Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Daily Readings for SUNDAY, August 13, 2017

Jesus Walks on the Water
Opening Sentence
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Phillipians 1:2

Sunday Morning Prayer
Open my eyes, gracious Lord, as I turn to your word. I long to know you, to understand life, and to be changed. Examine me, Lord, by the floodlight of your truth. Amen

Confession and Forgiveness
Dear Heavenly Father, we lower our heads before you and we confess that we have too often forgotten that we are yours. Sometimes we carry on our lives as if there was no God and we fall short of being a credible witness to You. For these things we ask your forgiveness and we also ask for your strength. Give us clear minds and open hearts so we may witness to You in our world. Remind us to be who You would have us to be regardless of what we are doing or who we are with. Hold us to You and build our relationship with You and with those You have given us on earth. Amen.

Today's Readings

The First Reading is taken from 1 Kings 19:9-18
At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" He answered, "I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away."
[Elijah Meets God at Horeb] He said, "Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by." Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" He answered, "I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away." Then the LORD said to him, "Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him."

Psalm 85:8-13
8   I will listen to what the LORD God is saying, for he is speaking peace to his faithful people and to those who turn their hearts to him.
9   Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.
10   Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
11   Truth shall spring up from the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
12   The LORD will indeed grant prosperity, and our land will yield its increase.
13   Righteousness shall go before him, and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

The Second Reading is taken from Romans 10:5-15
[Salvation Is for All] Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that "the person who does these things will live by them." But the righteousness that comes from faith says, "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Christ down) "or 'Who will descend into the abyss?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? "The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, "No one who believes in him will be put to shame." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"

The Holy Gospel is written in Matthew 14:22-33
[Jesus Walks on the Water] Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid." Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."

Click HERE to read today's Holy Gospel Lesson message

The Apostle's Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen

Prayer of the Day
O Lord our God, who is always more ready to bestow Your good gifts upon us than we are to seek them, and Who is more willing to give more than we desire or deserve: help me, and those who pray with me, so to seek You that we may truly find You, so to ask that we may joyfully receive, so to knock that the door of Your mercy may be opened for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Prayer for Sundays
O God, you make us glad with the weekly remembrance of the glorious resurrection of your Son our Lord: Give us this day such blessing through our worship of you, that the week to come may be spent in your favor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Prayer for Mission
Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen.

Our “Virtual Sunday Church” this week
takes us to the National Cathedral in
Washington, D.C.

Now Thank We All Our God
Washington National Cathedral

Let us bless the Lord. Alleluia!
Thanks be to God! Alleluia!

Closing Prayer
Now to him who by his power within us is able to do far more than we ever dare to ask or imagine — to him be glory in the Church through Jesus Christ for ever and ever, Amen.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The New Revised Standard Version Bible may be quoted and/or reprinted up to and inclusive of five hundred (500) verses without express written permission of the publisher, provided the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible or account for fifty percent (50%) of the total work in which they are quoted.

“A Perfect Storm” The Sermon for SUNDAY, August 13, 2017

Jesus Walks on the Water

“A Perfect Storm”
by Scott White
Central Oconee Church of Christ
Bishop, Georgia

Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve seen a rain line approaching during a storm? You step outside to just look around and off in the distance you see that rain moving in. You can see the rain headed your way, feel the wind kicking up, maybe see flashes of lightning and hear some thunder. It can be a little frightening. Sometimes you’re able to gauge how fast it’s moving and get back in before you get soaked. Sometimes your timing’s off and you end up all wet. And sometimes the thunder and lightning chase you back in. But the one thing to remember when you’re in that situation, no matter how intense things get, is that just as surely as you saw the rain approaching you know it’ll pass. The storm has a beginning, and it will have an end.

I want to talk about a storm, about the people in it, and about what the storm meant, because it was a perfect storm.

It had been a long and hot day. Earlier, Jesus and His disciples had the bad news that their fellow-laborer, John the Baptist, had been killed. Jesus, on hearing the news had had his disciples take him by boat to a deserted place, a lonely place in some accounts. But it wasn’t lonely long, because the crowds followed Him. When he saw them, Jesus was filled with compassion. He had taken the time to talk to the crowd, to touch them, to heal their sick, to teach them. When the evening had come the disciples, maybe a little stressed from the day, had asked Jesus to send the crowds away to get food. But instead Jesus had taken five loaves and two fishes and fed all of them, had fed over 5000 people. And there were 12 baskets full left. The disciples were tired, and they gave no argument when Jesus told them to get back in the boat and go to the other side of the sea while He sent the crowd away. The journey would be long, but they would be able to take turns resting. Or at least they thought they would.

But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid." And Peter answered Him and said, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." So He said, "Come." And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind [was] boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!" And immediately Jesus stretched out [His] hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, "Truly You are the Son of God."

Storms could come up quickly in this area. There were mountains that surrounded the Sea of Galilee, and the heat of the desert areas and the cool mountain air would sometimes collide over the sea, causing rough weather to spring up without warning. It was something Peter, James, John, and Andrew were more than used to, being fishermen. But still it must have seemed odd to them to have this happen. After all, they were doing what Jesus had told them to do, simply doing His bidding. Now however it seemed that they were fighting just to hold their own, bailing water like no tomorrow, rowing as hard as could, making no headway. And Jesus was nowhere to be found. What was going on?

Sound familiar? Of course, because, if you’ll pardon the expression, we’ve all been in the same boat with the apostles. We’ve all been caught unawares by storms, trials, and tribulations. How many times have you sat there saying, “I’m doing what you asked me to do” while having to bail water with both hands? It’s not fun, and it can be disheartening. You’ve been there, I’ve been there. You’ll be there again, and so will I. At some point in the future, and I don’t know when, I’ll be battling a storm of fear or doubt or sorrow. At some point I’ll be tempted to throw up my hands and say “Why are you doing this?” But when that happens there are two things I need to remember:

First, Jesus never promised that storms wouldn’t come. In fact, He plainly said they would. “Remember the word that I said to you,” Jesus tells us in John 15:20, “The servant is not greater than his Lord. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.” That sounds like a tough storm to withstand, a storm of persecution. Maybe it’ll come in the form of a lost friend or loved one who doesn’t want to have anything to do with us anymore because of our beliefs. Maybe it’ll be a missed promotion because we refuse to play the games, maybe it’ll even be a physical persecution. But it might be another type of storm: A life changing injury, the closing down of the company where we’ve worked for 20 years, the loss of a loved one to death. Jesus Himself was caught in other storms besides persecution. Remember the storm of sorrow that He endured at the death of Lazarus? And how about the storms of frustration when His followers just didn’t understand what He was trying to teach or what He was trying to do? Storms come in all sizes and intensity. But they will come. Lillian Smith, in her book “Now Is The Time” said this: “Trouble…why do we fear it? Why do we dread ordeal? Every good thing the human race has experienced was trouble for somebody. Our birth was trouble for our mothers. To support us was trouble for our fathers. Books, paintings, music, great buildings, good food, ideas, the nameless joys and excitements which added up to what we call ‘a good life’ come out of the travail of countless hearts and minds.”

The second point we need to remember is that the storms we face are there for a reason. They may be ones that we created ourselves. There are some people who are in the middle of financial problems because of selfishness or mismanagement, not because God’s punishing them. Sometimes we blame God for the storms, but they’re not His fault.

But, there are times when the storms are sent. It may be that God’s trying to strengthen us, or that He’s just trying to get our attention. Of course it could be that Satan is sending it to frustrate us. Obviously Job is the best example of that. But just think of the faith that God had in Job. Then remember the words of I Corinthians 10:13: “But remember this--the wrong desires that come into your life aren't anything new and different. Many others have faced exactly the same problems before you. And no temptation is irresistible. You can trust God to keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can't stand up against it, for he has promised this and will do what he says. He will show you how to escape temptation's power so that you can bear up patiently against it.” That’s from the Living Bible translation, which I think renders it pretty strongly. Think of it as an honor to be put in that storm. God has confidence that you can withstand it.

Which brings up another point from this stormy night. Let’s go back and read part of Mark’s account of the story.

Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by.

Did you catch that? It’s easy to miss if you’re not careful. “Then He SAW them straining at rowing…” Jesus hadn’t deserted them. In fact, He was watching! He was aware. At no time were the apostles ever out from under the watchful eye of their Lord. And think about this, too: Why was He walking on water? Just to get to other side? No, it was the shortest path to the apostles! In John’s account he mentions that this is about 25 or 30 furlongs out in the Sea of Galilee. That’s about 3 miles, a pretty good walk. Jesus must have cared an awful lot to be watching them so carefully, and then take pains to walk to them through a storm!

Their reaction is kind of funny at first. They see Him coming but don’t recognize Him, they think He’s a ghost. Or maybe they think He’s the angel of death. Whatever, they can’t believe their eyes. Peter blurts out “Lord, if it’s really you let me come out to meet you.” He was looking for a sign, a message of proof.

Someone here might be in that predicament right now. Jesus isn’t standing right in front of you bidding you to walk through the storm, but the signs you need are all over the place. They begin in Genesis with the story of Abraham. His storm was the sacrifice of the son he’d waited a hundred years for. When he was told to sacrifice, he did what he was told to do. When asked about the sacrifice by Isaac, Abraham said “God will provide a lamb.” He trusted even though it didn’t seem logical. Joseph, though sold into slavery, followed God trusting Him to provide a way. He eventually rose to second in command three different times. The children of Israel were put under bondage by Pharoah. They worked 80 long years waiting for deliverance. And God provided it. Esther was provided as a way of deliverance for Israel. Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days. I could go on and on. What’s the common link in these? The end of the storm took time. It was God’s timetable, not theirs. If you’re in the middle of a storm, right now, it may seem like He’s not there, but He’s working His plan in your life. Remember that I said storms were created by us or sent to correct or maybe even perfect. What we need to remember is to let God work in our lives through the storms. We can’t waste them by complaining, moaning, or throwing blame around. It should be used as an opportunity to grow and mature. It’s an opportunity to let God make us better and stronger. They’re not just perfect storms – they’re perfecting storm.

And the time element brings up the last point about this particular storm: Peter walking on the water. I’ve heard lots of sermons, and you probably have, too. But there’s one small, IMPORTANT point that’s sometimes overlooked.

And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.

Again, this passage can just slip on by, but we need to pay very close attention to it. Logic says that it would’ve been easier to rescue Peter by first stopping the storm, but Jesus didn’t. The important action was NOT stopping the storm, the important action was rescuing Peter. The important action was to let the apostles know He was with them. You can see what kind of effect this had by looking back at another storm, and the apostle’s reaction to His calming of it. In Matthew 8: 27, after Jesus says “Peace, be still” and the winds and the waves obey His will, the apostles say: “What manner of man is this?” But here, when the storm has been calmed, the apostles worship Jesus and say “Truly, You are the Son of God.” What a difference! This was the perfect storm, because it served to perfect them. Notice also it WAS another storm. In the first one Jesus was in boat. In this one He wasn’t physically there, but he was there spiritually. And in neither case did He stop the storm until they’d learned the lesson.

When we’re in the middle of a storm, God won’t always stop it just because we beg Him to. I’ve been blessed with only having two cavities in my entire life. The first one I didn’t even need Novocain, but with the second one I ended up getting two shots. I wanted to stop the dentist, but knew it was for the best so that my teeth would be perfected. The dentist wouldn’t have stopped anyway because he also knew it was for best. A little pain now can sometimes make big hurts go away, or maybe even stop them from coming. I once had a friend who’s fiance died. She called me the night it happened, crying and begging “Make it stop hurting.” It was a terrible feeling for me. I tried to console her as best I could. There may be someone out there right now asking the same thing: Make it stop hurting. I wish I could. I wish I could explain the reason for the storm in your life.

But all I can tell you is that there’s a purpose. You might not know what it is for years. You may know tomorrow. I don’t know, but I do know that Jesus loves you so much that He’ll be there, walking on the water to get to you as quickly as possible, walking through the storm Himself to comfort you, strengthen you. Back in Deuteronomy 31 Moses was giving his final address to the children of Israel. They were going over Jordan into the Promised Land, Moses wasn’t going to get to go. I guess you could call that a storm. But Moses understood who was making the decisions and why. And in this passage he encourages the Israelites as they prepare to face new foes in that strange new land. "Be strong and of good courage,” Moses tells them in the sixth verse, “do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He [is] the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you."

Storms rise, storms blow, but storms do end. And many times there’s something beautiful at the end. A great philosopher, Dolly Parton, once said: “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow you gotta put up with the rain.”

You may be in the midst of a storm - A storm of doubt, a storm of fear. Remember to keep your eyes on the One who’s walking through the storm to help you, to comfort you. Let Him in the boat with you, and let Him calm the storm, or calm you, or both. Either way, you’re not alone, and never will be. And if you need some helping inviting Him in the boat, your fellow passengers will be happy to assist you. All you have to do is ask.


Seeking God?
Click HERE to find out more about how to have a personal
relationship with Jesus Christ.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Sermon contributed by Scott White on Sep 17, 2016.

Prayer of the Day for SUNDAY, August 13, 2017

O Lord our God, who is always more ready to bestow Your good gifts upon us than we are to seek them, and Who is more willing to give more than we desire or deserve: help me, and those who pray with me, so to seek You that we may truly find You, so to ask that we may joyfully receive, so to knock that the door of Your mercy may be opened for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Verse of the Day for SUNDAY, August 13, 2017

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Read all of Ephesians 2

Listen to Ephesians 2

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Un Dia a la Vez - Recojamos los estragos (primera parte)

Alaba, alma mía, al Señor, y no olvides ninguno de sus beneficios. Él perdona todos tus pecados y sana todas tus dolencias.
~ Salmo 103:2-3 (NVI)

Al igual que los fuertes vientos derriban árboles, rompen techos y desordenan el lugar por donde pasan, lo mismo sucede con nosotros. A veces permitimos que lleguen a nuestra vida los vientos representados por malos hábitos, amistades que no nos aportan nada positivo y decisiones que destruyen lo que nos ha dado Dios y lo que Él construyó con tanto amor. Además, puede ser que en muchos casos veamos y experimentemos los vientos de poca intensidad y que creamos que no corremos peligro, pero esos también hacen daño y dejan consecuencias.

Recuerda que nosotros no tenemos el control de nuestra vida. Somos seres humanos que nos dejamos llevar por las circunstancias. Así que cuando queremos apartarnos del problema, estamos en pleno torbellino.

Incluso, hay vientos que nos golpean tan fuerte que no nos dan la oportunidad de refugiarnos, ya que hemos permitido que impacte nuestra vida de frente. Entonces, cuando pasa esa tempestad de pruebas y desolación, nos damos cuenta de lo que hicimos y solo vemos los estragos y la destrucción. Esto nos duele en el alma, pues no evitamos lo que estamos viviendo. Ante eso nos preguntamos: «¿Quién podrá ayudarnos? ¿Acaso será Dios?».

Sin duda, hay esperanza aun en medio de las pruebas y nos podremos levantar con la ayuda y la dirección del Señor.

Un Día a la Vez Copyright © by Claudia Pinzón

Standing Strong Through the Storm - THE STRENGTH OF PERSECUTION

Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

The conclusion of the message on the book of Esther from a house church pastor in China:

I wish the book of Esther ended before chapter nine, but it does not. The book ends with the Jews taking revenge on all their enemies everywhere. They arranged a kind of amnesty for terrorism. For a day, they were allowed to kill anyone who had oppressed them and not be prosecuted for it. Thousands probably died. It was a kind of rough justice, but what does rough justice solve? It just makes the relatives of those slain burn with hatred, and they train their children to seek more revenge, and the weary cycle of bloodletting is accelerated.

I would apply this to the suffering church this way. Surviving a persecution situation involves desperation, but that desperation can turn into harshness and heresy if one is not careful. The terrible superstitions that came into the church in venerating the bones of martyrs were a response to persecution. Persecution brings martyrs. To revere martyrs is one thing. But to worship their relics as if they are a special lever to move the hand of God with—that is terrible.

Why is the book of Esther in the Bible? Because it tells us that God helps His people. If this decree had gone through, then a holocaust would have taken place and the will of God for the world would have been lost. We would have had no Bible otherwise. God was not going to let that happen, and He stretched forth His mighty arm to prevent it. The good news of His gospel must be spread. So reading about how God intervened must have given great increase to a Jew’s faith, as it increases ours too. God intervenes to save and get His will done. And His will is that all come to know Him and love Him.

So persecution can strengthen our faith, as we see God delivering His people powerfully and getting His will done.

I stand before you now, a living witness to the strength of suffering. We come out stronger, not because of our faith, but because we see God deliver us in mighty ways. We have to; otherwise we would be dead and gone. Praise God for persecution, for building His church no matter what the opposition.

Let us have the courage of Esther, and say, “If I perish, I perish.” But let us remember that our courage is decisive only because God is mighty, and stretches out His arm to deliver us when we cry.

RESPONSE: Today I will focus on God’s deliverance and stand strong trusting Him for the future.

PRAYER: Pray today for the persecuted church. Pray they will find their strength only in the Lord.

LHM Daily Devotion - August 13, 2017 "From War to More"

Many refugees are innocent human beings forced to flee their homes and ...

Daily Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries

By Pastor Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour

"From War to More"

August 13, 2017

(Jesus said) "For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me.
~ Matthew 25:35 (ESV)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

The salvation story of Jesus Christ reaches around the world. So that the readers of our Daily Devotion may see the power of the Savior on a global scale, we have asked the volunteers of our international ministry centers to write our Sunday devotions. We pray that the Spirit may touch your day through their words.

In Christ, I remain, His servant and yours,
Kenneth R. Klaus
Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour

Many refugees are innocent human beings forced to flee their homes and country. Facing physical, mental, and emotional trauma, refugees can confront many obstacles in their escape from persecution and war.

The civil war in Syria forced more than 1.5 million Syrians to seek the safety of Lebanon.

These refugees live in tents in camps, which lack basic infrastructure. Anyone approaching the camps of the Syrian refugees in the Bekaa Valley cannot miss them. In summer, the smell of garbage and sewage is noticed from a distance, and filthy trash is all around. Even in winter, the snow-covered landscape in areas is stained brown from open sewage and human waste.

It is hard to imagine someone is living here.

Our ministry was touched by this suffering and started to provide holistic gifts to some of the people. This gave us the opportunity to become a trusted friend to Ahmed and many others. Our time with them then helped us build personal relationships, which allowed us to share our faith. What follows is the story of Ahmed, and many others.

Ahmed has managed to survive a war and hold his family together. He has lost most everything else. He says, "We did not have much before, but we had a normal, happy life. Everything was nice before the war."

He is 34, but his hair is marked with gray.

"After two years of living in a tent, I look older," he says, with a weak smile and a sad face. Ahmed continued, "I have noticed that you have provided our camp with food two different times and you do not request anything in return. You always speak about Christ's love and that you support us for the sake of Christ. I have read your pamphlet The Good Shepherd, which was in one of the packages and would like to learn more about the miracles, healings, forgiveness, and love of Christ."

Ahmed's request was easily answered as we gave him a New Testament. When we gave the volume to him, we said, "'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every Word that comes from the mouth of God.' Read it so that you may have a genuine relationship with God through Christ who died on the cross for our sake." (See Matthew 4:4.)

The next time we visited Ahmed he had a long list of questions.

He wanted to know more about redemption, grace, and salvation. He said, "I was very happy to receive the New Testament and, to be honest, my joy led me to read it every day because there is nothing better than lifting our souls to God."

The cruelty and many atrocities of ISIS shocked Ahmed and led him to seek the loving forgiveness and compassion shown by Christians.

Ahmed told me, "From you I learned that God loves me. I thank you for restoring my trust in the world. I have learned a lot about Jesus Christ from your love. Help me to learn more about His teaching and grow deeper in knowledge."

Our hearts were filled with happiness when we saw Ahmed's positive response and his awareness that Jesus is the true bread, and His Words are life to his soul. It was like water that refreshed our souls and gave us a push to continue ministering with enthusiasm.

We are fulfilling our mission by helping the refugees and by spreading the Good News among them. Our ministry takes its responsibility seriously and is helping to feed their body with food and to feed their souls with the message of God's salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, may You encourage us to tell the truth in affection to those who are lost and in need. Help us to show them the Savior who is the way to You so they might witness Your love and peace that surpasses all understanding. This I ask in Jesus Name. Amen.

Biography of Author: Today's international devotion was written by Mr. Fadi Khairallah. Mr. Khairallah serves as director for Middle East Lutheran Ministry (MELM) in Lebanon, a position he has held since December 2001. He joined the ministry in 1999. Mr. Khairallah was born in a Christian family in Baabda, Lebanon. He is currently preparing the thesis for his master's degree in Islamic studies. Mr. Khairallah is married to Lara. They have two boys and live in Beirut, Lebanon.

This ministry center's aim is to share the message of "peace and reconciliation" in the Middle East through different media tools such as the internet, television, and radio programs, which are produced weekly in the Arabic language. The programs are Christ centered and based on the Word of God. They deal with social and religious issues, providing help and spiritual guidance for the listeners who are often youth and young adults. The office also uses Bible Correspondence Courses (BCC), topical booklets, text messages, social media, video specials (DVDs) and spiritual hymns to strengthen the faith of participants. Holistic aid is given to many Muslim families and Bedouin communities through vacation Bible schools and programs that deliver clothing and school supplies to children. Emergency care is also given to Syrian and Iraqi families who have come to Lebanon from their countries, as they flee various conflicts in their homelands.

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