Monday, April 4, 2016

Hitting the Jackpot

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24

Do you ever dream of winning the lottery? It may interest you to know that about a third of all lottery winners go bankrupt within five years and that another quarter of these instant millionaires wind up selling their remaining payments at a discounted rate to pay off debts. People who are reckless with ordinary paychecks are just as reckless with bigger ones.

Rather than fantasize about hitting the jackpot, we should strive to be better stewards of what we have. Handle credit cards—if you must use them at all—with great care, and do everything you can to stay out of debt, one of the foremost marriage destroyers. Make purchases with cash when possible. Establish a family budget and stick to it.

Remember to give at least 10 percent of your earnings to the Lord—after all, everything is His, anyway.
Above all, make sure you spend less than you earn each month. It takes discipline, but this simple formula will go a long way toward establishing a worry‐free atmosphere in your home. 

Just between us…
  • Most people around the world would consider the average American income a jackpot. Do you?
  • Are we saving money instead of falling into debt?
  • Would we benefit from establishing a family budget or revising the one we have?
  • Are we tithing?
Heavenly Father, You bless us with so much. Even when money is tight, we know You care for us. But we often fail to be responsible and to honor You with how we manage money. Help us to know and live by Your wisdom. Amen. 

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

The Annunciation

The Annunciation (from the Vulgate Latin annuntiatio (or nuntiatio) nativitatis Christi), also referred to as the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Annunciation of Our Lady or the Annunciation of the Lord, is the Christian celebration of the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus, the Son of God, marking his Incarnation. Gabriel told Mary to name her son Yehoshua , meaning "YHWH is salvation".

According to Luke 1:26, the Annunciation occurred "in the sixth month" of Elizabeth's pregnancy with John the Baptist. Many Christians observe this event with the Feast of the Annunciation on 25 March, an approximation of the northern vernal equinox nine full months before Christmas, the ceremonial birthday of Jesus. In England, this came to be known as Lady Day. It marked the new year until 1752. The 2nd-century writer Irenaeus of Lyon regarded the conception of Jesus as 25 March coinciding with the Passion.

The Annunciation has been a key topic in Christian art in general, as well as in Marian art in the Catholic Church, particularly during the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Biblical account

In the Bible, the Annunciation is narrated in Luke 1:26-38:

    26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. 36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing shall be impossible. 38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

A separate, briefer annunciation is given to Joseph in Matthew 1:18-21:

    18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. 20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

In the Qur'an

The Annunciation is described in the Qur'an, in Sura 003:045 (Al-i-Imran – The Family of Imran) verses 45-51 (Yusuf Ali translation):

    45Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah;"

And Sura 019:016 (Maryam – Mary) verses 16-26 also refers to it. Muslim tradition holds that the Annunciation took place during the month of Ramadan.

Feast day

The feast of the Annunciation is usually held on March 25. It is moved in the Catholic Church, Anglican and Lutheran liturgical calendars when that date falls during Holy Week or Easter Week or on a Sunday. The Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, and Eastern Catholic Churches do not move the feast, having special combined liturgies for those years when the Annunciation coincides with another feast; in fact in these churches a Divine Liturgy is celebrated on Good Friday when it coincides with the Annunciation.

When the calendar system of Anno Domini was first introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in AD 525, he assigned the beginning of the new year to March 25 since, according to Catholic theology, the era of grace began with the Incarnation of Christ. The first certain mentions of the feast are in a canon of the 656 Council of Toledo, where it is described as celebrated throughout the church. The 692 Council of Constantinople "in Trullo" forbade observance of any festivals during Lent, excepting Sunday and the Feast of the Annunciation. An earlier origin had been claimed for it on the grounds that it appeared in manuscripts of the sermons of Athanasius and Gregory Thaumaturgus but they were subsequently discovered to be spurious.

Along with Easter, March 25 was used as the New Year's Day in many pre-modern Christian countries. The holiday was moved to January 1 in France by Charles IX's 1564 Edict of Roussillon. Lady Day was the English New Year's until 1752. The change in holidays may have been the origin of April Fools' Day. Also in England, the 1240 Synod of Worcester banned all servile work during the Feast of the Annunciation, making it a day of rest.

In Christian art

The Annunciation has been one of the most frequent subjects of Christian art. Depictions of the Annunciation go back to early Christianity, with the Priscilla catacomb including the oldest known fresco of the Annunciation, dating to the 4th century. It has been a favorite artistic subject in both the Christian East and as Roman Catholic Marian art, particularly during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and figures in the repertoire of almost all of the great masters. The figures of the virgin Mary and the angel Gabriel, being emblematic of purity and grace, were favorite subjects of Roman Catholic Marian art, where the scene is also used to represent the perpetual virginity of Mary via the announcement by the angel Gabriel that Mary would conceive a child to be born the Son of God.

Works on the subject have been created by artists such as Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio, Duccio, Jan van Eyck, and Murillo among others. The mosaics of Pietro Cavallini in Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome (1291), the frescos of Giotto in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua (1303), Domenico Ghirlandaio's fresco at the church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence (1486), and Donatello's gilded sculpture at the church of Santa Croce, Florence (1435) are famous examples.

Daily Readings for April 4, 2016 - The Annunciation

Isaiah 7:10-14
Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test. Then Isaiah said: "Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

Psalm 45
1   My heart is stirring with a noble song; let me recite what I have fashioned for the king; my tongue shall be the pen of a skilled writer.
2   You are the fairest of men; grace flows from your lips, because God has blessed you for ever.
3   Strap your sword upon your thigh, O mighty warrior, in your pride and in your majesty.
4   Ride out and conquer in the cause of truth and for the sake of justice.
5   Your right hand will show you marvelous things; your arrows are very sharp, O mighty warrior.
6   The peoples are falling at your feet, and the king's enemies are losing heart.
7   Your throne, O God, endures for ever and ever, a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom; you love righteousness and hate iniquity.
8   Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows.
9   All your garments are fragrant with myrrh, aloes, and cassia, and the music of strings from ivory palaces makes you glad.
10   Kings' daughters stand among the ladies of the court; on your right hand is the queen, adorned with the gold of Ophir.
11   Hear, O daughter; consider and listen closely; forget your people and your father's house.
12   The king will have pleasure in your beauty; he is your master; therefore do him honor.
13   The people of Tyre are here with a gift; the rich among the people seek your favor."
14   All glorious is the princess as she enters; her gown is cloth-of-gold.
15   In embroidered apparel she is brought to the king; after her the bridesmaids follow in procession.
16   With joy and gladness they are brought, and enter into the palace of the king.
17   In place of fathers, O king, you shall have sons; you shall make them princes over all the earth.
18   I will make your name to be remembered from one generation to another; therefore nations will praise you for ever and ever."

Hebrews 10:4-10
For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, "Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, 'See, God, I have come to do your will, O God' (in the scroll of the book it is written of me)." When he said above, "You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings" (these are offered according to the law), then he added, "See, I have come to do your will." He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And it is by God's will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Luke 1:26-38
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God." Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.

Daily Meditation for April 4, 2016 - The Annunciation

From Forward Day by Day

Hebrews 10:10 And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

A friend of mine recently introduced me to the concept of the “resistance to the call.” I was struggling with an opportunity that had come to me and didn’t understand why I was the one being asked. “Why me?” I pondered. “I’m too new…I don’t have the training or experience…I don’t have time.”

The community that the author of Hebrews was addressing may have had a similar resistance to their calling. Maybe the excuse went something like, “I haven’t made the right sacrifices.” They were stuck. We might add to their excuses: “I haven’t read the Bible enough…I don’t pray enough…I’m not good enough.”

To those excuses and to all the clever (if heartfelt) excuses we come up with, the reading from Hebrews reminds us, “once for all.” It’s not up to our being anything-enough. It is about our call, and Jesus Christ is all the sacrifice ever needed. When I learned about the resistance, I forgave myself and accepted the call. Christ is enough. Once for all.

You Gotta Laugh

Proverbs 31:10–31
Oh, the unique challenges awaiting the woman approaching middle age! Imagine waking up one morning to find your face sort of lying in a pool beside you. Your once tight abs have been replaced with something rather squishy that has to be gathered up (starting somewhere around the knees) and tucked into industrial–strength, control-top pantyhose. Imagine suddenly realizing that your thighs almost create sparks when you walk. Your biceps are so deflated that in a strong breeze you worry that they might actually make a flapping sound. Maybe you don’t have to imagine it. Maybe you’re living it.

God might have knit these bodies together out of a more “permanent press” kind of fabric. He could have built in a kind of stretch that wouldn’t lose its elasticity around middle age. But he didn’t. And through our aging and all the challenges we live through, he teaches us what’s really important.

The Proverbs 31 “wife of noble character” got in on that teaching. She could “laugh at the days to come” (verse 25). Her future held flabby abs and combustible thighs too. But she could laugh. Why?

The passage describes a woman who seems just about perfect. Many Bible teachers call her the “virtuous woman,” and she makes Martha Stewart look like a novice. She keeps her husband happy; she works eagerly; she gets up early and stays up late. She gives to others generously, makes her own clothes, is an eloquent teacher, and her kids love her. A woman like this “who can find,” indeed! She is a formidable pattern, an intimidating example.

But look past the outward layer. Look deeper. You’ll see a woman of wisdom who fully understood what was really important. She understood what it meant to work hard and to serve God with her whole heart. She understood that everything of consequence was wrapped up in him. Serving others came as a natural extension of serving him.

There’s only one metamorphosis that matters—and it will keep every woman eternally beautiful. It’s a metamorphosis of the heart. The Scripture says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Having a heart of unselfish service that has been transformed by Christ—that’s what’s important. And that is what gives us the ability to laugh at the future . . . even if it involves flabby thighs.


  1. When your attention to appearance gets out of whack and your focus is more on looks than on eternal things, how might “fearing the Lord” turn your focus back to where it needs to be?
  2. What are some of the ways the woman in Proverbs 31:10–31 served others?
  3. How many different types of people did her daily life and ministry touch? How might you underestimate the many lives you touch each day?
Proverbs 31:25, 30
She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come . . . Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

Related Readings

Psalm 139:1–24; Romans 12:1–13; Galatians 6:9–10; 1 Peter 3:1–6

His Princess Every Day - Monday, April 4, 2016

Devotionals for Women - Inspirational author and speaker Sheri Rose Shepherd imagines what a letter written from God to you would look like.

I Will Color Your World

My Princess Bride,

It brings me great joy to color your world, my beloved bride. Whenever you begin to doubt my devotion to you, look for me and I will create new ways to prove to you how passionately I love you. I will paint the sky with heavenly bliss to uplift your spirit. I will create a radiant rainbow on a cloudy day to remind you that I keep all my promises. I will grow delicate flowers, just to see you smile. I am here to sweeten your days and carry all your burdens for you. I will send a cool breeze to touch your face on a hot day just to remind you how much I love you.

Your Lord and creator

He covers the sky with clouds;
He supplies the earth with rain
And makes grass grow on the hills. - Psalm 147:8 (NIV)

Prayer to my Prince

My Lord,

Your commitment to me has captivated my heart. I am broken as I reflect on all the days I've not seen the wonderful things on earth you created for my pleasure. To many times I’ve been blinded by the worries of this world. Please my prince; open my eyes that I may never miss another chance to let you express your love for me. I love the way you color my world.

Your adoring Bride

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
All the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever. - Psalm 23:6

This devotional is written by Sheri Rose Shepherd. All content copyright Sheri Rose Shepherd 2015. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Visit for devotionals, books, videos, and more from Sheri Rose Shepherd.

Women of the Bible - Delilah

Her name means: "Dainty One"

Her character: A prostitute whose nationality is unknown, she used her beauty to betray her lover and enrich herself.
Her sorrow: That Samson lied to her, making her look foolish on three different occasions.
Her joy: That she overpowered one of history's most powerful men, handing him over to his enemy, the Philistines.
Key Scriptures: Judges 16:4-22 

Her Story

Her teeth gleamed white in the dusky light as a smile parted lips soft and smooth as a scarlet ribbon. Earrings glinted gold as she threw back her head and laughed out loud. Fortune had come knocking on her door that day. No lover had ever paid Delilah as well as Samson would.

The Philistine kings hated the long-haired strongman who had set their fields afire and slain a thousand of their countrymen. Each had offered Delilah an incredible sum—eleven hundred shekels of silver! She had merely to deliver the secret of Samson's strength. His would be no match for hers, a strength born of beauty and schooled in the arts of love. Weakened by passion, he would tell her everything she needed to know.

"If anyone ties me with seven fresh thongs that have not been dried, I'll become as any other man," he replied to her persistent probing. Hiding a few Philistines in the room for good measure, Delilah waited until he slept and then carefully wrapped him with the thongs and exclaimed, "Samson, the Philistines are upon you!" But he had outsmarted her, snapping the cords as his enemies fled.

Like a man toying with a kitten, Samson repeated the ruse twice, tricking Delilah with crazy stories about new ropes and braided hair. Finally Delilah confronted him, "How can you say, 'I love you,' when you won't confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven't told me the secret of your great strength." Worn down by her nagging, Samson gave in.

"No razor has ever been used on my head," he confided, "because I have been a Nazirite set apart to God since birth. If my head were shaved, my strength will leave me, and I will become as weak as any other man." Years earlier, before his birth, an angel had instructed his mother that he should drink no wine, touch nothing unclean, and never cut his hair. He was to be dedicated to God in a special way, destined to play a great role in God's plan to free his people from their Philistine overlords. A strong man unable to subdue his own tempestuous nature, Samson had already broken the first two stipulations of his vow. Now he was about to break the third, preferring the good graces of a woman to the favor of his God.

Sensing she had heard the truth at last, Delilah sent word to the Philistines. After cutting his hair while he slept, she once again called, "Samson, the Philistines are upon you!" This time Samson awoke from his sleep unable to resist his enemies, who quickly seized him, gouging out his eyes. Then they imprisoned him in Gaza, where he spent his days in darkness, performing women's work grinding grain.

That's the last we hear of the lovely, treacherous, and now wealthy Delilah, but not the last we hear of her lover. Slowly Samson's hair began to grow back, first a short cap to warm his head and then a cover for his ears. What harm can a blind man do us? the Philistines must have reasoned.

One day they held a great celebration in honor of Dagon, god of the harvest, for delivering Samson into their hands. Oblivious to their danger, they brought him out of prison to make sport of their once-mighty enemy. But when Samson stood among the pillars of their temple, he prayed, "O Sovereign Lord, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes." Then he braced himself against the two central pillars of the temple and pushed. The roof buckled and collapsed, and Samson and his enemies were buried together under its rubble. By his death, Samson killed more Philistines than he had in life. Just as the angel had predicted, Samson had begun a work of deliverance that David would complete many years later.

The strange story of Samson and Delilah is hardly edifying. It's tempting to conclude that the selfish, ill-disciplined Samson had finally met his match in the greedy Delilah. A visitation by an angel, the gift of supernatural strength, a prophetic destiny—such obvious blessings could not assure Samson's devotion. Why would God use such a man, enabling him to become a judge in Israel? What a contrast to Deborah, who had ruled Israel a century earlier! Perhaps God had little promising material to choose from, given the state of his people during an era of Israel's history where "everyone did as he saw fit" ( Judges 21:25).

If anything, Delilah's role in this sordid tale assures us that God will use anything and anyone to accomplish his purpose. Even our sin. Even our enemies. Our deliverance is purely a matter of grace. But how much better if we become people set apart for his service, whose inner strengths match our outer strengths, enabling us to live out our destiny assured of God's pleasure.

Her Promise

Even the sordid story of Delilah and her Hebrew lover, Samson, conveys an important truth: God loves us and will not abandon us even when we make mistakes, even when we sin. Over and over throughout the biblical narrative, we see God using people who are great sinners, people who are less than perfect, people who through their own folly fail and only then recognize their need of him. He didn't abandon people like Samson, foolish and sinful though he was, and he won't abandon us, foolish and sinful though we might be.

Girlfriends in God - April 04, 2016

Leaving an Imprint
Part One

Gwen Smith
Today’s Truth

So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them (Genesis 1:27, ESV). 

Friend to Friend

Let’s rewind humanity’s story way back to the beginning. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’ ... So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:26–27, ESV).

My brain doesn’t know what to do with this. I don’t know how to process this mystery. His image displayed in my life. How can that be? How can there be such a compelling connection between God’s heart and my humanity? Especially when I know me. I know that on my best, most holy day, I don’t come close to being imago Dei, the image of God.

Even so, the Bible says that I am made in God’s image (v. 27), and that Jesus is the “radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3 ESV). As followers of Jesus, you and I get to share in the glory of God and reflect His nature as well. The apostle Paul wrote it this way:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV)

When I think about what it means to leave God’s imprint on the world, I’m reminded of the signet ring my mother used to wear. When I was a little girl, I loved looking at my mom’s hands. Her fingers were elegant, long, and slender. On her left hand she wore a simple gold wedding band that was eight millimeters thick. No diamond, just the band. And on her right hand, she wore a gold signet ring she got when she was eighteen. I always wanted a wedding ring and a signet ring just like hers.

The signet ring had a monogram of her surname: A for Adams, not E for Eisaman (her married name). The ring seemed to be a bridge of sorts that connected who she was to who she is. I loved that. Loved that my mom’s two hands wore two symbols that represented the spectrum of her identity. She grew up an Adams and will always be an Adams. She married an Eisaman and became an Eisaman. Her signet ring left me with an impression that echoed the importance of her identity.

I did some research and learned about the following parallels between signet rings and what it means to be God’s imprint:

• Signet rings were used for a purpose: to authenticate a letter or message. Christ followers are used to bring God glory as we authenticate the hope of Christ to the world. Jesus said, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8). 

• Signet rings were used to leave an imprint, a distinct impression that validated that the message being delivered was genuine. Jesus kicked it up a few notches for His followers by telling us that our love for one another authenticates our faith. He was talking to His disciples when He said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34–35). 

Do you see? You and I are signets for the King of Kings. We are to bear evidence of the message of His hope—no matter what compromising assignment our bosses give us, no matter what carrot of temptation is dangled before us, no matter what argument that person tries to bait us into, no matter what lions’ dens we might be thrown into. We’re called to “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, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Pet. 3:15–16).

To fulfill our purpose as image bearers, we need to be an imprint. We also need to “rep the house” well. What does that mean? We’ll cover that in part two. 

Let’s Pray

Lord Jesus, Thank You for making me in Your image, for always remembering me and for engraving my name on the palms of Your hands. Would You help me to be Your image bearer today?
In Jesus’ Name,

Now It’s Your Turn

Read Daniel 6.

Did you see it? How did the king seal the stone that was placed over the mouth of the den? (Hint: verse 17)

How was Daniel an image bearer of the one true God in this encounter?

More from the Girlfriends 

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Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. John 12:26

I’ll never forget my first visit to the house church of Pastor Samuel Lamb in Quangzhou, China with my wife Dianne. That night we were introduced to his twenty-four-year-old assistant pastor. We soon learned that she had no danwei or work-unit. This was how all people in China were identified and registered. Even some shopping required a danwei.

When asked, “Isn’t it risky for you to work full-time in a house church and not have a danwei?” she simply replied, “It’s the way of the cross!”

One of our Canadian couriers to Cuba asked a leading pastor who received many needed Spanish Bibles from us, “We’re placing you at risk, aren’t we?” He answered with his hand on his heart, “Risk? What risk? I took a risk when I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my Saviour and became a minister. And if they want to shoot me, so much the better. I’ll go into glory sooner.”

Rinaldo Hernandez is a Methodist pastor in Cuba. His father spent five years in prison for political subversion and wanted the family to escape to Miami. But Rinaldo decided that staying in Cuba was a cross he must bear:

“I remember my father told me that I would pay a high price for that decision,” he says. His price was to come later when his seminary education was disrupted by assignment to compulsive military service in a work camp. There conditions were primitive and most of the men were hardened criminals.

He and seven other Christians met secretly at night in the sugar cane fields to pray, read the Bible and encourage one another. “I became a pastor in that work camp, not in seminary,” he concludes.

A Chinese Christian brother from the north-west province of Xinjiang was released after serving twenty years in prison. He shared this poem written by his wife just before her death in prison:

As a real disciple I have dedicated my life hoeing the fields energetically,

Begging for food shamelessly,

Wearing worn-out clothes as if they were formal dresses

Freezing to death at the windy station yet uttering not a word of complaint.

Only if the Gospel would be widely spread

Am I willing to be hung upside down on the cross…with no regret.

The late Jamie Buckingham made this memorable statement: “The risk-free life is a victory-free life. It means life-long surrender to the mediocre and that is the worst of all possible defeats.”

RESPONSE: I will not surrender to the defeat of mediocrity but follow Jesus whatever the risk.

PRAYER: Lord, help me to truly follow You – even to the cross!

Verse of the Day - April 04, 2016

Ephesians 1:7 (NIV) In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace

Read all of Ephesians 1