We have just finished our 21 Day Fast!  Did you join us?  I have never heard God so clearly as during this time!  I am so thankful!  I pray you have experienced a life changing season of prayer and fasting as well.  We will continue to see how His kingdom on earth (as it is in heaven) is supposed to be.  May we have courage to allow Him to make it more real in our lives.

Feb. 24 – (Matt. 13:51-52) New and Old Treasures -I love one comparison of the first parable (the parable of the sower) with this one.  The sower and the householder both speak of the treatment of God’s Word by the individual recipient.  The one tells how it is to be received into the heart and to be allowed to bear fruit.  The other speaks of the heart as a treasury filled with the gathered “good fruit” that he gives away.  The householder brings out his stores for the benefit of others.  The parable of the sower represents how we receive, keep, and grow His fruit. The parable of the householder proves that the best way of keeping His fruit, is to give it to others.  Selah

Feb. 25 – (Matt. 18:10-14; Lk. 15:3-7) The Lost Sheep - Have you ever read “A Shepherd looks at the 23rd Psalm by Philip Keller? It helps to understand the impact of our Good Shepherd on us “poor” sheep.  Sheep are easily led astray. They keep their heads to the ground, busily nibbling, satisfying only the needs of their stomachs, often wandering off to find new grazing pasture and losing sight of the group.  A good shepherd will keep an eye on all the sheep and at the moment one is not back in the “fold” at the end of the day, will keep those in the fold in a safe place while he goes out to find that one who is missing.  Jesus is our Good Shepherd.  I think the timing and methods of “finding the one lost sheep” varies with each of us but “find us” He will!  Selah

Feb. 26 – (Matt. 18:23-35) The Unforgiving Servant –  WOW, this one really impacted me! The unforgiving servant owed 10,000 talents to his master.  One talent was 20 years’ worth, so multiply that by 10,000!  The fellow servant owed 100 denarii which equaled about 20 weeks of wages. Just as the master forgave the unpayable debt, God forgave our unpayable debt.  We just had to ask.  What came to my mind about the unforgiving servant was his actions showed he did not take ownership of his sin.  I picture him thinking it wasn’t his fault he mishandled funds, it was the other guy(s) who borrowed from him and didn’t pay him back. We have to first admit our sins to Jesus.  When we receive forgiveness, we also have to experience forgiveness.  (It’s one thing to receive a gift and another to have that gift do something to your heart.)  The evidence of that knowledge taken to heart is in forgiving others…every day…no matter the offense.  SELAH

Feb. 27 – (Matt. 21:28-32) The Two Sons Which “son” are you (or me)? I think we would all say we are like the first son. We said no to Christ first but then said yes at our conversion.  Whew!  Off the hook on this one!  Let’s be careful.  Do we ever “play church”?  We go, we sing with gusto, we tell those who ask that we are blessed and then we go home and nothing ever changes inside us.  I would say I am a hypocrite if I don’t grow in Him somehow through my days.  In those moments I am more like the second son who said yes and then didn’t show by his actions what he had agreed to.  We all do it (hopefully only at times).  When it happens, we have to be aware and we repent. The good news is we can still experience the kingdom of God (vs. 31).  It will just be a little later than some others!  Selah

Feb. 28 – (Matt. 21:33-44; Mk. 12:1-11; Lk. 20:9-18) The Tenants - What does this parable show us? Certainly, it reminds us that God chose the Jewish nation first but as they rejected Jesus, Gentiles were included in the salvation choice.  Let me quote a skit David A. Redding (from The Parables He Told) wrote describing how it may apply to us. Keep in mind the book was publish in 1962 which helps us understand the comparisons. “This skit (parable) has caught man red-handed in his most characteristic crime – playing God.  While God’s back is turned, or He has momentarily left the room, man has rebelled and taken over the class himself.  The parable’s picture is brutally honest.  Earth gives man his chance to prepare his lessons, invest his talents and get ready for the examination.  But what has he done?  He has exploited this study hall to put his own feet under the Teacher’s desk.  And in the laboratory, in open defiance of His text, he has mixed the materials to his own advantage to feather what he has the nerve to call his own nest.  And if he can’t get his own way he threatens to blow up the schoolhouse with an atomic concoction.”

                Here is one more passage that impacted me, from the same book.  “How many men act like trustees with their ‘time, talents, possessions’?  Modern living seems a mad scramble for ‘Squatter’s Rights,’ without the slightest regard for the One who made us and left us here.  Life behaves as a huge recess.  We don’t have to answer to anyone except ‘they’.  No one supposes he is subject to some superior audit.  How many bind up the scattered pages of their daily activities into a supreme record of stewardship?  The average man’s plans are ultimately pension plans.  Perhaps he divides up his estate fairly for his family in his will.  But he acts as if he were dividing up ‘mine’ instead of ‘thine.’” Selah

Mar. 1 – (Matt. 22:1-14; Lk. 14:16-24) The Wedding Feast - Did you know that God is the life of the Party?  We don’t know what it is to have a good time until we have celebrated with Him!  The gospel stands for Good News.  He has invited us to attend.  In this parable we see a king who invited the guests to come to the wedding celebration of his son.  But all the invited guests made excuses.  Let’s look at the reasons and see how they apply to us today.  First invited guest: “I am too busy with my financial portfolio”.  Second invited guest: “Taking care of my possessions needs to come first.”  The third invited guest: “My wife (my family) needs to come first.”  Last, one who came: “I’m here for what I can get but refuse to do what is required to be here.” 

                For the first three guests, it is tragic when these good things cease to serve God and start serving as excuses to be away from Him. These “good things” are not meant to sidetrack us but to “glorify Him” as He sees fit.  With the fourth guest, I see him as acknowledging God but not submitting to the requirements of being there (accepting Jesus’ robe of righteousness).

                One last statement: God will not let our stubbornness ruin His celebration! Selah

Mar. 2 – (Matt. 25:1-13) The Ten Virgins – Let’s get a little background first.  As God called himself Israel’s “husband” in the OT, so Jesus pictures himself here as a bridegroom.  It was Jewish marriage custom for the groom and his friends to leave his home and go to the home of the bride.  The marriage ceremony was conducted there, often at night.  The entire wedding party then returned to the groom’s home for a celebration banquet.  There is so much here, but I want you to do a little digging for yourself and what the Lord would say to you.  The entire point of this parable:  You must be ready for the best that could happen to you, for the all-important events in your life.

Feb. 19-25 Week 3 - Prayer and Fasting

 Feb. 19 - Jesus changes me from selfish to selfless   by Danny Graves

 Morning and Evening Meditation: Read: 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13

Pray: That you will understand and experience God’s love in such a way that it causes you to love others in the same way.

Devotional: Read: Mark 10:43-45

No doubt many of us have heard this statement that in our early years as children we were selfish.  We were born selfish, wanting to have our way, wanting what is ours, and most of the time wanting it when we want it. For example, have you ever watched a small child play with their toys?  Have you or another person (maybe another child) tried to play with that child’s toys?  What typically happens? The child sees you playing with their toy, runs up to you, snatches the toy out of your hand, and yells, “Mine!”  Typical behavior for young children. The challenge for many of us, however, is that as we get older, that selfishness doesn’t necessarily change.

There have been names or phrases coined to identify generations of people who demonstrate that selfish kind of attitude. The so-called Millennial Generation was dubbed the “Me! Me! Me! Generation”, the Baby Boomer Generation was known as the “Me Generation”, both largely due to their perceived selfishness and excessive interest in themselves.  I’ve even heard of something known as Individualistic Christianity the idea being it’s all about me!

I recently came across a devotional that challenges us to look at God’s creation as we really are - children of God.  The writer puts it this way. “The Bible says that we are created in the image of God. You! You are made to be like Him.  If you really embrace that, then you will realize you were made not to be selfish, or self-absorbed, you were made to serve, to help, and to be there for others.”

If you call yourself a Christian, that means you want to live like Jesus. And if you look at the life of Jesus, it was all about other people.  Jesus was always helping people, healing people, loving people, serving people, - the list goes on and on.

Remember the WWJD fad? (What Would Jesus Do) If you want to be like Jesus and truly live a Christian life, that means you do the same.  Live like you believe you were created in the image of God. Serve others like you are living out the life of Jesus.

Question: How intentional are you?  Do you look for ways that you can serve others?  Have you considered how you can serve in your community, your local schools, your church?

Prayer Challenge: Pray that you will learn to love people and to help people without expecting anything for yourself. 

Next Step : Challenge yourself every day to look for opportunities – big or small – to serve, help, love, and be there for others.  When you do this, you’ll be living the way God created you to live.

Feb. 20 - Jesus changes me from broken to whole   by Emily Vaas

 Morning and evening meditation: Read: “Behold, I am making all things new.” Rev. 21:5. “He has made everything beautiful in its time." Ecc. 3:11

Pray: Stop and be still for a moment. Ask the Lord to bring to your mind areas where you have been broken, hurt or wounded. These areas are most likely areas that you don’t need to look back too far to remember or recall. They may even be very present in your life at this very moment. Many of the memories are probably not places you want your mind to go, but they are necessary for healing. 

Devotional: Read: Psalms 31:14-24 

When we hear the word “broken,” we typically disassociate its meaning with happy thoughts, future dreams, or comfortable life experiences. Being broken is not often on our “to do” list. It's often painful and wearisome. We are joined by a large list of famous men, like David, Saul (later Paul), and even Abraham. These men had to go through a period of brokenness to be used by God. In the New Testament, the word “broken” is often associated with the broken body of Christ. Yes, even Christ was not exempt from brokenness.

So what is brokenness? What is its purpose? If Christ was not exempt from it, why do we believe we are? Brokenness led David to deep repentance and a reputation as a man after God’s own heart. He faced the death of his son, which brought him to a place where God could grow a king. God didn’t force David to be used by him, David had to become nothing so that the Lord could raise him as a vessel for His purposes. Brokenness led Saul down the road to Damascus, on his way to arrest disciples of the Lord. As Saul, he acted out of hatred against the followers of God, and with the authority of chief priests. But the Lord had a different plan. In Acts 9:15 the Lord tells Ananias that Saul, “is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.” However, for Saul to be used, he had to be become blind and rely on Ananias, one of the very disciples that he hated. He was broken before God, and this brokenness allowed him to become an essential tool to spread the gospel. Lastly, brokenness led Abraham to be the father of many nations. Abraham was broken as he raised the blade in obedience to the Lord. Before his eyes flashed the loss of the promise of God, his future, his son. Only then could God build a nation from a man who was reduced only to his faith in the Lord and the emptying of his will.

The purpose of brokenness, then, is to rid ourselves of any identity, will, agenda, or purpose that is not fully immersed in the Lord. Brokenness; however, is only for a season. Healing comes with the relinquishment of anything that is not fully surrendered to the Lord. In this relinquishment comes a healing unlike anything we could have manifested in our human will.

 Question: In your times of brokenness, what has God strengthened? Is it your faith? Your devotional time? Your love for your spouse? Your love for your family, friends, or parents?

Prayer Challenge : Thank the Lord for His guidance in your life. Thank Him for brokenness that leads to a better understanding of who you are in Him. Thank Him for taking away anything from your life that is not rooted in Him.

Next Step: Write down areas where you have felt broken--broken as a result of others, or as a result of your own choices. What has the Lord showed you during these times to strengthen your relationship with Him? Where has He made you more whole? Use these as a reminder that brokenness leads to vessels that can be built back up in the Lord. 

Feb. 21 - Jesus sends me as sheep among wolves   by Jeremy Gligora

Morning and evening meditation: Read: Matthew 10:16-20

Pray: Ask the Lord today to give you insight as you interact with people to see what is really going on in their hearts and minds.

Ask the Lord for the courage to speak His truth and His good news in any opportunity that will come up without regard to the possible consequences.

Devotional: Read: Matthew 10:16-20

Today’s passage could be titled, “there’s good news and bad news. I’ll start with the bad news”.

“Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves”. Not the most comforting of verses. This word picture was not coined by Jesus, this was a common phrase used in Israel at that time to describe the Roman occupation. Jesus borrows this metaphor and applies it to His disciples as they go out to their own people to spread the gospel. He was telling them up front that sharing the good news isn’t “good news” to everyone, and to some, it will cause to lash out like wolves attacking a sheep.

Sometimes we refuse to share our story or talk about Jesus with others, because we are afraid that we will be rejected, or that we won’t “be good enough” at it and will not be effective. The reality is, that according to Jesus, rejection and retaliation is a common response. Personally, I find this oddly reassuring because it means that I am not responsible for a “positive outcome”, but that’s not the encouragement Jesus offers in this passage. In the end of the passage, Jesus promises that if we will initiate a conversation about Him, He will join us and speak through us! Think about that. There is nothing more satisfying or exciting than experiencing the privilege of being used and empowered by God! If you will step out in faith, by taking advantage of an opportunity to talk about the Lord, Jesus promises that the Spirit of the living God will work through you.

Talking about the Lord can look like many things. You can share with a friend a story about something God did in your life. Offer to pray with someone who is struggling with something. Stand up for what’s right, and explain why, based on your faith, it’s wrong. Meet a need, and then explain how Jesus meets your needs and asks you to pay it forward.

Question: Look back over your last week. What is one situation that you could have turned into an opportunity to share Jesus with someone?

Prayer Challenge: Thank the Lord for the privilege of being used by Him for such an important mission, and then ask the Lord for boldness and vision to be a witness.

Next Step: Write down a plan of how tomorrow you can do something to create an opportunity to tell someone that Jesus loves them.

 Feb. 22 - Jesus sends me to forgive   by Samson Wasao 

Morning and Evening Meditation: Read: Genesis 45:4-8

Pray: Ask the Lord to reveal to you one person that you need to forgive.

Ask for the graciousness and humility to focus on what God is doing in your own life in this area of forgiveness.

Devotional: Read Genesis 45:4-8

 This is one of the most powerful passages in the Bible on how to truly forgive those who have wronged us. Joseph’s brothers had sold him off, made up a story about his disappearance or faked death to their father, and essentially forgot about him. In this passage, they appear before him to buy grain to take back home to their famine-ravaged country. To their shock, he reveals himself to them and surprisingly forgives and embraces them!

I have nursed unforgiveness against a member of my own family for what they said about my wife and me. I have held  a grudge against this person until the Lord clearly revealed to me that I had failed to love the person the way Christ loved me and totally forgave all my sin (1Cor.13:5; Col.3:13). Joseph, in this passage, did not hold any bitterness or a grudge against his brothers (although he had reasons to do so) but fully forgave and embraced them.

 Question: Are you harboring bitterness, a grudge, unforgiveness, or anger against anybody that you can think of-dead or alive? Like Joseph, God is sending you to that person to not count their sin against them but to fully forgive them. 

 Prayer Challenge: Ask God to show you that specific person that you need to go to and forgive this morning. Begin by thanking God for having forgiven you in Christ, and similarly thank God for the other person. Ask God to direct you on how you are going to let the person know that you have fully forgiven them.

 Next Step: Write down a specific action point on how you are going to go to this person and let them know that, although they hurt you, you have totally forgiven them in Christ.

Feb. 23 - Jesus sends me to stand in the gap in prayer   by Samson Wasao

Morning and Evening Meditation: Read: 2 Cor. 1:9-11

Pray: Ask God to reveal to you a specific situation or challenge that you should pray for on behalf of the person or persons that are going through a specific situation or challenge.

 Devotional: Read 2 Cor. 1:9-11

Paul had the spiritual habit of engaging other believers in prayers for him, his companions, his ministry, and for other Christians. Ezekiel calls this “standing in the gap” for others (Ezek. 22:30). Paul expresses confidence in the ability of the Corinthian Christians to pray for him and his companions about the hardships that he and his companions were experiencing while spreading the Gospel in the Province of Asia. He was sure that God works through the prayers of believers. His hope for victory is that as the Corinthian church “helps us by your prayers” this would lead to deliverance by the God who “raises people from the dead”!

When we decided to relocate to the USA to be missionaries among international students and scholars, I personally did not fully understand how much prayer support and encouragement we would need to go on with the ministry. We have been bombarded by many challenges from multiple fronts; health, family relations, finances, as well as obstacles in ministry.  I have been tempted to give up if it weren’t for the prayerful support of my wife and a small team of brothers and sisters, some here in the US, and others in Kenya. They have truly stood in the gap for us and our ministry!

 Question: Whom can you pray for today? Think about individual(s), a group, or an organization that is going through challenges or difficulties.

 Prayer Challenge: Thank God for the privilege of partnership with others in prayer, and ask God to put in your heart a desire to pray regularly for the person(s) or entity.

 Next Step: Ask God to put in your heart a desire to take action in prayer on behalf of the specific person(s) or entity today.

Feb. 24 - Jesus sends me to stand in the gap in actions   by Rye D’Orazio

 Morning and evening meditation: Read Eph 2:8-10

Pray: Ask the Lord today to reveal to you the totality of His handiwork and the call of a life of standing in the gap and “good works.”

Devotional: Read: Eph 2:8-10

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10 reveals that we have been "created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." This raises an obvious question: What are the good works God has prepared for me?

Many of us would be inclined to answer this question by pointing to specific things Christians tend to do as an expression of their faith. Good works would include: attending worship services, praying regularly, studying Scripture, giving generously from our financial resources, joining a small group, going on mission trips, caring for the poor, working for justice for the oppressed, loving our neighbors, and so forth. These are surely among the good works God has prepared for us. We rightly engage in these activities as people who have been transformed by God's grace through Christ.

But, if we think of good works only in these terms, we miss the extent to which God's plan for our good works is much broader and deeper. Our translation explains that we are created for good works, "which God prepared in advance for us to do." The Greek original reads more literally, "which God prepared in advance, so that we might walk in them." The language of walking was used by teachers in the time of Paul in the way we might talk of living or engaging in a certain lifestyle. In other words, the good works of verse 10 are not obviously religious activities scattered throughout an otherwise secular life. Rather, the good works encompass the whole of the Christian, all that we do by God's grace for God's purposes.

Ephesians 2:10 is similar to other passages of the Pauline letters that envision all of life as lived through and for God. Romans 12:1, for example, says, "I urge you ... to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God." This offering takes place, not in identified temples, but in everyday life. Similarly, Colossians 3:17 proclaims, "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus."

Therefore, though it's certainly right for you to invest yourself in the life of your church and to engage in works of outreach for the sake of the poor, the oppressed, and those who don't know God's grace in Christ, Ephesians 2:10 would encourage you to learn to see your whole life as an interconnected series of good works offered to God. This means that your good works can include that which you do at work, in the classroom, on the football field, in your neighborhood, and in your community associations. If you're a boss, part of your good works involve the way you manage your employees. If you're a parent, your good works include making dinner for your children as well as praying with them as you tuck them into bed. The more we grow in our faith, the more we see ourselves as God's masterpieces, the more we will indeed do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, by his strength, under his authority, and for his purposes.

 Questions: Do you tend to think of your whole life as an offering of good works to God, or do you tend to think of your good works mainly as activities that are obviously religious? How might your life be different if you began to see your whole life as an offering to God?

Prayer Challenge: Thank the Lord for His handiwork and reflect on thinking more truly and inclusively to see your whole life as an offering to the Lord.

Next Step: See how today you can make every moment of the day an occasion to live good works for the Lord.

Feb. 25  - We have just finished 3 weeks of prayer and fasting.  What has the Lord shown you in this time?  How much of what He has shown you are you putting into daily practice?  As you contemplate what you have learned and how you are applying it, share it with others...share it with us!  

Feb. 12-18 Week 2 - Prayer and Fasting

This is week 2 of our community fast.  How are you doing?  What is the Lord showing you as you purpose to pursue Him deeper than before?  I’m repeating the directions in case you need a refresher.  😊 Marlyn 

Welcome to our community fast! Over the next 21 days our CA family will be using this guide to seek the Lord through prayer, scripture study, and meditation. I am soooo excited to see how God encounters you as an individual as well as our church body as we set this time aside to allow the Holy Spirit to transform our lives!

This guide was written by members of Christian Assembly, so as you walk through this, embrace the idea that we are ministering to each other. This is truly an example of what the bible calls “iron sharpening iron”. I encourage you to take every opportunity to discuss what you have read and your thoughts on it with others when you are around other CA family during the fast. One of the coolest things about writing our own stuff is that if one day impacts you, in particular, you can track down and have further conversation with the author!

May the Lord bless your time seeking Him and expect BIG things! Blessings, Pastor Jeremy 

Stuff you will need: Bible (digital or analog),Pen,2-3 Times set aside in your day

Using the Guide: Each day begins with a “morning and evening meditation”. This section contains scripture and a prayer focus for the day. Decide on a specific time at the beginning and end of your day to spend at least 5 undisturbed minutes reading the scriptures, thinking about them, and praying.

You will also need to set aside a time during your day to walk through the devotional section. This is a short reading based on that days’ focus, followed by a question, a prayer challenge, and a next step you can take to apply what you have just studied. HERE WE GO!!

 Feb. 12 - Jesus loves me too much to leave me this way    By Sharon E. Thrower

Morning and Evening Meditation: Read Jeremiah 18:1-12

Pray: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there be any offensive and wicked way in me.  Lead me in the way everlasting.”  Psalm 139: 24, 25

Devotional: Read:  Jeremiah 18:1-12

    The Bible uses many things from everyday life, to teach about the principles and character of God.  A recurring illustration throughout Scripture is that of a vessel, jars, pots, etc.  It’s a very powerful illustration of the relationship between the Creator and the created. It beautifully illustrates that God has a purpose, plan and destiny for which, He, The Creator made us.  It also has many other layers of meaning, including who/what shapes us, who/what we contain and how useful we are in the course of our life and service to others in our designated roles. 

     Today’s Scripture reading, shows that God is in control.  This message was clearly portrayed to Jeremiah, as he watched a potter start over on a pot.  Jeremiah noticed that the vessel did not take the shape that the potter wanted it to take.  During that time in history, the Israelites had gradually come to think that God—because He had chosen them as His people—was obliged to protect them.  But their constant, disobedient behavior towards Him, had brought God to the point of “starting over.

    God is The Potter in our lives.  We are not in the hands of “chance” or “blind fate,” but we are in the hands of the Person of God Almighty. He is not just our Creator, but He is our Heavenly Father.  As our Father, He is personally concerned for our lives, and wants the best for us.

     Notice in this reading that the clay could not, nor did it mold itself.  Only God has the power to properly shape and guide our lives.  God, as The Potter, not only has the perfect plan for our lives, but He also sees the finished product in His mind. He knows the end from the beginning! He sets in motion a perfect plan for our lives.

      We may not be able to see the finished product, but God has already envisioned it and He promises an excellent result, if we would only trust Him and surrender every area of our lives to Him.  Notice from today’s reading that the potter never threw out the lump, but he re-makes the clay again.  This is a wonderful picture of God’s grace. Jesus loves us too much to leave us this way: broken, torn, and in a sinful condition. He may use difficult tests or even discipline to get us to yield, but in the end, we will become a useful vessel in His image. 

Question: Are you living a yielded life unto God?  What things, negative emotions, wrong attitudes, wrong thought patterns, bad habits, wrong relationships, sinful behaviors, etc., do you need to surrender to Him? 

Prayer challenge: Pray, unto God, the words of this hymn, entitled Have Thine Own Way.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way! Thou art The Potter, I am the clay.  Mold me and make me, after Thy will.  While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way! Search me and try me, Master today.  Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now; as in Thy Presence, humbly I bow.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way! Wounded and weary, help me, I pray!  Power, all power, surely is Thine!  Touch me and heal me, Savior Divine!

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way! Hold over my being, absolute sway!  Fill with Thy Spirit, till all shall see; Christ only, always, living in me!

Next Step: Go to YouTube and listen to the song called: “The Potter’s House”, by Tremaine Hawkins. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C14OuEGghhk  After listening to this song, write down what the Holy Spirit speaks to your heart. Expect Him to minister to you.

“Now unto Him, Who Is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fail and with great joy; to the only Wise God our Savior, be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore!  Amen.”  {Jude 24, 25}

Feb. 13 - God calls me His son   By Torry Gligora   

Morning and Evening Meditation: Read: Galatians 4:4-7

Pray:  For a fresh awareness that you are a son or daughter of God the Father.

Devotional: There’s no greater privilege, next to salvation, than to know we are sons and daughters of God, through faith in Jesus.

To be redeemed from under the law was miraculous enough (v5a). But the goodness of God didn’t stop there.  Our text goes on and tells us, He redeemed us so we could receive the adoption of sons (v5b). Listen to that!  When you receive Christ into your life, the Father receives you into His family.

The Apostle John affirms, “Now we are the sons of God…” (1 John 3:2) It’s not something we have to aspire to become; the “adoption papers” are signed and finalized through Jesus.  You belong to God--His child.

The most powerful part of being a child is having a father.  A child looks to a father (and mother) to find identity, acceptance, attention, provision, security and affection. Take a moment to give thanks for each of these expressions of love the Father has for you. 

Then the text says, “God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’”  Our nature begins to reflect that of a child of God.  We cease to see God as unapproachable, judgmental, or unavailable, but rather with childlike sincerity, we call on Abba (Daddy).

And it gets better still!  As an adopted child, we’ve not only been given “son-ship,” but “heir-ship.” We are entitled to every blessing the Kingdom of God affords.  All the riches the Father has given Jesus are ours as well.

Question: How would some areas of your life change if you managed them as a child of God?

Prayer Challenge: Ask the Lord to help you believe and live according to who you are in Christ – A child and heir of God.

Next Step: Pick a present situation or relationship and make a plan of what a child/heir of God would do. 

Feb. 14 - Jesus calls me his bride   By Metty Nyang’oro

Morning and Evening Meditation: Read: Hosea 2:16-23

Pray: Ask the Lord to reveal to you what it means to be chosen by Him. Ask the Lord to show you the beauty of His salvation in your life.

Devotional: Read: Hosea 2:16-23

I am not aware of any culture that doesn’t celebrate marriage in one form or another. Do you know about 2 million weddings take place in the United States each year? Now image the number of weddings taking place in the world each year. Amazing! I think weddings are fun because there is something for everyone - from the bride’s dress, tear-jerking moments, food, dancing, etc. However, I believe weddings are great, because they serve as a visual representation of love.

However, the text in Hosea, is drawing our attention to a different kind of wedding. This one is a glorious wedding to come, with us - the Church, as the bride, and Jesus Christ as the bridegroom. In Tanzania, where I grew up, it is customary for a bridegroom to pay a dowry. A girl is considered betrothed once a dowry, which could be money, a herd of cows, sheep, or goats, is accepted. Betrothal, therefore, must cost a bridegroom something. As a church, we are betrothed to Jesus through his costly and precious blood poured out on the cross for us!

For the “dowry” Jesus paid on the cross, Apostle Paul (Ephesians 5:25-27) reminds us that a bride betrothed to Jesus is expected to be holy and without blemish. For the majority of us, the idea of maintaining holiness is scary, because we are typically aware of our shortcomings. Nevertheless, as we read in Ephesians 5:25-27, Jesus has taken upon Himself to maintain us as His bride! He is the one who is sanctifying and cleansing us.

So what should our response be as we reflect on our charge and identity as Jesus’ bride? I think our response should be that of worship and thanksgiving, because our position as Jesus’ bride implies being chosen, deeply loved and relentlessly pursued by Him. The best part of all is, as we wait for the wedding day, we don’t have to search for a perfect wedding dress. Jesus has already clothed us with garments of salvation and has wrapped us with His robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10). How awesome is He!

Question: Think of all the things in your life – attitudes, ambitions, emotions, possessions, etc. How are they hindering you from committing to a life of holiness?

Prayer Challenge: Pray that the Lord will reveal to you all the things that have become a “baal” to you. Pray that the Lord will help you turn your heart completely to Him.

Next Step:Reflect on your walk with the Lord. For those areas that are no longer a struggle for you, find at least one person with whom to share your testimony.

Feb 15 - Jesus calls me his disciple   By Eric Cochran

Morning and Evening Meditation: Read: John 13: 34-35

Pray: Ask the Lord what His love looks like in each facet of your daily life. Pray outside of the box here. What does it look like in my church life? My work/school life? How about in relationships with immediate and extended family? My causal interactions with co-workers/classmates, neighbors, strangers, etc.? What does it look like with people with whom I do not agree? How about with people who do not like, or perhaps, even hate me?

Devotional: Read: John 13: 34-35

There are many things that can be written about our identity as a disciple of Jesus. A few too many for one devotion, that’s for sure. However, if there is one recurring theme throughout Scripture that defines a disciple, it’s love. After all, it is 1/9 of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22)  If you have been to a wedding you are likely familiar with the “Love Chapter” (1 Corinthians 13). In today’s passage, we are specifically talking about Christ’s love for us; that we, in turn, are to give away to others.

Jesus tells us that as His disciples, we are to love one another just as He loves us. This applies to believers and unbelievers alike. Scripture teaches that God showed His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Pre-disciple, if you will. He loved us first and there was nothing we did to earn His grace and love.

So, how exactly do we love others with His love? The answer is simple yet daunting. We are to show His love unconditionally and equally to all people, sinner and saint alike. Our human love tends to be positional and conditional. We love our children because they are our children and we love others because we agree with them or like what they say or do. It’s convenient and comfortable. However, Jesus’ love for us was neither convenient nor comfortable. It led Him to the cross. His love is not a response to anything we say or do. It does not mean that He likes our conduct if it is contrary to His Word, but He loves us just the same.

Now, I understand that some people can be challenging to love, especially when we disagree with their beliefs or some aspect of their life. However, when we begin to love these “challenging” people, we are truly loving as Christ loved, unconditionally and equally. I am quite certain that I have been someone’s “challenging” person more than once in my life.

Question: Who do you find difficult to love? In what practical ways can you begin to show them Jesus’ love?

Prayer Challenge: Ask the Lord to help you express His love equally with everyone, especially with those you may find difficult to love. 

Next Step:Take an inventory of those you find difficult to love. Prayerfully, begin to jot down some ideas on how you can show them the love of Jesus and ask God for opportunity to put these ideas into action.

Feb. Feb. 16 - Jesus changes me from weak to strong   By Harriston Wilson

Morning and Evening Meditation: Read: 1 John 4:16-19

Pray: Pray that we will not rationalize things when God may be leading us somewhere entirely different than what our intellect says.

 Devotional: Incredible though it may seem, the weak are admonished to say they are strong. But in order to ascertain a more in depth knowledge and understanding of weak and strong, let us determine how and where we may be weak or strong.

Mankind is a triune being: spirit soul and body.  Therefore if man is weak or strong, it would have to be in one or more of man’s beings. May I submit that the spirit of man is either dead or alive, never weak.

(1) The spirit of man is the lifeline and if the lifeline is severed from God, man is a dead, walking being. The spirit of man must be restored to God through Christ. Then man’s spirit is alive, strong and well; not weak.

(2) The soul, (mind, will and emotions) determines whether body or spirit will have dominance. It is the soul that will dictate the mental state of man as it relates to being weak, growing, or strong toward the will of God.

(3) The physical body of man contacts the world. We come into this world as a baby (weak), growing physically stronger each day. (That is not to deny that a senior moment may avail itself in our senior years.)

With that being said we have an intercessor, Jesus, who took our illnesses and carried our diseases. Jesus did not die because He was weak.  He died because He was strong, and was resurrected to challenge the weak to become strong.

Question: Am I ruled by my emotions, instead of making them bow to Him?

Prayer Challenge: Pray with the mind of Christ__ “As He is, so am I in this world!”

Feb. 17 - Jesus changes me from independent to reliant   By Tammy Botkin 

Morning and evening meditation :Read:  Ephesians 3:20, Psalms 37:5, Proverbs 3:5-7, Jer 29:11-14

Pray: Ask the Lord how to be dependent on/trusting of His will in all areas of life. Ask Him to reveal areas that are functioning independent of His control…so you can be totally dependent and confident in His provision.

Devotional: Read : Ephesians 3:20, Psalms 37:5, Proverbs 3:5-7

 Giving up control can be scary. It’s like the old trust trick; a person behind you is standing, ready to catch you, and then you fall backwards. If you’ve ever done it, you might have had a quick conversation with yourself…”Can I rely on this person?...What if I fall?”

Independence means: “free from outside control; not depending on another's authority”. It’s the leaning on one’s own understanding and ability. The world often seeks after this…it ties independence to success, self-esteem, self-discipline. It’s no wonder there is temptation for self-reliance. Yet the most “independent” people in the world have been left in personal ruin…it’s just too heavy to bear. We can try to create a half-way decent life, dependent on our own ability, but God says a life fully reliant in Him is so much more than we can hope for or imagine.

Power and Freedom. Ephesians 3:20 says; “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us…”.  You’re either working via your own power or His. Which option is secure? Promising? Full of hope? God has more for us when we’re dependent on Him, than we can ever obtain on our own. Reliance actually brings freedom. Freedom from worry, doubt, burdens. Ps 37:5 says “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you”.

We are designed to depend on God. We need fellowship with Him, security, direction and hope. Proverbs 3:5-7 says: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom…Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

When we rely on God, blessings follow. Proverbs 3:5-7 says “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. 8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.”

Not something we can ever promise ourselves...without Him.

Question: Am I really trusting the Lord with every area of my life? Or just the ones where my hands are tied?

Prayer challenge: Lord I want to rely on You. Help me to seek You first; trusting Your path for this (and all) area/s of my life. For You have plans for me! A future and a hope. (Jer 29:11-14)

Next Step: Look at areas of your life that may not be producing fruit. Bring focus to these areas during daily prayer time. Give them/trust them to God.

Feb. 18 - Jesus changes me from fearful to confident   By Kelly Chakra

Morning and Evening Meditation: Read: Matthew 10:26-33

Pray: Heavenly Father you are wonderful, and I praise you because you are the Lord Almighty, the Holy One, and the everlasting God of love. Your will be done in my life today as I read your word and hear from you. Renew my mind with your heavenly perspective. Help me to understand your Word when you said, “perfect love casts out all fear”. Search me and show me if there is any fear in me that is keeping me from your perfect, unfailing love.  Forgive me and deliver me from fear. I take authority over fear in my life in the name of Jesus and by the blood of the lamb that was slain.  Father, Your's is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever, amen.

Devotional: Fear is a word I can relate to. I was so shy growing up that the thought of attending youth group or even having casual conversations with anyone outside of my circle of friends gave me great fear and anxiety. My first taste of true confidence in life was when I discovered I had a talent that made people think highly of me. That confidence quickly turned to pride. Then, the Lord allowed that talent to be taken away from me for several years. My only confidence and identity was lost.

After this season, a confidence that could never be lost was discovered in turning to my creator and experiencing His perfect love in spite of my shame. But I learned that a relationship with our God is mutual. In order to fully experience His love, we must learn to love Him back. To love Him back is to obey His Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching” and “the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:23, 26)

In order to overcome fear, we must stand on the Word of God. Choose to stand on an encouraging word from Jesus, “Do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matt 10:19-20) If I am fearful in obeying God, it means I have not fully received or understood His perfect love.  If I do not obey the Holy Spirit on a daily basis when He is leading me to say or do something, it means I fear what man’s words or actions can do to me more than I fear the God who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Question: Thinking back to yesterday, did the sum of your actions prove your fear of man or fear of God?

Prayer Challenge: Ask the Lord to search your heart and reveal what’s true about you today. Confess any fear of man, and repent. Decide before God that you are turning away from that fear. Ask the Holy Spirit for direction today. Keep asking until you hear clearly. He usually doesn’t show you until you are in the moment of needed direction.

Next Step: Choose today to obey the Holy Spirit’s prompting. Allow God to get past the limitations of your human mind. Do not reason in your mind but obey as He shows you what is needed for each moment. If you delay, you may miss the opportunity. During fasting is a great time to practice hearing and obeying the Holy Spirit, because instead of being full with food, you are full with the Spirit. I’ve found I can see and hear more clearly during fasting. Every time you choose to obey the Holy Spirit, your confidence in God the Father grows. Soon we will be like Jesus doing and saying only what the Father has told us to do and say (John 12:49-50). It just takes one step, one act of obedience to walk away from fear. 


Feb. 5-11 Fast and Pray!

Hello Bloggers!  We begin our 21 day fast today so I have included the devo notebook (you can download the original in our "connections") for us to follow.  I have changed the layout a little and took out notes space for a more concise version. I am so looking forward to what He will show us!   :) Marlyn  

Welcome to our community fast! Over the next 21 days our CA family will be using this guide to seek the Lord through prayer, scripture study, and meditation. I am soooo excited to see how God encounters you as an individual as well as our church body as we set this time aside to allow the Holy Spirit to transform our lives!

This guide was written by members of Christian Assembly, so as you walk through this, embrace the idea that we are ministering to each other. This is truly an example of what the bible calls “iron sharpening iron”. I encourage you to take every opportunity to discuss what you have read and your thoughts on it with others when you are around other CA family during the fast. One of the coolest things about writing our own stuff is that if one day impacts you, in particular, you can track down and have further conversation with the author!

May the Lord bless your time seeking Him and expect BIG things! Blessings, Pastor Jeremy 

About this Devotional Guide:Stuff you will need: Bible (digital or analog), Pen, 2 -3 Times set aside in your day

Using the Guide:Each day begins with a “morning and evening meditation”. This section contains scripture and a prayer focus for the day. Decide on a specific time at the beginning and end of your day to spend at least 5 undisturbed minutes reading the scriptures, thinking about them, and praying.

You will also need to set aside a time during your day to walk through the devotional section. This is a short reading based on that days’ focus, followed by a question, a prayer challenge, and a next step you can take to apply what you have just studied.


Feb. 5  -  Jesus speaks to me when I invite Him to  By Daryse Osborne

Morning and Evening Meditation :Jeremiah 33:3 NKJV: Call to me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things which you do not know.

Pray: Lord, help me to be aware of Your Presence in each part of my day. Help me to allow you access to my circumstances. 

Devotional: What’s it like to get an invitation to something?  It depends on who it’s from and what it’s for…right?  Jesus gave many invitations in the gospels.  For example, He invited Simon and his brother Andrew, who were fishermen, to follow Him, telling them He would make them fishers of men.  He asked Zacchaeus in Luke 19 to come out of a tree so he could go to his house and dine with him. He invited the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 to drink from water that only He can give. Jesus was present, accessible; these were all personal invitations!  In each account, the person He invited, accepted His invitation, inviting Christ to transform his or her life.

In the Jeremiah 33 scripture, the Word of the Lord came to Jeremiah a second time to confirm the promise of the restoration of the Jewish people to their country, but also to encourage them! In the same way, God invites us to invite Him to show us things he has for us…important things that the Amplified Bible says, “have been confined or hidden.”  Like the people in the gospel accounts, we have an opportunity to invite Christ to be an active, transforming part of our lives EACH day. Like, the people in Jeremiah’s day, we can invite Him to reveal any area or thing that we haven’t given Him access to or that seems hidden from us right now. Jesus is accessible! 

Question: Take a few minutes and ask yourself where you are in your life right now: how are you feeling…energized or tired?  peaceful or overwhelmed?  burdened or joyful?  worried…hopeful? Do you sense God as near or far away?

Prayer Challenge: Talk to Jesus.  Invite Him to reveal any area that you may not have considered, or that you may be keeping from Him.

Next Step:Write down your specific invitations for Him to be an active part of your life today. Continue this each day this week.

Feb. 6 -   Jesus speaks to me when I give Him a chance by removing distractions  by Rich Helpman

Morning and Evening Meditation: Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV: Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Pray: Lord, show me what is in the way, an easily ensnaring sin, or a weight that may be bogging me down. Show me the path of the righteous that shines bright and looks unto Jesus. Help me to have endurance for my race, so I may complete my faith; my words and deeds together giving you glory. 

Devotional: Our enemy prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.  From his perspective the next best thing to being unsaved is being an ineffective Christian. Many times he renders us ineffective through distractions.

Consider: The heavens are always declaring the glory of God. (Psalm19:1-4)

What may be known about God is clearly manifested, and His attributes are able to be clearly seen and understood through creation.  (Romans 1:19, 20)          

So, if the voice of heaven and the created world are declaring the glory and power of God, and I'm not hearing or noticing, what's in the way? Distractions. Many people reject God at this level.  Romans 1 and 2 describe these people as those who knew God but did not glorify Him as God. They loved pleasure rather than God. Distracted by their sin and it's pleasure. We should lay aside sin so we can run! Perhaps our faith has brought us to a place where we are closer to God and can hear His voice more clearly.

Consider: “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose, I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” Therefore, the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to Him.” Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake.” John 12:27-30 NKJV

What a blessing to hear the voice of the Father answering the prayer of Jesus for our sake! But notice that some attributed the voice to thunder or to an angel. They heard the voice, but did not understand the voice. What was the cause of their confusion? Distractions. Their faith had brought them to the presence of Jesus as a spectator of his ministry, but not yet to maturity, not yet to full understanding. Many are stuck here in their walk with God by distractions. Have you ever been in a service and forgotten the songs that were sung, or the message that was preached?  Are you more Martha than Mary? Worried about many things when only one thing is necessary? We should lay aside the weight of "busyness" so we can run!

Perhaps our faith has brought us into a deeper relationship that allows us to not only acknowledge God's glory, and not only hear His voice, but truly understand what He is saying to us. We know who He is and what He expects of us, His gifts and calling in our lives.

Consider: “Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’” Luke 14:15-20 NKJV

Invited guests to the supper in the Kingdom of God over time became more interested in the things of this world. Possessions, business, and family all became more important than feasting with the King.  Not flagrant sin, but the "cares of this world" and the "deceitfulness of riches" grew up and choked the Word (Matt. 13:22). Distractions. Right up until the time of the Wedding of the Lamb, distractions are to be guarded against. 

Our enemy is wily and restless, and comes subtly, not in a red suit with a pitchfork! He disguises himself as an angel of light and speaks deceiving words like, "your sin is not that bad, after all, others have done worse things", and "these worldly possessions and pursuits are not evil, God understands your divided devotion".

Oh beloved, may we hear the Word of the Lord and lay everything aside! May we run without hindrance the race set before us! And may we be faithful to the end and hear Him say, "Well done good and faithful servant!"

Question: What is MY hindrance?

Prayer Challenge: "Lord, show me what is in the way, and give me a willing spirit to accept Your direction."

Next Step: Make a permanent change regarding what is arresting your spiritual growth, because you love Him! 

Feb. 7 -   God speaks to me through my emotions   By Scott Osborne

Morning and Evening Meditation: Read: 1 John 4: 7-16

Pray: Ask the Lord to give you new insights about how He wants to use your emotions as a way to speak to you.

Devotional: Emotions are often considered a bad thing. Have you ever heard someone say, “Don’t be so emotional”? I’m not personally wired to express a very broad range of emotions. My face and vocal inflections aren’t extremely different when I’m happy versus when I’m sad. But I’ve learned to value emotions thanks to my wife and daughters. They all tend to express their emotions through tears. Sad moments evoke tears. Happy moments produce tears. Empathy…tears, anger…tears, inspiration…tears. More times than I can recall, I’ve been at a restaurant with the three of them when they were all crying. I hadn’t hurt their feelings; we had been discussing something that touched them emotionally. Imagine the looks I’ve gotten from servers who happened upon these scenes. But I love the emotional sensitivity these precious women possess. Surely they are reflecting the heavenly Father’s heart.

When Jesus observed the family and friends of Lazarus mourning his death, the Scriptures tell us He was deeply moved and He wept. Emotion. Moses’ reluctance to accept God’s call at the burning bush to lead the Israelites out of Egypt caused the LORD’s anger to burn against him. Emotion. 1 John 4:16 (NIV) says, “We know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love.” Emotion.  God created us with emotions and the Bible reveals His own expressions of emotion. Emotions are not a bad thing. They are gifts from God. In fact, 1 Corinthians 13:13 tells us love (an emotion) is the greatest gift.

The love I feel as I hold my grandchild can give me a glimpse of how much God loves me. If I feel fear about a decision I’m considering, it may be the Lord nudging me in a different direction. If news of a social injustice triggers my anger, God may be spurring me to join a group aiding the oppressed. The warmth I feel as I gaze upon a spectacular sunset may initiate a time of worship for the Creator who made it. Let’s understand and embrace our emotions as a gift from God through which we can know Him better.

Question: Can you recall a time when you sensed God through an emotion? What was the emotion and what did you sense?

Prayer Challenge: Ask the Lord to help you hear Him in every way He wishes to communicate with you, including your emotions.

Next Step: Begin training yourself to hear God through your emotions. As you are aware of your emotions throughout the day today, pause to consider what God may be showing you in that moment.

Feb. 8 -   Jesus speaks to me through my thoughts    By Karen Hart

Morning and evening meditation: Read: Colossians 3: 1-4

Pray: Ask the Holy Spirit to help you set your mind on things above, on things that have eternal rewards, not on things that will have no value for eternity. Ask the Lord to help you delight in Him alone, and be rid of any desire for worldly things.

Devotional: Read: Colossians 3: 1-4   

       Today’s passage looks at my relationship with Christ through my thoughts. When we say we are born again Christians, what does that mean to us? Do we think raising our hands at a fellowship gives us the get out of hell card? If we called on Jesus with all sincerity, we are transformed from death to life, we are then “raised with Christ” as we have died with Him in renouncing our sins, seeking repentance and following Him. Now IN Christ, our complete delight should be for the things of God, “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not the things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

       When we set out minds on things above, we set our minds on Jesus. We find that our thoughts are infiltrated with heavenly discussions and we want Him to delight in us. We desire to give Him pleasure and actually if I might state, we want to make Him laugh. As we set this mind of ours on the upward path the Lord Himself speaks to us, the Holy Spirit tells us all truths - telling us what He hears, shows us things to come and things we ought to do. He directs my decisions when I am focused on Him.

       How awesome is that last verse, “when Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” You would have had such a close relationship with Him as you navigate this earth as a pilgrim, because you spent so much time with Him; listening and chatting with Him, obeying His instructions and delighting in Him as He delights in you too. What a glorious day that will be. I am always grateful that we are allowed to seek after glory, honor and immortality! We will get those, once the Lover of our Souls comes back for us.

Question: Look back over your last week. Where was your mind set on most of the week? On the things above or the things on earth? Did you find yourself hearing Jesus more with your mind set on earth or, whenever you set it on things above

Prayer Challenge: Thank the Lord for the ability to hear Him speak and ask the Holy Spirit to help you set your mind on things above, and stay speaking and listening to Jesus 

 Next Step: Write down a plan of how tomorrow you can set your mind on heavenly treasures, on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, on the fruit of the Spirit and on making Jesus laugh. I would suggest reading the Bible as a good start. 

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­   Feb. 9 -    God speaks to me through His word   By Shannon Gligora 

 Morning and Evening Meditation: For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With His love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. Zeph 3:17

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.  They cannot be numbered!  I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!  Psalm 139:17-18

Devotional: I recently went through a time of battling anxiety.  It was more intense than I had ever experienced before.  For a couple of months I barely slept 4-5 hours per night because irrational fears dominated my mind.  I was awake by 3 or 4 am every day and couldn’t go back to sleep.

Thoughts raced through my mind that I knew were lies, but in the moment they felt so true.  In those times, I became desperate to hear God’s voice louder than the lies.   I wanted to find proof of His truths in His Word.  When I couldn’t sleep past 3 or 4 am I would sit in my bathroom and do google searches for scriptures of different topics— “scriptures for peace, scriptures for healing, scriptures about God’s love, scriptures about God’s goodness,” etc.   I read his word, spoke it aloud, and meditated on it.  I intentionally filled my mind with His truth in order to drive the lies out of my mind.  Those words were all that got me through many days.

God is so faithful.  He says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Through His word, He speaks to us.  When we open the Bible, we get to see what he says, what he thinks, what’s on his heart.  We feel His presence.  We feel His peace.  Through His Word, we find Him.

Question: What do you need from Him today?  What truth have you heard about that you need to find proof of in the Bible?  Do you need to know that he loves you?  Do you need to know that He’s faithful?  Do you need to know that He has good plans and a good future for you?  Do you need Him to help you sleep at night?  I encourage you to seek out scriptures that show you those truths.  

Prayer Challenge:Father God, open my eyes to your truth in your word.  Give me understanding.  As I read your word, help me to feel your presence near and give me ears to hear your voice.  Speak to me in a fresh way today. 

Next Step: Find one verse that speaks to you today and meditate on it throughout the day. (Feel free to use google if you need help finding one!)  Say it aloud.  Write it down and carry it with you. Think on its meaning. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you—ask for a fresh revelation of who God is for you TODAY.

 Feb. 10 -  Jesus loves me regardless of my past    By Eric Vaas 

 Morning and Evening Meditation: 2 Corinthians 5:17: 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Pray:  Lord, help me to remember that I am made new in you! My old life has “passed away” according to your Word. I do not have to relive the past.

Devotional: I have an old house, and especially during the spring rains, I get water in the basement. Now that isn’t a problem usually. I just have to be sure that my jury-rigged sump pump is working and it collects the water from the sump pit and spews it out onto the driveway.  Last year we had a tremendous downpour that lasted for some time, and I neglected to check the pump to be sure that it was working. In the morning, I awoke to about 3 inches of water in the basement. The problem was the pump had been too close to the side wall of the pit and the float jammed preventing it from turning on. I lost our washing machine, but I replaced it knowing we were about due soon for a new one and had gotten our money’s worth out of the water-logged one. I also lost a treadmill because of the water damage to the two motors and electric components. That treadmill had been a gift for my wife Becky, and I had done my share of replacing worn parts on it to keep it in good shape for her. That treadmill sat in my basement for months as I wrestled with the decision to buy all of the replacement parts needed to get it working again or not. The problem for me was that those parts came close to the original purchase price.  I was so irritated by my lack of forethought to go and check on that sump pump! If only I would have checked on it, I would have saved myself lots of money and effort and self-inflicted guilt. Finally, after talking with Becky, we decided that it wasn’t worth repairing, so my daughter and I hauled it out to the street. Within minutes someone stopped and picked it up. I even helped him load it into his vehicle.  The funny thing was, I had such a sense of release when it was gone. You see, every time I went to the basement that water-logged treadmill sat there, mocking me…reminding me of my failure to check the pump, and that I, and no one else, was responsible for its condition. Having it out of the house brought a certain amount of emotional freedom.

Sometimes in my mind I wander back to some of the foolish things I did in my younger days and those thoughts are like that treadmill in my basement, reminding me of my failures, and taunting me with the “how could you have ever done THAT” types of thoughts. It is then that I have to stop and remind myself that the Word of God tells me that Christ died for me while I was a sinner! Because I am in Christ, I am a new creation! Old things in my life have passed away and I am a new creation! What great freedom we all have in that truth, if we will just allow it to sink into our spirits! We need to get that old treadmill out of our basements and kick it to the curb once and for all! 

Question: Look back over your last week. Are you still reliving your past mistakes? Are you remembering someone else’s mistakes? 

Prayer Challenge: Thank the Lord for His forgiveness, and that at the point of our salvation, we became a new creation in Christ! 

Next Step: Write out 2 Corinthians 5:17 and keep it where it can be an easily seen as a reminder of being a new creation!  

Feb. 11   Jesus loves me as I am    By Megan Krueger

Morning and evening meditation: Read: Luke 5:1-11;27-31

Pray: If you’re feeling unloved, lacking confidence or trust in Jesus’ love for you in any area of your life, or you are struggling to accept yourself as you are, ask the Lord to reveal to you who your identity is in Him. Ask Him to help you to accept His love, and show you how to love yourself as you are, so you can grow in Him and show His love to others.

Devotional: Read: Luke 5:1-11;27-31

I have always struggled with two things in my life; body image and not being good enough. Both of these things have greatly influenced the person I am today for better and for worse. In the area of body image, I used to pretend I didn’t care about how I looked up until high school, while I wore baggy shirts and bandanas, but in reality, I had been paying attention since I was an overweight girl in elementary school. No one ever called me fat to my face, but they didn’t have to-- you just hear people saying negative things about other people that are like you, and you come to the conclusion on your own. I was not the “pretty one”, and even to this day I struggle with people telling me I look nice. And as for the struggle of not feeling “good enough”, I can easily say that is probably true for almost every artist I’ve ever known. I don’t think I know many artists who can truly take a compliment well, and in fact, we are used to constant rejection and criticism from our peers and audience. For me, praise received is rarely accepted, actually believing it as truth, because I can always see the imperfections and mistakes in my work. Needless to say, I’m a work in progress!

And that’s all just a couple of struggles in my own life. Whether it’s because of something we do, don’t do, or something done to us to make us feel less than.   There are those of us in our church, and people in the world, struggling with even more than we can imagine that keeps them from fully accepting the fact that Jesus loves them as they are.  We live in a day and age that lets feelings and fear guide our way, rather than God’s Truth. We forget that feelings are fleeting; they change, and that sometimes leaves us feeling “less than” or “not good enough” when we have evidence of Jesus’ Truth saying otherwise.

Let’s look at the scripture to see one of the many examples of how Jesus loves and accepts us as we are. In Luke 5, we see Jesus choose His first disciples. These men are failures in the world’s eyes in essence. These are the Jews that could not cut it in seminary school and were working jobs that were not respectable, such as fishermen and tax collectors. And still, Jesus walks right up to them and tells them to follow Him right then and there as they are. He didn’t say, “Ok, well I want you to be my disciples, really I do, but you’re just not enough ____.” No, Jesus’ only expectation was their obedience. And in being obedient to Him, this led to changed lives for these men. He changed them, and the world, by His love for us all as we are, and proved it through His sacrifice for our sins. So, the Truth is that obedience and trust lead to your identity in Him and a better life. The short answer to believing in Jesus’ love for us: we cannot trust the opinion of ourselves, if it is in conflict with Jesus’ Truth. Take hold of that today, and let Jesus love you as you are, so you can love others like Jesus and make a difference in this world that so sorely needs His love.

Question: Do you struggle with loving yourself as you are? How can you work on loving yourself as God loves you? How can you help others to love themselves?

 Prayer Challenge: If you, or know someone struggling with the Truth of Jesus’ loves for them, and loving themselves, pray for their spiritual health and guidance. Ask God to reveal the Truth in His Word and through your everyday blessings.

Next Step: Throughout the next week, be alert to moments in yourself and others that make you feel unloved or not good enough, and say a prayer to combat those fleeting feelings and lies. Maybe even write them down to pray about them at the end of the day. Recognizing all the lies that try to keep us from Jesus’ love is something we have to practice, to make ourselves aware, in order to combat with prayer, reading His Word, and spending time with like-minded Christians.

Jan 29-Feb. 4 More of His kingdom and less of mine!

Jan. 29 – (Matt. 13: 10-17) I want to keep studying about the kingdom of God since it goes along with our C.A. series. Another way Jesus described the kingdom of God was in parables so let’s get a better understanding of what a parable is before we delve into them. The purpose of the parables: I think Jesus taught in parables because the people in that time were growing dull in their receiving Truth.  Parables caught their attention and did one of two things. Either they would ponder and grasp the need for change or they would reject what they thought the meaning was and cast it away as a silly story.  Another way to look at parables is they are both mirrors and windows.  As mirrors, they help us see ourselves as really are.  They are windows, in that they help us see life and God. When you are reading a parable, don’t you try to figure out which you would be or what you would choose?  That’s my point.   

Jan. 30 – (Matt. 13: 1-9,18-23; Mark 4:1-9,13-20; Luke 8:4-8,11-15) The Parable of the sower. Let’s look at this parable with three things in mind: 1. The seed is the Word of God. 2. The sower is one who shares the Word.  3. The soil represents the human heart.  Keeping these in mind, reread this scripture and look at where you are as sower and soil.  Ponder the situations each day and how they fit.  Ask the Lord for ways to get more into that good soil as a sower and as the soil.  Ponder this statement: “The way to a man’s heart is through his ears.”   WHAT PART OF THIS PARABLE WILL HELP US REPLACE OUR OWN KINGDOM WITH THE KINGDOM OF GOD? 

Jan. 31 – (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43; Mark 4:26-29) The Parable of the weeds.  Patience is letting the weeds stay until harvest. When we are confident that God is in control and working things out for our good and His glory but in His time, we have a different kind of patience.  This patience does not mean being soft with evil or sentimental about evildoers.  Rather patience requires firmness- the firmness of conviction, purpose, and loyalty.  It is a firmness tempered by gentleness- a gentleness born of an awareness of the need for time in which the evil can grow to the point where it may be distinguished and overcome.  Don’t kick someone out quickly.  Do all you can first to resolve.  Only after all has been done should you take this step.  
When Jesus came, some thought the kingdom should come right away.  When it did not happen when they thought it should, they concluded that their faith had been misplaced and they left the fellowship.  Others concluded that time was on God’s side and He would do whatever time was needed in the building of the kingdom.  These disciples began to do two things that belong in our Christian ethics: “wait and see” and “work and pray”.   Let me clarify one part.  The “wait” is a verb.  We don’t just sit and do nothing.  Does that make sense? WHAT PART OF THIS PARABLE WILL HELP US REPLACE OUR OWN KINGDOM WITH THE KINGDOM OF GOD? 

Feb. 1 – (Matt. 13: 31-32; Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-19; 17:6) The Parable of the mustard seed. The mustard seed was the smallest of all agricultural seeds in Palestine.  But it becomes a tree that grows 8-12 ft. tall. How does this apply to the kingdom of God?  Israel was not prepared for an insignificant beginning to the kingdom of God, so this image shocked the listeners.  Let’s look at Luke 17:6 to see what Jesus also says about the smallest of seeds (mustard seed). Just the smallest of faith can move mountains!  What does that say about our amount of faith?  WHAT PART OF THIS PARABLE WILL HELP US REPLACE OUR OWN KINGDOM WITH THE KINGDOM OF GOD?   

Feb. 2 – (Matt. 13:33; Luke 13:20-21) The Parable of the leaven.  What does leaven do?  It essentially makes bread out of crackers.  Too much leaven causes it to be too airy or puffed up.  Too little leaven causes something much less desirable when you are trying to make bread.  If we are “leaven” to the world, how “active” are we?  Selah. WHAT PART OF THIS PARABLE WILL HELP US REPLACE OUR OWN KINGDOM WITH THE KINGDOM OF GOD? 
    DID YOU KNOW?  There are many references to “three measures of meal” starting with Gen. 53:6 where Abraham prepared refreshment for the Lord. A study of this would bring greater meaning to this one verse parable. 

Feb. 3 – (Matt. 13:44- 46) The Parable of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great value. There can be several ways to look at these two parables.  As you read these two parables look at it from two perspectives: 1. Jesus is giving up all for us.  2. We are looking for Him and give up all (the world has to offer) to receive Him.  Here are some similarities I see in both parables: 1. Both “treasures” were hidden. 2. Both were found. 3. All was sold (or given up) to attain this treasure. That also means they became poor to gain possession of what his heart is set on.  4. We don’t know what the man did once he obtained it.  WHAT PART OF THIS PARABLE WILL HELP US REPLACE OUR OWN KINGDOM WITH THE KINGDOM OF GOD?   
    DID YOU KNOW? Gentiles valued pearls, while the Jews did not.  Most likely great gems would be given (sold) to the king.   

Feb. 4 – (Matt. 13:47-50) The Parable of the net.  This parable was a little harder but as I studied I came to some understanding.  Many times, in those days, fishermen would take a net shaped like a long wall and drag it by both ends from off-shore to up on the shore.  In this way, they (hopefully) caught everything crawling or swimming in that space.  Then the sorting began. Only fish with scales and fins were considered clean to eat (Lev. 11:9-12). So, all that crawled in the mud was thrown out.  Hmm.  When you compare this to the second parable (wheat and tares) you get a better picture.  Both show good and bad, side by side at first, then divided; both were explained by the Lord in the words, “So shall it be at the end of the age;”; both describe the work of the angels in separating the wicked from the just; both describe the doom of the wicked, the “fire” where there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. In the one the world is represented as a field, in the other as a sea.  In the one the angels are reapers, in the other they are fishers. There is so much here to contemplate where we fit but let’s keep going deeper…even inch by inch. WHAT PART OF THIS PARABLE WILL HELP US REPLACE OUR OWN KINGDOM WITH THE KINGDOM OF GOD? 
    Here is an overview of the seven parables by Ada Habershon from her book “The Study of The Parables”.  Maybe it will help you to put it together. “The first parable gives the view which is patent to all; the second requires a practiced eye to detect the difference; the estimate of the third would be according to what you are looking for-for if you only want a shade or shelter, you may be satisfied, but you will not find fruit or stability, or evergreen beauty.  The fourth represents a great change which some might think an improvement, but which God looks on as evil.  What men approve, God may disapprove.  Then in the fifth and sixth we have first God’s view, and then faith’s view, which is by and by to be recognized by all the universe.  The seventh parable is in some respects the most difficult.”  “Might not this parable, point to the last event in Israel’s history…as referred to Matt. 24:31 when ‘He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds’ (Isa. 27:13), purging out the rebels from the midst, according to Ezek. 3:38 so that they do not enter the land.”    I hope this helps. 😊  One more time:  WHAT PART OF THESE PARABLES WILL HELP US REPLACE OUR OWN KINGDOM WITH THE KINGDOM OF GOD? 

Jan. 22-28 More Kingdom Living

Jan. 22 – (Matt. 5:9) “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”  The one word in Jesus’ time for peace was “shalom”. Shalom was a “hello” and “goodbye” expression in meeting with anyone. It means, may you be completed with peace.  Peace is a key word in Jesus’ life and ministry.  He came to establish it, His message explained it, His death purchased it, and His resurrected presence enables it.  Prophecy proclaimed Him the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6).  Angels said Peace had come to earth in announcing His birth (Luke 2:14).  As sinners were forgiven, His parting words were to go in peace.  He told his disciples that He was leaving Peace with them (Jn. 14:57).  His first words upon returning after His resurrection was “Shalom.”

       So, what does that mean to us today? It seems so natural to sift Jesus’ teachings through our own prejudices and preconceptions until we hear Him saying what we already have in mind.  That is the enemy of studying the Word that we must fight against every day. Does peace mean to you a smoldering grudge and exhausted hatreds because you think keeping peace is non-confrontational and so you try to bury all of it?  Does it mean avoiding any conflict so there is no tension in the air? Most of us with an inferiority complex or symptoms of personal failure want to change the people we feel has caused that depleted state.  Failing students want to change the marking systems, relationships in conflict want to change the other person. An employee who desires a better salary wants to change his boss or the way his boss does things. We have to be careful that we don’t want to change others so we don’t have to deal with our own shortcomings. None of these ways were “Jesus’ Way”.  

     We need a different kind of peace.  One that finds us peaceful in “our own skin” first. Then it spreads out from there…family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, people you touch as you live life, interracial, intraracial.   Let me go back to where it starts in finding peace.  When we find peace with God, we begin the process of finding peace within ourselves. It goes from there. I think that’s enough for us to ponder today. 😊

Jan. 23 – (Matt. 5:9) We have so many opportunities every single day, to make peace in our world. We need to be sensitive and act when we recognize those opportunity.  We need to use our energy, our personality, our money, and our influence to make a difference. It takes prayer and listening to the Holy spirit.

            There are 3 parts to making peace: 1. Making peace between us and others 2. Making peace between people we know who are separated from one another because of misunderstanding, hurt and hatred. 3. Making peace between groups in our society.

      In making peace with others, have you thought about talking to the Lord about what you have done and what was done to you before talking to the person?  Duh!  I don’t mean just thinking about the hurt but rather voicing it to the Lord and asking Him to show you more insight than you currently have. Continue to pray and ask Him how He wants to heal you and them. Then follow His prompting.

     We are called to receive the peace of Christ and to take the initiative in sharing it in life’s relationships and responsibilities. The difficulty is taking the first step.  An old saying: The longest journey begins with the first step. Let’s choose to take that first step! 

Jan. 24 – (Matt. 5:10) “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  The NT word for “exceeding glad” comes from two Greek words which mean literally “to leap exceedingly”.  Have you ever been so happy you jumped for joy?  That is the mood for this word. Let’s look at the whole sentence again.  It’s not saying you should be so joyous for being persecuted alone.  You are to be so joyous because you are good (righteous) and that has caused the persecution.  Do you see the difference? 

        American “Christians” do not face the threat of death, dismemberment or imprisonment like so many in some other countries.  We have it so much easier.  Ours is subtler, and mainly attacks our self-worth through attitudes, possible lost jobs or promotions, or labeling.  Let’s be very careful though, in perceiving why we are being persecuted. Sometimes we are persecuted because our “delivery” of Christian morals or ways are not Christlike.   Our pure actions however, will cause one of two responses.  They will either admire it and seek it for themselves or resent it and hope to find something in us that they can malign and thus discredit us or our conviction. In the latter, it is not our responsibility or concern to “fix them”.  Just jump for “Joy” and leave it totally up to the Lord.  (I know easier said than done!)

Jan. 25 – (Matt. 5:10) I like the approach of this Beatitude by Lloyd j. Ogilvie. He begins by describing his best friend for over thirty years.  My best friend has been with me through trials and tragedies, pain and persecution, ups and downs, success and failure.  He is the kind of friend who knows all about me and never goes away.  He has a special way of helping me to see myself and do something about it.  He accepts me the way I am, and yet that very acceptance makes me want to be all that I was meant to be in spite of all the difficulties around me.  He laughs with me over my mistakes and weeps with me in my sorrows.  He has been faithful all through life’s battles. I have never been left alone when I suffered criticism, hostility or resistance for doing what love demanded.  He is with me when truth triumphs and is always there to absorb the anguish of defeat in a righteous cause.  We share a vision, a hope, a dream together…my friend and I.  As a matter of fact, he gives me the daring to be true to what I believe regardless of cost.  He meets all the qualifications of a real friend: he loves without limit; he is loyal when others turn away; he listens to my hurts; and he liberates me to grasp life with gusto, regardless of the consequences.  I have only one hope; when I come to the end of this portion of heaven and pass on to the next, the one thing people will remember is that I was his friend.  My best friend is Jesus Christ!  

            If you can’t look at Jesus as being your friend, look at John 15:15-16 first. Yes, He is so much more but we need to include this aspect as well.  I know for me it’s hard to include “friend”.  I think it’s because we don’t have a full understanding of “friend”.   If we could look at persecution for righteousness sake, with Jesus Christ as that kind of perfect friend, wouldn’t it give us a different view?  For me it goes from motivation by law (I have to do it on my own) to motivation from a Relationship (I can joyously do this because Jesus is that Friend who makes it all totally possible)!  Let’s think about that today. 😊

Jan. 26 – (Matt. 5:10) This is the only Beatitude that promises a reward in heaven. We want to see justice and reward here on earth. We think: “I’ve done my best and look what it has gotten me.”  Those thoughts or spoken words tell us we expect “our justice” to be seen here.    Is it to say, “I told you so.”? To be utterly realistic, we have to say some accounts will not be seen here but only when we get to heaven.  It reminds me of the verse “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  It is a promise….and a threat depending how much you are listening and obeying Him!

Jan. 27 – (Matt. 5:2-13) What do you think about the idea that all people suffer?  Think about the most depraved individual.  Do they suffer?  Yes.  Does there suffering lead to happiness?  No.  That is the difference.  We get to choose what the end result will be. We do not go out and find happiness; it finds us while we are pursuing something else – the Kingdom of God! Let’s review how to receive happiness:

1.      Happiness happens to the “poor in spirit”. To be poor in spirit means to accept our humanness, our dependence upon God for life and being.

2.      Happiness happens to those “who mourn.” Those who mourn the same things that makes God cry, namely, the things which impede the kingdom’s progress.

3.      Happiness comes to those who submit their innate powers to God’s discipline.  In other words, their worth is not in how they look to man but only to God.

4.      Happiness comes to those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness”.  As we hunger and thirst for God, our mind is renewed little by little and we are changed in our thoughts and attitudes and actions to be purer, more truthful, and have more love with others. Let’s save the rest for tomorrow.

Jan. 28 – (Matt. 5:2-13) DID YOU KNOW?  A sign of maturity is being willing to wait (for as long as is needed) for a gratification of what we know is the right thing (righteousness).

5.      Happiness happens to the “merciful” when we give the other guy credit for being every bit as worthy of God’s grace as we are.  Selah

6.      Happiness happens to the “pure in heart”. When we “will” one thing in our lives – to obey and pleasure the heart of God.

7.      Happiness happens to the “peacemakers”. A peacemaker is one who reconciles persons with persons by reconciling them to God.

8.      Happiness happens to “those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.”  It those who are persecuted in some way when they show God’s kingdom in some way. 

There is so much to ponder in these 11 verses.  Let’s continue to ask God for ways to live out what we are learning.

Jan. 15-21 Dissatisfied with Your Life? Congrats!

Jan. 15 – (Matt. 5:6) “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled.” What is righteousness? It describes God’s essential nature of absolute purity, truth, justice, and love. Our consuming passion for righteousness is for God Himself, for companionship with Him, emulating Him.  It is knowing and doing the will of God in all of life.  God’s righteousness came to cover our unrighteousness through Jesus’ blood.  So, we now have purity, truth, justice and love as we have faith in the righteousness that Jesus has given us.  As we hunger and thirst for God, our mind is renewed little by little and we are changed in our thoughts and attitudes and actions to be purer, more truthful, and have more love with others. 

This blessing is not for those who arrived at righteousness. Rather it is for those who are deeply desiring it. Jesus condemned those who were satisfied with their relationship with God and commended those who hungered and thirst for God.   If you are dissatisfied with your life…congratulations!  The discontent you feel is a sign that you are a special, chosen person.  The Lord is invading your life!  Wanting you to have more…of Him!  Desire (hunger and thirst) is essential to satisfaction (being filled).

Jan. 16 – (Matt. 5:6) Have you ever really desired something?  That’s all you can think about.  You are so close…you just keep working on it.  Here’s something small I can compare this Beatitude to: Over Christmas holiday I try to have a Christmas puzzle out for anyone to work on.  To be honest, it’s not usually my thing but my sister-in-law loves them and usually visits a couple days.  Anyway, when she leaves us, the puzzle is not usually done and she always “encourages” us to finish it before we put it away.  As I get into it and begin finding pieces that fit, I eagerly continue.  There is always one missing piece I know I can find if I just search long enough. Sometimes I have to go to another area (leave that spot alone for a while), but eventually I am back there still searching….  It is always so satisfying when I finally come across that one piece that fills that part of the picture!  To me that is a small picture of the hungering and thirsting part of righteousness.  It is also the feeling of being satisfied. 

Jan. 17 – (Matt. 5:7) “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.” Who needs mercy? How often and how much? Does a child who has misbehaved? Do his parents, who have not set up loving disciplines? Does the grandparents who have not been supportive?  What about the person who caused you pain or the one who caused them pain?  We all need mercy.  Let’s look at a parable Jesus taught (Matt. 18:21-25).  The servant was forgiven a million dollars (just a number) by a king.  The servant then does not forgive (show mercy) to someone else who owes him $10.  It seems ludicrous.  How depraved was this guy?  How hard hearted?  Now let’s look at the Mercy shown us in that while we were still sinners, Christ came and died for us. Yet we go and hold fellow man accountable to “small sins” done to us.  SELAH!  (I think that’s enough to grasp today.)

Jan. 18 – (Matt. 5:7) What is mercy?  William Barclay said, it means “the ability to get right inside the other person’s skin until we can see things with his eyes, think things with his mind, and feel things with his feelings.” It involves emotions and most people avoid it.  How far are we willing to go to receive the fulfillment of this Beatitude (mercy)?  It’s interesting that this Beatitude follows the Beatitude to thirst and hunger for righteousness. Righteousness, admirable as it is, is always in danger of becoming hard; mercy is tender.  Righteousness can easily turn inward, but mercy flows out.  Righteousness can tend to become impatient with those who are not as hungry and as diligent in their quest; mercy is patience personified.  After we have learned how to hunger and thirst for righteousness, we are ready to go on to mercy.  Mercy, one might even say, is the higher righteousness.  (J. Ellsworth Kalas, Beatitudes from the Back Side)

Jan 19 – (Matt. 5:8) “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” Do you really want to see God? I’m sure you are looking forward to that in Heaven, but do you want to see God here on earth? Be honest.  Am I willing to do what it takes to be pure in heart so I can see God here on earth?  We certainly will get no encouragement from the world.  It is made fun of and looked down upon as weak.

                Let’s look at the meaning of the words in this Beatitude. The Greek word for ‘pure’ is katharos which meant clean.  It was used to describe soiled clothing that had been washed or grain that had been winnowed and sifted and thus rid of chaff.  The Greeks also applied this word to describe an army after it had been purged of all its discontented, cowardly, or ineffective soldiers. Hmmm. What about the ‘purity of heart’? When we speak of purity of heart in its biblical sense, we mean thought and conduct, body, mind, emotions. It’s the motivation out of which we conduct all parts of our lives. That motivation comes from “willing” only one thing. Purity of heart means an utter singleness of life and purpose.

Jan. 20 – (Matt. 5:8) Quiet contemplation is desperately needed on a daily dosage yet we choose never to be quiet long enough to hear what God is saying to us about being pure in heart (or any other godly attribute).  Between car radios, tv, and phones, etc. we choose distraction (even if it’s Christian distraction).  I have to say the Lord has been dealing with me on this.  It is a work in progress.  But as I take more time to focus solely on Him, I think I see Him clearer.

                I will make today’s writing short, so you have some time to “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face.  And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” 

Jan. 21 – (Matt. 5:6-8) As we finish this week. I would like us to go back over these 3 Beatitudes.  What is the Lord speaking to you about?  What new insights has He shown you that He wants you to put into your everyday actions? What steps do you need to take to make that part of your life?  Reading His Word is not just to say we have read it.  It is the “Living Word” that will renew our mind as we study and apply what He is specifically saying to each one of us.  You go, Pilgrim!  

Jan. 8-14 Attitudes to Be!

Jan. 8 – (Matt. 5:1-2) William Barclay – The Beatitudes are not “nebulous prophecies of some future bliss; they are congratulations on what is.”

                Let’s try to get a better understanding of what the Beatitudes are before we study each one by itself.  “Blessed” or “happy” does not mean what we usually define it to mean.  Happiness for most people consider it to be getting what they want.  Yet, when it is gotten, the happiness does not stick around. The word for “blessed” in the OT was inseparable from the blessing of God. “Blessing” there contained three powerful ingredients: belonging to God, being His beloved, and brokenness resulting in absolute trust. In the NT, the word for “blessed” or “happy” meant sufficiency, satisfaction, and security.

 Jesus is giving us a whole fresh look at eight truths that will bring lasting “happiness” or “blessing” as we view and live life through His eyes. The last part of each beatitude gives us the secret to receiving the “blessing” of God. Lloyd J. Ogilvie said it much better than I can. “This is Christ’s self-portrait for us to behold.  His life is incarnated in the Beatitudes; His death defeated the force of evil which debilitate them; His resurrection presence with us enables us to live them.  The life of true happiness our Lord envisioned for us is the life He wants to live in us.”  Let’s study and practice HIS kingdom rules!

Jan. 9 – (Matt. 5:3) The one enemy of receiving this blessing is pride, spiritual pride.  The most subtle and serious form of spiritual pride is the desire to be adequate for God on our own (Pharisees were good at this). Often, we deal with hurts and difficulties on our own strength so that we can offer the Lord a problem-free life.  If happiness is the freedom to holler “Help,” we miss a lot of help available. Many of us can give God glory for the gifts and abilities we have and give, but we often hang onto the aching problems, thinking if we loved the Lord more or were more spiritual, we wouldn’t have the feelings, resentments, or heartaches we sometimes endure.  The thing we missed was the gift of crises to discover our own inadequacy and the Lord’s overwhelming sufficiency.  The problem is not “I need to be weak (poor) in the world in order to be blessed.” Our flesh is weak (poor) when relating in the world. Only by recognizing it is poor and relying on Jesus’ strength will we be blessed (happy).

Jan. 10 – (Matt. 5:3) There is so very much in these Beatitudes, I really can’t cover them in one day.  So, on the second day, let’s go over that verse once again and see what God would have to say to you personally.  Do a little study of your own as you listen to Him speak to your heart.  Write it down so you will remember.  You can even send it to me if you are comfortable with that.  Let’s grow deeper!

Jan. 11 – (Matt. 5:4) What are we mourning?  Is it death of a loved one? Is it pain inflicted by someone? Those are legitimate reasons to mourn, but let’s take a different perspective. Let’s look at this verse as mourning our sins. When we mourn for our sins, we gain a new sensitivity to the rights and feelings of others.  We are talking about mourning our sins, not the consequences of our sins. When we have a concern for the harm our sins may do to some other human being and to the heart and purposes of God, our mourning gets a whole different perspective and quality.  Without this perspective, we focus on what wrongs others have done to us or how we suffered injustice; but when the sorrow of our sin comes to us, we are impressed instead with the pain others are experiencing.  Hopefully it will bring repentance of our sin before God with forgiveness from God, ourselves and possibly those our sin has affected.  As we genuinely repent and ask forgiveness, comfort then comes.

Jan. 12 – (Matt. 5:4; 2 Cor. 7:10) As you reflect again on this verse, consider how 2 Cor. 7:10 fits into this understanding. Now, let me add a story by Lloyd J. Ogilvie from his book “Congratulations God believes in you! Clues to happiness from the Beatitudes”.  As he was meditating on this Beatitude, he started a conversation with a woman who had been head of pediatric nursing in a hospital which cared for many of the victims of bombing and sniping incidents in Belfast, Ireland. They were discussing true happiness of which she said she would never find. She spoke of the suffering of the children in her ward; of mangled bodies and fractured psyches. They talked at length about her hatred of the I.R.A., her confusion about the issues in her country, and why she no longer could work. They then got down to the real reason she would never be happy.  One day she was asked to help turn a critical patient. Any wrong move may kill him.  As she looked in his face she realized it was one of the heads of the I.R.A. that had brought all those children into her care.  At that moment, her hatred led her to want to kill him by a casual slip of her hands.  Her nursing finally took over before she acted on those thoughts but she couldn’t see how God could forgive her. She felt she was no better than the killer laying on the hospital bed.  Here is Lloyd’s response: Deep inside me I heard the Lord say, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  I have blessed this woman by helping her to get in touch with her anguish so that I can heal her.  Tell her that I love her, that she belongs to Me, that she is a beloved person of Mine.  She must allow Me to comfort her with My forgiveness.  Then she must forgive herself.  When she does that, she will be able to forgive the people she hates and be able to go back to work.  All she needs to say in her mourning is, ‘Lord, forgive me!’ and ‘I forgive myself!’ Then she will be free to say, ‘Lord, forgive them!’ and finally with deep identification, she will be liberated to say, ‘Lord, forgive us!’”  Selah

Jan. 13 – (Matt. 5:5) Again, this Beatitude does not mean what I think it means.  Whoever got onto the freeway by being meek?  Whoever got the special priced limited quantity item on Black Friday by being meek? If that’s what it means, I would think Jesus would say we would inherit heaven! (There would have to be some reward for never getting our way here on earth!)  We just have an incorrect definition of meekness.  The Hebrew word for meek (gentle) is “anaw”.  Jesus’ Beatitude has its roots in Ps. 37:11. The word meek is used to describe a person who, out of love and obedience, openly accepts the providence and guidance of God.  He lives with the certainty of God’s power and presence in all of life.  The meek man trusts that God knows what is best and will bring good out of evil.  Gentleness really is surrender to God.  It is surrendering our preservation in every circumstance to God knowing and trusting that then God will handle it for our best and His Glory.  The two keys to this Beatitude are ‘meek’ and ‘inherit’.  The first key is relinquishment and the other is receptivity: surrender and expectation, trust and hope.  Selah

Jan. 14 – (Matt. 5:5) As we reflect again on this verse, let’s look at who the Bible describes as meek.  Can you guess who that would be?  Of course, you would say it is Jesus and you would be correct.  The only other man was…. Moses (Nu. 12:3)!  Moses wasn’t weak.  He wasn’t particularly patient and sometimes had a temper.  He united a group of people- dispirited slaves into a nation and led them 40 years through the uncharted wilderness. He challenged Pharaoh many times.  He had such great strength and courage, yet the Scriptures describe him as the meekest of men. That certainly is not our definition of meek!

                What does ‘inherit the earth’ mean?  God had promised the land of Palestine as an inheritance.  Have you ever heard the phrase “The Israelites were taken out of Egypt but Egypt was not taken out of the Israelites.”? As “Egypt” is taken out of us, we rely on Kingdom rules and ways of thinking.  We will then inherit happiness or blessing on this earth.  Selah!


Jan. 1-7 How To Have The Best Year Yet!

Jan. 1 – (Matt. 3:1-6) HAPPY NEW YEAR!  How do we have the best year yet? Study and apply His Word to your life!  So simple...yet it takes discipline...but you can do it!  To begin this year, let’s continue to study the life of Jesus on earth.  Since we have just covered His life through Matthew 2, we will pick up at chapter 3.

                Let’s look at John the Baptist first.  We know he was the forerunner of Jesus to announce who Jesus is.  Even in his mother’s womb (Elizabeth), he jumped at the presence of Jesus in Mary’s womb!  He was much like Elijah in dress and habits and was prophesied about in Isa. 40:3, and Mal. 3:1; 4:5.  Jesus said of John the Baptist, that he was more than a prophet – that among those born of women no one greater than John had arisen (Matt. 11:9-11).  I wonder what it was like when they got together as cousins.  They were probably the only two who knew what each other’s purpose was, as they played together.   Hmm    

Jan. 2 – (Matt. 3:7-12) John the Baptist is talking to the Pharisees and Sadducees. Pharisees were Jewish laymen, popular with the common people and connected to local synagogues.  They followed extensive extra biblical traditions which they carefully obeyed as a means of applying the law to daily life.  The Sadducees were a small, aristocratic, priestly group.  They received their authority from the activities of the temple. The Pharisees and Sadducees counted on their heritage with Abraham as reason to be “safe”.  Do we count on our parents’ “Christian heritage” to get us into heaven?  I would hope we are beyond that.  But are we just coasting or really pressing into the kingdom of heaven?   

Jan. 3 – (Matt. 3:13-17) The voice from heaven seems to use words from Ps. 2 and Isa. 42:1-9.  What other phrases in those passages remind you of Jesus?

Why do you think John was reluctant to baptize Jesus?  How does II Cor. 5:21 and Hebrews 4:15 contribute to an answer to this question? 

Jan. 4 – (Matt. 4:1-11; Gen. 3:1-5) Compare Jesus’ response with Satan’s temptations to Eve’s response to Satan’s temptation.  Were the questions similar?  How were the responses different?  Let’s so know the Word that it overrides whatever words or voices are tempting us!

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”  Quote by Jim Elliot (a missionary killed by the Auca Indians)

Jan. 5 – (Matt. 4:12-17) It’s amazing what you miss so many times in reading the Word. Then, it’s there and you never saw it before!  When John TB (The Baptist) was imprisoned, Jesus moved from Nazareth to Capernaum. Why is this important?  For one thing, it fulfilled prophecy (Isa. 9:1,2).  The people in this area are now the first to see the great light of God’s deliverance in Jesus. Second, this becomes Jesus’ base of ministry in and around Galilee.  He also began to preach and the words He spoke repeat what John TB announced.  “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.”  We will be doing a series on kingdom living this month so let’s focus on that as we study His Word.

Jan. 6 – (Matt. 4:18-22) One of the first things Jesus did was to call disciples.  Create a brief description of what is required for “citizenship” in His kingdom according to these verses. For these disciples, it meant leaving job and family and following Jesus wherever He went.  How has discipleship affected your life? 

One description said that Peter and Andrew had been followers of Jesus for about a year (John 1:35-42).  Tell me what you think.

Jan. 7 – (Matt. 4:23-25) When Syria (a Gentile region north of Galilee) heard of the healings, they brought their sick and were healed.  I tend to think Jesus dealt mainly with the Jewish culture, but from the very beginning, He included all mankind. YAY!!

                Verse 25 says great crowds followed Him wherever He went.  They were not disciples. What part of us is a “disciple”? What part of us is just part of the “crowd”? Selah

                DID YOU KNOW?  The Galilee region where Jesus ministered had 200 or more villages and towns, but no major cities.


Dec. 25 – (Foretold- Isa. 60:3,6; Fulfilled - Matt. 2:1-12) WISEMEN

                MERRY, MERRY CHRISTMAS!  May this day remind you just how much God loves you as you spend time with those you love!  Let’s think about the Wise men.  From seeing a gigantic star appear, they believed there was born the King of the Jews.  They spent months (years?) traveling just to worship Him.  They brought extravagant gifts to give Him (that was the practice of the day when visiting a king).  When they got to King Herod, they needed to know the street address and town so they asked him.  Herod asked the Scribes and Pharisees where The King would be born.  They knew!  They told Herod and of course Herod told the Wise men.  The Wise men then went and worshiped a baby.  Can you believe that? The outward appearance of this “king” was nothing they would have honored or worshiped before and yet they did worship Him! So, here’s what I am pondering: The Wise men had knowledge of the King and did something with that knowledge by spending much time and money to worship Him (relationship).  The scribes and Pharisees had the knowledge as well and did nothing with that knowledge (religiosity).  Am I taking the knowledge I have as I study, and worshiping “The King” by sharing it and living it out each day? Or do I get knowledge from His Word and then just go about my daily living?  I really must think about this…and then act! (SELAH).


                What do we know about Simeon? He was directed by the Holy Spirit.  He was old. He took Jesus up in his arms and blessed Him.  God had promised Simeon, he would behold Jesus before he died.  Can you imagine an old saint who had witnessed most all of his life with a silent God and did not know when Salvation would be born?  What hope and faith he must have had!  Simeon lived most of his life not seeing his Salvation face to face, in faith and hope.  We have seen and accepted His Salvation by faith but hope for the day we will see Him face to face!

                What do we know about Anna? She was 84 years old. She was married for 7 years until she became a widow. She was a prayer warrior and prophetess living in the temple.  She was from the tribe of Asher (so she wasn’t from the priestly tribe of Levi).  I always think about logistics.  How was she allowed to stay there 24/7?  Who took care of her needs? Those are not important (I digress). Anna prayed most of her life for “His Salvation” to come. When her prayer was answered she came up and “began to give thanks to God and to speak of Him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” I see four things we need to emulate. 1. She kept praying for something until she saw it. 2. She recognized it when it came. 3. She immediately gave thanks to God 4. She “witnessed” of this to those who were receptive.  That is a big “SELAH”

                I would like to end this study with a wonderful description of these two saints by Herbert Lockyer: How imperative it is to count the aged Anna among the witnesses of Christ’s birth! Mentioned nowhere else in the New Testament, a distinction Anna shares with saintly Simeon, we can detect divine wisdom in that a woman and man should testify to the fact of the Incarnation, “Simeon and Anna, standing near the infant Jesus, are types of the Old Covenant decaying in the presence of the New, which shall never grow old.” In the mouth of two witnesses it shall be established.

Dec. 27– (Matt. 2:13-15; Hosea 11:1) FLEE TO EGYPT

                The Egyptian border was about 90 miles south of Bethlehem.  That was not a quick trip!  If you remember the prophesies from the Old Testament fulfilled in the New Testament, this was one of them.  The prophet Hosea recounted how God had faithfully brought Israel, God’s “son”, out of Egypt in the exodus (Hos. 11:1).  Matthew cites this about Jesus, God’s true Son.  When God gave up His only-begotten Son, He emptied heaven of the very best for the worst of earth.  God did not “give up His only -begotten Son at the cross (I always think in those terms).  It started way before that, but Jesus’ birth was definitely a part of that “giving up”. In allowing Himself to become a baby, Jesus has implicitly obeyed the Father’s will (as He does all through His life as man on earth).  I am realizing that just as God delivered Israel from Egyptian rule in Moses’ time, He delivered us from “Egyptian rule” in sending Jesus to us!  By obeying the “Father’s Will” in our choices, we are continuing that process of “getting Egypt out of us”!  Amazing, loving, and wonderful Father! 

Dec. 28– (Foretold -Jer. 31:15; Fulfilled - Matt. 2:16-18) HEROD’S MASSACRE

                I am drawn to stepping outside the beautiful picture we have of Jesus birth to imagine what it was realistically.  Of course, I fail miserably but here is where I went concerning Herod’s massacre of young son’s.  It is guessed that there were 10-30 sons who were killed.  That means there were at least 10-30 mothers and fathers and families that were affected by Herod’s decision and Satan’s attempt to prevent Jesus from defeating him.  Did those families know why their child was killed? If they did and knew someone else’s son was to be King, were they bitter about another child that may have lived? Here’s another thought.  Did any of the scribes and Pharisees who told Herod where the King was to be born, have sons who were killed because of it? This takes me back to my deeper realization from this Christmas study: Knowledge without action is religiosity, phariseeism, and may be injuring others (they have not heard because you didn’t tell or show them Christ).  SELAH

Dec. 29 – (Matt. 2:19-23; Luke 2:39-40) RETURN TO NAZARETH

                Let’s look at Mary and Joseph’s travel log.  They started from their home in Nazareth, traveled over 90 miles to Bethlehem (in Mary’s 9th month of pregnancy), then traveled at least 90 miles to Egypt (with a young child). After a time there, they traveled over 180 miles back to Nazareth.  Aren’t you thankful that Jesus’ parents listened to what God was telling them?  It wasn’t just through the pregnancy but in escaping all the pitfalls the enemy threw at them after His birth. It causes me to pray for families that that they too, would listen closely to the Holy Spirit to escape the pitfalls the enemy has for their children.

                Matt. 2:23 says Mary and Joseph were returned there to fulfill prophesy that Jesus would be called a Nazarene. Matthew is not quoting any specific OT prophecy but is referring to a general theme in the OT prophets.  They foretold that the Messiah would be despised (Isa. 53:3) and the town of Nazareth was despised in Jesus’ time (Jn.1:46; 7:41,52). The people of Nazareth at the time of Christ’s birth had established a very poor reputation in morals and religion.  Think back now to when Joseph realized Mary was pregnant…in that town. Hmmm.  Think also to a young Jesus who grew up there among friends and maybe even family who were part of the reason for the reputation.  Only God could think it up.  Only God can make it work!


                Jesus was given several names before His birth. Most times His name was preceded with “He shall be called”. Although we can try to explain the significance of the Names given to Mary’s Holy child in the the two birth-narratives, it is impossible for the human mind to unfold the overwhelming mystery of the Incarnation itself.  Let’s end this year by reflecting the names He was given and how each name has impacted us.

·         Called JESUS (“Salvation of Jehovah”) (Matt. 1:21,25)  

·         Called CHRIST (“Messiah” “Anointed One”) (Luke 2:11)

·         Called LORD (“Master” “Authority” “Dominion”) (Luke 2:11)

·         Called Emmanuel (“God manifest in flesh”) (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:22-23)

·         Called King (“Ruler”) (Matt. 2:2; Jn. 12:15)

Dec. 31 –  Let’s study a few more of Jesus’ names.  I have learned soo much just from the study these last two days, it would take pages explain.  I will leave you the “opportunity” to glean what He would have YOU know.  HAPPY NEW YEAR (IN HIM!)

·         Called GOVERNOR (“represents one holding a most responsible official, governmental position”) (Matt. 2:6)

·         Call SON (“Second Person of the Blessed Trinity” “Son of God and Son of Man”) (Isa. 9:6; Matt.1:25; 2:15) 

·         Called a NAZARENE (despised by man) (Matt. 2:23)