PURPOSE

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

I’ve read this verse many times, especially when going through a rough patch. Each time I felt a sense of peace because I thought, “However bad it may be, God’s going to work it for “my” good.

However, this morning the truth hit me! God is not only working it for “my” good, but more importantly, to fulfill His plan. The verse says, “…to HIS purpose. It is not about me, (never is) it’s about the plan that God has set up in the beginning when He created the world and everything in it.

We,–you and I–were not put where we find ourselves simply for our own benefit. But, we have been called for a purpose–God’s own purpose. We have a calling–a high calling–and that is, to serve the Lord. I must humble myself in the sight of the Lord and there I will find love, peace, joy. What a blessing!

Lord, I know that You will keep me safe in the palm of Your hand, even in the midst of chaos. Help me to serve you in fulfilling Your purpose. My trust is in You who holds tomorrow. In Jesus’ name. Amen

DARKNESS AND LIGHT

“… light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it.” John 1:5

Dear Lord, open the eyes of our hearts that we may hear Your still, small voice speaking to us. In Jesus’ precious name I pray. Amen

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Every morning my husband and I awaken before the sun is up. While sitting, with our first cup of coffee, we watch with total amazement the darkness give way to the light. This scene is new every morning.

Some mornings the sky looks so black you wonder, “How on earth will the sun get through it!” Sometimes there is a crimson glow as the sun rises in the Eastern sky; and sometimes it encircles the dark clouds seemingly to say, “I will overcome!” Other mornings, there is no doubt that the sun will take its place in the sky and lighten every corner of our existence of this new day. We sit and watch as the sun overcomes the darkness.

The same is true of each of our lives if we believe. The Psalmist wrote: “Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff—they comfort Me.” (Psalm 23:4) No matter what your situation or what circumstances surround you, exercising your faith in God, believing and trusting Him, will chase away the darkness just as the “sun” rising in the morning chases away the dark clouds in the sky.

There is a reason that our Creator has chosen to remind us at the beginning of each new day by making His “sun” shine. God wants you and me to remember that His “Son,” Jesus, will have the same affect upon our lives. Whatever dark clouds are threatening to steal away your joy, remember that the light of Jesus Christ has already won the battle. Hear the words spoken by the Old Testament prophet Isaiah: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of darkness, a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2)

God is calling us out of the darkness of this world, to walk in His great light. Be strong. Be courageous. Do not fear for God is with you.

HEAR THE WORD OF THE LORD

“… if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another…the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining (I John 2:8/1:7). “…you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of the darkness into his marvelous light.” (I Peter 2:9)

LET US PRAY

O Lord, hear our prayer and gather Your children under Your wings. Lead us on to Eternity while walking in the light of Your love. In Jesus’ name. AMEN

(C) Rev. Betty Beach-Connell; February 5, 2022

J O Y

 “…the angel said to them [the shepherds] “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people; today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David.” Luke 2:10-11

The third candle is JOY. This joy eradicates any and all fear. As the angels said to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid.” Fear cannot live in the presence of joy. We sing “Joy to the world, the Lord has come…” There will be greater joy when He comes again—for those who believe.

Look into the heart of the manger and you will see joy. May it come to pass in your heart (manger) this Christmas,

A PRAYER FOR AMERICA

Almighty God,

In all history, there has been only one nation like America—founded by pilgrims seeking freedom to worship, established on a vast continent between two oceans, dedicated to the proposition that we are created equal and endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights: One nation under God.

You have delivered us in war, prospered us in peace, and raised up generations willing to offer the last full measure of their devotion for the preservation of liberty at home and abroad. We have been a light for the world. From our shores has gone the greatest missionary force in history.

But now, Lord, America has fallen into darkness, disobedience, and indifference. We have sinned; and we, Your people, Lord, humble ourselves, and pray and seek Your face, and turn from our wicked ways. Please forgive our sin and heal our land.

Give us leaders who understand the times and know what we should do. May the torch of liberty burn brightly, inflamed by the goodness of Your people. God, bless America. In Jesus’ name. AMEN

2 Chronicles 7:14

–Rev. Dr. David Jeremiah

THE WORLD SITUATION

(A teaching from Isaiah 54-55)

O Lord, what is happening in Your world today? There are fires, floods, disease, unrest, drought, and people all over the world are in a state of despair. There are many who are suffering and grieving from these events. Many wonder, “Why? “ What has happened? If there really is a God, why has He allowed this to happen?

It has been a long time since I have heard anyone refer to God without fearing retribution—outside of church, that is. Even many preachers have gone with the flow of the world and succumbed to merely entertaining, instead of preaching the Gospel, which sometimes can be confronting if you have strayed from the path, but be comforted for there is hope. Why do preachers not preach the word? Why put off the inevitable—God is calling His people back—can you hear His call?

Isaiah prophesized this long ago. Since God’s Word is ever-new to every generation, this message lives through the ages into eternity—it is infinite. This is what Isaiah wrote: “You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. (Isa. 54:4)…The Lord will call you back…I have compassion on you, says the Lord your Redeemer” Isaiah also writes that today is like the days of Noah when he “swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth.”(Isa.54:9) God promises to rebuild the lives of people who believe. Isaiah calls out, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call him while He is near…Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him.” How can this be? Because God is God, the Creator, and His thoughts and ways are not our thoughts and ways. (Isa. 55:8ff)

What happens when it is finally understood what God has been telling those He created? Once again, Isaiah tells us: “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” (Isa. 55:12) Isn’t that a wonderful scene to behold? When you think about it, you can’t but help smile and breathe out all the “stuff” you have packed inside of you. The air becomes clean and fresh filled with the sweet fragrance of Christ.

The truth is some preachers need to take off the restraints that keep them from preaching the complete, loving word of God. It is not the time to tiptoe through the tulips, as Tiny Tim use to sing. And people who are there in person, or online, need to have the eyes of their hearts opened to see what God is trying to tell them and their ears opened to hear it. Without open hearts, the hearing just goes—as they say—in one ear and out the other.

God is yearning for a relationship with you. How do you come into a relationship with God? The answer is prayer, which is holding a conversation with Him as with a friend. It is not just a grocery list of what you think you need or want. It is enjoying sharing your ideas and listening to God’s ideas for the path He has chosen for you. II Chronicles 7:14 gives us the recipe for peace and healing: “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”

So, here it is, we need to hear the pure unadulterated word, then do what it says! Ultimately, peace is in the hands, thoughts, words, feet, and hearts of each one of us, because He, the Holy Spirit of God, lives within us.

Yes the world is a mess, but God proclaims to all of us, “I am in control!” He always was, is, and will be. Do you hope for peace? Then, by faith, it shall be. As the writer of Hebrews states: “…faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (11:1). For the unbelievers “seeing is believing.” But, for the believer, “believing is seeing.” Which are you? Are you at peace amid this chaotic world? You can be.

O Lord, help me to understand what You are calling me to do. This is truly the day You have made, help me to rejoice and be glad in it. In Jesus name I pray. Amen

Eyes of My Heart

“…open their eyes that they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.”

 Acts 26:18(Holman CSB)

Have you ever thought about your heart having eyes? Your heart does much more than pump blood through-out your system, it houses the Holy Spirit of God. When you open the door of your heart and invite Jesus and the Holy Spirit in, you have then opened the eyes of your heart. A blind heart or a shut up heart cannot see that which the Lord is calling you to do. You cannot see someone in need. And because you cannot see, you also cannot hear the cry of the needy. We cannot find the path that God wants us to take. We stumble as if in darkness. There may be a flash of light from time to time, but when it goes out, we are blinded to the great opportunities God has planned for us. Yes, we have eyes in our heart.

Without the eyes of your heart being open you cannot see God! Let me warn you, when the eyes of your heart are closed it gives your mind a chance to be in control. When there is no communication between your heart and your mind there can be trouble. It is to your mind that Satan speaks, and makes whatever he says sound good, but all he speaks is lies.  Without being grounded in the love of God and believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, we leave our hearts open to temptation. But, Satan cannot control or infiltrate the heart in which the love of Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Spirit indwells.

You cannot buy the protection of the Holy Spirit. No amount of money, gold, or silver will ever be enough. He wants your love, your willingness to serve the Father and the humbleness to give God all glory and honor. As it is written in the Book of Acts when Peter confronted a Sorcerer, “May your silver be destroyed with you, because you thought the gift of God could be obtained with money! You have no part or share in this matter, because your heart is not right before God. “(Acts 8:20, 21; Holman CSB)

There are times when the eyes of our hearts are closed. But, do not be discouraged. God is waiting and will minister to you when you speak to Him sincerely in your prayers. Hear Him now as He speaks to you, “Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20, Holman CSB)

Michael W. Smith recorded a song entitled: “Open the Eyes of My Heart.” The words are:

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord/Open the eyes of my heart.

  I want to see You/I want to see You.

To see You high and lifted up/Shinin’ in the light of Your glory

Pour out Your power and love/As we sing holy, holy, holy.

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord/Open the eyes of my heart.

I want to see You/ I want to see You.

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Lord, open the eyes of my heart that I may see glimpses of Your truth everywhere. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen

A Prophesy

“When the Lord first spoke to Hosea He said to him: ‘Go and marry a promiscuous wife and have children of promiscuity…’” Hosea 1:2

Many years ago there was a young woman who had been abused and a victim of unfaithfulness. It almost destroyed her. But, she went on to eventually marry a fine upstanding man, but again became a victim of the urging of a little excitement outside of her marriage bed. Fortunately, she became aware of her wrong doing. She sought forgiveness from the Lord, whom she had come to know and love, and from her husband. They both forgave her and she was blessed with many years of serving the Lord.

This young woman had turned her life over to the Lord. And now, she was determined to follow Him. She learned, through many years of not “getting it right,” through trial and error, by trying to live life in her own way; she learned that without God there is no real life—“everything is vanity” as the writer of Ecclesiastes wrote. She also learned as Paul wrote, “…all things work together for good of those who love God; those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

But, I have opened with a scripture from Hosea and you might be wondering, “How does this fit?” For years I have wondered the same thing. What does Hosea (a prophet of God) being told to marry an adulterous woman have to do with who God is?”

Well, you see, this is an allegory which means that it is a story which has a hidden meaning usually pertaining to morality. So while on the surface the story of Hosea and his unfaithful wife, Gomer, and ultimately his forgiveness, is really about God and His chosen people, Israel, their bowing to other gods and finally their humble understanding of who God is which led to God’s forgiveness.

We cannot leave this on the doorstep of Hosea and Gomer. For you see, once again the scriptures speak. “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man [or woman] of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16) So, this holds true for us today, for as the writer of Hebrews wrote, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) and promises to “never leave you or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

This also speaks loudly to our nation which is in the midst of moral decay. We have turned away from the teachings of God. We have turned to their own ways and do whatever feels right to us. We are all being pulled down into the pit with the idolaters and unbelievers. We cannot let ourselves be fooled by the feel good words of the liars. We must measure everything according to the Holy Scriptures and follow the teachings of Jesus—no matter what—for in the end our reward will be great! Moses told his people to “choose life” so that you and your descendants may live, love the Lord your God, obey Him, and remain faithful to Him. For He is your life…” (Deuteronomy 30:19b, 20a)

There is no much to learn about life from reading God’s Word. Read it with an open heart and mind, not as you would a history book, but allow it to speak to the inner workings of your soul. When you confess your allegiance to God by realizing that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23) which includes you and me, and that, “the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23) and then, remember Jesus’ words from the cross, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do,” (Luke 23:34) we become renewed. For even when we were dead in Christ, God forgave us all our sins. (Colossians 2:13) There is a way, you see, only one way—Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Him.” (John 14:6)

The young woman I told you about? It is a true story. One which I know personally and can attest to every word as truth. Life is a learning and sometimes it leaves some scars, but God is the Great Physician and covers our wounds. Praise The Lord!!

Dear Lord, thank You for saving me. I am not perfect, but with You beside me, I pray that I might be able to make a difference for Your honor and glory. In Your Precious name I pray. Amen

Humble Yourself

“Father, give me the share of the estate I have coming to me,”

Luke 15:12

A young son came to his father and asked him to give him the money that he was saving for him. His father agreed and the young son left his comfortable home to go out on his own. He soon spent all the money and was so destitute that he wanted to eat the feed that was given to the animals. Then he remembered, “My father was good to me; he fed me; he put a roof over my head. I have gone and thrown that all away because of my pride of wanting to do it myself!”

This is the story of what has been entitled “The Prodigal Son.” A prodigal is someone who is wastefully extravagant. The son or daughter leaves his or her parents to do things that they do not approve of; ultimately they see the error of their ways and seek forgiveness.

This story has an older brother who stays at home and helps his father. He is jealous of his younger brother, but his father tells him how much he loves him and he will never leave him.

Now, the father, who is the epitome of love. He loves his young son, so much he is willing to let him go knowing that the teachings of his childhood will bring him through. The fact is, each one of us must learn our own way. The path to righteousness (right living) cannot be taught—we must experience life ourselves.

 The father also loves his older son. I can’t imagine that he was happy with him when he came in from the fields whining that his father was giving a party for his brother who left home and squandered all his money on raucous living! “Dad never gave me a party!” he said. Yet, his father left the party of the younger son to meet his eldest son in the midst of his rage. He told him, “Son, I know you are upset because I have done this for your brother. But, please know that I love you today, tomorrow, and always. You will always be my firstborn whom will receive all I have.” I can imagine that after that he invited his son to come and join them. Also, that the brothers became friends again. The scripture doesn’t say this, but God never does things half-way.

This is a parable about pride and humility. Solomon in his wisdom wrote in the book of Proverbs, “Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18) But, as humans we have only so much power and wisdom on our own—usually after suffering many wrong decisions—we must turn ourselves over to a higher power—to God the Father. We learn that all He requires of us is to “act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with our God.” (Micah 6:8) And, in God’s “Amazing Grace,” He receives us back into His arms.

In the words of a song by Robert Byron Hudson: “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord/And He shall lift you up…/Up into Heaven/He shall lift you up.”

This is God’s amazing grace, that He receives us as His children even after we have turned our backs on Him. So, ask for forgiveness and repent of your sin and He will lift you up. Nothing you have done is so bad that God will not forgive, receive you into His family, and make you His own.

“Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me

Once I was lost but now I am found

Was blind but now I see” (John Newton, 1779)

Dear Lord, humble me in Your sight and make me a blessing to someone each and every day. In Jesus’ name. Amen

The Prodigal

“When he came to his senses…” Luke 15:17

The young son/daughter was used to living impetuously. Everything on the spur of the moment. He/she did and said anything that came to mind without thinking. This works sometimes, but more often than not, it doesn’t. What you are actually doing is digging a hole for yourself and pretty soon it is almost impossible to climb out. Therefore, you think that you need to get away to a place where there are no constraints.

You pack all your things, take whatever money you may have and head out to a far country. Things look good for a while. You feel free. You are happy. You make many friends. For a while you can actually see what God’s creation looks like—then the need to be accepted and loved overtakes you. You have found it in your new place of employment, but that doesn’t seem to be enough. You found it in the place you are living, but still, it isn’t enough. Pretty soon you are craving more and more. It becomes an insatiable appetite.

The Prodigal Son, in the “Parable of the Lost Son,” found in Luke 15:11-31, is a teaching about the living of an unrighteous life. The fact is, this young man had to take himself with him along with his money and possessions. “Himself” is the one thing he neglected to pay attention to. Whatever he was unhappy about at home, he eventually became unhappy about out on his own. There was no peace inside him because he had not made peace with God.

I have heard someone say, “All I want is peace.” That person may never find it. At least, not until they look inside themselves and fill that gaping hole with the love and presence of Jesus Christ. His love is so great that, when you realize it, you will be able to climb out of the valley you have created for yourself and stand upon the rock atop the mountain.

 I think the most important words in “The Parable of the Lost Son” is: “When he came to his senses,” (Holman Bible Luke 15:17) or “When he came to himself,” (NRSV Luke 15:17). You see, he didn’t go home because he was hungry and ran out of resources—although this was the impetus—but he went home because he came to the awareness that he was wrong and from deep within came an urge for a new beginning. He needed to tell his father he was sorry and ask for forgiveness. He needed to be redeemed.

So in fear and trembling the Prodigal headed toward home. He was surprised and overwhelmed to see his father running towards him, and when they met, his father threw his arms around him and lavished him with love, for this son of his was lost, but now had been found.

Our Heavenly Father is sitting on the porch waiting for you to “come to yourself” and come to Him. He is watching and waiting. When you do come to understand that your salvation is within you, you will also acknowledge that you are a sinner in need of your Father’s love, grace, and mercy. When you do, you will have peace in your soul. A new beginning is on the horizon—NO!—it is right there ready for you to live it! Do not neglect to love and worship the author of all life—Almighty God!

Say out loud—“I don’t know what to do Lord, but You do.”

                                    Then you will understand:

“Where there seems to be no way, God will make a way.”

Dear Lord, hold us close to Your heart. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit. May we experience peace beyond all understanding. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen