A band of raiders are holding hostage a group of women and children. They have been abusing them for days and there is no end in sight. Word of their plight comes to an elite team of special op soldiers. The soldiers infiltrate the base of the men, killing each of them, and rescuing the women and children.

God’s LOVE: When we look at the world around us, sometimes it’s difficult to understand the unfairness of life. It’s not fair that the young should suffer. It’s not fair that the innocent should go hungry. But nor is it fair that a God would have to come to earth and hang on his own cross to pertect us from our evil and sinful ways. He bought us back with His own blood. But that’s God’s LOVE for us. God’s love for you and I is not dependent on how we think, how we act, or how perfect we think we are. His love is absolutely nonnegotiable and nonreturnable. Ours is a fatihful God. No matter what we do, no matter how far we fall, no matter how ugly we become, God has a relentless, undying, unfathomable, unquenchable love from which we can not separated, for Ever! Run to Jesus. Jesus wants us to go with Him. He wants to become more important than anyone in our lives, He is the greatest love we will ever have or know. That’s a fact! He will be the only ONE in our hearts and He should be, so much that there is no room in our hearts for sin. We have to invite Him in everything we do, because He is our saving grace, He wants and nobody on earth deserves residence in our hearts.

Emotions may be triggered by that one word for many.

May I pose a question?
Do you realize they are our legacy?

The babe that babbles
The two-year old that toddles and tumbles
The teen that tests limits – and tempts fate
The young adult – the millennial – that begins “adulting”
The older adult that is now parenting

What connects these statements? Children. They are our children.

It’s our responsibility to mold and shape the next generation, one child at a time. Like every generation before them, the generation behind us needs to know one thing – they matter. Specifically that they matter to you, their parent. And our words matter – possibly more than we realize.

There are things we need to say – and not say – to build confidence, esteem and self-respect at each stage of their lives. If we don’t support our children, who will? And where will they turn? And what will they turn to for solace when they cannot find it from us?

So many things can tear a person down, not all can be addressed in a single article. Let’s look at a few that have a powerful but negative impact on our kids. Like poison kills a person, poisonous words kill the spirit and soul of a person.

Regardless of your age, what would you not want to hear your parents say to you? With that in mind, here are 10 things not to say to your adult children:

What does the king of Judah do when he doesn’t know what to do? In this case, he sends a group of men to seek advice from someone you may not expect – a wise and godly woman. Huldah the prophetess was well-known and highly respected; she prophesied and taught in Jerusalem in the same period as the prophet Jeremiah. Tradition holds that Huldah and Jeremiah were relatives through their common ancestor Rahab. She is also one of the many people in Scripture who are not well known yet had enormous influence in their day. She was a woman whose life of leadership and service was devoted to God. Not only did she have the ear of the king, but she also clearly heard the voice of God and proclaimed it boldly.

Throughout Scripture, we see different numbers used for various reasons. God is intentional with what He does. Although it is important not to overread into numbers, there are a few worth looking into their deeper meaning. The number 40 appears in many places throughout the scriptures. Today we are going to study what is the significance of 40 in the Bible.

No man has seen the face of God. His glory would be too much to bear. Even Moses was hidden in the cleft of the rock and was only able to see the back of God. No. We cannot see His face this side of Heaven. But we can see Him. When we look at a new mother gazing into the face of her perfect newborn, we see Him. When we see a nurse gently bathing an elderly patient, we see Him. When we see a single mom, leave one job to go to second job, even though she is beyond exhausted, we see God. When we see a stranger perform a kindness for another stranger, we see God. God’s love abides in us. His love is “perfected in us.” When we show love one to another, we see the face of God.

Only by obeying the Gospel from the heart can we be saved. Merely repeating a prayer or walking down an aisle at a religious event can never save us. The cry still goes out today, “Repent and believe!” And His sheep hear His voice and follow Him, and He gives to then eternal life, and they shall never perish.

Father, help me to be perfected in Your love. Help me show Your face to the world through my actions. Help me to love others in such a way that I disappear and all they see is You. Let Your love drive out all selfishness in me, that I may truly be love to someone else. Amen.

Our hearts, O Lord, were enslaved to sin, unable to respond in love to you, but now you have made us alive to righteousness. Help us to continue to obey you from the heart and grow by the sanctifying power of your Word. Help us to strive after godliness for the purpose of honoring you in all things.

May I make a true and sound profession, Lord, of your Person, your work of salvation, and of all you have done for me personally in my life. May I never deny you, never be ashamed to testify for you before men.

There is an old distinction between “profession” and “confession” which seems to apply here. To profess is to simply make a claim with your mouth to be a Christian; to confess is to give witness from the heart of what you know to be true. Those who confess Christ and are not afraid to do so before other men, will have their reward from Him.

There are no words that can fully describe God, His love, or what it means to believe. It is with actions and feelings that God’s love can be conveyed. Saying that you believe in Jesus is one thing. Believing in Jesus is another one entirely. Believe in Christ and you shall be saved. Confess your love for Him, for Christ is the Lord.

Almighty Father in Heaven, I love your son, Jesus Christ. I am astounded at your willingness to send him to die for a group of sinners; we truly do not deserve his life, let alone his death. Jesus Christ, I thank you for your gentle and illuminating life on earth. Thank you for teaching us how to truly love and be loved. I love you, Christ my Lord. In your name I pray, Amen.

Baptism is an interesting sacrament among Christians, the only one that all Christian denominations accept as necessary if one is to be called a Christian. But there are questions about how and at what age, by whom, and under what circumstances should Baptism be administered. There are denominations that practice infant Baptism and those that require a person make a commitment of acceptance of Christ before it can be administered. For some, pouring water over the head is sufficient, for others, sprinkling water over the person, and still others claim that only baptism by immersion is valid. I’m not getting into a debate about this. What I consider more important is the question of how baptism makes a difference in a person’s life. If we line up a group of adults containing those who have been baptized and those who have not, and watch them for a week or so, would the baptized stand out from the rest because of the quality of their lives? Would they be kinder, more forgiving, more compassionate, more concerned about the welfare of others? Would the joy of their faith be evident in their families? If there is no difference, then perhaps they have been baptized in water, but have never accepted the Holy Spirit into their lives.

How does Christianity call us to live? Paul had some very specific ideas about this and outlines them in this letter to the community in Rome. I like especially the first: let love be without hypocrisy. Love of neighbor is the second of the great commandments given us in the Old Testament. This is confirmed by Jesus in the New Testament and he goes even further by telling us that our love must be like his. That’s a tough job to live up to, but Paul gives us some concrete ways to proceed. Abhor what is evil. First we need to look around and see what is evil. Sometimes evil looks good. It can be tempting to cut corners at work, either by using sub-standard materials or not putting in the time you claim for your pay. Cheating has been a problem in school at every level because a person wants a higher grade, but doesn’t want to put in the time to study. Be diligent, not slothful – would that the workforce in every situation would adhere to this! We should be steadfast in prayer and patient. Patience can be one of my faults in many situations! We also are told to be hospitable and this is not limited to those we like. I’m sure there are many examples you can give that are even stronger than mine. Knowing what to do is easy, doing it is hard.

This passage from John’s Gospel is probably the best known by chapter and verse. It is posted on billboards, on signs in ball parks, but I’m not sure Jesus meant it to be a free ticket to paradise. People forget the part about believing and what that means. It’s not just lip service. As this Easter season has progressed, we keep hearing about the way to follow Jesus that witnesses to what we believe. As Baptism isn’t a one day affair, and neither is just saying that we are believers enough. “Actions speak louder than words” is a phrase that reaches into many areas of life. Jesus expects more of his disciples than mere words. We are called to live our faith. That’s not always easy but it’s what Jesus wants. And just as Jesus wasn’t sent to judge, neither are we to judge. Our job is to spread the message of God’s saving love. If he came to save the world, then that means salvation is for all. In Isaiah, we hear, “how beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news.” It is still true that we need messengers of peace and salvation and we have so much more to proclaim than those in Isaiah’s time. We have the good news that salvation has come. God has sent his Son so that all may be saved. He needs you and me to bring the good news to those who may not have heard it.

Our theme of praising and thanking God continues as we contemplate Easter. This passage from the psalms gives us a reminder that it is in God we boast, not ourselves, and we ask God to be even more within us. If we are to exalt God’s name together, it presumes that we have found others who also want to praise God. That means we need to reach out to others. I once heard a wonderful definition of evangelization, which we are all called to be about. The preacher said that evangelization is seeing the God in the other and allowing the other to see the God in us. We can only achieve the second part of that equation by allowing God to increase in us so that our behavior imitates that of Christ. The way we achieve the first half is to see each individual as a face of God. Genesis tells us that we are made in the image and likeness of God. Genesis doesn’t say that some people are made in the image and likeness of God, it says all humanity is. Again, we are given a reminder that we have nothing to boast about on our own. People are not drawn to a boastful person, but meekness can attract. It is easier to be meek if we remember that all we have is gift. When we are willing to admit this to ourselves, it is easier to see others as equals, which in turn makes it easier to see everyone as brothers and sisters, children of the one God.

This psalm is such a favorite of mine that I have requested it for my funeral. My life has seen a lot of loss, grandparents, parents, siblings, a child, grandchildren and my marriage. Especially following the death of my son, people would ask how I could go on. For me, the answer was obvious; I knew that God was with me all the way. His presence in my life was a constant from my youngest days, and I am eternally grateful for that. Now this doesn’t mean that I didn’t tell God that I wasn’t happy with some of the things I had to deal with! We had many conversations when I was alone in my car and no one could hear me complaining! I always figured that God has big shoulders so he could handle it. After all, even Jesus questioned him in the garden that night. My faith in him is strong enough that I believe that he will answer my deep-seated desire to spend eternity with my loved ones in the presence of my loving God.

I’m going to start with the family! If your family is anything like mine, you will have at least one person who doesn’t speak to another person. Sometimes that one person wants YOU to choose sides. What do you do? Then there’s the neighborhood. Feuds happen. What is your response? Moving on to the workplace, do you treat all your fellow workers with equal kindness and generosity? Your family, neighbors and maybe co-workers know that you are a Christian and that you go to church. For them, you are an example of the faith that you – that I – profess and there are expectations. We are all God’s beloved children. He doesn’t play favorites and doesn’t expect us to either. Jesus gave us this command: love one another. I don’t hear any exceptions in this Gospel passage. Sometimes a simple smile can change a person’s day. We are usually good when there is a crisis. We send sympathy cards or a meal to someone who experiences a loss. We might help babysit for someone who has a family emergency. But in the everyday, it’s how we show respect, courtesy, kindness – love – that lets others know that we care. There’s an old story about a monastery where the monks are told that Jesus is one of them. They begin to treat everyone as if he were Jesus and before long, people flocked to the monastery because of the love they witnessed among the monks. Well, Jesus is among us. He lives in each of us. If we begin to treat everyone as we would treat Jesus, what wonders we might see in our families, our neighborhoods, our workplaces and our church.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us two answers. The Kingdom of God is as if a man scatters seed which grows and yields fruit for him to harvest and the familiar parable of the mustard seed which grows into a plant capable of providing shade for all the birds to enjoy. For those of us who try to garden, we know that it usually takes work to get those seeds to grow! And, most of us have not tried to plant a mustard seed. What is Jesus trying to say to us?

We have talked about our responsibility to be disciples and we will continue to talk about our mission going forward. For some, this can be a scary proposition. Jesus is telling us that if we just plant the seed, he will take care of the rest. Telling someone in pain or who needs help making a decision that you will pray for them is a seed. Inviting someone to come with us to church or a church function is planting a seed. Helping someone realize their giftedness and that God loves them is planting a seed. We may not see the harvest. The seeds we plant might blossom years later. But God is there to water and nurture the fragile plant. As any gardener knows, not all the seeds we plant take root, but that doesn’t stop us from planting them. So it is with the seeds of love and faith. However, Jesus also tells us that even the smallest seed can grow and branch out and the love that blossoms from that one seed will be passed on to others and bear fruit for years to come in the lives of all they meet. Let’s get planting!

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is one of the most quoted sections of the New Testament. In some translations, blessed is translated as happy. If you read them that way, would they take on a different meaning? After all we all want to be happy! Happy are the poor in spirit. We want to get to the kingdom of God but do we really want to be poor in spirit, or be persecuted? I know it doesn’t say “poor.” But to be poor in spirit might mean being generous in spirit. We might have to think of others before ourselves, making sacrifices, helping the poor. None of us wants to mourn, but the fact it that unless we die before all the people we love, we will mourn. Jesus is telling us that even though we will grieve, that isn’t the end, and if we turn to God and allow him to walk with us, we will find comfort. The world doesn’t hold the meek in high esteem, but turning the other cheek takes strength. Acknowledging our weaknesses as well as our strength takes strength. Since Jesus calls us to work for justice, it is part of following Christ that should encourage our hunger for what is right. Those who are merciful, who are able to be compassionate and forgive are the ones that will be forgiven more easily when they fail. And who doesn’t want peace? The problem is we need to work for justice if we want peace. We need to refrain from seeing violence as an answer to problems. If we pay attention to the beatitudes, and live them, we will be happy.

Answering this question implies that you look for the Holy Spirit’s action in your life! So, take a few minutes and think about the past week or two. What opportunities have you had to help someone? What gifts of yours have been called upon? Did a friend or relative need a shoulder to lean on? Have you had to make any serious decisions lately? What moments of sheer joy have you experienced? Did you receive an answer to prayer? These are all examples of places where the Holy Spirit is present. We don’t always recognize the Spirit. The disciples of Jesus had an experience of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost that changed not only their lives but ours as well. Without their witness and the witness of those that came after them, we would never have known about the saving act of Jesus. We would still be fearful of suffering death believing that that was the end, that there was nothing and no one waiting for us in the afterlife. We will probably never have so profound an experience of the Spirit as they did, but that doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit isn’t present in our lives. When we share our experiences of God, when we open ourselves to others we are also witnesses that can give others hope. Where is the Holy Spirit present in your life? The Spirit is present; all we need to do is look.

Wouldn’t you love to be able to ask the apostles what they were thinking during these days of waiting? They really had no idea what it would mean. They had all run away when Jesus was arrested. Only John was at the foot of the cross. They stayed in the upper room when they were in Jerusalem, or back in Galilee as Jesus had asked. Now Jesus was leaving them and he told them to wait for something or someone but they didn’t have any idea what it would be. What we do know is that they waited, prayed, and chose someone to replace Judas. Sometimes we want Jesus to act in our lives now, and we hate to be told to wait, but God doesn’t work in our time frame. Often we need to wait. What do we do while waiting? Do we gather with others to pray with us? Do we ask the Holy Spirit to help us? Or do we try to solve our problems ourselves without waiting for God to be with us? It’s easy to think that we can do a better job with taking care of our lives than God, after all, we know ourselves better than anyone, right? Well, how does that work for you? I know it doesn’t work for me. Patience is not a gift I have an abundance of. However, I have learned from experience that God does know what’s best for me and it would have saved me a lot of trouble if I had waited for his lead. How about you?

Jesus asked the apostles to wait for the coming of the Spirit so that they would be clothed with the powers that they needed to complete their mission. Jesus knew what they would need just as he knows what we need. We are called to be disciples also, and we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit with our baptism. The powers that we need are right there for us. But like anything, we need to use them, the more we ask God to help us, the easier it gets. No one becomes a great athlete with putting in a lot of practice. I know I have heard the phrase “practice your faith” more than once. Do we think it’s just a phrase or is it something we take seriously? The Holy Spirit, I think, is the forgotten person of the Trinity. We think about God as Father, as Creator, and we know the Son, Jesus, but how often do we think about the Holy Spirit? These next few days are the perfect time to reflect on the Spirit as we celebrate Pentecost. We know the gifts outlined in Scripture but do we take them seriously? Which gift do you need in your life right now? I think I am always looking for wisdom and understanding, but sometimes courage is first, especially when I don’t want to do what I know I should do! Perhaps counsel is the most important thing if you have big decisions to make. I see little reverence in today’s world, and we all could use a little fear of the Lord. And we can all use more knowledge. Let’s take the time for a spiritual check-up and ask for we are lacking.

Jesus has come to show us the path of life. All we need to do is follow it. We all want joy and happiness in our lives, and we spend a lot of time looking for ways to get it. Think about the times that have made you happy. They probably aren’t about things. They’re probably times that have been spent with loved ones, or experiences we have shared. As much as the advertising agencies might try to convince us, things won’t make us happy. Oh, we might have a momentary thrill when we get a new car, or a great outfit, or nice piece of jewelry, but how long does the feeling last? Unless that new piece of jewelry was an engagement ring, probably not long! But watching your children sleeping, or sharing a beautiful sunset with a friend brings us happiness not just for the moment, but every time we recapture that memory. Love brings us joy, doing the right thing gives us a feeling of satisfaction that no “thing” can give. When we walk in the light of Christ, knowing that God is with us, we can even get through the dark days with confidence that we will come out the other side and we will find joy again. The key is to walk in the light of faith just as Jesus did, knowing his Father was at his side.

We tend to think of Paul always on the move, but here we see that Paul is staying in Rome for two years teaching and preaching to all who come to him. At this time, the Jews were still unconvinced that salvation was for any group other than themselves. Even those who had accepted Jesus as the Messiah weren’t sure about the Gentiles. It was Paul’s task in Rome to convince then that God wanted all to be saved. We can be just as hard to convince that salvation is for everyone. In some cities, men and women go out to bars or to the streets to bring the message of the kingdom to the people there. Some people are offended by this type of outreach. But where do they think Jesus went when he was on earth? Of course, he preached in the synagogues and taught in the temple, but he also connected with the outcasts, the sinners, the tax collectors. The leaders of the time, the Pharisees, were always complaining about the people Jesus associated himself with. We, too, can become self-righteous and attempt to limit those who would go into today’s highways and byways. One of the most powerful ministries is that to prisoners, especially those who are in for life. Perhaps our objection is the fact that they just might accept Jesus and desire to learn more about him and his promises. Maybe, we don’t want them to be forgiven.

The sending forth of the apostles – and us! Go, make disciples, is what Jesus told them and us to do. He didn’t say to go and make followers, but I have a feeling that, unlike the apostles, that’s what we tend to do. Do those we baptize, or their parents, realize that they are being called to be disciples?

Disciples are people who sit at the feet of the master and learn from him so that they can go forth and make other disciples. It’s not enough to just be baptized, the last part of that passage is so important, that we must teach them to observe all that Jesus commanded them. We’ve come a long way from the days of the apostles and the early Christians. They were anxious to learn everything about Jesus and his teachings, and often asked the apostles or other disciples to stay longer than they had planned so that they could continue learning.

I’m not sure about where you live, but most adults around me will bring their children to classes, but don’t think that they need to go. I wonder how many people would go to a doctor who stopped his studying after high school. That goes for other professions as well. Do we really think we have learned everything we need to learn about Jesus? I know that I learn more and more every time I read the Bible. I learn even more if I am reflecting upon it with others. This week will end the Easter season and bring us again, Pentecost. As we remember the Holy Spirit coming to the apostles this weekend, let us ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds and motivate us to learn so that we will become more like disciples than followers.

How well Jesus knew human nature. Self-preservation is strong within each of us. His disciples were afraid and ran away when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus and stayed away for fear that they too would be crucified. I’m so glad that I don’t have to face that challenge. However, there are still people who do face death for being a Christian. More frequent are times when standing up for our beliefs can lose us friends, jobs and even members of our families. We then have choices to make, do we give in and lose respect for ourselves, or do we accept the consequences of standing firm. I knew a woman who refused to accept help to outfit a soup kitchen because she disagreed with the firm’s involvement in making weapons for the military. People have lost their jobs for demonstrating against pollution, racial injustice, or for equal pay for women, equal opportunities for jobs, affordable housing, education for all. When we fight for justice, we can run into problems, but this is what we are called to do. Some will scatter, and some will stand firm. Which will I be? Which will you?

Jesus knew the apostles wouldn’t be able to understand everything he had told them immediately. It would take time and would need the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. It is no easier to distinguish truth today than for the apostles. We are also still coming to a better understanding of the Scriptures as they are a living Word of God, meant for the times in which they were written as well as today. We are still in need of the guidance of the Spirit to understand what God wants us to learn from him today and how the Scriptures apply to our decisions. We are always in the process of learning more and more about Jesus and his teachings. Just as with the apostles, we cannot grasp it all at once. We need to take advantage of all opportunities to grow in our faith. Each time we reread the gospels we learn something new, we see things different ways depending on what is going on in our lives. Sometimes we need consolation, sometimes motivation to act more generously, or to ask forgiveness for unchristian behavior. I’m always surprised when I read a passage that I have probably read or heard many times before, and really see it for the first time. Each time, the Spirit draws me to new insights. May the Spirit of truth continue to guide us.

We know that we who have been baptized have been baptized into his death so that we might rise with him. The words may be a little different from those of Paul, but the message is the same, if we are willing to accept it. By accepting our baptism, we are choosing to live a life of faith, remembering the sacrifice of Jesus. It’s a willingness to die to self, not easy. Of course, for Paul the dangers were more immediate, and for many Christians today, that hasn’t changed. But some have said that it would be easier to die once for our faith than to have to die every day. I hope I never have to face that possibility, but having just written that, I think I do have to face that and we all do. We all will need to face death one day, whether or not it comes suddenly or after a lingering illness. We will have to face the reality of death. Will we be at peace, even joyous that we will be with our God? Or will we be fearful, our faith tested for a final time? This is Satan’s last chance to get to us. Hopefully, by dying with Christ in spirit, and living in him, our faith will be strong when it is time to die with Christ in the flesh.

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish.

The promise God gives His people here is extremely powerful and incredibly encouraging. If we apply this promise to our own lives, we can take heart. God has our back! No matter what our enemies have in store for us (and believe it: if you serve the cause of Christ, you do have enemies!) God has it covered. He tells us not to fear or be anxious because He holds us in his “righteous right hand.” We are protected by His power and His might. Not only will He protect us, but He will punish those who come against us. They will be “shamed” and “dishonored” and will eventually perish. They will come looking to fight us, but they will not find us because God has taken care of the matter. How can we not serve such an awesome and mighty God?

Lord, You are my strong tower and my defender. You have been faithful to vindicate me against all who come against me. I have seen those who sought to destroy me “shamed” and “dishonored” so I know that You keep Your promises. I can never fully thank You for protecting and keeping me. You have held me in Your righteous right hand and kept me safe. I will serve You all the days of my life. Amen.

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