How can they call on the One in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" ~Romans 10:14-15, Isaiah 52:7
This is my watercolor painting of the Chapel of Ease at St. Helena Island, South Carolina. In times before the automobile, there were many remote locations where people lived who could not regularly travel to the main parish church. The chapel of ease was the outstretched arm of the larger church, a beautiful picture of an outreach ministry to share the Good News. This building, constructed between 1742 and 1747 and destroyed by forest fire in 1886, may be in ruins, but hopefully the Gospel lives on in the lives of the descendants who attended here.
Enjoy this music:
For more information on this historic place:
The Lord Is In His Holy Temple
In the Lord I take refuge;
how can you say to my soul,
"Flee like a bird to your mountain,
for behold, the wicked bend the bow;
they have fitted their arrow to the string
to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;
if the foundations are destroyed,
what can the righteous do?"
The Lord is in His holy temple;
the Lord's throne is in heaven;
His eyes see, His eyelids test the children of man.
The Lord tests the righteous,
but His soul hates the one who loves violence.
Let Him rain coals on the wicked;
fire and sulfur and a scorching wind
shall be the portion of their cup.
For the Lord is righteous;
He loves righteous deeds;
the upright shall behold His face.
Make no mistake, the enemy never rests. He lives to create chaos and to silence God's people. At times it can be so intense that we can wonder if God can hear us crying out to Him. The uproar around us is so loud, yet there is His still small voice. He wants us to make the effort to listen, even amidst all of the madness. That is the rest, His rest.
It is okay to think, "what in the world is happening?" We do need to keep watch so that we can know how to pray, but how can we stay calm and focused? Jesus slept in a boat as a storm raged. His disciples panicked and cried in fear that they would drown. Jesus said, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" (Matthew 8:23-27) Easier said than done, right? We do need reminders that He is sovereign.
We should expect our faith to be tested from time to time and should not be surprised when wicked people are..... wicked. It seems like our participation is never enough, and it isn't and shouldn't be because it's God's work. He is the way maker. We show faith by our participation and even if we die trying, then we dine with Him at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
The enemy calls evil good and good evil, so if we are to hate evil we should be familiar with the Word's definition of good vs. evil. As opposed to the fruit of the Holy Spirit, wickedness consists of sexual immorality, (any sexual act outside a God ordained marriage between one man and one woman), open pride and arrogance in expressing it, worshiping other gods, seeking counsel from familiar spirits (fortune telling, horoscopes, tarot cards, astral projection, drugs, etc.), hatred, strife, jealousy, rage, murder (killing of innocent - abortion, revenge, etc.), slander, selfishness (putting personal feelings and desires first), drunkenness, carousing, holding strong opinions that are contrary to God's Word, promoting and teaching others that any or all of these activities are acceptable and good.
One simply cannot follow Christ and continually live this way. (Galatians 5:19-21) One must repent.
When wickedness is dealt with reasonably, quickly and thoroughly, physical fighting and wars can be avoided, but when it is ignored and tolerated, the enemy grows large and angry. Unfortunately, this seems to be the worldly situation we are close to now. So what do we do? Pray for our leaders and for our enemies. Stand firm in truth and in love. (Ephesians 4:15) Continue practicing the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness (being courageous, strong, humble, and confident in the Lord), and self control, (Galatians 5:22-26), persevere (James 1:12), protect (1 Corinthians 13).
Remember heroes of the faith such as Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Caleb, Ruth, Samuel, David, Daniel, Esther, Mary & Joseph, Jesus, Peter, Paul, John, Priscilla & Aquila. Also look at historical figures such as Polycarp, John Huss, Joan of Arc, William Tyndale, Tzar Nicholas of Russia and family, Corrie Ten Boom, C. S. Lewis, Catherine Booth, Thomas Jefferson, Fanny Crosby, Deitrich Bonhoeffer, Paul Revere, Harriet Tubman, Leonardo Da Vinci, Rosa Parks, Asa Bibi, Frederick Douglas, Martin Luther, Sophie Scholl, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mercy Otis Warren, Isaac Newton, Amy Charmichael, Rifqa Bary, Galileo Galilei, David Livingstone, Gladys Aylward, Bilquis Sheikh, etc. Whether you agree or not with their sincerity of faith, they were used by God for His good purposes for what they are each most known and recognized for. I would encourage study and research, many of whom have biographies.
Recommended reading (books I've read): God's Generals- books by Robert Liardon, The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, Hiding in the Light by Rifqa Bary, Bonhoeffer - Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Mataxes
An encouraging word in the video below:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble. ~Psalm 46:1
We think of Martin Luther as a great reformer, Bible translator, political leader, fiery preacher, and theologian. But he was also a musician, having been born in an area of Germany known for it's music. There in his little Thuringian village, young Martin grew up listening to his mother sing. He joined a boys choir that sang at weddings and funerals. He became proficient with the flute (recorder), and his volcanic emotions often erupted in song.
When the protestant reformation began, Luther determined to restore worship to the German Church. He worked with skilled musicians to create new music for Christians, to be sung in the vernacular. He helped revive congregational singing and wrote a number of hymns.
Often he "borrowed" popular secular melodies for his hymns, though occasionally a tune brought criticism and he was "compelled to let the devil have it back again" because it was too closely associated with bars and taverns.
In the forward of a book, Luther once wrote: "Next to the word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world. It controls our thoughts, minds, and spirits.... A person who... does not regard music as a marvelous creation of God ... does not deserve to be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs."
Luther's most famous hymn is "Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott," --- "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." Based on Psalm 46, it reflects Luther's awareness of our intense struggle with Satan. In difficulty and danger, Luther would often resort to this song, saying to his associate, "Come, Philipp, let us sing the 46th Psalm."
This is a difficult hymn to translate because the original German is so vivid. At least 80 English versions are available. The most popular in America was done by Frederic Henry Hodge, but an older version appeared in the Pennsylvania Lutheran Church Book of 1868:
A mighty fortress is our God, A trusty Shield and Weapon;
He helps us free from every need, That hath us now o'ertaken.
The British version of "A Mighty Fortress" is Thomas Carlyle's translation:
A safe stronghold our God is still, A trusty shield and weapon;
He'll help us clear from all the ill, That hath us now o'ertaken.
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
A mighty fortress is our God. A bulwark never failing;
Our helper He amid the flood Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe Doth seek to work us woe
His craft and power are great And armed with cruel hate
On earth is not His equal.
Did we in our own strength confide Our striving would be losing,
Were not the right man on our side, The Man of God's own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He
Lord Saboath His name, From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
And though this world with devils filled, Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear for God hath willed, His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim, We tremble not for him
His rage we can endure, For lo, his doom is sure;
One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers, No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours Through Him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also,
The body they may kill; God's truth abideth still;
His kingdom is forever.
Special thanks to Robert J Morgan for another wonderful excerpt from Then Sings My Soul: 250 of the World's Greatest Hymn Stories. Also enjoy the following links:
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God - Matt Boswell
The "high church" version is always uplifting: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
As we get closer to Christ's return, we should consider all of the possibilities of players and scenarios, regardless of our personal End Times theology. Preparation means to beware, to avoid being deceived by an ever persistent enemy. Keep watch, Beloved ones, and do not fear. It's a long video, but worth the watch: Revelation: The Bride, the Beast & Babylon
Passover - Nisan 14, 5779, (April 20-21, 2019)
Unleavened Bread - April 20-26
First Fruits - April 21
You are to observe the Feast of Harvest, the first fruits of your labors that you sow in the field... ~Exodus 23:16
For I also passed on to you first of all what I also received - that Messiah died for our sins (Passover) according to the Scriptures, that He was buried (Unleavened Bread), that He was raised on the third day (First Fruits), according to the Scriptures... ~1 Corinthians 15:3-4
Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? Now the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, Who keeps giving us the victory through our Lord Yeshua the Messiah! ~1 Corinthians 15:55-57
So, there is not much as far as house construction going on right now. Workers are catching up due to much rain and we are not on their priority list. But, we have projects that we can work on in the mean time. My drainage ditch has expanded into a garden.
If we are honest. it can get wearisome doing good, especially when we don't see progress. Lord, did I pray for patience or humility or something? lol How long is due season? And what kind of harvest are we talking about here?
The key? Do NOT Give Up! Let me say that again, DO NOT GIVE UP!!! Don't worry, I'm not. I just have to say/write it out loud sometimes for encouragement. If we sow good, we will reap good, no matter how long it takes.
This principle works whether you're building a house, planting a garden, sitting in traffic, or waiting and praying for your lost loved ones to get saved. Shalom Shalom!!!
Here is my husband's project, an office, with an eventual half moon cutout on the door, for the most serious of paperwork. It beats the woods.
On Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019, six terrorist bombs ripped through churches and hotels in the city of Columbo, Sri Lanka, killing 290 and injuring 500. “The bombings were the deadliest attack on Christians in South Asia in recent memory and punctuated a rising trend of religious-based violence in the region” (Bastians, Gettleman, Schultz).
Persecution International reports that an April 14, 2019 attack on a Christian church in Akwanga County, Nasarawa State, Nigeria resulted in the deaths of seventeen people attending an infant dedication ceremony. The mother and baby were both killed in the attack, while the father is in critical condition.
Open Doors USA states that “According to The Pew Research Center, over 75% of the world’s population lives in areas with severe religious restrictions (and many of these people are Christians). Also, according to the United States Department of State, Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution from their governments or surrounding neighbors simply because of their belief in Jesus Christ.”
God’s Church on earth is composed not of individual buildings or denominations, but of individual people, who compose the Body of Christ. Jesus is the Head of the Body and the Chief Corner Stone upon which the Church of God is built.
Our body is all our physical parts: head, arms, legs, torso. A body can also be an organization or a group of people and a body can describe the main part of a building, like a church or a temple. As it is with our physical bodies, our spiritual body – the Body of Christ – although composed of many parts, operates as a whole organism and anything that affects one part of the Body affects the whole.
This can be true because the Body of Christ, unlike a simple organization of people, is created not through fiat but because as believers in the gospel of Christ we are baptized into one Spirit.
The Message translation says it this way: “You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
This larger, more comprehensive approach to understanding the magnitude of the connection between all believers in the lordship of Christ is best begun by acknowledging that when one member of the Body suffers, the whole Church of God and the entire Body of Christ is affected. Paul wrote this to the church at Corinth exhorting them, “…that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:25-26 ESV).
Violent persecution of Christians and the desecration of church buildings is increasing worldwide (Open Doors USA). But what can we do as both members of the Body of Christ and as individual Christians to support our brothers and sisters who may be suffering in areas that we cannot reach, or whose persecutions are not being reported by the news media?
There are many organizations, such as Open Doors USA, Persecution International, Franklin Graham’s World Medical Mission and the American Center for Law and Justice who work tirelessly providing information to the public along with food, shelter, medical care and legal support to persecuted Christians (and others) worldwide. Each of them and so many other ministries would appreciate any financial help we can give them, and we will provide links to these organizations, below.
In addition to that, and even more importantly, as members of one Body, although it may be difficult for us to reach across oceans and continents to succor our brothers and sisters who are suffering in Sri Lanka or Nigeria, each of us has been granted full access to the throne of our Father in heaven through the Blood of Jesus Christ. When the distance we must travel to touch the lives of those who suffer exceeds our reach, there is no impediment to our reaching out to God in prayer. He is the One who fills all things, and nothing can exceed his grasp.
When Jesus’ followers asked him to teach them how to pray, he said,
“Pray then like this:
‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil’” (Matthew 6:9-13 ESV).
Jesus instructs us to pray not only for ourselves, but to “our” Father. When we pray for God’s will to prevail, for God to sustain us and equip us, for God to lead us and deliver us, we are praying for the entire Body of Christ and all the saints. Although Jesus said that we are to pray to our Father in secret (Matthew 6:6-7), he did not say that we are to pray for ourselves alone, but to “our” Father, for “our” needs. Jesus instructs us to pray for the whole Body of Christ.
Beyond that, and even before that, in Matthew 5:43-44, Jesus said “’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…’” (ESV).
When we pray for the Body of Christ, we must also pray for all those who are lost. When we pray for the persecuted, we must also pray for the persecutors. When we pray for the good, we must also pray for those who do not yet know the difference between what is good and what is evil.
“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 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” (Matthew 5:44-48 ESV).
Jesus is the head of the Body of Christ. He has given instructions to his Body, the Church, on how to pray. This is the time when we must come together in Spirit and in Truth, as his Body, and pray to Almighty God, our Father, for protection and strength for all the saints and for his will to prevail for all people, on earth as it is in heaven.
Links to websites:
American Center for Law and Justice: https://www.aclj.org/
Graham, Franklin. Samaritan’s Purse, World Medical Mission: https://www.samaritanspurse.org/medical/serve-with-world-medical-mission/
Persecution International Christian Concern: https://www.persecution.org/category/news/
Bastians, Dharisha, Gettlemen, Jeffrey, and Schultz, Kai. “Sri Lanka Bomb Attacks Targeting Christians Kill Hundreds”. The New York Times. 21 April, 2019. Web.https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/21/world/asia/sri-lanka-bombings.html . 22 April, 2019.
Open Doors. “WHERE DOES CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION OCCUR?”. Open Doors USA. n.d. Web. https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/where-does-christian-persecution-occur/ . 22 April, 2019.
Persecution International. “17 Christians Massacred During Celebration in Nigeria”. Persecution International. 21 April, 2019. Web. https://www.persecution.org/2019/04/21/17-christians-massacred-celebration-nigeria/ . 22 April, 2019.
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.
And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.
But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.’
So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me’” (Matthew 28:1-10 ESV).
Can you imagine the women’s shock and excitement when the shining angel showed them the empty tomb where Jesus had been buried? And even more so when Jesus himself met them with a message for his disciples.
John’s gospel recounts that Jesus said to Mary Magdalene outside the tomb, “…say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (20:17b KJV).
Where did Jesus go before he showed himself to the disciples after his resurrection? What did he do? What does it mean that Jesus ascended unto his Father and our Father?
Fulfilling a Messianic prophecy in Psalm 68:18, Paul describes that “When he [Messiah] ascended on high, he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”
(In saying, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions of the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all heavens, that he might fill all things)” (4:8-10).
God had a plan.
Jesus descended into the lowest parts of the earth, and he ascended far above all heavens, that he might fill all things. Colossians 1:18-20 says that Jesus is “…the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (ESV).
Jesus descended into the lowest parts of the earth, and he ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things and reconcile (bring together or put to rights) through himself all things, whether in earth or in heaven, making peace between God and mankind by the blood of his cross.
Paul continues in Ephesians 4:11-13, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds [pastors] and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (ESV).
These are the gifts Jesus gave to men and women, after he ascended on high. What could be the purpose of these gifts: evangelists, pastors, teachers, prophets, apostles? Where do we see these gifts manifesting today?
Paul wrote that “…speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way unto him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:15-16 ESV).
In Colossians 1:18, Paul wrote that Jesus is “…the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent” (ESV).
Jesus descended into the lowest parts of the earth and ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things and reconcile all things to himself by the blood of his cross; and when he returned – having conquered death - he gave gifts to men and women so that they might become evangelists, pastors, teachers, apostles, prophets – so that he would be preeminent in all things as the head of the body of Christ, which is the church.
The apostle Peter wrote, “…you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5 ESV), describing the body of Christ as living stones built upon Christ who is the Chief Corner Stone, to become the church – God’s spiritual house on earth.
When Jesus reconciled all things to himself through the blood of his cross, he activated the template of the body of Christ which is the church. When he returned, he gave gifts to the church “…to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…” (Ephesians 4:12 ESV).
By the time Jesus appeared to his disciples in Galilee after his resurrection, he had already established the body of Christ and the church in reconciling all things unto himself by the blood of his cross, and would breathe life into his new creation fifty days later, at Pentecost (see Acts chapter 2).
At the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus reassures his disciples and instructs them in the Great Commission, which would spread the good news of salvation throughout the world:
“And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (28:17-20 ESV).
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17 ESV).
“Who believes what we’ve heard and seen?
Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?
The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed.
We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.
We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong,
on him, on him.
He was beaten, he was tortured,
but he didn’t say a word.
Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
and like a sheep being sheared,
he took it all in silence.
Justice miscarried, and he was led off—
and did anyone really know what was happening?
He died without a thought for his own welfare,
beaten bloody for the sins of my people.
They buried him with the wicked,
threw him in a grave with a rich man,
Even though he’d never hurt a soul
or said one word that wasn’t true.
Still, it’s what God had in mind all along,
to crush him with pain.
The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin
so that he’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life.
And God’s plan will deeply prosper through him.
Out of that terrible travail of soul,
he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it.
Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant,
will make many “righteous ones,”
as he himself carries the burden of their sins.
Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly—
the best of everything, the highest honors—
Because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch,
because he embraced the company of the lowest.
He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many,
he took up the cause of all the black sheep.”
The Message translation
(1) Passion City Church. “Good Friday:: You Need Not Say Goodbye” Youtube. Youtube, 14 April, 2017. Web. 14 April, 2019.
(2) Igniter Media. "Sunday's Comin'". Youtube. Youtube. 25 May, 2010. Web. 14 April, 2019. ("The voice for Sunday's Comin' is Pastor John L. Jefferson.")
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
Isaiah 43:2 ESV
We lift the people of France to God in prayer, for consolation and for peace. We pray for the safety of all those fighting the fire at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris; and for all the people of the world grieving this great loss, as we grieve with you.
Que Dieu soit avec toi.