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God’s Love for You

March 17, 2017

March 17, 2017

Today in History
On this day in 461 AD – Saint Patrick, bishop and apostle of Ireland, dies at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland. Much of what is known about Patrick’s legendary life comes from the Confessio, a book he wrote during his last years. Born in Great Britain, probably in Scotland, to a well-to-do Christian family of Roman citizenship, Patrick was captured and enslaved at age 16 by Irish marauders. For the next six years, he worked as a herder in Ireland, turning to a deepening religious faith for comfort. Following the voice that he heard in a dream one night, he escaped and found passage on a ship to Britain. Patrick had another dream hearing the voices of Irishmen pleading him to return to their country and walk among them once more. After studying for the priesthood, Patrick was ordained a bishop. He arrived in Ireland in 433 and began preaching the Gospel, converting many thousands of Irish and building churches around the country. After 40 years of living in poverty, teaching, traveling and working tirelessly, Patrick died on March 17, 461 in Saul, where he had built his first church. www.history.com

Today in the Word
Ephesians 2:17-8 NLT
He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.

Today’s Reflection
Because of Jesus’ sacrifice and because of the work of the Holy Spirit, we are all welcomed at the throne of grace regardless of gender, social standing, financial status, race, nationality, political affiliation, or any other differences. This equal access is a peace brought to us because Jesus paid the price for the peace and sent the Spirit to give us the assurance that we are loved and heard by the almighty God.

Today’s Prayer
Father, I recognize that I can come before you only because of your desire to cleanse me at great cost and to give me the gift of the Holy Spirit to bring true peace. I ask for the peace that passes all understanding and I also ask that you lead and guide me in the way I should go. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

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The Spirit of Truth

March 16, 2017

March 16, 2017

Today in History
On this day in 1802 – The United States Military Academy–the first military school in the United States–is founded by Congress for the purpose of educating and training young men in the theory and practice of military science. Located at West Point, New York, the U.S. Military Academy is often simply known as West Point.

Located on the high west bank of New York’s Hudson River, West Point was the site of a Revolutionary-era fort built to protect the Hudson River Valley from British attack. In 1780, Patriot General Benedict Arnold, the commander of the fort, agreed to surrender West Point to the British in exchange for 6,000 pounds. However, the plot was uncovered before it fell into British hands, and Arnold fled to the British for protection.

Today in the Word
Ephesians 1:17 NIV
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

Today’s Reflection
Paul is praying this prayer for new followers of Jesus, and I love the language, “I keep asking…” This thought is his ongoing and constant prayer for them. And this prayer isn’t asking for stuff, strength, or even forgiveness. Paul keeps asking that the Father send the Spirit in such a way that the Ephesian Christians can know God more fully because the Spirit brings a kind of wisdom and insight that they could never have without the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:11-14). I can think of no more important prayer for us to pray for each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, than that God will give each of us “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.”

Today’s Prayer
Father, almighty and sovereign LORD, I pray with the apostle Paul that you will give love to those I know and bring before you by name…, that you will give them the “Spirit of wisdom and revelation” so that we can know you, O God. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

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Signed, sealed, delivered…

March 15, 2017

March 15, 2017

Today in History
On this day in 1953 – The first Southern Baptist church in North Dakota was formed in Williston, with 12 charter members. The North Dakota Southern Baptist Association was formed the following year with five member churches

Today in the Word
Ephesians 1:13-14 MESSAGE
It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free — signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.

Today’s Reflection
When I read this passage, I can’t help but remember the line in the old song that goes, “Signed, sealed, delivered, I’m yours!”* These should be our words, recognizing that the work of the Holy Spirit signs, seals, and delivers us to God’s presence. And until that day, the Spirit lives inside us as God’s presence. Every aspect of our spiritual journey is connected to the work of the Spirit, with the end result assured by the Spirit!

Today’s Prayer
Father, thank you for such an incredible gift of the Holy Spirit and for living in me through the Holy Spirit. O Jesus, I praise you for your sacrifice for me and for pouring the Holy Spirit out on me when I came to you as my Lord. And now, Lord, I pray this in your name. Amen.

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Secure in Christ

March 13, 2017

March 13, 201

Today in History
On this day in 1904 – “The Christ of the Andes”, a bronze statue of Christ located on the Argentina-Chile border, was formally dedicated.

Today in the Word
2 Corinthians 1:21-22 MESSAGE
God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge — a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete.

Today’s Reflection
The test of genuine disciples and true followers of Jesus is the presence of the Holy Spirit living in them. The Spirit transforms the followers to become like Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). The Spirit helps produce the fruit of Jesus’ character and compassion in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23). Now, in today’s verses, we are reminded that the Holy Spirit is God’s pledge to show we belong to him, that he claims us, and that we are his by something much greater than blood relationship — we are God’s children through the Holy Spirit. He will complete the work he has begun in us, bringing us to himself in glorious joy (Philippians 1:6). The Holy Spirit is our guarantee, our assurance, that this promise is true and that we are God’s!

Today’s Prayer
Father, thank you for the proof of your claim over my life through the presence of the Holy Spirit in me. Make me aware of the Spirit’s presence. Help me yield to the Spirit’s influence. Please know my deep joy at having the assurance of my relationship with you living inside me in your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name, I offer my thanks and praise. Amen.

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Free at great cost…

March 10, 2017

March 10, 2017

Today in History
On this day in 1681 – English Quaker William Penn, 26, received a charter from Charles II, making him sole proprietor of the colonial American territory known today as the state of Pennsylvania.

Today in the Word
2 Corinthians 3:16-18 MESSAGE
Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are — face to face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.

Today’s Reflection
Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” powerfully captures the sentiment of 2 Corinthians 3 and the way of the Spirit in the New Covenant. We are free! Free to become what we could never accomplish on our own by the power of rules, laws, or written code (Romans 8:1-4). Free to be transformed to be like God; remade to “participate in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4) as one created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). When we come to Christ in conversion, we are given the Holy Spirit to live in us, to make God personally present in us, and to set God’s creative power at work in us. The Spirit transforms us to be ever more like the glorious Father who made us and the Son who redeemed us.

Today’s Prayer
Father God, words can’t capture the wonder and awe that I feel when I try to gather in all that your Spirit does for me and in me. Father, I want not only to know Jesus but also for the Holy Spirit to help make his holy character and his gracious compassion more and more real to me and through me. I ask this, not for my glory, but for your glory, praying in the name of Jesus, my Lord. Amen.

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Lord, protect us from persecution…

March 9, 2017

March 9, 2017

Today in History
On this day in 1915 – Interior Minister Talaat issued the following directive to the city of Aleppo, “All rights of the Armenians to live and work on Turkish soil have been completely cancelled, and with regard to this the Government takes all responsibility on itself, and has commanded that even babes in the cradle are not to be spared.  Under cover of the First World War, the brutal Ottoman Turks determined to solve the “Armenian Question” once for all.

Ancient Armenia was the first nation in the world to embrace Christianity. The Armenians lived and suffered in Asia Minor long before the rise of the Turks. Their descendants were prosperous traders, craftsmen and shopkeepers. In 1895 the Turks massacred many Armenians. They claimed that this Christian race was a danger to their national unity, and decided to do away with them all. Although the Turks are Muslim, ethnic cleansing and greed more than religion seem to have been the main motives for the horrors that followed. However, there was no Islamic outcry to stop the massacres. www.christianity.com

Today in the Word
Psalm 143:10 NIV
Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.

Today’s Reflection
We cry out to God because we are aware of enemies who are set to attack us and of our personal sins that so easily entangle us in evil. On our own, we have no personal power to stand up under the weight of these two realities. So, our hearts cry out to God asking for him to teach us to do his will and for the Spirit to guide us to the place where we can walk on solid (or level) ground and live the life that pleases God. Rather than giving up in circumstances that seem insurmountable, we cry out to our Father in heaven and trust that the Holy Spirit brings his answer and his power into our lives and brings God’s blessing and God’s deliverance.

Today’s Prayer
Father God, please teach me to do your will and live your life in my world. May your good Spirit lead me on level ground. In the name of the Lord Jesus, I pray. Amen.

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The best is yet to come…

March 7, 2017

March 7, 2017

Today in History
On this day in 1876 – 29-year-old Alexander Graham Bell receives a patent for his revolutionary new invention–the telephone. Bell’s patent filing beat a similar claim by Elisha Gray by only two hours. In the years to come, the Bell Company withstood repeated legal challenges to emerge as the massive American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) and form the foundation of the modern telecommunications industry.

Today in the Word
2 Corinthians 3:7-8 NLT
The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away. Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life?

Today’s Reflection
We live under the new way of the Holy Spirit, not under law! While the Old Testament law, given on Mount Sinai, came with the reflection of the glory of God on Moses’ face, the New Covenant is the way of the Spirit. God’s glory resides in us! Try to contemplate — really contemplate — both the concept of God’s glory residing in us and the implications for how we should live. The best way I’ve heard this principle illustrated explained the principle that Paul is teaching like this. When electricity first became available in rural areas, many farmers put one light on a pole half way between the house and the barn. That light seemed so bright because it cast away the darkness. This concept is the law of God. However, when the new powerful lights of today are put on the same pole, the old light is hardly even visible in the bright light of the new kinds of bulbs we have today. This source is the coming of the way of the greater glory that comes from the Holy Spirit!

Today’s Prayer
Father God, thank you for living inside me through your Holy Spirit. May my heart and will be molded and transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit working to mold me after your will. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

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Let the Spirit Lead…

March 6, 2017

March 6, 2017

Today in History
On this day in 1899 – The Imperial Patent Office in Berlin registers Aspirin, the brand name for acetylsalicylic acid, on behalf of the German pharmaceutical company Friedrich Bayer & Co. Now the most common drug in household medicine cabinets, acetylsalicylic acid was originally made from a chemical found in the bark of willow trees. In its primitive form, the active ingredient, salicin, was used for centuries in folk medicine, beginning in ancient Greece when Hippocrates used it to relieve pain and fever. The brand name came from “a” for acetyl, “spir” from the spirea plant (a source of salicin) and the suffix “in,” commonly used for medications. It quickly became the number-one drug worldwide.

Today in the Word
Ezekiel 39:29 NLT
“And I will never again turn my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit upon the people of Israel. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!”

Today’s Reflection
God speaks of the coming of his New Covenant relationship with his people. One dynamic of that covenant is that the Spirit will be part of a permanent relationship with them. Paul speaks powerfully of this relationship in Romans 8 (especially Romans 8:32-39). Unlike God’s leaders before Jesus who had the Spirit for a time for specific challenges or until they rebelled against him, God’s new covenant people have his Spirit permanently and continually, and they all have the Spirit — read Acts 2 to see the emphasis on the Spirit at Pentecost. Never again will God turn his face from his people. His Spirit will never depart from us. We can oppose, resist, grieve, and quench the Spirit, but God’s Spirit stays to soften our hearts, mold our wills, and transform our characters to be more and more like Jesus. Our job is to be open to the Spirit’s leading and to keep our eyes on Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Today’s Prayer
Father God, I know as I look to Jesus and seek to know him and be like him, your Spirit will mold me and transform me. Thank you for the assurance that you will never leave me or forsake me and that nothing can separate me from your love. I pledge to keep my heart open to you and your Spirit’s influence in my life. Thank you! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Unqualified Devotion

March 3, 2017

March 1, 2017

Today in History
On this day in 1865 – President Abraham Lincoln signs a bill creating the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. Known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, this federal agency oversaw the difficult transition of African-Americans from slavery to freedom. The bureau was given power to dispense relief to both white and black refugees in the South, provide medical care and education, and redistribute “abandoned” lands to former slaves. The latter task was probably the most effective measure to ensure the prosperity and security of the freedmen, but it was also extremely difficult to enact.  www.history.com

Today in the Word
2 Corinthians 3:5-6 NLT
It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.

Today’s Reflection
Unfortunately, many of us who claim to follow Jesus can miss the incredibly radical claims of the apostle Paul. One of these claims is simple and clear: “[We] are not under law” (Romans 6:14 & Galatians 5:18). It’s not that the righteous demands of law are bad, but they have no power to change us — not down inside where the problems in our behaviors really reside. Instead, when we surrender our lives to Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside us. With the gift of the Spirit’s presence come both the power and the urge to be more and more like God — to be holy and righteous, gracious and compassionate. Rather than a law demanding us to be holy, we have the presence of the Holy One inside us urging, leading, empowering, convicting, and transforming us to be like Jesus.

Today’s Prayer
Almighty Holy God, I appreciate the Ten Commandments and the rules, regulations, and laws you gave your people through Moses. I hear your call to me to be holy — to be righteous and compassionate as you are. But I know, dear Father, that without the empowering presence of your Holy Spirit and the gift of your grace in Jesus, I would never even have a chance to measure up. I ask that you give me life, hope, holiness, joy, peace, passion, endurance, and grace as I seek to yield to the Spirit’s influence in my life. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen

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God-Given Purpose

March 1, 2017

March 1, 2017

Today in History
On this day in 1864 – President Abraham Lincoln nominates Ulysses S. Grant for the newly revived rank of lieutenant general (three stars). At the time, George Washington was the only other man to have held that rank. Winfield Scott also attained the title but by brevet only; he did not actually command with it.

The promotion carried Grant to the supreme command of Union forces and capped one of the most remarkable success stories of the war. Born in Ohio in 1822, Grant attended West Point and graduated in 1843. He served in the Mexican War in 1847 to 1848 and on the American frontier in the 1850s. During this time, Grant acquired experience in logistics and the supply of troops, developing skills that later made him a success during the Civil War. When the Civil War erupted, Grant was not in the service and was working as a clerk in his father’s store in Galena, Illinois.

Grant re-enlisted after Fort Sumter fell in April 1861; his first assignment was to raise troops in Illinois. In June, the governor appointed him colonel of the 21st Illinois. After leading his regiment to protect a railroad in Missouri, Grant was promoted to brigadier general in July 1861. In early 1862, Grant won the first major Union victories of the war when he captured Fort Henry and Fort Donelson in Tennessee. For the next two years, he was the most successful general in the Army. His campaign to capture Vicksburg, Mississippi, was one of the most efficient offensives of the war, and the Yankees captured the Mississippi River and most of Tennessee under his leadership.

Lincoln replaced Henry Halleck as the commander of all Union armies when he elevated Grant to the rank of lieutenant general. Unlike Halleck, Grant did not serve from behind a desk; he took the field with the largest Federal force, the Army of the Potomac, as he moved against Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Virginia.  www.history.com

The ranks of general date back to ancient times when the Captain General was in charge of the battlefield with Lieutenant Generals serving as their subordinates. Many are confused by our ranking system but it is consistent with historical military heraldry. The ranks are: Commander in Chief (President), Supreme Command General (five stars), retired in 1981 (not presently in use) and was formerly reserved for massive collaboration of forces. General (four stars), Lieutenant General (three stars), Major General (two stars), and Brigadier General (1 star).  All active duty military personnel currently include 38 generals, 141 lieutenant generals, 310 major generals and 420 brigadier generals.

Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses Grant are perhaps the most honored sons of Illinois… In the midst of troubled times, good men answer the call to serve and protect.

Today in the Word
Job 33:4 NIV
“Then The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

Today’s Reflection
While these words were spoken by one of Job’s critics, they echo the truth of Scripture. God makes us intentionally, purposely, and personally (Psalm 139:13-16). God puts his breath in us and we live. God’s creativity is the handiwork of the Spirit — the same Spirit who hovered over the waters at creation (Genesis 1:2) waiting for God’s creative word to bring his creation to completion. This understanding should humble us, recognizing that God’s breath is what sustains us. This understanding should empower us — we are the personal and intentional handiwork of God’s Spirit. This understanding should awaken us to our purpose in the world. And as believers, those in whom the Spirit lives and who are gifted by the Spirit, we understand all these things more fully (Ephesians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 12:7). Let’s use who we are to honor God and bless others!

Today’s Prayer
Almighty God, I confess that at times I lose sight of my heavenly calling. I forget that you have made me and positioned me to make a difference in the circle of people in which you placed me. Make me continually aware of your divine intention in making me, your Spirit’s power that is shaping me and transforming me, and the strategic place you have put me to bless others with your grace. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

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