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Staying on Task

June 21, 2017

June 21, 2017

Today in History
On this day in 1788 – New Hampshire becomes the ninth and last necessary state to ratify the Constitution of the United States, thereby making the document the law of the land.

Today in the Word
Acts 28:25 NLT
And after they [Jewish leaders in Rome] had argued back and forth among themselves, they left with this final word from Paul: “The Holy Spirit was right when he said to your ancestors through Isaiah the prophet …”

Today’s Reflection
Jewish leaders in Rome come to visit Paul while he is under house arrest. He shares the good news of Jesus with them. Some believe this message, but some reject it. This situation leads to disagreements among the leaders. But it convinces Paul even more of the need to share the good news of Jesus with all people because many will listen, even if most of Jesus’ own people won’t. The Holy Spirit had been working all along through history, using prophets to tell about God’s plan to reach all people. Now, just as Jesus had promised (Acts 1:8), the Spirit has propelled Jesus’ followers to share the message with many nations, and many people were responding. When we serve the Lord, we are not working alone or in isolation. We are working as part of a plan going back before the creation of the world to bring God’s children back to him (Ephesians 1:4-5; 1 Peter 1:20). Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to catch us up in this work of grace as well!

Today’s Prayer
Father God, move us through your Holy Spirit to carry on the mission of the early disciples — to share the good news of Jesus with all people. Empower us, fill us with passion, give us courage, and please grant us success as we seek to share your good news with people all over the world. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

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Which Way?

June 14, 2017

June 14, 2017

Today in History
On this day in 1956 – President Eisenhower signed a congressional resolution which added the words “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. The last phrase now reads: ‘…one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.’

Today in the Word
Acts 16:6-7 MESSAGE
They [Paul and his companions on the second missionary journey] went to Phrygia, and then on through the region of Galatia. Their plan was to turn west into Asia province, but the Holy Spirit blocked that route. So they went to Mysia and tried to go north to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus wouldn’t let them go there either.

Today’s Reflection
I am not sure how “the Holy Spirit blocked that route.” I also am not sure how “the Spirit of Jesus wouldn’t let them go” in another direction. I do know, however, that so many of our decisions, our ventures, our endeavors are just that — OUR choices. We go through the process of deciding what we think best or what we want to do, and then we ask God to bless it. We can quickly dismiss the doors closing to an opportunity or the Spirit directing us to go a different way. Discerning the will of God in these times is hard. What is Satan seeking to do to deter us? What stop sign did the Holy Spirit give us to keep us from disaster? Two convictions come over me as I consider this quandary. First, I don’t seek to walk each day being led by the Spirit as I should. Being led by the Spirit must be my passion and my yearning as I draw my first waking breath each day. Second, I must learn to present my challenges and problems to the Lord in prayer to discern the Lord’s will for our lives.

Today’s Prayer
Father God, help us hear your warnings and heed the stop signs of the Spirit. At the same time, dear God, help us not give up when we face challenges and difficulties with something you are leading us to do. Help us to know, O Lord, the way we should go so that in all things your mission will be done and your name will be glorified. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

 

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The Unity of the Spirit

June 5, 2017

June 5, 2017

Today in History
On this day in 1966 – The Arab-Israeli Six-Day War began, during which Israel took control of the Sinai Desert, the city of Jerusalem and the west bank of the Jordan River. A cease-fire arranged by the U.N. ended the conflict on June 10th.

Today in the Word
Acts 11:15-17 NLT
“As I began to speak,” Peter continued, “the Holy Spirit fell on them [Cornelius and his household], just as he fell on us at the beginning. Then I thought of the Lord’s words when he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?”

Today’s Reflection
Breaking through prejudice and hatred is tough. We often need some dramatic act that captures our attention and moves our hearts. God gave his people that dramatic act through the work of dreams, visions, and direction of the Holy Spirit in the conversion of Cornelius and his household. God was determined to break down the barriers that stood between peoples and nations and races (Ephesians 2:14-18). If we oppose “the unity of the Spirit” (Ephesians 4:3), we need to understand that we are standing in the way of God! Disunity, prejudice, and division are actions that directly oppose and grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:29-32).

Today’s Prayer
Father God, I know that Jesus prayed for unity, so I join my Savior in his prayer. Help us be one. Convict us when we are divisive. Open our eyes to the damage our hurtful and hateful words and actions can cause. Send your Holy Spirit to move us, change us, and draw us closer together in you. In Jesus’ name, I offer my prayer. Amen.

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Be Servants to the Weak and Helpless

May 22, 2017

May 22, 2017

YouTube link for “Why You Can Believe in the Resurrection”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JF8oWa0xAu4

Today in History
On this day in 1536 –
The first day of freedom from the old ways of the church. On the previous day, after much deliberation, the General Assembly of Geneva, Switzerland officially embraced the radical concept of Protestantism by accepting the evangelical faith of the Swiss reformers.

Today in the Word
Acts 6:3 ESV, Acts 6:5 ESV
[The apostles to the church in Jerusalem concerning ministering to the widows:] “Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.” … And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch.

Today’s Reflection
At this crucial moment in the life of the early church, the people agreed to look for servant leaders to help take care of the needy widows among them. While the task appears to be a physical task — taking care of hungry widows, the men chosen to take care of this task had to be spiritual men. Spiritual in this context means men “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.” Let’s see this situation as a reminder that all of God’s work is spiritual and all who serve need to be spiritual as well!

Today’s Prayer
Father in heaven, forgive us for segmenting our lives into spiritual and secular categories. Deep in our hearts, we know that all of our lives are to be lived under the influence and guidance of your Holy Spirit. Help us be discerning as we try to find those to lead and serve. As your people, we want what we do and how we do it in every area of our lives and the lives of our servant leaders to reflect your holy character and your gracious compassion. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

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Honest with God

May 17, 2017

May 17, 2017

 Today in History
On this day in 1947 – The Conservative Baptist Association of America (CBAA) was formally established at Atlantic City, NJ, as a breakaway movement from within the American Baptist Convention.

Today in the Word
Acts 5:3 MESSAGE
Peter said, “Ananias, how did Satan get you to lie to the Holy Spirit and secretly keep back part of the price of the field?”

Today’s Reflection
This verse comes from the story of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). They sold their land and gave some of the proceeds to the apostles. They conspired to make it seem that they gave the whole amount but kept back part for themselves — a premeditated lie to make themselves look good. The fact that they were deceptive and did not recognize the Holy Spirit’s work in the apostles’ ministry adds to the heinousness of their sin. They weren’t lying to just human beings (the apostles and the church), but they were also lying to the Holy Spirit that gave authority to the apostles and empowered the church! Some of the devotionals this year focus on different kinds of sins against the Holy Spirit: blasphemy; resisting, testing, quenching, and grieving the Spirit; and lying to the Spirit. The situation with Ananias and Sapphira, however, is a powerful reminder of the authority of the apostles and should call us to a deep respect for God’s leaders in general (see Hebrews 13:7, 17).

Today’s Prayer
Father in heaven, forgive me of any pretension or hypocrisy. I ask that the Holy Spirit convict me and help me resist any future temptation toward these sins. I ask for help in being a truthful and supportive follower of your leaders, and I ask that the Holy Spirit be at work in their decisions. O Father, I want to have a genuine and generous heart and a supportive and serving lifestyle. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

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Reaching Out

May 5, 2017

May 5, 2017

Today in History
On this day in 1961 – From Cape Canaveral, Florida, Navy Commander Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. is launched into space aboard the Freedom 7 space capsule, becoming the first American astronaut to travel into space. The suborbital flight, which lasted 15 minutes and reached a height of 116 miles into the atmosphere, was a major triumph for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Today in the Word
Psalm 104:30 NIV
When you send your Spirit, they [all creatures] are created, and you renew the face of the ground.

Today’s Reflection
Psalm 104 praises God as creator and sustainer of the earth. One of the dimensions of his providential care has to do with the work of the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that was hovering above the primordial formless creation (Genesis 1:1-2) waiting for the Father’s word to complete the work of creation is even now the Father’s partner in bringing blessing to our world. When we pray to God — the Creator and Sustainer of all we know, when we talk about Jesus holding the universe together, we need to remember that the Holy Spirit is also active in this work: “When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.”

Today’s Prayer
Father, thank you for your ongoing involvement in the universe that you created. I know that our world is broken as a result of the fall and our human rebellion to your will, but I take comfort in knowing that you hear our prayers and that your Holy Spirit still is at work in our world renewing your creation. Thank you. In Jesus’ name. Amen

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Too Deep For Words…

April 18, 2017

April 18, 2017

Today in History
On this day in 1606 – In Rome, Julius II laid the foundation stone of the second building of St. Peter’s Basilica. Completed 20 years later by Urban VIII, St. Peter’s today is the largest church in Christendom, with an overall length of 619 feet.

Today in the Word
Romans 8:26 ESV
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

Today’s Reflection
Nearly all of us have been there — that moment when our souls are brittle and dry, when it seems as if all our prayers bounce off the ceiling and come to rest at our feet as bitter reminders of our failure and spiritual impotence. But prayer, like every other great blessing from God, has its origin and power in the Father’s grace. The power of our prayers is not dependent upon our feelings, our perceptions, or our choice of words. The power of our prayers rests in the hands of the Holy Spirit of God, who intercedes for us. The Spirit articulates what we cannot say and captures the emotions we cannot verbalize. Our Comforter takes his perfection of our prayers before the Father and intercedes for us according to the Father’s will. Prayer, then, is not a spiritual discipline, but an incredible gift of our Father’s grace. The Spirit assures us that we will always be heard and our deepest longings always understood by the Father who loves us and always longs to hear the cry of our hearts.

Today’s Prayer
Father, I praise you. Because of the intercession of the Holy Spirit in this very moment, I know that you hear more than what my words say. You know what’s on my heart. You know my doubts, my insecurities, my secret sins, and my frustrating struggles. And, dear Father, you know my deep desire to have these things redeemed and transformed by your grace so that I live for your glory. I thank you for your grace, in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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The Immutable Reality of our Mortality

April 3, 2017

April 3, 2017

Today in History
On this day in 1528 –
In Cologne, German reformer Adolf Clarenbach, 28, was arrested for teaching Protestant (some say Anabaptist or Waldensian) doctrines. The following year, Clarenbach was burned at the stake for his faith.

Today in the Word
1 Corinthians 15:45 NLT
The Scriptures tell us, “The first man, Adam, became a living person.” But the last Adam — that is, Christ — is a life-giving Spirit.

Today’s Reflection
Death, the immutable reality of our physical mortality, is an enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26). The hard reality is that death, and the decay of everything good and precious to us in this world, hold our world captive. They have since the sad rebellion in the Garden of Eden. Adam brought this captivity to us, and we have compounded it by our own rebellions, big and small. This decay, and our dance with it, spreads the vile smell of death to our relationships, our physical lives, and our dreams. But Christ Jesus, who is God’s Messiah, faced death and triumphed. His bodily resurrection began the sure hope of our own escape from our world of decay. His Spirit is now alive in us. The Spirit is our guarantee of ultimate victory over sin, death, and decay. Death no longer holds us captive. The antidote courses through us just as surely as our blood does. God’s life-giving Christ is alive in us through the Spirit, and we are assured we will stand with him, redeemed and whole, alive and victorious.

Today’s Prayer
Father, my heart feels the weight of rebellion and the death, decay, and despair that poison my world. Please make me always aware of the antidote, the Spirit that was given me by Jesus Christ. Please show your life through my choices, my actions, my thoughts, and my attitudes. O come, Holy Spirit, and bring life in me and through me. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen

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In the Center of God’s Love

March 30, 2017

March 30, 2017

Today in History
On this day in 1870 – Following its ratification by the requisite three-fourths of the states, the 15th Amendment, granting African-American men the right to vote, is formally adopted into the U.S. Constitution. Passed by Congress the year before, the amendment reads, “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” One day after it was adopted, Thomas Peterson-Mundy of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, became the first African American to vote under the authority of the 15th Amendment.

Today in the Word
Jude 20-21 MESSAGE
But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God’s love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ. This is the unending life, the real  life!

Today’s Reflection
Prayer is a gift from God empowered by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us, and this intercession goes beyond our words (Romans 8:26-27). Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, gives us access to God (Ephesians 2:18). The Spirit of God within us joins with our spirit and testifies that we are God’s children so we can approach him as our “Abba Father” (Romans 8:14-17). Thus, we can come to the Creator and Sustainer of the universe at any time and know we are valued and heard. So if we want to stay in the “center of God’s love,” we must take advantage of this grace of prayer — intentionally coming into the presence of God, entreating the Holy Spirit to intercede for us and carry us along in our moments of prayer as we speak to God, spirit to Spirit (Romans 8:27; 1 Corinthians 2:10-16). Praying in the Spirit is to center ourselves in the grace and love of God. We, as his dearly loved children, come to him in dependent trust and confident hope, knowing that we are heard because of the gift of his Spirit within us.

Today’s Prayer
Father, almighty God and Creator, the sovereign Lord, thank you for inviting me to come to you and call you my Abba Father. As the Spirit intercedes for me, conveying my thoughts and yearnings as well as my words, I ask for your help and guidance so I will live for you and bring you glory. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

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Precious to God

March 20, 2017

March 20, 2017

Today in History
On this day in 1641 – A General Court session ended which declared the Colony of Rhode Island a democracy. The Court also adopted a constitution granting religious freedom to all its citizens.

Today in the Word
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 NLT
Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

Today’s Reflection
As beautiful as the promise of yesterday was (Ephesians 2:22), today’s scripture is a chilling and ominous warning. If God builds us together into his dwelling place in the Spirit and makes us his holy temple, then we must value our congregation and the people who are part of that congregation. Those who destroy a congregation by sowing discord, creating animosity, or spreading gossip and rumors must hear God’s clear warning: you destroy his temple and you will be destroyed! Why? Because the temple, the folks that make up a congregation of the Lord’s people, are holy and precious to God. In a world that focuses on the negative and that cherishes the next juicy morsel of gossip, we must take a different approach to life because we know the great value of those who belong to God!

Today’s Prayer
Father, please forgive me for not valuing your children and your congregation of your people as you do. Give me a deep appreciation of my brothers and sisters for whom Jesus died, a deep connection to those who share in your Holy Spirit, and a deep reverence for what is holy and precious to you. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

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