Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. Hebrews 13:5.
A dear friend of mine sent me a text message that said, “I am so glad we can tell each other the good, the bad, and the ugly!” We have been friends for many years, and we have learned to share our joys and our failures. We recognize we are far from perfect, so we share our struggles but we also rejoice in each other’s successes.
David and Jonathan had a solid friendship too, beginning with the good days of David’s victory over Goliath. 1 Sam. 18:1–4. They shared their fears during the bad days of Jonathan’s father’s jealousy. I Sam. 18:6–11; 20:1–2. Finally, they suffered together during the ugly days of Saul’s plans to kill David. 1 Sam. 20:42.
Real friendships are a gift from God.
Good friends don’t abandon us when external circumstances change. They stay with us through the good and the bad days. Good friends also may point us to God in the ugly days, when we may feel tempted to walk away from our Lord.
Real friendships are a gift from God because they exemplify the perfect Friend, who remains loyal through the good, the bad, and the ugly days. As the Lord reminds us, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Heb. 13:5. – Keila Ochoa. Daily Bread.
Prayer: Dear Lord, I thank You for the good friends You have placed in my life, but above all, I thank You for Your friendship.
Almighty, all-merciful God,
through Christ Jesus you have taught us to love one another,
to love our neighbors as ourselves,
and even to love our enemies.
In times of violence and fear,
let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts,
so that we may not be overcome with evil
but overcome evil with good.
Help us to see each person in light of the love and grace
you have shown us in Christ.
Put away the nightmares of terror
and awaken us to the dawning of your new creation.
Establish among us a future where peace reigns,
justice is done with mercy, and all are reconciled.
We ask these things in the name
and for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
– Prayers for Times of National and International Crisis and Tragedy.
They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. Isaiah 2:4.
Project Ploughshares, Ontario Canada.
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
for the Community.
Modern Song Focus on Contemporary Church Artists
performing hymns of traditional foundation.
Everyone is Welcome!
Mary and Joseph took the infant Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days after His birth to complete Mary’s purification after childbirth, and to perform the redemption of the firstborn son, in obedience to the Torah. Mary and Joseph could not afford a lamb; so they sacrificed two young pigeons. Upon bringing Jesus into the temple, they met Simeon. The Holy Spirit told Simeon that “he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Simeon then uttered the prayer that would become known as the Nunc Dimittis or Canticle of Simeon, which prophesied the redemption of the world by Jesus.
I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. Malachi 3:1.
Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise. Ps. 84:4.
Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested. Heb. 2:18.
Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation. Luke 2:29-30.
Prayer: God of steadfast love, you sent your Son to be the light of the world, saving people everywhere from sin and death. As Anna gave thanks for the freedom he would bring, and Simeon saw in him the dawn of redemption, complete your purpose once made known in him. Make us the vessels of his light, that all the world may glory in the splendor of your peace. Amen.
When to the Temple Mary Went
Guilford Cathedral Choir (Barry Rose).
Prayer: Strong and mighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus, the presentation of your Son in the temple was his first entrance into the place of sacrifice. Grant that, trusting in his offering upon the cross to forgive our sins and uphold us in the time of trial, we may sing your praises and live in the light of your salvation, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26.
We are all stewards spreading the Word of Jesus’ blessings for His people.
Picnic Fellowship Activities for the Entire Family!
Of course lively discussion and activities will be available!
Perhaps you may prefer to sit and visit!
Please Contact Us with Special Requests!
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Psalm 32:8.
On the day our youngest daughter was flying from Munich to Barcelona, I visited my favorite flight tracking website to follow her progress. After I entered her flight number, my computer screen showed that her flight had crossed Austria and was skirting the northern part of Italy. From there the plane would fly over the Mediterranean, south of the French Riviera toward Spain, and was scheduled to arrive on time. It seemed that the only thing I didn’t know was what the flight attendants were serving for lunch!
Why did I care about my daughter’s location and circumstances? Because I love her. I care about who she is, what she’s doing, and where she is going in life.
Whatever our circumstances today, we can rely on God’s presence and care.
In Psalm 32, David celebrated the marvel of God’s forgiveness, guidance, and concern for us. Unlike a human father, God knows every detail of our lives and the deepest needs of our hearts. The Lord’s promise to us is, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Ps. 32:8.
Whatever our circumstances today, we can rely on God’s presence and care because “the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him.” Ps. 32:10. – David McCasland. Daily Bread.
Prayer: Dear Father in heaven, thank You for watching over me in love and guiding me along Your path today.
We are never out of God’s sight and His loving care.
Psalm 32 is an interesting look into the covenant relationship the believer has with the living God. King David, the writer of this psalm, is aware of his own personal sins and the need for confession and forgiveness. This spiritual connection with the living God is not simply a positive experience but includes God’s chastisement that leads to confession and restoration. Ps. 32:4-5. Yet even within the ups and downs of our walk of faith, we have the assurance of God’s watchful care and provision.
I Am in His Care
Eva Mae LeFevre
Universal Music Group
A man driving his pickup truck on a country road saw a woman carrying a heavy load, so he stopped and offered her a lift. The woman expressed her gratitude and climbed into the back of the truck.
A moment later, the man noticed a strange thing. The woman was still holding onto her heavy load despite sitting in the vehicle! Astonished, he pleaded, “Please, Madam, put down your load and take your rest. My truck can carry you and your stuff. Just relax.”
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matt. 11:28.
What do we do with the load of fear, worry, and anxiety we often carry as we go through life’s many challenges? Instead of relaxing in the Lord, I sometimes behave like that woman. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28), yet I catch myself carrying burdens I should offload onto Jesus.
We put down our burdens when we bring them to the Lord in prayer. The apostle Peter says, “Cast all your anxiety on Jesus because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7. Because He cares for us, we can rest and relax as we learn to trust Him. Instead of carrying the burdens that weigh us down and weary us, we can give them to the Lord and let Him carry them. – Lawrence Darmani. Daily Bread.
Prayer: I am tired, Lord. I bring You my burdens today. Please keep them and carry them for me.
Prayer is the time and place where burdens change shoulders.
Explanation: A yoke pairs two animals together to pull a load. Often an older, stronger, well-trained animal is paired with a younger animal so that the younger can learn the proper method of pulling. It is the older, stronger animal that does the majority of the pulling while the younger follows along and mimics the actions of the older. As we set aside our burdens and take on Christ’s, we are not simply swapping one burden for another. It is His yoke. We set aside our lone burdens to pull with Jesus, who is the one responsible for the direction and primary force of moving the burden. Then each of us, as the younger, weaker, less-experienced partner learns from Jesus how to pull the burden, following His actions and mimicking His footsteps. – Daily Bread.
Footprints in the Sand
One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.
After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.
This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”
He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”
Three Days of Prayer
Every congregation, member and pastor is being invited to set aside some time each day of January 3, 4 and 5, 2017 for prayer.
Prayer is a gift that God has given to us as a means to approach the throne of grace with confidence, like that of a child coming to her parents sharing concerns, victories, defeats and every part of life. It is an opportunity to express the deepest heartache and the greatest joy. Prayer is a conversation between the Creator and the created … and the conversation began with God, for us, in Christ Jesus. – Rev. Mark Vander Tuig, LCMC Service Coordinator.
Day 1. January 3rd 2017.
Confession. This is a day focused on confession. We have made our lives, our relationships, and even the church, in our own image. We confess that the church belongs to Jesus and not to us. We gather to lay down our pride, our sin and our agenda and ask the Lord of the church for forgiveness, which He gives freely and with mercy.
Day 2. January 4th 2017.
Petition. This is a day of petition. Pray for your congregation, for the pastor, for the leaders, for those who carry out ministries, for the Sunday School teachers, for the Confirmation leaders, for those leading adult Bible studies and for those leading small groups. Pray for those in hospital and nursing home ministries. Pray for all those connected to your church that they might know God’s redeeming love for all in Christ.
Day 3. January 5th 2017.
Vision. This is a day for vision. Pray that the Holy Spirit will again move through the hearts and minds of leaders and pastors that God’s vision for His church might be revealed and fulfilled. This is a time of prayer for renewal, revival and encouragement. Pray for God’s vision.
I readily admit and am often reminded that I am less than perfect, a “cracked pot” so to speak. Yet I do my best to pray, listen and act on God’s message. God uses all of His children to make the world He created, our world, a better place. Many of us may be familiar with the story of the “Cracked Pot.” I suggest we take this time to reflect on the story and discern if there is something beautiful we may offer within ourselves to contribute to His kingdom.
A Water Bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on the end of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master’s house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years, this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and one-half pots of water to his master’s house.
The perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the Water Bearer one day by the stream: “I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you.”
“Why?” asked the bearer. “What are you ashamed of?”
“I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master’s house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don’t get full value from your efforts,” the pot said.
The Water Bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion, he said, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.”
Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again, it apologize to the bearer for its failure.
The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house.”
Each of us has our own unique flaws. We’re all cracked pots.
But if we will allow it, Jesus will use our flaws to grace His Father’s table. In God’s great economy, nothing goes to waste.
So, as we seek ways to minister together, and as God calls you to tasks He has appointed for you, don’t be afraid of your flaws. Acknowledge them, and allow Him to take advantage of them, and you, too, can be the cause of beauty in his pathway.
Go out boldly, knowing that in our weakness, we find His strength.
WE CRY OUT
A generation seeking Him!
Power in Prayer!
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah. Psalm 24:3–6.
In the U.S., school-sponsored prayers in public schools have been found unconstitutional, but prayers organized by students themselves are allowed and protected by the right to free speech.
While attending a concert, my thoughts detoured to a troublesome issue that came to the front of my mind and demanded my attention. Thankfully, the distraction was short-lived as the words of a beautiful hymn began to reach deep into my being. A men’s a capella group was singing “Be Still, My Soul.” Tears welled up as I listened to the words and contemplated the restful peace that only God can give:
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side! Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; leave to thy God to order and provide; in every change He faithful will remain.
When we keep our minds on Jesus, He keeps our minds at peace.
When Jesus was denouncing the unrepentant towns where He had done most of His miracles (Matt. 11:20–24), He still had words of comfort for those who would come to Him. He said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened … learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matt. 11:28.
This statement is striking! Immediately following His strong words for those who were rejecting Him, Jesus extended an invitation to all to draw near to Him to find the peace we all yearn for. Jesus is the only one who can calm our restless, weary souls. – Joe Stowell. Daily Bread.
Prayer: I come to You now, Lord, in need of rest for my heart. Help me to trust You and be confident in Your love.
When we keep our minds on Jesus, He keeps our minds at peace.
Our passage today comes on the heels of Jesus denouncing the cities where most of His miracles were performed. Matt. 11:20–24. Bethsaida, one of the denounced cities, literally means “fisherman’s house.” It was a village on the north side of the Sea of Galilee and could have been the birthplace of three of the disciples: Andrew, Peter, and Philip.
Be Still My Soul.
Kathrina Von Schlegel. (1750).
performed by Naturally 7. á cappella.
Vocal Play Album. (2010). Lucerne, Switzerland.
Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side; Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; Leave to thy God to order and provide; In every change He faithful will remain. Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Calm My Soul
Airborne Films. Brain Wave Entertainment.
For further reading: The Lord Is My Shepherd at discoveryseries.org/hp952
Study with David Roper as Teacher:
It’s tempting to think of faith as a kind of magic formula. If you muster up enough of it, you’ll get rich, stay healthy, and live a contented life with automatic answers to all your prayers.
But life does not work according to such neat formulas. As proof, the author of Hebrews presents a stirring reminder of what constitutes “true faith” by reviewing the lives of some Old Testament giants of faith. Heb. 11.
“Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” Heb. 11:6. In describing faith we see the word persevered. Heb. 27. As a result of their faith, some heroes triumph: They rout armies, escape the sword, survive lions. But others meet less happy ends: flogging, stoning, severing. The chapter concludes, “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.” Heb. 39.
Give me a faith that trusts You wholeheartedly, Lord.
The picture of faith that emerges does not fit simply. Sometimes it leads to victory and triumph. Sometimes it requires a gritty determination to “hang on at any cost.” Of such people, “God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” Heb. 16.
What our faith rests on is the belief that God is in ultimate control and will indeed keep His promises, whether that happens in this life or the next. – Philip Yancey. Daily Bread.
Give me a faith that trusts You wholeheartedly, Lord.
Our greatest comfort in sorrow is to know that God is in control.
Hebrews 11 has been called the “Hall of Faith.” In it we read of diverse people who face trials and tribulations far beyond what many of us face. Yet all persevered by trusting the Lord. By the Grace of God, we can do the same.
Keeping the Faith
If it seems like I’ve been lost
In let’s remember
If you think I’m feeling older
And missing my younger days
Oh, then you should have known
Me much better
Cause my past is something that never
Got in my way