“Jesus and his disciples headed out for the villages around Caesarea Philippi. As they walked, he asked, “Who do the people say I am?” Some say, ‘John the Baptizer,’” they said. “Others say ‘Elijah.’ Still others say ‘one of the prophets.’”
He then asked, “And you—what are you saying about me? Who am I?”
Peter gave the answer. “You are the Christ, the Messiah.
Jesus warned then to keep it quiet, not to breathe a word of it to anyone. He then began explaining things to them: “It is necessary that the Son of Man proceed to an ordeal if suffering, be tried and found guilty by the elders, high priests and religion scholars, be killed, and after three days rise up alive.” He said this simply and clearly so they couldn’t miss it.
But Peter grabbed him in protest. Turning and seeing his disciples wavering, wondering what to believe, Jesus confronted Peter. “Peter, get out of my way! Satan, get lost! You have no idea how God works.”
Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering, embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?”
“If any of you are embarrassed over me and the way I’m leading you when you get around your fickle and unfocused friends, know that you’ll be an even greater embarrassment to the Son of Man when he arrives in all the splendor of God, his Father, with an army of the holy angels.” Mark 8:27-38 (Message)
Prayer: God, the suffering and rejection you bring forth our salvation and by the glory of the cross you transform our lives. Grant that for the sake of the gospel we may turn from the lure of evil, take up our cross, and follow your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen
“If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose.” 1 Cor.12:17-18 (RSV)
Can you see the beauty of an eagle’s wings spread wide gliding smoothly high up over the tree tops?
Can you hear the silence of God around you in the pitter-patter of the rain drops as he nourishes his ground for us?
Can you feel God’s presence as snowflakes touch your face and tongue as you frolic in the snow?
Can you taste that first fresh tomato you picked out of God’s garden?
Can you smell the mowed fields of wheat?
God does touch us in countless ways every day. He is never out of reach. His presence is unconditional. All we have to do is reach out to Him. God is yours, he is mine. Fear not for all is well.
Prayer: All praise and thanks to you, O God, for providing us the beauty of this earth, for the joy of sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell and for sharing yourself with each of us. Amen
“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one, but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” James 1:13-14 (RSV)
“Boy! Sure have another piece of chocolate cake.” “Let’s take Jim’s new car for a joy ride.” “I’ll just a peak at ‘that’ web site.” The most sobering part is that we are all capable of doing them and suffer the consequences. When that desire is conceived, it gives birth to sin and that dishonors the Lord. No matter what the temptation we are all vulnerable.
How can we avoid temptation?
Only through God’s grace and power can we not fall and only God can pick us up when we do.
Prayer: Gracious God, in our world today there are so many temptations confronting us daily both big and small. We ask your presence and power to keep us from falling and to restore us to you. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen
PRAY FOR THE CHURCH
"We constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of His calling, and that by His power He may fulfill every good purpose of yours."
2 Thessalonians 1:11 NIV
It is such an awesome thing that we can commune with the King of the universe any time we wish. What a privilege!
Remembering who our Lord is, the "King of kings, the Lord of lords, dwelling in dazzlingly unapproachable Light.”1 Timothy 6:15-16. His eyes are like "blazing fire" Rev. 1:14-16. His voice is like the "sound of rushing waters". His face is like the "sun shining in all its brilliance" and yet He is our shepherd, tenderly leading us step by step through our lives. How precious we are to Him. He listens to our heart as well as to our words. When we come to Him in prayer, He is blessed as we are blessed.
When we take our dream (which may already be part of God's plan) to God, we have just a glimmer of how that dream could look, though He knows the finished product. As we pray, we will behold more and more of the beauty of the dream as we pursue it under God's guiding hand. "He puts a little of heaven in our hearts, so that we'll never settle for less." 2 Corinthians 5.5.
The glimmer of the dream is vital and a growing Church is so exciting. As pointed out by William Barclay, Paul picks out three marks of a vital church in 2 Thessalonians 1:
1. *A faith which is strong* is the mark of the advancing Christian that he
grows surer of Jesus every day. James Agate once said, "My mind is not like
a bed which has to be made and remade. There are some things of which I am
sure." We are sure of the promises of God.
2. *A love which is increasing*. A growing Church is one which grows greater
in service. A man may begin serving his fellow men as a duty which his
Christian faith lays upon him; he will end by doing it because in it he
finds his greatest joy. The life of service opens up the great discovery
that unselfishness and happiness go hand in hand.
3. *A constancy which endures*. That is the spirit or trial which not only
endures the circumstance in which it finds itself but masters the
circumstance. It accepts the blows of life but, in accepting them,
transforms them into stepping stones to new achievement.
The glory of Christ is in those who through him have learned to endure and
to conquer, and so to shine like lights in a dark place.
Prayer: We pray that the church will be filled with the power of our Lord and fulfill
every good purpose, and that it will shine and be a beacon of light in a
dark place. Praise be to God. Amen
LISTENING ON BEHALF OF OTHERS
“Hear my cry, o God; listen to my prayer!” Psalm 61: 1(TEV)
Have you ever had someone in your life come to you in distress and felt very uncomfortable about it? You felt so awkward that you just wanted to get beyond it as quickly as possible so you offered a quick word of comfort or advice and shifted the conversation to something else. There may have been that feeling of irritation, wishing the person and their problem would "just move on". Could this be the enemy trying to prevent help from happening? Thank God there is another response possible as we grow in Jesus. It is a response that wants to engage and intervene, to help. This is a time that we can take this person to God in prayer. Listening to God on behalf of one another may be one of the greatest gifts we can offer each other in the body of Christ.
Sometimes it is easier to hear what God is saying for someone else rather than for yourself. Have you ever thought that you have to get a good night's sleep only to toss and turn and not sleep at all? There is too much pressure. Prayer may work like that sometimes. What a gift it can be, to take the pressure off by listening on one another's behalf. We may not know the answers but, as we pray for God to come and minister to this person, God may provide those answers. Could it be, as we pray for others, that we develop an ability to hear for ourselves? What a blessing!
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, as you pray this prayer for your loved ones, may you enjoy the fatherly love and care of our Lord.
Prayer: "O God, we pray to you for all those who are in pain and distress of body or of mind.
Bless those who are ill. Be especially near to those who will never be well again, and ease the pain of those whose pain is beyond human skill to help.
Bless those who are sad; those on whose dearest circle the chill wind of death has blown, and comfort those whom no one else can comfort.
Bless those who have had some great disappointment; those who have found a friend untrue; those who found a lover faithless; those who have failed in something for which they toiled; those to whom life has refused something on which they set their hearts.
Bless those who are worried; those who are worried about their health; those who have an insoluble problem which must be solved; those who have a difficult decision which must be made; those who know that they must meet their testing time; those who are tempted and who fear that they may fall. O God, our Father, we remember all this world's unfortunate ones, refugees without a home and without a state; those who are persecuted for their faith; those who are suffering for their loyalty to some principle which is dearer to them than comfort and than life.
Grant that all in trouble may remember your promise that when they pass through the waters you will be with them, and grant that they may find it true.
Open our hearts, O Lord, and enlighten us by the grace of the Holy Spirit, that we may seek what is well-pleasing to thy will; and so order our doings after thy commandments that we may be found meet to enter into thine unending joys; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
(Prayer from "A Barclay Prayer Book" 1978 by William Barclay)
PAINT OR GET OF THE LADDER
“Teach me to live according to your truth, for you are my God, who saves me.”Psalm 25:5 (TEV)
What does it mean to obey? "Love And Obey For There Is No Other Way"
Through this old hymn, we hear that obedience requires a discerning ear that listens for the reality of a situation, and a listening that allows the hearer to respond to that reality...whatever it might be.
What do we obey?
"I am the way, and the truth and the life", Jesus said. Seek the truth and enter into a relationship with God. If the Pharisees believed in Scriptures, they would have believed in Jesus, and would have been drawn to worship Him.
Why must we obey?
The motive for obedience is as important as the act of obedience. God requires heart obedience that is motivated by our love and sincerity of devotion to Him, because of whom God is and the marvelous work He has done for us. We must meditate on God's word regularly, ignoring no part of it, to prevent the blindness of the Pharisees.
How broad is the scope of our obedience?
Jesus said we must do what He says and put into obedience the knowledge we have. In Luke 6:40, Jesus says "What is the point of calling me "Lord, Lord without doing what I tell you to do?" Yes, Jesus is telling us to paint or get off the ladder! We are being told to pick up our brushes and paint something. So we must begin to put into practical obedience what we understand.
Our knowledge of God's word requires that we learn the truth and be transformed. God wants to see what we learn transformed into our lives. Obedience is the harmony of purpose between the human will and the divine, using repentance in conversion and discipleship, then getting involved in life. We are to obey and be accountable to God as we begin living for Him as He desires. We pray and make God the Lord of our lives. We pray to God that we know Jesus more and want to follow Him. As we read the Gospels there will be things that hit us, and we are called to that thing as soon as we can. We are called to act on the truth seeking God. Truth requires us to submit and truth transforms us.
So as we climb each rung of the ladder seeking His truth, praying, developing a relationship with God, loving Him and responding with heart obedience, we begin to paint a life that transforms us as we live for Him. May each day reflect for you a fresh new painting. Praise be to God.
Prayer: Lord, we pray that we may act on your truth and submit ourselves to you whole heartedly. May each of our days reveal for you a new painting. We ask through Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen
ARE YOU A CHRISTIAN?
“However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” 1 Peter 4:16 (NIV)
Can you distinguish a Christian from a worldly person? Do you know and see the difference between a worldly person and a Christian?
The followers of Jesus were called “Christians”. But they themselves did not call themselves Christians, the non-believers of Jesus gave them the name because Christian lives reflected and proved that they were Christ-like. The Christians confirmed to all around them that they were true to the teachings and followings of Jesus.
Do you reflect and live a Christian life? So many people today call themselves Christians in name only but are not true believers and doers of the word. Christians should be different. They should turn the other cheek, give a coat, feed the hungry, walk a mile and pray for their enemies. Matthew 5:44 states “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” Worldly people can be revengeful, but a Christian should be always forgiving. A Christian should think of others, not themselves and show love, compassion and caring for others. God gave His only son, Jesus to suffer, to die and rise again for us. That unconditional love should be the force driving Christians to serve God through their fellowman.
Prayer: Lord, as we strive to be a “true Christian”, following your word, help us to focus on you only. Show us a deeper devotion for our fellowman and shape and use us as you see fit through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen