Monday, September 4, 2017

The Daily Readings for MONDAY, September 4, 2017

Warning against Partiality - James 2:1-13

Opening Sentence
I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the Lord."
~ Psalm 122:1

Morning Prayer
You are ushering in another day, untouched and freshly new, So here I come to ask You God if You'll renew me too?

Forgive the many errors, that I made yesterday, And let me try again dear God, to walk closer in Thy way.

But Father, I am well aware, I can't make it on my own. So take my hand and hold it tight, for I can't walk alone. Amen.

Confession and Forgiveness

Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor.
Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent, for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Today's Readings

The First Reading is taken from 2 Chronicles 6:32-7:7
"Likewise when foreigners, who are not of your people Israel, come from a distant land because of your great name, and your mighty hand, and your outstretched arm, when they come and pray toward this house, may you hear from heaven your dwelling place, and do whatever the foreigners ask of you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that your name has been invoked on this house that I have built. "If your people go out to battle against their enemies, by whatever way you shall send them, and they pray to you toward this city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name, then hear from heaven their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause. "If they sin against you-- for there is no one who does not sin-- and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to a land far or near; then if they come to their senses in the land to which they have been taken captive, and repent, and plead with you in the land of their captivity, saying, 'We have sinned, and have done wrong; we have acted wickedly' if they repent with all their heart and soul in the land of their captivity, to which they were taken captive, and pray toward their land, which you gave to their ancestors, the city that you have chosen, and the house that I have built for your name, then hear from heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their pleas, maintain their cause and forgive your people who have sinned against you. Now, O my God, let your eyes be open and your ears attentive to prayer from this place. "Now rise up, O LORD God, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. Let your priests, O LORD God, be clothed with salvation, and let your faithful rejoice in your goodness. O LORD God, do not reject your anointed one. Remember your steadfast love for your servant David."

[Solomon Dedicates the Temple] When Solomon had ended his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. The priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD's house. When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, "For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever." Then the king and all the people offered sacrifice before the LORD. King Solomon offered as a sacrifice twenty-two thousand oxen and one hundred twenty thousand sheep. So the king and all the people dedicated the house of God. The priests stood at their posts; the Levites also, with the instruments for music to the LORD that King David had made for giving thanks to the LORD-- for his steadfast love endures forever-- whenever David offered praises by their ministry. Opposite them the priests sounded trumpets; and all Israel stood. Solomon consecrated the middle of the court that was in front of the house of the LORD; for there he offered the burnt offerings and the fat of the offerings of well-being because the bronze altar Solomon had made could not hold the burnt offering and the grain offering and the fat parts.

The Second Reading is taken from James 2:1-13
[Warning against Partiality] My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, "Have a seat here, please," while to the one who is poor you say, "Stand there," or, "Sit at my feet," have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you? You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For the one who said, "You shall not commit adultery," also said, "You shall not murder." Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

The Holy Gospel is written in Mark 14:53-65
[Jesus before the Council] They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled. Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree. Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, "We heard him say, 'I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.'" But even on this point their testimony did not agree. Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, "Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?" But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?" Jesus said, "I am; and 'you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power,' and 'coming with the clouds of heaven.'" Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, "Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?" All of them condemned him as deserving death. Some began to spit on him, to blindfold him, and to strike him, saying to him, "Prophesy!" The guards also took him over and beat him.

Morning Psalms
Psalm 25 Ad te, Domine, levavi
1   To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; my God, I put my trust in you; let me not be humiliated, nor let my enemies triumph over me.
2   Let none who look to you be put to shame; let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.
3   Show me your ways, O LORD, and teach me your paths.
4   Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusted all the day long.
5   Remember, O LORD, your compassion and love, for they are from everlasting.
6   Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions; remember me according to your love and for the sake of your goodness, O LORD.
7   Gracious and upright is the LORD; therefore he teaches sinners in his way.
8   He guides the humble in doing right and teaches his way to the lowly.
9   All the paths of the LORD are love and faithfulness to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
10   For your Name's sake, O LORD, forgive my sin, for it is great.
11   Who are they who fear the LORD? he will teach them the way that they should choose.
12   They shall dwell in prosperity, and their offspring shall inherit the land.
13   The LORD is a friend to those who fear him and will show them his covenant.
14   My eyes are ever looking to the LORD, for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.
15   Turn to me and have pity on me, for I am left alone and in misery.
16   The sorrows of my heart have increased; bring me out of my troubles.
17   Look upon my adversity and misery and forgive me all my sin.
18   Look upon my enemies, for they are many, and they bear a violent hatred against me.
19   Protect my life and deliver me; let me not be put to shame, for I have trusted in you.
20   Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for my hope has been in you.
21   Deliver Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.

Evening Psalms
Psalm 9 Confitebor tibi
1   I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will tell of all your marvelous works.
2   I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing to your Name, O Most High.
3   When my enemies are driven back, they will stumble and perish at your presence.
4   For you have maintained my right and my cause; you sit upon your throne judging right.
5   You have rebuked the ungodly and destroyed the wicked; you have blotted out their name for ever and ever.
6   As for the enemy, they are finished, in perpetual ruin, their cities plowed under, the memory of them perished;
7   But the LORD is enthroned for ever; he has set up this throne for judgment.
8   It is he who rules the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with equity.
9   The LORD will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in time of trouble.
10   Those who know your Name will put their trust in you, for you never forsake those who seek you, O LORD.
11   Sing praise to the LORD who dwells in Zion; proclaim to the peoples the things he has done.
12   The Avenger of blood will remember them; he will not forget the cry of the afflicted.
13   Have pity on me, O LORD; see the misery I suffer from those who hate me, O you who lift me up from the gate of death;
14   So that I may tell of all your praises and rejoice in your salvation in the gates of the city of Zion.
15   The ungodly have fallen into the pit they dug, and in the snare they set is their own foot caught.
16   The LORD is known by his acts of justice; the wicked are trapped in the works of their own hands.
17   The wicked shall be given over to the grave, and also all the people that forget God.
18   For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor shall not perish for ever.
19   Rise up, O LORD, let not the ungodly have the upper hand; let them be judged before you.
20   Put fear upon them, O LORD; let the ungodly know they are but mortal.


Psalm 15 Domine, quis habitabit?
1   LORD, who may dwell in your tabernacle? who may abide upon your holy hill?
2   Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right, who speaks the truth from his heart.
3   There is no guile upon his tongue; he does no evil to his friend; he does not heap contempt upon his neighbor.
4   In his sight the wicked is rejected, but he honors those who fear the LORD.
5   He has sworn to do no wrong and does not take back his word.
6   He does not give his money in hope of gain, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.
7   Whoever does these things shall never be overthrown.

The Nicene Creed
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Prayer of the Day
Holy God, let me read and know your Word without distorting it with my feeble thoughts. Lead me away from the false truths of the world, from whatever values are currently popular in my society, from the harangues of other people who follow their own theologies and philosophies; lead me to your plain and eternal truth. Let me come to you as a child, emptied of the wisdom of the world, so that I may be filled with the truth of the eternal Word. Amen.

A Collect for the Renewal of Life
O God, the King eternal, whose light divides the day from the night and turns the shadow of death into the morning: Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to keep your law, and guide our feet into the way of peace; that, having done your will with cheerfulness while it was day, we may, when night comes, rejoice to give you thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Prayer for Mission
O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Grant that people everywhere may seek after you and find you; bring the nations into your fold; pour out your Spirit upon all flesh; and hasten the coming of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Your Hands
JJ Heller

Alleluia! Christ has risen.
Christ has risen indeed. Alleluia!

Closing Prayer
Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, I pray that you direct my way unto you, and make me and all of us to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you; to the end that we may establish our hearts unblameable in holiness before you, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints. 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.

Prayer of the Day for MONDAY, September 4, 2017


Holy God, let me read and know your Word without distorting it with my feeble thoughts. Lead me away from the false truths of the world, from whatever values are currently popular in my society, from the harangues of other people who follow their own theologies and philosophies; lead me to your plain and eternal truth. Let me come to you as a child, emptied of the wisdom of the world, so that I may be filled with the truth of the eternal Word. Amen.

Verse of the Day for MONDAY, September 4, 2017


2 Timothy 1:13-14 (NIV) What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

Read all of 2 Timothy 1

Listen to 2 Timothy 1

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

Morning Devotions with Cap'n Kenny - Drawing God Closer to Us


Every word of God is flawless. Do not add to his words or He will rebuke you and prove you a liar.


Most of the people reading this will be concerned, already, with deepening their faith and drawing nearer to God. Knowing how wonderful is our God, we want Him to come always closer to us, to be with us every moment of our lives. We have felt and tasted how good the joy of the Lord can be, and we want more. How, though, do we get God more fully into our lives?

James' epistle promises us, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8) Surely, this is a good place to start.

I want to concentrate, in this brief message, on conforming our thoughts and beliefs to those of God. How can we possibly please God if we do not know what He wants? It would seem to be an easy enough task, for God has given us an instruction manual: The Bible. These are God’s words, given to us that we might learn about Him. Not that the Bible is an easy read: Much of it takes work to understand, especially when we wrestle with the epistles in the New Testament.

But the Bible is intended to be read. And having been read, God intends that it educate us. We draw closer to God — and thus, God draws closer to us — only if we are willing to change our minds to conform to what we read. It sounds simple enough, but it is nigh impossible, for we are filled with pride in our thoughts. And once we get past 40 or so, it becomes almost impossible. We become convinced that we know what is true and false, what is right and wrong — and if the Bible disagrees with us, we find a way to ignore it!

What does the Bible say about us, when we prefer the version of the Bible in our mind to the version in the Book? “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” (Mark 10:15) In other words, we must read the Bible like a child, empty of preconceptions. Where our ideas conflict with it, we must change our ideas, instead of changing the Bible. Our minds must be born again.

The act of reading the Bible without preconception is counterintuitive. Our human nature, and our interaction with the world, teaches us to defend our ideas. To read and absorb something we do not like is painful. The temptation to find what we want to find in the Bible, rather than what is actually said by God, is horrendously difficult. My own thought about why — or at least one reason why — we find it so difficult, is that much of the Bible goes against our worldly knowledge about how to succeed in life.

We want to be powerful, for example. We want to rule the government. We want to be rich. We crave acceptance, praise, even adulation of other people. We want to follow our instincts. We want sex, we want to have long lives, we want to be beautiful. We want God to approve of our friends and allies. We want to be wise, or at least have others think we are wise.

But all of these thoughts and desires inevitably come into conflict with God’s Word. How can we possibly cope? It is an automatic and even unconscious process, this subversion of the Bible to our own desires.

We must constantly renew our childishness. Some spiritual practices become easier and easier as we get older. Certainly, most people are less tempted to sexual immorality as they age. We may learn that money and fame are fleeting, and find it easier to resist pursuing them. But there is a downside, for we become ever more “fixed in our ways.”

I will testify to this: Every person can grow in joy and contentment by reading the Bible, if they are willing to change their minds to accord with what they read. God will draw closer to us as we draw closer to God.
Lord, let me draw closer to you in my ideas and thoughts, abandoning the ideas of my own mind. Amen.

In Jesus,
Cap'n Kenny


Seeking God?
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relationship with Jesus Christ.

Devotion by Mason Barge, Editor, Daily Prayer.
Most of the people reading this will be concerned, already, with deepening their faith and drawing nearer to God.

Un Dia a la Vez - Sabiduría contra necedad (primera parte)


En los labios del prudente hay sabiduría; en la espalda del falto de juicio, solo garrotazos.

La sabiduría es un don hermoso y tenerla es una ganancia, mientras que la necedad es un defecto y es desobediencia.

Durante este año hemos recordado que cada uno de nosotros tiene una porción de sabiduría. No obstante, también el Manual de Instrucciones nos dice que si nos falta sabiduría, se la pidamos a Dios.

Es un privilegio y una virtud ser sabios en todo lo que hacemos, hablamos y pensamos. Cuando nos tomamos el tiempo para pensar antes de actuar, nos libramos de errores y de muchos dolores de cabeza.

Como todo en la vida, debemos tener un equilibrio. Hay personas que por tratar de ser sabios se van al extremo y se vuelven legalistas. Piensan que teniendo una conducta irreprochable van a ser capaces de evitar una crisis o una situación difícil. Les recuerdo que Dios creó el día bueno y también el malo. Lo importante es discernir los momentos y vivir en consecuencia.

Hay oportunidades que nunca regresan y está en ti tomar una sabia decisión. También hemos experimentado que el infortunio nos lleva a la reflexión y produce el fruto de la sabiduría.

Después de esas grandes dificultades que hemos enfrentado, es increíble cómo la manera de ver la vida cambia de forma radical y aprendemos mucho. Sin darnos cuenta, maduramos, y es de allí que viene el fruto de la sabiduría.

Un Día a la Vez Copyright © by Claudia Pinzón

Standing Strong Through the Storm - HELP IN INTERPRETING THE BIBLE


Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering.
~ Hebrews 10:32 (NIV)

Our Open Doors colleague, Ron Boyd-MacMillan, shares the following insight from his teaching, “Why I Need to Encounter the Persecuted Church.”

Every pastor and Bible teacher works hard to understand the meaning of the scriptures. They learn biblical languages, look up concordances, and consult commentaries, all in the hope of shedding more light on the key questions of interpretation:

1. Who wrote this text and what did they mean by it?

2. Who initially read this text and what did they make of it?

All good interpretation begins with the tools that answer these two primary questions. We are taught that these tools lie in the realm of scholarship, and most pastors take to their studies and their libraries accordingly. But there is another vitally overlooked tool that gives a key to the meaning of the scriptures. The persecuted church of today represents the closest we can come to the original writers and readers of the scriptures. You see, most of the Bible was written by persecuted people for persecuted people. By interacting with them, we gain unique insights into the original meaning of the scriptures. We really need their help because what is obvious to a persecuted, biblical Christian is no longer obvious to us. We inhabit a completely different universe. We need the persecuted to remind us of what life was like for the original New Testament community. The persecuted enable us in some small way to recover the “original eyes” of the first writers and readers of scripture, and that can impact interpretation.

I remember a dear pastor from the West preaching about Jesus stilling the storm (Mark 4:35-41). His whole talk was on how Jesus could still the storms raging in our lives. He named storms like loneliness, misunderstanding, humiliation, persecution even. And he said, “Jesus can deliver you from every one of these storms, just like he did the disciples of old.”

He was about to go on when an old man stood up. He was from a Middle Eastern country and had seen much suffering. He said gently and respectfully, “My dear brother, if you had been persecuted you would know the primary meaning of this passage. The point of this story is not that Jesus takes the storm away, but that there is no need to fear the storm if Jesus is in the boat.” Everyone stared at him in silence. He added, “This passage is given to us for our comfort in the face of terrible storms, to know that Jesus is in the boat with us so that the storm will do us no harm.” So that persecuted Christian—because he was persecuted—knew the meaning of the passage better than the preacher, because he was one for whom the passage was written.

RESPONSE: Today I will read my Bible through the eyes and perspective of the persecuted.

PRAYER: Lord, may Your Word come alive as I interpret it with the help of the persecuted church.

Women of the Bible - Mary, The Mother of Jesus


Her name means: "Bitterness"

Her character: She was a virgin from a poor family in an obscure village in Galilee. Her response to Gabriel reveals a young woman of unusual faith and humility. Her unqualified yes to God's plan for her life entailed great personal risk and suffering. She must have endured seasons of confusion, fear, and darkness as the events of her life unfolded. She is honored, not only as the mother of Jesus, but as his first disciple.
Her sorrow: To see the son she loved shamed and tortured, left to die like the worst kind of criminal.
Her joy: To see her child raised from the dead; to have received the Holy Spirit along with Christ's other disciples.
Key Scriptures: Matthew 1:18-25; 2; Luke 1:26-80; 2:1-52; John 19:25-27

Her Story

She sat down on the bench and closed her eyes, an old woman silhouetted against the blue Jerusalem sky. Even the wood beneath her conjured images. Though she could no longer recall the exact curl of his smile or the shape of his sleeping face resting next to hers, she could still see the rough brown hands, expertly molding the wood to his purposes. Joseph had been a good carpenter and an even better husband.

These days the memories came unbidden, like a gusty wind carrying her away to other times and places. Some said drowning people see their lives unfold in incredible detail just before they die. Age had a similar effect, she thought, except that you could relive your memories with a great deal more leisure …

A cool breeze teased at her skirts as she balanced the jug on her head, making her way toward the well. A stranger, she noticed, was approaching from the opposite direction. Even in the dusky light, his clothes shone, as though bleached bright by the strongest of fuller's soap.

"Greetings," he shouted, "you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."

No Nazarene, she was sure, would ever dare greet a maiden like that. But with each step his words grew bolder, not softer, rushing toward her like water cascading over a cliff:
"Do not be afraid, Mary….
You have found favor with God….
You will give birth to a son….
He will be called the Son of the Most High….
The Holy Spirit will come upon you….
Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in
her old age."
Wave after wave broke over her as she listened to the angel's words—first confusion and fear, then awe and gratitude, and finally a rush of joy and peace. Her whole being drenched in light. Then she heard more words, this time cascading from her lips, not his:
"I am the Lord's servant.
May it be to me as you have said."
Though the angel departed, Mary's peace remained. The Most High had visited the lowliest of his servants and spoken the promise every Jewish woman longed to hear: "You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." The moon hung like a smile in the night sky as Mary lifted the brimming buckets and began walking across the fields. As the water swayed and splashed to the rhythm of her movements, she realized that she too felt full and satisfied—as though she had just finished a favorite meal. Questions, she knew, would come with the morning. For now, it was enough to look up at the stars and know that God was at work shaping her future.

...

"Mama, Mama," he yelled, running toward her, chubby arms flung out beseechingly.

"Jesus, what is it now, child?" she smiled, scooping the chunky boy into her arms before he could topple over in the usual tangle of arms and legs. But he was all kisses, squealing and nuzzling his curly head against her breast, as though to bury himself in her soft, warm flesh. She sighed contentedly. How many mothers had she known? But none had adequately described the sheer wonder of a child—the laughter, the constant surprise, the tenderness. Not to mention the fear and worry that were also part of the bargain.

But this was no time to entertain such thoughts. The men from the East had recently left. How strange these Magi seemed, with their tales of a star that had led them all the way to Bethlehem in search of a new king. They had bowed before her dark-eyed child, laying out their treasures of gold, incense, and myrrh—as though paying homage to royalty. One morning, however, they had packed in haste, saying only that a dream had warned them to return home without reporting news of their successful search to King Herod. Even the mention of that king's name had filled her with dread. Bethlehem lay just six miles south of Jerusalem—dangerously close to the man who had murdered his own children out of jealousy for his throne. How would such a ruler respond to rumors of a child-king in Bethlehem?

Two nights ago Joseph had shaken her awake, shushing her with details of the dream he had just had: "Mary, an angel appeared to me. We must leave before sunrise. Herod plans to search for our child and kill him!"

Now they were on their way to Egypt, reversing the steps of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, who had led her ancestors to freedom so long ago. Mary wondered, as they rested, if they would ever see their homeland again.

...

"Woman," he breathed the word softly, painfully, through lips encrusted with blood, his lean arms flung out on either side of him, as though imploringly. The palms of his hands were pinned with spikes. He looked at her first and then at the young man standing beside her. "Here is your son." The words came haltingly.

Then to the man, he sighed: "Here is your mother."

She wanted to reach for him with all the might of her love, to bury his sorrow in her breasts, to tell him he was the son she needed most. Would not the God who pitied Abraham also pity her? Would he allow her to suffer what even the patriarch had been spared—the sacrifice of a child? All her life she had loved the God whose angel had spoken to her, calling her "highly favored." But how could a woman whose son was dying on a Roman cross ever consider herself "favored"?

Suddenly her own words came back to her, as though a younger version of herself was whispering them in her ear: "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said."

The midday sky had blackened, but she could still see her son's twisted form on the cross, his eyes searching hers. Thorns circled his forehead in the shape of a crown, a crude reminder of the sign the Roman governor had fastened to the wood: "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews."

She thought of the Magi and their priceless gifts. The gold and incense, royal treasures that had helped them survive their stay in Egypt. She had always wondered about the myrrh. Now she knew—it was embalming oil for the king the wise men had come to worship.

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" His cry pierced her. The earth shook violently and she fell to her knees, barely able to complete the words of the psalm for the man who hung dead on the cross:
O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, and am not silent….
But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by men and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads….
Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you
even at my mother's breast.
From birth I was cast upon you;
from my mother's womb you have been my God….
They have pierced my hands and my feet.
I can count all my bones;
people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my garments among them
and cast lots for my clothing.
But you, O Lord, be not far off;
O my Strength, come quickly to help me….
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! …
Future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness
to a people yet unborn—
for he has done it. — Psalm 22
By the time Mary opened her eyes, the setting sun had turned the city into a golden land. She smiled, wiping the tears from her wrinkled face. How true the angel's words had been. No woman from Eve onward had ever been blessed as she, the mother of the Messiah, had been. Yes, the past was alive inside her, but it was the future that filled her with joy. Soon, she would see her son again and this time it would be his hands that would wipe away the last of her tears.

Today's reading is a brief excerpt from Women of the Bible: A One-Year Devotional Study of Women in Scripture by Ann Spangler and Jean Syswerda (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.

Girlfriends in God - September 04, 2017


Look Where You’re Going

Today’s Truth

“Look up at the sky and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

Friend to Friend

I live in a suburban neighborhood. As my family of five pulled out of the driveway in our minivan, we were about to encounter a very strange sight.

There - smack dab in the middle of the road - was a teen girl.

She was walking away from us, right in the center of the street. Her eyes were glued to her phone. She walked slowly, completely unaware of her surroundings (including our two-ton vehicle quickly approaching).

As we got closer in our van, I capitalized on this larger-than-life teachable moment.

“Kids, do you see that girl? Is she even aware we are here? Why is it dangerous to stare at your phone, especially when you’re in the middle of the street?”

My husband James was having a lot of fun with this. He followed her slowly, not passing her so she wouldn’t be startled. We were all curious about how long it would take her to realize she was being stalked by the mighty minivan. Would she get scared? Embarrassed?

To our utter surprise, she did not notice us. She turned the corner (still in the middle of the street) and then veered to the left, getting on the sidewalk.

She never looked up once as we drove by.

How much she missed by her preoccupation with her phone above all else! She averted danger and didn’t even know it. You and I (hopefully) won’t be walking down the middle of the street anytime soon, but perhaps there are times when we’re buried in our phones instead of looking where we’re going in life.

In Genesis 15, we see that Abram (who would later be renamed Abraham) didn’t have any offspring. He was a wealthy man with no heir. His quest for a son characterized much of his life. When he looked to make his servant Eliezer his heir, the Lord told him He had a different plan. “Look to the sky and see if you can number the stars. So shall your descendants be.”

Like Abram, when we look up from our phones and into the promises of God, the sky is the limit. We are not designed to be plugged into a device 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Instead we blessed when we meditate on the law of the Lord day and night (Psalm 1:2). Which promises of God are you standing on? Are you walking by faith with an expectant heart?

The next you are taking a walk outside, make sure your phone is in your pocket or purse. Look up into the sky God has created. The heavens declare His majesty if we will stop to listen. Don’t blindly follow the crowds with your head down, buried in your texts, emails, posts, and pins. Look around for your physical safety and look up to God for the safety of your soul.

Let’s Pray

Dear Lord, I look up to You today. You are my hope, deliverer, refuge, and strength. I know You will keep every one of Your promises. Give me wisdom to turn off my phone more often and turn toward the Word of God instead.
In Jesus’ Name,
Amen.

Now It’s Your Turn

Do you find yourself looking down at your phone more and more? Make a point to put your phone in your pocket or purse while you’re walking around today and at mealtimes. Look up to the sky and praise God for what He is doing in your life.

More from the Girlfriends

Need help taming your technology? Learn five easy steps to transform your daily life in Arlene’s new book Calm, Cool, and Connected: 5 Digital Habits for a More Balanced Life.

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

Girlfriends in God


Daily Devotion September 4, 2017 "In His Steps"

One of the great stories that's told in the Seltz-Kilponen household is ...

Daily Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries

By Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour



"In His Steps"

September 4, 2017

Then Jesus said to His disciples, "Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will find it."

One of the great stories that's told in the Seltz-Kilponen household is the story of Grandma Kilponen and Grandma Beth dealing with those northern Michigan winters and all the things that she had to do, just to make sure that the kids made it to school. If you've ever been in northern Michigan during the winter, way up there in Ironwood, Michigan, it can get pretty brutal sometimes. I remember seeing walls of snow when we visited for Christmas holidays. It was beautiful, but it sure made getting around more difficult.

Anyway, the funniest of the stories that were told were the ones where grandma had to test the snow after a big snowfall, to see if there was an "ice crust" on top, one that she could walk on. On school days, if grandma stepped out the door, placed one foot in front of the other, and fell through -- no school that day! If she didn't fall through, then my mom and my aunt and uncle, would follow in her footprints, in her footsteps, to make it safely to the bus stop. Every time I think of my grandmother waist deep or higher in the snow, it makes me smile. She was willing to risk the hassle; she was willing to find the path so that everyone could make it safely to school.

When Jesus talks about taking up our cross, I don't think it's about punishment or living a grin-and-bear-it life. I think it's about following in His footsteps and being willing to test the ice, test the waters, sacrifice for others so that love and life can be received and shared. When Jesus died on the cross, He did more than test whether we could walk our path safely in this life. He did way more than that. He became that path; He became for us "the Way, the Truth, and the Life." In a world today that yearns for a sure path to follow, that needs loving parents who make sacrifices for their children, that desperately needs sacrificial love to overcome hatred and despair. Thank God for grandparents, moms, dads, and friends who are willing to love and sacrifice for others so that they can have what they need. But, even more, thank God for sending us His Son Jesus Christ, our Lord -- One who made a way where there was no way, One who died on the cross and rose again so that we might not only follow Him, but that we also might walk in His footsteps in how we love one another.

Now Grandma Beth couldn't walk on water, but she could walk on ice-crusted snow in His Name for those she loved, doing the sacrificial, cross-carrying things one has to do so that her children and grandchildren knew their Savior Jesus -- who did walk on water, who endured the cross and defeated death itself so that we might have life, love, family, and joy in abundance.

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, thank You for Your willingness to walk the path we couldn't walk, to endure the gates of hell that we might live, that we might also follow in Your footsteps for life and salvation, that we might also bear any crosses so that others might know Your love, too. Amen.

Use these devotions in your newsletter and bulletin!  Used by permission; all rights reserved by the Int'l LLL (LHM).

CPTLN Devocional de 04 de Setiembre de 2017


Alimento Diario

¿Mejor aún?

04 de Setiembre 2017

... he aprendido a estar contento en cualquier situación.

La vanidad es una cualidad muy común entre los seres humanos.

Ya era hora de salir para ir a la iglesia. El esposo miraba el reloj una y otra vez, mientras esperaba que su esposa terminara de aprontarse.

Entró y salió del dormitorio varias veces para comprobar que se estaba apurando, hasta que finalmente decidió ir a encender el coche para que se fuera calentando. Cuando volvió adentro, su esposa estaba terminando de maquillarse.

"Se te ve muy bien", le dijo, sin el menor reproche. "Pero se te vería mucho mejor en el coche".

La única razón por la cual cuento esta historia es para hacer la siguiente pregunta: "¿Cómo nos veríamos mejor?"

No es una pregunta difícil. Es más, hay muchas personas que siempre están prontas a ofrecer sugerencias. ¿Acaso no le han dicho alguna vez: "Te verías mejor si...", o "Serías más feliz si...", o "Te iría mejor en la vida si..."?

Aquí es donde el Señor entra en juego de gran manera, porque gracias a la vida, sufrimiento, muerte, y resurrección de Jesucristo, quienes creemos en él ya no necesitamos "vernos mejor". Nuestros pecados han sido perdonados y lavados, y nuestra vida temporal y eterna están aseguradas.

Por eso es que, junto a Pablo, podemos decir: "he aprendido a estar satisfecho en cualquier situación en que me encuentre".

ORACIÓN: Querido Señor, mi espíritu se alegra porque tú has provisto todo lo que necesito para esta vida y para la eternidad. Gracias a ti soy perdonado y salvo. Ayúdame a vivir cada día honrándote y alabándote. En el nombre de tu hijo Jesucristo. Amén.

De una devoción escrita originalmente para "By the Way"

© Copyright 2017 Cristo Para Todas Las Naciones. ¡Utilice estas devociones en sus boletines! Usado con permiso. Todos los derechos reservados por la Int'l LLL.