Friday, May 20, 2016

Alcuin, Deacon, and Abbot of Tours

Today the church remembers Alcuin, Deacon, and Abbot of Tours, 804.

A breath of fresh air swept across Western Europe in what we call the Age of Charlemagne. There was relative peace, security, and prosperity. Learning and the arts revived. The leading spirit of this renaissance was Alcuin of York, the foremost teacher of his day. He revived "letters." Indeed, he is credited with the invention of the running script we use today. He was a competent theologian, poet, and author. He was a pioneer in conceiving the idea of a university.

After serving for some years as Master of the Cathedral School in York, England, he traveled to Italy to study. There he met Charlemagne and they became fast friends. Alcuin served as royal tutor and as the great king's chief advisor in religious and educational matters. In 796 he became abbot of the monastery at Tours, France, and there he founded a famous library and school. From there he exercised great influence in correcting misunderstandings of the Christian faith and in discouraging practices which seemed inconsistent with this faith, both in morals and in forms of worship.

We beseech you to shed upon your whole church the bright beams of your light and peace, and help us to follow the good example of your servant Alcuin. Amen.

Read the Wikipedia article here.

Almighty God, in a rude and barbarous age you raised up your deacon Alcuin to rekindle the light of learning: Illumine our minds, we pray, that amid the uncertainties and confusions of our own time we may show forth your eternal truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Daily Readings for May 20, 2016

Proverbs 8:1-21
Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out: "To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live. O simple ones, learn prudence; acquire intelligence, you who lack it. Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right; for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them. They are all straight to one who understands and right to those who find knowledge. Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold; for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her. I, wisdom, live with prudence, and I attain knowledge and discretion. The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. I have good advice and sound wisdom; I have insight, I have strength. By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; by me rulers rule, and nobles, all who govern rightly. I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me. Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and prosperity. My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver. I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice, endowing with wealth those who love me, and filling their treasuries.

2 John 1:1-13
The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth, and not only I but also all who know the truth, because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever: Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father's Son, in truth and love. I was overjoyed to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we have been commanded by the Father. But now, dear lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning, let us love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment just as you have heard it from the beginning-- you must walk in it. Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist! Be on your guard, so that you do not lose what we have worked for, but may receive a full reward. Everyone who does not abide in the teaching of Christ, but goes beyond it, does not have God; whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. Do not receive into the house or welcome anyone who comes to you and does not bring this teaching; for to welcome is to participate in the evil deeds of such a person. Although I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink; instead I hope to come to you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete. The children of your elect sister send you their greetings.

Matthew 12:1-14
At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, "Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath." He said to them, "Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests. Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests in the temple break the sabbath and yet are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath." He left that place and entered their synagogue; a man was there with a withered hand, and they asked him, "Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath?" so that they might accuse him. He said to them, "Suppose one of you has only one sheep and it falls into a pit on the sabbath; will you not lay hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the sabbath." Then he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and it was restored, as sound as the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

Morning Psalms

Psalm 16 Conserva me, Domine
1   Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you; I have said to the LORD, "You are my Lord, my good above all other."
2   All my delight is upon the godly that are in the land, upon those who are noble among the people.
3   But those who run after other gods shall have their troubles multiplied.
4   Their libations of blood I will not offer, nor take the names of their gods upon my lips.
5   O LORD, you are my portion and my cup; it is you who uphold my lot.
6   My boundaries enclose a pleasant land; indeed, I have a goodly heritage.
7   I will bless the LORD who gives me counsel; my heart teaches me, night after night.
8   I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand I shall not fall.
9   My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices; my body also shall rest in hope.
10   For you will not abandon me to the grave, nor let your holy one see the Pit.
11   You will show me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy, and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

Psalm 17 Exaudi, Domine
1   Hear my plea of innocence, O LORD; give heed to my cry; listen to my prayer, which does not come from lying lips.
2   Let my vindication come forth from your presence; let your eyes be fixed on justice.
3   Weigh my heart, summon me by night, melt me down; you will find no impurity in me.
4   I give no offense with my mouth as others do; I have heeded the words of your lips.
5   My footsteps hold fast to the ways of your law; in your paths my feet shall not stumble.
6   I call upon you, O God, for you will answer me; incline your ear to me and hear my words.
7   Show me your marvelous loving-kindness, O Savior of those who take refuge at your right hand from those who rise up against them.
8   Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me under the shadow of your wings,
9   From the wicked who assault me, from my deadly enemies who surround me.
10   They have closed their heart to pity, and their mouth speaks proud things.
11   They press me hard, now they surround me, watching how they may cast me to the ground,
12   Like a lion, greedy for its prey, and like a young lion lurking in secret places.
13   Arise, O LORD; confront them and bring them down; deliver me from the wicked by your sword.
14   Deliver me, O LORD, by your hand from those whose portion in life is this world;
15   Whose bellies you fill with your treasure, who are well supplied with children and leave their wealth to their little ones.
16   But at my vindication I shall see your face; when I awake, I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.

Evening Psalms

Psalm 22 Deus, Deus meu
1   My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? and are so far from my cry and from the words of my distress?
2   O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not answer; by night as well, but I find no rest.
3   Yet you are the Holy One, enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
4   Our forefathers put their trust in you; they trusted, and you delivered them.
5   They cried out to you and were delivered; they trusted in you and were not put to shame.
6   But as for me, I am a worm and no man, scorned by all and despised by the people.
7   All who see me laugh me to scorn; they curl their lips and wag their heads, saying,
8   He trusted in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, if he delights in him.
9   Yet you are he who took me out of the womb, and kept me safe upon my mother's breast.
10   I have been entrusted to you ever since I was born; you were my God when I was still in my mother's womb.
11   Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help.
12   Many young bulls encircle me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me.
13   They open wide their jaws at me, like a ravening and a roaring lion.
14   I am poured out like water; all my bones are out of joint; my heart within my breast is melting wax.
15   My mouth is dried out like a pot-sherd; my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; and you have laid me in the dust of the grave.
16   Packs of dogs close me in, and gangs of evildoers circle around me; they pierce my hands and my feet; I can count all my bones.
17   They stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them; they cast lots for my clothing.
18   Be not far away, O LORD; you are my strength; hasten to help me.
19   Save me from the sword, my life from the power of the dog.
20   Save me from the lion's mouth, my wretched body from the horns of wild bulls.
21   I will declare your Name to my brethren; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.
22   Praise the LORD, you that fear him; stand in awe of him, O offspring of Israel; all you of Jacob's line, give glory.
23   For he does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty; neither does he hide his face from them; but when they cry to him he hears them.
24   My praise is of him in the great assembly; I will perform my vows in the presence of those who worship him.
25   The poor shall eat and be satisfied, and those who seek the LORD shall praise him: "May your heart live for ever!"
26   All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations bow before him.
27   For kingship belongs to the LORD; he rules over the nations.
28   To him alone all who sleep in the earth bow down in worship; all who go down to the dust fall before him.
29   My soul shall live for him; my descendants shall serve him; they shall be known as the LORD'S for ever.
30   They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn the saving deeds that he has done.

Forward Day by Day Meditation for Friday, May 20, 2016

Psalm 22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? and are so far from my cry and from the words of my distress?

Many of us listened to the words of this psalm during Holy Week—a psalm of lament, of distress, of anger, and, in guarded measure, of hope. It is the psalm of rock bottom that leads to the first of the twelve steps of recovery: We are powerless over our addiction and our lives have become unmanageable.

We are not comfortable with powerlessness. We hope that there is always one more book we can read, one more thing we can do, one more tweak we can make to control a situation. But life tells us otherwise. We all encounter moments utterly beyond our control, whether they involve addiction or some other upheaval.

While we know God does not forsake us, I value this psalm and its grittiness and painful honestly. Rock bottom is a messy, holy place. When we arrive there, we lie down, weep, and lament. We doubt, we rage, and we rest. We are on holy ground, and God is here.

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Men of the Bible - Mephibosheth

His name means: "From the Mouth of the Shameful Thing"

His work: Nothing is said about his occupation; because he lived his life without the use of his legs, Mephibosheth must have lived on the charity of others. 
His character: Although he had good reason for self-pity, he was deeply grateful for David's kindness and was very loyal to him. 
His sorrow: He was disabled, unable to walk. 
His triumph: Because of David's generosity, Mephibosheth received land and servants and was welcomed at the king's table.
Key Scriptures: 2 Samuel 4:4; 9:6-13; 16:1-4; 19:24-30 

A Look at the Man

Mephibosheth was a broken man. When he was only five years old, his father and grandfather were killed in battle. That day the heir-apparent prince was stripped of his royalty. And, if that were not tragic enough, a fall from his nurse's arms permanently disabled him.

Some men are victims of their own poor judgment. But others suffer at the hands of others. This was the lot of Mephibosheth.

We can only imagine what life was like for him. Growing up, he must have heard stories of his grandfather Saul, Israel's first king and mighty warrior. His family would have told him that his father, Jonathan, should have been the rightful heir to the throne. And he certainly heard stories of David, the man who now reigned as the king of Israel.

But instead of growing up in luxury, prestige, health, and favor, Mephibosheth was forced to deal with life's "if onlys."

If only my grandfather had been faithful. If only my father had lived. If only I could walk. If only someone would remember me.

So Mephibosheth lived in obscurity in the home of a man named Makir on the opposite side of the Jordan River from Jerusalem. And then one day a message was delivered to Mephibosheth: "King David has called for you. You are hereby summoned to the palace."

We can only imagine how fearful Mephibosheth must have been to have an audience with the king. Sitting on the ground was a familiar posture for Mephibosheth, but even from that position, he bowed down when he was brought into the presence of the king.

David could have thanked this humble man for his respectful gesture. He could have reminded him that he was simply carrying out an old commitment made to his father. Or David could have told him of his plan to grant him his grandfather's land and give him servants and a home in the palace. Actually, he eventually did all these things, but his first words to this man were the most exquisite and comforting he could have spoken.

"Mephibosheth," David said, "do not be afraid."

And then David lavished Mephibosheth with more than he ever could have dreamed: land, servants, and access to the king's table. Mephibosheth had not deserved the misfortune that had marked his life. But neither did he earn the good fortune that suddenly befell him. Mephibosheth must have been overwhelmed by it all.

In the years that followed, it would have been understandable if Mephibosheth would have gotten accustomed to the lavish treatment—his initial humility eventually turning to pride. But this did not happen.

When his caretaker committed treachery and set David against him, Mephibosheth did not retaliate. Instead, he mourned the loss of the king's trust. And when David came to his senses and restored Mephibosheth's estate, Mephibosheth humbly refused the king's generosity.

Mephibosheth's gratitude for what the king had done for him was unshakable. His loyalty to David stood firm.

Reflect On: 2 Samuel 9 
Praise God: Because he is still looking for people to show kindness to. 
Offer Thanks: For the way God has expressed his mercy to you.
Confess: Any tendency to take God’s mercy for granted, as though it is something you deserve. 
Ask God: To help you reveal his kindness to others.

Today's reading is a brief excerpt from Men of the Bible: A One-Year Devotional Study of Men in Scripture by Ann Spangler and Robert Wolgemuth (Zondervan). © 2010 by Ann Spangler. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Enjoy the complete book by purchasing your own copy at the Bible Gateway Store. The book's title must be included when sharing the above content on social media.

His Princess Every Day - His Trophy

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

My Valuable Daughter,

I know many people will define you by what you have conquered in your own competencies. Yet there is so much more to you than what’s on a piece of paper or engraved on a trophy. In fact, none of your trophies will enter heaven with you. Only what has been accomplished for My Kingdom can be kept for all eternity. Think about this, My beloved: What good are the praises of people if you accomplish nothing for Me while you are walking the earth? I have already conquered death for you; now I am asking you, in My strength, to accomplish great faith works that display My Majesty. These acts define the difference between a mediocre life and a miraculous life lived for Me. To become great in My Kingdom, you must live the rest of your days for an audience of one . . . Me.

The one who applauds your faith

Yet I dare not boast about anything except what Christ has done through me, bringing the Gentiles to God by my message and by the way I worked among them. - Romans 15:18

Treasure of Truth

You are so much more than what you have accomplished.

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.

Girlfriends in God - May 20, 2016

I AM is the God Who Fills in Your Gaps
Sharon Jaynes

Today’s Truth

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14 NIV).

Friend to Friend

In the very first Rocky movie, the Italian Stallion, Rocky Balboa, very eloquently encourages his demure girlfriend, Adrian. “I got gaps. You got gaps. Together we got no gaps.”

But Rocky got it all wrong. He’s got gaps. Adrian’s got gaps. And no person alive is going to fill those gaps. God is the only One who can fill our gaps. And I’d go so far as to say that He is the One who gave us those gaps so that He can fill them. He is the great I AM who fills our gaps and fills in our blanks. 

When we say, “I’m not good enough.”
God says, “I AM.”

When we say, “I’m not smart enough.”
God says, “I AM.”

When we say, “I'm not strong enough.”
God says, “I AM.”

When we say, “I’m not ________ enough.”
God says, “I AM.”

He is the God who fills in our gaps. He is the God who fills in our blanks.

I’ve often heard it said there is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man, that cannot be filled by another created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.

Paul wrote: “[God] said to me . . . for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9, AMPC).

Paul knew what he could accomplish on his own: nothing. Oh, he could be busy. We all can do that. But bearing “fruit that will remain” is another story. This is how he viewed his own personal weaknesses:

I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, “My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.”

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become (2 Cor. 12:7–10, MSG).

Paul had great confidence. The prefix “con” means “with,” and the root “fid” means “faith.” So a confident person is one who walks in faith. When you allow God to fill in your gaps with His power and provision, you will have the confidence and courage to leave the limpid land of in-between and march into the Promised Land of life to the full!

That’s where I want to go today. Where I want to live. How about you? If you’re ready to stop wandering around in the wilderness of indecision and start moving forward to take hold of your Promised Land of life to the full, click over to my Facebook page and say, “I’m taking hold!”

Let’s Pray
Heavenly Father, I have gaps, and I am so thankful that You are the great I AM who fills in those gaps. You fill in my insufficiency with Your all-sufficiency. You fill in my inadequacy with Your all-supply. You fill in my pain with Your healing purpose. Today, I will walk in faith with con-fid-ence.
In Jesus’ Name,

Now It’s Your Turn
Are you depending on an earthly relationship to fill in your gaps? A husband? A boyfriend? A child?
If so, how is that working for you?

What do you need to change in your life to allow God to fill in your gaps rather than other people?

More From the Friends
Today’s devotion was taken from my new book, Take Hold of the Faith you Long For: Let Go, Move Forward, Live Bold. A mediocre, mundane faith is not what you were made for! In Take Hold of the Faith You Long For, I reveal the most common reasons we get stuck in our Christian faith, living less than what we had hoped. I show you how to break free of all that holds you back, move forward with all that God promises, and live the adventurous faith of bold believing. It’s time to leave behind feelings of inferiority, insecurity, and inadequacy that hold you hostage and take hold of the mountain-moving faith God intends. Let’s uncover untapped sources of confidence and courage, and see how to move from simply knowing the truth to actually living it out boldly. It’s time to TAKE HOLD of all that Jesus has already taken hold of for you and placed in you! Click on the book cover to download a sample chapter and view a quick video. And if you’re looking for a new study for your women’s group or individual study, Take Hold includes a Bible Study guide in the back. Also, you’ll find out about some free gifts with each purchase.

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Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Matthew 16:23

A western co-worker was visiting the Chinese city of Dandong which borders North Korea. He shares his challenging experience at a local house church meeting:

It was the first time I had ever been called “Satan!” But no one could fault the careful exegesis as this fiery Korean preacher bellowed to the 200-member house church.

“The third temptation of Jesus,” he declared, “was when the devil offered him the kingdom without the cross. The devil was basically saying, ‘Don’t go off and make all those sacrifices, touch all those lepers, spend nights in agony praying, and end up being tortured by soldiers and dying a horrible death. Just take it all now…from my hand!’” He went on, “The church often has the same temptation. The devil offers us power without suffering. And…I’ve got to say this even though our western friend is here…this is a temptation one part of the church tempts another part of the church with. We have to call that part of the church ‘Satan,’ just as Jesus had to call Peter ‘Satan’ when he made the same suggestion later in his ministry.”

Good rip-roaring stuff, and thoroughly biblical. But I was intrigued as to why this pastor had singled out the western church as the tempter. He was happy to explain over a meal.

“I hosted five pastors from North America last year. All Koreans. They came with reading material. Good stuff as far as it went, and they were supplying a sort of formula for church growth. But could one of them even bring himself to mention suffering? No! And when I heard those Korean pastors preach, it was also absent.”

He leaned forward and whispered, “When these pastors preach to the persecuted church, and mention everything but suffering, they are taking away the cross from the Christian life. That’s why I have to say that they are bringing a satanic suggestion. Anyone who says you can follow Christ but not carry your cross is no better than the old deceiver himself. Jesus said so. He said it to Satan, and he said it to Peter. And I’m going to say it to anyone else who dares to think they can be a witness for Christ from anywhere else but on a cross.”

RESPONSE: Today I will focus on the things of God realizing they will always require me to carry my cross.

PRAYER: Lord, I will no longer try and eliminate the way of the cross from my Christian living. May I never again attempt to substitute power for suffering.

Verse of the Day - May 20, 2016

Romans 15:5-6 (NIV) May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Read all of Romans 15