Saturday, April 9, 2016

Side By Side

“Encourage one another daily.” Hebrews 3:13 

The Greek translation for the word encouragement is parakletos, which literally means “called alongside to help.” It brings to mind the scriptural image of two people yoked side by side, as when Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29–30). This kind of encouragement includes offering an uplifting word, but it is more than that. It is standing by your husband and keeping an attitude of good cheer when he is laid off his job. It is pitching in to finish the dishes when your wife is too tired to stand. It’s crouching down to a four‐year‐old’s eye level and listening sympathetically as she tearfully tells you about her skinned knee.

The act of encouraging doesn’t include instructing your partner on what to do about a problem. It doesn’t include giving advice, offering tips for improving in the future, or uttering hollow words such as “You really should have known better than to make that foolish mistake” or “Get over it.” Instead, encouragement is a participation game. When you stand alongside your mate and share his or her troubles, you’ve become a practitioner of parakletos and an exceptional source of courage, hope, and happiness. 

Just between us…

  • Do you know anyone who always makes you feel good about yourself?
  • How do they do it? Why is it often so difficult to think about the other person first? 
  • How has God used me to “come alongside” you?
  • How can I do better?
Lord Jesus, thank You that You put it within our power to encourage others. May we grow in that ministry. May we become experts at it—starting in our marriage. Amen.

Encourage one another daily. 

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

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Theologian and Martyr

Today the church remembers Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Theologian and Martyr, 1945.

This bright, young Lutheran pastor was only twenty-four when he participated in his first public protest against Nazism and the complicity of the Christian churches in that regime's rise to power. He was one of the leaders of the Confessing Church, a Protestant group that resisted Hitler and the Nazi party. In 1935 he was the founder and dean of a seminary at Finkenwald, Germany, which served that church body. It was there that he wrote his two most famous published works: Life Together and The Cost of Discipleship.

As the Nazi ring closed in upon him and the Confessing Church, he had an opportunity for asylum in the United States, which he declined. He was arrested and jailed in 1943, and from his cell in Berlin he helped plan an assassination of Adolf Hitler. The assassination failed and Bonhoeffer's involvement was discovered, and he was sent to Buchenwald concentration camp. But his life was spared, for reasons we do not know, and he was transferred to Schoenberg Prison. There he served as chaplain to fellow inmates until on a Sunday in 1945, immediately following divine services, he was summoned by the guards and taken by automobile to Flossenburg Prison, where he was summarily hanged. That was on April 9. Bonhoeffer was thirty-nine years old. The crumbling German Reich formally surrendered twenty-eight days later.

May we, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, count the cost of discipleship to be worthy of our whole selves. Amen.

Read the Wikipedia article here.

Almighty God, the beyond in the midst of our life, you gave grace to your servant Dietrich Bonhoeffer to know and to teach the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, and to bear the cost of following him: Grant that we, strengthened by his teaching and example, may live under your Word in all its forms and richness, and embrace its call to faithfulness with an undivided heart; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Daily Readings for April 9, 2016

Exodus 17:1-16
From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said, "Give us water to drink." Moses said to them, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?" But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, "Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?" So Moses cried out to the LORD, "What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me." The LORD said to Moses, "Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink." Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the LORD, saying, "Is the LORD among us or not?" Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, "Choose some men for us and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand." So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses' hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were steady until the sun set. And Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the sword. Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write this as a reminder in a book and recite it in the hearing of Joshua: I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven." And Moses built an altar and called it, The LORD is my banner. He said, "A hand upon the banner of the LORD The LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation."

1 Peter 4:7-19
The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ's sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, a criminal, or even as a mischief maker. Yet if any of you suffers as a Christian, do not consider it a disgrace, but glorify God because you bear this name. For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, what will be the end for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And "If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinners?" Therefore, let those suffering in accordance with God's will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator, while continuing to do good.

John 16:16-33
"A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me." Then some of his disciples said to one another, "What does he mean by saying to us, 'A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me' and 'Because I am going to the Father'?" They said, "What does he mean by this 'a little while'? We do not know what he is talking about." Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, "Are you discussing among yourselves what I meant when I said, 'A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me'? Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. On that day you will ask nothing of me. Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete. "I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but will tell you plainly of the Father. On that day you will ask in my name. I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father." His disciples said, "Yes, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure of speech! Now we know that you know all things, and do not need to have anyone question you; by this we believe that you came from God." Jesus answered them, "Do you now believe? The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!"

Morning Psalms

Psalm 20
1   May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble, the Name of the God of Jacob defend you;
2   Send you help from his holy place and strengthen you out of Zion;
3   Remember all your offerings and accept your burnt sacrifice;
4   Grant you your heart's desire and prosper all your plans.
5   We will shout for joy at your victory and triumph in the Name of our God; may the LORD grant all your requests.
6   Now I know that the LORD gives victory to his anointed; he will answer him out of his holy heaven, with the victorious strength of his right hand.
7   Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will call upon the Name of the LORD our God.
8   They collapse and fall down, but we will arise and stand upright.
9   O LORD, give victory to the king and answer us when we call.

Psalm 21
1   The king rejoices in your strength, O LORD; how greatly he exults in your victory!
2   You have given him his heart's desire; you have not denied him the request of his lips.
3   For you meet him with blessings of prosperity, and set a crown of fine gold upon his head.
4   He asked you for life, and you gave it to him: length of days, for ever and ever.
5   His honor is great, because of your victory; splendor and majesty have you bestowed upon him.
6   For you will give him everlasting felicity and will make him glad with the joy of your presence.
7   For the king puts his trust in the LORD; because of the loving-kindness of the Most High, he will not fall.
8   Your hand will lay hold upon all your enemies; your right hand will seize all those who hate you.
9   You will make them like a fiery furnace at the time of your appearing, O LORD;
10   You will swallow them up in your wrath, and fire shall consume them.
11   You will destroy their offspring from the land and their descendants from among the peoples of the earth.
12   Though they intend evil against you and devise wicked schemes, yet they shall not prevail.
13   For you will put them to flight and aim your arrows at them.
14   Be exalted, O LORD, in your might; we will sing and praise your power.

Evening Psalms

Psalm 110
1   The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool."
2   The LORD will send the scepter of your power out of Zion, saying, "Rule over your enemies round about you.
3   Princely state has been yours from the day of your birth; in the beauty of holiness have I begotten you, like dew from the womb of the morning."
4   The LORD has sworn and he will not recant: "You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek."
5   The Lord who is at your right hand will smite kings in the day of his wrath; he will rule over the nations.
6   He will heap high the corpses; he will smash heads over the wide earth.
7   He will drink from the brook beside the road; therefore he will lift high his head.

Psalm 116
1   I love the LORD, because he has heard the voice of my supplication, because he has inclined his ear to me whenever I called upon him.
2   The cords of death entangled me; the grip of the grave took hold of me; I came to grief and sorrow.
3   Then I called upon the Name of the LORD: "O LORD, I pray you, save my life."
4   Gracious is the LORD and righteous; our God is full of compassion.
5   The LORD watches over the innocent; I was brought very low, and he helped me.
6   Turn again to your rest, O my soul. for the LORD has treated you well.
7   For you have rescued my life from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from stumbling.
8   I will walk in the presence of the LORD in the land of the living.
9   I believed, even when I said, "I have been brought very low." In my distress I said, "No one can be trusted."
10   How shall I repay the LORD for all the good things he has done for me?
11   I will lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the Name of the LORD.
12   I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.
13   Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his servants.
14   O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant and the child of your handmaid; you have freed me from my bonds.
15   I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call upon the Name of the LORD.
16   I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,
17   In the courts of the LORD'S house, in the midst of you, O Jerusalem. Hallelujah!

Psalm 117
1   Praise the LORD, all you nations; laud him, all you peoples.
2   For his loving-kindness toward us is great, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures for ever. Hallelujah!

Daily Meditation for April 9, 2016

From Forward Day by Day

John 16:16 A little while, and you will no longer see me.

When I look back across my life so far, and especially when I read my journals, it is in the dark times when I was feeling quite alone that I experienced the most transformation. I’m grateful for writers like Saint John of the Cross and Carl Jung who do not shy away from exploring those deep and dark places and who, following Jesus’ own model, return with greater wisdom through the suffering of the journey.

This fair warning from Jesus in John’s Gospel reassures me during those times when I do not see or experience God in a familiar way. Jesus tells us that he will go away and we will have to wait, but that God will return. When I become overly familiar with the God image I carry around, I am becoming idolatrous. In those times, God may seem to vanish, going away for a little while, leaving me in my own dark night. Then it is time to rest and wait for some fuller experience of God’s presence.

Fighting Over Nothing

Joel 2:1–32

Do not be afraid, land of Judah; be glad and rejoice. Surely the LORD has done great things!Joel 2:21

In the midst of calamity, of living with the consequences of sin, the prophet Joel reminds us not to be afraid, but rather to be glad and rejoice, for “the LORD has done great things!” This is a great reminder for me in marriage.

Okay, my marriage doesn’t usually feel like a calamity. But at times it has felt impossible . . . like a mistake… like a mess. It has felt, to borrow an image from Joel, like a horde of locusts has come in and taken over everything.

Our most recent rough patch was over nothing. I think the immediate cause was sleep deprivation and too many evening meetings at church and work. Griff and I just got stuck, like a needle on a broken record. For about three days, we couldn’t exchange a pleasant word, let alone a loving one.

We had lost our sense of being a team. Each, I think, was thinking, “I’m contributing way more here.” One of us was thinking, “I do way more housework,” and the other was thinking, “I slog away at work for endless hours to pay the mortgage.” And together we were concluding, “Why do I put up with this? I’m not getting anything out of it.” There were moments in that three-day period when I seriously wondered if we would ever get through that horrible time. “This is how we’ll be for the rest of forever,” I thought.

Our dissatisfaction was not only superficial but also sinful. We were allowing ourselves to feel alienated from each other and to enjoy strangely delicious feelings of self-righteous annoyance. I felt a little superior; I’m sure Griff did too.

The prophet Joel told the people of Judah that unless they got their act together (that is, repented), God would destroy them just as locusts had destroyed their land.

At the time, I didn’t think God was waiting around to unleash lightning bolts on our marriage. But unless Griff and I repented of our small sins—tetchiness, selfishness, anger—our small sins would quickly become large sins that could do serious harm to our marriage.

At times like that, I find it helpful to remember that the Lord has done great things. He has done great things in our marriage. He has gotten us through far worse patches than three days of clawing at each other.

Remembering that I don’t have to be in control and that I should cede that control to God, who has done great things, leads me to repent. After three days or three hours of tetchiness, repentance can be as simple and profound as acknowledging that if I let God into the situation, we won’t feel so stuck.

For me, the beginning of repentance is as basic as picturing Jesus walking into the situation. Sometimes I do that when Griff and I are in the middle of a squabble. Sometimes, I can’t get there until later, when I’m alone. Then I replay the scene, the tension and the annoyance, and I envision Jesus showing up. This is not just some imaginative exercise. It is a prayer, a plea for help. And the God who does great things answers.

Lauren Winner

Let’s Talk
  • What are some of the great things God has done in our marriage?
  • What are some small sins in our marriage that sometimes threaten to turn into big, destructive sins?
  • How might inviting Jesus into our squabbles lead us to repentance? What might change as a result


Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1-2

“Two days ago the police raided our house. They took away all the Bibles and Christian books that we had in the house,” says Lazar, a church leader in Uzbekistan. The roots of communism seem not to have withered yet. Uzbek Christians are balancing between fear of surveillance, intimidation and imprisonment and faith in God’s promises.

The penalty which Lazar may receive for possession of the “illegal books” he had in his house is a prison sentence of fifteen days or a hefty fine.

“I would prefer a prison sentence,” says Lazar. He knows comparable cases when fines equivalent to over a year’s salary were imposed. Leila, his wife seems bewildered by her husband’s response. “I don’t want you to go to prison,” she responds.

Lazar counters, “The Pharisees persecuted Jesus, but still He went on with His work. The evening after the raid, I read Psalm 91. God is my refuge and my strength. I can hide in Him. I don’t want to allow myself to be governed by fear, because that doesn’t help you at all. After my arrest, one of the neighbours telephoned me. ‘Lazar,’ he said, ‘we’ve packed our things and we’re ready to leave for Moscow. Should we go?’”

Lazar can understand this, but he resolutely teaches his church members to take a different approach. “We must oppose people who are sowing fear. God’s promises are stronger,” he emphasizes. “We have difficulties, but we believe that God is with us and that His promises are stronger than fear.”

Still this fear may suddenly take a grip on you if you’re in the middle of a situation of direct persecution. A few days later Lazar suddenly says, “I’m leaving the city tonight. My lawyer has advised us to take a break. It may be the case that another raid is conducted on our home. We can’t cope with this now and so we’re leaving. Please pray for me and my family.”

In the space of a few days Lazar struggles with the horribly hard hand of the regime and with the values of his faith. He’s balancing between fear and faith. Pray that the fear which the government is trying to sow shall not take root in his heart.

A few weeks later, Lazar reports that he and his family are back at home. But the problems are not over. Legal proceedings have been taken against him and he has been threatened with death by the authorities. 

RESPONSE: Today I will boldly affirm that God is with me and His promises are stronger than fear!

PRAYER: Pray for Christians like Lazar and Leila who are on the teeter-totter between fear and faith. Pray that Satan’s tactic of fear will not take root in their hearts.

Verse of the Day - April 09, 2016

Hebrews 1:3 (NIV) The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Read all of Hebrews 1