Sunday, March 27, 2016

Charlie Wedemeyer

“Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

Life was good for Charlie Wedemeyer. He was married to a beautiful woman, Lucy, had two wonderful children, and was a successful high school teacher and football coach. When he noticed a weakness in his hands, however, he visited a doctor. The doctor told him he had ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), that in a few years he would be totally paralyzed, and that eventually he would die. Charlie’s disease worsened in the years that followed.

Time appeared to be running out. Then two things changed his life—he began using a portable respirator, and he became a Christian.

Today, more than twenty years after being diagnosed, Charlie and Lucy have touched thousands of lives during their appearances across the country. He cannot walk, speak, or even breathe on his own, but he chooses not to dwell on his infirmities.

“Pain and suffering are inescapable,” Charlie says through Lucy’s translation. “It’s up to us to decide if we’re going to be miserable or if we’re going to try to make the most of our lives.”

Charlie Wedemeyer is making the most of his. How about you?

Just between us...
  • How would either of us respond if we faced a situation like Charlie’s?
  • So far in life, how much have we been asked to suffer?
  • Who in the Bible suffered from disease or disability yet demonstrated trust in God? (For examples, see 2 Kings 5:1–14; 20:1–6; Matthew 9:27–29; Mark 5:25–29; 10:48–52; and 2 Corinthians 12:7–10.)
Father, thank You for promising to be with us when we suffer. Help us not to complain too much about life’s little hurts, and help us to place our big sorrows in Your tender care. Amen.

From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.

Why Did I Lose My Job if God Loves Me?

The Game Plan

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”— Jeremiah 9:11

While I’m not exactly a trivia junkie, I’ve always been intrigued by odd facts and bits of information. For example, if I were to ask you which of the more than 31,000 verses in the Bible is the most popular, what would you guess? I’ll give you a hint: It’s the verse you often see on placards at football games. That’s right — John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

How do we know that’s the most popular verse in the Bible? The folks at have the ability to tally the most frequently searched Scripture references on their website. Not long ago they listed the top one hundred verses based on twenty-five million Bible passage searches over a two-month period. Scanning the list, I noticed that Jeremiah 29:11 came in second place: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’

Did you notice how many times the word plans appears in that verse? Go ahead, count them. I was struck by the intentionality of the Lord to give us “hope and a future.” After all, a plan speaks of design, of forethought, of establishing a goal and an outcome. I believe it’s fair to say that God is revealing something about his character — that he is a loving, gracious heavenly Father who has our best interest in the center of his heart — while also modeling for us the virtue of having a master plan.

How appropriate for the focus of today’s reflection — namely, developing a “game plan” to manage your career transition. As I see it, if having and executing a plan to reach a desired outcome is modeled by God, then the process of crafting a plan of action to navigate a career transition ought to be important to me. In short, a game plan means proactively scheduling our time to achieve results. Without a plan, we flounder and wander aimlessly, with little progress to show for our activity by the end of the day or the end of the week.

Celebrated NFL football coach and NASCAR team owner, Joe Gibbs, puts it this way: “A win in football starts with a game plan. In racing it starts with a race plan. The same goes for life. You want to win? You need a winning game plan. My experience has taught me that the only winning game plan for life is God’s game plan — and it starts with the Bible.

This is why you’ll notice that the first thing on the following seven-part game plan I created involves the Scriptures.

  1. I will start each day with at least seven minutes of Bible and/or devotional reading and prayer. (Feel free to increase this amount as soon as you are in the habit).
  2. I will meet with my spouse or roommate every week to update them on what I have been doing and on my job-search plans for the next week.
  3. I will select a companion with whom I can be totally honest and accountable, and meet with them weekly. (This should not be the person in point two.)
  4. I will set up at least one networking appointment each day and/or make a minimum of ten calls per day pertaining to my job search.
  5. I will attend at least one meeting pertaining to job skills per week at a local career center.
  6. I will spend at least two hours per week doing volunteer work, such as with a church, mission, ministry or nursing home.
  7. I will review and adjust my game plan on a weekly basis.

This is just a starting place. Whether you use my game plan or create your own, remember the words of Proverbs 16:3: “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.

This seven-day devotional is drawn from Why Did I Lose My Job If God Loves Me: Help and Hope for Those in Career Transition by Rick J. Pritikin.


Easter, also called Pasch or Resurrection Sunday, is a festival and holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day of his burial after his crucifixion by Romans at Calvary c. 30 AD. It is the culmination of the Passion of Christ, preceded by Lent (or Great Lent), a forty-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance.

The week before Easter is called Holy Week, and it contains the days of the Easter Triduum, including Maundy Thursday, commemorating the Maundy and Last Supper, as well as Good Friday, commemorating the crucifixion and death of Jesus. In western Christianity, Eastertide, the Easter Season, begins on Easter Sunday and lasts seven weeks, ending with the coming of the fiftieth day, Pentecost Sunday. In Orthodoxy, the season of Pascha begins on Pascha and ends with the coming of the fortieth day, the Feast of the Ascension.

Easter and the holidays that are related to it are moveable feasts which do not fall on a fixed date in the Gregorian or Julian calendars which follow only the cycle of the sun; rather, its date is determined on a lunisolar calendar similar to the Hebrew calendar. The First Council of Nicaea (325) established two rules, independence of the Jewish calendar and worldwide uniformity, which were the only rules for Easter explicitly laid down by the council. No details for the computation were specified; these were worked out in practice, a process that took centuries and generated a number of controversies. It has come to be the first Sunday after the ecclesiastical full moon that occurs on or soonest after 21 March, but calculations vary in East and West.

Easter is linked to the Jewish Passover by much of its symbolism, as well as by its position in the calendar. In many languages, the words for "Easter" and "Passover" are identical or very similar. Easter customs vary across the Christian world, and include sunrise services, exclaiming the Paschal greeting, clipping the church, and decorating Easter eggs, a symbol of the empty tomb. The Easter lily, a symbol of the resurrection, traditionally decorates the chancel area of churches on this day and for the rest of Eastertide. Additional customs that have become associated with Easter and are observed by both Christians and some non-Christians include egg hunting, the Easter Bunny, and Easter parades. There are also various traditional Easter foods that vary regionally.

The New Testament states that the resurrection of Jesus, which Easter celebrates, is a foundation of the Christian faith. The resurrection established Jesus as the powerful Son of God and is cited as proof that God will judge the world in righteousness. For those who trust in Jesus' death and resurrection, "death is swallowed up in victory." Any person who chooses to follow Jesus receives "a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead". Through faith in the working of God those who follow Jesus are spiritually resurrected with him so that they may walk in a new way of life and receive eternal salvation.

Easter is linked to the Passover and Exodus from Egypt recorded in the Old Testament through the Last Supper, sufferings and crucifixion of Jesus that preceded the resurrection. According to the New Testament, Jesus gave the Passover meal a new meaning, as in the upper room during the Last Supper he prepared himself and his disciples for his death. He identified the matzah and cup of wine as his body soon to be sacrificed and his blood soon to be shed. Paul states, "Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed"; this refers to the Passover requirement to have no yeast in the house and to the allegory of Jesus as the Paschal lamb.

One interpretation of the Gospel of John is that Jesus, as the Passover lamb, was crucified at roughly the same time as the Passover lambs were being slain in the temple, on the afternoon of Nisan 14. The scriptural instructions specify that the lamb is to be slain "between the two evenings", that is, at twilight. By the Roman period, however, the sacrifices were performed in the mid-afternoon. Josephus, Jewish War 6.10.1/423 ("They sacrifice from the ninth to the eleventh hour"). Philo, Special Laws 2.27/145 ("Many myriads of victims from noon till eventide are offered by the whole people").

This interpretation, however, is inconsistent with the chronology in the Synoptic Gospels. It assumes that text literally translated "the preparation of the passover" in John 19:14 refers to Nisan 14 (Preparation Day for the Passover) and not necessarily to Yom Shishi (Friday, Preparation Day for the Passover week Sabbath)[40] and that the priests' desire to be ritually pure in order to "eat the passover"[41] refers to eating the Passover lamb, not to the public offerings made during the days of Unleavened Bread.

The Easter festival is kept in many different ways among Western Christians. The traditional, liturgical observation of Easter, as practised among Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and some Anglicans begins on the night of Holy Saturday with the Easter Vigil. This, the most important liturgy of the year, begins in total darkness with the blessing of the Easter fire, the lighting of the large Paschal candle (symbolic of the Risen Christ) and the chanting of the Exultet or Easter Proclamation attributed to Saint Ambrose of Milan.

After this service of light, a number of readings from the Old Testament are read. These tell the stories of creation, the sacrifice of Isaac, the crossing of the Red Sea, and the foretold coming of the Messiah. This part of the service climaxes with the singing of the Gloria and the Alleluia and the proclamation of the Gospel of the resurrection. At this time, the lights are brought up and the church bells are rung, according to local custom. A sermon may be preached after the gospel.

The focus then moves from the lectern to the font. Anciently, Easter was considered the ideal time for converts to receive baptism, and this practice continues within Roman Catholicism and the Anglican Communion. Whether there are baptisms at this point or not, it is traditional for the congregation to renew the vows of their baptismal faith. This act is often sealed by the sprinkling of the congregation with holy water from the font. The Catholic sacrament of Confirmation is also celebrated at the Vigil.

The Easter Vigil concludes with the celebration of the Eucharist (known in some traditions as Holy Communion). Certain variations in the Easter Vigil exist: Some churches read the Old Testament lessons before the procession of the Paschal candle, and then read the gospel immediately after the Exsultet.

Some churches prefer to keep this vigil very early on the Sunday morning instead of the Saturday night to reflect the gospel account of the women coming to the tomb at dawn on the first day of the week. These services are known as the Sunrise service and often occur in outdoor setting such as the church cemetery, yard, or a nearby park.

The first recorded "Sunrise Service" took place in 1732 among the Single Brethren in the Moravian congregation at Herrnhut, Saxony, in what is now Germany. Following an all-night vigil they went before dawn to the town graveyard, God's Acre, on the hill above the town, to celebrate the Resurrection among the graves of the departed. This service was repeated the following year by the whole congregation and subsequently spread with the Moravian Missionaries around the world, including Old Salem in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Additional celebrations are usually offered on Easter Sunday itself. Typically these services follow the usual order of Sunday services in a congregation, but also typically incorporate more highly festive elements. The music of the service, in particular, often displays a highly festive tone; the incorporation of brass instruments (trumpets, etc.) to supplement a congregation's usual instrumentation is common. Often a congregation's worship space is decorated with special banners and flowers (such as Easter lilies).

In predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines, the morning of Easter (known in the national language as "Pasko ng Muling Pagkabuhay" or the Pasch of the Resurrection) is marked with joyous celebration, the first being the dawn "Salubong", wherein large statues of Jesus and Mary are brought together to meet, imagining the first reunion of Jesus and his mother Mary after Jesus' Resurrection. This is followed by the joyous Easter Mass.

In Polish culture, the Rezurekcja (Resurrection Procession) is the joyous Easter morning Mass at daybreak when church bells ring out and explosions resound to commemorate Christ rising from the dead. Before the Mass begins at dawn, a festive procession with the Blessed Sacrament carried beneath a canopy encircles the church. As church bells ring out, handbells are vigorously shaken by altar boys, the air is filled with incense and the faithful raise their voices heavenward in a triumphant rendering of age-old Easter hymns. After the Blessed Sacrament is carried around the church and Adoration is complete, the Easter Mass begins. Another Polish Easter tradition is Święconka, the blessing of Easter baskets by the parish priest on Holy Saturday. This custom is celebrated not only in Poland, but also in the United States by Polish-Americans.

Along with the celebration of Christmas and Advent, many Lenten and Easter traditions were altered or even abandoned altogether by various offshoots of the Protestant Reformation, as they were deemed "pagan" or "Popish" (and therefore tainted) by many of the Reformation's Puritan movements. However, some of the major Reformation Churches and movements (Lutheran, Methodist and Anglican for example), chose to retain a large proportion of the observances of the established Church Year along with many of its associated traditions. In Lutheran Churches, for example, not only were the days of Holy Week observed, but also Christmas, Easter and Pentecost were observed with three-day festivals (the day itself and the two following).

Other Protestant groups took a different attitude, with most Anabaptists, Quakers, Congregationalists and Presbyterian Puritans regarding such festivals as an abomination. The Puritan rejection of Easter traditions was (and is) based partly upon their interpretation of 2 Corinthians 6:14–16 and partly upon a more general belief that, if a religious practice or celebration is not actually written in the Christian Bible, then that practice/celebration must be a later development and cannot be considered an authentic part of Christian practice or belief—so at best simply unnecessary, at worst actually sinful.

Groups such as the Restored Church of God reject the celebration of Easter, seeing it as originating in a pagan spring festival taken over by the "Roman" Catholic Church.

Jehovah's Witnesses maintain a similar view, observing a yearly commemorative service of the Last Supper and the subsequent execution of Christ on the evening of Nisan 14 (as they calculate the dates derived from the lunar Hebrew Calendar). It is commonly referred to by many Witnesses as simply "The Memorial". Jehovah's Witnesses believe that such verses as Luke 22:19–20 and Cor| 11:26 constitute a commandment to remember the death of Christ though not the resurrection, and they do so on a yearly basis just as Passover is celebrated annually by the Jews.

Members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), as part of their historic testimony against times and seasons, do not celebrate or observe Easter or any other Christian holidays, believing instead that "every day is the Lord's day", and that elevation of one day above others suggests that it is acceptable to do un-Christian acts on other days. During the 17th and 18th centuries, Quakers were persecuted for this non-observance of Holy Days.

Some Christian groups feel that Easter is something to be regarded with great joy: not marking the day itself, but remembering and rejoicing in the event it commemorates—the miracle of Christ's resurrection. In this spirit, these Christians teach that each day and all Sabbaths should be kept holy, in Christ's teachings. Hebrew-Christian, Sacred Name, and Armstrong movement churches (such as the Living Church of God) usually reject Easter in favor of Nisan 14 observance and celebration of the Christian Passover. This is especially true of Christian groups that celebrate the New Moons or annual High Sabbaths in addition to seventh-day Sabbath. They support this textually with reference to the letter to the Colossians: "Let no one ... pass judgment on you in matters of food and drink or with regard to a festival or new moon or sabbath. These are shadows of things to come; the reality belongs to Christ." (Col. 2:16–17, NAB)

Easter eggs are specially decorated eggs given out to celebrate the Easter festival. The custom of the Easter egg originated in the early Christian community of Mesopotamia, who stained eggs red in memory of the blood of Christ, shed at his crucifixion. As such, for Christians, the Easter egg is a symbol of the empty tomb. The oldest tradition is to use dyed chicken eggs, but a modern custom is to substitute eggs made from chocolate, or plastic eggs filled with candy such as jellybeans.

The Easter Bunny is a popular legendary anthropomorphic Easter gift-giving character analogous to Santa Claus in American culture. Many Americans follow the tradition of coloring hard-boiled eggs and giving baskets of candy. On Easter Monday, the President of the United States holds an annual Easter egg roll on the White House lawn for young children. Since the rabbit is a pest in Australia, the Easter Bilby is available as an alternative. Easter eggs are a widely popular symbol of new life in Poland and other Slavic countries' folk traditions. A batik-like decorating process known as pisanka produces intricate, brilliantly-colored eggs.

The celebrated House of Fabergé workshops created exquisite jewelled eggs for the Russian Imperial Court.

Charles Henry Brent, Bishop of the Philippines, and of Western New York

Today the church remembers Charles Henry Brent, Bishop of the Philippines, and of Western New York, 1929.

In 1902 a ship entered the Port of Manila bearing the American Governor, William Howard Taft, and the Missionary Bishop of the Philippines, Charles Henry Brent. Bishop Brent arrived with all the trappings and prestige of the new American establishment. However, he soon demonstrated that he was going to resist the temptations that ruined many protestant missions. He refused to waste time criticizing Roman Catholicism, the religion of most of the Filipinos, or to conduct a "chapel of ease" for the rich and comfortable American Episcopalians in Manila. He determined, instead, to go to the thousands of non-Christians on the islands and also to see that the American rule in the islands was responsible and ethical.

Bishop Brent founded several schools and an excellent charity hospital in Manila. He became a key opponent of the deadly opium trade in the islands. He conducted a successful mission to the sophisticated Chinese of Manila and converted the pagan and uncivilized Igorots of Luzon. He dared to venture, unarmed, into the territory of the hostile Moros of the Sulu Archipelago, among whom he initiated a Christian mission. By 1917 his health was broken, and he accepted election to the Diocese of Western New York, where he became an important leader in the new ecumenical movement. Everywhere he had served as a bold witness to Christ's love for "all sorts and conditions of men."

Help us to lay aside our own comfort for the good of all your people, O God. Amen.

Heavenly Father, whose Son prayed that we all might be one: Deliver us from arrogance and prejudice, and give us wisdom and forbearance, that, following your servant Charles Henry Brent, we may be united in one family with all who confess the Name of your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Daily Readings for March 27, 2016 - Easter Day

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1   Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his mercy endures for ever.
2   Let Israel now proclaim, "His mercy endures for ever."
14   The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.
15   There is a sound of exultation and victory in the tents of the righteous:
16   The right hand of the LORD has triumphed! the right hand of the LORD is exalted! the right hand of the LORD has triumphed!
17   I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD.
18   The LORD has punished me sorely, but he did not hand me over to death.
19   Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter them; I will offer thanks to the LORD.
20   This is the gate of the LORD; he who is righteous may enter.
21   I will give thanks to you, for you answered me and have become my salvation.
22   The same stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
23   This is the LORD'S doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24   On this day the LORD has acted; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

1 Corinthians 15:19-26
If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

John 20:1-18
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord" and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Daily Meditation for March 27, 2016 - Easter Day

From Forward Day by Day

Luke 24:11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.
We might scoff at the apostles for thinking Jesus’ resurrection was an “idle tale.” Once people die, they stay dead. That’s how the world works. So if someone told me that a dead person had come to life again, I’d think they were crazy.

The radical claim of Easter is sometimes lost amidst all the flowers, the dresses, the beloved hymns, the family rituals, and the thrill of a full church. There’s nothing wrong with any of that, but it obscures the thing we celebrate. Jesus was dead, stone-cold dead. Heart stopped. No breathing. And then he was alive again, showing forth God’s love in new ways.

If we aren’t overwhelmed by Easter, we aren’t taking it seriously. If we take Easter seriously, it will rattle our very understanding of reality. Easter celebrates the astounding claim that God’s love is stronger than the power of empire, stronger than heavy stones, stronger than our greatest fears, and stronger even than death.


For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)

The Apostle Paul was convinced that whether alive or dead, Christ is gain. This enabled him to minister amid severe hardship and persecution. It also helped him face the potential of premature death without fear and concern. When Christ is everything, life and death are left in His hands.

Bad news interrupted the Standing Strong Through the Storm (SSTS) training for pastors in a rural town of Colombia clouding the happy spirit felt in that meeting.

A letter was received from Pastor Manuel who explained that he was prevented from attending the workshop. Guerrilla leaders found out about the event. They told him that because of his insistence on preaching the gospel, they would not let him travel out of the village.

The amazing thing is that in spite of the continuous threats against Pastor Manuel, the guerrillas have not been able to carry them out against him. On repeated occasions, the army has come just in time to save him from some guerrilla attack.

While participants were grieving from this news about Pastor Manuel, another pastor, Hermes, told about two attempts against his own life by the same subversive band the previous month. Immediately participants expressed their desire to continue their ministry in places where the gospel is prohibited.

However, seven days later, the guerrillas brought together all the leaders that participated in the SSTS workshop and told them, “We are tired of the Christian’s disobedience. We do not want to kill anybody; the only thing we want is that you stop telling the people about the Bible. We will have to execute you. Tell Pastor Hermes that we will take drastic measures against him since we know that he is the one who encourages you…”

Pastor Hermes reported that instead of frightening the believers, this difficult situation generated a more intense plan of spiritual and ministerial action. The leaders want Open Doors seminars to come to places where it is impossible to preach.

How are they going to do it? Pastor Hermes said that a network of prayer was established during the time they were together. He believes the only way is through personalized training, or delivering a booklet and training to only one person at a time. For now it is the only way to use this tool to strengthen the believers. The training will take longer, but it is very dangerous to meet and to preach in houses because the guerrillas have cleverly infiltrated the area.

He concluded, “Materials from Standing Strong Through the Storm have been the driving force for us to continue preaching…Others also are striving to follow Christ and we have to do the same to prevent our church believers from losing their fervor.

“Besides prayer and fasting, we have to take action…God has protected us up to this moment, and if one day we die for preaching Christ, it will be a privilege.”

RESPONSE: Today I will live in such a way that Christ is honored and glorified. If it takes all my strength or even my death, I will sacrifice all for Him and consider it a privilege.

PRAYER: Pray for strength and endurance for pastors in rural Colombia facing death threats daily.

Verse of the Day - March 27, 2016

Psalm 62:7 (NIV) My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.