Pruning

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit…Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15: 1 – 2; 4 – 8).

I never used to be much of a gardener until we moved into the house we currently live in. The previous owners had created and lovingly maintained several beautiful gardens. They reminded me of English gardens, the kind you see on the cover of a novel – lots of colorful flowers, plenty of tall green grasses that turned golden in the late summer, and a white picket fence encircling it all. There is even a little stone walkway that curves between the two main sections of the garden.

The gardens are still here today, but we have changed them a bit, made them our own. We did this because we realized what a big job it is to care for and maintain a garden. So we took some plants out. We planted more perennials. And we continue to prune the gardens regularly.

Pruning is certainly one of the most time-consuming parts of gardening. (As is weeding…definitely weeding!) We do quite a bit of pruning throughout the year. Every few days during the growing season, I go outside and cut off any dead flowers from our plants. And, at the end of every autumn, my husband cuts back every plant until it stands just above the ground. This pruning – both mid-season and at the end of the season – allows the plant’s energy to be directed to feeding the good, healthy parts of the plant. Pruning also encourages the roots to grow deeper. The plant grows back full and strong the next spring.

John 15 opens with Jesus talking about how our lives as believers are to be entwined with his, and he uses a gardening image to help us to understand His words. He says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2).

Did you catch that? God removes the dead stuff completely – He takes it away – and He prunes the still-alive parts! He prunes “every branch that does bear fruit”. That means that He may choose to prune good things, beautiful things – because He knows that pruning results in even better things. Sometimes those better things are new versions of pruned branches, and sometimes they look nothing like what was pruned.

Without pruning, a garden begins to look faded. Its colors soften and become muted. Pruning eliminates the non-productive and encourages the healthy. Pruning restores the vibrancy of the garden’s colors. This weekend in Central Illinois, the temperature hit 60 degrees, which is rare for late November. My husband took advantage of the day to cut down the rest of our garden. Today, as I write this looking out the front window, the plants looked short and bare, almost shocked. But I know that deep underground, within the roots, lies the promise of new growth, and if I am patient, I will see sprouts of green come springtime. May it be so with us, too. May we not resist His pruning, and may what God prunes grow back even stronger and healthier.

Familiar Words

John 3:16. What does this make you think of? This verse is probably one of the most well-known in the Bible, recognized by believers and non-believers alike. It is certainly quoted more often than many other verses. When I read the words “John 3:16”, a few images pop into my mind. I see a person holding up a large sign toward the camera at a football game. I picture a person in a city, standing on a box at a street corner, calling out the words of this verse to anyone who will listen.

My most vivid memory, though, is from when I was around nine years old. I remember walking in downtown Boston with my parents and my sister. A man handed me a small piece of paper as our family walked by; the only writing on it was this: “John 3:16”. I wonder if he thought I knew the verse? Or maybe he assumed that I would be curious enough to go look it up, to read the words for myself. Having grown up attending church, I did know the verse. But I did not know Christ, and because of this, I did not truly understand this verse. It made no impact on me that day.

It does now.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)

Today, I understand those words in a way I did not, could not, 40 years ago. I did not understand what it meant to have a personal relationship with Christ until I was almost 30 years old. So I know from experience how it feels to live life not knowing my Savior – and I know what it means to walk through life now, knowing Him. Since I became a believer, I have seen people I love put their faith in Christ and subsequently change in ways I could not have imagined. I have witnessed miracles.

Today, John 3:16 represents new life to me. Changed life. A saved life. And we need that now, don’t we? Our world needs that. Today, as you read John 3 in its entirety, pause for a moment. Be still. Think about the words you are reading; ponder them in your heart and treasure them as Mary did (Luke 2:19). Give thanks for Christ’s ongoing work in your life and on your behalf, and pray for those you know who do not yet know Him. Finally, rest in this truth: “Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life…” (John 3:33 – 36).

I am praying for each one of you who reads this today.

Made Clean

Today’s Reading: Matthew 8 and Psalm 81

Today’s chapter from the Gospel of Matthew reads like a collection of short stories.  We hear about five separate miracles performed by Jesus. I must admit, I never like to read collections of short stories. Mostly because I’m always left wanting more. It feels as if I’m just getting to know the characters and understand their circumstance and then the story ends. But, like all good novels, the Bible doesn’t disappoint. When we consider these miracles collectively we see the common thread: Jesus the Messiah. Of course, this is Matthew’s purpose, to show the Jews that He is the eternal King.

The first story we hear is about Jesus healing a man with leprosy. When I first read it, I breezed through the text. It’s a familiar tale, one we have all heard as children in Sunday school. Often, we use it to teach children not to judge by outward appearance. It’s so convicting when Jesus reaches out and touches the leper in verse three of chapter eight. But what surprised me was the leper says in verse two,

“Lord if you will you can make me clean.” Matthew 8:2

 The title of the chapter is, “Jesus Heals a Leper” and yet, what we hear is the leper asking to be made clean. I checked several other translations and found that each time, the request is the same, “Lord make me clean.” Yes, the man wants to be healed. He wants to be cured. Just like leprosy, sin is an incurable disease. Only the hand of Jesus can cure it. Only the love of Jesus can truly clean our soul. So is there a difference between being clean and being cured? I’m not sure. The leper had to be inspected by a priest and be declared clean before Jesus’ miracle could be authenticated. The HSCB translation notes that Jesus performed many of his miracles through touch but he certainly had the power to heal by command and a great distance from the sufferer. Touching the leper was an expression of deep compassion since doing so put Jesus at great risk.

All of this leads me to ask, how can I ask to be made clean? I’ve prayed fervently for healing over the years. All three of our children have faced significant health challenges. But maybe, I’ve placed my focus on the wrong outcome. Perhaps by boldly asking for Jesus to reach out and touch our broken lives, we can be made clean. What are the sins in my life that need to be wiped away? How can I accept my ragged edges, my incomplete spiritual self and become content with the slow process of being made clean? Our Psalm today echo’s the idea of God’s goodness in our waywardness,

“I remove the burden from their shoulders; their hands were set free from the basket. In your distress, you called and I rescued you, I answered you out of a thundercloud.” Psalm 81: 6-7

 He answers us out of our thunderclouds. He can wipe us clean and in doing so, heal not only our physical wounds but our hearts as well. Boldly ask Him and as His word says, He will answer.

 

Fulfilled Promises

My mom and I are going Christmas shopping together this week. Yes, it is only mid-October – so why Christmas shop a full two months BEFORE Christmas? One word: anticipation. My mom and I look forward to this time together every fall. We anticipate our shopping day, planning out the stores where we will shop, the gifts that we will purchase, and the restaurant where we will eat lunch – and in doing so, we also anticipate celebrating Christmas with our family.
In our text for today, which is Matthew 2, we read one small part of what we traditionally call the “Christmas Story”. Here, we learn of the wise men visiting King Herod, Joseph fleeing with his family from Jerusalem into Egypt, and their subsequent return to Nazareth.
Today, I’d like us to consider the promises kept and prophecies fulfilled that Matthew references in this chapter. In Micah 5:2, this prophet writes that “one will come from you to be ruler over Israel for me.” This prophecy was fulfilled almost 800 years later. Matthew wrote that when King Herod asks his chief priests and scribes where Christ would be born, “They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah are by no means least among the rulers of Judah for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” (Matthew 2:5) Christ Himself was the fulfillment of this promise.
Let’s look at another example. The Old Testament prophet Hosea explained that God would one day call his Son out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1). In Matthew 2:15, we read that, “He (Joseph) remained there (in Egypt) until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my Son.’” Over 800 years after Micah’s original prophecy was recorded, it too was fulfilled in Christ.
Thinking about these prophetic words which were fulfilled years after they were originally uttered simply amazes me. I hope you take some time to ponder these words today. Approximately 2000 prophesies in the Bible have been fulfilled – 2000! After you let that sink in for a few minutes, consider this verse, found in Isaiah 53:5 (NIV): “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah wrote these words HUNDREDS of years before Christ sacrificed Himself on the cross as a forgiveness for our sins. Oh, what a Savior!

Luke 13

I am a reader. Those who know me will probably smile when they read those words. In my free time, I am rarely without a book in my hand. When I was younger, I read mostly fiction – especially the Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden series. My favorite author, though, was Louisa May Alcott. I read and re-read every book she ever wrote because I loved how she created a story. Even though her books were fiction, I felt as though I were reading a true story – her plot and details were that believable. And I always learned something from her books.

Jesus is the master story-teller. Over and over in the New Testament, we read of our Savior using a story to make a point or to teach a lesson. In doing so, He teaches about complex topics like faith and grace and salvation. We see this over and over in Luke 13, our chapter for today.

Jesus uses the parable of a barren fig tree to teach about how to live a Godly life (Luke 13:6 – 9). He compares the kingdom of God to both a mustard seed and to leaven used in baking bread (Luke 13:18 – 21) He uses the idea of a narrow door to represent the fact that “no one comes to the Father except through me” (Luke 13:24 – 30; John 14:6). The people to whom He was talking would have had as difficult a time as we do now understanding concepts like the kingdom of God, faith, and salvation. Fig trees, mustard seeds, leaven and doors, though? They understood those. They were familiar with these objects, because they used them in their daily lives. By using stories, Jesus made complex topics more easily understood.

As Jesus ends this time of teaching, He laments over the lost in Jerusalem, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34). As I finish writing this devotion, it is Monday morning, and our country is waking to the news of the massacre in Las Vegas. Jesus’ poignant cries over Jerusalem remind me that my Savior also weeps today, along with those who grieve.

One Way to the Father

Today’s reading is Luke 3 and Psalm 51.

Our family attends Eastview Christian Church in Normal, Illinois. Our mission statement is, “A fearless church of Christ followers whose ridiculous love and dangerous witness are irresistible.” As we read Luke 3, it’s hard to think of too many people who were more of a “dangerous witness” than John the Baptist. He dedicated his life to preparing the way for Jesus, and we read today how he was imprisoned and it later cost him his life by beheading.

John knew there was only one way for forgiveness of sins and one way to the Father as we read about in Psalm 51. Then, he was committed to giving others the good news of Jesus as Psalm 51:13-15 speaks of, regardless of the risks involved. We live in a world today that tells us to do whatever you “feel” like. Do whatever makes you personally happy. And anyone who doesn’t approve of it is a bigot. However, the Bible tells us there is only one way to the Father in Heaven which by believing in Jesus Christ as our Savior through his death on the cross. John felt it was critical people know Jesus was the Messiah, and we should feel and do the same today. This is the opposite of the society we live in which says you can do whatever makes you feel good, so it would only make sense that are multiple ways to get to Heaven and  if you just do more good than bad you’re in. Wrong. Jesus tells us this in John 14:6 which says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

One of my biggest take aways from a recent mission trip was when we asked people how they get to Heaven nearly every one said “be a good person.” Then, when we shared we believe there was only one way, through belief in Jesus, they would say, “yeah..that’s what I believe too,” because they would in fact call themselves a Christian! Many of them grew up in, and some even still went to, the church. How often do we have conversations with friends and family who call themselves Christians and may even go to church about what they believe? Do they know there is only one way to Heaven which is through Jesus? Do they truly believe what Jesus says in John 14:6? Let us follow the example of John the Baptist by being a dangerous witness, not only internationally and in our local communities, but also in our own homes, families, churches, and personal relationships. Even better news is that we don’t have to wear camel’s hair clothing and eat locusts and honey to do so!

How Many Kings…

Today’s reading is Hebrews 1 and Psalm 9.

My bible has the heading “The Supremacy of God’s Son” for Hebrews 1. Both Hebrews 1 and Psalm 9, as well as when God the Father speaks to Jesus in the Gospel, make it clear that Jesus is set apart and supreme above the angels and prophets of the Old Testament. He is God in the form of a man. He was there when the world was made (Hebrews 11:10, John 1:1-4), and He now sits at the right hand of the God the Father (Hebrews 1:8, Hebrews 1:13, Psalm 9:7, Psalm 9:11). However, when I read both Hebrews 1 and Psalm 9, I think less of the supremacy of God and His Son Jesus. We know this to be certain. As I reflect, I am in awe of his love, humbleness, and servant leadership.

I recently returned from the Spread Truth Ministry trip to New York City doing street ministry. It was life changing for me, and I pray that it was for others we shared the Gospel with, too. When you talk to 10-20 people a day about what they believe about God, you get some insight into who people think God is or is not. When do we even talk with our family and best friends about who they think God is and what they believe? Sadly, there were many false beliefs not only from non-believers, but also from many raised in church who also would likely label themselves as a “believer.” This makes me not want to take for granted what I think those close to me believe and not hold back deeper conversations about God that I would have shied away from previously.

One common theme was many did not want to believe God existed because they feel like God is on a throne in Heaven judging us for what we do and condemning us from above like He is a kid with a magnifying glass burning us like ants in the sunlight. If that’s who God is, they didn’t want to believe there was a God. Can you really blame them? This makes my heart ache that this is who they think God is. While God does have rules for right and wrong and condemns doing wrong (sin), He does so for our protection because He knows what is in our best interest. This however, does not define who God is. I’ve heard it said, “If you miss Jesus, you miss everything.” What they were missing was Jesus. They missed the fact that just one sin of not only commission, but omission too, permanently separates us from God and no amount of good deeds can outweigh even one wrong. Romans 6:23 says “The wages of sin are death..” Note sin in singular.. just one sin separates us from God. Thankfully, God did not want us to be separated from Him by our wrong(s) though! He loves us so much that He sent Jesus down from His throne in Heaven to experience all the trials, tribulations and temptations of this life we face and even though He did not sin like us, He suffered the painful death we deserve on the cross for us. Wow! John 3:17 says “God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” While God does judge right and wrong, He is not “looking to condemn us” as many believe. If He wanted to do that, He would have never sent Jesus! He did not have to do that…He wanted to. He wanted us to be saved and to NOT condemn us. 1 John 4:16 says “God is love.” Hebrews 1:3 says, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature…” This tells us we can truly see who God is by looking at Jesus. His most important action to show His love was His sacrifice on the cross but I love looking into it even deeper into His life and other actions. Not only did Jesus heal the sick and the lame, but He spent time with pronounced sinners like prostitutes, adulterers, and tax collectors. He even invited Matthew, a tax collector, to be one of His twelve disciples. He renamed Simon, giving him the name Peter or Cephas which is translated as the rock, and built His church through him, even though He knew Peter would publicly deny Him not once, but three times. Does this look like a God that want to condemn us?… Hardly. Praise God!

I will end this with the lyrics and a link to “How Many Kings” by Downhere which so wonderfully articulates the message I’m trying to convey. As we go into our day today, let’s make sure we don’t miss the love of Jesus, and we don’t let others either. If we miss Him, we miss everything.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zF952rzG3Yk&list=RDzF952rzG3Yk

“How Many Kings” by Downhere

Follow the star to a place unexpected

Would you believe, after all we’ve projected,

A child in a manger?

Lowly and small, the weakest of all

Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mother’s shaw

Just a child

Is this who we’ve waited for?

 

‘Cause how many kings step down from their thrones

How many lords have abandoned their homes?

How many greats have become the least for me?

Any how many gods have poured out their hearts

To romance a world that is torn all apart

How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

 

Bringing our gifts for the newborn Savior

All that we have, whether costly or meek

Because we believe

Gold for his honor, and frankincense for his pleasure

And myrrh for the cross he will suffer

Do you believe?

Is this who we’ve waited for?

 

How many kings step down from their thrones?

How many lords have abandoned their homes?

How many greats have become the least for me?

And how many gods have poured out their hearts

To romance a world that is torn all apart

How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Only one did that for me

 

Oh, all for me, oh

All for me, all for you

All for me, all for you

All for me, all for you

All for me, all for you

 

How many kings step down from their thrones?

How many lords have abandoned their homes?

How many greats have become the least?

How many gods have poured out their hearts

To romance a world that is torn all apart?

How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Only one did that for me, oh

 

All for me, all for you

Remind The People

A few days ago, our Bible Journal community began reading the book of Titus together. This is a short book, so we are actually finishing it up today! Paul begins the last part of his letter with the words, “Remind them” (Titus 3:1). In the NIV version, it reads, “Remind the people.” He then lists several things that he wants Titus to be sure to tell the people in the churches he is overseeing: “…to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people (Titus 3:1).

All of these admonishments are as relevant today as they were when Paul first penned these words. Each relates to living in community with others – and living in community is hard work! Paul understood that it was necessary to encourage people to pursue behaviors that lead to a healthy community and society.

There is one section of this verse that Paul returns to twice more before he ends this letter. In verse 1, Paul writes, “…be ready for every good work…” (Titus 3:1). Later, in verse 8, he writes, “…so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to good work.” (Titus 3:8). Finally, in verse 14, Paul states, “Let our people learn to devote themselves to good works.” (Titus 3:14) Clearly, doing what is good is important to Paul.

In our lives today, what does this look like, to “devote ourselves to good work”? It can be any number of things. Good work can be working at the job God has called us to to the best of our ability and with integrity. It can be something practical, like blessing a friend with a meal. It can be anything, really, that reveals Christ to someone else.

And what is the benefit to our doing good work? Is it for our own salvation? No. Paul states this clearly: “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us rightly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7, emphasis mine). That verse is a long one, but the part I want us to focus on today is this: devoting ourselves to good works does not save us. Only Christ in his mercy does this. However, doing good works might draw others to us, giving us the opportunity to share the “the reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). Today, let’s consider how we can do something for the benefit of someone else, and let’s always be ready to share the reason for our hope: Jesus.

Fight the Good Fight

Today, we begin reading the first chapter of 1 Timothy together. Paul wrote this letter to his young friend, Timothy, who Paul calls his son in the faith. This letter was written just prior to Paul’s final imprisonment in Rome, which explains the urgency that permeates it. Paul had a message to impart to Timothy and to the world, and he was eager to do so, quickly.
I was curious about what Paul would choose to lead off with in this letter, knowing the urgency behind it. I learned that He begins with truth and love. We see in verse 3 that Paul is still concerned about people teaching false doctrines in places like Ephesus: “…remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine…” (1 Timothy 1:3). Furthermore, Paul states that “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5). We are to speak truth, and we are to love well.
Next, Paul shares his testimony. As we have seen throughout the New Testament, Paul never hesitates to do this! He knows full well how he was changed after his encounter with Christ and he wants to world to know Him for this reason. Paul says, “This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1: 15). Paul’s statement is bold, strong and simple. And in the next sentence, we again glimpse Paul’s deep humility. He explains that, “…I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:16). Paul, a former persecutor of Christians, calls himself the foremost, the worst of sinners. I believe he does this to give us hope. Our family is currently praying for six people who we love to come to know Christ; some of these we have been praying for for years. Many years. And in this passage, Paul’s words encourage me to not despair, and to keep hoping and praying for the salvation of those I love.
At the end of this chapter, Paul reminds Timothy that the road he will travel will not be an easy one. Instead, it will be fraught with frustration and even danger. Paul exhorts Timothy to, “…fight the good fight, holding on to faith…” (1 Timothy 1:19, NIV). The imagery Paul uses would have been relatable to Timothy and his contemporaries; they were all too familiar with the concept of fighting, from the gladiator fights held in the arenas of Rome to war with neighboring countries. Likewise, we too can relate. So let us push forward, persevere, and fight for our faith. And then let us join Paul in praising our Lord: “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17)

Intro to Philippians

Happy Fourth of July!

Taking the 50,000 foot approach to starting our devotional and reflections on Philippians is as Paul would say, “pure joy!” This letter is one of Paul’s prison epistles . It was a positive letter by Paul written to thank the Christians living in Philippi for their gift they had sent him for his missionary work.  It was also to strengthen fellow believers by showing them (us) that true joy comes from Jesus Christ alone. Amen!

As we look back in Acts 16 we read how Paul had a divine dream that told him to go to Macedonia to spread the good news.  (Acts 16:8-10)  God always has amazing perfect plans for all of our lives. This dream was perfectly planned. In Psalm 37:23, the psalmist writes, “the Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him“. God not only orders our steps but also orders our stops, especially in this case.  This vision lead to Philippi where they would be the first European City to receive the Gospel of Christ from Paul.

As I reviewed the various reflections on Philippians and read the intro’s in my study bibles I continue to land on the theme about the contrast between happiness and joy.  Knowing people want to feel happy and look for this in different material things, experiences, people, statuses, or even places like Happy Gilmore.  Yet all of this is just worldly happiness, that can often be related to our temporary current circumstances. What is your current circumstance? What is mine? The weather has been great, the pool is the perfect temp, camps have gone well, the pictures or final details are being finalized for all summer trips?  But what happens when the temperature changes, that 4th of July party ends, the children need to get back on a schedule…?  Or on a more serious side, a job has been lost, you lose a loved one, a bill comes in that leaves you strapped, your child faces addiction? Our happiness that is based on happenings can wither as each new trial prevails.  Going through Philippians will help remind us that in contrast to this earthly happiness or sadness true joy depends on our relationship with God. According to the Tyndale Study Bible it says,  “In contrast to happiness stands joy. Running deeper and stronger, joy is the quiet, confidence assurance of God’s love and work in our lives, that He will be there for us no matter what! Happiness depends on happenings, Joy depends on Christ!”

So rejoice and enjoy these four chapters and look for the themes that include; finding joy in suffering, serving, believing, and giving.  I know my wife Jennifer will enjoy me referencing once again “Consider it all joy… verse from James 1:2-3 that I use often in our household of two young boys that love to follow a fallen, broken, bigger boy in myself.  I pray for Jennifer and I, our boys, and all of you to not seek the happiness of the world, but know the true joy in our relationship with the Lord!

Dear God ,

We are blessed by these letters of encouragement by Paul. Please fill our hearts when we have the feeling of being overwhelmed or in despair. Help us to pray for others that need to know your promises. Help us to stay positive and trust in you no matter our circumstances. Lord, help us to follow Paul’s example and know you more so we will rejoice in you always. Amen

Philippians 3:13-14 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what lies behind and straining toward what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.