Praying for Unity
Jesus said, “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me”. John 17:20-21
These words were prayed by Jesus the last night of his life. He had just gathered his disciples at the Last Supper, washed their feet, told them of the events that were about to unfold, commanded them to love one another and then he prayed for them. Notice, that he is praying not only for “them” his disciples, but also for those who would believe in him through their word.
This hope filled message reaches beyond those who walked the earth with his disciples. This message of hope is for all of us trying to make sense out of the events occurring in our world today. Jesus was asking for our unity, that we might all be one in him. That was no easy task for the followers in the early church and it is still a daunting task for US today. Our interconnected world today is full of people of vast diversity, people from different cultures, different backgrounds, different ideas of what God is calling them to do.
Was Jesus asking us to put down what makes each of us so unique or to agree on every issue? No! His Priestly Prayer for unity is a call for us to work to find ways to build bridges, to come together, to love one another in spite of our differences. Perhaps we should begin this enormous task by reaching out and loving those around us. Often that task must begin with repentance, with peace, with forgiveness, and with loving kindness in our hearts that grows out from us in ever-expanding circles. I can’t help but think that is what God wants for us and what Jesus was praying would happen today. Friends, change must always begin within! Jesus prayed for our unity and died to make it possible. Let us pray for God to make us ALL agents of change!
Grace and peace always,
The Secret to Peace
Philippians 4:12, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” I’m drawn to Paul’s powerful testimony here. He says that he has “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” The secret Paul refers to is having peace, joy, and contentment that is independent of your circumstances. Paul learned how to hold onto his peace. Every day we have the option to choose how we will respond to any and every situation in our lives. We are free to choose joy or sadness, anger or acceptance, fear or courage, hope or despair. Paul encourages us to choose peace in spite of our circumstances.
Looking back on my life, I see that I spent decades in a state of “emotional highjack” controlled or led by my emotions. I allowed my circumstances to determine my mood, thoughts, actions, and decisions. I give God thanks and praise that the Holy Spirit has shared Paul’s secret with me. As I have grown spiritually it has become easier to control my emotions, to set my mind, heart, and spirit on God’s Word, His promises, and to live by faith. I have learned to look beyond immediate situations and say, “I don’t care what it looks like, I refuse to walk in fear, doubt, and unbelief.” I’ve learned to encourage myself by going deeper into God’s Word. I’ve resolved that I will not be moved by the way things appear. In the midst of trial, I call forth Gods presence and divine intervention and give Him thanks for promising to never leave or forsake us.
Are you struggling with your circumstances? Are you allowing your emotions to lead you to a place where you begin to doubt God’s Word and His promises? Do you believe the facts of your situation more than you believe God’s Word? I encourage you to trust God and His grace. Hold onto your peace, joy, and contentment no matter what happens! Lord, thank you for your grace that sustains us each day. Jesus, your love and grace hold the secret of peace, let us trust in you and hold fast to our peace, joy, and contentment no matter what.
May the peace of God, which passes all understanding be with you always!
Give Thanks Always!
It is always easy to be thankful when things are going well. And while it might be easier to praise God when we are happy and comfortable, it is just as important, if not more important, to thank Him amid our trials. In 1 Thessalonians, Paul tells the struggling church at Thessalonica to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. That can be hard to do, especially in uncertain times when things are not going so well.
Why must we give thanks always? Why are we not to give in to cynicism and thanklessness? Because the Lord calls us to a life of continual thankfulness! It is God's divine will that we give thanks always! The Lord doesn’t expect us to smile during pain, grief, and hardship. There are certainly days when we are going to mourn and be upset, but it is in those challenging moments God asks us to give thanks anyway.
he hardships in our lives are not pointless; God has a plan and a purpose for everything. We might not be able to see the good, but God sees the whole picture, and we can gain hope in knowing our afflictions are not in vain, but rather, part of a greater purpose. Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Regardless of how we may feel at any given moment, we are still in control of what we say and do, and we should use every opportunity good or bad to point our lives back to God. A defining characteristic of our Christian lives is how we respond to trials and challenges. By finding good in all things and giving thanks despite adverse circumstances, we set ourselves apart from the world, which simultaneously lifts our spirits and the spirits of those others by fixing our eyes on Jesus.
This Memorial Day, give special thanks to God and special thanks for all of those who sacrificially gave all to ensure the freedoms we enjoy today and every day, good or bad. Whether blessing is abounding in your life today or you are struggling to find something to be thankful for, turn to God, the one who blesses us all with the breath of life and His abounding grace daily. We are all blessed and should give thanks, always!
Grace and peace,
Trusting through Transition
Transitions in life are rarely easy. They mean that one part of your life’s story is over and a new one is about to begin. They are the space between where faith is tested and fear fights to creep in. They are a temporary no man’s land that we have to walk through in order to grow. As we walk through them, it’s hard to see what’s coming next. The territory is unknown so we often put our attention and focus on the transition rather than where we are being transitioned to. We often question God’s providence during these times.
As I reflected on transitions before us in weeks to come, I started wishing God would give us the warnings about transitions approaching in our lives and the why’s behind them. As I prayed about it, God reminded me how many times Jesus told the disciples what was going to happen to Him in Jerusalem and why. They never heard a word of it and were shocked in the Garden of Gethsemane. They entered a time of transition between having Jesus walk with them daily and having the Holy Spirit coming as their guide. Like us, they were confused, frightened and wondered where God was in the transition.
God speaks to each of us daily. He says things we ignore or don’t want to hear so we block Him. We use our selective hearing when He speaks of things that scare us. The disciples heard Jesus tell them about the transition, but they weren’t listening. Even when we know a transition is coming, it’s still natural to be fearful. We’re afraid of change. The passing years have taught me that change is necessary for growth. When we fight it, we fight growing, we fight the future God has for us and we fight God’s will. Our times of transition help prepare us for the change. They grow our faith and trust in God’s plan for our lives. It’s something we can only see when we take the time to look back.
Imagine if Peter and the others had stayed locked up in their houses and never went to the upper room. Out of 500 people whom Jesus told to go and wait, only 120 made it through the transition. They were tough enough to stick it out and trusted that God had something more on the other side of the transition. As He did for them, so He does for us. God has something greater for you on the other side of this time of transition. It may take longer than we expected, but hang on. The reward will be worth it. The growth you will experience will be like no other time in your life. Don’t give up, hold fast to your faith and trust through transitions, God will see you through. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deut. 31:6
As we begin another week in the new abnormal, the weariness within continues to mount and take its toll. These unprecedented challenges we are facing today are new for us all, but they are far from new to mankind, after all (there is nothing new under the sun) as the scriptures remind us. When weariness and exhaustion have invaded the seemingly manageable rhythm of my life and ministry in the past, I have found new strength to persevere in these devotional words from Oswald Chambers "The Faith to Persevere".
Perseverance, means more than endurance, more than simply holding on until the end. A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, but our Lord continues to stretch and strain, and every once in a while, the saint says, “I can’t take any more.” Yet God pays no attention; He goes on stretching until His purpose is in sight, and then He lets the arrow fly. Entrust yourself to God’s hands. Is there something in your life for which you need perseverance right now? Maintain your intimate relationship with Jesus Christ through the perseverance of faith. Proclaim as Job did, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
Faith is not some weak and pitiful emotion, but is strong and vigorous confidence built on the fact that God is holy love. And even though you cannot see Him right now and cannot understand what He is doing, you know Him. Disaster occurs in your life when you lack the mental composure that comes from establishing yourself on the eternal truth that God is holy love. Faith is the supreme effort of your life— throwing yourself with abandon and total confidence upon God.
God ventured His all in Jesus Christ to save us, and now He wants us to venture our all with total abandoned confidence in Him. There are areas in our lives where that faith has not worked in us as yet, places still untouched by the life of God. There were none of those places in Jesus Christ’s life, and there are to be none in ours. Jesus prayed, “This is eternal life, that they may know You…” (John 17:3). The real meaning of eternal life is a life that can face anything it has to face without wavering. If we will take this view, life will become one great romance, a glorious opportunity of seeing wonderful things all the time. God is disciplining us to get us into this central place of power. “Because you have kept My command to persevere.” Rev. 3:10
Grace, peace and perseverance be with you,
Be Still and Know That I Am God!
The Psalmist words have never echoed so loud! Although our lives have slowed down and grown quieter, that quiet is unsettling for many who are accustomed to a fast pace and constant noise. Although we may initially perceive it as a threat, this quiet is a divine invitation. Blaise Pascal once wrote, "All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone."
We tend to focus our attention "out there" because we are afraid of confronting what is "in here." Yet the wisdom of the saints both present and past suggests that our efforts to find fulfillment out there are doomed to fail. The secret is, we already possess within us all that we need. We simply do not sit still enough or quiet enough to be able to recognize it.
ow that many of us find ourselves prevented from engaging in our usual incessant activity and deprived of our many habitual diversions.
What if, rather than filling the time and silence with extra hours on the Internet or Netflix we embraced the silence and endeavored to listen more attentively to that small, still voice that has been calling to us from within all along?
What if, in the moments when those afflictive thoughts are growing louder and louder, we met those thoughts with silence or perhaps a simple prayer like "Come, Holy Spirit"?
Maybe then, like the saints before us, who were also challenged with world changing events, we could discover greater peace, joy, and gratitude in these days, even in these most difficult days. Should we follow their example and accept this ordained invitation to quietly listen to God in prayer, maybe then we will find, that when the world is fully open again, we will be less dependent upon the world for our contentment and self-worth, and then, “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding" will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7)
God's peace be with you!
Refocus on what is most important!
While this pandemic has brought additional stress and work hours upon many medical professionals and workers in essential industries like ours, for many others much of life's daily activity — commuting to work, attending events, running errands — has come to an abrupt stop. This however, may be a gift that we never would have given ourselves.
Many of us have been living like Jesus' friend Martha, who was overwhelmed by all the work to be done. We have become so handcuffed to our daily to-do lists that we have lost sight of what is most important. Now, however, in the midst of a global slowdown, we may finally be able to hear Jesus' words to Martha as something intended for us: "you are worried and distracted by many things. There is need of only one thing" (Lk 10:41). Jesus made clear the "one necessary thing" in (Lk 10:27) “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
It is worth considering for ourselves what is most important in life and whether our daily lives actually reflect those priorities. We might ask ourselves, "Have I chosen a life in which sending one more email takes priority over spending time with my family? Have I chosen a bigger paycheck at the expense of my physical and mental wellness?"
Life will be changed after this crisis. That much is for sure! Whether or not it turns out to be a change for the better or worse is somewhat dependent on our ability to reevaluate our priorities, make decisions, and form habits in line with what matters most.
Spend some priceless time at the Lord's feet during this ordained Sabbath and refocus on His on what is most important!
Nothing can separate us from God's love!
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of our current situation is the isolation many of us are enduring. The crowds that normally surround us in the office, in the airport, on a plane and in our favorite coffee shops have now dispersed.
We are unable to visit with friends, family or even those who are ill. Yet there may be an opportunity even in this. If it is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder, then perhaps this time of separation will bring about in us a greater appreciation for the people in our lives. We need not wait passively for this separation to take its effect.
We are blessed to live in an age of unprecedented connectivity that provides us the technical ability to see and connect with people thousands of miles away. With fewer people and duties to make demands upon us, we have the freedom and the time to connect more deeply with the people who mean the most to us.
At the same time, we have the opportunity today to reach out (by phone, Skype, or even handwritten letter) to those who are most in need and to be the face of God for those who are enduring the greatest suffering.
In the words of Saint Augustine, "you see the Trinity if you see love." That is our greatest human desire — to be loved. The pandemic has disrupted many aspects of our lives, but it has not and cannot prevent us from communicating love to one another.
It may actually be providing us the opportunity and the motivation to let love abound all the more. What is certain above all else
in this time of uncertainty, is that "nothing can separate us from God's love" (Rom 8:39).
Love in Christ Always,
Scientific studies have concluded that smiling can be good for your health. Research shows that smiling slows down the heart and reduces stress. But smiling isn’t just good for you, a genuine smile blesses those on the receiving end as well.
Without saying a single word, it can tell others that you like them and that you are pleased with them. A smile can hug someone with love without giving them even the slightest touch in these days of social distancing.
Life does not always give us a reason to smile. But when we see a heartfelt smile on a child’s face or through aged wrinkles, our hearts are encouraged.
Smiles are also a hint of the image of God in us. In the ancient blessing recorded in the book of Numbers we get an indication that our God “smiles”: “The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Num. 6:25-26).
Those words are a Hebrew idiom for the favor of God on a person’s life, asking God to smile on His children. So today, remember that you are loved by God, and that He is pleased to be gracious to you and to shine His face upon you!
So, keep smiling!
Jesus makes all things new! The significance of this Easter weekend reminds us, that no matter what we’ve been through in the past, what we might be facing today, or what uncertainties tomorrow may hold, Christ alone is our Hope. He conquered death, He rose from the grave, He is all Powerful. He breathes new life, so that we can live…free. We have so much to celebrate today, for He has Risen! He has Risen Indeed! Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! (1 Cor.15:57)
Most gracious God, Thank you that you make all things new. Thank you for the Victory and Power in your Name. Thank you that you hold the keys over death, and that by your might, Christ was raised from the grave, paving the way for us to live free. Thank you that you had plan, thank you that you made a way. We praise you for your great strength, we praise you for your lavish love. We praise you for you are Conqueror, Victor, Redeemer, and Friend. We praise you that you alone are our Deliverer, you are Worthy, you are our everlasting Father, our great and awesome God!
May the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you, and remain with you always. Amen.