Kenneth Maresco offered this pastoral prayer during our Sunday service yesterday. Be encouraged in the Lord as you take time to read through it and agree in prayer as you go:
Heavenly Father, thank you and praise you that we can call you Father this morning. We are able to cry out to you because you are a God whose steadfast love never ceases, and your mercies are new every morning. Thank you that we are your children because of what Jesus Christ has done our behalf.
We pray this morning as an expression of our dependence on you for everything. We are dependent upon your grace, your mercy, your action—and we pray because we need you, we love you, and we want more of you in our church, in our lives, in our hearts and in our world.
Lord God, we pray that you would deepen the unity of the Spirit in Covenant Life Church. Help us to love one another.
Dear God, we pray for our church family, that we will be marked by the fruit of the Spirit and genuine love ... that we would love one another, just as you have loved us. Help us to live together in community as brothers and sisters in Christ. May our lives be different than they were before your Holy Spirit made us alive in Jesus Christ. Help us to live with one another in such a way that people will know Jesus is alive!
And today as we study the arrest and betrayal of Jesus, we are reminded of how all of our sins are a betrayal of your goodness and an affront to your holiness. We confess we have fallen short of the perfection your law requires; we have fallen short today and this week.
Thank you that, “For our sake you made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Thank you for the assurance this morning that our sins are forgiven because Jesus bore them on the cross. What a costly sacrifice—thank you!
For the parents here, Lord, we pray you would encourage them as they seek to bring their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Give them strength, faith and courage. For the children, teenagers and young people, Lord, we pray you would protect them from the onslaughts of the enemy, guarding their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, and help them to live for the glory of Jesus Christ as children of God in the midst of a twisted and crooked generation.
We pray you would help our young people to bear witness to Jesus Christ among our neighborhoods, schools, and friends, and that we would see many saved. We pray that you will bring fruit from the many outreaches this summer, and from the relationships you give us with those in our community.
Lord we pray for single parents in our community. Lord, for the men and the women seeking to raise their children without the benefit of a spouse, whether by death, divorce or any other reason, strengthen them, and fill them with joy today with the knowledge of your help. And may we be a redemptive community surrounding them with the love and care of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We pray for the two mission teams that have been sent out from among us, to Uganda and Japan … Lord, bless the men and women serving on these teams, and allow them to bear fruit in their ministries.
Lord, we pray for our brothers and sisters around the world, and in particular for those who are suffering persecution and threats. We specifically lift up the believers in Iraq this morning, and in particular those in the ancient city of Mosul. Give them courage and wisdom to resist the threats and violence being inflicted upon them. Help them to stand firm in their faith, and give them courage to resist the demand made by radical Muslims that they renounce the name of Jesus Christ. We pray you would be with them, and protect them both in life and in death.
Lord, fulfill your promise to Abraham that in his offspring all the nations of the earth will be blessed. We ask you to raise up men and women who will be willing to go to the uttermost parts of the earth, to proclaim your name where it is not known.
And finally, Lord, help us as we listen to your Word preached today … help us to hear, understand and to be changed by the gracious work of your Word and the Spirit … so that we will grow in our worship of you, our love for one another and our commitment to making disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
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July 28 2014 at 2:48 pm 1 Comments
More information about the year-long, 2-A-DAY reading plan, including the readings schedule, can be found on the 2-A-DAY page.
FRIDAY, August 1 | Exodus 30
Reflection on Exodus 30
By Art & Jeannie Shenk
Today’s passage contains detailed description of the Old Testament altar of incense, census tax, bronze basin, and anointing oil and incense which were all part of the holy activity of the tent of meeting, where God met with his people.
Focusing on just one of the above, the following is the significance of the altar of incense: Exodus 30:1, 6-8 —“You shall make an altar on which to burn incense; … And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it. Every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, and when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before the Lord throughout your generations.”
Matthew Henry comments:
30:1-10—The altar of incense represented the Son of God in his human nature, and the incense burned thereon typified his pleading for his people. The continual intercession of Christ was represented by the daily burning of incense thereon, morning and evening.
What a wonderful reminder of what not only has come true but remains true, that Jesus prays continually for us in three ways as summarized by Thomas Watson:
First, that the saints may be kept from sin (John 17:15). “I pray that thou shouldest keep them from evil.” We live in the world as in a pest-house; Christ prays that his saints may not be infected with the contagious evil of the times.
Second, for his people’s progress in holiness. “Sanctify them…” (John 17:17). Let them have constant supplies of the Spirit, and be anointed with fresh oil.
Third, for their glorification: “Father, I will that those which thou hast given me, be with me where I am” (John 17:24). Christ is not content till the saints are in his arms. This prayer, which he made on earth, is the copy and pattern of his prayer in heaven. What a comfort is this; when Satan is tempting, Christ is praying! This works for good.
TUESDAY, JULY 29 | Matthew 7
Caveat Lector - A Reflection on Matthew 7
By David Wilcox
In Matthew chapter 7, Jesus concludes the Sermon on the Mount with a completely unexpected twist: Simply listening to this sermon will do no good.
Had I been on the mountain with him, I’m sure I would have been quite satisfied to consume this wonderful message. What a breadth of material! Jesus covered anger, reconciliation, lust, divorce, honesty, love, pride, generosity, prayer, fasting, money, anxiety, hypocrisy, judgment and faith in just a few minutes. Not to mention the fact that the preacher was God incarnate, having just proven his power by healing every disease brought before him. And what authority in his words and manner! He was not like the other teachers of the day.
One could be quite satisfied, indeed. And quite deceived.
So Jesus concludes by confronting complacency with his story of two hearers:
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.
There were two hearers. Both heard. Only one acted.
There are two groups today.
Read. And go do.
Reflection on Exodus 27 and Matthew 6
By William Li
And you shall hang the veil from the clasps, and bring the ark of the testimony in there within the veil. And the veil shall separate for you the Holy Place from the Most Holy. —Exodus 27
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” —Hebrews 9:11-14
When Jesus died, Matthew wrote, “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” The veil, which represented the separation between man and God, was torn. The Jews had always known God to be Holy, separated from sinners, and exalted in the heavens. In the past, only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies to have fellowship with God. But in these last days He has revealed Himself to us in the person of Jesus. He did not wait for us to come to the Most Holy place. The Most Holy came to us. The veil of separation between man and God is now removed.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” … “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. —Matthew 6:19-21;24
When Jesus describes treasure our natural inclination is to think of money. For many that is the case. However, Jesus connotes a greater meaning. Our ‘treasure’ is described as where our heart is.
Jesus calls us to examine the longings of our heart and the yearnings of our soul. That one thing we think is more important than anything else; that is what we must lay at His feet. He will accept nothing less. We trade the ephemeral for the eternal, the dead things of man for the living things of God.
He asks for that which a philosopher may often seek in vain at the hands of his friends, or a father of his children, or a bride of her spouse, or a man of his brother. He asks for the human heart; He will have it entirely to Himself. He demands it unconditionally; and forthwith His demand is granted. Wonderful! In defiance of time and space, the soul of man, with all its powers and faculties, becomes an annexation to the empire of Christ. All who sincerely believe in Him, experience that remarkable, supernatural love toward Him. —Napoleon Bonaparte
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July 28 2014 at 6:02 am 1 Comments
Todd Keeler headed up the Local Missions Youth Outreach this past week and shared this with the church on Sunday:
This past week, we took a mission trip to Gaithersburg, Maryland.
THANK YOU SO MUCH for all of you who have been praying for us throughout the week! We could definitely tell that people were praying! Over 100 youth and adults reached out to four different neighborhoods within a 10-minute drive of the church. We were together from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. everyday, praying, planning, studying God’s Word, sharing meals, and providing a free Christian day camp in each of the neighborhoods—Laytonia (right across the street from the church), South Lake Elementary School, and a park in between Washington Square and Emory Grove.
In each location, we called the camp “JOY Camp” (for JESUS–OTHERS–YOU) to emphasize that true joy is found when we put Jesus first and others before yourself.
These camps offer a variety of activities including skits, singing, games, crafts, Scripture memory, and a short Bible lesson followed by an opportunity to discuss the lesson in small groups or one on one. During these discussions, which we often call “partner time”, our young people had many opportunities to answer questions, show the love of Christ in a personal way, share the gospel, and even begin to disciple some of the kids who have made commitments to Christ in previous years.
This is our fifth summer doing this, and each year we have a theme for the week. Last year it was “The story of the Bible”; this year it was “Heaven”. We have shirts designed with five questions and the Scriptures that answer the questions, one question for each of the five days of JOY Camp. So on Monday, we asked, “What is it?” (What is heaven?) The next question was “Who gets to go?” Then, “What do you do there?” “How do you get ready to go?” and finally, “Are you going?”
This gave us an opportunity to share the gospel multiple times while explaining how awesome heaven will be, making sure the kids know that it will be the exact opposite of boring.
In spite of and through our weakness, God used this ministry team to share the love and truth of Christ with over 150 children in all. In our final meeting on Friday night, we gave our young people an opportunity to share how they had seen God at work throughout the week. It was so exciting to hear all of the stories of how lives had been impacted … a lot happened in one week!
However, our desire is that this ministry will NOT be just one week out of the year. We want to find ways to continue to cultivate these relationships that God has given us so we can continue the work of making disciples of Jesus Christ.
Please be praying for God’s will for all of us as we take Christ into our community. Also, please prayerfully consider how you can be part of reaching out to these neighborhoods. There are many ways you can be involved:
• consistently praying
• volunteering weekly during the school year at a homework club
• helping us lead additional one-day versions of JOY Camp every month or so
• mentoring in schools
• teaching English as a second language
• fulfilling a BIG need for administrative support to organize and coordinate these initiatives
One mom even started a Bible study with one of the camper’s moms she met at a cookout we had in one of the neighborhoods.
Here are the dates and times of a few of the upcoming one-day JOY Camps:
• Wednesday, August 9: Washington Square Park - 2 p.m.
• Saturday, August 23: Laytonia 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.
• Saturday, August 23: South Lake Elem. - 10:30 a.m. - noon
Finally, please check out the daily JOY Camp updates for more details and pictures from this past week.
Photo credit: Andi Alonso
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July 25 2014 at 8:15 am 1 Comments
JOY CAMP - FRIDAY, JULY 25
Today we concluded an extremely full week of Joy Camp. Every day our volunteers spent 12 hours planning skits, studying Revelations 1-3 as a group, enjoying fellowship with one another, prepping lessons and games, and serving the kids in neighboring communities. Even though some days this week called for rain, God kept the weather nice and sunny for us.
The lesson today asked the question, “Are you going?” In all of our sites the good conversations continued, and tonight we took time as a group to recount stories of how God worked this week.
• One of our volunteers was not feeling well and sat down. During the prayer before the cookout, she felt tiny hands on her shoulders. When the prayer was over she expected to see one of the girls she had on “one-on-one” time with. Instead, it was one of the little boys. This was particularly encouraging because this boy was having trouble getting along on other days at camp.
• Overall, there were reports of our volunteers having a genuine love for all of the kids. This was not just evident at Washington Square, but at all of our sites. None of our youth was trying to gain attention, but had soft, caring hearts. Because they trusted in the Lord, that led to being relaxed and being able to love the kids.
• One girl camper was shy at the beginning of camp. During the middle of the week she went up to our volunteers saying, “I want you to be my one-on-one partner!” By the end of the week she was doing the hand motions to the memory verses and participating in the camp enthusiastically.
• Yesterday, one of our adult volunteers was the last to leave the cookout. As she was leaving she got cut off. It ended up being a family from the community. The mom got out of the car and made sure that they got our contact information. “We need to keep in touch with you guys,” she said. There were several conversations with parents talking about how “there is something different” about our kids. They don’t just do their own thing and talk to themselves, but they really make an effort to really reach out to the kids.
• There was a 4-year-old camper who at the beginning didn’t seem to be understanding and was very fidgety. Today, when everyone else was getting ready for game time, he turned to his one-on-one partner and said, “Why don’t we just sit down right here and talk about Jesus?”
• An 11-year-old girl camper expressed to one of our volunteers that she enjoyed any skit he was in because he was so happy, and that there wasn’t a lot of happiness in her family. Seeing how happy the volunteers were made her realize that there is still happiness in the world. Later she asked Jesus to be her Lord and Savior!
• By week’s end, one boy camper who was very shy on Monday was running down the sidewalks when our team was pulling into the Elementary School exclaiming, “They’re here! They’re here!”
• Another girl came up to one of our volunteers and said that she saw on the flyer that Joy Camp was for ages 7-14. “I turn 15 next year,” she said. “What happens next year when I turn 15?!” She then tried to convince the site leader that they needed to extend the ages from 7-21 or older.
Joy Camp could not have happened without your prayers! Let’s continue to pray for our neighbors close by the church.
JOY CAMP - THURSDAY, JULY 24
Day 4 of Joy Camp is complete! God has given us all super natural strength to get through the week, and His light is shining through us.
Today we talked about how we get ready to go to heaven. In 2 Peter 3:9 it says that the Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise, but is patient toward us. He does not wish that anyone should perish, but that all should repent and believe. In order to get ready for heaven we are called to live lives of holiness and godliness, hastening the coming of God. This includes no longer living selfishly for ourselves, waiting for heaven, and believing in God’s promises.
Tonight our sites all had community cookouts. This is not only a time for our volunteers to continue developing friendships with the campers, but it also gives us a chance to reach out to the communities around our church. Many parents of our youth came out for this cookout as well, and it was encouraging to see the conversations between the parents and the adults in the community. A few of our youth at Laytonia were even able to reconnect with a parent tonight, and she really opened up about her struggles. This allowed them to pray for her and her family to know the peace and love of God.
Tomorrow is our last day! We will be talking about Philippians 3 and if we are going to heaven. Please continue to pray that hearts would be softened and open to receive the gospel.
JOY CAMP - WEDNESDAY, JULY 23
We are halfway through our week at Joy Camp. Exhaustion is starting to set in, but God has continued to give us strength and there are still great things going on at our sites. Thank you so much for praying for us these past few days!
Today, we talked about what exactly we do once we get to heaven. We have learned that we are God’s children. In Revelation 22:3 we find out that God’s servants will worship Him. We also learn that God’s people will have fun helping God to run His kingdom.
In addition to learning more about heaven through skits, songs, and a short lesson, the kids enjoyed making sponge stars and participating in water games. This was quite wonderful with the weather being so hot today.
Here are a few updates on how our sites are doing:
• Many of the kids at this site are feeling so cared for by our youth. The relationships are continuing to develop, and the kids’ understanding level is increasing. They were even asking specific questions about the memory verse for the day.
• There were some older guys who came yesterday to camp who also came today and were really engaged in the games and throughout the time at camp.
• We had at least 30 campers join us today! Such an answer to prayer!
• There is one boy who is very close to accepting Jesus as His Savior. Continue to pray for Him and the rest of the campers that their hearts will be softened to the gospel.
• One of our volunteers talked with a girl age 5 or 6 about what she thought heaven was like, which led to a conversation about the Garden of Eden. It was encouraging to hear how she eagerly engaged with these biblical stories at such a young age.
• One 13-year-old boy who only speaks Spanish and was apprehensive about joining camp on Monday. One of his friends was telling him about camp and how much fun it was, but this boy told him, “Why would I go to a camp if I can’t understand it?” One of our volunteers speaks both Spanish and English and has been able to reach out to this boy. Now he is enjoying himself and participating in the games and activities. This boy has been in the United States for only a month, so it is exciting that we get to play a part and make a difference in his first few days here.
God has been doing wonderful things this week. Continue to pray that they will continue! Tomorrow we are talking about how we get ready to go to heaven. We are also having our traditional cookout at our sites. This is not only a time for our youth and the kids to have fun, but also a time to reach out to the families in the community. Thanks for your prayers!
JOY CAMP - TUESDAY, JULY 22
After breakfast this morning, our volunteers started off the day worshiping God and spending time in His Word. By 10 a.m. our teams were at their sites serving in their neighborhoods.
Today, we talked about who gets to go to heaven. We used John 14 to find out that Jesus is going to prepare a place for those who believe in God. How do we know the way to get to heaven? Jesus has said that only He is the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him (vs 6). Overall, in all of the sites, the kids are understanding more and asking many deep questions. They are not just repeating back the “right answers” but actually know the answers and want to know more.
Here are a few highlights from the different sites:
• It has been encouraging to see how the skits are helping to apply the lesson. Kids are really engaged in the skits and can tell you the main point of the skits.
• The older guys who were distant yesterday, were more engaged, understood more of the lesson, and wanted to know more about Jesus. This is such an answer to prayer!
• There was a girl camper who had surgery today, and some of our volunteers went to go check on her. She was sitting on the porch waiting for her parents to get back from the store. When her parents got home she begged them to let her go to camp. Even though her leg was in a cast and she had just had surgery she was excited to be at Joy Camp.
• There was another boy camper who expressed concerns about being afraid of dying. Our volunteers were able to talk with him about heaven and that if you put your faith in Jesus you can live eternally with Him. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to go to heaven because he wasn’t sure if his family or friends would be there. Through more conversations he volunteered that he wanted to follow Jesus. Because he heard of Jesus’ death in his place to take his sin, he deeply expressed a desire to repent of his sin and accept Jesus as his Savior.
• At each site the teams do “one-on-one” time, where campers break up with our volunteers to have deeper conversations about the lesson. A 5-year-old girl camper was asked “How do you think you get to heaven?” Her response was certain, as certain as a 5-year-old can get. “Well, you go to a hospital. Then the people at the hospital call God, and then God comes and picks you up.” She may not have this all straight, but it is exciting to see such conversations happening at such a young age!
• A 7-year-old girl camper during “one-on-one” time shared that to get to heaven you have to believe that Jesus saved you, and also do good works to please the universe. Our volunteer was able to sit down and talk with her and told her that it’s not about what you do to get to heaven and that our works don’t get us to heaven. The girl asked deep questions about it, which is encouraging because she wouldn’t have done that in past years.
• There are a lot of Spanish-speaking families in this neighborhood. One of our volunteers noticed that there was an adult in the corner who was keeping to herself, pushing a small child on the swings. Our volunteer reached out to her and had a conversation with her in Spanish. When she heard her native language being spoken her face lit up. All the different generations are being reached in this community. Praise God!
• Yesterday we did not have as many campers as we normally have in past years. But today we had 23 kids! Not only did the kids from yesterday come back, but they also brought friends!
• There was a girl camper whose friends were giving her a hard time about going to Joy Camp. But she stood up to them and said that she really enjoyed coming to Joy Camp and that it was fun.
The past two days have been exciting and exhausting. But God has been doing so many wonderful things in the past 48 hours. Our youth have been stretched and are willing to go where the people are, getting out of their comfort zones, and are reaching out. Please continue to pray for us and that more kids will respond to the Gospel.
JOY CAMP - MONDAY, JULY 21
This week started a full week of youth local missions. We have over 100 youth and adult volunteers reaching out to four different neighborhoods in a 10 mile radius of the church. Our teams are spread out in the Washington Square, Laytonia, Emory Grove, and South Lake Elementary School neighborhoods. Every day each location does a variety of activities including skits, singing, a short lesson and a craft.
The theme for this week is heaven. Today we took time to discuss what heaven actually is. Using Revelation 21 as our text, we found out that heaven is a place where God will dwell with man and they will be his people. Heaven is also a happy place. God will wipe away every tear, and death shall be no more. There will not be any mourning or crying or pain.
At most of the sites we had over 30 kids, many of whom have attended Joy Camp before. And we expect more kids to come tomorrow and throughout the week. All of the youth were very eager to participate and were always busy doing something. Many of the kids who have attended camp before recall the friendships they have made and were excited to see our youth. Some expressed to our youth how it was evident that they really love Jesus.
At every site many kids remembered information from previous years about Jesus, God, and the basics of the gospel. Throughout the afternoon many good conversations were happening between the campers and our youth. The campers are asking great questions, and this shows that they are engaged in the lesson and want to go deeper into Scripture.
As we continue the week we would still love your prayers:
- • Pray for a girl who gave her life to God a few years ago, that our youth who interact with her will be able to effectively communicate the gospel and encourage her faith in the midst of obstacles.
- • Kids were asking many excellent questions after the lesson, including questions about what heaven is and what hell is. Pray that they would continue to understand the message, and that our youth will be able to have fruitful conversations with these kids.
• Pray for strength in the heat. Laytonia is one of our sites that is outside for the whole time. Pray that our youth will stay hydrated.
- • Pray for our youth that they will be able to know how to talk to the kids about Jesus. Pray that it would be an easy transition from common conversations to conversations about the gospel.
• There are several older boy campers at this site who are not very interested in camp. There are not as many older boys from our group at the site who can reach out to them. Pray that their hearts will be open and that they would be interested in learning more about Jesus.
- • Pray for more campers!! Word about camp was not advertised a lot, so today there were 18 kids who participated. Pray that the flyers passed out would produce an increase in campers.
• Pray that the campers would be more comfortable and be engaged in the lesson
It is evident that God has already blessed our first day of camp. In general, continue to pray that God will pour out His blessing on our week. Pray that the campers will be responsive to what we are sharing and that lives would be changed this week.
“To the praise of Your Glory, To the praise of Your mercy and grace. To the praise of Your glory, You are the God who saves!” (Come Praise and Glorify, Sovereign Grace Music)
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July 25 2014 at 7:02 am 1 Comments
More information about the year-long, 2-A-DAY reading plan, including the readings schedule, can be found on the 2-A-DAY page.
Reflections on Exodus 25
By Jessica Kendal
Our God is In the Details
In Exodus 25 the Lord lays out, in great detail, instructions for building His Holy Place among His people. While I wondered, initially, what blue and purple thread would mean to a believer in Jesus Christ—He’s torn the curtain now, after all—I think part of the beauty in these details is God showing us how to worship Him. Here are just a few things to pull from this chapter:
1. Praise God that we can worship through cheerful giving and contribution to His works and His “house”! (vs. 2)
2. Praise God that He is the Holy of Holies, and he alone sits on the mercy seat! (vs. 22)
3. Praise God that He is our Bread of Life, and that He commands us in love to come before him regularly! (vs. 30)
4. Praise God that He is our Lampstand, the Light of the World, piercing the darkness! (vs. 37)
5. And lastly, Praise God that He knows us so well that He gives reminders to follow His instructions—may we not be tempted to adjust or embellish what He has said! (vs. 40)
Lord, we thank you today that You are still our God of details today. Please help us worship and trust You more with the details of our lives, give to you cheerfully, and follow Your Word exactly! In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen!
Reflection on Matthew 5
By Art & Jeannie Shenk
Matt 5:43 - 48 contains a snapshot of a brief but penetrating Q&A session conducted by Jesus with his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you… For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
What is the conclusion on how we are to live with others? We are to love and pray for others even our enemies or those who give us a hard time.
And “We MUST BE PERFECT, as our heavenly Father is perfect” in doing this. How can we possibly achieve this manner of living with others especially since the rest of Matthew 5 includes an avalanche of other holy standards for living?
I find Charles Spurgeon’s perspective on “perfect living” helpful taken from A Call to Holy Living.
The regenerate never rebel against any precept, saying, “This, is too pure;” on the contrary, our new-born nature is enamoured of its holiness, and we cry, “Thy word is very pure, therefore thy servant loveth it. O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes.
Let’s live in the good of Spurgeon’s prayer for us: “My desire, this morning, is to insist upon the precepts which tend to holiness, and I pray the Holy Spirit to excite desires after a high degree of purity in all believing hearts.”
Reflection on Exodus 24 and Matthew 4
By Rhoda Dixon
I Need His Words Most.
Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” —Exodus 24:7
The words of God and the covenant would set the people of Israel apart as unto to the Lord. These words would direct every area of their lives, as ones who belonged to God, and they were to speak of who He is to each generation.
But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” —Matthew 4:4
More than what is temporal, what I need most are God’s very words, and the One who is the Living Word. For only His words bring hope to my days, light to my circumstances, and eternal life. His words remind me of His faithfulness throughout time and all He has done for His people; they speak of His gospel and eternal kingdom.
In Exodus 24, God in His mercy had come near to the people, and they were to obey Him. And then in Matthew 4, God the Son had come near, with the call to follow Him.
Dear Lord, as Your people, we thank You for coming near to us, and for all You have spoken. Your words are truth, salvation and life. All that we are belongs to You, and we will obey You, and we will follow You.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 23 | Exodus 23 and Matthew 3
Reflection on Exodus 23
By Eryk Zimmerman
“Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land.” (Exodus 23:30)
Little by little, more and more, Christ is transforming our souls. His work is patient, because we are slow to understand and every area of life must conform to the Way. Every rebellious part of ourselves will be conquered by the renewing of our minds in our knowledge of Him. And then at last, there is only our love for Jesus.
We can also be corrupted little by little. It’s not a great crime that tempts us, but by committing many petty crimes our consciences are seared. It’s not one heroic test that we are called to endure. It’s the many small things that we have to bear patiently until our will is strong and our minds are peaceful.
“I will drive them out”. Thank You, Jesus! Only Your goodness and love can purge our sins and heal our wounded souls. It is Your strength that makes us strong, and the life You give is everlasting.
Reflections on Exodus 22 and Matthew 2
By Tim Harvey
I have to admit I’ve often wished for the same kind of clear, unmistakable divine guidance like that Joseph experienced four times (four times!) during the events described in Matthew 1 and 2, and the divine guidance given to the magi through the star and their dream about avoiding Herod on the return trip.
Wouldn’t it be so much easier to follow God’s will if the occasional angel would appear in a dream and give me some specific instructions? Or how about the Old Testament Israelites – seems to me like they had it easy in some respects, too. Sure, there were a lot of laws to keep up with (as Exodus 22 illustrates), and a pretty complicated system of sacrifices, but as long as you were diligent and kept up with all those things, you were sure to experience God’s blessing, right? Just check off all the things on your Daily Laws Checklist and God would be happy. Just wait for an angel to appear and follow his instructions. Why can’t things be like that for us today?
When I think about it more closely I realize my desire for more “direct” divine guidance surfaces when I forget the rest of the story that is beginning in Matthew 2. l wish for a Righteousness Checklist (which the Old Testament law was never intended to be) that I could keep on my own and thereby take some credit for my own salvation – forgetting the far better and more perfect plan that God set in place through Christ. I want God to tell me what to do in a specific and unmistakable way because I’m afraid I’ll somehow “miss” His will and purpose for my life – and yet His plan carried on despite the wrath of Herod and its horrible results. How could He not be sovereign over my mistakes and missteps and even my sins? And I want an amazing experience of God’s unmistakable presence because I am prone to doubt He is really with me and cares for me – and yet His very name is “God With Us” and He came specifically so that my sins could be paid for and I could be adopted into His family. How could I ask for a better reminder of His love?
My prayer: Lord, help me to remember how deeply you love and care for me. Your promises are enough for me. Your Word and your Spirit and your people supply all the wisdom and guidance I need. Help me to rest in that truth more and more every day.
Reflections on Matthew 1
By Jose Troche
As I meditate on the first chapter of Matthew, I am blown away by its content and the cosmic repercussions of its announcement. It starts by compressing millennia of history that covers virtually the entire Old Testament from Genesis 12 and forward, and ends by describing the supernatural conception and birth of the very Son of God.
These are the opening words of Matthew: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” The first page of the New Testament makes it crystal clear who is the main character of the divine plot: Jesus, the Christ, whose lineage is unwound in the following verses (1:1-17).
The way I wrestle, trying to comprehend with my limited mind this most amazing genealogy, is by imagining myself reading to my kids the Big Picture Story Bible. We start almost at its beginning reading about God promising Abraham to make of him a great nation and in him blessing all the families of the earth.
Years went by and Abraham was still without a son. However, God remained faithful to his promise and miraculously brought forward the birth of his son Isaac. Then we read about Isaac’s son, Jacob, who in turn had twelve sons, including Judah. As we rapidly flip the pages, the promise of God is fulfilled generation after generation.
Then we read about David and God promising to raise up out of him a son whose kingdom will be forever (2 Samuel 7:12-13). But, because of the disobedience of his descendants, the kingdom is divided and people are scattered and deported. And yet God remains true to his word. He starts bringing his people back together. But, they are still waiting for the eternal King who will be a blessing to all nations.
After the perplexing silence of the intertestamental period, God speaks again, moving his plan forward, as he remains immutable in his faithfulness. And now the birth of Jesus takes place (1:18). Although, we can trace back his origins, there is something that absolutely separates him from the rest of the human race: his genetic makeup is divine! Everyone is born of the union of a man with a women, but not Jesus. No human male participated in his conception. That which was conceived in Mary was from the Holy Spirit (1:20).
The glorious and majestic God took human form and was born in the likeness of men, getting near his people like never before. He is marvelously indeed “God with us”! (1:23) and he was called Jesus (from the Hebrew name Yeshua, which means “Yahweh saves”1), for he will save his people from their sins (1:21). Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham and David. In this son of Abraham all the nations are blessed as they are offered salvation from their sins. And after conquering sin, Jesus, the son of David, has been crown as King forever. Alleluia!
1ESV Study Bible
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July 21 2014 at 4:55 pm 0 Comments
If you followed the recent Youth Missions Trip Dominican Republic daily updates, you have been reading about the team that served in Santiago. The Lord was also at work through a second group of our teens who ministered in and around Santo Domingo. Patrick Maresco shares some of his experience:
This trip was life changing and extremely beneficial to me. I feel a new fire for God and global missions and had many unique experiences with amazing people! It was emotionally and physically draining working from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, but there was beauty in giving literally everything we had and fully relying on God’s strength to lead us.
There were so many times when we were nervous that a skit or teaching or language barrier would stop us or not be well received by the kids, and God showed up and said, “Hey! I can work through it anyway and in a much bigger way than you expected.” Every person had so many stories of God working, and it was so refreshing to share these experiences together. We grew so close to one another as a team, and it was beautiful to witness.
At both villages on our last day there, we gave all the residents a gospel bracelet. You may have seen one of these before. It is a simple bracelet with five beads that symbolize creation, the fall, the blood of Jesus that cleanses us of sin, new life in Christ, and heaven. It was our “goodbye present” of sorts, and our final reminder of everything we talked about. It was beautiful in particular because we were literally leaving every kid with the gospel on their wrist to remind them every day.
Even if they forget the people that came, they will still remember the message they brought. And that was the motivation behind the entire week for our team: serve in any way you can, give everything you have, and let God do the rest. And He used us in ways we could never have done on our own, and in the process brought us closer to Him at the same time.
SOME DAY-TO-DAY STORIES
Like many of the other teens, it was my first trip out of the country. We witnessed things that you never see in a suburb of Washington, D.C. Our group traveled to at least five different sites for different evangelistic opportunities throughout the week.
When we went to church on Sunday, the church introduced us and even split the worship songs into half-Spanish, half-English for us. We made many new friends and were very warmly received.
On Monday morning we helped lead a “Summer Celebration” -esque camp for 200 kids, ages 3 to 12. Because of the language barrier, the first day was the difficult for a lot of us, but we all agreed that as the week progressed it got better and better.
We visited a village later that afternoon, and that was when the culture shock of living in an American bubble for my entire life hit me harder than I’ve ever felt. These kids were sweet, gracious, loving, and extremely grateful for everything we did.
We led a Vacation Bible School (VBS) there, and they were so grateful to sing songs, watch skits, have snacks and make crafts with us. They were not greedy with the food or crafts; they were calm and patient. It was beyond beautiful. They did not have much, but they had each other, and they were content with what they had.
I led the skits for the week, and honestly, I was not expecting them to receive them so well because I had an “American kid reaction” in my head, but these kids do not usually see skits. They were laughing and enjoying it along with us. It was a beautiful experience.
By Tuesday, we grew much more comfortable in conversations with the kids and began to gain their trust and have fun with them. That evening we had the privilege of going to a local mall to hang out with teens our age from the church community, and we drew close to them. We all wanted to stay in this village longer but we had to move on to another village. It was an emotional goodbye on Wednesday and we shed many tears together.
A group of five or six led by Angel Cabrera went to a local orphanage and led a VBS/hangout time for the kids there, while the rest of us went to a second village and held a VBS similar to the one at the first village. Another group of us did a basketball/soccer outreach at the church’s court with the older kids. This was a blessing to them because they do not normally have competition to play against. This church also warmly received us, and the kids were again very blessed by us doing these skits, crafts, snacks and songs with them.
Saturday we woke up and headed to the beach to spend time with the teens again and have lunch together. It was a great time. Then we said goodbye and headed to the airport. This was extremely difficult. I cried a lot, and so did others on the trip. We were heartbroken to leave this beautiful country and its incredible people ... we grew so attached.
As one of the children shared, “You all marked my heart ... and I really had never met people like you all!”
Photo Credit: Andi Alonso, Corinne Glab & Beth Hill. Pictures are from both locations, Santiago and Santo Domingo.
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