Friday, April 18, 2014

From @JimDenison ... Lenten Devotional for Friday, April 18

James C. Denison, Ph.D., is a subject matter expert on cultural and contemporary issues. He founded the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, a nonsectarian "think tank" designed to engage contemporary issues with biblical truth in 2009. In the introduction for his 2014 collection of Lenten devotionals, "Resurrection: Finding Your Victory in Christ," Denison writes, "The world's religions are based on what religious teachers said — Christianity is based on what Jesus did. The fact that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead is still changing our world 20 centuries later."

CLICK HERE for a free copy of Dr. Denison's 2014 Advent Devotional (in a downloadable/printable Adobe .pdf file)


DAY 45
Good Friday, April 18

 

Where, O death, is the victory? Where, O death, is the sting? Now the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law ... (1 Corinthians 15:55-56)

"Good Friday" should be called "Black Friday." On this day the most scandalous betrayal of justice in human history took place. But when we remember what happened on this day we'll know why we call it "Good Friday" today.

The night before, Jesus was arrested and tried illegally by the Jewish authorities. They held his trial at night, without credible witnesses, and asked Jesus to convict himself—any of these factors should have set him free. He could have fl ed before they arrived or refused to incriminate himself and Friday would never have been called "Good."

Instead, he convicted himself by claiming to be the Son of God, a statement he knew would lead to condemnation for blasphemy. Then they took him to the Romans, where they changed their charge to insurrection. He could easily show that he was innocent, but he stayed silent instead. He could rally the crowds to himself with a single demonstration of his miraculous powers, but he refused. So he was condemned to cruci fixion.

Now he is stripped and tied to a post, then scourged with a long whip in which are embedded nails, lead balls, and pieces of shell. They rip the esh from his back, torture that killed many of its victims. A crown of razor-sharp thorns is pressed onto his head, impaling his scalp and forehead. He is forced to carry a wooden cross to Calvary. There, nails are driven through his wrists and ankles into the wood and he is left to die. He could call ten thousand angels to his side, but he refuses.

Instead, he dies there for you and for me. How should we respond to such sacrifi ce?

What God's word means

In Hosea 13 the Lord says of his people,

Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol?
Shall I redeem them from Death?
O Death, where are your plagues?
O Sheol, where is your sting? (v. 14).

These questions were originally directed to Israelites eight centuries before Christ. Now Paul is led by by the Spirit to ask them of Corinthian Christians. Death has no victory or sting ("goad, stinger") for Jesus' followers. This enemy that has defeated every adversary is itself defeated in Christ. This wasp whose venom is always fatal has lost its stinger.

It was the case that the sting of death is sin, meaning that sin causes death as a stinger transmits venom (cf. Romans 6:23, "the wages of sin is death"). The power of sin is the law, meaning that we sin when we break God's word and will. So long as we are fallen people, we are under the power of sin and the death it produces (cf. Romans 7:7-13).

But now this power is broken, this sting removed. How much threat is a wasp without a stinger?

Why Easter matters

At the cross, Jesus was "stung" by our sin: "God made him to be sin who knew no sin" (2 Corinthians 5:21a). But our sinless Sacrifi ce never broke the law and therefore broke the power of sin it produces. As a result, "in him we might become the righteousness of God" (v. 21b).

Imagine a swarm of killer bees attacking our Savior on the cross. As they sting him, each bee's stinger and its venom sac are pulled from its body, killing it instantly. As a result, the bees kill Jesus but cannot harm us.

This is a picture of what happened on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. When our Lord rose from the tortured death our sins in flicted on him, he defeated our grave and guaranteed our eternal life.

How to respond

Never again wonder if you are loved. If you had been the only sinner on the planet, Good Friday would still have happened, just for you. Someone asked Jesus, "How much do you love me?" He answered, "This much," as he spread out his arms and died. All for you. Just for you.

Have you thanked God today for Good Friday?

Today in the PC-USA Mission Yearbook

The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is a daily devotional with 365 inspiring mission stories that come from next door and all across the globe. It inspires thousands of Presbyterians daily as they uphold the mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in intercessory prayer. How often have you wondered, where are the young adults in the PC(USA)? Wonder no longer. The 2014 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is devoted to the theme of young adults in the church. Its stories, many told by young adults, lift up how Presbyterians of all ages are engaging and joining with Presbyterian young adults in reforming the church for Christ’s mission.

Today in the Mission Yearbook: April 18, 2014


MINUTE FOR MISSION: GOOD FRIDAY - The man sitting across from me is quietly shaking. He stares blankly through the barred window. He is maybe 19 years old. He is an artist. And though less than a foot stands between his beige, cheaply constructed plastic chair and mine, distance is not always best measured in feet and inches. That’s especially true in prison.

CLICK HERE to read more.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Teichert Prayer Letter for April

The family of Karl and Jenny Teichert are serving the Lord as missionaries with OC Africa, in South Africa. They moved to Johannesburg in November, 1997 with their four children; Ann, Scott, Stephen and John. Karl serves as the Southern Africa Director of the Southern Africa Regional Team. Their vision is to see a healthy, Bible-based church established in every un-reached village and community in South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia and beyond. Their strategy is to partner with key African church leaders to research, train, and mobilize the body of Christ to complete the Great Commission. They are striving to equip local leaders in Southern Africa to reach their nations for Christ and send missionaries into other countries as well.

April Letter ...

Dear family and friends,

A few months ago a local pastor approached me and asked if Barbara (my teammate) and I would train the Sunday school teachers in his church. It had been over a year since Barbara and I had held a Sunday school workshop so we re-made old puppets and added new crafts to our boxes and began to get our materials in order.

Weekends are the times when there are many funerals and weddings in the rural areas, which from past experience have left us with only a few teachers to train. Since we usually hold these workshops on Saturdays, we never know whether or not we will have a good turn out.

When we arrived at the venue no one was there and we wondered who would attend this time. Then the pastor and his wife and teenage daughter arrived. They were eager to be trained along with a couple of the elders and few other young teachers from the church. We waited for a while and then decided to begin the training. As we introduced ourselves and played an icebreaker game to get to know each other, a few more teachers came, then a few more, and a few more. Before long there were over 22 teachers!

Barbara and I enjoyed teaching them new ideas for lesson plans, Bible memory games to reinforce the lessons, ideas for discipline in the classroom, drama and finally, we made marionette puppets together out of Styrofoam cups. They were so enthusiastic and said it was a much-needed teacher training for the over 100 children that come from around the community each Sunday.

The following week the pastor wrote to express his appreciation and said, “Thanks, it was a very helpful training. My daughter has already started using the curriculum. The kids gave her a hard time with difficult questions from the material used … it said to me this is good as at least it makes the class teachings interactive and interesting.”

We pray that many children will come to know and serve the Lord in this community and beyond.

Thanks for your prayers.

In His love,


Jenny, for the Teicherts



OC Africa is an interdenominational ministry committed to developing, equipping, and mobilizing church leaders to multiply healthy, Bible-based churches in every community in Southern Africa and the world. OC is a faith-based mission who depends on the Lord to provide committed, financial supporters and partners. The contributions from these individuals help generate ministry opportunities around the world, impact missionaries and their global work, and provide a means for the International Mobilization Center to function. CLICK HERE to learn how YOU can be a part of mobilizing church leaders around the world by donating to OC.

Faces of Children: Prayer Concerns for This Week

Faces of Children is an ecumenical prayer ministry under the auspices of First Presbyterian Church of Midland, Texas. Our mission is to initiate ministries of prayer for children in churches, communities, and neighborhoods. In doing so, we seek to provide an opportunity for people of God to join together, learn about children and their needs throughout the world, and celebrate Christ's love (especially as it relates to children).

Prayer Concerns for the Week of 04/16/14


South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda

In July 2011, South Sudan gained independence from Sudan as a result of a 2005 peace agreement that ended Africa’s longest-running civil war. Two years later, fighting broke out between government forces loyal to the president and rebel factions loyal to his deposed deputy. The conflict has killed thousands of people and forced more than 800,000 to leave their homes. Disagreements with Sudan over vast oil reserves in South Sudan is contributing to border disputes between the two countries. There are also several other complex, on-going disputes that contribute to the volatility of South Sudan’s border regions. One involves a cattle-raiding feud between rival ethnic groups in Jonglei State where hundreds of people have been killed and an estimated 100,000 have been displaced in the past three years. The African Soul, American Heart’s (ASAH) Boarding School for Orphan Girls is located in this state.
more on this issue
Please keep close in prayer the girls who fled ASAH’s boarding school when Sudanese rebels attacked and ransacked their school compound last month. Thanks be to God the villagers and the school’s students and staff had advance warning of the attack and were able to seek safety. And give God thanks the ASAH staff have been able to locate most of the students who fled the attack and transfer them to Juba, South Sudan’s capital city. Pray for the safe return of the remaining girls.
more on this request
African Soul, American Heart website
Pray for the staff and volunteers with ASAH as they set up a new home in the Moyo District of Uganda for the orphaned girls. Pray God will provide the resources needed for the new facility as the rebels took everything they could from the compound, including mattresses and pots and pans.
Please pray for the girls as they adjust to a new home and school in Uganda. Pray for those who’ve been traumatized by the violence in their home country.
Pray the ASAH staff will be able to continue their work of protecting orphaned girls from forced marriage when they reach puberty; educating them in school subjects and life skills; and empowering them to be leaders and give back to their communities.
Please keep all the children of South Sudan and Sudan close in prayer during this time of unrest and conflict. Pray they might have the opportunity to attend school and help their communities develop and sustain peace.
Pray for peace and reconciliation between Sudan and South Sudan.

United States

One-quarter of the United States’ American Indian and Alaskan Native children live in poverty. Native American children also experience two times the rate of abuse and neglect as non-native American children. They are twice as likely as any other race in the U.S. to die before they reach the age of 24. And they are more than three times as likely as the national average to take their own lives and up to 10 times more likely on certain reservations. The root cause of the struggles of today’s Native American children is likely connected to the historical trauma experienced by their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. In the 1870s, the federal government began sending American Indian children to off-reservation boarding schools in an effort to control hostile Native nations. The objective was to “erase and replace” Indian culture—students in federal boarding schools were forbidden to express any facet of their culture. In many instances, boarding schools were centers of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. The practice of transplanting Native American children continued for almost a hundred years until it was phased out.
more on this issue
more on this issue
Pray for Native American youth and children affected by the abuse inflicted upon their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents in off-reservation boarding schools. Pray for those who suffer abuse as a result of the aftermath of this century-long attempt to assimilate Native American children.
Pray for Native American children and youth who experience hopelessness and despair to such a degree they believe suicide is their only option. Pray for those who don’t have access to mental health care, counseling services, or family support.
Please pray for girls who are victims of repeated sexual and domestic violence. Pray they are able to access support services for survivors. Pray for God’s healing presence in their lives.
Pray the high incidence of youth suicides in Native American populations will be drastically reduced. Pray young people in these communities will be able to see a future for themselves and not give up hope.

Faces of Children

Please continue to pray that more churches and individuals will join with the ministry of Faces of Children in spreading awareness about children in crisis and inviting more people to pray for children at risk.
Please keep in prayer Faces of Children intercessor John as he recovers from recent back surgery. Pray for God’s healing touch upon this faithful prayer partner and for a complete recovery.



If you have prayer requests about children, those who care for them, those who have authority over them, or those who harm them (the really hard prayers to say sometimes), please send them to Chris Laufer, FOC Coordinator, at claufer@facesofchildren.net

In the News ... "Prayer Luncheon set for May 1 in Odessa"

• A time for those of all faiths to pray for leaders at all levels of government

Odessa Mayor
David Turner
Staff Report
Odessa American

ODESSA, TEXAS - Tickets are on sale now for Odessa Mayor David Turner’s second Prayer Luncheon, on the National Day of Prayer, at 11:30 a.m. May 1, 2014, at the MCM Grande Hotel, 6201 East Business Loop 20.

Pastor Nathan Lino of Northeast Houston Baptist Church will discuss "personal relationships with God through Jesus Christ and Christ centered ministries through every season of life," according to a City of Odessa release.

read the rest of this OA report ...

From @JimDenison ... Lenten Devotional for Thursday, April 17

James C. Denison, Ph.D., is a subject matter expert on cultural and contemporary issues. He founded the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, a nonsectarian "think tank" designed to engage contemporary issues with biblical truth in 2009. In the introduction for his 2014 collection of Lenten devotionals, "Resurrection: Finding Your Victory in Christ," Denison writes, "The world's religions are based on what religious teachers said — Christianity is based on what Jesus did. The fact that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead is still changing our world 20 centuries later."

CLICK HERE for a free copy of Dr. Denison's 2014 Advent Devotional (in a downloadable/printable Adobe .pdf file)


DAY 44
Maundy Thursday, April 17

 

... When this corruptible body shall put on incorruption and this mortal shall put on immortality, then will come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory" (1 Corinthians 15:54)

On this day, Jesus shared his Last Supper with his disciples. During their meal, Judas Iscariot left to bring the authorities who would arrest our Lord. Jesus knew what Judas was doing and had every opportunity to fl ee Jerusalem before his enemies' arrival. Instead, he went to the one place where he knew Judas could find him — a private garden outside the city walls where he often retreated for prayer. This was also so far from the city that the authorities could arrest him without fear of the crowds. And it was at night, where their illegal actions would not be known.

Imagine Jesus praying and waiting in that Garden of Gethsemane as a procession of soldiers begins from the Eastern Gate of the city. He watches their torches as they proceed down into the Kidron Valley and up the Mount of Olives. This would take at least 45 minutes, with Jesus watching them the entire time. The Mount of Olives is covered in trees — he can fl ee in any direction and not be found. Instead, he waits. When the soldiers nally arrive, his disciples try to defend him, but he refuses. They scatter and leave him to his fate.

He is taken to the Jewish high priest, who can fi nd no witnesses whose testimony can convict him. So he convicts himself, testifying that he is the Son of God and bringing their condemnation for blasphemy (Matthew 26:63-66). From there he will be led on Good Friday to Pilate and to his death.

What God's word means

Paul has assured the Corinthians that when the "last trumpet" sounds, they will exchange perishable, mortal bodies for imperishable immortality (1 Corinthians 15:52-53). Now he looks forward to that glorious moment when this corruptible body must put on incorruption and this mortal shall put on immortality.

In that moment, the prophecy of Isaiah will come to pass ("will come true, will be ful filled"). Isaiah 25:8 states that God "will swallow up death forever." The apostle paraphrases this great proclamation: Death is swallowed up ("devoured, made to disappear") in victory. Later he would rejoice in that day when "what is mortal may be swallowed up by life" (2 Corinthians 5:4).

Why Easter matters

Note the present tense: Death is defeated in victory now, today. Even though the Lord's return may delay for another decade or millennium, our victory in him is assured. Jesus' past resurrection is present proof of our future resurrection. Because God's nature does not change (Hebrews 13:8), he can do today anything he has ever done. If he could raise Jesus' body from corruption to immortality, he can do the same with ours.

Paul explained this miracle:

You, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him (Colossians 2:13-15).

Jesus' triumph at Easter is our triumph today. How should we respond to his gift?

How to respond

"Maundy Thursday" comes from the word for "mandated." Here's why it's an appropriate name for today. Before his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus did a very strange thing. After the Last Supper, he took o his outer robe and wrapped a slave's towel around himself. He then crawled on his knees to his rst disciple. He took the man's dirty, smelly, mud-caked feet in his hands. He poured water over them and dried them with the towel wrapped around his waist. He then crawled to the next, and the next, and the next. He washed the feet of Peter, who would deny him, and Judas, who would betray him, and the other disciples who would abandon him (John 13:1-11).

Here's the "mandated" part of Maundy Thursday: Jesus told them, "If I, then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet" (v. 14). He explained that we are to follow his example: "Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another" (v. 34). Then our Master concluded: "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another" (v. 35).

What Jesus did for us, the victory over death he won for us at Calvary, is a gift we cannot repay. But it is a gift we can share with others. When we wash their feet as he has washed away our sins, demonstrating his love in ours, we respond to Maundy Thursday grace with Maundy Thursday gratitude.

Do the people who know you best know that you are Jesus' disciple?

Today in the PC-USA Mission Yearbook

The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is a daily devotional with 365 inspiring mission stories that come from next door and all across the globe. It inspires thousands of Presbyterians daily as they uphold the mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in intercessory prayer. How often have you wondered, where are the young adults in the PC(USA)? Wonder no longer. The 2014 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is devoted to the theme of young adults in the church. Its stories, many told by young adults, lift up how Presbyterians of all ages are engaging and joining with Presbyterian young adults in reforming the church for Christ’s mission.

Today in the Mission Yearbook: April 17, 2014


MINUTE FOR MISSION: MAUNDY THURSDAY - Shock and awe. Whenever Jesus acts and speaks, he shocks us, he awes us, as he did the disciples when he washed their feet.

Holding the grimy, sweaty feet of the disciples clashes with human thoughts of whom and what the King and Creator of the universe is supposed to be about. And yet those who heed the psalmist’s words should not be too surprised:

But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever;
your name endures to all generations.
You will rise up and have compassion on Zion.
(Psalm 102:12–13b)
CLICK HERE to read more.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

WAW Wednesdays: Prison

"The Word at Work is a ministry that mobilizes churches and individuals to answer God's call to minister to those in need," writes Rev. Tim Tam, Director of the Amarillo, Texas-based ministry. "Through our relationships, God reveals needs and opportunities for service. As we come along side the poor, new friendships develop and doors for ministry open. As we serve, God provides the resources to supply for the needs he reveals."




Friends,

The biggest deal weighing on me right now is prison.

Unlike in the US, Belizeans are not afforded the "right to a speedy trial".

Right now there are 500 people in the "Remands" section. These are men that have not been sentenced but are awaiting trial, some of those as long as 7 years. packed like sardines in small cells with little to no light and allowed out for only an hour per day. The Kolbe Foundation has brought amazing major changes to the prison. Now this situation is the challenge on top of the list.

Many are stepping up and asking how to help. What we need right now are people who can help draw up the plan.

Electrical Contractor
Plumbing Contractor
Building Contractor

Is that you? Will you come to the prison and share your expertise and direction?

Here's some good news.


Since the rains have slowed we can now start filling the swamp where we are partnering with Hand in Hand ministries to build their new facility for their work with HIV effected children. This building will house their day care, their pre-school and their outreach programs and their office. Ready for teams to start work in a few weeks.

Another donation of a million meals in dehydrated food arrives.

Photos below of delivery to help the prison and their amazing ministry. This shipment also contained pallets of vitamins and baby food which will help many of our ministry partners e.g. Childrens homes, Seed of Life, YES, Hospice, and more.





Tim Tam
The Word at Work 


In the News ... "Odessans march for remembrance"

OA File Photo
• Each year, Yom HaShoah raises awareness of the Holocaust’s atrocities

By Jared Wilson, Reporter
Odessa American

ODESSA, TEXAS - The Holocaust, an event that took place during World War II in which millions of Jewish citizens were killed, highlighted the cruelty of the Nazi Party in Germany and the clear abuse of human rights and one organization is out to ensure that it is never forgotten.

Now one couple, Chris and Moira Randal, who recently moved to the Permian Basin, has volunteered their time to organize the 2014 March of Remembrance slated for April 27.

read the rest of this OA report ...

From @JimDenison ... Lenten Devotional for Wednesday, April 16

James C. Denison, Ph.D., is a subject matter expert on cultural and contemporary issues. He founded the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, a nonsectarian "think tank" designed to engage contemporary issues with biblical truth in 2009. In the introduction for his 2014 collection of Lenten devotionals, "Resurrection: Finding Your Victory in Christ," Denison writes, "The world's religions are based on what religious teachers said — Christianity is based on what Jesus did. The fact that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead is still changing our world 20 centuries later."

CLICK HERE for a free copy of Dr. Denison's 2014 Advent Devotional (in a downloadable/printable Adobe .pdf file)


DAY 43
Wednesday, April 16

 

... For this corruptible body must put on incorruption and this mortal body must put on immortality ... (1 Corinthians 15:53)

Today is Holy Wednesday. There is not a single recorded event in the life of the Lord Jesus on this day. He likely remained in Bethany, a suburb of Jerusalem where he has been staying in the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Here he spends the day with his disciples and friends in quiet and solitude, preparing for the horrifi c events soon to come.

This is not the first time our Lord stayed in the home of friends. He lived in Capernaum for three years in the home of Peter and Andrew (Mark 1:29). He also stayed in the home of Matthew, the notorious tax collector, where he ate with tax collectors, prostitutes, and other well-known sinners (Matthew 9:10). And Luke's Gospel tells us that he accepted the financial support of a group of women who helped him out of their own means (Luke 8:2-3). After leaving his own home in Nazareth, he never had a home of his own again. He went wherever he was invited and stayed anywhere he was welcome. This is the pattern of Christianity from the fi rst century to ours. The faith began in Palestine and spread across the Middle East. From there it grew into Greece and eventually to Italy and Rome. Missionaries took the gospel as far west as Spain and England, and as far east as India.

Then the center of gravity shifted across the Atlantic to the New World. For centuries North America was the most Christianized continent in the world, with the largest churches and the most missionaries. Now the faith is moving again. South Korea is one-third to one-half "born again" Christian; ve of the ten largest churches on earth are in their country. Last year, they sent more missionaries into the world than America did.

A worship movement is sweeping Australia. A tribal movement is growing across sub-Saharan Africa; in southern Nigeria, 90% of the people gather for worship each Sunday. As many as 100,000 people come to Christ every day in the People's Republic of China. More than a million people have become Christians in Cuba over the last ten years. A Pentecostal movement is sweeping Central and South America. More Muslims than ever before are coming to Christ, many after seeing visions and dreams of Jesus.

Meanwhile, the Church is dying in Western Europe where it once was headquartered. In Great Britain, four times as many Muslims go to mosque on Friday as Christians go to church on Sunday. In France, less than one percent go to church each week. In America, the number of atheists and agnostics has quadrupled over the last 20 years.

Author Philip Yancey observes: "As I travel, I have observed a pattern, a strange historical phenomenon of God 'moving' geographically from the Middle East, to Europe to North America to the developing world. My theory is this: God goes where he's wanted."36 The fact is clear: God goes where he's welcome and changes the world wherever he goes.

What God's word means

Paul has already explained that " flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable" (v. 50). Now he returns to this fact: Before we can enter God's perfect heaven, this corruptible ("destructible, perishable") body must ("it is necessary that") put on ("clothe itself with") incorruption ("that which is imperishable") and our mortal ("perishable") body with immortality.

When the "last trumpet" sounds, the battle is over (v. 52). Our battle with corruption and death will end in victory as we achieve incorruption and immortality. When we put on such victorious garments, we will say with the prophet,

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10).

Why Easter matters

On Easter Sunday, Jesus rose from the dead in a body that could appear through locked doors (John 20:19) and ascend to heaven (Acts 1:9). Because he could exchange corruptible for incorruptible and mortal for immortality, we can as well.

How to respond

Now Jesus continues his Kingdom advance through his followers, the "body of Christ" (1 Corinthians 12:27). His Spirit dwells in us as his temple (1 Corinthians 3:16). As Jesus made his home in a fishing village and a tax-collector's house, then in the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus on Holy Wednesday, he makes his home in us. In fact, he goes anywhere people will make him their King and serve to advance his Kingdom.

Would he say he is welcome as King in your home and your heart? How is your life advancing his Kingdom today?

Today in the PC-USA Mission Yearbook

The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is a daily devotional with 365 inspiring mission stories that come from next door and all across the globe. It inspires thousands of Presbyterians daily as they uphold the mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in intercessory prayer. How often have you wondered, where are the young adults in the PC(USA)? Wonder no longer. The 2014 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is devoted to the theme of young adults in the church. Its stories, many told by young adults, lift up how Presbyterians of all ages are engaging and joining with Presbyterian young adults in reforming the church for Christ’s mission.

Today in the Mission Yearbook: April 16, 2014


PRESBYTERY OF OLYMPIA, WASHINGTON - It’s a new day in Olympia Presbytery. When beloved general presbyter Rev. Lynn Longfield stepped down after 16 years at the end of 2012, the presbytery set about reimagining its future. Under Rev. Longfield’s leadership a futures task force had developed a mission statement and a plan. To help implement that plan, Rev. Dr. Keith Tanis was brought on board as transitional executive presbyter. He has established two cohorts of congregations to begin a journey toward missional transformation. He also is coaching the pastors of these congregations in missional leadership

CLICK HERE to read more.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Invitation to Prayer: Tomorrow ... NEW Location

Faces of Children is an ecumenical prayer ministry under the auspices of First Presbyterian Church of Midland, Texas. Our mission is to initiate ministries of prayer for children in churches, communities, and neighborhoods. In doing so, we seek to provide an opportunity for people of God to join together, learn about children and their needs throughout the world, and celebrate Christ's love (especially as it relates to children).

Be at Home


“Jesus, in whom the fullness of God dwells, has become our home. By making his home in us, he allows us to make our home in him. By entering into the intimacy of our innermost self, he offers us the opportunity to enter into his own intimacy with God. By choosing us as his preferred dwelling place, he invites us to choose him as our preferred dwelling place. This is the mystery of the incarnation …”

Lifesigns: Intimacy, Fecundity, and Ecstasy in Christian Perspective by Henri J. M. Nouwen

God, my shepherd!
    I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
    you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
    you let me catch my breath
    and send me in the right direction …                   

You serve me a six-course dinner
    right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
    my cup brims with blessing.
 Your beauty and love chase after me
    every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
    for the rest of my life."


Matthew 10:16-20, from The Message by Eugene Peterson

“Everlasting God, you have offered me an intimate place that I can call ‘home’ where I can rest and be healed. Help me accept this true home, where feelings and emotions can be expressed without censorship. Let this home be a place where it is good to be; a house where love is always present. Amen.”

Lent and Easter Wisdom by Henri J. M. Nouwen

A message from Chris Laufer, Coordinator, Faces of Children

Greetings, Faces of Children Intercessor,

The renovation process at First Presbyterian Church, Midland has officially begun and every available inch of space that isn't involved in the renovation continues to be used. Our previous location, room 217, has been cordoned off for asbestos abatement, so we are now meeting in a new conference room, in what was once the weight room in the Family Life Center gym.


Don’t worry, all the furniture from the Bride’s room has been moved there and it is just like what we’re used to (aside from the random basketball hitting the windows ).

The Midland Faces of Children prayer group will meet in this new conference room on Wednesday, April 16, 2014, at 11:30 a.m. at First Presbyterian Church-Midland,You can can park in either the Texas or Illinois street lots next to the Family Life Center and just head toward the gym. You’ll see the new meeting space at the back of the gym. After our time of prayer, we'll have lunch ($5) and fellowship. I hope you will be able to join us.

If you have prayer concerns or celebrations about children, those who care for them, those who have authority over them, or those who harm them (the really hard prayers to say sometimes), please send them to me at at claufer@facesofchildren.net, or give me a call.

Blessings,

Chris

In the News ... "'ReStore' Needing Volunteers to Help Habitat Housing Thrive"

By Alicia Neaves, Reporter
KWES-TV

ODESSA, TEXAS - Midland Habitat for Humanity helps build homes for less fortunate families. While their construction is thriving, their retail store that supports them is taking a hit. Simply put, they don't have enough volunteers. This could ultimately affect the number of homes they can build.

"ReStore volunteers have always been hard to attract because the visual of a construction site is so alluring. But the need here remains and we just need a lot of help here," Alynda Best, Executive Director of Midland Habitat for Humanity, said.

It's where furniture and building supplies are donated, ready to re-shelf and re-sell. Midland Habitat for Humanity's ReStore actually helps pay for their housing ministry.

"Our store not only helps Habitat. It's also a huge recycling center so it helps the entire community," Best said.

While the crowds come in to bag these hot deals, their amount of volunteers is struggling to pick up.

 • read/watch the rest of this story 


From @JimDenison ... Lenten Devotional for Tuesday, April 15

James C. Denison, Ph.D., is a subject matter expert on cultural and contemporary issues. He founded the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, a nonsectarian "think tank" designed to engage contemporary issues with biblical truth in 2009. In the introduction for his 2014 collection of Lenten devotionals, "Resurrection: Finding Your Victory in Christ," Denison writes, "The world's religions are based on what religious teachers said — Christianity is based on what Jesus did. The fact that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead is still changing our world 20 centuries later."

CLICK HERE for a free copy of Dr. Denison's 2014 Advent Devotional (in a downloadable/printable Adobe .pdf file)


DAY 42
Tuesday, April 15

 

... in a ash, in a blink of an eye, at the last trumpet; for a trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed ... (1 Corinthians 15:52)

On Holy Tuesday, Jesus returns to the Temple to continue teaching the people. His enemies cannot arrest him, for he is too popular. He's not staying in the city at night where they can capture him under cover of darkness, so they must discredit him before the crowds.

The Pharisees, a political group that opposes Jesus' movement, ask him a trick question: "Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?" (Matthew 22:17). If he says that it is not, the Roman soldiers standing guard will arrest him for insurrection. If he says that it is, the Jews who hate the Romans will reject him. Either way, they win.

After asking for a Roman coin, Jesus asks, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?" (v. 20). "Caesar's," they reply. "Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's," he answers (v. 21). The Pharisees are amazed and leave in defeat (v. 22).

So a second group arrives, called the Sadducees. They want to prove the illogic of the resurrection and thus of Jesus' teachings. So they ask him their own trick question: a woman's husband dies, so she is married to his brother, which was the custom of the land. But he dies, and so on through seven brothers. Which one will be her husband in the afterlife (vs. 23-28)?

Jesus replies by citing one of their own Scriptures in which God says: "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (v. 32, quoting Exodus 3:6). Not "I was" but "I am." He is God of the dead and the living. The Sadducees leave defeated while the crowd is astounded (v. 33).

A lawyer then asks Jesus to identify the most important of their 613 laws. If he names one, they will accuse him of rejecting the others. Jesus responds with the Great Commandments: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself (vs. 37, 39). The lawyer is impressed.

In response to their rejection of him, Jesus foresees the day when their massive temple will be destroyed (Matthew 24:1-2). His prediction came true when Titus, the Roman general, burned and demolished the temple in A.D. 70. It has never been rebuilt.

Religious legalism rejected and crucifi ed Jesus. How is that fact relevant to you?

What God's word means

How will we be "changed" when Jesus returns for us (1 Corinthians 15:51)? When? Paul continues: in a ash (atamos, "indivisible," from which we get "atom"; a metaphor for the smallest measurable moment of time), in the blink of an eye (a metaphor for the fastest measurable movement, used only here in the New Testament). St. Augustine uses the second metaphor to make this point: The glance of our eye does not reach nearer objects more quickly and distant ones more slowly. Rather, it reaches both with equal speed. Similarly when, as the apostle says, the resurrection of the dead is eff ected in the twinkling of an eye, it is as easy for the omnipotence of God and his awe-inspiring authority to raise the recently dead as those long since fallen into decay.35

This transformation will come at the last (eschatos, "fi nal"; we get "eschatology" from this word) trumpet (an instrument often used to summon the people into God's presence; cf. Exodus 19:16; 1 Thessalonians 4:16). A trumpet will sound—note the assurance and certainty of Paul's statement. In that moment, the dead will be raised ("awakened, restored") incorruptible ("imperishable, undecaying, immortal") and we will be changed ("altered, transformed").

Isaiah predicted a day when "a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were lost in the land of Assyria and those who were driven out to the land of Egypt will come and worship the Lord on the holy mountain at Jerusalem" (Isaiah 27:13). Jesus used this metaphor when he taught that God "will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matthew 24:31).

Why Easter matters

Our resurrection depends on Jesus' resurrection. Not on the religious zeal of a Pharisee, the intellectual sophistication of a Sadducee, or the biblical knowledge of a theological scholar. If he was raised, we will be raised. Since he was raised, we will be raised.

How to respond

Jesus' opponents were the most religious people in the land. On Holy Tuesday we learn that religion is not enough. Going to church or even preaching sermons and leading congregations is not enough.

God wants a personal, intimate relationship with every one of us. He wants to be King of every part of our lives, not just our religious activities.

But we are fallen people living in a fallen world. If we do not put him on the throne of our lives, intentionally and consciously, we are on that throne. Have you made him your King yet today?

Today in the PC-USA Mission Yearbook

The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is a daily devotional with 365 inspiring mission stories that come from next door and all across the globe. It inspires thousands of Presbyterians daily as they uphold the mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in intercessory prayer. How often have you wondered, where are the young adults in the PC(USA)? Wonder no longer. The 2014 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is devoted to the theme of young adults in the church. Its stories, many told by young adults, lift up how Presbyterians of all ages are engaging and joining with Presbyterian young adults in reforming the church for Christ’s mission.

Today in the Mission Yearbook: April 15, 2014


PRESBYTERY OF NORTH PUGET SOUND, WASHINGTON - “Hey coach, what’s your job?” asked the inquisitive eight-year-old in the middle of soccer practice. I was talking to my team about the next drill and the passing technique that they were working on, so it caught me a little off guard. My first instinct was to move on, to redirect the conversation to the task at hand by gently saying to the child, “We can talk about it later.” But “later” usually doesn’t come, and one of the main reasons I was out on that field was to connect with those kids and their families and to share the gospel of Jesus. So I answered, “Well . . . I’m a pastor.” The child’s response was not what I expected: “A pastor! What’s that?”

CLICK HERE to read more.

Monday, April 14, 2014

ChinaAid: "Presenting Courage Award to DC-area human rights activists"

The China Aid Association is a non-profit Christian organization - based in Midland, Texas - with a mission to uncover and reveal the truth about religious persecution in China, focusing especially on the unofficial church. They do this, they explain in their website, by exposing the abuses, encouraging the abused and equipping the saints to advance the kingdom of God throughout China.

Michael Horowitz, Devra Marcus and Bob Fu
China Aid presents Courage Award to DC-area human rights activists

Distributed by ChinaAid, March, 2014 ...

MIDLAND, TEXAS – China Aid presented the Courage Award to Michael Horowitz and Devra Marcus last Friday during the 2014 Vision Banquet for their outstanding bravery in their efforts to advocate for religious freedom and human rights in China.

At the banquet Pastor Bob Fu, founder and president of China Aid, told attendees about China Aid’s mission to expose the abuses, encourage the abused and equip the leaders.


more on this story from China Aid

Invitation to Prayer: Wednesday ... NEW Location

Faces of Children is an ecumenical prayer ministry under the auspices of First Presbyterian Church of Midland, Texas. Our mission is to initiate ministries of prayer for children in churches, communities, and neighborhoods. In doing so, we seek to provide an opportunity for people of God to join together, learn about children and their needs throughout the world, and celebrate Christ's love (especially as it relates to children).

Be at Home


“Jesus, in whom the fullness of God dwells, has become our home. By making his home in us, he allows us to make our home in him. By entering into the intimacy of our innermost self, he offers us the opportunity to enter into his own intimacy with God. By choosing us as his preferred dwelling place, he invites us to choose him as our preferred dwelling place. This is the mystery of the incarnation …”

Lifesigns: Intimacy, Fecundity, and Ecstasy in Christian Perspective by Henri J. M. Nouwen

God, my shepherd!
    I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
    you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
    you let me catch my breath
    and send me in the right direction …                   

You serve me a six-course dinner
    right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
    my cup brims with blessing.
 Your beauty and love chase after me
    every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
    for the rest of my life."


Matthew 10:16-20, from The Message by Eugene Peterson

“Everlasting God, you have offered me an intimate place that I can call ‘home’ where I can rest and be healed. Help me accept this true home, where feelings and emotions can be expressed without censorship. Let this home be a place where it is good to be; a house where love is always present. Amen.”

Lent and Easter Wisdom by Henri J. M. Nouwen

A message from Chris Laufer, Coordinator, Faces of Children

Greetings, Faces of Children Intercessor,

The renovation process at First Presbyterian Church, Midland has officially begun and every available inch of space that isn't involved in the renovation continues to be used. Our previous location, room 217, has been cordoned off for asbestos abatement, so we are now meeting in a new conference room, in what was once the weight room in the Family Life Center gym.


Don’t worry, all the furniture from the Bride’s room has been moved there and it is just like what we’re used to (aside from the random basketball hitting the windows ).

The Midland Faces of Children prayer group will meet in this new conference room on Wednesday, April 16, 2014, at 11:30 a.m. at First Presbyterian Church-Midland,You can can park in either the Texas or Illinois street lots next to the Family Life Center and just head toward the gym. You’ll see the new meeting space at the back of the gym. After our time of prayer, we'll have lunch ($5) and fellowship. I hope you will be able to join us.

If you have prayer concerns or celebrations about children, those who care for them, those who have authority over them, or those who harm them (the really hard prayers to say sometimes), please send them to me at at claufer@facesofchildren.net, or give me a call.

Blessings,

Chris

In the News ... "From slavery to freedom — Passover recalls Jewish history"

By Rabbi Holly Cohn, Special Contributor
Odessa American

ODESSA, TEXAS - Passover, one of three Biblical festivals, begins Monday at sundown. Jews worldwide will gather with friends and family to observe this holiday in which the Jewish people recall the story of the Exodus. This holiday recalls our journey from slavery to freedom. Sadly there are many moments in history when the Jewish people have been enslaved, but thankfully have made it to a time of freedom.

read the rest of this column ...

From @JimDenison ... Lenten Devotional for Monday, April 14

James C. Denison, Ph.D., is a subject matter expert on cultural and contemporary issues. He founded the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, a nonsectarian "think tank" designed to engage contemporary issues with biblical truth in 2009. In the introduction for his 2014 collection of Lenten devotionals, "Resurrection: Finding Your Victory in Christ," Denison writes, "The world's religions are based on what religious teachers said — Christianity is based on what Jesus did. The fact that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead is still changing our world 20 centuries later."

CLICK HERE for a free copy of Dr. Denison's 2014 Advent Devotional (in a downloadable/printable Adobe .pdf file)


DAY 41
Monday, April 14

 

Behold I tell you a mystery: we shall not all fall asleep, but we shall all be changed ... (1 Corinthians 15:51)

It's Monday of Holy Week. Two million people have crowded into Jerusalem for Passover, so Jesus and his disciples are staying with friends in Bethany, a suburb of the Holy City. On their walk to Jerusalem they encounter a g tree on the way, carefully cultivated with beautiful leaves but no fruit.

Immediately Jesus sees in this fruitless fruit tree a symbol of Israel. He says to it, "May no fruit ever come from you again!" and the g tree "withered at once" (Matthew 21:19, 22). The tree looked healthy, but it bore no fruit. And a fruit tree is good only if its fruit is good. According to Jesus, it is the same way with us.

Jesus arrives next at the Temple, where he nds moneychangers at work. People coming to make sacri fices must buy their animals at exorbitant prices, using their currency at astronomical exchange rates. Jesus is outraged for one of the very few times in his ministry. He drives these corrupt merchants out of the temple and cries, "My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers" (Luke 19:46). Then he heals the blind and the lame who come to him in this newly cleansed "house of prayer." The authorities immediately begin plotting to kill him.

After this uproar, Jesus continues teaching in the Temple. Some Gentiles who have come to Passover have heard of him and want to meet him. But Gentiles aren't allowed into the Temple itself, so they nd one of his disciples and say to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus" (John 12:21). Jesus sees their acceptance of his message as fruit of his global movement.

Where in Holy Monday are you?

What God's word means

Paul has assured the Corinthians that Jesus' resurrection guarantees our resurrection from the dead.

But what about those who are still alive when he returns?

Behold ("Listen!") shows the importance of Paul's next statement, one of the most critical in all of Scripture. Paul will tell the Corinthians a mystery ("secret"), something they could not have known apart from the revelation to follow. (This is one of 19 such occurrences of the word in the New Testament.) Here's how the mystery begins: we shall not all fall asleep, meaning that not all Christians will die before Jesus returns. However, we shall all be changed ("altered, transformed"), whether we have died or not. In the next verse, the apostle will clarify this revolutionary revelation.

1 Corinthians was probably written several years before the first Gospel.34 As a result, chapter 15 is God's rst written assurance to the Corinthians that all Christians will be transformed with heavenly bodies. (Paul gave the same assurance to the Thessalonians:


"The dead in Christ will rise fi rst. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air," 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17.) All in verse 51 is emphatic, demonstrating God's inclusion of every believer in his eternal paradise. None of us deserves such favor, but all of us will receive it. How should we respond to such grace?

Why Easter matters

Easter comes with both a promise and a requirement. The promise is that God's love triumphs over death and the grave, for Jesus and for us. The requirement is that we must give the world what God has given to us.

After the women were invited to "come, see the place where he lay," they were immediately commanded to "go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead" (Matthew 28:6, 7). When his disciples met with their risen Lord, "they worshiped him" (v. 17). Immediately Jesus commissioned them to "go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (v. 19).

Easter gives us both the glorious guarantee that we shall all be changed and the staggering privilege of sharing this mystery with the world.

How to respond

John Calvin observed that works do not save, but the saved do work. Holy Monday teaches us that fruit makes the tree, and the soul. The book of James asks, "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?" (James 2:14, NIV). A tree can look good but have no fruit. A man can work in the Temple under the authority of the High Priest himself, but blaspheme God by his money-changing corruption. Gentiles can trust in Christ more than his own Jewish people.

The hard news is that God cares about our attitudes, our thoughts, and our actions more than he cares about our appearance or social status. The good news is that God can use any person who wants to be used, as we respond to his grace with our grateful service.

Has your life been used by the King yet today?

Today in the PC-USA Mission Yearbook

The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is a daily devotional with 365 inspiring mission stories that come from next door and all across the globe. It inspires thousands of Presbyterians daily as they uphold the mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in intercessory prayer. How often have you wondered, where are the young adults in the PC(USA)? Wonder no longer. The 2014 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study is devoted to the theme of young adults in the church. Its stories, many told by young adults, lift up how Presbyterians of all ages are engaging and joining with Presbyterian young adults in reforming the church for Christ’s mission.

Today in the Mission Yearbook: April 14, 2014


PRESBYTERY OF THE INLAND NORTHWEST, IDAHO AND WASHINGTON - During a decade of moonlighting as a restaurant critic, I dropped into the hidden world behind the smiles of those who waited on me, and God ultimately used this experience to shove me out the door to launch a nonprofit to care for those working in the restaurant and hospitality industry.

Why? Three reasons: (1) food-service workers are the largest employment group in the nation; (2) they are incredibly isolated—most working when the rest of us are not; and (3) they face intense stress and have the highest rates of drug and alcohol abuse in the nation. In addition, the industry is the catch basin for the most vulnerable in our culture: at-risk teens, single parents, minorities, new immigrants, and ex-felons trying to put their lives back together.

CLICK HERE to read more.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

From @JimDenison ... Lenten Devotional for Sunday, April 13

James C. Denison, Ph.D., is a subject matter expert on cultural and contemporary issues. He founded the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, a nonsectarian "think tank" designed to engage contemporary issues with biblical truth in 2009. In the introduction for his 2014 collection of Lenten devotionals, "Resurrection: Finding Your Victory in Christ," Denison writes, "The world's religions are based on what religious teachers said — Christianity is based on what Jesus did. The fact that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead is still changing our world 20 centuries later."

CLICK HERE for a free copy of Dr. Denison's 2014 Advent Devotional (in a downloadable/printable Adobe .pdf file)


DAY 40
Palm Sunday, April 13

 

Now this I say, brothers, that flesh and blood are not able to inherit the kingdom of God, neither can corruption inherit incorruption ... (1 Corinthians 15:50)

Passover always occurs in the Spring. It is the greatest season of celebration in the Jewish year, something like Christmas for Christians.

In the third year of Jesus' public ministry, more than two million people crowded into the Holy City, many of them with special excitement. They have heard the stories about this Galilean rabbi, his miraculous powers and rising popularity, and his clashes with the authorities. The question on everyone's lips is, "Will he come?" If we could combine a presidential election with Christmas Day, we'd have something of the electricity in the air that week.

If Jesus came to Jerusalem, there would be no turning back. The authorities were waiting for him like the Gestapo. He could still turn around and retreat to Galilee, healing people and teaching disciples. Or he could go to Jerusalem and ultimately to Calvary. On this Palm Sunday morning, he had to decide.

For the sake your eternal soul, he chose to come to the Holy City and die. Why?

What God's word means

Paul has shown the Corinthians the reasonableness of the resurrection. Now he closes 1 Corinthians 15 by showing them its relevance to their lives, here and in eternity.

Now this I say, brothers could be translated, "Now this I solemnly and emphatically a rm, fellow Christians." This is the rst time in our chapter he has introduced a concept with such a weighty statement. Flesh and blood refers to our present mortal nature. Are not able means "do not have the power or capacity to accomplish." The apostle allows for no exceptions—no human being is able to inherit ("acquire, obtain") the kingdom of God (that realm where God is King).

Why not? Because corruption ("dissolution, destruction") cannot inherit incorruption ("incorruptibility, immortality"). God dwells in incorruptible perfection; we are corrupted creatures. The Lord can no more allow us into his paradise as we are than a surgeon can allow a homeless person into an operating room. Your last sin and mine would be enough to spoil his perfect heaven.

If we are not transformed from corruption to incorruption, we can have no hope of eternal life with our Father. Such transformation is only possible by divine decision and action. Rebels can be admitted into the Kingdom only by the grace of the King.

Why Easter matters

Five centuries before Palm Sunday, the prophet Zechariah had predicted: "Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey" (Zechariah 9:9, NIV). Military conquerors rode on white stallions; men of peace always rode on lowly donkeys. This King would come to his rebellious realm in peace, the prophet claimed.

What would he do when he arrives? Zechariah continues: "He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the [Euphrates] River to the ends of the earth" (v. 10, NIV). What would he do for the crowds milling about Jerusalem this day? "As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit" (v. 11, NIV). He would transform corruption into incorruption, sinful people into sancti fied children, rebels into worshipers.

The prophet promised his people a King who would overthrow their enemies and free them forever, who would rule the entire world from sea to sea and to the ends of the earth. How would they know it was he? He would come to Jerusalem on a donkey, a symbol of peace.

Today the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:7) comes in peace to you.

How to respond

Where in Palm Sunday are you?

The crowds cheered on Sunday but cried "Crucify!" on Friday. I'm in the crowd if I cheer Jesus when he's popular and reject him when he's not. If I worship him for what he will do for me, but refuse what he asks me to do for him. I've been in this crowd. Have you?

What about the religious authorities? Surely none of us would reject Jesus and his claims to be Lord and King. None of us would refuse him his throne in our hearts and lives. None of us would choose our own ambition, or popularity, or status over him—would we? I've been among the authorities. Have you?

What about his disciples, amazed and thrilled by Palm Sunday? They've seen Jesus' power and hoped he was the Messiah—now they have proof of it. They are no longer the lonely faithful. Now they are heroes along with him, leaders in this movement of such promise. But of course, in ve days they forsook him and ed. When they had to risk their lives for his, they refused. When their faith came at a cost, they were bankrupt. I've been among the disciples. Have you?

Consider one other option. On Palm Sunday, the donkey had the greatest honor of all: it carried Jesus. The donkey carried him to Jerusalem for Easter, just as a donkey had carried his mother to Bethlehem for Christmas. The donkey brought Jesus to the people he came to save. In the midst of a fi ckle crowd, prideful authorities, and faithless disciples, the donkey did its job. It alone was faithful.

And now Jesus asks me to love him enough to be his donkey. To carry him to the ckle, prideful, faithless people who need him. To tell his story and share his love in mine. The donkey doesn't matter—only the One it bears.

God still rides a donkey. Will you be his donkey this week?

From @austinseminary ... Devotional for Palm Sunday

Written by professors, graduates, and others in the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary community, these reflections, prayers, and spiritual practices will take you along the journey with Jesus through the cross toward resurrection.


Day 40
Sunday, April 13, 2014

Philippians 2:5–11

Palm and Passion Sunday is the start of Holy Week, the beginning of a week that leads to the cross and, through it, to Easter joy. Some years ago it was possible to liturgically skip from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, to celebrate Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem singing the “Glad Hosannas the Little Children Sang.” Then, the very next Sunday, we’d return in the joy of the Resurrection singing “Jesus Christ is Risen Today.” Of course that meant we might bypass going to the cross, experiencing the suffering, the betrayal, the terror, the horror. So now we try to balance both moods in one festival day. The challenge to us from Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi helps with that aim.

The passage has two essential movements: emptied and exalted. Paul encourages us to be of the same mind as the sacrificially emptied, now exalted, Savior. We are invited to live a dynamic process that tilts the creation toward knowledge of how the creator operates. Paul suggests that we Christians make the model of Jesus emptied and exalted instructive for our daily living.

To be absolutely emptied and absolutely filled is to be reminded of the in between. Our ordinary lives are lived somewhere between starving and stuffed. That is often where we hang out: between exhausted and energized. We hope that this Lenten season has helped us practice our faith beyond our norms. In Jewish tradition, the household preparation for Passover, the feast of unleavened bread, involves a search for old leavened products, (chametz) all must be swept away; not even a crumb must remain. My friend, a nutritionist in a Jewish nursing home, told of how the scouring and emptying of cupboards and bins was a spiritual discipline for her: to be emptied of the old year’s leaven enhanced her understanding of being filled with new joy in the Lord.

One of the pivotal words in this text is the Greek harpagmos. Snatch or seize. Jesus Christ did not consider his “equality with God” something to cling to and seize hold of. Christ emptied himself and surrendered to suffering even death on the shameful cross, the death row of that long-ago empire.

What have we seized upon that we refuse to let go, becoming empty? How can we practice emptiness? How can we incorporate fresh expressions of the experience of having the same mind as Christ? One balancing practice suggested in rabbinical tradition may be instructive:

One way, says Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Psischke (1765–1827), is to always carry two notes in your pockets. The one in the right pocket reads: “The world was created for my sake.” The one in the left pocket reads: “I am but dust and ashes.”

What will we keep in our two pockets this Palm and Passion Sunday as we seek to have the same mind as Jesus Christ our Lord? For me one pocket note will be: “Was I there when they crucified my Lord?” and the other “He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today!”

Gracious God, in your mercy make Christ’s journey into Jerusalem and to the cross real for us today. Empty us of anything that separates us from your love and fill us with wonder in your divine salvation through our exalted Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord.

– The Reverend Dr. Rose Niles
Development Officer, Houston



For the glory of God and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary is a seminary in the Presbyterian-Reformed tradition whose mission is to educate and equip individuals for the ordained Christian ministry and other forms of Christian service and leadership; to employ its resources in the service of the church; to promote and engage in critical theological thought and research; and to be a winsome and exemplary community of God's people.