (Mark 10:17-27).

All he encountered were invited to come and follow Christ, but many things got in their way – distractions that seemed noble, such as a burial or even informing one’s family they were leaving. Make no mistake, the logic behind their reasons not to follow Jesus seemed reasonable. But no matter how appropriate their reasons for not immediately following Jesus seemed, in the end they missed out. The greatest opportunity ever – to come, follow and worship the King – passed them by.

However, we also learn in Matthew 2 about three wise men (magi) who did not pass on the opportunity. They traveled from very far to come and worship the newborn King. They dropped everything in their homeland and traveled a great distance to meet the infant Christ. They had long awaited this opportunity and left behind their lives to come and worship.

This season, I hope we can all commit to be more like these three men, who came and worshipped the newborn King. Let’s be willing to drop everything if need be – the shopping, the cleaning, the busyness – and worship Jesus Christ. It is a simply astonishing and unbelievable reality we celebrate every December 25th, that the Word left his perfect dwelling place within the Trinity and came down to this earth and sacrificed everything to restore us back to him. This is the Good News. This is why we celebrate Christmas!


Dear Lord, lots of things grab our attention, things that seem to be good and worthy of our attention. Help us to let you be our number one priority and our joy. Thank you for being so good to us! In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

“Hymn of Joy”


Psalm 148:3-5 (ESV)
3 Praise him, sun and moon,
    praise him, all you shining stars!
4 Praise him, you highest heavens,
    and you waters above the heavens!
5 Let them praise the name of the Lord!
    For he commanded and they were created.

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee
God of glory, Lord of love
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee
Opening to the sun above
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness
Drive the dark of doubt away
Giver of immortal gladness
Fill us with the light of day


Throughout “Hymn of Joy” is imagery describing God’s creation singing out in joy and worship. The idea that creation plays a part in the worship of God is central in many passages of Scripture, such as the Psalm 148, which as a psalm focuses almost exclusively on this concept, like our verse for the day.

What a wonderful idea – everything can participate in the glorification of God – the creator of all things!

But… what does this actually mean for our everyday life?

Is this just flowery, pretty language? A poetic response to our Maker? Or could there be more to it?

The marvelous elements of nature – the mountains, the oceans, the forests, the stars – may not actually speak, or engage in worship – but they do inspire human beings.

We can appreciate God’s creation because we have been made in God’s image.
We’re the creatures God appointed to be stewards of nature – and we are the ones who can see the glory of God in what he has created.

God has given us a remarkable world to live in, and we can find his joy, peace, and power in what he’s made for us.

Everywhere we look – we can see the hand of God. It’s a remarkable, profound, easily-taken-for-granted gift bestowed upon us.

Although the effects of sin have destroyed, polluted, corrupted – God’s strength, creativity, and glory can be seen in all that he has made.

This Christmas season, as you go about your business, attending to friends, family and celebration – keep your eyes open. Look for God in all moments and places. When you look around you, at both nature and people…what do you see?

Christmas is a time for reflection and introspection. A chance to step back and appreciate what you have and thank God for it.

I pray that, much like this song says, that your, “Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee.”

Dear Lord, as we forward in joy this Christmas, we pray that You will let our eyes and minds to see You everywhere we look. We pray that we can find You in the midst of the things You have created. In the Name of Jesus,  Amen.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Joy to the World


Luke 2:10-11 (ESV)
10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

I love the Christmas season. I like the cheerful decorations, spending time with family and friends, and eating Christmas goodies. One of my favorite part of Christmas, is the Christmas carols like “Joy to the World!”

“Joy to the world! The Lord is come,” God’s people announce at Christmastime. Based on Psalm 98, Isaac Watts’s eighteenth-century carol celebrates the coming of Jesus, the Christ. The joy of the Savior’s coming resounds throughout all of creation, even the fields and rocks and hills and plains “repeat the sounding joy.” This is good news for all of God’s world!

What’s so good about this news announced each Christmas? Why sing this carol with such exuberance? Watts answers that question in the third stanza, where he declares that Jesus has come to deal with the curse of human sin and rebellion. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus brings the blessing as “far as the curse is found.”

In Watts’s hymn, this phrase repeats several times—and for good reason. Released from bondage to sin and the power of death over us, we are now freed to live with joy, to love God and our neighbor, and to cultivate the earth God has given us. So let’s sing with joy that good news: “Joy to the world! The Lord is come”!

Dear Lord, You have come and released us from the ­power of sin and death. Help us to live in ways that proclaim the wonders of Your love. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Black Friday


Matthew 16:26 (ESV)
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

We keep hearing the term “Black Friday” screaming from the TV and newspapers.  The day after Thanksgiving begins the unofficial “holiday shopping season,” the time of year when retailers move from operating “in the red” (at a loss) to operating “in the black” (making a profit).  Stores offer crazy low prices to lure customers in, hoping that they will in turn spend a lot of money for gifts. The debt accumulated all year is finally paid.



I can’t help but think of another “Black Friday”, a day when the greatest price was paid for the greatest gift ever given.  Over 2000 years ago, an innocent man gave His life so that others might live.  Jesus, God the Son, left His heavenly home, to be born into an ordinary family and live an ordinary life in an ordinary town, until He began His extra-ordinary ministry on earth.  For 3 years, He healed the hurting, taught those who would listen, and preached the truth to all.  The conclusion of His time on earth was paying the price for the sins of the entire world, past, present and future, and providing the gift of eternal life to any who receive it. In a word, He paid the debt that we owe, a debt we were powerless to pay. 

Now that Thanksgiving Day is over, let’s continue to live with thanksgiving in our hearts.

Dear Lord, thank You for paying the debt that we owed. Thank You for rising from the dead in victory, giving us the opportunity to live in victory.  May we keep You as our focus in the days and weeks to come, and be ever ready to share the real reason for the season.  In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving


Psalm 100:4 (ESV)
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise!
    Give thanks to him; bless his name!

All across our nation, Thanksgiving is a day that we set aside in order to do one thing.

Be thankful.

And usually what goes along with it, is lots of food, family and friends, laughter and fun, times of giving to others in need, maybe some football, or traditions that you’ve recognized through long years.

And sometimes too, there is also loneliness. And struggle. Or deep loss. Feelings of hurt and painful circumstances that you’re still trying to hurdle over.

Whatever you’re facing this Thanksgiving Day, in the midst of all of it, may we remember again that God gives us the opportunity each and every day, to give worship and thanks to Him. Every morning He gives us breath, is His invitation to come joyfully into His Presence. He reminds us that He alone is God and we belong to Him. He assures us that His plans in our lives are for good, that his love covers us securely, and His faithfulness extends from generation to generation.


No matter what, He’s given us so many reasons to choose thankfulness and joy this day. Let’s do what the Psalmist of this great chapter says:

- Shout for joy.

- Worship the Lord with gladness.

- Come before Him with joyful songs.

- Know that He is God.

- Enter His gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.

- Give thanks to Him and praise His name.

- Recognize His goodness, love, and faithfulness, through all the generations of our family.

Dear Lord, thank You for Your goodness and for Your blessings over our lives. Forgive us for when we don't thank you enough, for who You are, for all that You do, for all that You've given. Thank You that You are always with us and will never leave us, even through loss and the most difficult of times. Thank You for Your incredible sacrifice so that we might have freedom and life. Renew our spirits, fill us with Your peace and joy, this Thanksgiving Day and every day. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Thankful for prayer


Philippians 4:6(ESV) 
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

The great hymn “Amazing Grace” summarizes biblical faith well: “Grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” If grace reveals that joy is a gift, then prayer is the Lord’s gracious means through which he daily sustains that joy.

We sometimes believe we are independent, self-sufficient people. Our tired minds, aching backs, and callous hands that produced a successful career and a comfortable home seem to affirm that myth. But what if corporate restructuring takes away the paycheck, or terminal illness robs our strength and vitality? Anxiety, worry, and fear set in, taking the place of our pride.

Life comes from the Lord, and so does daily help. We come to the Lord through prayer, and the fruit of prayer is peace. Yet prayer is not a mantra, and we can’t use it to try to manipulate God. Prayer is a divine gift to strengthen the bonds of love between us and God. The act of prayer itself affirms our dependence on him for peace and joy.

Peace is knowing that death is overcome by resurrection, falsehood by truth, confusion by wisdom, hatred by love. This is the joyful fruit of believers who seek the Lord! Then, when all else has failed, we can still say, “I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Habakkuk 3:18).

Dear Lord, we rejoice in you. We will be joyful in God our Savior. Thank you for this gift of prayer, for listening to our heart, for speaking to us of your grace. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Where is your treasure?


Matthew 6:21 (ESV)
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Your checkbook may be your most telling spiritual ledger. In line with Jesus’ teaching, finding out where your real values lie might better be done by examining your checkbook rather than by listing your favorite Bible passages.

What do you spend money on? Of course, food, shelter, transportation, and other material needs take up a lot of our resources. Does this mean that our hearts are most attached to these things? I hope not.

But do you also put your money where your heart is? Do you enjoy giving to Christian causes? Do you happily offer from your blessings to people who are in need?

Don’t think there will be some better time to give than now. When you are a teen, you may have a part-time job. Then in your twenties, you may gain an entry-level position and must pay back student loans. In your thirties, you may have the obligations of a home and family. Then, when you’re in your forties, your kids are in school and household expenses are high. In your fifties and sixties, your kids may be in college, and time is running out to save for retirement. You hope your resources will last through old age!

There is no easy time to give. But at all points in life, our use of money is a leading indicator of the love of our heart. Where is your heart?

Dear Lord, may the ledger of our money be the measure of our love. Touch our hearts so that we may put our resources at Your service. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Christ desires?


Matthew 6:33 (ESV)
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Deep within each of us is a value system. It's all very organized and structured. Some things take first place in our hearts; some things are important to us but are secondary; some things are far down the list. Other things are carefully disqualified and never make the list at all. I have a list like that inside me, and so do you. It's not usually very visible at first glance; nor is it always consciously determined. But the choices we make eventually reveal it. I'm revealing this inner value system every time I make a purchase, or decide how to schedule my time, or select the words I use, or budget my finances, or select my friends, or decide how active I'll be in my church. We all make decisions on the basis of what takes priority in our internal value system. Jesus speaks about this in our reading for today, which is part of his well-known Sermon on the Mount. Some things in our life are first; others are second; others are less important. We will live best when we put God and his way of life at the top of our list. It's dangerous to set up our value system without much thought. It's an internal system, but it influences so much of what we do. All our decisions are shaped by inner values. Does your value system match what Christ desires?

Dear Lord, we ask You to look inside us and examine the values we have adopted. Evaluate them and help us to see where we need to make changes to be more like You. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Self control


Proverbs 25:28 (ESV)
A man without self-control
    is like a city broken into and left without walls.

It really was a senseless thing to do. The young man had so much promise. Then he committed the terrible mistake that took his life in an accidental overdose. His friend, stumbling for words, mumbled, "It was so foolish, so very foolish." More lives are ruined by foolishness than by any other destructive force.

In ancient times a city that had no walls could never last long because it was prey to any enemy. A human being without self-control is equally defenseless.

Self-control is necessary because

there are many forces imposed on us in our world that aim to push us
 in the wrong direction.

many forces within our own hearts aim to push us in the wrong direction.

no one else will make our decisions for us.
Self-control must come from within. Therefore the growing Christian heart needs to develop an ability to discern right from wrong and good from evil, and at the same time it needs to develop strength and courage to choose the right and the good.

Galatians 5 tells us that the development of self-control is so crucial and difficult for us that it can come from no other source than the work of God's Holy Spirit within us. When you see self-control, you are seeing the Spirit's work!

Dear Lord, I face dangers and temptations every day. Give me today the strength of Your Spirit, that I may choose the right and turn away from wrong. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Who can be against us?


Romans 8:31 (ESV)
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?


Paul asks, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” The “things” Paul is referring to are the teachings about salvation that he has discussed earlier, such as freedom from sin and death, the life-giving Spirit who lives in us, the new life we have as God’s children, the promise of renewal despite suffering we may face today, and strength and hope to endure.

Faith in Jesus does not remove all the struggles we may encounter in life. Still, we know that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Somehow, even despite bad things that can happen in our lives, God works to conform us “to the image of his Son.”

Paul’s question “Who can be against us?” answers itself: If God is for us, of course no one can be against us! And Paul goes on to say, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Dear Lord, we know that if You are for us, nothing can stand against us. By your Spirit, guide us to live for You. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Doubt


John 20:29 (ESV)
Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

As he prepared his followers to live faithfully after his return to heaven, Jesus addressed the challenge of doubt and unbelief. Thomas was a realist. He knew that resurrections were not everyday events, and he feared that his fellow followers of Christ might have gotten it wrong. He wanted evidence. He demanded proof.

It’s easy to criticize Thomas for his doubts, but the truth is that many of us live with similar hesitations. After all, Jesus is no longer on earth for us to see and touch. We cannot have the same experience as the first disciples who walked with him after his resurrection. So we need Jesus to prepare us for the challenges of skepticism and doubt in our own lives.

What does Jesus say to struggling followers? “Stop doubting and believe.” We may not have the opportunity to feel the wounds of the cross with our own hands. But we have the testimony of lives changed by the Lord’s power. We can seek out the fellowship of other believers in the church and be encouraged by their words. And we can watch for the glory of Christ to appear around us, joining in with Thomas’s beautiful confession: “My Lord and my God!”

May the ascended Christ prepare you today to meet the challenge of doubt with the blessing of faith.

Dear Lord, it is sometimes hard to believe. We live in an age of doubts and lies, and our human minds constantly demand proof. But we believe; we ask You to save us from our unbelief! Fill us with faith. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

You are loved


Philippians 1:3 (ESV)
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.

In letters or emails that we write today, we place our signature at the end. And, depending on whom we are writing, we adjust the way we sign. You don’t sign an email to your boss with “Love, George.” And you don’t treat your spouse aloofly by signing “Regards, Jane.”

Back in Paul’s day, people signed their letters at the beginning, and the greeting often gave a preview of what was to come. In Philippians we can tell right away that this letter is going to be full of love and warmth. Paul calls his readers saints, “God’s holy people,” and showers them with grace and peace “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Then he makes clear how thankful he is for them. They are gospel partners, coworkers in whom God is doing a great thing—and this comes with a promise that God will bring his work to completion. Paul reveals his pastor’s heart here by offering great encouragement and displaying deep care and affection for the Christians living and working in Philippi.

We all need to know that we’re loved, and we all need encouragement. We need someone to see God’s work in our lives, call it out for us, name it, and give thanks for it.

The Philippians needed that kind of encouragement. So Paul makes sure it is the first thing they receive in this loving, pastoral letter.

Dear Lord, Thank you for loving us and for encouraging us by Your Spirit. Your grace and peace are our very life. In the Namr of Jesus, Amen.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

What is your motivation

1 Corinthians 15:58 (ESV)
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

For sixty adult years of her life, Wilma loved and cared for her husband and six children, working tirelessly for her church and the schools her children attended. Opposing racism, she worked to fix its effects, tutoring kids and joining the Urban League, the only white woman present back when most members were people of color. People asked, “How does she do it?”

At her funeral, Wilma’s son said, “Mom was busy in God’s work, doing good. Because of Christ she was never worried about her future.”

The book of 1 Corinthians addresses big questions for Christian people in the bustling city of Corinth: What to do when food in the market is routinely sacrificed to idols? How should the Lord’s Supper be celebrated? How do spiritual gifts build the body? What is love? What will happen to believers who die before Jesus comes back? It’s a great deal of advice and rules. What motivates people to follow it all?

The gospel motivates by relieving people’s worries about dying. Christ died for our sins, and he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. We have a future beyond death, because Christ arose! Our bodies will be raised on the last day too. Death is defeated! So let’s get to work.

Dear Lord, we thank You for the people we know who give themselves completely to Your work. Thank You for taking away distractions about the future, as we serve You. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, November 18, 2019

The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerate.


Nehemiah 8:10 (ESV)
Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

In the days of riverboats and single-sheet newspapers, the American humorist Mark Twain tried to squelch a rumor. He wrote, “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” It’s hard to see how such a rumor could be only a little true, but some rumors are that way. Christians often have the reputation of being glum, ridden by guilt. Though I believe such descriptions are often exaggerated, we have to admit that there is some truth in the stereotype. Like the Jews of Ezra and Nehemiah’s day, we often grieve over our sins.

But such mourning can be overdone. Here in our Scripture reading, God’s people have been saved from exile and are beginning to rebuild their lives! Ezra comforts them and calls them to joy. Isaiah’s words are being fulfilled: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for”. And if this speaks to exiles who returned to Jerusalem, how much more does it speak to us, who have been brought out of the exile of sin by the redemption of Jesus Christ!

We have a lot to do in building the city of God. We read in Proverbs 17:22: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” The joy of salvation gives us strength to push ahead.

Dear Lord, You said You would build Your church. Strengthen our hands with joy to work with You. Give us cheerful hearts, knowing You have given us new life! In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

With you I am well pleased


Colossians 1:9-10 (ESV)
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.

We were made to please. It’s not uncommon to hear five-year-olds say, “See what I can do?” as the child hops or does a somersault. Or another may bring us a drawing and say, “See what I made?” We try to please our boss; we like to please our spouse. The desire to please was created in us.

Though we were first made good (Genesis 1-2), we fell into sin (Genesis 3). Then later we read the devastating news that God’s “heart was deeply troubled” because he saw how great our wickedness had become. Our thoughts, words, and actions were so sinful that God regretted having made us human beings (Genesis 6:5-6).

It wasn’t until Jesus came that God could finally say, “With him I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Jesus, who was the Son of God but was also completely human, pleased God!

Jesus loved to please his heavenly Father. Jesus said, “The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him” (John 8:29).

What was it about Jesus that pleased his heavenly Father? Can you list some things?

In 2 Corinthians 5:9 Paul writes, “We make it our goal to please [Jesus].” How satisfying it would be to hear Jesus say to us at the end of each day, “With you I am well pleased!” What could we do today that would please him?

Dear Lord, as You pleased Your Father in all You said and did, may we please you in what we do and say each day. Amen.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Where are your eyes fixed?


Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV)
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Here’s a fun learning game to play with children: tell them to walk in as straight a line as possible toward a tree or fence post across the yard while concentrating only on their feet. The results are both entertaining and instructive. As we might guess, looking only at our feet will make us veer off course. The best way to go straight toward something is to keep looking at it as we go.

The writer of Hebrews knew this is true also for the Christian life: we should not get tangled in the work of putting one foot in front of the other. Instead we should focus on the destination: Jesus Christ. We must run the race marked out for us—but with our eyes fixed on the finish line.

The writer also adds more good news: we are not running on our own strength; we are running in the strength of Jesus Christ.

Christ is the root of our faithful run, and he is also the one who brings it to completion. We can take comfort in knowing that he has already run the race ahead of us. And he continues to provide all the spiritual blessings we need during the ups and downs, the joys and challenges of this earthly life.

As you run the race of faithful living, are you focusing steadily on Jesus, who ran the course already and helps you along the way?

Dear Lord, teach us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. Forgive us when we try to do things on our own. May we be led by Your Spirit in all we do. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Healing


Matthew 8:16 (ESV)
That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick.

In A.D. 410, barbarian tribes poured into Rome, ravaging and pillaging the proud city. In response to critics who said the rise of Christianity had weakened Rome, Augustine, bishop of the city of Hippo in North Africa, wrote The City of God. In that lengthy book, which became a major influence in Western civilization, Augustine brought assurance to those who had been violated and explained how Christ brings hope to the world. In his writing Augustine aimed to bring the healing power of Christ and his good news to people’s traumatized hearts and lives.

The Lord Jesus himself was “a man of suffering, and familiar with pain” (Isaiah 53:3). From the time of his boyhood in Bethlehem, where he barely escaped a massacre, to his death on the cross, he was the target of violence and hatred. But he moved with love among the people of Israel, healing miraculously with a touch or a word.

Over the door of a great hospital in New York City is an inscription: “Of The Most High Cometh Healing.” Whatever haunts your heart and threatens to leave your life a ruin, look to Jesus for healing. Remember, “He took up our pain and bore our suffering” (Isaiah 53:4).

Dear Lord, thank You for the healing of physical pains and difficulties. But we know that the root of our trouble is deeper, and that only You can ultimately heal our souls. We pray that You will stretch out Your healing hand today. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Respecting each other


1 Peter 3:15-16 (ESV)
15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Somewhere today, a child will remind her parents that respect must be mutual. Moms and dads may not like hearing that, but it’s true. The bars of our prisons become all the more poisonous when guards treat their wards as if they’re subhuman and prisoners consider their guards only as objects of dirt and ridicule. Mutual respect is essential for relationships at home, church, and everywhere else.

Peter calls us to “be like-minded” and “love one another,” calling for sympathy, compassion, and humility. Can we summarize these with one word: respect? At least in part. Respect calls for relating in ways that acknowledge our identity as image bearers of God and recipients of his divine love.

Peter reminds us that we should not expect to be harmed for doing good. But if that happens, we can count it as a blessing of honor. After all, Jesus suffered for doing good, didn’t he? We are to explain why we act the way we do in the light of our confession that Jesus is Lord. But the manner of our explanation must show respect for our questioner along with a gentleness that echoes the love of the Savior.

This means responding in such a way that malicious accusers will be ashamed. It means letting our actions speak louder than our words.

Dear Lord, thank You for the respect You show us in your gentle dealing with us, despite our sins. Empower us to see You in others and to respect them as objects of Your love. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

In honor of my wife's birthday


Mark 13:32 (ESV)
But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

“Only the Father knows” when it is time for a baby to be born. “Only the Father knows” when you were meant to grace the world with your presence. Whether 10, 20, 50, or 75 years ago, your heavenly Father caused you to enter the scene; He filled you with the potential and talents to change the world. Even before your earthly parents met, God knew you would be the result of their union.

God the Father welcomes about 353,000 babies into the world every day—and every day He wishes hundreds of thousands of His children already born, “Happy Birthday!” It’s easy to imagine a continuous, glorious birthday party celebration in Heaven proclaiming miracle after miracle after miracle.

Of the 7.4 billion people who inhabit the Earth, every one is a gift from God. Every person worldwide has the potential to make the world a beautiful place to live—through the love and peace of Christ. Let’s start today with a smile and a kind word for all we meet.

Dear Lord, help us to enjoy this day, for it is the day you have made. Also help us to look beyond just this day, just this year, and focus our eyes on eternity. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Letting go


1 Peter 5:7 (ESV)
Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

In the final scene of the movie Forrest Gump, Forrest Junior has started going to school, and Forrest has waited at the bus stop all day for him to come back. We may say that Forrest did that because he had an IQ of only 75, but in real life, many parents feel the same way when they send their children away for their first day of school.

Going to school for the first time is a big event for young children. They have to transition to spending a lot of their day interacting with strangers—teachers and other students. That makes for a big change not only in the children’s lives but also in their parents’ lives, especially for a parent who has been at home with their child every day for the past several years. It is not easy to let your child go.

The writer of Hebrews talks about what Abraham and Sarah had to let go. They let go of their home, extended family, and community when God called them to leave and travel to the land he would show them (see Genesis 12). Abraham was also willing to let go of his son Isaac, the promised son born to him and Sarah in their old age (Genesis 22:1-12).

They did all this “by faith”—and faith is a learning process. Just as parents get used to letting go as their children begin to grow up in life, so we too learn to let go of things in our lives as we trust God to guide us day by day.

Dear Lord, through the storm we pray that we would trust in You fully. Through the night lead us on to the light; take our hand Lord and lead us. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Thankful for the small things


Psalm 147:3, 7 (ESV)

3 He heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.
7 Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
    make melody to our God on the lyre!


When young children scrape a knee or elbow, they cry for a bandage—whether they needed one or not. It is surprising how much comfort can come from a small adhesive strip. That’s probably because the tiny bandage represented much more than a wound covering, it is put in place by hands with a history of showing love and tender kindness.

Throughout the Bible we can see that God also uses small things to bring hope and healing to the world. God chose the small nation of Israel and charged them to be a blessing to all other nations. Through this group of people, preserved and cared for by God’s faithful hands, the Savior, Jesus Christ, came into the world. And the Savior himself came in a tiny package: a baby born of a teenage peasant girl. Who would imagine that such a child would heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds?

Psalm 147 uses words that echo throughout the Bible and were made visible as Jesus went about his compassionate healing ministry. What’s more, Jesus promises to forgive all our sins and to be with us always to bring comfort and hope far beyond words printed on a page.

Today let us give thanks that God works in small ways. Ask him to help you see today how his faithful hands are tending your wounded heart.

Dear Lord, we want to thank You that You came in a small way to change everything with the forgiveness and hope that You brought. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Travelling mercies


Genesis 28:15 (ESV)
Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.

I remember a practice that my dad started with us as little kids.   When we would leave on a trip whether it was to go and see Grandpa and Grandma, Grandma, Uncle Bob or any other family vacation he would begin the trip with a prayer in the asking God to provide "traveling mercies." It's a practice we continued with our family and still do to this day. Ultimately it was a request that God would protect us along the way and return us safely home.

We live in an age of safety requirements. Safety belts and air bags are required in every automobile. Tires have to meet safety standards. Windows are made of safety glass. Rear doors have child-safety locks. But only God can keep us truly safe.

In the midst of his lonely escape from a brother plotting to kill him, Jacob meets God. In a sleep-induced dream, Jacob sees that God is with him, and he hears God make a promise of protection.

God will go with Jacob and watch over him. In this journey, God will ensure a safe return. God promises that he will never leave Jacob. And Jacob the schemer finds that God is the planner and provider. Jacob is learning the lesson God shared with Abraham: traveling mercies are about traveling with God.

Traveling mercies mark our movements as pilgrims along God's pathway. God wants us to come home. The destination isn't a matter of geography. Home is being with God--wherever we are.

Dear Lord, many of us wander. We never seem to be settled. Please guide us and make us pilgrims walking with you, day by day. And for those that have strayed help them find their way back to You.  In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Communication


Hebrews 1:2 (ESV)
But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

When we are away from family and friends, it’s good to keep in touch with them. Today we can do that by phone, text message, e-mail, Facebook—and even by the old method of sending postcards or letters.

God’s message comes to us in his Word, the Bible. And the Word of God has become flesh in the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:1-5, 9-14). As believers today, we can now hear and receive and live by the Word of God, and we experience something of the life God intended for us when he created the universe.

In the Old Testament God spoke through the prophets, but that communication was often limited to the situations of the people in those days. Prophets were spokespeople for God; Jesus is the Son of God. Prophets grasped part of the mind of God; Jesus is the mind of God. What more can be said than what God has spoken to us through his Son?

There are many ways in which God continues to communicate to us through Jesus, by the power of his Spirit. Today God’s Word is proclaimed all over the world. May people receive it for what it really is: good news that opens us to new life with God. Daily we read Scripture not simply for information but to hear how God is directing and sustaining us through his Son. As we follow Jesus, we also learn to pray and work, spreading the good news of salvation to build up the kingdom of God.

Dear Lord, speak to us that we may speak in living echoes of Your tone.  Help us bring Your Word to those around us so that it reaches into their hearts, that they may live by the truth. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.