Family in Prayer

What is S.U.P.V.?

For those new to our church, website and this blog, here’s what it’s all about: SUPV stands for the Straight Up Prayer Vigil. It is a virtual prayer vigil that happens every Wednesday (God willing). The Straight Up refers to the times of 6:00 a.m., noon, 6:00 p.m., and midnight–you choose whatever time works for you–and you pray for our church, those on prayer list, and prayer requests that are included in the blog post or are sent by email, normally at the beginning of the week for that Wednesday. 
The length of the SUPVs has grown in nature over the past couple of years, and now it’s pretty much a full-blown devotional, with specific prayer requests included. May it bless you as you read it.   
 
 

John the Baptist

“John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. 27 It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.”

                                                              John 1:26

 

You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’  He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.  He must increase, but I must decrease

                                                            John 3:28-30

 

I have been reading the book of John, enjoined to do so after Pastor Ray invited us all to do during this Lenten season. John the Baptist is mentioned in the first and third chapters, and we gain a glimpse of his character as we read about him (and we fill out more of it with the help of other gospels). We know from the gospel of Luke that he was preordained to “go before Him (the Lord) in the spirit and power of Elijah, to ‘turn the hearts of the fathers to the children’ (Malachi 4:5-6), and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make read a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:16-17). We remember from our childhood Sunday School lessons that he was the guy who ate locusts and honey, and wore camel’s hair and a leather belt (as we read in Mark 1).

 

Mark also tells us that John “preached a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4), and that as he baptized Jesus, he got to experience the divine in seeing the heavens part, and the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus like a dove, and hearing God’s declaration of Jesus as His beloved Son.


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Evangelism

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

                                                               Matthew 28:19-20

 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

 

                                                                                    1 Peter 3:15        

The topic of evangelism has been on my mind lately: a couple of times on Saturday when I playfully teased one of my best friends about her spiritual gift of evangelism and how easy it could be; and then again in the devotional Jack shared before Sunday School. As I sought to prepare for this devotional by looking up various scriptures and blogs and such, I found myself realizing that evangelism is not something I should be taking lightly.

 

I’ve often thought of the line that is attributed (erroneously) to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words” as an innocuous way to evangelize. We can demonstrate love in our acts of service to others, and we act as the hands and feet of Christ when our servants’ hearts enable us to take care of the sick, destitute, imprisoned, and hungry. And these are very good things! They are not, however, true evangelism.

 

True evangelism occurs when we share the gospel with someone else, with the purpose of convincing nonbelievers of its truth—“teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade”, according to author Mack Stiles. And it is something that we are called to do.


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Taking Captive Your Thoughts

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ

                                                            2 Corinthians 10:3-5         

 

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 

                                                            Philippians 4:8

                                                           

I’m fairly confident that I’m not the only one who has conversations with herself as she processes events that have taken place, though I may be one of a very few who will admit to having them and actually share that in cyberspace for all to read.

 

I was driving home from work the other day, after a fairly stressful day that was capped off with an end-of-day meeting with my boss and my executive director to go over some miscommunications on the part of multiple people tackling a problem. I was proud at my collectedness during the meeting, despite the frustrating nature of the topic we’d been discussing. It was during the drive home I’d remembered the answer to something I’d not been able to clarify, and while I was happy that I’d recalled it, I was frustrated that I hadn’t brought it up during the chat. I then started to play out how the conversation would have gone if I had remembered it then, and I found myself feeling defensive and a little bitter.

 

I found myself recalling the other times in the past couple of months that work frustrations had set in, and resentment began to rise as I painted myself the victim in most of these interactions, self-awareness and reason placed temporarily on hold while it happened. With each interaction’s recap, irritation at my self-perceived affronts grew exponentially.

At some point in this escalation scenario, I realized what I was doing and stopped the negative talk immediately. I believe the Holy Spirit impressed upon me the phrase “I control the narrative in my head”, as He led me to recognize the handiwork of the enemy. No, I wasn’t possessed nor did he control me, but what he did was seize an opportunity to plant the tiniest seed of doubt and bitterness, and I watered and cultivated the soil of acrimony in which it grew.

 

Friends, Paul tells us in 2nd Corinthians, verse 3 about the spiritual warfare we are in. The enemy is constant and relentless in his pursuit, seeking whom he may devour. When we allow ourselves to dwell on negative thoughts, we offer him an opportunity to cause us to lose focus on what God wants us to.

 

A way to counteract that is to be in His word, for Paul tells us that we can be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We can also focus on those things that are from the Lord, as Paul told the Philippians. We need to be in constant contact with Him in prayer, and in tune with the Holy Spirit for His help to combat negative thoughts. As soon as we recognize an evil or negative thought, we need to take it to the Lord and confess it, and ask Him to cleanse your heart and mind.

 

I don’t mean to make it sound so simple, because in our own strength it isn’t, but we know that we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us. He is our Helper and our Counselor, and He longs to help us.

 

Prayer Requests

  • For us to realize the riches that we have, and for us to share them with others and give them back to the Lord, Who gave them to us in the first place
  • For grace to abound in all things within the body of Christ
  • For the innumerable heart wrenching notices and posts about missing teenagers and children
  • For us to fully commit to being His church, regardless of the cost

 

Surrounding yourself with people who have a deep and personal relationship with Jesus Christ is another way you can help counteract the negativity and attacks from the enemy. Find a small group, or <shameless plug> come by the Fellowship Hall Thursday nights at 7:00 and join our prayer group. Small groups can offer accountability and love.

 

Quotes

 

“We can’t walk with the Holy Ghost unless we agree to walk the way He walks and go in the direction He’s going.” — A.W. Tozer

 

“Don’t treat people the way they treat you. Treat people the way God treats you.”    — Dave Willis



From Jericho to Ai

“ And Joshua said, “Alas, Lord God, why have You brought this people over the Jordan at all—to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? Oh, that we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of the Jordan! O Lord, what shall I say when Israel turns its back before its enemies? For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear it, and surround us, and cut off our name from the earth. Then what will You do for Your great name?

 

So the Lord said to Joshua: “Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face?  Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff.” 

 

                                                            Joshua 7:7-11         

                                                   

I started reading the book of Joshua after Jack had shared the name of their new band in church a couple of weeks ago. The awesome destruction of Jericho under the mighty hand of the Lord happens in chapter 6, positioning Israel as a force to be reckoned with and Joshua, a battle strategist whose fame “spread throughout all the country” because the Lord was with him. Chapter 6 ends on a very high note.

 

With a sense of foreboding, chapter 7 starts off with the word “But”, introducing a shift and invoking the tagline from the ABC Wide World of Sports “the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat”, with the footage of the downhill skier missing his jump (I know I’m dating myself with that reference but still… the memories, hmm?). We learn that one of the Israelites took something from the spoils of the defeat of Jericho, something he was expressly forbidden to take as the Lord had declared it “accursed,” and so the Lord “burned against the children of Israel.”

 

We read how Joshua sent a small contingent of men to attack the city of Ai, on the advice of his scouts, that 36 men were killed by the men of Ai, and how the remaining 3,000 men retreated from the battle. Unsurprisingly, Joshua reacted to the defeat in despair, tearing his clothes and falling prostrate before the ark, and implored the Lord for an explanation for His abandonment of Israel (verse 7 above).


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Seeking

“ And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”

                                                        Jeremiah 29:13

 

Seek the Lord while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.
Isaiah 55:6

 

Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually.

                                                       1 Chronicles 16”11

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve felt that the Holy Spirit has placed in my consciousness the concept of “seeking” Him. At first it seemed innocuous—I’d read a verse about seeking the Lord in a devotional and I’d gloss over the text. But then I started hearing that notion in different media—snippets of sermons and radio devotionals on KDRY and in my bible reading—and it felt like a targeted marketing campaign personalized to little ol’ me! I do believe, however, that the message might be for you and for us as His body as well, so I’m going to share.

 

The command to seek God (His face, His kingdom, Him) is found throughout the Old and New Testaments. According to Strong’s Concordance, the Hebrew word for “seek” is baqash, and the Greek word is zeteo. Both have a sense of fervency and earnestness, in the same way “seek” in English is distinguished from “search” or “look for”. Dictionary.com suggests that “pursue” is a synonym, and I believe that describes perfectly what Scripture commands us to do, over and over again.


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God’s Perfect State

 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

Revelation 21:5

 

Last month I read the book of Revelation for perhaps the third time. I was fortunate to have my favorite study reference with me (a website done by David Guzik called Enduring Word), and referenced it with each chapter I read, sometimes multiple times. Revelation is not necessarily an easy read, but using a study guide helps tremendously. There is a great number of messages and takeaways throughout the book; I’m excited to share thoughts about something I read in the study guide for Revelation 21.

 

In the beginning of Revelation 21, John shares the description of the New Jerusalem and the fact that God Himself will dwell among His people, and that there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. Also, that He, the holy One who sat on the throne said that He makes all things new. David Guzik’s comment surrounding verse 5 is what caught my attention. In reference to “all things new”, he writes “This is a brief glance at the thinking behind God’s eternal plan – to allow sin and its destruction in order to do a greater work of making all things new….Our instinct is to romantically consider innocence as man’s perfect state, and wish Adam would have never done what he did. But we fail to realize that redeemed man is greater than innocent man, that we gain more in Jesus than we ever lost in Adam. God’s perfect state is one of redemption, not innocence.” (emphasis mine).

 

Guzik is right. I had failed to realize the concept of redemption being greater than innocence. I don’t know if I understood the concept, however. I mean, Adam and Eve seemed to have it so good—they walked with the Lord Almighty in His garden. They lacked nothing. As I mulled it over, I turned into either a professional journalist or professional toddler, with the series of “why” questions I posed to myself. Follow along (if you can) with my thought process: Why did they have to fall? Why did they have to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? Why was the tree even there? Why did God place the tree there?” Now please understand, I am not accusing God of setting Adam and Eve up for failure—He did not tempt them. We learn in James that He does not tempt anyone. But surely He knew they would eat from it, because He is omniscient. So why was it there? As I prayed and sought His discernment, I believe the answer is this: free will.


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Who do you say He is?

Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them, “Who do men say that I am?” So they answered, “John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am? ”Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.”

Mark 8:27-29

 

This week’s devotional is another one in which the awesomeness of God’s timing and leading affirmed the message I am writing about. I’d actually kicked around this idea a couple of weeks ago in our prayer meeting but wrote on something different last week. I listened to a sermon on KDRY AM 1100 this morning which was very similar to this message, and reassured me that I’m on the right track.

 

I’d like to ask you to pretend that you are out and about in your spare time, running errands and doing what-have-you, and you decide to take a little break at your local Starbucks or restaurant. You’re by yourself, and enjoying your meal. A stranger at the table next to yours starts chatting with you (introverts, just go with me on this. Pretend that you respond <grin>), and you both have a light and pleasant conversation. There are no hidden agendas—just two people passing time and shooting the breeze. Without skipping a beat or a shared laugh, your new friend then poses this to you: “Tell me about Jesus.”

 

How do you answer? What’s the first thought that comes into your head?


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The Worship Service

“Oh come, let us sing to the LORD. Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the LORD is the great God, and the great King above all gods. … Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.”
Psalm 95: 1-3; 6-7

 

“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”                                                                                           John 4: 23-24

 

It’s really cool when the message that I’ve been needing to write on for a while, the one that’s been rattling around in my brain whilst I noodle on it, is the same fundamental one that Pastor Terrell preached this past Sunday. It’s cool (to me, at least) in that it’s confirmation of the message and the timing, and that His hand is in it all. I’d started to write on the topic of worship a couple of months ago, and just couldn’t birth it all the way. I know believe I understand why—His timing and all.

 

I have recently rejoined the Worship committee, as my three-year service on the Board of Directors for my Emmaus community ended in December. I’m excited about the opportunity we have to consider making changes to the worship service while still continuing to reinforce the message that Pastor Kevin started about the service: “it ain’t about us.”

 

Cue record scratch and readers gasping in concert. “Wha? Changes? Not about us?”


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The Inspiration of Humility

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”…”Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in the appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.”
Phillipians 2:3; 5-8

 

“Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.”

 

                                                1 Peter 5:6-6 (Proverbs 3:34 referenced within)

 

Our adult Sunday school class has been studying the book entitled The Mind of Christ for a bit of time now. Its author provides Scripture references that guide us toward understanding and seeking to attain the attitude and mind of our Lord Jesus Christ. God created us in the likeness of Himself; it only stands to reason that He would want us to become like Him in all that we do.

The chapter we have been in for the past couple of weeks is entitled “Humble and Obedient”, and we have been hanging out in the “humble” part, studying its meaning and examples. Humility is the state of being humble, or low; a recognition of one’s self in relation to God and others with a willful putting aside one’s self. Jesus, of course, is the epitome of humility, from his birth in a lowly manger, to his death of a criminal’s fashion. Humility does not always come easily to us, even as children of God, because although we became new creations when we were saved, we are still in this world and struggle with the confines of the world’s standards and thoughts.

 

It is through the working and conviction of the Holy Spirit that we are able to even aspire to overcome the baseness and find humility. Fortunately, we have His holy book to help us, and I’d like to share a sort of litmus test with which we can gauge our level of humility (with the help of the Holy Spirit, of course). Go with me to Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13, starting with verse 4, but instead of reading the word “Love”, substitute your name. Like this: “Laura suffers long and is kind; Laura does not envy; Laura does not parade herself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, [Laura] does not seek her own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; [Laura] does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in the truth; [Laura] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”


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Giving Thanks

To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

Psalm 30:12

 

“Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”

 

                                                1 Chronicles 16:34

 

I realize that this devotional is about 6 days late and a couple of dollars short, but when I couldn’t settle on the final message for this week’s devotional was to be, this topic kind of came to mind.

 

This devotional started this past Sunday, as I listened to Pastor Ray preach out of Matthew 14, the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000. As Ray painted the scene in which Jesus compelled the disciples to supply food for the crowds that had followed Jesus, and their collective response, he speculated on the reaction of the disciples to such a challenging request. Here are the disciples who had been with Christ throughout His ministry, witness to the miracles Jesus performed and the lessons He taught, and yet they are still so uncreative in their thinking that they couldn’t grasp the potential miracle He was proposing.

 

The following morning I listened to a sermon on KDRY (AM 1100). The pastor was preaching out of John 20, in which the Mary Magdalene, and then later Peter and John, find the empty tomb and don’t quite understand what has happened to Jesus (except for John, the pastor said, who “saw and believed”). Here again was an opportunity for me, with my awesome New Testament-reading knowledge and insight, to wonder why they were so perplexed as to what had happened to Jesus’s body. And the thought happened again later when dear Thomas, who wasn’t with the others when Jesus visited them in the upper room, declared that he would not believe until he sees the nail prints on His hands, and feels the wounds on His hands and side.


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John the Baptist

“John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. 27 It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.”

                                                              John 1:26

 

You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’  He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.  He must increase, but I must decrease

                                                            John 3:28-30

 

I have been reading the book of John, enjoined to do so after Pastor Ray invited us all to do during this Lenten season. John the Baptist is mentioned in the first and third chapters, and we gain a glimpse of his character as we read about him (and we fill out more of it with the help of other gospels). We know from the gospel of Luke that he was preordained to “go before Him (the Lord) in the spirit and power of Elijah, to ‘turn the hearts of the fathers to the children’ (Malachi 4:5-6), and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make read a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:16-17). We remember from our childhood Sunday School lessons that he was the guy who ate locusts and honey, and wore camel’s hair and a leather belt (as we read in Mark 1).

 

Mark also tells us that John “preached a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4), and that as he baptized Jesus, he got to experience the divine in seeing the heavens part, and the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus like a dove, and hearing God’s declaration of Jesus as His beloved Son.


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Evangelism

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

                                                               Matthew 28:19-20

 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

 

                                                                                    1 Peter 3:15        

The topic of evangelism has been on my mind lately: a couple of times on Saturday when I playfully teased one of my best friends about her spiritual gift of evangelism and how easy it could be; and then again in the devotional Jack shared before Sunday School. As I sought to prepare for this devotional by looking up various scriptures and blogs and such, I found myself realizing that evangelism is not something I should be taking lightly.

 

I’ve often thought of the line that is attributed (erroneously) to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words” as an innocuous way to evangelize. We can demonstrate love in our acts of service to others, and we act as the hands and feet of Christ when our servants’ hearts enable us to take care of the sick, destitute, imprisoned, and hungry. And these are very good things! They are not, however, true evangelism.

 

True evangelism occurs when we share the gospel with someone else, with the purpose of convincing nonbelievers of its truth—“teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade”, according to author Mack Stiles. And it is something that we are called to do.


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Taking Captive Your Thoughts

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ

                                                            2 Corinthians 10:3-5         

 

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 

                                                            Philippians 4:8

                                                           

I’m fairly confident that I’m not the only one who has conversations with herself as she processes events that have taken place, though I may be one of a very few who will admit to having them and actually share that in cyberspace for all to read.

 

I was driving home from work the other day, after a fairly stressful day that was capped off with an end-of-day meeting with my boss and my executive director to go over some miscommunications on the part of multiple people tackling a problem. I was proud at my collectedness during the meeting, despite the frustrating nature of the topic we’d been discussing. It was during the drive home I’d remembered the answer to something I’d not been able to clarify, and while I was happy that I’d recalled it, I was frustrated that I hadn’t brought it up during the chat. I then started to play out how the conversation would have gone if I had remembered it then, and I found myself feeling defensive and a little bitter.

 

I found myself recalling the other times in the past couple of months that work frustrations had set in, and resentment began to rise as I painted myself the victim in most of these interactions, self-awareness and reason placed temporarily on hold while it happened. With each interaction’s recap, irritation at my self-perceived affronts grew exponentially.

At some point in this escalation scenario, I realized what I was doing and stopped the negative talk immediately. I believe the Holy Spirit impressed upon me the phrase “I control the narrative in my head”, as He led me to recognize the handiwork of the enemy. No, I wasn’t possessed nor did he control me, but what he did was seize an opportunity to plant the tiniest seed of doubt and bitterness, and I watered and cultivated the soil of acrimony in which it grew.

 

Friends, Paul tells us in 2nd Corinthians, verse 3 about the spiritual warfare we are in. The enemy is constant and relentless in his pursuit, seeking whom he may devour. When we allow ourselves to dwell on negative thoughts, we offer him an opportunity to cause us to lose focus on what God wants us to.

 

A way to counteract that is to be in His word, for Paul tells us that we can be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We can also focus on those things that are from the Lord, as Paul told the Philippians. We need to be in constant contact with Him in prayer, and in tune with the Holy Spirit for His help to combat negative thoughts. As soon as we recognize an evil or negative thought, we need to take it to the Lord and confess it, and ask Him to cleanse your heart and mind.

 

I don’t mean to make it sound so simple, because in our own strength it isn’t, but we know that we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us. He is our Helper and our Counselor, and He longs to help us.

 

Prayer Requests

  • For us to realize the riches that we have, and for us to share them with others and give them back to the Lord, Who gave them to us in the first place
  • For grace to abound in all things within the body of Christ
  • For the innumerable heart wrenching notices and posts about missing teenagers and children
  • For us to fully commit to being His church, regardless of the cost

 

Surrounding yourself with people who have a deep and personal relationship with Jesus Christ is another way you can help counteract the negativity and attacks from the enemy. Find a small group, or <shameless plug> come by the Fellowship Hall Thursday nights at 7:00 and join our prayer group. Small groups can offer accountability and love.

 

Quotes

 

“We can’t walk with the Holy Ghost unless we agree to walk the way He walks and go in the direction He’s going.” — A.W. Tozer

 

“Don’t treat people the way they treat you. Treat people the way God treats you.”    — Dave Willis



From Jericho to Ai

“ And Joshua said, “Alas, Lord God, why have You brought this people over the Jordan at all—to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? Oh, that we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of the Jordan! O Lord, what shall I say when Israel turns its back before its enemies? For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear it, and surround us, and cut off our name from the earth. Then what will You do for Your great name?

 

So the Lord said to Joshua: “Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face?  Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff.” 

 

                                                            Joshua 7:7-11         

                                                   

I started reading the book of Joshua after Jack had shared the name of their new band in church a couple of weeks ago. The awesome destruction of Jericho under the mighty hand of the Lord happens in chapter 6, positioning Israel as a force to be reckoned with and Joshua, a battle strategist whose fame “spread throughout all the country” because the Lord was with him. Chapter 6 ends on a very high note.

 

With a sense of foreboding, chapter 7 starts off with the word “But”, introducing a shift and invoking the tagline from the ABC Wide World of Sports “the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat”, with the footage of the downhill skier missing his jump (I know I’m dating myself with that reference but still… the memories, hmm?). We learn that one of the Israelites took something from the spoils of the defeat of Jericho, something he was expressly forbidden to take as the Lord had declared it “accursed,” and so the Lord “burned against the children of Israel.”

 

We read how Joshua sent a small contingent of men to attack the city of Ai, on the advice of his scouts, that 36 men were killed by the men of Ai, and how the remaining 3,000 men retreated from the battle. Unsurprisingly, Joshua reacted to the defeat in despair, tearing his clothes and falling prostrate before the ark, and implored the Lord for an explanation for His abandonment of Israel (verse 7 above).


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Seeking

“ And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”

                                                        Jeremiah 29:13

 

Seek the Lord while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.
Isaiah 55:6

 

Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually.

                                                       1 Chronicles 16”11

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve felt that the Holy Spirit has placed in my consciousness the concept of “seeking” Him. At first it seemed innocuous—I’d read a verse about seeking the Lord in a devotional and I’d gloss over the text. But then I started hearing that notion in different media—snippets of sermons and radio devotionals on KDRY and in my bible reading—and it felt like a targeted marketing campaign personalized to little ol’ me! I do believe, however, that the message might be for you and for us as His body as well, so I’m going to share.

 

The command to seek God (His face, His kingdom, Him) is found throughout the Old and New Testaments. According to Strong’s Concordance, the Hebrew word for “seek” is baqash, and the Greek word is zeteo. Both have a sense of fervency and earnestness, in the same way “seek” in English is distinguished from “search” or “look for”. Dictionary.com suggests that “pursue” is a synonym, and I believe that describes perfectly what Scripture commands us to do, over and over again.


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God’s Perfect State

 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

Revelation 21:5

 

Last month I read the book of Revelation for perhaps the third time. I was fortunate to have my favorite study reference with me (a website done by David Guzik called Enduring Word), and referenced it with each chapter I read, sometimes multiple times. Revelation is not necessarily an easy read, but using a study guide helps tremendously. There is a great number of messages and takeaways throughout the book; I’m excited to share thoughts about something I read in the study guide for Revelation 21.

 

In the beginning of Revelation 21, John shares the description of the New Jerusalem and the fact that God Himself will dwell among His people, and that there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. Also, that He, the holy One who sat on the throne said that He makes all things new. David Guzik’s comment surrounding verse 5 is what caught my attention. In reference to “all things new”, he writes “This is a brief glance at the thinking behind God’s eternal plan – to allow sin and its destruction in order to do a greater work of making all things new….Our instinct is to romantically consider innocence as man’s perfect state, and wish Adam would have never done what he did. But we fail to realize that redeemed man is greater than innocent man, that we gain more in Jesus than we ever lost in Adam. God’s perfect state is one of redemption, not innocence.” (emphasis mine).

 

Guzik is right. I had failed to realize the concept of redemption being greater than innocence. I don’t know if I understood the concept, however. I mean, Adam and Eve seemed to have it so good—they walked with the Lord Almighty in His garden. They lacked nothing. As I mulled it over, I turned into either a professional journalist or professional toddler, with the series of “why” questions I posed to myself. Follow along (if you can) with my thought process: Why did they have to fall? Why did they have to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? Why was the tree even there? Why did God place the tree there?” Now please understand, I am not accusing God of setting Adam and Eve up for failure—He did not tempt them. We learn in James that He does not tempt anyone. But surely He knew they would eat from it, because He is omniscient. So why was it there? As I prayed and sought His discernment, I believe the answer is this: free will.


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Who do you say He is?

Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them, “Who do men say that I am?” So they answered, “John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am? ”Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.”

Mark 8:27-29

 

This week’s devotional is another one in which the awesomeness of God’s timing and leading affirmed the message I am writing about. I’d actually kicked around this idea a couple of weeks ago in our prayer meeting but wrote on something different last week. I listened to a sermon on KDRY AM 1100 this morning which was very similar to this message, and reassured me that I’m on the right track.

 

I’d like to ask you to pretend that you are out and about in your spare time, running errands and doing what-have-you, and you decide to take a little break at your local Starbucks or restaurant. You’re by yourself, and enjoying your meal. A stranger at the table next to yours starts chatting with you (introverts, just go with me on this. Pretend that you respond <grin>), and you both have a light and pleasant conversation. There are no hidden agendas—just two people passing time and shooting the breeze. Without skipping a beat or a shared laugh, your new friend then poses this to you: “Tell me about Jesus.”

 

How do you answer? What’s the first thought that comes into your head?


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The Worship Service

“Oh come, let us sing to the LORD. Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the LORD is the great God, and the great King above all gods. … Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.”
Psalm 95: 1-3; 6-7

 

“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”                                                                                           John 4: 23-24

 

It’s really cool when the message that I’ve been needing to write on for a while, the one that’s been rattling around in my brain whilst I noodle on it, is the same fundamental one that Pastor Terrell preached this past Sunday. It’s cool (to me, at least) in that it’s confirmation of the message and the timing, and that His hand is in it all. I’d started to write on the topic of worship a couple of months ago, and just couldn’t birth it all the way. I know believe I understand why—His timing and all.

 

I have recently rejoined the Worship committee, as my three-year service on the Board of Directors for my Emmaus community ended in December. I’m excited about the opportunity we have to consider making changes to the worship service while still continuing to reinforce the message that Pastor Kevin started about the service: “it ain’t about us.”

 

Cue record scratch and readers gasping in concert. “Wha? Changes? Not about us?”


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The Inspiration of Humility

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”…”Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in the appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.”
Phillipians 2:3; 5-8

 

“Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.”

 

                                                1 Peter 5:6-6 (Proverbs 3:34 referenced within)

 

Our adult Sunday school class has been studying the book entitled The Mind of Christ for a bit of time now. Its author provides Scripture references that guide us toward understanding and seeking to attain the attitude and mind of our Lord Jesus Christ. God created us in the likeness of Himself; it only stands to reason that He would want us to become like Him in all that we do.

The chapter we have been in for the past couple of weeks is entitled “Humble and Obedient”, and we have been hanging out in the “humble” part, studying its meaning and examples. Humility is the state of being humble, or low; a recognition of one’s self in relation to God and others with a willful putting aside one’s self. Jesus, of course, is the epitome of humility, from his birth in a lowly manger, to his death of a criminal’s fashion. Humility does not always come easily to us, even as children of God, because although we became new creations when we were saved, we are still in this world and struggle with the confines of the world’s standards and thoughts.

 

It is through the working and conviction of the Holy Spirit that we are able to even aspire to overcome the baseness and find humility. Fortunately, we have His holy book to help us, and I’d like to share a sort of litmus test with which we can gauge our level of humility (with the help of the Holy Spirit, of course). Go with me to Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13, starting with verse 4, but instead of reading the word “Love”, substitute your name. Like this: “Laura suffers long and is kind; Laura does not envy; Laura does not parade herself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, [Laura] does not seek her own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; [Laura] does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in the truth; [Laura] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”


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Giving Thanks

To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

Psalm 30:12

 

“Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”

 

                                                1 Chronicles 16:34

 

I realize that this devotional is about 6 days late and a couple of dollars short, but when I couldn’t settle on the final message for this week’s devotional was to be, this topic kind of came to mind.

 

This devotional started this past Sunday, as I listened to Pastor Ray preach out of Matthew 14, the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000. As Ray painted the scene in which Jesus compelled the disciples to supply food for the crowds that had followed Jesus, and their collective response, he speculated on the reaction of the disciples to such a challenging request. Here are the disciples who had been with Christ throughout His ministry, witness to the miracles Jesus performed and the lessons He taught, and yet they are still so uncreative in their thinking that they couldn’t grasp the potential miracle He was proposing.

 

The following morning I listened to a sermon on KDRY (AM 1100). The pastor was preaching out of John 20, in which the Mary Magdalene, and then later Peter and John, find the empty tomb and don’t quite understand what has happened to Jesus (except for John, the pastor said, who “saw and believed”). Here again was an opportunity for me, with my awesome New Testament-reading knowledge and insight, to wonder why they were so perplexed as to what had happened to Jesus’s body. And the thought happened again later when dear Thomas, who wasn’t with the others when Jesus visited them in the upper room, declared that he would not believe until he sees the nail prints on His hands, and feels the wounds on His hands and side.


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Family in Prayer

What is S.U.P.V.?

For those new to our church, website and this blog, here’s what it’s all about: SUPV stands for the Straight Up Prayer Vigil. It is a virtual prayer vigil that happens every Wednesday (God willing). The Straight Up refers to the times of 6:00 a.m., noon, 6:00 p.m., and midnight–you choose whatever time works for you–and you pray for our church, those on prayer list, and prayer requests that are included in the blog post or are sent by email, normally at the beginning of the week for that Wednesday. 
The length of the SUPVs has grown in nature over the past couple of years, and now it’s pretty much a full-blown devotional, with specific prayer requests included. May it bless you as you read it.