Day 406 | Thursday, 29 April 2021
On Monday I brought up the concept of trust and shared an article. I followed that with more on trust on Tuesday using the hymn He Leadeth Me. I want to share an article today on faith.
“Faith is one of the most central parts of our relationship with God. No matter who we are, no matter what our walk in life, there will be trying times for us. These difficult moments test our faith and trust in God. Our faith is tested daily — by terrible news stories that remind us of death and cruelty, by personal troubles, by the human failings of our family and friends. And yet the more we live in faith, the better we are able to make our way in the world, to trust in God and his ultimate plan for the human race.” “Faith makes us stronger, braver, better. Faith helps us through times of trouble and allows us to help others going through their own sets of trials. What exactly is faith? It is the trust that God exists, and by following him, we look forward to a world beyond this one — the kingdom of God, where we will live in peace with him forever.”
“Biblical Definition of Faith - Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. Hebrews 11:1 – 3” “What is faith? Everybody talks about it, but few take the time to define what it is. The Bible offers a definition from the letter to the Hebrews. Faith is not merely holding to certain teachings, such as that God exists, but rather it is a strong conviction that the world around us is part of a greater plan, God’s plan. Faith means that although at times the world looks chaotic and uncontrolled, we feel deep down that this chaotic world is not where we truly live. Rather, our existences are guided by God’s strength and power.” “With faith, the world is more than just a wild place of cruelty and power struggles, of seemingly meaningless deaths and hardships. We are more than mere animals with animal desires. A world seen through the eyes of faith is a world in which each one of us — along with everything that happens to us — has meaning as a part of a great plan. Faith means that there is more to the world than what we see with our eyes.”
“Moreover, faith is not just a mental agreement. As the rest of Hebrews 11 illustrates, faith drives action. If we believe there is more to life than what we see, true faith will drive our values, decisions and actions to align with our belief.”
“Faith in Difficult Circumstances -He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20
“Jesus Christ here reveals the power of faith. In a difficult and often chaotic world, something as simple as faith can change everything. Think about the great men and women throughout history who have changed the world for the better — Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa. Without their faith in God and their courage to act on it, where would we be today? It is only through faith that we can see the world as it ought to be.”
“The stories on the evening news are not the ultimate reality. Instead, God’s final reality is a heavenly kingdom to which we aspire. If we keep our eyes on him and make decisions based on faith, we become agents of a God who can move mountains. Faith is based on the objective Word of God. In fact, faith is crucial to our daily walk with God. We must remember that “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).”
Article drawn from the NIV Essentials of the Christian Faith, New Testament.
Day 405 | Wednesday, 28 April 2021
A recent conversation about ministry and doing God’s work prompted me to thinking. I was asked by a friend who is in another profession, how he could tell he was doing God’s work. We talked about ministry and how everyone, not just professional clergy, is involved in ministry. We have all been given a gift form God and we are to use that gift, working together to build up the community of faith. Ministry takes on many forms and is always directed at serving others and sharing God’s love.
One place we find a list of gifts is in Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13 CEB
“4: 1 Therefore, as a prisoner for the Lord, I encourage you to live as people worthy of the call you received from God. 2 Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, 3 and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together. 4 You are one body and one spirit, just as God also called you in one hope. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all.
7 God has given his grace to each one of us measured out by the gift that is given by Christ.
11 He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. 12 His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ 13 until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son. God’s goal is for us to become mature adults—to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ.
A Prayer for the Ministry of Jesus:
“God of life: We thank you this day for giving great powers of healing to your divine son and for filling his heart with compassion for the sick and the sorrowing.
We praise you for his wisdom in insisting that the sick do as much as they can for themselves and for his pity on those who could not help themselves and had no one to care for them or about them.”
“We give you thanks for his keen insight, which enabled him to detect even a glimmer of faith in persons in need of healing and for putting to work whatever faith they had in their fight to get well.”
“We thank you for this impartiality in healing Jew and Greek, man, woman and child and for his disregard for everything, even the proper observance of the Sabbath, when it might interfere with or delay relief from suffering.”
“We praise you for his generosity, which prevented him from ever accepting even a gift for his healing ministry and for his touching surprise at the 10th leper, who actually came back to say “Thank you!””
“We give you thanks for his courage that moved him to engage in combat even the ultimate enemy, death and for restoring a son to a stricken, widowed mother, a daughter to a distraught father and a beloved brother to two grieving sisters.”
“We acknowledge, Father, that you placed his healing ministry at the service of his mission, and that it is not for us to speculate on where medicine ended, and miracle began.”
“We would rather praise you for your great love, which you revealed through his caring for the sick and the dying; and we would be enabled, by your grace, to contribute whatever we can to the healing of those about us - in his blessed name. Amen”
Today: How are you using the gift God gave you for ministry?
Day 404 | Tuesday, 27 April 2021
Yesterday I shared a scripture on trust followed by a commentary. I don’t want to leave that topic to just one day. Today I am adding some more thoughts on trust by lifting up at least one hymn that follows the theme of trust.
“He Leadeth Me: O Blessed Thought” words by Joseph H. Gilmore 1862 with Psalm 23 as the scripture reference.
REFRAIN: He leadeth me, He leadeth me, By His own hand He leadeth me. His faithful follower I would be, for by His hand He leadeth me.
“In 1862, as a 28-year-old student who was about to become a pastor, Joseph Henry Gilmore was invited to preach at the historic First Baptist Church of Philadelphia. "I set out to give the people an exposition of the Twenty-third Psalm. I had given this exposition on three or four other occasions, but this time I did not get beyond the words 'He leadeth me.' So greatly impressed was I with the blessedness of divine guidance that I made this my theme." He later felt that the dark days of the Civil War may have subconsciously led him to focus on God's leadership.”
“At the close of the meeting, Henry and some others went to the home of a deacon. "There," he wrote, "we continued our discussion of divine guidance. While I was still talking and listening, I wrote on a piece of my exposition manuscript the words to this hymn. I handed the paper to my wife and more or less forgot the incident."”
“The words that Henry had written began with this famous stanza: He leadeth me! O blessed tho't! O words with heav'nly comfort fraught! What-e'er I do, wher-e'er I be, Still 'tis God's hand that leadeth me!”
“Three years later, having pastored for some time in New Hampshire, Henry was invited to preach a trial sermon at the Second Baptist Church in Rochester. "I picked up a church hymnal to see what songs they sang and was surprised to have the book fall open to the very song I had written three years earlier," he wrote. "When I returned home, I related this experience to my wife. 'I do not understand it,' I said. 'My words had been set to music by Dr. William B. Bradbury, yet I had not given the words to anybody.' My wife smiled and said, 'I can explain it, Joseph. I felt that the words would bless the hearts of people in these troublesome times; so I sent the poem to The Watchman and Reflector. I am glad to know that they have printed it.'"
“The famous hymn composer William Bradbury had seen the lines and added music and the last two lines of the chorus. Henry took this incident as divine leadership that he should accept a situation at the Rochester church. That put him in position two years later to accept an offer to teach Hebrew at Rochester Theological Seminary. The following year, he was offered a professorship of logic and English literature at the University of Rochester, which he held until his retirement in 1908. An English chair at the school is named after him.”
TODAY: Prayers for Alan Richards and his family as the ending of life stage is near.
Day 403 | Monday, 26 April 2021
I want to lift up Psalm 121 which is a song of trust in God’s Protection and then follow it with what the Bible says about trust.
Psalm 121 CEB
I raise my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? 2 My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. 3 God won’t let your foot slip. Your protector won’t fall asleep on the job. 4 No! Israel’s protector never sleeps or rests! 5 The Lord is your protector; the Lord is your shade right beside you. 6 The sun won’t strike you during the day;
neither will the moon at night. 7 The Lord will protect you from all evil; God will protect your very life.8 The Lord will protect you on your journeys—whether going or coming—from now until forever from now.
Question: "What does the Bible say about trust?"
Answer: “The words translated “trust” in the Bible literally mean “a bold, confident, sure security or action based on that security.” Trust is not exactly the same as faith, which is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Rather, trusting is what we do because of the faith we have been given. Trusting is believing in the promises of God in all circumstances, even in those where the evidence seems to be to the contrary. Hebrews 11 talks about faith, which is accepting and believing the truth that God reveals about Himself, supremely in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, the practical consequence of faith in God is trust, which we prove by living out our full acceptance of God’s promises day by day. Furthermore, it is by this trust that we are promised peace: “You will keep in peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3).”
“The classic verse regarding trust is Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” This verse sums up the Bible’s teaching on trust. First, it is the Lord in whom we are to trust, not ourselves or our plans, and certainly not the world’s wisdom and devices. We trust in the Lord because God and God alone is truly trustworthy. God’s Word is trustworthy (Psalm 93:5; 111:7; Titus 1:9), God’s nature is faithful and true (Deuteronomy 7:9; Psalm 25:10; 145:13; 146:6), and God’s plans for us are perfect and purposeful (Isaiah 46:10; Jeremiah 29:11). Further, because of God’s nature, we are to trust God with all our hearts, committing every aspect of our lives to God in complete confidence. Finally, we are not to trust in ourselves because our understanding is temporal, finite, and tainted by our sin natures. Trusting in ourselves is like walking confidently across a rotten wooden bridge over a yawning chasm thousands of feet deep. Disaster inevitably follows.”
“Trust in God is a feature of many of the psalms of David. There are 39 references to trust in the Psalms alone, whether referring to trusting in God and God’s Word, or to not trusting in riches or the things of this world. It is on the basis of this trust that David finds deliverance from all the evil he encounters. Many of David’s psalms describe situations when he was pursued by Saul and his army, as well as his other enemies, and always did the Lord come to his aid. One thing that can be noted about biblical trust is that it always engenders further trust in our God. A person of God never stops trusting in God completely. Our faith may be knocked, we may stumble, or we may fall into the foulest of sins, but “though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand” (Psalm 37:24). A Person of God knows that, though trials will beset in this life, their trust will not waiver because that trust is based on faith in the promises of God: the promise of eternal joy with the Lord and the promise of an inheritance that “can never perish, spoil and fade” (1 Peter 1:4).”
Today: In whom do you place your trust?
Day 402 | Sunday, 25 April 2021
The assigned scripture readings for this the fourth Sunday of Easter are Acts 4:5-12, Psalm 22:25-31, 1 John 3:16-24 and John 10:11-18.
The reading from 1 John is a reminder of the fact that we are to love each other. Verse 23 says “This is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love each other as he commanded us.”
The passage from the Gospel of John is where Jesus affirms that he is The Good Shepherd.
Here is the passage from The Message.
11 "I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary.
12 A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf.
13 He's only in it for the money. The sheep don't matter to him.
14 "I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me.
15 In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary.
16 You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They'll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd.
17 This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again.
18 No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received this authority personally from my Father."
“Jesus is both the good shepherd and the gate of the sheep (vs 7-10), a stone enclosure to keep and protect sheep at night.”
“The shepherd – sheep relationship is one of intimacy, guidance, and care.”
“The image of Jesus as the good shepherd focuses on his death (mentioned five times) as an essential part of offering abundant life.” (CEB p 1349)
The Hymn that reflects this scripture is “Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us” words: attribute to Dorothy A. Thrupp, 1836
1. Savior, like a shepherd lead us, much we need Thy tender care; In Thy pleasant pastures feed us, for our use Thy folds prepare: Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus, Thou hast bought us, Thine we are; Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus, Thou hast bought us, Thine we are.
2. We are Thine; do Thou befriend us, be the Guardian of our way; keep Thy flock, from sin defend us, seek us when we go astray: Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus, Hear, O hear us when we pray; Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus, Hear, O hear us when we pray.
3. Thou hast promised to receive us, poor and sinful though we be; thou hast mercy to relieve us, grace to cleanse, and power to free: Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus, we will early turn to Thee; Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus, we will early turn to Thee.
4. Early let us seek Thy favor; early let us do Thy will; Blessed Lord and only Savior,
with Thy love our bosoms fill: Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus, Thou hast loved us, love us still;
Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus, Thou hast loved us, love us still.
Day 400 | Friday, 23 April 2021
I begin this day by wishing a happy 77th birthday to my Judy.
I would like to begin today's offering with the liturgy on unity and diversity which just when I read it gave me the desire to share it.
“In the beginning was the circle. God made the world round, floated a sun to shine light around our days and hung a moon and many stars to brighten each night. All creatures had their place in the circle of life. All seasons came round in their appointed times. All creation danced in a circle of joy.”
“In the beginning was the tapestry. Jesus, the great weaver, wove together a rich and diverse fabric. All colors, all sizes and shapes went into the needlework. Cultures and traditions were woven in like gold and silver threads. Each variation contributed to a strong and beautiful whole.”
“In the beginning was music. The Holy Spirit conducts a glorious sound using the songs of the birds, the music of the mountains and streams, the harmony of the woods, the chorus of frogs and crickets and the trumpets of praise and drums of glory from the depths of humanity. The orchestra needs all of us to make a great melody of praise.”
“From the beginning to now, God uses all of us to create joy and beauty, hope and compassion.”
A prayer for the aged. (It has nothing to do with Judy’s birthday.)
“Eternal God, in mercy you sustain us all of the length and breadth of our days. Some among us have been blessed with many long years of ripening in faith and understanding.”
“We thank you for their sunny seasons, rich with love and laughter. We thank you for the time they have spent walking in the valley of the shadow. Through sun and shade, you have blessed our elders, and through them you bless us."
“From them we learn that life is good and precious and much shorter than we think. Help us look for the goodness in each day, for we shall never see that moment again.”
“Long life is a blessing, but the years do exact a price. We pray for those who attend the funeral after funeral as people close to them fulfill their days on earth. Comfort them in sorrow, defend them against loneliness.”
“Grant power and patience to those whose mobility has been taken away by illness or injury. By your spirit help them take pleasure in what they can do, rather than resenting what they cannot.”
“Grant peace to those who are nearing death, that they may undertake life's last great adventure with serenity and dignity. Grant peace to those who will be left behind, that they have power to entrust their loved ones to your care.”
“Grant your constant presence to those who in their conscious minds are no longer with us. Comfort the family members who helplessly watch the personality of their loved one erode.”
“Grant to those who care for the elderly perseverance and gentleness, ample patience and a respectful attitude. “
“Grant your Providence to the aged who struggle to survive on an income that became inadequate years ago.”
“Watch over those who live with fearsome worries about dangers they cannot control, protect them from crime and injury, from being neglected or cheated or abandoned. Help us find ways to protect their health, their safety and their dignity. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Today: add your prayers for the aged in your world.
Day 399 | Thursday, 22 April 2021
Yesterday was interesting as we basked in the snow that covered the lawns and flowers.
“In the bleak mid-winter, frosty wind made moan, snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, in the bleak mid (April) winter, (yesterday)”. We are 18 days into the Easter season as we move toward the flames of Pentecost and the warmth of the Holy Spirit. Speaking of warmth, we enjoyed our electric fireplace yesterday and probably today as well.
Let me take us back to Easter morning and share the scripture from John 20:11-18 from the Revised Standard Version. Mary is outside the tomb.
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him."
14 Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." 16 Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, "Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." 18 Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
This scripture is the base for a hymn which many of us consider a favorite. Next to “The Old Rugged Cross”, “In the Garden” has been one of the most popular gospel hymns ever written.
“It was in 1912 that music publisher Dr. Adam Geibel asked C. Austin Miles to write a hymn text that would be “sympathetic in tone, breathing tenderness in every line; one that would bring hope to the hopeless, rest for the weary, and downy pillows to dying beds.””
“Here is the account of how this beautiful hymn was written from the hymn writer, C. Austin Miles, himself, “One day in April 1912, I was seated in the dark room where I kept my photographic equipment, and also my organ. I drew my Bible toward me and it opened at my favorite book and chapter, John chapter twenty. I don’t know if this was by chance or by the work of the Holy Spirit. I will let you the reader decide. That story of Jesus and Mary in John 20 had lost none of its power and charm.”
“It was though I was in a trance, as I read it that day, I seemed to be part of the scene. I became a silent witness to that dramatic moment in Mary’s life when she knelt before her Lord and cried, “Rabboni”. I rested my hands on the open Bible, as I stared at the light blue wall. As the light faded, I seemed to be standing at the entrance of a garden, looking down a gently winding path, shaded by olive branches. A woman in white, with head, bowed, hand clasping her throat, as if to choke back her sobs, walked slowly into the shadows. It was Mary. As she came unto the tomb, upon which she placed her hand, she bent over to look in and ran away.”
“John, in a flowing robe, appeared looking at the tomb. Then came Peter, who entered the tomb, followed slowly by John. As they departed, Mary reappeared leaning her head upon her arm at the tomb, she wept. Turning herself, she saw Jesus standing there, so did I. I knew it was He. She knelt before Him, with arms outstretched, and looking into His face cried, “Rabboni”.”
“I awakened in sunlight, gripping my Bible with my muscles tense, and nerves vibrating, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. I wrote as quickly as the words could be formed the lyrics exactly as it is sung today. That same evening, I wrote the tune. It is sung today as it was written in 1912.””
Holy God, how peaceful it is to walk in gardens amongst the flowering shrubs and seasonal flowers. This favorite hymn fills us with inner peace. It is easy to imagine Jesus walking with us reassuring us with tenderness. Thank you for inspiring Austin Miles to write this powerful hymn. We find in this hymn hope, rest and comfort. Lord, hear our prayers. Amen
Today: those who create gardens for all to enjoy.