Check it out And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent.And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent.

Sometimes preachers use this text to question whether or not Jesus has siblings, but I think they miss the point of the text. Jesus looks at the people gathered around him, listening to his message, and says that the one who does the will of God is mother, brother and sister to him. The important thing is that he includes us in that as long as we do the will of God. In another part of the Bible, we are called adopted children of God, again being described as the brothers and sisters of Jesus. The key here is doing the will of God. This can be a stumbling block for us. What does it mean to do the will of God? Do we ever ask God to show us the path he wants us to take? Do we ask for guidance when we have an important decision to make? Do we ask for help when faced with temptations? We know that the commandments provide guidance and we have the Beatitudes to give us further instruction, but do we pay attention to them? Many times I know that I don’t. I just go along my own way and then wonder when things don’t turn out the way I want! This is especially true when I am not as considerate of others as I know I should be. I say I want justice but don’t always let my action follow my words. How about you?

Jesus was sent to preach the kingdom of God all over, not just in one place. He taught in places where others would not even go because of prejudices. Then after He had died, risen, and departed, His disciples continued preaching and spreading the gospel throughout the earth. Today, there are still groups of people who have never heard the gospel. There are missionaries whose goal it is to bring the gospel to those people. Eventually, every tribe, tongue, and nation will hear the name of Jesus and the good news about Him.

Heavenly Father, I pray for the peoples who have never even heard of the name of Jesus. Send missionaries and believers to share You with them. Prepare their hearts to receive You and Your word. Give them true hope and save them from judgment. You have a plan for all of us, and You are sovereign. Let Your will be done in the nations. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

We belong to God. We are His children. Whenever the enemy tries to tell you otherwise, stand firm on God’s word and remind the enemy of whom you belong to – God, the Father.

I really love the psalms! I hope that you are reading this on a glorious January day, but if it’s rainy or gloomy, this psalm should perk you up! How often do we really take the time to just praise God? We turn to God when we need something, when friends or family are suffering, or we hear of a tragedy. Sometimes we remember to say “thank you” to God for prayers answered, and we might even ask forgiveness for the times we have sinned, but how often do we just praise God for his goodness, for the blessing of a sunny day, for the glory of his creation or his saving grace? This psalm is the perfect prayer of praise. We are reminded of God’s goodness, his mercy and faithfulness, not just to Israel but also to us. We are invited to sing God’s praises with all creation. Actually the psalms in general are a great place to find the words when we don’t know what to pray. The psalmists were honest with God and with themselves and so we have psalms of praise and worship, fear of abandonment and thanksgiving for rescue. We have psalms where they express their anger and frustration, their hopes and their joys. There will always be times in our lives when we can’t find the words, when this happens, let us turn to the psalms. And may we find some time in each day to sing your praises.

Dear God, I thank you that I have my identity in you – as your child. Lord, I pray that when anyone tries to make me doubt who I am, I will simply shake them off and tell them, confidently, that I belong to you. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Lord, I thank You that You have made me a citizen of Your kingdom. You have built a firm foundation resting on all those who came before me and You have made Christ the cornerstone that holds it all together. Help me to show good citizenship in this community and pay proper respect and homage to those who laid the foundation of my faith. Amen.

Moral Strength: If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Exodus: 32:26 – Then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, “Whoever is on the LORD’s side – come with me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him.

God gave the Bible to back up the science we see today. Wernher Von Braun was known as the father of the American Space Program.

“Put your money where your mouth is!” Have you ever heard that phrase? It is often said to us when we make a claim that others think we can’t back up. Sometimes we talk a good game, but can’t play it. We let our mouths get carried away and sometimes that leads to all kinds of trouble. When we make a habit of talk, talk, talk but can’t follow it up with do, do, do, then we lose credibility and no one will believe a word we say. This verse reminds us that if we are going to “talk the talk,” then we must “walk the walk.” When we talk a lot about being a Christian and how we pray all the time and how we read our Bibles all the time and how we go to church all the time, people have an expectation of how we should behave. When our behavior contradicts what we say about ourselves, people lose faith in us. And because we represent Christianity to them, they lose faith in all Christians. It is a terrible thing to mislead someone about Christ. We must be excellent ambassadors for Him, in word and deed.

Father, I ask You to help me to live the way You would have me to. Let the words of my mouth and the actions of my heart be the same. If I speak about love, let me be known for love. If I recite scripture, let me first live by that scripture. Help me to be able to match my “walk” and my “talk.” Amen.

“The LORD has hidden himself from his people, but I trust him and place my hope in him.”

Isaiah 8:17 (GNT)

It’s easy to worship God when things are going great in your life—when he’s provided food, friends, family, health, and happy situations. But circumstances are not always pleasant. So, how do you worship God then? What do you do when God seems a million miles away?

The deepest level of worship is praising God in spite of pain, thanking God during a trial, trusting him when tempted, surrendering while suffering, and loving him when he seems distant.

The writer Philip Yancey once noted, “Any relationship involves times of closeness and times of distance, and in a relationship with God, no matter how intimate, the pendulum will swing from one side to the other.”

That’s when worship gets difficult.

To mature your friendship, God will test it with periods of seeming separation—times when it seems as if he has abandoned or forgotten you. St. John of the Cross referred to these days of spiritual dryness and doubt as “the dark night of the soul.”

King David understood days like these. Even though God called him “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22 NIV), David sometimes complained about God’s apparent absence:

  • “Lord, why are you standing aloof and far away? Why do you hide when I need you the most?” (Psalm 10:1 TLB).
  • “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help?” (Psalm 22:1 NLT).
  • “Why have you abandoned me?” (Psalm 43:2 GNT).

Of course, God hadn’t really left David, and he’ll never leave you. God has promised repeatedly, “I will never leave you; I will never abandon you” (Hebrews 13:5 GNT).PLAY today’s audio teaching from Pastor Rick >>

Talk It Over

  • What practical steps can you take to help you worship God even when you’re in pain or in a difficult season?
  • What do you think God might want you to learn during these times?
  • What are some of God’s promises that can give you hope and encouragement?

Have you trusted God’s promise of salvation through Jesus Christ?

If you’re ready to commit your life to Jesus, then pray this prayer:

“Dear Jesus, you have promised that if I believe in you, everything I’ve ever done wrong will be forgiven, I will learn the purpose of my life, and you will accept me into your eternal home in heaven one day.

“I confess my sin, and I receive you into my life as my Lord and Savior. You have promised that if I confess my sin and trust you, I will be saved. I trust you when you say salvation comes by grace, through faith, and not by anything I do. Today I’m turning over every part of my life to your management.

“I’m grateful for your unconditional love. I want to use the rest of my life to love and serve you instead of serving myself. I commit my life to you and ask you to save me and accept me into your family. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

God will never hide from us. He desires that we seek more and more of Him, so that we grow in our knowledge of Him. Growing in the knowledge of God builds our confidence in Him and serves as a constant reminder of why we can trust in Him. Sometimes we get all tied up trying to figure out what people want from us. It can be very frustrating and sometimes even confusing. God plainly tells us what He wants from us: to “do justly,” “love mercy,” and “walk humbly with thy God.” What does this mean to us in plain terms? God desires us to do the right thing, the “just” thing, the fair thing. To be honest in our dealings with people. He desires that we are merciful to each other. That we give people the benefit of the doubt. That we don’t give up on people too easily. And He asks that we walk with a humble spirit, not an arrogant one. That we see the need for Him and that we understand that we are nothing without Him. When our spirits are humble, we can be instructed. We can be led. Please God is a very simple thing, but the benefits are greater than anything we can imagine. No matter how good or glorious the wealth and possessions of the wicked may look, it all means nothing. It will all pass away and the wicked will be left to face the consequences of their actions. Dear Christian, you have no reason to envy what the wicked have. You are a child of God and God will always provide for you. Most importantly, you are saved. That is more important than anything in this world.

Dear God, I thank you that I can always know you more. Father, I pray that I grow in my knowledge of you on a daily basis, because in knowing you there is life and there is freedom. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Surviving Human Trafficking! And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

I am a 47 year old Native American woman who has servived being raped, being beaten and being shot by my husband who then selflessly killed himself in front of me. Seven years have past but I still can’t get the image out of my head. But, I thank God for keeping me alive. My past is my experience. An experience you can’t get in any class room. It was a hard challenging life, but By the grace of God I am here. Only to be a true testimony for the living God. To glorify His Holy Name. Fasting and prayer work hand in hand with each other. You cannot fast without praying – otherwise you will simply be on a hunger strike. The point of fasting is to sacrifice earthly needs in order to focus more on communing with God. Prayer is how we commune with God during this time of fellowship. It is in these times we can receive visions, revelations of God’s word, and a refreshed assurance in the goodness of God.

Boy, are we just like the people in Jesus’ day! We say we will follow Jesus, but we put it off with all kinds of excuses! I need to work; my kids are in sports; I’ll do it when I’m older. I don’t have time right now for you, Jesus, but the day will come when I will have time. Imagine how that works with our earthly relationships! There’s an old song called “Cat’s in the Cradle” that talks about a father who doesn’t have time for his son while the son is growing up and only realizes what he has done when he retires and the son now has no time for him. The good news is that Jesus will always have time for us no matter how long it takes for us to wake up and make room for him in our lives. But think of what we miss! We can miss years, or in some cases, a lifetime, of knowing that Jesus has our back – he will always be there to help and guide us. His grace will be there to keep us from making some pretty terrible mistakes. All we need to do is follow him. In one of the classes we had this spring, the video instructor explained that the “yoke” that Jesus asks us to take for our own, is not a burdensome piece of wood that keeps us tied to the plow, but rather, a point of view. Jesus asks us to view life as he did – working for justice, in communion with one another, always connected to the God who made us. Yes, it can be difficult at times because the world is always pulling us in all directions, but with the grace of God, we can do it. What has happened when you didn’t follow Jesus? I know that in my life, that’s when I was on my knees begging God to get me out of the mess I made. In the long run, life is actually easier when we give in, let go of the excuses, and just follow Jesus.

Dear God, my prayer is that everything I do will never be done out of ignorance or selfish desire. May I never have any ulterior motives in my actions because I know how this can nullify the very act. May I remember that the importance of all I do is to communicate with you and to ensure that your name is glorified at all times. In Jesus name I pray Amen

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.

As Christians, we should never forget that God is the source of all of our help. In times of need and distress, He will send us people and things to help us but we shouldn’t see the people as the source. They are just God’s vessels who are doing His work in our lives.

Dear God, I thank you that my help comes from you. In times of distress, no matter how overwhelmed I may feel, I know that I can trust in you, Lord. You are my guide and my strength. You keep me when the world tries to tear me apart. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

Our world today has a surplus of displaced people – men, women and children alike. Today’s reading from Exodus discusses this and the problems of widows and orphans and in very direct terms. We are not always welcoming to immigrants and we often do not make life easy for widows or orphans. We have camps in many countries where families who are running from violence, oppression and extreme poverty are held. Often these camps are not places where children can learn, where adequate food or medicine is available and opportunities for work is limited. If it’s not in our neighborhood do we even give it any thought? We may react with generosity when there is a catastrophe in a part of the world, but once another issue comes along do we think about the people who are suffering still? I hear a lot about rescuing animals, but not about rescuing people. There are children all over the world who are homeless, hungry, without the opportunity for education or medical care. This happens in the most developed and wealthy countries as well as in developing countries. In fact, in some of the poorest countries families with little or nothing themselves will reach out to such orphans. I, myself, have been the recipient of the generosity of people in Haiti and in Tanzania. We are all told we must be neighbor to others. Let us not be the ones who feel God’s wrath when his children cry out for justice.

Lord Do Not Delay!

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we say “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” In this psalm, we pray that we delight to do God’s will. I wonder if we really mean what we pray, or if we just say the words. First, we need to think about what God’s will really is. When we read the Scriptures we see certain themes – justice, peace, and especially, love. These themes run through the Old Testament as well as the New. We are told to take care of the poor, the most vulnerable in our society. We are asked to remember that we were once strangers in the lands we now occupy. We are told to treat others the way we want to be treated, to forgive. These are not easy tasks and sometimes we do not “delight” in doing them. We want justice but not if it interferes with our comfort. We want peace, but our speech is often loaded with violence. We say we want to be forgiven but find it hard to forgive. We don’t always welcome the stranger, and we sometimes suspect the poor of being responsible for their situation. When we continue to read this psalm, we read a confession of sorts admitting that we often fail in doing the will of God. We also hear the author asking for God’s mercy and faithfulness. We need to look at ourselves with honesty and see how we can work better to bring about God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.

Dear God, I pray that I will always be kind in my ways to everyone around me. I desire that when I leave this earth, I will be remembered for being someone who expressed your love – not someone who inflicted pain on others. May I be known for being peaceful and loving and always ready to help, Lord. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

Paul continues to express to his listeners the events of Christ’s return. Here he references a passage from Isaiah 25. He says that death will be “swallowed up.” What an appropriate end for Death! Death swallows up all its victims. People waste away in the throes of cancer and disease as death just consumes them. To know that one day, death itself will be swallowed up brings hope to the believer. In the glorious world Paul talks about, the power of the grave will be no more. Death will take no more loved ones. We won’t have to watch anyone else we love to die. God will wipe away the tears we’ve shed over what death has stolen from us and put an end to death once and for all.

Father, I look forward to the day when death will die. You will swallow it up and eliminate its power. No more tears will I ever have to cry because Death has stolen someone I love. You have assured me of that and I praise You for it. Amen.

Anger is a normal, healthy reaction to certain situations of attack, shame, and frustration, but we always have a choice in the way they express their angry feelings—either destructively or constructively. This study can be helpful to both extremes and may lead to much discussion. Ask yourself the following: To begin to think about anger as an emotion, try to bring to mind one incident in the last two weeks that has made you really angry. It could be something in your personal life or something in the news. And answer the following questions: 1. What made you angry? 2. How did you feel? 3. How did you deal with your anger?

“God made me and God don’t make no junk!” This slogan found its way to T-shirts several years ago. It may not be grammatically correct, but it’s true, nonetheless. Paul tells us in this verse that we are God’s “workmanship.” We are made by His hands. We are not “accidents.” We are works of art, crafted by His loving hands. Therefore, we have value. Nothing can take that away from us. Ugly words, insults, snide remarks…they are meaningless in the face of the fact that we are His workmanship. If we could only truly believe that about ourselves, there wouldn’t be a bully anywhere with any kind of power over us.

Father, Help me see myself as your workmanship, crafted on purpose with love by You. I am not less than. I am not worthless. I am a work of art that You chose to create and that makes me special. Amen.

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