Joy

“And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. ”

2 Corinthians 8:1-3 NIV

Incomprehensible

What is joy? Is it the same as happiness? I have found that joy, such as God gives, is first of all incomprehensible. It is like a spring with an inexhaustible source, an invisible source.

Happiness often depends on our circumstances, while joy does not. It is therefore not strange to find people in the most deplorable situations still having incomprehensible joy!

An example from the Bible is Paul and Silas while they were in prison. They were found praying and singing when they had every reason to be in despair.

An example that often astounds me is that of church members in Africa. Most of them live in devastating circumstances! It is said that we (Africans) sing when we’re happy, we sing when we’re sad and we sing any other time in between! They suffer outwardly, but they have this inexplicable joy and generosity! They give whatever they have. Their joy always goes with generosity, singing and dancing.

A fruit of the Holy Spirit

This joy is also a fruit of the Spirit, as we read in Galatians. Remember the joy in your heart when you first came to Christ? The joy of the first love! Such joy can never be generated by our own wills, as attested by the scripture below:

“You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.”

1 Thessalonians 1:6 NIV

Prayer

Father, thank you for the joy that comes from the Spirit. We live in a corrupt world full of suffering and pain. Carry us as we continue living in this world, and guide us as we wait on your coming to liberate us from this world of sin and death. In Jesus’ name, amen!

 

Margaret Musekwa

 

 

By Margaret Musekwa
South Africa

From Ordinary to Extraordinary

For I am confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus – Philippians 1:6

Thinking of this time of year, as we approach Easter, always brings Mary, the Mother of Jesus, into a little more focus than throughout the rest of the year.

When I think of Mary, I think of a woman who is truly just an ordinary person; she could be any one of us. She lived in an ordinary town and lived a pretty ordinary life for a young lady of that day.

Mary was given her significance because of God. This means that God can and does enlist each one of us. Mary became extraordinary, not only because God used her to bring Jesus into the world, but he also knew of her willingness to obey. God had a claim on Mary’s life. Because she was special? No, because he was her creator. God specializes in the extraordinary so that when the victory is won and the task complete, we cannot take any credit.

Mary understood the claim on her life when she was asked by God to be the mother of our Savior; she also knew with the words that were spoken to her by Simeon, “A sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:35), that her life was not hers anymore.

There at Calvary, I believe that a sword did pierce Mary’s soul. How could it not? As a mother, she was losing her son, but she also gave her Son up for the larger picture of salvation and redemption for the world. Mary’s life was truly extraordinary.

We may think we are ordinary, but we should know that we walk with the power of the Holy Spirit to be extraordinary, to accomplish, like Mary, mighty things for God.

Lord, thank you for reminding me that you can use anyone and everyone. I willingly offer you all that I am and all that I have – choosing to believe that who I am is enough to be used by you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

Linda Sitterley
Pastor
Eugene, Oregon

The Journey

“We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
Matthew 2:2 (NIVUK)

In his testimony, a Christian explained how he had found Jesus after looking for meaning in his life. We can understand what he meant, and perhaps we can relate it to the experience of the wise men who found the child Jesus after their long, arduous trip, probably on camels, some say possibly from ancient Parthia.

It’s interesting to note the progress of the wise men. They had a question about a star they observed in the sky and wondered what significance it had. Surely, they thought, it must mean the birth of a king. When they get to Judaea, the clue concerning the location of this king’s birth is found by turning to the Scriptures. Then they go to the house, over which the star is now shining, and there they find Jesus. So the Scriptures point them to Jesus. The wise men go from questions about the world around them to the Bible, which then directs them to Jesus: some would say that is the Christian journey, that’s how you find God.

It sounds reasonable enough, but it misses one essential point: God sent the star first. It was through an act of God that the wise men had questions in the first place. Their spiritual awakening was from God, not from within themselves or from their own culture. God drew them to Jesus. Jesus was later to say, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them” (John 6:44).

The spiritual reality is that we are found in Jesus, not that we find him. God brings us by what’s happening in our life, through the Scriptures, to his Son, Jesus Christ. This is what the wise men found out.

The Christian journey is that we come to Jesus, not because we have sought him out, but because the Father draws us to him.

Prayer
Thank you, Father, for guiding us to your Son, Jesus. In his name,
Amen

 

By James Henderson
Superintendent of Europe

 

 

Do You Love Jesus?

Luke 7:36-50

The real test of love for God, is simply this, how do you react to Jesus?

46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

As we look at this passage, here is my question to you and me, did this woman have a lot of sins, and Simon just a little?

Simon considered that Jesus, at the least, was a prophet, yet he failed to honor him as a prophet. He greeted him with what would have been the equivalent of a half-hearted handshake. He was not in the least hospitable, he ignored all the social protocols of the day, including a polite kiss, he insulted Jesus, he was stingy and proud, his heart was cold, he was unforgiving, he had nothing but contempt for this woman, and he was judgmental. He was full of jealousy, hatred, and self-righteousness, thinking that God grades on a scale, and thus presuming himself to be better than this woman. In other words, his sins were sins of the heart … his heart was cold. The point is that, whereas this woman recognized, acknowledged and repented of her sins, Simon didn’t even recognize his sins, and thus his need for forgiveness.

This unnamed woman, on the other hand, came specifically to Simon’s house to see Jesus, and she did not come empty-handed. Feel her deep, genuine, warm, and caring worship, which she lavished on Jesus. Feel her passionate love and deep affection for Jesus, her kind, tenderhearted adoration of him who loved her and forgave her. Feel her deep remorse for what she had done, the people she had hurt, and the sins against her own body, and yet she finds in Jesus the loving God who is willing to forgive her, and take away her shame. Loving much is the uncontrollable response of those who recognize they have been forgiven much.

When you are tempted to think that others are laden with sin, and you are not, let’s remember that all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, all our righteous acts are filthy rags in the light of who Jesus is. all of us are in need of mercy, and only Jesus can give it.

The apostle Paul referred to himself as the chief of all sinners, and spoke of Jesus who “loved me, and gave himself for me.” He loved Jesus so much because he saw and acknowledged how sinful he was, and he knew how much Jesus had forgiven him.

This kind of love comes from being overwhelmed by a love so deep that it grips you. You take delight in Jesus, and it changes you.

It comes from asking the question, “who is this man who loves us so much that he would bear our sins in his own body, and remove them from us?”

May we take the time to reflect on how much God has forgiven us, and may we fall head over heels in love with Jesus.

 

 

By Robert W.T. McKinney
Regional Director of the Caribbean

Wait Upon the Lord

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:13-14)

We live in a microwave society. We have instant food, instant information, instant “on demand” shows, instant news and instant communication.

So when we read a scripture that says “wait,” what do we do with that? The Hebrew word used in the passage above means “to look eagerly for.” The word suggests an expectation for something to come. For example, when we wait for the light to turn green, there is an expectation that the light will turn green and if we happen to be running late, that “waiting” is where all of our focus goes.

Here’s an exercise you might want to try. Pray and ask God for his wisdom and wait. Don’t pray, or worship, or sing, or listen to music or even read your Bible— just wait.

See if you can wait for 10 minutes, waiting with eager anticipation for what God will show you. When we wait from the perspective of not having to do “anything” for God, we learn to just “be” with God and not “do” for God.

Prayer: Father, Son and Spirit, show us what it means to “wait upon the Lord.” Show us where we are operating out of a sense of performance rather than belonging. Tune out all the lies and open our hearts to hear only your voice of love.

 

by Davina Winn
Assistant Pastor
Grace Communion Hanover

Break my heart for what breaks Yours…

Psalm 51 (whole Psalm, but specifically verse 17):

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.

It’s 2020—a new year with new hopes, plans and dreams. It’s a new year with the same everyday hurts, struggles and brokenness. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming to live with the brokenness we have experienced, or even caused, in our everyday worlds, which often leaves us feeling separate or far from our Father. Thankfully, God knew we would need to be reminded of his presence with us in all things – sharing Jesus and the Holy Spirit with us as well as providing faithful reminders through Scripture.

David shared this psalm after Nathan came to him about his adulterous affair with Bathsheba. Talk about brokenness caused and experienced in life! Yet even David is able to remember and share God’s presence with him! David’s psalm shows us God is ready, willing and able to bring goodness from our mess. God reaches out to us to participate with him, in the midst of our brokenness, to shine his light, goodness, and love into the world.

How does God do that? I think it is the same way an artist creates stained glass windows. He takes the broken pieces of our lives and puts them together to create something beautiful that becomes magnificent when his light shines through it for all to see. This year, may you find new meaning in your brokenness and experience God’s life-giving presence even in the most overwhelming of circumstances.

Prayer: Lord, may my brokenness no longer hinder me from joining you in your mission of love. Help me see the beauty in my brokenness that I might shine your light for all those around me to see and share. Amen!

 

By Carrie Osborne
Associate Pastor
Chillicothe, Ohio

Jesus Comes With Loud Crying and Tears

 

Hebrews 5:7 – In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; 9 and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”

Never in life have I prayed so loudly, with crying and tears to our Father, than since becoming age 40 and over! You middle and older agers feeling me? Haha. I’m even open to the possibility that Jesus was in his late 40s during his last 3½ years (as a possibility put forth by Bert Gary in his book Jesus Unplugged.) Of course, I don’t underestimate how much even youth today might cry loudly and with tears considering the divorce rate, student debt, politics, racial division and technological franticness of our frenzied world, just for starters!

This scripture explains why believers (you?!) might be praying in such ways or find yourself doing so ever more! Jesus came into our very own broken humanity, feeling and knowing our pain to its depths (though without sin!), sharing with us his history, his relationship in hope with his Father, since we live also in times of being “made perfect”! Jesus sharing our flesh and sending his Spirit to us from his place of Ascension certainly goes a long way in explaining why we may pray—cry loudly and with tears in this world! He came and he’s still here!

Jesus praying this way also rules out the false belief that loud crying and fervent praying has only to do with “necessity,” “being religious” or believing the Father notices, hears and answers us only if we pray in that way! Nah. As we head towards death and also toward more abundant life and salvation with Father – believing Jesus is still to come and appear quickly – we cry loudly and with tears in the Spirit, “Even so, come Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20).

 

Timothy J. Brassell
GCI Pastor,
Baltimore, MD