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First Thoughts Blog

Serving the Underserved

A heartfelt thank you from Nancy Zito, Founder and Principal of Gardere Community Christian School, to First Presbyterian members who have donated food to the school's underserved students and their families.
 
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5: 3-5).
 

Children's Anxiety During Corona

Counselor Cheryl Brodnax has some tips on how to help your kids combat anxiety during these stay-at-home times?

1) Be mindful of what you discuss in front of your children
2) Give your kids opportunity to talk
3) Structure is a good thing
4) Help them feel connected to friends
5) Give your children grace

How to Get Ready for Virtual Communion

Gerrit explains how to prepare for participating in Thursday’s 7 pm Service of Shadows. Four candles, a piece of bread and a cup of wine or juice, and you’re set to interact with the passion of Jesus and connect to him, together with our whole church, through the Lord’s Supper.

 

Links to watch the Service of Shadows are below. The video will be available at 7 pm Thursday, April 9.

Facebook

YouTube

 

Focusing Prayer Through Fasting

Our beloved pastoral care minister Jim Solomon invites us to the challenge of Tuesday lunch-fasts and how such practice can ignite your prayer life. Jim also asks that you check out the guidelines and insights on fasting that are included on our denomination’s website (epc.org) especially if you will fast not only on Tuesdays at lunch time but also the entire day on Good Friday, April 10. 

What Is This I'm Feeling?

What Is This I’m Feeling?

FPC deacon and BRCCC therapist Sherry Kadair puts words to some of the strange feelings we’ve all been having. You’re not crazy! We’re having ordinary reactions to extraordinary circumstances.

Tuesday Lunch Fasts

Following Gov. Edwards' call last week for a statewide day of prayer and fasting, Senate Chaplain Rodney Wood invites all Louisianans, and pastor Jim Solomon invites all First Presbyterians who can, to make fasting from lunch a Tuesday routine.  We can use this bit of deprivation to focus our prayers and ask for God’s mercy, grace and revelation upon our nation.

Email Jim Solomon

 

Toxic Breath

Are you breathing the toxic breath of stress these days? Tension and fatigue are in the air. But what if we could draw breaths that bring peace. Katie Forsthoff introduces the ancient spiritual technique of breath prayer. 

Combating Plague Mind

Do you have plague mind? You don’t need a doctor’s order to get tested. Just answer the questions below. Then watch Gerrit and Chris’ video on the battle for your mind.
 
If you check more than 3 boxes, this one if for you.
 
Check all that apply:
 
____ I watch too much news. 
____ I’m sick of the people I live with. 
____ I don’t really feel like doing anything. 
____ Yet, I’m bored! 
____ I watch too much television. 
____ I don’t concentrate very well. 
____ I feel poor! 
____ I have floating anxiety. 
____ I don’t sleep very well. 
____ I’ve gotten suspicious of other people.
 

What's a Guy to Do?

What's a Guy to Do?
Men's Pastor Darin Travis has some tips for guys in isolation.
 

 
Live Stream
 
Let's worship as one church. Live stream with us Sunday morning at 10.30 am (becomes live 5 minutes before start of worship).
 
Email prayer@fpcbr.org if you have trouble with the live stream Sunday morning. We've included the order of worship for you to follow along.
 
 
 
Don't Forget
 
Download the church APP. The app has all the same information as the website, including connecting to the Sunday live stream, an option to give online and accessing all archived sermons.
 
 
Contact Us
 
If you would like a friendly voice, prayer, comfort, have live stream questions, or if you have a practical need for groceries or a pharmacy run, contact the church office (225.387.0617 or prayer@fpcbr.org) and we will get you connected. 
 

Email Us

 

 

Corona Christians!

Corona Christians!
Today’s Staying Connected Video from Gerrit and Chris.
 

 
 
Live Stream
The button below brings you directly to the FPC live stream page. Live stream becomes active at 10.25 am this Sunday; 5 minutes before worship begins.
 
Email prayer@fpcbr.org if you have trouble on Sunday morning.
 
 
Don't Forget
Don't forget to download the church APP. The app has all the same information as the website, including connecting to the Sunday live stream, an option to give online and accessing all archived sermons.
 
 
Contact Us
If you would like a friendly voice, prayer, comfort, have live stream questions, or if you have a practical need for groceries or a pharmacy run, contact the church office at 225.387.0617 or click the link below to email us.
 
 
 

 

Home Worship

Dearly Loved Congregation,
 
Here’s a new video encouragement for home worshipers that I made with Chris Phillips.
 
Also, big news. For the next two Sundays, at 10.30 am we will have online worship only, no live attendees!
 
Why? Well, not only to comply with health guidelines, but in order to change the format of the live stream so it appeals to more home viewers. The video will be more “up close and personal,” as Chris and I lead you through worship.
 
Also, send us your selfies from where you’re watching worship and any prayer requests to prayer@fpcbr.org. We’ll get the selfies on our Facebook page and show them next week too!
 
News on Palm Sunday to follow in about ten days.
 
Keep praying for each other, our city, our medical professionals, our nation and world. 
 
Jesus reigns,
Gerrit
 

 
 
 
 

Staying Connected In Isolation

Dearly Loved Congregation,
 
It’s so hard to be apart! Seldom have we realized how precious it is to be together.
 
Technology gives us a chance to be connected, albeit without touch or eye contact.
 
So for the next few days, expect a brief video encouragement from me and other pastors and staff.  
 
 
 
News:
 
Our 10.30 am Sunday gatherings are limited to 50. You can sign up to be part of our "Live Fifty" below. We’ll have a waiting list in case some have to drop out: so if you sign up but can’t make it, you can let us know. Others can worship from home via the FPC live stream.
 
This week’s message will be Corona Christians. 
 
If you would like a friendly voice, a prayer, some comfort, or if you have a practical need for groceries or a pharmacy run, contact the church office (225.387.0617 or prayer@fpcbr.org) and we will get you connected.  
 
If you’d like to talk with a professional counselor by phone, you can contact our Baton Rouge Christian Counseling Center and they will have a counselor call you. (225.387-2287) or email BRCCC@brchristiancounseling.com.
 
Keep praying for each other. Keep checking on each other. Keep looking to Jesus!
 
So thankful to be your pastor,
Gerrit
 
 

FPC Suspends Gathered Worship: A Message from Gerrit and Dr. Katie O'Neal

Beloved Members and Friends of First Presbyterian,
 
I despise media hysteria. I am skeptical of crowd-induced panic. I am determined that First will not behave out of fear or peer pressure.
 
And I now believe we should go to what is basically online worship for the next three weeks. It’s about serving our community, especially our health care services, by limiting large groups in social contact to “flatten out the curve” of a disease that will, inevitably, spread.
 
I’ve spoken to FPC member Dr. Katie O’Neal, who heads Disease Prevention at the Lake. I get it now in a way I didn’t. It’s not about what one individual handshake causes. It’s about the statistical reality of how epidemics spread. The facts, as best as we know them, are that “social distancing” slows down the spread and makes care of sick individuals more manageable. 
 
I then spoke to Dr. Keith Meador at Vanderbilt Medical Center and he confirmed all of the above.  
 
And following that, I have consulted with the session who agreed:
 
For March 15, 22 and 29, we will hold one 10.30 am service in the Sanctuary to which elders, deacons, staff and their families who are not in at-risk categories are invited. We will livestream this service, having communicated to our congregation that beginning Sunday we will eschew large gatherings. Nursery and Sunday school will be suspended for this time.
 
Let’s plan to participate together through our website, sending livestream viewership into the hundreds! Link is below.
 
However, home groups and small groups at church may continue, and people will be urged to follow the prescribed cautions, exercising personal discretion.
 
Chris Phillips and I will shape these services in various styles over the time period. 
 
The Youth Gala is already “out of the gate” and we will trust people to use discretion in their attendance, using good hygiene. 
 
We’re very thankful to Dr. O’Neal for conducting this video interview amidst a crushing schedule. 
 
Please pray especially for our medical providers, our elderly and the shalom of our city.
 
As ever, your pastors, elders and staff are available to serve you and uphold the faith we share.
 
With you in Christ
Gerrit
 
 
 
 
 

Never Would I Ever!

Did you ever play that game in your misspent youth? Someone names an outlandish behavior beginning with the phrase, “Never would I ever . . . ” But, if a participant has ever done that crazy thing (like swallowing a live goldfish), it must be admitted.
 
What if we played that game with the Passion story?
 
Never would I ever . . . get near a crucifixion. Yet, even as Simon of Cyrene raises his hand and describes carrying the cross for Jesus, I hope that I, too, would have had courage to help Jesus along his painful way.
 
Never would I ever . . . say I didn’t know Jesus. Yet, watching Peter ashamedly admit his denial, I recall all the times just this week that I did not take a stand for Christ.
 
Never would I ever . . . betray Jesus with a kiss. Yet even as Judas stands up to confess, I know that every time I “kiss” the cup as I drink during communion, my lips have also betrayed Jesus many times that week.
 
Never would I ever . . . give away a family heirloom on a lost cause. Yet, I see Mary anoint Jesus with a perfume worth tens of thousands of dollars. I see Joseph offer the executed Jesus his own burial plot. And I long to show extravagant love to Jesus.
 
We may well approach the stories of Passion Week thinking “Never would I ever . . . ” Surely those people then are nothing like me now. But just a bit of reflection and we realize, “I was there!” 
 
Studying the people Jesus encountered during Passion Week can rock your world, change your life and set your heart aflame with love for the Savior who undertook death and hell for your sake. 
 
So don’t miss a day! Get your beautiful Lenten book Were You There: Meeting the People of Passion Week, sign up for the daily emails, join a weekly home group and make it a priority to be at church every Sunday from now through Easter. You won’t be the same!
 
Youth Department News
 
We’re blessed to have a great youth staff team. Working to maximize the gifts of our staff, we’re reorganizing the ministry. 
 
Youth Ministry Administrator: Jessica Saffell 
 
Director of Youth: Middle School and Girls, Paula Walker
 
Assistant Director of Youth: High School and Boys, Noah Pourciau
 
The difference is that Jessica will become the “organizer” of our ministry, deploying our on-the-ground directors, Paula and Noah, in reaching middle school and high school students. Students will notice no change in how their programming works. Parents will notice that questions about trips, logistics, dates and details will go to Jessica first, rather than Paula, thus freeing Paula to spend more time with our students. 
 
 

The Expression of Truth Through Art

As a musician I often think about beauty and the expression of truth through art. If we use the most puritanical lens, beauty could be seen as a distraction-maybe even a temptation. Do we really need form as long as we have function? Aren’t frills frivolous?
 
Since her time hiding in the Roman catacombs, the church has struggled to define her relationship to beauty. Augustine worried about being seduced by the artistry of the singer rather than the sublime truth of the text being sung. At times, the church has adorned her sanctuaries with painting, sculpture and iconography. At other times, she has abandoned this adornment, shattering stained glass and choosing white walls over detailed murals.
 
For me, many answers to questions about beauty can be found in the existence of a tiny little critter called the peacock spider. The peacock spider will fit on the tip of your finger with room to spare. You could easily miss him. You may have squashed him. If you get really close, however, you will see a work of art. These tiny arachnids carry on their backs paintings worthy of wall space in a fine gallery. Do an image search in your web browser and discover the delights of the peacock spider’s plumage. 
 
The existence of the peacock spider tells us something about the nature of our God. He made a cosmos that is extravagantly, unnecessarily beautiful. Creation is as much a canvas as it is a construction. God designed a sturdy creation that functions well. He also made something gorgeous. As creatures, we must praise such a Creator. We can delight in his stunning artistry. We can celebrate our individuality. 
 

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
    who alone does wondrous things.
Blessed be his glorious name forever;
    may the whole earth be filled with his glory!
Amen and Amen! 

Psalm 72: 18-19

 
 

Were YOU There?

It’s your story. And it has all the makings of great drama. Intrigue. Sudden reversals. Intimate interactions. Betrayals. Violence. Courtroom maneuvers. Help from unexpected places. Dire villains. A hero who passes through grave peril to glorious triumph.
 
It’s your story. Because it’s the story of Jesus. We are in Christ. So in all he said and did, Jesus included us. All of his life was on our behalf. So always, his story is our story.
 
But we also find ourselves in the people who interacted with him. We identify with his opponents and his followers, with the betrayers and the devoted, with the conflicted and the proud. From Mary to Pilate, from Judas who betrayed to Simon who carried his cross, from Peter who denied him to the centurion who confessed him, we were there.  
 
The story of Passion Week is a story that touches our souls with poignancy. It reaches our hearts with conviction and comfort, with sorrow and rejoicing. Passion Week is the story we can’t stop telling. The best became the worst and then became something even better. It catches up our whole lives, the whole world. Nothing is more important than this true story.
 
And I want to take you there. This Lent, we’ll be studying the people of Passion Week. Day by day we will read about the many characters and the lesser characters, seeing how each one fits as we follow the episodes of this great story. We’ll learn to see through their eyes, and even pray through their prayers as we identify our lives through these characters. And discover anew how Jesus relates to us in truth, grace and love.  
 
Beginning February 9, you will have an opportunity to sign up to be part of a home group study. On March 1, we’ll receive our beautiful all-new Lent guides: Were You There? Meeting the People of Passion Week. We’ll be able to sign up for daily email delivery. And each week at worship we will go in depth with one of the characters.  
 
 
 
 

 

Sing Aloud His Righteousness!

We have only been with you for a few weeks. Yet, we already feel like part of this wonderful Church. The friendly handshakes and “Welcome to First Presbyterian!” introductions are appreciated. I believe that the Lord in his gracious, sovereign providence has brought us together. I am asking the Lord to build his Kingdom through us. I look forward to leading you to “pour forth the fame of God’s abundant goodness and sing aloud of his righteousness” (Psalm 145: 7).
 

A Restful Resolution

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God” (Exodus 20: 8-10a).
 
“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2: 27).

How restful are you? As the son of a WWII veteran, I had no choice but to develop a work ethic. My earthly father believed in productivity. Our Heavenly Father does too. Yet, He also believes in rest.

In a restless society, it is easy to take the Fourth Commandment as a suggestion rather than a commandment from the God who created the universe and created you and knows what is best for us.
 
When we are not willing to rest, we eventually are given no choice but to rest. At best, the rest comes when one has a vacation, a holiday or retirement. At worst, rest comes only due to unexpected illness, personal crisis, or even death. In such cases, rest is looked upon simply as a form of recovery. God has something better than that for you and me.
 
The command for rest is given in the book of Exodus in light of God’s example of “resting” on the seventh day of the first week, following six days of his “work” of creating (Genesis 2: 2). As an omnipotent God, he rested, not because he needed rest, but because we do, even as an example to others of how to remember that he is God and that the world doesn’t depend upon our abilities but upon his (Psalm 46: 10). He is able.
 
For Christians, the question is not, “How should I keep the Sabbath?,” the day during which the Israelites kept Ceremonial Law, resting from any and every type of labor. Instead, it is a two-part question. We ask “How should I keep the Lord’s Day?,” Sunday, the day on which Christ rose from the dead, when Christians gather for corporate worship (Acts 20: 7, 1 Corinthians 16: 1-2). Also, “How can I appropriately adhere to the divine command to rest, taking a break from the usual routine of the other six days, as we are not under Old Testament law but New Testament grace?" (Galatians 5: 1-26)
 
Sunday may be your day of rest, outwardly and inwardly, physically and spiritually. As a pastor, it is not mine. In fact, I have often told others that on Mondays, my day off, I am not available to anyone other than my wife and children, unless it is truly a matter of life and death. Of course, after I said this, many have died on Mondays! I even had one friend, Johnny Wheeler, tell me that he is intentionally going to die on a Monday just to have one on me–and he did! I’m glad that God has a sense of humor! I am also glad that we will see Johnny again (John 11: 25-26).
 
Nevertheless, ceasing from our work for 24 hours weekly is still necessary for each of us regardless of our career/calling. It helps us to realize that God is still in control and he will continue to get done all that we are called to do even without us. This keeps us humble as servants in his kingdom rather than sovereigns of our own (Psalm 46: 10). Even more poignantly, it keeps us from missing out on the privilege as his children to hear from our Father in heaven while we are still here on earth.
 
I have found that my times of being still, reading and meditating upon his Word, in prayer and contemplation, empower me to keep a proper perspective in the midst of life’s problems, hearing his voice in the midst of all the other voices of this world, including my own.
 
Nevertheless, if we have a sabbath rest of only praying, we have not progressed from our Puritan ancestors who tended to be legalistic in their observances. If we have a sabbath rest of only playing, we are no different than the self-centered society in which we live. Regardless of how the rest is practiced, it is not true rest unless it refreshes our relationship with God and our perspective on life.
 
Being busy yet not hurried is another thing altogether that I thank the Lord for teaching me in my desire to be more like him. Perhaps we can discuss that goal in the days ahead. Meanwhile, I have a challenge for you in this year ahead:
 
Would you consider making a New Year’s resolution to observe and enjoy the command to rest one day each week this year and as long as we are on this earth until we enter the eternal rest (Hebrews 4: 1-16) of the One who said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest?" (Matthew 11: 28).

 

Focused Fellowship Through the Decades

Each month, Women’s Ministry organizes focused fellowship targeting women in specific decades. There is no agenda! These are simply extra opportunities to gather together outside of the church walls for food, fellowship and fun.
 
Did you grow up on Pearl Jam or own a BFF bracelet? The 20s/30s gatherings are for you! Meets in January & June.
 
Did you own leg warmers or dance to Whitney Houston? The 30s/40s gatherings are for you! Meets in April & October.
 
Did you grow up with the Jackson 5 or own a pair of bell bottoms? The 40s/50s gatherings are for you. Meets in February & August.
 
Did you own a pair of go-go boots or rock out to the Temptations? The 50s/60s gatherings are for you! Meets in May & November.
 
Did you own a poodle skirt or swoon over Elvis Presley? The 60s/70s+ gatherings are for you! Meets in March & September.
 
Do you identify with all of the above? Then don’t worry about your age and come to any or all of the gatherings! Anyone is welcome! Bring a friend! Stay tuned for dates and locations. Or you may contact Jaime Carnaggio.
 

Focused Fellowship Through the Decades

Each month, Women’s Ministry organizes focused fellowship targeting women in specific decades. There is no agenda! These are simply extra opportunities to gather together outside of the church walls for food, fellowship and fun.
 
Did you grow up on Pearl Jam or own a BFF bracelet? The 20s/30s gatherings are for you! Meets in January & June.
 
Did you own leg warmers or dance to Whitney Houston? The 30s/40s gatherings are for you! Meets in April & October.
 
Did you grow up with the Jackson 5 or own a pair of bell bottoms? The 40s/50s gatherings are for you. Meets in February & August.
 
Did you own a pair of go-go boots or rock out to the Temptations? The 50s/60s gatherings are for you! Meets in May & November.
 
Did you own a poodle skirt or swoon over Elvis Presley? The 60s/70s+ gatherings are for you! Meets in March & September.
 
Do you identify with all of the above? Then don’t worry about your age and come to any or all of the gatherings! Anyone is welcome! Bring a friend! Stay tuned for dates and locations. Or you may contact Jaime Carnaggio.
 

2019 Ministry Executive Report

As our new year begins, you should know that our special Christmas Offering for the Gardere Christian Community School and the Christian Outreach Center was extraordinary. These two ministries represent mission opportunities that each have a tremendous return on investment. They are personally impacting people who would otherwise be jobless and homeless or “at risk” children and their families in ways too numerous to list.
 
There is a passage of Scripture in 2 Corinthians, Chapter 8 about giving. You’d recognize it as including the verse about the cheerful giver. The Bible translation The Message puts it this way:
 

I want you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your mind what you will give. That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting. God loves it when the giver delights in the giving . . . . This most generous God . . . gives you something you can then give away, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God.

 
I am so gratified to be part of a church where there are not “sob stories” or “arm twisting.” We know what it means to participate in God’s economy. Our generosity enables us to actively participate in over 30 local ministries, financially support over 20 missionaries and worship our Lord in glorious ways, teaching our children about the love of Christ. Our 2020 budget will enable us to continue living our faith in these ways.
 
Your church’s Finance Committee, Session and department heads are trying hard to bring to a close their work on the operating budget for 2020. As was the case last year, we enter the new year with about 100 of our fellowship having not yet turned in Estimates of Giving. This represents a significant sum. It would be a great help to receive those soon.
 
I wish for you all a most blessed New Year. May our Lord bless you and keep you and cause His face to shine upon you. May your new year be full of opportunities to participate in God’s economy.
 

New Beginnings in 2020

Well, this is it!! It’s really here. My last Sunday to lead worship at FPC is January 5th. It has been great to have had these extra 6 months with you! God surely has a sense of humor when it comes to the plans we make. He is in control!
 
It has been my honor and God’s blessing to serve as Creative Arts Director and Worship Team director for almost 30 years. I know that is rare. We had the utmost fun to the very end, closing the 2019 year with “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”, Live Nativity, and amazing Christmas Eve services, because it’s all about Jesus. I have always known that. He saved me, changed my life, and directed my music career and path to this church many years ago. My children were raised by many of you, I met my husband Rick here, and we were married in the Dunham chapel 25 years ago this past November!
 
I want to say a very, very special thank you to the worship team, and all of the creative arts friends that have volunteered to be in productions all of these years. Some of you have been with me for many years. I would name you, but I am afraid I will leave someone out. We really have been a “team”, and teams that work hard and pray hard together will cherish good memories and remain friends forever. But I will miss working alongside you very much.
 
My hope and prayer for you personally and to the body of Christ in this church has always been that our worship be pleasing and acceptable to God, and that we reach out to our community in creative ways that give people opportunities to come to the foot of the cross of Jesus. So keep pressing on, don’t ever give up, and I look forward to seeing you again, but maybe it will be from the balcony!
 
Philippians 3: 14 “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Thank you so much.
 
 

Right Now Media

Have you ever been to a holiday party and received a gift that was a re-gift? Sometimes those gifts can be a little less desirable, but I have great news. First Presbyterian Church is giving you a gift that you are going to love receiving again! As the director for discipleship at our church, I want you to have the gift of Right Now Media (RNM). I announced two years ago that I had purchased a churchwide account for all who love FPC, but I think it is time to remind you of what a great treasure trove of godly material it is.
 
RNM is a lot like a Christian version of Netflix but with a much greater emphasis on teaching. There are plenty of entertaining videos for kids, such as What’s in the Bible and Adventures in Odyssey. But where RNM really stands out is its teaching for adults. Whenever I want to study a book in the Bible, I love going to RNM and watching a How to Read summary of the book. For example, type in the search bar “Psalms,” then scroll down to the customizable training section and click on Tim Mackie’s How to Read Pslams. It is a powerful 9 minute summary!
 
If you’re looking for Bible study content for personal or small group use, RNM has tons of content from some of the most recognizable Christian teachers today. If it’s a topic that you’re curious about, such as parenting, you will be amazed how many great videos can be found on the topic. With this announcement of a gift you already have, I did want to make you aware of a couple of things that have improved with RNM since 2017. Some new users can get overwhelmed with how much content is on the site. To help with this, I have created a FPC “Channel” that will have specific content that I think our church will enjoy including a “Staff Favorites” section. (Continue to check the FPC channel as we’ll be adding new content to it all the time.) The other greatest improvement to RNM is your ability to access it. Before you had to sign-up via the invitation that I sent to the email our church has on file for you. If you lost that email, I had to manually create another invitation for you to join. Now, all you have to do is go to our FPC website, find the RNM link, and from there you will be able to directly create an account. Now that’s a pretty easy gift to unwrap!!!
 
Enjoy the new year and when you have time to catch your breath, check out RNM. My hope is that the teaching found there will complement the excellent teaching we receive every Sunday from the pulpit–and that we may walk deeply with Christ together as a body!
 
 

Right Now Media

Have you ever been to a holiday party and received a gift that was a re-gift? Sometimes those gifts can be a little less desirable, but I have great news. First Presbyterian Church is giving you a gift that you are going to love receiving again! As the director for discipleship at our church, I want you to have the gift of Right Now Media (RNM). I announced two years ago that I had purchased a churchwide account for all who love FPC, but I think it is time to remind you of what a great treasure trove of godly material it is.
 
RNM is a lot like a Christian version of Netflix but with a much greater emphasis on teaching. There are plenty of entertaining videos for kids, such as What’s in the Bible and Adventures in Odyssey. But where RNM really stands out is its teaching for adults. Whenever I want to study a book in the Bible, I love going to RNM and watching a How to Read summary of the book. For example, type in the search bar “Psalms,” then scroll down to the customizable training section and click on Tim Mackie’s How to Read Pslams. It is a powerful 9 minute summary!
 
If you’re looking for Bible study content for personal or small group use, RNM has tons of content from some of the most recognizable Christian teachers today. If it’s a topic that you’re curious about, such as parenting, you will be amazed how many great videos can be found on the topic. With this announcement of a gift you already have, I did want to make you aware of a couple of things that have improved with RNM since 2017. Some new users can get overwhelmed with how much content is on the site. To help with this, I have created a FPC “Channel” that will have specific content that I think our church will enjoy including a “Staff Favorites” section. (Continue to check the FPC channel as we’ll be adding new content to it all the time.) The other greatest improvement to RNM is your ability to access it. Before you had to sign-up via the invitation that I sent to the email our church has on file for you. If you lost that email, I had to manually create another invitation for you to join. Now, all you have to do is go to our FPC website, find the RNM link, and from there you will be able to directly create an account. Now that’s a pretty easy gift to unwrap!!!
 
Enjoy the new year and when you have time to catch your breath, check out RNM. My hope is that the teaching found there will complement the excellent teaching we receive every Sunday from the pulpit–and that we may walk deeply with Christ together as a body!
 
 

A Farewell Benediction

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is this benediction Paul offers to the Ephesians (Eph. 3: 20-21): "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."

I wait with excited anticipation as I think of God working out in our lives more than we could ever ask or imagine. As I leave First Presbyterian, I pray that you will be perceptive to the power that is at work in you. That you will know the presence and love of God as he guides and leads you. I pray that your life, and mine, will glorify this God that can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. May we serve him well! I love you.  

 

 

A Farewell Benediction

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is this benediction Paul offers to the Ephesians (Eph. 3: 20-21): "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."

I wait with excited anticipation as I think of God working out in our lives more than we could ever ask or imagine. As I leave First Presbyterian, I pray that you will be perceptive to the power that is at work in you. That you will know the presence and love of God as he guides and leads you. I pray that your life, and mine, will glorify this God that can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. May we serve him well! I love you.  

 

 

Listening Through the Crack

What if you found the door to the divine throne room left slightly ajar? What if you could listen through that crack to overhear what the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were saying to each other? And what if you discovered they were talking about us?!
 
Hidden Conversations: Overhearing the Trinity is the theme for three special presentations January 31/February 1. We call it a “Stay-Treat” because it’s like a retreat: we eat together, hang out together and study the Word together. But we get to go home and sleep in our own beds! Friday evening and Saturday morning, Dr. Matthew Bates will lead our explorations of conversations recorded in Scripture between members of the Trinity. Often overlooked entirely, these amazing passages led the early church to realize that the one God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We actually get to overhear the Trinity talking about how to save us! 
 
Mark your calendars now! You will never read Scripture the same way again! All this, plus a great dinner Friday night, yummy desserts and a special track for kids. Also, I’ll be leading an intro session to the topic in the Crossroads Class January 5, the Kingdom Builders class January 12 and the Essentials class January 19 to help get us ready.
 
 
Hellos and Goodbyes
 
As the New Year begins, we say goodbye to some faces we love and hello to some faces we will grow quickly to love. Elizabeth Parker has concluded her five and a half years with us, and we give thanks for dedication among our women and in the ministry of the Word. Nancy Spiller is concluding her second tour as a worship director. 
 
We’re so grateful she postponed her retirement to step in last summer when we had a critical need. There’s only one Nancy! And we welcome Chris Phillips as our new Director of Worship.
 
Chris begins January 12. He is moving here from Jackson, MS along with his wife Virginia and son Benjamin. I know you’ll be delighted to meet the Phillips. 
 
And I’m delighted to begin another new year with you, beloved congregation!
 

Listening Through the Crack

What if you found the door to the divine throne room left slightly ajar? What if you could listen through that crack to overhear what the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were saying to each other? And what if you discovered they were talking about us?!
 
Hidden Conversations: Overhearing the Trinity is the theme for three special presentations January 31/February 1. We call it a “Stay-Treat” because it’s like a retreat: we eat together, hang out together and study the Word together. But we get to go home and sleep in our own beds! Friday evening and Saturday morning, Dr. Matthew Bates will lead our explorations of conversations recorded in Scripture between members of the Trinity. Often overlooked entirely, these amazing passages led the early church to realize that the one God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We actually get to overhear the Trinity talking about how to save us! 
 
Mark your calendars now! You will never read Scripture the same way again! All this, plus a great dinner Friday night, yummy desserts and a special track for kids. Also, I’ll be leading an intro session to the topic in the Crossroads Class January 5, the Kingdom Builders class January 12 and the Essentials class January 19 to help get us ready.
 
 
Hellos and Goodbyes
 
As the New Year begins, we say goodbye to some faces we love and hello to some faces we will grow quickly to love. Elizabeth Parker has concluded her five and a half years with us, and we give thanks for dedication among our women and in the ministry of the Word. Nancy Spiller is concluding her second tour as a worship director. 
 
We’re so grateful she postponed her retirement to step in last summer when we had a critical need. There’s only one Nancy! And we welcome Chris Phillips as our new Director of Worship.
 
Chris begins January 12. He is moving here from Jackson, MS along with his wife Virginia and son Benjamin. I know you’ll be delighted to meet the Phillips. 
 
And I’m delighted to begin another new year with you, beloved congregation!
 

Why I Love XMas!

Hey, keep Christ in Christmas!! I agree! Merry Xmas! (Has our pastor lost his mind? Probably, but that’s another column . . . ).
 
Did you know that the familiar abbreviation for Christmas does not have secular origins? An “X” has been used for Christ since the time of the ancient church, even in some manuscripts of the New Testament! The “X” represents Chi, the first letter in Greek for christos, or Christ. An X for Christ has also been found in English writing since the 15th century. 
 
So, I’m happy to reclaim the “X” in Xmas. And I enjoy the “X” all year long. I’ve even abbreviated my personal vision for ministry to these 3 characters: Q4X. Quest for Christ. As you study ancient Christian symbols and art, you’ll often find this symbol: two Greek letters combined, the Chi (X) and the Rho (an “r” that looks like a “p”). These are the first two letter in christos and they make a beautiful symbol for our Lord and Savior. So, joyous Xmas to you!
New Xmas Eve Morning Service
 
The session has authorized a third Christmas Eve service! This 11 am worship will be a multi-media journey of lessons and carols designed especially for families with young children. We will tell the ancient story and sing the favorite songs in a way that appeals to our youngest worshippers. Glow sticks will replace drippy candles, and we’ll use instruments, arts and stories to keep it creative and joyful. An infant nursery will be offered. There won’t be communion. And, of course, we will be offering our 4 pm and 6 pm festive services of candlelight and communion. 
 
It’s always a joy to keep Christmas with you.
 

Why I Love XMas!

Hey, keep Christ in Christmas!! I agree! Merry Xmas! (Has our pastor lost his mind? Probably, but that’s another column . . . ).
 
Did you know that the familiar abbreviation for Christmas does not have secular origins? An “X” has been used for Christ since the time of the ancient church, even in some manuscripts of the New Testament! The “X” represents Chi, the first letter in Greek for christos, or Christ. An X for Christ has also been found in English writing since the 15th century. 
 
So, I’m happy to reclaim the “X” in Xmas. And I enjoy the “X” all year long. I’ve even abbreviated my personal vision for ministry to these 3 characters: Q4X. Quest for Christ. As you study ancient Christian symbols and art, you’ll often find this symbol: two Greek letters combined, the Chi (X) and the Rho (an “r” that looks like a “p”). These are the first two letter in christos and they make a beautiful symbol for our Lord and Savior. So, joyous Xmas to you!
New Xmas Eve Morning Service
 
The session has authorized a third Christmas Eve service! This 11 am worship will be a multi-media journey of lessons and carols designed especially for families with young children. We will tell the ancient story and sing the favorite songs in a way that appeals to our youngest worshippers. Glow sticks will replace drippy candles, and we’ll use instruments, arts and stories to keep it creative and joyful. An infant nursery will be offered. There won’t be communion. And, of course, we will be offering our 4 pm and 6 pm festive services of candlelight and communion. 
 
It’s always a joy to keep Christmas with you.
 

Presents or Presence?

Parenting is one tough job and not for sissies or the fainthearted. Giving birth is a snap compared to parenting and being the biological male sire is by no means the same as being the parenting father. It is kind of like the fact that weddings do not necessarily result in marriages, if you get my drift.
 
The world doesn’t honor parenting. It never has, and a lot of lip service is given but like the saying goes, “words are cheap.” The world has pulled mother out of the home under the guise of liberating her to equal status with men. By what standard are we measuring this worth? The world’s standard? Money? As for men, they have never been encouraged by the world to put as much energy into parenting as they do their labor for the almighty dollar.
 
Parenting takes more time than money. It is really true. Just look at the number of boarding schools and children’s homes that have been built for the purpose of kids being put aside while parents pursue their careers. If you ask children what they desire, their answer will be, "To be at home with their family." Toys and entertainment (i.e., Play Stations) don’t make up for the longing for home in their hearts that shows in their eyes.
 
Children want presence not presents. Oh, we have taught them well; that like us, they are supposed to like presents. It is the material way. The American way. But I’m not sure it is God’s way. Please don’t get me wrong. We do have to live in this world and we do have to have real material bread for the journey. The economic status of many single mothers and couples dictates that both work. But even if that is the case, the economic necessity doesn’t reduce the missed time of presence for both parent and child.
 
What is the answer? I’m not sure, but this much I know: children need parents present as much as possible. That means not just in their rooms but also paying attention and participating in their world. Quality time is vital and there needs to be a lot of quality time or else there will be no parenting going on. Take time to reflect for a moment on how we adults long for God’s presence. And guess what? He shows up! 
 
 
The Gift of Presence
 
How can you give the gifts of presence to your family? One step at a time. The following suggestions will help you get started:
  1. When you come home, give yourself thirty minutes, if possible, to unwind and change gears before you enter into the family dynamics. (Maybe you can do this in the car on the way home or maybe each parent can give the other thirty minutes of alone time before everyone comes together).
  2. When you enter the family, give each child thirty minutes of your undivided attention. Children want to know that that you are present and interested. At the end of that time, they will have had enough of you and will go off to play on their own. (However, if you come in, listen with one ear, watch TV or read the paper with both eyes and just say “uh huh” a lot, they will pester you all night to try to get you to really notice them).
  3. Plan family time and possibly a family meeting each week. Family time is a time when everybody plays or talks and listens together. Family meeting is when everyone gets to put their two cents worth in, knowing it will be heard and considered, even if not acted on every time.
  4. Have a “date” with each child at least once a month.  Mom and Dad can each do this. (When my boys were young, I took them to breakfast on Wednesday (Patrick) and Friday (Andrew) mornings before school: we had 100/breakfasts per year x 10 years). 
  5. Praise your children for who they are --- their humor, their smile, their ability to think, their insights, their gifts and talents. You cannot bless a child’s being too much.
  6. Correct their doing and don’t attack their person.
  7. Let siblings work out their differences whenever possible. They don’t need to get you in the middle.  They are better arbitrators than we give them credit for sometimes.
  8. Love your spouse! Stand together! Discuss your differences in a private space away from the children and then come out as a united front. Don’t let the children split you up.
  9. Take some time for yourself. You cannot give all the time and not run out of juice. Batteries run down, and you will too.
  10. Take time to be a couple, if you are not a single parent. Make some memories together. One day, the children will be gone and don’t live through them.
  11. Be present. Be present. Be present as much as possible. Children just need to know you are there and that they can get to you when they really need you.
  12. Sometimes when the culture is cheering us all on to our death beds (both culturally and individually), we just have to listen to the still, small voice of God inside us. Get still and listen. I believe God will let you know a lot better how to do this parenting thing than the world would lead you to believe. But remember: to hear God will take the same thing it takes to be present – presence! Be present please, Mom and Dad. And God says, “Be present please, children; I want to enjoy my children, too.” 

Season of Thanks

Gratitude is the path to well-being.  Thanksgiving transforms toil into delight.Saying a blessing brings more pleasure to the meal.  A grateful heart is a merry heart.  Scripture urges us to rejoice always and to give thanks in all circumstances. So true. Yet, at this time of year we more intentionally appreciate all that God has given us. As we prepare to celebrate the birth of God’s Son, our hearts want to make a return for such a gift.
 
It’s easy for me to be thankful for our church. We stand in a crowded Sanctuary singing “A Mighty Fortress” with the organ and brass sounding forth. I rejoice to be in the company of the saints, both the ones in that hour and all the faithful ones who have raised their voices through two centuries. I can’t help but smile when I see the sweet faces of our Mother’s Day Out children gathering for chapel. Practicing for the Christmas play with elementary students, I delight in their enthusiasm. Hearing the questions of confirmation  students, laughing with a group of men about the foibles of our discipleship, or feeling the passion in our members doing city mission and international ministry, I’m just moved with thanks. All year long I am grateful for our life among the extraordinary believers in Baton Rouge.
 
Just a few highlights for particular praise. The session has called Chris Phillips to be our new worship director. At Belhaven University, Chris taught worship leadership for both traditional and contemporary styles. At Lakeside Presbyterian in Jackson, Chris has been designing and leading services in both accents. We look forward to welcoming Chris, his wife Virginia and his son Benjamin in January.  
 
The session has authorized our hosting a third Christmas Eve worship service. This 11 am Sanctuary program will be especially designed for families with younger children. We’re trying it out this year in hopes of offering a convenient option for little ones while also alleviating some of the overcrowding we’ve had at the four o’clock service. More details next month.
 
We dedicate our Estimates of Giving November 10. My challenge: fill out your card before the LSU/Alabama game! That way you will know what matters most. And if the unimaginable happens and our idols are shattered, you can remember you acknowledged God first! And if our football dreams come true, you’ll be delighted to celebrate with this act of faith. Just sayin’!
 
As ever, I hope you can tell how proud I am of you and how much I love being your pastor.
 
  

Season of Thanks

Gratitude is the path to well-being.  Thanksgiving transforms toil into delight.Saying a blessing brings more pleasure to the meal.  A grateful heart is a merry heart.  Scripture urges us to rejoice always and to give thanks in all circumstances. So true. Yet, at this time of year we more intentionally appreciate all that God has given us. As we prepare to celebrate the birth of God’s Son, our hearts want to make a return for such a gift.
 
It’s easy for me to be thankful for our church. We stand in a crowded Sanctuary singing “A Mighty Fortress” with the organ and brass sounding forth. I rejoice to be in the company of the saints, both the ones in that hour and all the faithful ones who have raised their voices through two centuries. I can’t help but smile when I see the sweet faces of our Mother’s Day Out children gathering for chapel. Practicing for the Christmas play with elementary students, I delight in their enthusiasm. Hearing the questions of confirmation  students, laughing with a group of men about the foibles of our discipleship, or feeling the passion in our members doing city mission and international ministry, I’m just moved with thanks. All year long I am grateful for our life among the extraordinary believers in Baton Rouge.
 
Just a few highlights for particular praise. The session has called Chris Phillips to be our new worship director. At Belhaven University, Chris taught worship leadership for both traditional and contemporary styles. At Lakeside Presbyterian in Jackson, Chris has been designing and leading services in both accents. We look forward to welcoming Chris, his wife Virginia and his son Benjamin in January.  
 
The session has authorized our hosting a third Christmas Eve worship service. This 11 am Sanctuary program will be especially designed for families with younger children. We’re trying it out this year in hopes of offering a convenient option for little ones while also alleviating some of the overcrowding we’ve had at the four o’clock service. More details next month.
 
We dedicate our Estimates of Giving November 10. My challenge: fill out your card before the LSU/Alabama game! That way you will know what matters most. And if the unimaginable happens and our idols are shattered, you can remember you acknowledged God first! And if our football dreams come true, you’ll be delighted to celebrate with this act of faith. Just sayin’!
 
As ever, I hope you can tell how proud I am of you and how much I love being your pastor.
 
  

Prayerful Listening

At a Young Life Staff retreat at Windy Gap in 1991, Henri Nouwen asked, “What is it like for you to be in the presence of God? What images come to mind?” Almost immediately, the answer came from deep within me. It’s like visiting my grandmother. Every Saturday from age eight till 18, I would take three buses across the city to clean her home and enjoy a Saturday lunch that was incredible. My grandmother desired spending time with me, and I loved the adventure to get to her home. After cleaning her home and having an amazing lunch, we would visit with one another, sitting in the quiet of her home playing a few games of “crazy eights or canasta.” I would speak about my life and ask her about hers. Grandma listened and I listened. There were times of silence, and there was no sense of hurry, except she wanted me on the bus by 4.30 to begin the trek home to uptown Nola.  
 
Even when I got busy with other things and came less often, Grandma didn’t scold me for not coming sooner. She always greeted me as though I was the best part of her week. I don’t recall her telling me she loved me or that she was praying for me, though there was no doubt that both were true. She gave me an image of God that was accepting and loving and spacious. She helped to listen my soul into being, and she pursued my heart since I was born.  Grandma Thelma was my only living grandparent when I was born, and we remained very close until her death on November 15, 1989 (the same day our son Andrew came into our lives). The irony of this gift was that the Lord Jesus was in charge of the timing.
 
Perhaps Grandma guided my vocational life without ever speaking of it or planning it. Maybe she had a desire I would become a priest or pastor, but grandma helped to prepare me by which my spiritual life has been nurtured.  Throughout my adult life through listening and talking in small groups of people, I have been seeking to deepen my life in God. These small groups have often been formed through the church and youth ministry, and became known as breakfast clubs with young men and adults. Since 1976, it has been a joy to listen to God and to others, and this has been a precious gift. It is called prayerful listening. 
 
Henri Nouwen on this Young Life staff retreat shared of the healing that is available in prayerful listening. “Healing means, first of all, the creation of an empty but friendly space where those who suffer can tell their story to someone who can listen with real attention. Healers are hosts who patiently and carefully listen to the story. Our most important question as healers is not, ‘What to say or to do?’ but, ‘How to develop enough inner space where the story can be received?’ Healing is the humble but also very demanding task of creating and offering a friendly empty space where strangers can reflect without fear, and find the confidence that makes them look for new ways right in the center of their confusion” (Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life, p. 67-68). 
 
My grandmother, in her own limited situation, without knowing the larger impact of her faithfulness, pointed me to God, who is always ready to listen, to heal, to love and to invite us into deeper places. Without a doubt, grandma was prayerfully listening to every word that I shared and our Heavenly Father does the same.
 

Beautiful Spaces

We enjoy an unrepeatable location in the heart of Baton Rouge. We worship in an irreplaceable Sanctuary and Chapel. Our forebears in faith looked well beyond themselves in giving us such beautiful spaces for our life together in Christ.
 
By God’s bounty, this season of the church’s life affords us opportunity to enhance and protect what has been left to us. We are able to offer current and future members unprecedented facilities and grounds. The session has approved spending up to $850,000 in renovations and improvements over the next two years.
 
Projects include installation of lovely brick and aluminum fencing like we have on our playgrounds. We will enclose both our inner and outer perimeters. We’ll be able to go between our buildings or play in our gardens without worry that children will get loose into the street or parking lot. The whole block will feel welcoming but secure, and we’ll be adding more lanes for drop off by our entrances. We plan to upgrade all doors and locks with a new security system, including better cameras at the entrances. Inside, we’ll be replacing the current Sanctuary screens with brighter, sleeker LED screens and we’ll be adding higher quality cameras for livestreaming. The project includes fire sprinkler replacement in the Education Building, electrical surge protection and general beautification in a number of rooms.
Best of all, this project will be funded by the carefully stewarded income from our endowments. We don’t plan to ask you for anything more! We never use endowment income for the ongoing operation of the church and its mission—that’s why your annual gifts are so very important. But because of these well-managed extra sources, we are able to do special projects like this. How bountifully our God has blessed us, and now we will pass along an even more beautiful campus to those who come after us.
 
KidsHope
 
The session recently endorsed augmenting our ministry to the Gardere Community Christian School through beginning a new initiative. KidsHope USA is a national Christian mentoring program which enables churches to undergird schools with prayer and intentional mentoring. Every volunteer mentor has a prayer partner lifting up both the student and the mentor. Each hour spent with children has intentional activities designed to build character, communicate love and improve academics.  Annette Lamond will direct our program and I’d love for you to contact her to find out more.  And, as ever, I give thanks for you as I rejoice in being your pastor,
 

Beautiful Spaces

We enjoy an unrepeatable location in the heart of Baton Rouge. We worship in an irreplaceable Sanctuary and Chapel. Our forebears in faith looked well beyond themselves in giving us such beautiful spaces for our life together in Christ.
 
By God’s bounty, this season of the church’s life affords us opportunity to enhance and protect what has been left to us. We are able to offer current and future members unprecedented facilities and grounds. The session has approved spending up to $850,000 in renovations and improvements over the next two years.
 
Projects include installation of lovely brick and aluminum fencing like we have on our playgrounds. We will enclose both our inner and outer perimeters. We’ll be able to go between our buildings or play in our gardens without worry that children will get loose into the street or parking lot. The whole block will feel welcoming but secure, and we’ll be adding more lanes for drop off by our entrances. We plan to upgrade all doors and locks with a new security system, including better cameras at the entrances. Inside, we’ll be replacing the current Sanctuary screens with brighter, sleeker LED screens and we’ll be adding higher quality cameras for livestreaming. The project includes fire sprinkler replacement in the Education Building, electrical surge protection and general beautification in a number of rooms.
Best of all, this project will be funded by the carefully stewarded income from our endowments. We don’t plan to ask you for anything more! We never use endowment income for the ongoing operation of the church and its mission—that’s why your annual gifts are so very important. But because of these well-managed extra sources, we are able to do special projects like this. How bountifully our God has blessed us, and now we will pass along an even more beautiful campus to those who come after us.
 
KidsHope
 
The session recently endorsed augmenting our ministry to the Gardere Community Christian School through beginning a new initiative. KidsHope USA is a national Christian mentoring program which enables churches to undergird schools with prayer and intentional mentoring. Every volunteer mentor has a prayer partner lifting up both the student and the mentor. Each hour spent with children has intentional activities designed to build character, communicate love and improve academics.  Annette Lamond will direct our program and I’d love for you to contact her to find out more.  And, as ever, I give thanks for you as I rejoice in being your pastor,
 

Small Group Mixer September 8

When we look at the Scriptures, the distinctives of the church are the teaching of God’s Word, the sacraments and the presence of elders. We know that in addition to those things, the experience of being known and loved by those we meet with each week makes church great. One powerful way to connect with others at First Presbyterian is our small group ministry and we have some fantastic small groups being offered this fall. Though last year most of our small groups all studied one book together, this year we are giving our leaders the space to teach on what God is specifically laying on their hearts. Here’s a short overview of a few of the options you will find at our small group mixer kickoff event on September 8:
 
Financial Peace University: Dave Ramsey’s wildly popular content on financial stewardship will be offered this fall at First Pres. When I was invited to attend this class 14 years ago, I arrogantly thought, “I’m pretty good with managing my money already; I don’t know if I’ll get that much out of this.” Boy was I wrong! This class radically shaped my use of money in such a good way. I’m thrilled we have leaders who are eager to teach and host this class for our church. There is a cost of $109 for materials but scholarships are available for anyone who might need assistance.
 
Transforming Communities: Sacred Rhythms: We offered a Sunday school class on this material in July but everyone wanted more! In our hectic and splintered world, the practice of having solitude, silence and space to examine one’s inner world can seem like an unattainable goal. This in-depth group will help you on your journey of learning the sacred rhythms of life for inner spiritual vitality. We will consider topics such as Work and Rest Through Establishing a Sabbath, Intimacy with God Through Prayer, Creating Space for God through Solitude, and Recognizing and Responding to the Presence of God through Discernment.
 
 
The Smart StepFamily: When love blends two families together, it can provide so many wonderful relationships, but it can also be a challenging journey of adjustment. Strong stepfamilies can wonderfully heal previous hurts and provide a strong foundation for children to flourish in life. This group will use the newly revised book by Ron Deal called The Smart StepFamily. It combines instruction and encouragement that affirms both husbands and wives and their intent to build strong families by looking at seven fundamental steps to blended family success. Whether married or soon-to-be married, you’ll discover how to communicate effectively and solve the everyday puzzles of stepfamily relationships.
 
Apostles’ Creed In-Depth: Do you ever leave Sunday mornings thinking, “What Gerrit just shared was so good, but I want more!” As Gerrit is powerfully preaching through the Apostles’ Creed in worship, several of our small groups will dig deeper into the meat of the Creed via a small group format. These groups hope to help the Sunday morning content solidify even more in our hearts and provide a place of warm fellowship. These groups will discuss the previous week’s sermon as well as connect over additional Biblical material to provide even more teaching/context.
 
Several other groups are still forming, but further topics to consider are: A Ray Vander Laan study using videos of ancient Israel for vivid understanding of Biblical material, a study on spiritual disciplines featuring many Puritan writers, an in-depth study of the Biblical character Elijah, and others still to come. Check them all out on September 8 in the Reception Room! 
 
 
 
 
 

Small Group Mixer September 8

When we look at the Scriptures, the distinctives of the church are the teaching of God’s Word, the sacraments and the presence of elders. We know that in addition to those things, the experience of being known and loved by those we meet with each week makes church great. One powerful way to connect with others at First Presbyterian is our small group ministry and we have some fantastic small groups being offered this fall. Though last year most of our small groups all studied one book together, this year we are giving our leaders the space to teach on what God is specifically laying on their hearts. Here’s a short overview of a few of the options you will find at our small group mixer kickoff event on September 8:
 
Financial Peace University: Dave Ramsey’s wildly popular content on financial stewardship will be offered this fall at First Pres. When I was invited to attend this class 14 years ago, I arrogantly thought, “I’m pretty good with managing my money already; I don’t know if I’ll get that much out of this.” Boy was I wrong! This class radically shaped my use of money in such a good way. I’m thrilled we have leaders who are eager to teach and host this class for our church. There is a cost of $109 for materials but scholarships are available for anyone who might need assistance.
 
Transforming Communities: Sacred Rhythms: We offered a Sunday school class on this material in July but everyone wanted more! In our hectic and splintered world, the practice of having solitude, silence and space to examine one’s inner world can seem like an unattainable goal. This in-depth group will help you on your journey of learning the sacred rhythms of life for inner spiritual vitality. We will consider topics such as Work and Rest Through Establishing a Sabbath, Intimacy with God Through Prayer, Creating Space for God through Solitude, and Recognizing and Responding to the Presence of God through Discernment.
 
 
The Smart StepFamily: When love blends two families together, it can provide so many wonderful relationships, but it can also be a challenging journey of adjustment. Strong stepfamilies can wonderfully heal previous hurts and provide a strong foundation for children to flourish in life. This group will use the newly revised book by Ron Deal called The Smart StepFamily. It combines instruction and encouragement that affirms both husbands and wives and their intent to build strong families by looking at seven fundamental steps to blended family success. Whether married or soon-to-be married, you’ll discover how to communicate effectively and solve the everyday puzzles of stepfamily relationships.
 
Apostles’ Creed In-Depth: Do you ever leave Sunday mornings thinking, “What Gerrit just shared was so good, but I want more!” As Gerrit is powerfully preaching through the Apostles’ Creed in worship, several of our small groups will dig deeper into the meat of the Creed via a small group format. These groups hope to help the Sunday morning content solidify even more in our hearts and provide a place of warm fellowship. These groups will discuss the previous week’s sermon as well as connect over additional Biblical material to provide even more teaching/context.
 
Several other groups are still forming, but further topics to consider are: A Ray Vander Laan study using videos of ancient Israel for vivid understanding of Biblical material, a study on spiritual disciplines featuring many Puritan writers, an in-depth study of the Biblical character Elijah, and others still to come. Check them all out on September 8 in the Reception Room! 
 
 
 
 
 

Compelling Compassion

What motivates us to share our faith in Jesus Christ, both locally and globally, at a time during which “religious pluralism“ and “social relativism” are the norm in our society? What was it that made Jesus’ message a message of “good news” at a time when certain others viewed it as anything but good? After all, the beliefs that there were many roads that led to God, and that all truth is relative, were “alive and well” during the first century AD (see John 4: 19-24, John 18: 38), as it is in the twenty-first century. This is what makes Jesus’ message, “I am the way, the truth, and the life . . . ” (John 14: 6) so counter-cultural. Scripture tells us over and over again that Jesus is the One and Only way to eternal life (Romans 6: 23).
 
What difference does this make? All the difference in the world. Without Jesus, we are like sheep without a shepherd, harassed and helpless, seeing and yet blind, hearing and yet deaf, misleading and misled, wandering aimlessly through life with no true meaning, purpose or direction. What a sad predicament. This is why Jesus had compassion on the crowds (Matthew 9: 36). He knew that regardless of what they thought was the way, HE is the way not only to a meaningful, purposeful, abundant life (John 10: 10) but also an eternal one (John 3: 16).  
 
Jesus could have told the crowds what they wanted to hear. But he loved them, and us, too much to do so. He could not lie, because he not only knows the truth but he is the truth (John 18: 37). 
 
Lost people matter to God. He does not want “anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3: 9).  And that is why we are called not to coerce others into faith in Christ, but to pray for them to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. If we are motivated by compassion for others, as Jesus had compassion for us, we will pray for them, spending even more time talking to God about them than talking to them about God. “This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus . . . ” (1 Timothy 2: 3-5).
 
What keeps you from sharing your faith with others? What motivates you to share it? Are you more concerned with proving yourself “right” and others “wrong” when it comes to objective truth, or are you more concerned for the emotional, psychological and spiritual well-being of God’s lost sheep who have not yet been found? Are you more focused on being correct than being compassionate?
 
Sometimes a person needs to go through a crisis before they notice the compassion that compels them to trust in Christ. That is why I love leading our Good Grief Seminars (our next one takes place on November 9) and overseeing the many new ministries through which the Lord has allowed us to serve him through having compassion on others. These are listed on our church website, fpcbr.org, under Care Ministries and Prayer Ministries. Please check them out and consider where your role may be. After all, our most effective ministry to others often stems from our deepest wounds (2 Corinthians 1: 3-4).
 

Compelling Compassion

What motivates us to share our faith in Jesus Christ, both locally and globally, at a time during which “religious pluralism“ and “social relativism” are the norm in our society? What was it that made Jesus’ message a message of “good news” at a time when certain others viewed it as anything but good? After all, the beliefs that there were many roads that led to God, and that all truth is relative, were “alive and well” during the first century AD (see John 4: 19-24, John 18: 38), as it is in the twenty-first century. This is what makes Jesus’ message, “I am the way, the truth, and the life . . . ” (John 14: 6) so counter-cultural. Scripture tells us over and over again that Jesus is the One and Only way to eternal life (Romans 6: 23).
 
What difference does this make? All the difference in the world. Without Jesus, we are like sheep without a shepherd, harassed and helpless, seeing and yet blind, hearing and yet deaf, misleading and misled, wandering aimlessly through life with no true meaning, purpose or direction. What a sad predicament. This is why Jesus had compassion on the crowds (Matthew 9: 36). He knew that regardless of what they thought was the way, HE is the way not only to a meaningful, purposeful, abundant life (John 10: 10) but also an eternal one (John 3: 16).  
 
Jesus could have told the crowds what they wanted to hear. But he loved them, and us, too much to do so. He could not lie, because he not only knows the truth but he is the truth (John 18: 37). 
 
Lost people matter to God. He does not want “anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3: 9).  And that is why we are called not to coerce others into faith in Christ, but to pray for them to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. If we are motivated by compassion for others, as Jesus had compassion for us, we will pray for them, spending even more time talking to God about them than talking to them about God. “This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus . . . ” (1 Timothy 2: 3-5).
 
What keeps you from sharing your faith with others? What motivates you to share it? Are you more concerned with proving yourself “right” and others “wrong” when it comes to objective truth, or are you more concerned for the emotional, psychological and spiritual well-being of God’s lost sheep who have not yet been found? Are you more focused on being correct than being compassionate?
 
Sometimes a person needs to go through a crisis before they notice the compassion that compels them to trust in Christ. That is why I love leading our Good Grief Seminars (our next one takes place on November 9) and overseeing the many new ministries through which the Lord has allowed us to serve him through having compassion on others. These are listed on our church website, fpcbr.org, under Care Ministries and Prayer Ministries. Please check them out and consider where your role may be. After all, our most effective ministry to others often stems from our deepest wounds (2 Corinthians 1: 3-4).
 

A Word on Technology

My husband Kinch and I are so blessed to do life with like-minded parents. It certainly takes a village to raise a child and we are grateful to be part of this village here at FPC. 
 
We have a battle on our hands as we struggle with our kids' love for screens, games and the information on the internet. In our home, this is a constant struggle for Kinch and me. The battle is real but it is a battle worth fighting, unto Christ. Now that school has started we have embraced a new rhythm and part of this rhythm is limiting screen time as much as possible. What Kinch and I have learned, is that it starts with us, as the parents. We have to model what we are asking of our children. We have to turn off our computers, TVs and phones so we can make eye contact and have meaningful conversations. It isn’t always easy but the reward is worth the effort and consistency. The Catos do not allow iPads and gaming during the week and on the weekend their time on screens is limited. We also have decided not to grant our 10-year-old son’s request for an iPhone. Yes, I have been told I’m the meanest mom ever but eventually they get over it and love me again. I am just trying to be the parent God has called me to be. Sadly, screens can be used, by us, to remedy our children's suffering or boredom. I am guilty of this. However, I have learned over the years what a dangerous distraction for our children this can become. I have also learned that it is OK for our children to be “bored.” In fact, God is at work when our children are bored and their boredom can lead to much creativity and innovative thought.
 
Over the summer I attended a children's ministry training and sat in on a session about technology and children. I want to share with you some things I learned. 
 
Beloved parents, my heart is burdened by the propaganda that our children have easy access to via the internet. Our kids are exposed to too much, too soon and do not understand how to handle it. Young children are not mentally capable of handling the effects of social media. Social media at an early age is accepted in our culture yet sadly leads to loneliness and anxiety which has become a childhood epidemic. Social media destroys our sense of self and the goodness of life God wants for us. We have to band together and go against the current culture so we can teach our children how to live a godly life in an un-godly world. 
 
My intention in writing this article is not to scare you. Rather, I share this with you to encourage you to keep up the good fight. Tim Keller exhorts Christians to be a “counterculture for the common good.” This phrase encourages us as Christians to live in the “already/not yet" tension of today’s world. Let’s band together to monitor access to the cyber world and social media. Let’s teach our children the truth in a world full of lies. 
 
We face real dangers both in the world itself and the cyber world. However, there is good news. As Christian parents, our security and true hope is in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ will return and make all things right. His Word is living and active and written to guide us and help us. 
 
So, what shall we do? Let's let the body of Christ minister grace to us in the name of Jesus. Pray for yourselves as parents and don’t be scared to share your needs with others in the body. Confess sin that is causing you to feel defeated or alone. Let's keep our focus on the glory of God and his redemptive purposes in our lives and in our families. Pray against the dangers of the cyber world. Pray against the devil. Through Jesus, God has given us the power to resist Satan and pray against darkness. Pray for the spiritual defense of our children and may we pray together as one. 
 
I am available to speak further about any of these topics to parents and guardians. Please do not hesitate to contact me.
 
With you in Christ,
Audra
 
Join us Media and Mochas October 20, 2019; a parenting workshop on technology in the home.
 
 

A Word on Technology

My husband Kinch and I are so blessed to do life with like-minded parents. It certainly takes a village to raise a child and we are grateful to be part of this village here at FPC. 
 
We have a battle on our hands as we struggle with our kids' love for screens, games and the information on the internet. In our home, this is a constant struggle for Kinch and me. The battle is real but it is a battle worth fighting, unto Christ. Now that school has started we have embraced a new rhythm and part of this rhythm is limiting screen time as much as possible. What Kinch and I have learned, is that it starts with us, as the parents. We have to model what we are asking of our children. We have to turn off our computers, TVs and phones so we can make eye contact and have meaningful conversations. It isn’t always easy but the reward is worth the effort and consistency. The Catos do not allow iPads and gaming during the week and on the weekend their time on screens is limited. We also have decided not to grant our 10-year-old son’s request for an iPhone. Yes, I have been told I’m the meanest mom ever but eventually they get over it and love me again. I am just trying to be the parent God has called me to be. Sadly, screens can be used, by us, to remedy our children's suffering or boredom. I am guilty of this. However, I have learned over the years what a dangerous distraction for our children this can become. I have also learned that it is OK for our children to be “bored.” In fact, God is at work when our children are bored and their boredom can lead to much creativity and innovative thought.
 
Over the summer I attended a children's ministry training and sat in on a session about technology and children. I want to share with you some things I learned. 
 
Beloved parents, my heart is burdened by the propaganda that our children have easy access to via the internet. Our kids are exposed to too much, too soon and do not understand how to handle it. Young children are not mentally capable of handling the effects of social media. Social media at an early age is accepted in our culture yet sadly leads to loneliness and anxiety which has become a childhood epidemic. Social media destroys our sense of self and the goodness of life God wants for us. We have to band together and go against the current culture so we can teach our children how to live a godly life in an un-godly world. 
 
My intention in writing this article is not to scare you. Rather, I share this with you to encourage you to keep up the good fight. Tim Keller exhorts Christians to be a “counterculture for the common good.” This phrase encourages us as Christians to live in the “already/not yet" tension of today’s world. Let’s band together to monitor access to the cyber world and social media. Let’s teach our children the truth in a world full of lies. 
 
We face real dangers both in the world itself and the cyber world. However, there is good news. As Christian parents, our security and true hope is in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ will return and make all things right. His Word is living and active and written to guide us and help us. 
 
So, what shall we do? Let's let the body of Christ minister grace to us in the name of Jesus. Pray for yourselves as parents and don’t be scared to share your needs with others in the body. Confess sin that is causing you to feel defeated or alone. Let's keep our focus on the glory of God and his redemptive purposes in our lives and in our families. Pray against the dangers of the cyber world. Pray against the devil. Through Jesus, God has given us the power to resist Satan and pray against darkness. Pray for the spiritual defense of our children and may we pray together as one. 
 
I am available to speak further about any of these topics to parents and guardians. Please do not hesitate to contact me.
 
With you in Christ,
Audra
 
Join us Media and Mochas October 20, 2019; a parenting workshop on technology in the home.
 
 

The Key That Unlocks It All

Have people ever said this to you? “Well, you know you can make the Bible say anything you want!” They have a point. People use the Bible to justify all kinds of unbiblical things. Both “liberals” and “conservatives” do this. We are all always looking for a Jesus more in our own image: he’s much safer that way!
 
So how do you know the correct way to interpret the Bible? What’s the key to faithful interpretation? How do you keep from going wrong when you read the Word?
 
These are actually very ancient questions. Already in the 2nd century, a group called the Valentinians was talking about the Christ within. They were claiming to be Christians even as they cut off the real Jesus from their very inward focused spirituality. And they quoted Scripture doing so! This was confusing “normal” Christians. Thankfully, a bishop named Irenaeus came to the rescue.
 
Irenaeus knew we need a key to unlock the Word. We need to find Scripture’s core story so we can understand all the other stories in the Bible. We need one true “rule of faith” that guides the way we read any and every verse.
 
Irenaeus knew this golden key, this secret code, was not hidden. It was right there in the preaching of the gospel. The key is simply the core story of the Triune God as he made himself known in Jesus Christ. Irenaeus wrote out the crucial formula of faith that resolves the meaning of all Scripture.
 
Now here’s the kicker. His rule of faith sounds almost identical to what came to be known as the Apostles’ Creed. The Creed gives the boundaries within which we can understand the Bible, and the God of the Bible, truly and rightly. 
 
Wait, did I just hear you yawn? Did you just mutter, “The golden key is just that old dusty creed?” I know. The Creed is a bore if you don’t know what it is. I found that my love for the Apostles’ Creed transformed when I stopped thinking of it as a set of abstract principles and dry doctrinal statements. Instead, I see the Creed as a story. It’s the bones of the essential story of what the Triune God has done, is doing and will do in the creation and redemption of the world.
 
One core story is the key that unlocks the whole story. The Creed is the story that pulses with energy. It leads us to meet Jesus, the real Jesus of history, the one Redeemer and Lord of all. 
 
This fall, we’ll be exploring this golden key in worship each week starting August 11. Don’t miss even one episode in the story that explains it all!
 
Should Boys See The Lion King?
 
You bet! As I sat in the theatre with a four-year-old grandson nestled on my lap, I was struck anew by the positive power in this story of Simba the lion cub who learned to be king. In a world too often full of male-bashing, The Lion King offers a rousing view of what makes a strong man and why he’s so needed.  
 
Psychologists have identified essential tasks of fruitful manhood. They include being a warrior, a king, a lover and a sage. Simba learns that a realm only flourishes when the king serves a higher good than himself. He learns from his father that a king’s job is not to take but to protect, to give and to serve the realm.  
 
We know this is true whether the realm is a whole country or just a single life. A man is only a fruitful man when he knows he exists for a higher good than himself. When Simba grasps this, it makes him bold to be a warrior willing to defend his people and a husband willing to commit to his wife. He also learns to trust the sage baboon, to lean on the wise one as he seeks wisdom. The Pride Lands are only saved, the lions only rallied, when Simba takes up this servant leadership with great courage and willingness to risk. 
 
Does the movie have all the Christian worldview I would like? Of course not. But by all means, every boy (and Dad) needs to see this lushly illustrated tale of what makes for genuine, life-giving manhood.
 
Worship Director Update
 
With the untimely departure of Steve Newman, we’re so thankful Nancy Spiller has agreed to postpone her plans and serve as Interim Director of Contemporary Worship through December.  Thanks Nancy! Meanwhile, the search revives and we ask for your prayers.
 
I love being your pastor.
 

The Key That Unlocks It All

Have people ever said this to you? “Well, you know you can make the Bible say anything you want!” They have a point. People use the Bible to justify all kinds of unbiblical things. Both “liberals” and “conservatives” do this. We are all always looking for a Jesus more in our own image: he’s much safer that way!
 
So how do you know the correct way to interpret the Bible? What’s the key to faithful interpretation? How do you keep from going wrong when you read the Word?
 
These are actually very ancient questions. Already in the 2nd century, a group called the Valentinians was talking about the Christ within. They were claiming to be Christians even as they cut off the real Jesus from their very inward focused spirituality. And they quoted Scripture doing so! This was confusing “normal” Christians. Thankfully, a bishop named Irenaeus came to the rescue.
 
Irenaeus knew we need a key to unlock the Word. We need to find Scripture’s core story so we can understand all the other stories in the Bible. We need one true “rule of faith” that guides the way we read any and every verse.
 
Irenaeus knew this golden key, this secret code, was not hidden. It was right there in the preaching of the gospel. The key is simply the core story of the Triune God as he made himself known in Jesus Christ. Irenaeus wrote out the crucial formula of faith that resolves the meaning of all Scripture.
 
Now here’s the kicker. His rule of faith sounds almost identical to what came to be known as the Apostles’ Creed. The Creed gives the boundaries within which we can understand the Bible, and the God of the Bible, truly and rightly. 
 
Wait, did I just hear you yawn? Did you just mutter, “The golden key is just that old dusty creed?” I know. The Creed is a bore if you don’t know what it is. I found that my love for the Apostles’ Creed transformed when I stopped thinking of it as a set of abstract principles and dry doctrinal statements. Instead, I see the Creed as a story. It’s the bones of the essential story of what the Triune God has done, is doing and will do in the creation and redemption of the world.
 
One core story is the key that unlocks the whole story. The Creed is the story that pulses with energy. It leads us to meet Jesus, the real Jesus of history, the one Redeemer and Lord of all. 
 
This fall, we’ll be exploring this golden key in worship each week starting August 11. Don’t miss even one episode in the story that explains it all!
 
Should Boys See The Lion King?
 
You bet! As I sat in the theatre with a four-year-old grandson nestled on my lap, I was struck anew by the positive power in this story of Simba the lion cub who learned to be king. In a world too often full of male-bashing, The Lion King offers a rousing view of what makes a strong man and why he’s so needed.  
 
Psychologists have identified essential tasks of fruitful manhood. They include being a warrior, a king, a lover and a sage. Simba learns that a realm only flourishes when the king serves a higher good than himself. He learns from his father that a king’s job is not to take but to protect, to give and to serve the realm.  
 
We know this is true whether the realm is a whole country or just a single life. A man is only a fruitful man when he knows he exists for a higher good than himself. When Simba grasps this, it makes him bold to be a warrior willing to defend his people and a husband willing to commit to his wife. He also learns to trust the sage baboon, to lean on the wise one as he seeks wisdom. The Pride Lands are only saved, the lions only rallied, when Simba takes up this servant leadership with great courage and willingness to risk. 
 
Does the movie have all the Christian worldview I would like? Of course not. But by all means, every boy (and Dad) needs to see this lushly illustrated tale of what makes for genuine, life-giving manhood.
 
Worship Director Update
 
With the untimely departure of Steve Newman, we’re so thankful Nancy Spiller has agreed to postpone her plans and serve as Interim Director of Contemporary Worship through December.  Thanks Nancy! Meanwhile, the search revives and we ask for your prayers.
 
I love being your pastor.
 

Closing a Chapter

It is bittersweet to share with you all that Nour and I have stepped down as missionaries with World Outreach. As we say goodbye to this chapter of our lives, I want to take this opportunity to extend my deepest thanks to all of you for the emotional, financial and spiritual support you’ve given so generously over the years.
 
First Presbyterian Church has, from the very beginning, always been a crucial part of our work in missions, and my personal journey even before I was with World Outreach, as a young post-grad going off to Egypt. I want to thank you all for the incredible support you’ve given over the last decade. I felt so loved and cared for having such a wonderful home church standing behind me, and with me. You all are just as passionate about missions as I was, and it was a joy for me to be a member of our church family as a “home-grown” missionary. Moving forward, I will have the joy of being in regular, weekly worship with you here in Baton Rouge.
 
I’d like to take this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude to Missions Pastor Whitney Alexander and the entire Global Missions committee, especially committee leaders Jane Cooper and Chuck Barber, for your unwavering encouragement and Christ-like love you’ve extended over the years. Thank you to the Elders, Deacons and Session for the support and care you’ve blessed us with throughout our time with World Outreach. Lastly, but most importantly, thank you to my parents, Cynthia and Lloyd Lunceford, for the countless and often never-seen or shared ways you’ve loved and supported me, and also made sacrifices yourselves, without ever asking for formal recognition or applause. 
 
Our work over the last five years with Syrian refugees in Lebanon was remarkable. Not because of anything specific Nour or I did, but because it is an incredible time in history to be living and ministering to Muslims in Arab nations. We poured our hearts and souls out on the field, and now the seeds that we have sown together over the last few years are entrusted into God’s hands and the Holy Spirit’s continued work. This gives me peace as we close this chapter, and I pray it gives you peace also. We did faithful work, and we surrender it to him. 
 
Thank you all for coming alongside Nour and me in love. The church’s ongoing financial and spiritual support will not be forgotten. The church’s generosity was such a blessing to us while we were on the field, and so we want to personally thank each of you as part of our church family for your role and part in sustaining us during that season. Thanks be to God. 
 
Posted in: Missions

Solitude, Silence, Rhythm

There are cherished rhythms that happen every year at our church. One of these happens during the month of July when we combine services on Sunday mornings. By being all together, we can enjoy fellowship with the whole church. Another benefit is that we give our year-long Sunday school leaders a chance to rest from their weekly teaching responsibilities, and thus, space is created for new teachers to lead us in Scripture and topics that are important for our church. Beginning July 7, we have three powerful Sunday school options for you to consider providing spiritual growth as well as opportunity to reconnect with old friends or make some new ones. 
 
Option 1: Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation 
In our hectic and splintered world, the practice of having solitude, silence and space to examine one’s inner world can seem like an unattainable goal. This in-depth class will help you on your journey of learning the sacred rhythms of life for inner spiritual vitality. We will consider topics such as Work and Rest Through Establishing a Sabbath, Intimacy with God Through Prayer, Creating Space for God Through Solitude, and Recognizing and Responding to the Presence of God Through Discernment. Come join Whitney Alexander, Judy McGimsey and Hans Othmer as they lead us in the formation of transforming communities. Room 202 of the Education Building.
 
 
Option 2: Jesus’ Farewell Discourse in the Gospel of John, Chapters 13-17  
John’s Gospel is an evangelistic and apologetic masterpiece that was written so that “you may believe.” Chapters 13-17 depict Jesus’ transition from focusing on his public ministry in the world to a powerful interaction between Jesus and his most intimate followers. Join us each Sunday as we delve into the significance of these chapters happening during Passover, the magnificent promise of the coming Holy Spirit, the beauty of abiding in Christ the Vine and the intimate conversation of God the Son speaking with God the Father in chapter 17. This class will be taught by Jamy Comeaux, Braden McIntosh and Blake Fowler. Room 220 of the Sanctuary Building.
 
Option 3: Smart Stepfamily 
Did you know that there are 67 forms of stepfamilies today? Did you know that strong stepfamilies have been proven to help heal the brokenness that comes with divorce? Did you know that stepparents can have a major impact on the young lives in their families? Please come and join Nancy and Rick Spiller as they lead a Bible study based on the newly-revised book by Ron Deal called The Smart Stepfamily. We will combine instruction and encouragement that affirms both husbands and wives and their intent to build strong families. We’ll look at seven fundamental steps to blended family success. Whether married or soon-to-be married, you’ll discover how to communicate effectively and solve the everyday puzzles of stepchildren relationships. Room 219 of the Sanctuary Building.
 
Each of these Sunday school options will provide a fantastic opportunity for growth and fellowship. Please note, to give adequate time to study these topics, we are beginning a bit earlier than previous summers. Plan to join us beginning July 7 at 9.15 am. 
 

Solitude, Silence, Rhythm

There are cherished rhythms that happen every year at our church. One of these happens during the month of July when we combine services on Sunday mornings. By being all together, we can enjoy fellowship with the whole church. Another benefit is that we give our year-long Sunday school leaders a chance to rest from their weekly teaching responsibilities, and thus, space is created for new teachers to lead us in Scripture and topics that are important for our church. Beginning July 7, we have three powerful Sunday school options for you to consider providing spiritual growth as well as opportunity to reconnect with old friends or make some new ones. 
 
Option 1: Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation 
In our hectic and splintered world, the practice of having solitude, silence and space to examine one’s inner world can seem like an unattainable goal. This in-depth class will help you on your journey of learning the sacred rhythms of life for inner spiritual vitality. We will consider topics such as Work and Rest Through Establishing a Sabbath, Intimacy with God Through Prayer, Creating Space for God Through Solitude, and Recognizing and Responding to the Presence of God Through Discernment. Come join Whitney Alexander, Judy McGimsey and Hans Othmer as they lead us in the formation of transforming communities. Room 202 of the Education Building.
 
 
Option 2: Jesus’ Farewell Discourse in the Gospel of John, Chapters 13-17  
John’s Gospel is an evangelistic and apologetic masterpiece that was written so that “you may believe.” Chapters 13-17 depict Jesus’ transition from focusing on his public ministry in the world to a powerful interaction between Jesus and his most intimate followers. Join us each Sunday as we delve into the significance of these chapters happening during Passover, the magnificent promise of the coming Holy Spirit, the beauty of abiding in Christ the Vine and the intimate conversation of God the Son speaking with God the Father in chapter 17. This class will be taught by Jamy Comeaux, Braden McIntosh and Blake Fowler. Room 220 of the Sanctuary Building.
 
Option 3: Smart Stepfamily 
Did you know that there are 67 forms of stepfamilies today? Did you know that strong stepfamilies have been proven to help heal the brokenness that comes with divorce? Did you know that stepparents can have a major impact on the young lives in their families? Please come and join Nancy and Rick Spiller as they lead a Bible study based on the newly-revised book by Ron Deal called The Smart Stepfamily. We will combine instruction and encouragement that affirms both husbands and wives and their intent to build strong families. We’ll look at seven fundamental steps to blended family success. Whether married or soon-to-be married, you’ll discover how to communicate effectively and solve the everyday puzzles of stepchildren relationships. Room 219 of the Sanctuary Building.
 
Each of these Sunday school options will provide a fantastic opportunity for growth and fellowship. Please note, to give adequate time to study these topics, we are beginning a bit earlier than previous summers. Plan to join us beginning July 7 at 9.15 am. 
 

Damnable Lies and Who Tells Them

You are a terrorist. You are plotting the overthrow of the government. If the coup had succeeded, you would have been named head of the CIA.
 
These are some of the outrageous accusations the Rev. Dr. Andrew Brunson faced in his trial in Turkey. This EPC pastor who had served the people of Turkey for more than two decades was jailed for two years and on trial for his life: as an enemy of the state, as the mastermind of a planned rebel coup. 
 
The charges were ridiculous, of course. But they nearly stuck. Who tells such lies? The paid witnesses. The government officials seeking political capital. Paranoid politicians. But behind every outrageous lie, there is another power. Our Enemy. The one Jesus prayed about in the Lord’s Prayer: deliver us from the evil one. There are spiritual forces arrayed against truth, against love, against fidelity, against flourishing.
 
Here in America, the Turkish lies look silly. That’s only because we weren’t actually immersed in the daily web of deceit. Here, the lies the evil one tells us seem more reasonable. They are so well embraced that we accept them. They get told by the nicest, most attractive people. Even though they are just as outrageous and just as destructive. Such as:
 
You belong to no one but yourself. It’s your life. It’s your choice. You must hate women, since you’d restrict abortion laws. You must be a bigot since you believe marriage is between a man and a woman. Gender, after all, is but a social construct. Your children need to experience it all in order to succeed. Games are more important than spiritual formation if you don’t want your kids to be weird. All that matters is the bottom line. Money is power. Purchases will soothe me; experiences will fulfill me. You only have one life to live, and it’s yours to live. No one has the right to tell me anything.
 
Yes, chances are you’ve spoken some of those lines, or been told them, or thought them. They are all lies, woven with half-truths. They undo us every day. 
 
Andrew Brunson found his love and loyalty for Jesus tested to the depths in 700 days of lonely imprisonment. He discovered, in the pit of forsakenness, that love for Jesus was at the core of his being. The ultimate reality. And that Jesus was not only worthy of his love, but worth his suffering. 
 
That truth cut through the despair in the web of lies in Turkey. It still cuts through the fog of illusions in our culture.
 
At FPC, we are a truth-telling, love-inspiring, idol-smashing, mission-propelling community. We’re proud that Andrew Brunson is part of our denomination. He is a faithful prophet with a word for us. Wherever you go this summer, dear ones, stay close to the one who is Truth. Expose the damnable lies you get told, and the damnable lies your own heart generates. Stay close to each other, because we can’t do this alone. May you refresh and return as together we go deeper in Christ the way, the truth and the life and further into the world with his shimmering, loving truth.
 
 

Damnable Lies and Who Tells Them

You are a terrorist. You are plotting the overthrow of the government. If the coup had succeeded, you would have been named head of the CIA.
 
These are some of the outrageous accusations the Rev. Dr. Andrew Brunson faced in his trial in Turkey. This EPC pastor who had served the people of Turkey for more than two decades was jailed for two years and on trial for his life: as an enemy of the state, as the mastermind of a planned rebel coup. 
 
The charges were ridiculous, of course. But they nearly stuck. Who tells such lies? The paid witnesses. The government officials seeking political capital. Paranoid politicians. But behind every outrageous lie, there is another power. Our Enemy. The one Jesus prayed about in the Lord’s Prayer: deliver us from the evil one. There are spiritual forces arrayed against truth, against love, against fidelity, against flourishing.
 
Here in America, the Turkish lies look silly. That’s only because we weren’t actually immersed in the daily web of deceit. Here, the lies the evil one tells us seem more reasonable. They are so well embraced that we accept them. They get told by the nicest, most attractive people. Even though they are just as outrageous and just as destructive. Such as:
 
You belong to no one but yourself. It’s your life. It’s your choice. You must hate women, since you’d restrict abortion laws. You must be a bigot since you believe marriage is between a man and a woman. Gender, after all, is but a social construct. Your children need to experience it all in order to succeed. Games are more important than spiritual formation if you don’t want your kids to be weird. All that matters is the bottom line. Money is power. Purchases will soothe me; experiences will fulfill me. You only have one life to live, and it’s yours to live. No one has the right to tell me anything.
 
Yes, chances are you’ve spoken some of those lines, or been told them, or thought them. They are all lies, woven with half-truths. They undo us every day. 
 
Andrew Brunson found his love and loyalty for Jesus tested to the depths in 700 days of lonely imprisonment. He discovered, in the pit of forsakenness, that love for Jesus was at the core of his being. The ultimate reality. And that Jesus was not only worthy of his love, but worth his suffering. 
 
That truth cut through the despair in the web of lies in Turkey. It still cuts through the fog of illusions in our culture.
 
At FPC, we are a truth-telling, love-inspiring, idol-smashing, mission-propelling community. We’re proud that Andrew Brunson is part of our denomination. He is a faithful prophet with a word for us. Wherever you go this summer, dear ones, stay close to the one who is Truth. Expose the damnable lies you get told, and the damnable lies your own heart generates. Stay close to each other, because we can’t do this alone. May you refresh and return as together we go deeper in Christ the way, the truth and the life and further into the world with his shimmering, loving truth.
 
 

Living Dangerously Tired

Henri Nouwen, author of 39 books on the spiritual life, shares, “We aren’t rest-filled people who occasionally become restless: we’re restless people who sometimes find rest.”
 
Over the past four years, I've learned to identify and name my dangerous levels of exhaustion, and the choice to begin attending Transforming Community Retreats in Chicago has begun to slowly replenish my heart and soul. Two years into these transforming retreats, my Aunt Helen had a stroke and died soon thereafter in May 2017. During that month, I traveled to be with her on ten occasions sitting and praying before she went home to Jesus. While caring for my family and others that month, I did not realize I was on the brink of disaster. On the morning of May 31, 2017, I was driving to New Orleans one more time, to prepare and counsel three couples for marriage and fell asleep at the wheel of my automobile for a moment. The rest is history.
 
“There are at least two kinds of tired we might experience—good tired and dangerous tired. The differences between the two are important because the remedy for each one is different. Good tired is the poured out feeling we experience after a job well done or an unusually intense season of activity. Remedies for that include a good night’s sleep, our normal Sabbath, a weekend off, or even a vacation. But the condition of being dangerously tired is not simply the result of an intense run of activity or even a crisis, as demanding as these may be. Dangerous levels of exhaustion usually accumulate over a longer period of time in which we are consistently living beyond human limits, functioning outside our giftedness, or not paying attention to the sources of our exhaustion.” Invitation to Retreat: the Gift and Necessity of Time Away with God by Ruth Haley Barton, p 24.
 
When we are dangerously tired, we are unable to be our best selves. We find it difficult to make wise and discerning decisions. My body began to break down under the stress and strain of doing too much. I have learned that exhaustion from juggling so many balls so much of the time is not going to be touched by shorter times spent in solitude. When I arrive on Transforming Community Retreats every quarter, I am so grateful for rest. I literally fall down onto my bed closing my eyes for as long as possible to renew my strength.
 
If we are honest, many of us have given up hope that we will ever be rested. My life felt out of control and I chose to walk through it exhausted. I was convinced that being rested was not an option. But God’s invitation to go on retreat four year ago and be in his presence began a deep healing that was greatly needed. If you are struggling with living dangerously tired, please let go of all the striving for productivity and believe that in the resting you are accepting 
Jesus' invitation to all his busy disciples.
 
Ask yourself, where am I in danger these days? Your answer will give you insight as you quiet yourself in God’s presence and begin to get in touch with your soul.
 
By Whitney Alexander
Associate Pastor for Missions
 

A Shared Heartbeat for Worship and Ministry

It’s hard to believe that we have been here at First Presbyterian for  almost three months. What a blessing it has been to step into this new and exciting role. You have all been so gracious to Lisa and me. We quickly experienced the love and family of First Presbyterian on so many levels. We have embraced the staff, worship ministry team and congregation to the point where we feel like we are already a part of this amazing church family.
 
My faith journey began while attending a Christian youth church camp in Hawaii. Even though I grew up in a pastor’s home, it wasn’t until my teen years that I placed my faith in Christ. Those early years as a follower of Christ were forming as God was preparing me for something bigger than myself and something that I would embrace with my entire being.
 
My story as a Director of Worship began while I was attending college in Oklahoma. Sitting on my dorm room bed during my devotional time, God impressed upon me his purpose for my life. It was one of the most real experiences I have ever been a part of. My commitment to serve Christ faithfully in the ministry of music and worship began that day and continues to this day. The passion and pursuit to be a true worshiper who worships in spirit and in truth is the heartbeat of my ministry and my life. The desire to share that passion with the local church is who God designed me to be.
 
I am so excited to be in a church that shares the same heartbeat for worship and ministry.
 
Thank you for being who you are in Christ to reach the city of Baton Rouge and beyond. We so look forward to getting to know each of you personally. A special thank you to the search committee and staff team for being an integral part of this journey and process. May God be glorified in all things. To God be the glory and honor.
 
By Steve Newman
Worship Director
 

On the Receiving End of Pastoral Care

While I have felt humbled and honored to see what the Lord is doing in and through the ministry of Care and Prayer, I have wondered how it would all go without me. Well, as I suspected, it has gone just fine; in fact beautifully!
 
As many of you know, my wife Anne recently had emergency surgery and will have a few months of recovery. At times like this, what is a Pastor of Care and Prayer to do? Simply put, he is to carry out what God’s Word says to elders and deacons when called to care for the church. First, focus on the care of his own wife and children (1 Timothy 3: 5) allowing others to care for him (1 Corinthians 12:7). Well, I have felt unspeakably cared for by you through your care for my wife, our daughters and myself. As a result, I cannot thank you enough! 
 
In Acts 2: 43b-45 we read, “Many wonders and miracles were being done through the apostles.” In other words, they were using their gifts to serve others and not themselves, as seen in the passage immediately following this text where Peter heals a crippled beggar. We read also that they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.
 
How do we give of ourselves? In at least three ways:
 
1. We give ministerially by using our spiritual gifts and abilities to serve others rather than ourselves. God’s Word is very inclusive when it comes to the question of who is eligible to give in this way! We all are! 1 Peter 4: 10 tells us we each have at least one gift to share with others! I truly enjoy recruiting and equipping my sisters and brothers in Christ to serve in their realm of giftedness, as I believe and have seen that everyone is great at something!
 
2. We also are called to give financially (Mt.23: 23 and 2 Cor. 9: 5-16), whether you make $20,000 or $200,000 per year; whether you are a multi-millionaire or feel you barely have enough to get by (Luke 21: 1-4, Acts 20: 35)!
 
3. We are called to give voluntarily, motivated by joy and thanksgiving rather than guilt and obligation, as we follow the One who gives us everything (Romans 8: 32)! 
 
My mother always said, “The more you give the more you get.” I add to that, “as long as you don’t give to get.” My dad did pretty well as an accountant but even well paid professionals may not have much money when supporting a wife and twelve children. Somehow, all twelve got through college. How? I believe it was due not so much to my dad’s budgeting but more so my mom’s giving. I remember moving to a neighborhood where we felt like the poorest on the block. Yet my mother would have me help her load up clothes and other items we no longer needed to drop off to the Salvation Army. She did not always have what she wanted while she was on this earth, but when she left this earth, I realized she always had what she needed. Jesus promises us if we rely on him and not ourselves for provision then we will have our needs met. 
 
You may have heard about a man who went on a trip to Israel and was about to enter the famous and impressive Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv to take in a concert by the famed Israel Philharmonic. The man was admiring the unique architecture, the sweeping lines of the entrance and the modern décor throughout the building. Finally, he turned to the Israeli tour guide and asked, “Is the building named for Thomas Mann, the world-famous author?” “No,” the tour guide responded. “It’s named for Fredric Mann, from Philadelphia.” “Really? I never heard of him. What did he write?” asked the tourist. To which the tour guide responded, “A check!” 
 
You can be involved in your family, or even in a church family, by giving money, but you can only be committed to God and his children by giving of yourself. 
 
I think you can give without loving but you cannot love without giving. Although Our Resurrected Lord said that it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20: 35), I have been so blessed by your giving to me for a period of time when I was unable to continue giving to you. For that, Anne, our daughters and I thank God for you! 
 
Learn more about how to become involved in the Prayer and Care Ministries.
 
By Jim Solomon
Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care and Prayer
 
 

Thank You for 26 Years

Dear Congregation, Staff and Worship Team, 
 
It has been an honor and a privilege to serve alongside of you these past 26 years as your worship leader. Thank you for always encouraging me, praying for me and my family,and walking along side me through life’s trials. I pray you continue to lift the name of Jesus high, to give thanks in all things and remember his goodness to us all. I will work part time from May 1 to December 2019 with some fun things planned ahead! I will see what new direction the Lord has planned for me after December. My heart’s desire is to be planted somewhere in the “real” world where I can make a difference. Hopefully, I have done that at FPC as well.  I will leave you with a favorite verse because it talks about my two favorite things; singing and rich food! 
 

I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods, with singing lips my mouth will praise you (Psalm 63: 2-5).

 
With much love and a grateful heart,
Nancy Spiller
Creative Arts Director
 
 

Looking Back and Visioning Forward

The weeks following Easter are a time for both gratitude looking back and visioning forward. Your leadership takes a breath, giving thanks for the full seasons that ran from Advent and Christmas through Lent and Holy Week. What a glorious time we had! And we start now to anticipate and shape our direction for the fall. 
 
I write, of course, as the senior pastor whose rhythms follow the church year. Other ministries aren’t taking a breath at all. Youth ministry gears up, not down, with summer trips and Children’s Ministry steams into a week of camp at Lake Forest, then Vacation Bible School week. We take advantage of the pauses in our students’ schedules to get them involved in service and study.
 
For me, these are the days when I can give thanks for all you make possible through your outpouring of time, prayer, money and service. Our membership remains steadily dedicated in all these areas week by week. You make possible this ridiculously talented, faithful and harmonious staff team. You make possible a myriad of ministries into our community. You undergird our church plant in New Orleans: Church of the Resurrection is now two years old, with more than 100 making membership commitments. The Gardere Community Christian school pulses through its seventh year, with more than 125 students learning in an exciting, faithful, loving environment. The Christian Outreach Center has put hundreds of students through job training in a climate of faith in Christ, many of whom have moved into financial self-sufficiency. Our worship services inspire us each week with glorious, textured music featuring talented musicians and an expert technical team. Now you’ve made possible a full time worship pastor to take us into the future. We underwrite mission efforts around the world and engage a faithful, mission oriented denomination as part of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Your gifts and your service make all these relationships possible. The numbers tell us that you are one of the most generous congregations in the nation. I fight the sin of pride regularly! So, thank you for loving your Lord through loving your church in such tangible and significant ways. How could I not love being your pastor?
 
By Gerrit Dawson
Senior Pastor
 

Day 42, Saturday (April 20) - Living into His Name

THE COMING KING

King of Kings and Lord of Lords
Day 42   Saturday

__________________________________________________

EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

REVELATION 19: 16, 11: 15
On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
 
The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever. 
 
CONSIDER
Every day this Lent we have prayed that for us there is but “one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” I hope we each know much more about what it means to declare Jesus to be Lord. We have seen that he is our Creator and he is our goal. And he is the means to that goal: we live through his life. The vision in Revelation 19 is of a conquering king who comes to bring the world into alignment with his gracious reign. Christ the King makes all other claims to authority pale by comparison. Every pompous leader, every bold proclaimer of which way history is going, every strident assertion of self, every quiet rebel, every narcissistic blow hard must all yield to the one true King, to the world’s true destiny, to the Sovereign.

__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords, cause the kingdom of this world ever more to become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ, who will reign forever and ever. Amen. 
 
__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

1 TIMOTHY 6: 11-16
But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
 
CONSIDER
Acknowledging the reality that Jesus is King of kings has direct implications for daily life. Based on Christ’s sovereignty, Paul is bold to ask Timothy to fight the bloodless fight of proclaiming the gospel: right under the nose of the mightiest empire the world had yet seen!
 
He charges us to live in a way befitting servants of the high King. To live with the joy of eternal life to come the faithfulness required of us right now. To live knowing our King will return to claim his world.
 
Based on our destiny in the one who called us, we live in hot pursuit: questing after a life marked by godliness, steadfastness, gentleness, rightness, faith and love.
 
The more we know who Jesus is, the more motivated and empowered we are to live according to the character of the called and claimed.  
 
Take time today to acknowledge the sovereignty of your great Lord, the one King of kings. Singing these verses from the hymn can help you ride toward the throne in praise:
 
At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow,
Every tongue confess him King of glory now;
Tis the Father’s pleasure we should call him Lord,
Who from the beginning was the mighty Word.
 
At his voice creation sprang at once to sight,
All the angel faces, all the hosts of light,
Thrones and dominations, stars upon their way,
All the heavenly orders in their great array.
 
In your hearts enthrone him; there let him subdue
All that is not holy, all that is not true:
Crown him as your Captain in temptation’s hour;
Let his will enfold you in its light and power.
 
Brothers, this Lord Jesus shall return again,
With the Father’s glory, over the earth to reign;
For all wreaths of empire meet upon his brow,
And let our hearts confess him King of glory now.
 
Caroline Noel. At the Name of Jesus. 1870.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

Day 41, Friday (April 19) - Living into His Name

THE COMING KING

The Judge
Day 41   Friday

__________________________________________________

EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

MATTHEW 25: 31-32
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”
 
JOHN 5: 21-29
For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 
 
“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
 
CONSIDER
Some names of Jesus are tender; some are so serious that they take away our breath. Today we explore that Jesus is Judge. He is the one with whom we have to do. Every person will appear before his judgment seat. There will be a separation of people. Based on Jesus.
 
Thankfully, Jesus is the Judge and we are not. We cannot render verdict on anyone’s final destiny. But we can know what is necessary. The Judge turns out to be our Savior. But that means we will have to look to him for salvation and not insist on our own autonomy or personal sufficiency. We will have to willingly bow the knee. And what we have done on earth will matter. He expects us to treat the least and the lost as if they were himself. He expects that we will have realized that we were saved for a purpose: to be a people zealous for good works, taking his gospel to the ends of the earth. Jesus the Judge will reveal just how much our lives matter.

__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, righteous Judge before whom all will stand, make me to live as one ever before your sight and on the way to your throne. 
 
__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

ROMANS 14: 10-12
Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written,    
 
     “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
          and every tongue shall confess to God.” 
 
So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
 
CONSIDER
How we treat one another seems every bit as important to our Judge as how we show faith in him. In fact, it seems that the way we love, or fail to, reveals the level of authenticity in our worshiping faith. What gets stirred in you reading this passage from Romans today? And what will you do about that stirring?
 
Close by singing through these words from a lesser known Wesley hymn: 
 
Lo, He comes with clouds descending,
Once for favored sinners slain;
Thousand, thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of his train:
Alleluia! alleluia!
God appears on earth to reign.
 
Every eye shall now behold him, 
Robed in dreadful majesty;
Those who set at naught and sold him,
Pierced, and nailed him to the tree,
Deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
Shall the true Messiah see.
 
Yea, amen! Let all adore thee,
High on thine eternal throne;
Savior, take the power and glory,
Claim the kingdom for thine own:
O, come quickly, O, come quickly!
Everlasting God, come down. 
 
Charles Wesley. Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending. 1758.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

Day 40, Thursday (April 18) - Living into His Name

THE COMING KING

The Bridegroom
Day 40   Thursday

__________________________________________________

EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

EPHESIANS 5: 25-32
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
 
REVELATION 19: 6-9
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,  
 
     “Hallelujah!
     For the Lord our God
          the Almighty reigns.
     Let us rejoice and exult
          and give him the glory,
     for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
          and his Bride has made herself ready;
     it was granted her to clothe herself
          with fine linen, bright and pure”—
     for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. 
 
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
 
CONSIDER
In Scripture, the most intimate human relationship, that of husband and wife, is considered to be but a sign, a promise, of the greater intimacy and ecstasy of our eternal union with Jesus. He is the groom and we, his church, are the bride. Just as joined to Christ, both women and men are sons of God, so also, in Christ, both men and women are the Bride of Christ. He has betrothed himself to us. The pledge of the fullness of our union is the Holy Spirit within us. He is Jesus’ engagement ring given to us! And our groom has sacrificed himself in order to prepare us for this marriage. He has bought us back from slavery to sin, cleansed us of all sin, and ever works to recreate our hearts so we can live in fidelity to the one who has pledged himself eternally to us.

__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, beloved Bridegroom, betrothed to your people, make us a pure and holy Bride to adorn your majesty.
 
__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

ROMANS 10: 9-13
. . . if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
 
CONSIDER
One of the loveliest moments in an engagement is when she says, “Yes!” That verbal agreement is necessary to the coming wedding. It is the response to the groom’s proposal in which he pledges himself. So, too, with our bridegroom Jesus it is necessary that we answer his proposal. We say, “ Yes.” We speak with our mouths aloud that Jesus is Lord and Savior, and we have the intention of our hearts to be his bride. Reaffirm aloud in prayer this day that you would say, “Yes” to him all over again!
 
Close by praying through this setting of Psalm 45, a love song to Jesus the Bridegroom who has pledged himself to his bride the church. 
 
My heart does overflow, a goodly theme is mine;
My eager tongue with joyful song does praise the King divine.
Supremely fair you are, your lips with grace overflow,
His richest blessings evermore does God on you bestow.
 
Amid your glorious train kings’ daughters waiting stand,
And fairest gems bedeck your bride, the queen at your right hand.
O royal bride, give heed, and to my words attend;
In Christ, the King, forsake the world and every former friend.
 
Based on Psalm 45, from The Psalter, 1912.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S READING

Day 39, Wednesday (April 17) - Living into His Name

THE COMING KING

The Lamb Who Was Slain
Day 39   Wednesday

__________________________________________________

EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

REVELATION 5: 6-14
And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,    
 
     “Worthy are you to take the scroll
          and to open its seals,
     for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God               
          from every tribe and language and people and nation,
     and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,               
          and they shall reign on the earth.” 
 
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, 
 
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might 
and honor and glory and blessing!” 
 
And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, 
 
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb 
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 
 
And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped. 
 
CONSIDER
In his Revelation, John wrote that he saw a door left open in heaven. He was allowed to look into the realm beyond and see to the heart of reality. There he saw the throne of God surrounded by mighty angelic beings who worship unceasingly. But as he looked, John saw a drama unfolding. There was a scroll to be opened. It symbolized the future of God’s dealings with his world. It contained the destiny of humankind. But no one in heaven or on earth was found worthy to open the scroll, which would mean determining the future. But then there stepped forward a Lamb. But the Lamb was literally a walking contradiction. He stood. Yet he appeared slain. He reigned. Yet he bore wounds of sacrifice. The Lamb alone was worthy to open the scroll: to create the future for mankind that God had planned. This Lamb who was slain is of course Jesus who died and rose, Jesus who is God and man, who is sacrifice and Lord. This plan of the Triune God to save us by entering the world as one of us and giving away his life for unworthy sinners is so original, so surprising, so glorious that angelic holy beings sing of it into eternity.

__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, you stand as the Lamb who was Slain but lives as present and future Lord. Bring all things into submission to you.
 
__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

ROMANS 14: 7-9
For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
 
CONSIDER
The Lamb who was slain, the Lamb who stands as King, is our purpose. He has opened the new and living way for us. He is the way and the goal. Consider how Paul drives this foundational insight straight into moment by moment decisions: Christ died and lived again. Therefore, we live and die, in every moment, unto the Lord. His huge story catches up our little daily story every second of the day.
 
Close by singing the words of Matthew Bridges vision of the Lamb who was slain:
 
Crown him with many crowns, the Lamb upon his throne:
Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own!
Awake, my soul, and sing of him who died for thee,
And hail him as thy matchless King thru all eternity.
 
Crown him the Lord of love, behold his hands and side—
Rich wounds, yet visible above, in beauty glorified.
No angel in the sky can fully bear that sight,
But downward casts a burning eye at mysteries so bright.
 
Matthew Bridges. Crown Him with Many Crowns. 1851.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

Day 38, Tuesday (April 16) - Living into His Name

THE COMING KING

The Lamb of God
Day 38   Tuesday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

EXODUS 12: 21-27
Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you. You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. And when you come to the land that the LORD will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” And the people bowed their heads and worshiped. 
 
1 CORINTHIANS 5: 7b-8
For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
 
JOHN 1: 29-30
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’”
 
CONSIDER
To understand Jesus as the Lamb of God, we explore the event of Passover. The setting was the final days of four hundred years of slavery for the LORD’s people in Egypt. The final plague was coming upon the land to force Pharaoh to relent and let God’s people go. The Israelites put the blood of a lamb on their doorposts so that the angel of death would pass over their homes. Inside, they would cook and eat that lamb as a sacred meal confirming them as the LORD’s obedient people. The next day they were set free and soon passed through the parted waters of the Red Sea into freedom. 
 
Paul and John identify Jesus as the Lamb of God. He became the sacrifice that gives us life. His blood over our hearts causes the wrath of God against sin to pass over us, for Jesus took that wrath. His blood shed cleanses our sins. He leads us now to make the Passover through dying to sin and living in him. 

__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us your peace. 

__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

1 PETER 1: 13-21
Therefore, preparing your minds for action . . . set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ . . . Conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
 
CONSIDER
How is Communion related to the Passover? When next you partake, consider the Lord’s Supper as a celebration of being joined to Christ our Passover Lamb.
 
Close by joining your prayers to those of Christina Rossetti:
 
None other Lamb, none other name,
None other hope in heaven or earth or sea,
None other hiding place from guilt or shame,
None besides thee!
 
My faith burns low, my hope burns low;
Only my heart’s desire cries out in me
By the deep thunder of its want and woe,
Cries out to thee.
 
Lord, thou art Life, though I be dead;
Love’s fire thou art, however cold I be;
Nor heaven have I, nor place to lay my head,
Nor home, but thee.
 
Christina Rossetti, 1870.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S POEM

Day 37, Monday (April 15) - Living into His Name

THE COMING KING

The Living One
Day 37   Monday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

REVELATION 1: 17-18
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
 
CONSIDER
John, the writer of Revelation, had a vision in which he saw the ascended Jesus. The glory of Christ overwhelmed him. But this same Jesus assured him that precisely because of his Lordship, John need not fear.
 
Jesus has undertaken the hero’s journey on behalf of his people. English poet Christina Rossetti imagined Jesus asking us:
 
“Who else has dared for thee what I have dared?
I plunged the depth most deep from bliss above.”
 
Jesus died and entered the realm of the dead. He disappeared into what Shakespeare called “the undiscovered country,” the dark realm from which no one returns.
 
In his despair, Job asked what he thought was a rhetorical question which could only be answered forever as a No: “If a man dies, shall he live again?” (Job 14: 14). 
 
It seemed that Jesus had met that same fate. His words read literally, “Behold, I became dead.” That was his full identity following the cross. But not the final word. Countermanding all human loss and reversing the endless flow of mortality, the resurrected Jesus declared, “I am alive forevermore. I hold the keys of Death and Hades in my hands.”  
 
As we noted when we studied the Key of David, keys represent authority. Jesus the living one is now Lord of both death and life. He is, in Greek, the zoan, the Living One. By faith we get into the zoan of life!

__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, Living One, you died and yet behold, you are alive forevermore! You who hold the keys to Death and Hades, grant me peace 
and courage for these days. 

__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

2 CORINTHIANS 5: 14-15
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
 
CONSIDER
The death and resurrection of Jesus were unique events in his history among us. Yet, we spiritually participate in his dying and rising. The benefits of his journey are given to us! One day we will participate physically in our natural dying and in our supernatural rising to everlasting embodied life. 
 
For these days on earth, we are to live dying to the old life and living for the new life in Christ.
 
Paul sums up Jesus the Living One’s purpose applied to us when he says that believers should “no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”
 
The Living One is our motivation and our power, our reason and our hope for living for his sake and according to his way, even amidst inertia, resistance, exhaustion and persecution.
 
Close by singing these triumphant words, written to match the same tune as the Christmas carol, “Angels from the Realms of Glory.”
 
Rise, O church, and lift your voices, Christ has conquered death and hell.
Sing as all the earth rejoices; resurrection anthems swell.
Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ, the risen King!
 
See the tomb where death had laid him, empty now, its mouth declares;
“Death and I could not contain him, for the Throne of Life he shares.”
Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ, the risen King!
 
We acclaim your life, O Jesus, now we sing your victory;
Sin or hell may seek to seize us but your conquest keeps us free.
Stand in triumph, stand in triumph, worship Christ, the risen King!
 
Jack Hayforth. Worship Christ the Risen King. 1986.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

Day 36, Sunday (April 14) - Living into His Name

THE COMING KING

We noted last week, that renderings of Christ as Pantocrator, ruler of all things, appear frequently on the high domes or ceilings of ancient churches. The Jesus we see appears kingly and full of authority.
 
But in the vault of another Ravenna church, we see a different depiction of our sovereign Jesus. The Basilica of San Vitale placed a mosaic of a lamb atop its vault. But this is no meek lamb. It stands strongly, and has a golden halo indicating divinity. Four angelic beings lift up their hands to hold the circle in which the lamb stands from every direction. We are reminded of the worship around the throne of God recorded in Revelation.
 
In his vision of heaven, John saw “a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain” and angelic beings sing the praise of the Lamb, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev. 5: 6, 12). The God who reigns is the Lamb who gave his life to take away our sins.
 
And, this Lamb will return to the earth to set all things right. He has a future in store for us, “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 7: 17). This week, we seek to live into the names of the reigning Jesus, the Lamb of God, who will soon return to this world. 
 

The Alpha and the Omega
Day 36   Sunday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

REVELATION 1: 8
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” 
 
REVELATION 21: 5-8
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
 
REVELATION 22: 12-14
“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
 
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.
 
CONSIDER
The letters Alpha and Omega are the first and last in the Greek alphabet. This title for Jesus is similar to Hebrews 12: 2 in which he is the author and perfecter of our faith. It means that Jesus is the origin and destination of all creation. But more, it means that the Triune God is without origin and without end. He is before all. He is eternal. This is the Son of God who stepped into time to take up our humanity.
 
As you look over these three passages about the Alpha and Omega, consider how these passages describe the future for those who resist Christ Jesus. Both human pride and the power of evil act as if their power will go on forever. But how does Jesus claim he will bring such hubris to an end?
 
How do these passages describe the future for those who are in Christ? Identify at least three promises made to us.
 
__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, Alpha and Omega, beginning and end, first and last, you have the whole world in your hands and I find my life only in yours.
__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7). 

ROMANS 13: 10-14
Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.  Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
 
CONSIDER
As Paul draws his magnificent letter to the Roman church to a close, he turns from soaring doctrine to practical living. Because we know Jesus is the source and the destination, the Alpha and Omega, we are called to live a certain way.
Identify at least three behaviors we are to take off and three we are to put on. 
 
Consider today the plans you had for providing for your sinful flesh and ask for strength to nix those strategies.
 
Close by singing this beloved hymn (to either famous tune!):
 
Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heaven to earth come down;
Fix in us thy humbling dwelling, 
All thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, thou art all compassion, 
Pure unbounded love thou art;
Visit us with thy salvation,
Enter every trembling heart.
 
Breathe, O breathe thy loving Spirit
Into every troubled breast!
Let us all in thee inherit, 
Let us find that promised rest.
Take away our bent to sinning, 
Alpha and Omega be;
End of faith, as its beginning, 
Set our hearts at liberty.
 
Charles Wesley. Love Divine, All Loves Excelling. 1747.
 
 

Day 35, Saturday (April 13) - Living into His Name

NAME ABOVE ALL NAMES

Name Above All Names
Day 35   Saturday

__________________________________________________

EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

PHILIPPIANS 2: 5-11
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
 
CONSIDER
Re-reading this passage, trace the journey of Jesus which Paul describes. Where did Jesus start? What five things does Paul name as part of Christ’s obedience? What was the surprising final destination? What future does the name of Jesus have in the universe?
 
How can a name command the power to cause us to kneel?
 
How much of the cosmos will ultimately confess his Lordship? What effect does that reality have on how you think and live today?

__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, Name above all names, before you every knee will bow, and this day I confess you as Lord and bow my heart to you.

__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

PHILIPPIANS  2: 12-16
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
 
CONSIDER
Paul follows his great hymn to the name of Jesus with this very practical passage about our daily response to his Lordship.
 
What is the relationship between our work and God’s work at the end of the first sentence?
 
Steve Childers has noted, “We work as God works in us. God works in us as we work for him.” What are the characteristics of someone living in the bicycle pedal like tandem of God’s work and our work?
 
What is the missional power in the dark world created by the way those who confess the name of Jesus live?
 
Close by singing this glorious and famous song:
 
All the hail power of Jesus’ name!
Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem, 
And crown him Lord of all.
 
Ye chosen seed of Israel’s race,
Ye ransomed from the fall,
Hail him who saves you by his grace,
And crown him Lord of all.
 
Let every kindred, every tribe,
On this terrestrial ball,
To him all majesty ascribe
And crown him Lord of all.
 
Edward Perronet. All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name. 1779.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

Day 34, Friday (April 12) - Living into His Name

NAME ABOVE ALL NAMES

Savior
Day 34   Friday

__________________________________________________

EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

LUKE 2: 11
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ
the Lord. 
 
1 JOHN 4: 14
And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world
 
2 TIMOTHY 1: 8-10
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
 
CONSIDER
On Day 1 we explored that Jesus’ very name means “The LORD saves.” Today we will look at a related name. Jesus is Savior.
 
In the first century, Caesar Augustus claimed for himself the title “The Savior of the World.” What edge does that fact give to the angel proclamation in Luke 2 about the baby born in a manger? What challenge to the way of the world might 1 John 4 have been offering?
 
In the last sentence of this passage from Paul’s letter to Timothy, what does he claim that Jesus has done in his role of Savior? 
 
In this same passage, when does Paul say our Savior first acted toward us? So what is past, what is present and what is future about our Savior’s work?
 
What does it do for your sense of this day to know that you have been given Christ’s own purpose and grace from before the world was made?
 
What does it say to the challenges you face to know that in Christ death has already been abolished?

__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, who came into the world to save sinners,
of whom I am the foremost, have mercy on me.

__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

2 TIMOTHY 1: 13-14
Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
 
2 PETER 3: 18
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
 
CONSIDER 
Though we are already saved by our Savior, what urgent tasks do these passages lay upon us? By what power does Paul tell Timothy we can do these things? Will you call upon the Spirit right now to guard the good deposit of the gospel within you and grow the seed into maturity?
 
Close by singing this famous hymn of dependence on our Savior:
 
Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee;
Let the water and the blood, from thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure, cleanse me from its guilt and power.
 
Not the labors of my hands can fulfill thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know, could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone; thou must save and thou alone.
 
Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to thee for dress, helpless, look to thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly, wash me Savior, or I die!
 
While I draw this fleeting breath, when mine eyelids close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown, see thee on thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee.
 
Augustus Toplady. Rock of Ages. 1776.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

Day 33, Thursday (April 11) - Living into His Name

NAME ABOVE ALL NAMES

The Cornerstone
Day 33   Thursday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

ACTS 4: 10-12
“Let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
 
EPHESIANS 2: 19-22
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
 
CONSIDER
Psalm 118 recounts the struggles of one who came near to dying by the attack of strong enemies. But the LORD answered his prayer and provided salvation. During his praise for the LORD’s deliverance, the psalmist noted the wonderful irony: “The stone that the builder’s rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Ps. 118: 22-24).
 
The first Christians saw in this psalm a foreshadowing of Jesus. He was rejected by his own people, condemned by the handlers of God’s Word as dangerous and blasphemous. But in raising Jesus, the Father countermanded the verdict of humanity against Jesus. He took the rejected stone and made it the foundation of a new building: his living temple, the church. Each new believer becomes a new stone in Christ’s ever growing building, a “house” that ever resounds in praise!

__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, rejected by men, but chosen by your Father to be the 
Cornerstone, grant me to build my life on you alone.

__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

1 PETER 2: 4-5, 9-12
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 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. . . .
 
. . . you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 
 
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
 
CONSIDER
In what way is Christ’s spiritual house, the church, heavenly? In what way is it earthly? Think of this upside down picture: our foundation stone is not below us but above us, because Christ our cornerstone is in heaven!
 
What’s the connection between “offering spiritual sacrifices” and “proclaiming the excellencies of him who called” us?
 
How important is it to the lost world that we live on earth as sojourners passing through, not permanent residents?
 
How is the beauty and stability of a well-made house a picture of how Christ’s temple, the church, should fit together? 
 
Close by singing these verses from this famous hymn,
 
Christ is made the sure foundation,
Christ the head and cornerstone,
Chosen of the Lord and precious,
Binding all the church in one;
Holy Zion’s help forever, and her confidence alone.
 
To this temple, where we call thee,
Come, O Lord of hosts, today:
With thy wonted lovingkindness
Hear thy people as they pray,
And thy fullest benediction,
Shed within its walls alway.
 
Anonymous. Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation. 7th c. Latin prayer,
trans. John Mason Neale. 1851.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

Day 32, Wednesday (April 10) - Living into His Name

NAME ABOVE ALL NAMES

First Born and Heir
Day 32   Wednesday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

COLOSSIANS 1: 15b, 18
He is the firstborn of all creation. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 
 
REVELATION 1: 4b-5a
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.
 
HEBREWS 1: 2
 . . . Whom he appointed the heir of all things.
 
CONSIDER
In ancient Israel, the firstborn son was the principle heir in a family, inheriting a double portion from his father. The firstborn had privileges and responsibilities related to carrying on the family, the land and the well-being of his people. 
 
Today we see that Jesus is the Father’s heir (even though, of course, the Father will never die!). This means the Father loves the Son and has given him all he has. 
 
As we have seen, the eternal Son was not a creation. But when he entered our world in flesh and blood as a man, he became the firstborn of all creation, the preeminent one. When he rose from the dead as a resurrected man, he became the firstborn of all those who would rise to eternal life in him. Jesus has first place in glory. Jesus the God/man is first in all creation and first in life out of death.
 
The Father even gave us to his Son as a love gift. And the Son has returned us, now redeemed, to his Father as a love gift in return! (John 17: 6-9). So we are swept up in glory when we participate in letting Jesus be first, of all.

__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, First Born from the dead, Heir of all things,
unite me to you, that I might die to self and live to you.  

__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

TITUS 3: 3-8
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 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 richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.
 
CONSIDER
We adopted children have been written into the will! We will share all that the firstborn, begotten Son of God has in eternity. When the day of consummation comes, Christ Jesus will be hailed as the heir and firstborn. And he will share that glory with brothers and sisters. We are called to live now not with an orphan mentality but as privileged heirs. To live not fearing scarcity but assured of abundance. To face suffering confident of the future he has promised. To engage loss not in despair but in trust of restoration and resurrection. To live not deceived by the world’s vainglory but faithfully entrusting ourselves to the path of the savior through suffering to eternal glory in God. 
 
Close in prayer using words from this hymn by Martin Luther:
 
Christ Jesus lay in death’s strong bands, for our offenses given;
But now at God’s right hand he stands and brings us life from heaven;
Therefore let us joyful be and sing to God right thankfully
Loud songs of hallelujah. Hallelujah!
 
It was a strange and dreadful strife when life and death contended;
The victory remained with life, the reign of death was ended;
Holy Scripture plainly saith that death is swallowed up by death,
His sting is lost forever. Hallelujah!
 
Martin Luther. Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands, adapting
the medieval prayer called Exultet. 1524. 

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

Day 31, Tuesday (April 9) - Living into His Name

NAME ABOVE ALL NAMES

Radiance of Glory
Day 31   Tuesday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

HEBREWS 1: 1-3
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
 
COLOSSIANS 1: 15a, 19
He is the image of the invisible God. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.
 
JOHN 5: 19-20
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel.
 
CONSIDER
Jesus told Phillip, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (John 14: 9). We see the invisible God made visible in Jesus. To look directly upon God would be to die (Exodus 33: 20). For we would be incinerated with a glory that dwarfs the sun. But in taking up our human form, Jesus showed the glory and truth of God in a way we could bear to see. Jesus radiated the glory of God truly. God is none other than what he is to us in Jesus Christ. But Jesus represented God’s reality in a way we could apprehend.
 
Paul said that Jesus is the icon, the very image, of God. The fullness of God dwells in Jesus in bodily form.
 
This great mystery is meant to inspire our worship and assure us that we may trust wholeheartedly that all we need to know about the eternal Triune God can be found in Jesus Christ.

__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, perfect Radiance of your Father,
shine on me and shine in me, that I may reflect your glory. 

__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

2 CORINTHIANS 3: 16-18
But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
 
CONSIDER
It takes a miraculous work of the Spirit to open the eyes of our heart to see that Jesus is indeed God come among us. But once we do, gazing on the glory of God in Jesus transforms us to be like him. We become like that which we look steadily upon. That’s why we’re doing this study! So we can look daily upon Jesus in his majesty. 
 
Are there any places you gaze too much, which deflect you from looking at Jesus: The mirror? Internet sites? The success of others? Turn your eyes upon Jesus this day. Look full in his wonderful face!
 
Close by praying this hymn:
 
Jesus, you are the radiance
Of the Father’s glory.
You are the Son, the appointed heir,
Through whom all things are made.
You are the one who sustains all things
By your powerful word.
You have purified us from sin,
You are exalted, O Lord,
To the right hand of God.
Crowned with glory,
Crowned with honour
We worship you.
 
Scriptural words adapted by David Fellingham. Jesus You Are the Radiance. 1985.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

Day 30, Monday (April 8) - Living into His Name

NAME ABOVE ALL NAMES

Only Begotten Son
Day 30   Monday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

JOHN 1: 14, 18 (NEW KING JAMES VERSION) 
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. 
 
No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him. 
 
JOHN 3: 16 (NEW KING JAMES VERSION)
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
 
ROMANS 8:32
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
 
CONSIDER
In the Apostles’ Creed we affirm that we believe “in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son our Lord.” Jesus is the Son of God in a unique way. He is eternally the Son. We are created beings. Once we were not in existence, now we are. Once we were not God’s children, but then he recreated us in Christ. But Jesus has always been God’s Son.  
 
The Son was not created. He was, as the Nicene Creed declares, “begotten not made.” We humans make objects by using our intelligence and craft to bring forth instruments, art, stories or houses. But these are not us. However, we “beget” children. Because what comes from the union of man and woman is human; the child is literally one of us. 
 
The mystery of our God is that from before time he was ever a God in relationship. He was, and is, and always will be love. Love means relationship and always there was the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in loving glory.
 
In the fullness of time, God sent forth the eternal Son into our world. The Son of God became as well a son of Adam. Jesus is uniquely God’s Son. And so Jesus alone can truly show us who the invisible God really is.  
 
When we consider the unique intimacy of the relationship between the Father and the Son, we stagger to consider that the Father spared not his own Son for us. As T. F. Torrance has said, “In Jesus we see that God loves us more even than he loves himself!” 

__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, only Begotten Son of the Father,
cause me to be born again in you, from the despair of sin to a living hope.

__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

JOHN 1: 12-13
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
 
1 PETER 1: 22-23
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.
 
CONSIDER
By the gift of the only begotten Son, we can be adopted as children of God. And it’s more than a legal adoption: we receive the Spirit of sonship in our hearts (Rom. 8: 15). We get made new, taken into the eternal relationship of love that is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
 
This makes Christianity so much more than an ethic for living. And Jesus is so much more than a teacher to follow. We proclaim a mystic union between Christ and his people, by which we are born anew as sons and daughters in Christ. 
 
Close by singing two more verses from “Of the Father’s Love Begotten,”
 
O ye heights of heaven adore him; angel hosts his praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before him, and extol our God and king;
Let no tongue on earth be silent, every voice in concert ring,
Evermore and evermore!
 
Christ, to thee with God the Father, and, O Holy Ghost, to thee,
Hymn and chant and high thanksgiving and unwearied praises be:
Honor, glory, and dominion, and eternal victory.
Evermore and evermore!
 
Aurelius Prudentius, AD 400, trans. John Mason Neale. Of the Father’s 
Love Begotten. 1854.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

Day 29, Sunday (April 7) - Living into His Name

NAME ABOVE ALL NAMES

Unique among religions, we worship a God who emptied himself of all privilege and power to come among us an ordinary man. Paul says he “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant . . . becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2: 7-8). Jesus was abused and abased for our sake. But the Father did not leave him in such a state: “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name” (Phil. 2: 9). So now Jesus is the Lord of all the cosmos. The infant in the manger, the man tortured on the cross, is revealed as the Ruler of all things. He is exalted on high. 
 
This week’s mosaic depicts Christ as Pantocrator, the ruler of all things, things “in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Phil. 2: 10). Often in Christian art, a painting of Christ Pantocrator is found in the center of the high ceiling or dome of a church. The congregation feels how Jesus is ruling over all. 
 
Our image, however, is from the side of the long sanctuary of S. Apollinare Nuovo. It faces the image of the infant Jesus on Mary’s lap that we studied in week one. The incarnate God and the reigning King look across to each other. Jesus’ beginning among us and his final destiny embrace the congregation. We live contained in the story between Jesus’ birth and his exaltation. 
 
The row of mosaics on this side of the church depict those who gave their life in martyrdom making their way to cast their crowns before the true King. Each one streams to the throne to acknowledge the Name above all names.
 
This week we explore the most exalted titles for Jesus given to him in the New Testament. Taking these names on our lips, reaching upward with them in our minds, and letting them take root deep in our hearts will lift us up as we exalt Jesus.
 

My God!
Day 29   Sunday

__________________________________________________

EXPLORE THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

JOHN 20: 24-29
Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” 
 
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
 
2 PETER 1: 1
Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. . . . 
 
CONSIDER
We call him “Doubting Thomas,” but that does him a disservice. Thomas, once he saw the resurrected Jesus, spoke the most exultant words of faith yet uttered about Jesus: “My Lord and my God!” Thomas got down to the heart of it. The man who got up from the dead is Lord of all. The man who defeated death and the devil is God.
 
The earliest Christians worshiped Jesus as divine. Though it would have been blasphemy for Jews to give such devotion to a mere man, they felt compelled. Though it would have seemed absurd to the Greek culture around them that flesh and blood could be given the place of exaltation, Jesus’ disciples could not withhold their worship.   
 
Thomas said it as clearly and passionately as any ever could. Peter echoed it in the opening of his letter, too. This is our bottom line affirmation. Beholding Jesus crucified and risen we cry out, “My Lord and my God!”
 
__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, my Lord and my God, I am yours, and yours alone.

__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7). 

TITUS 2: 11-14
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
 
CONSIDER
Paul also heartily affirmed that Jesus is God. He rejoiced that “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” appeared in the world. He showed up on the world stage.
 
To redeem us from the old life and start in us a new life as a people passionate to do good works for God in thanksgiving for his salvation. How will you live this passion of new life today?
 
Close by singing these verses from this beloved hymn, 
 
Fairest Lord Jesus, Ruler of all nature,
O thou of God and Man the Son: Thee will I cherish,
Thee will I honor, my soul’s glory, joy and crown.
 
Beautiful Savior! Lord of the nations!
Son of God and Son of Man! Glory and honor,
Praise, adoration, now and forever more be thine.
 
Anonymous. Fairest Lord Jesus. 17th c. German Hymn.
 
 
 

Day 28, Saturday (April 6) - Living into His Name

A PRESENT AND ACTIVE SAVIOR

The Last Adam
Day 28   Saturday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

ROMANS 5: 15-17
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
 
1 CORINTHIANS 15: 20-26; 45-49; 58
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
 
Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
 
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
 
CONSIDER
Jesus is the new Adam. He is the re-start of the human race. He is a new kind of human. No longer subject to death. Outfitted for an eternal embodied life in the presence of his Father. The new Adam is not weighed down by sin and mortal frailty.  
 
So when we are in Christ, we are new creations (2 Cor. 5: 17). We participate in his renewed humanity. We get transferred from being identified solely by the old Adam, prone to sin and condemned to die. We find our identity in the new Adam, Jesus, humanity perfected.

__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, Last Adam, clasp me by the heart’s hand, 
and join me to humanity made new in you. 

__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

EPHESIANS 4: 21-24 (NEW KING JAMES VERSION)
If indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
 
CONSIDER
Jesus is the new Adam. We are in Christ. Our task now is to choose daily, hourly, to live from the new man, to draw from the One who renews us in himself. This involves consciously dying to the lusts of the old man and deliberately choosing to live both from and for the last Adam, even Jesus.
 
Close by singing these verses from Isaac Watts’ classic hymn, 
 
Jesus shall reign, where’er the sun
Does his successive journeys run;
His kingdom spread from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.
 
Where he displays his healing power,
Death and the curse are known no more;
In him the tribes of Adam boast
More blessings than their father lost.
 
Let every creature rise and bring
Peculiar honors to our King,
Angels descend with songs again,
And earth repeat the loud amen!
 
Isaac Watts. Jesus Shall Reign. 1719.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

Day 27, Friday (April 5) - Living into His Name

A PRESENT AND ACTIVE SAVIOR

Founder and Perfecter of Faith
Day 27   Friday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

HEBREWS 12: 1-4
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 
 
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 
 
HEBREWS 12: 7-8
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
 
CONSIDER
Another great title for Jesus from Hebrews is the “founder and perfecter” of our faith. Jesus is the author and completion, the initiator and the finisher, the start and the goal, the first one out of the blocks and the last one to kick the race home. His work encompasses our lives. 
 
Jesus has already run the course of faithful human living. He plowed through suffering, temptation and even unjust rejection and ultimate condemnation, never losing faith.  
 
Whatever stage of the human “race” we are in, we know that Jesus has gone before us. We draw from his victory. We trust that he will get us safely home. In the meantime, we can view our trials as creating maturity and deepening faith in us. We can see them as the necessary training, or discipline, that a loving parent provides a beloved son.

__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, Founder and Perfecter of faith, you began human 
faithfulness by your obedience, now perfect your salvation in me. 

__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

HEBREWS 12: 11-15
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble. 
 
CONSIDER
Take some time to consider the difficulties you face in this stage of your life’s course. Consider Jesus who endured suffering and powered faithfully through even the cross. Ask him to strengthen your weary soul and body for the day ahead. Ask him to make even this seemingly senseless suffering become the discipline that deepens your sense of sonship. Draw strength as well from those faithful Christians who have gone before you and run their race to the finish.
 
Close by singing these verses from an ancient hymn,
 
Christ is made the sure foundation, Christ the head and cornerstone,
Chosen of the Lord and precious, binding all the church in one, 
Holy Zion’s help forever, and her confidence alone.
 
Laud and honor to the Father, laud and honor to the Son,
Laud and honor to the Spirit, ever three and ever One,
One in might, and One in glory, while unending ages run.
 
Anonymous. Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation. 7th c. Latin prayer,
trans. John Mason Neale. 1851.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

Day 26, Thursday (April 4) - Living into His Name

A PRESENT AND ACTIVE SAVIOR

Our High Priest
Day 26   Thursday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

HEBREWS 2: 17-18
Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
 
HEBREWS 4: 14-16
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
 
HEBREWS 10: 11-14
And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
 
CONSIDER
The role of the high priest in ancient Israel was to offer the sacrifice of atonement. Wearing a breastplate on which was engraved the names of the 12 tribes of Israel, he entered the Holy of holies representing all the people. The sacrifice had to be offered once a year, for it was only symbolic of the hope of God’s mercy. Jesus made a perfect sacrifice that needs never to be repeated. He acted as both the priest and the offering, sacrificing his own blood for our sins.
 
Jesus’ priesthood continues as he prays for us, ever applying his forgiveness to our sins and ever offering us, by the Spirit, his righteousness to transform us.  
 
Hebrews notes that because of his humanity, and the temptations he faced throughout his days with us, Jesus is not aloof, but sympathetic to the trials we face.

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PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, great High Priest, 
who offered yourself a perfect sacrifice, intercede for me even now.

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LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

HEBREWS 10: 19-25
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
 
CONSIDER
Hebrews urges us to draw near to God with full assurance. Our great high priest has provided a new and living way to God. He stands as our guarantee of acceptance before God. Thus we take courage and give courage to one another.
 
Explore this assurance as you close by singing this verse, 
 
Before the throne of God above,
I have a strong and perfect plea,
A great High Priest whose name is love,
Whoever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on his hands;
My name is written on his heart.
I know that while in heaven he stands,
No tongue can bid me thence depart. 
 
Charitie L. Bancroft. Before the Throne of God Above. 1863.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

Day 25, Wednesday (April 3) - Living into His Name

A PRESENT AND ACTIVE SAVIOR

Advocate
Day 25   Wednesday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

1 JOHN 2: 1-2
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
 
ROMANS 8: 31-35
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
 
CONSIDER
An advocate comes alongside us in court to plead our cause. As we study again this passage from 1 John, we see how Jesus addresses not only our past sins but our present ones. He argues our case when we sin, based not on excusing us for any merit we have earned, but based on the sufficiency of his propitiation. He made a complete atonement for us. So he advocates before the Throne based on his righteousness applied to us.
 
In the Romans passage, we see that Jesus even now intercedes for us. He prays for us. For he made atonement, peace between God and humanity, within himself. He ever lives as the God who is man and the man who is God. His very existence advocates for us. When we are in him, we have all that he is. Thus, nothing, not even our own sin, can separate us from the love of God in Christ!

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PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, Advocate at the Father’s right hand, 
ever plead your righteousness on my behalf.

__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

1 TIMOTHY 1: 12-17
I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But 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. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
 
CONSIDER
Paul had once persecuted Christ’s people. Even years later, he considered himself the foremost of sinners. But his very awareness of his sinfulness led him constantly to an exalted view of the one who came to save such sinners. 
Offer to Christ Jesus today the sins he has already bought and paid for. Release them to Jesus and ask him to be your continuing advocate. 
Close by singing these verses from “The Solid Rock.”
 
My hope is built on nothing less,
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
 
Refrain: On Christ, the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand.
 
His oath, his covenant, his blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay. (Refrain)
 
When he shall come with trumpet sound,
O may I then in him be found;
Dressed in his righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne. (Refrain)
 
Edward Mote. The Solid Rock. 1834.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

Day 24, Tuesday (April 2) - Living into His Name

A PRESENT AND ACTIVE SAVIOR

Atonement and Propitiation
Day 24   Tuesday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

ROMANS 3: 23-25
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
 
1 JOHN 2: 1-2
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but for the sins of the whole world.
 
EPHESIANS 2: 13-19
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.
 
CONSIDER
Propitiate is not a word we use very often. But we actually all do it! When a husband brings home flowers after he has disappointed his wife, he’s making propitiation: turning aside anger and making peace. 
 
God has wrath against sin. Because sin destroys, diminishes, maims and kills the creation he loves. Our sin has caused incalculable harm to one another. And God takes that personally. Not because he is over-sensitive like some bully.
But because he is eternally invested in his creation. 
 
The kindling of wrath goes with making a free creation that could, and did, choose against God’s good will. The turning aside of that wrath was also part of the eternal plan of the Triune God. God planned a way to make peace without overlooking or ignoring just wrath caused by the harm of sin.
 
The eternal Son of God, Jesus, stepped into the world ultimately to bear wrath against sin on the cross, and in so doing to make an atonement, an at-one-ment, between God and humanity. He created reconciliation in himself.
 
How would you feel if God simply let Hitler, Gosnell, Stalin and Hussein get away with their harm? If there were no accounting for our evil, would the new creation seem just?
 
How can we fathom the cost of taking the accumulated just wrath against humanity’s collective sins upon one person? Only a divine person could bear it. God paid the price himself to create a future world of justice and mercy, a world that begins now in faith.

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PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, Atoning Sacrifice, who interposed your precious blood between my sin and God’s holiness, wash me anew. 

__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

ROMANS 12: 1-2
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
 
CONSIDER
Because Jesus has offered himself as a propitiating sacrifice, we need no longer make sacrifices (animal or otherwise) to attain God’s favor. Yet we are called to offer ourselves to God in grateful response. How does Paul describe the qualities of being a living sacrifice?
 
Close by praying in song these verses from “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” 
 
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by thy help I’ve come;
And I hope, by thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God.
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed his precious blood. 
 
O to grace how great a debtor,
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let that grace now, like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to thee!
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,
Prone to leave thy precious love,
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it;
Seal it for the courts above. 
 
Robert Robinson. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. 1758.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

Day 23, Monday (April 1) - Living into His Name

A PRESENT AND ACTIVE SAVIOR

Mediator
Day 23   Monday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

1 TIMOTHY 2: 5-7
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
 
HEBREWS 9: 15
Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.
 
CONSIDER
A mediator brings two parties together. The mediator seeks to reconcile conflict and restore harmony. Jesus as our mediator is closely related to his being the new covenant. He “mediates” this covenant, this new agreement, because he has paid the ransom for our sins so that the way is clear for us to be reconnected to the Father. 
 
Often people in conflict cannot even speak directly to one another. They speak through a mediator. Jesus our Mediator came to speak the Father’s words and will to us. And he speaks back to his Father our need, our longing and our faith. He offers God to us and offers us to God. We meet through the one true Mediator.
 
Though sin has been atoned through Christ’s reconciling work, we will yet always meet the Father through the mediator. For Jesus remains fully God and fully human into eternity. He holds God and humanity together in himself forever.
 
As you pray today, remember that you do so because Jesus takes our feeble prayers and makes them his own, cleansing them, and offering them to the Father who delights to answer his Son.

__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, true Mediator, ever bridge the chasm between eternal God and my stained, frail humanity.  

__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

HEBREWS 12: 22-25
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. 
 
See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven.
 
CONSIDER
This vision in Hebrews points us to the great day of Judgment and Reconciliation when God calls this life in this world to a halt and makes all things new. Our survival of that day is based on the mediating work of Jesus. And we will discover that it is much, much more than getting through divine scrutiny. It will be a day of high beauty and inexpressible joy as we join angelic beings in glorifying the God who saves. The final warning reminds us that joy is serious business. We dare not refuse the terms of the Mediator.  
 
Close in prayer this day, accepting freshly the terms of peace he has established for us! Explore this assurance by singing these verses from Wesley’s great hymn:
 
Arise, my soul, arise, shake off your guilty fears;
The bleeding Sacrifice in my behalf appears:
Before the throne my Surety stands, 
My name is written on his hands.
 
He ever lives above, for me to intercede,
His all redeeming love, his precious blood to plead:
His blood atoned for every race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.
 
Five bleeding wounds he bears, received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers, they strongly plead for me.
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”
 
My God is reconciled; his pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for his child, I can no longer fear;
With confidence I now draw nigh, 
And “Father, Abba, Father!” cry.
 
Charles Wesley. Arise, My Soul, Arise. 1742.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

 

Day 22, Sunday (March 31) - Living into His Name

A PRESENT AND ACTIVE SAVIOR

Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again. Past, present and future. Jesus who came to us in flesh and blood died once for all upon the cross to atone for our sins. Jesus who died is now, right now, risen and ascended. He actively mediates between the Father and us, Christ’s brothers and sisters. He applies the work he accomplished in the past to us in the present.
 
This Jesus who died once and lives now is not finished with this world. He will come again. He will set all things right. He will complete in us the process of becoming conformed to his image.
 
This week we study names of Jesus related to his present ministry among us that is based on what he has accomplished in the past and what we anticipate he will do in the future. We will see how active Jesus is among us today.
 
So our mosaic depicts the risen Jesus walking with two disciples on Easter Sunday along the Emmaus Road. It all looks so normal! Traveling companions on the way from one place to another. Jesus addressing people amidst ordinary life. But Luke tells us that something extraordinary was happening: “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24: 27). 
 
Don’t you wish you were part of that Bible study? Well, you are! By his Holy Spirit through his church, Jesus still teaches us who he is as his Word is read and interpreted. He is still with us on every daily path. He still walks through the world toward Home.
 

The New Covenant 
Day 22   Sunday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

EXODUS 24: 7-8
Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
 
MARK 14: 24
And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”
 
ISAIAH 42: 6-7
“I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
 
JEREMIAH 31: 31, 33
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel . . . I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.”
 
LUKE 22: 20
“This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” 
 
CONSIDER
A covenant is a binding agreement between people. In Scripture, a covenant expresses the LORD’s commitment to us and the response he requires. After the Exodus, the LORD gave the commandments to his people through Moses on Mt. Sinai. Their agreement to his Word was sealed through blood. Moses threw the blood on the people (!) as he declared, “This is the blood of the covenant.”
 
Jesus echoed these words in the Upper Room when he lifted the third cup of wine at the Passover meal and declared “This is my blood of the covenant.” A new deal was being made. New terms for the relationship between God and his people.
 
Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah in which the LORD said of his special Servant King: “I will give you as a covenant to the people.” He also fulfilled the prophecy spoken through Jeremiah in which the LORD promised that the new covenant would be written not on tablets of stone but within the human heart. 
 
The new covenant is Jesus himself. He fulfilled the binding terms from both God’s side and our side. He kept the covenant from the depths of his heart and in all his faithful actions. So Jesus is the “place” where we meet and enter renewed relationship with the Father. If you are in Jesus, you are in the new covenant. If this is true, what would it mean to your life today?
 
__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, you are the new covenant between God and man, 
sealed in blood. In you, God and man meet, and are reconciled. 
Graft me into this promise!

__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7). 

HEBREWS 8: 6, 10
But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
       after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, 
and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God,
       and they shall be my people.”
 
CONSIDER
The longing inside us to keep covenant with our God is evidence of the work of the Spirit in our hearts. Now we are people in conflict. For we have still the sinful, selfish nature of the old self residing next to the Spirit of the new covenant. Can you feel your longing for the day when only the new heart for God remains? Invite the Holy Spirit to work more deeply within you today. 
 
Close by praying this beautiful benediction from Hebrews 13. Pray it first for yourself, then for someone you love:
 
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
 
 

Day 21, Saturday (March 30) - Living into His Name

JESUS SAID, "I AM"

One with the Father
Day 21   Saturday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

JOHN 10: 24-34
So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” 
 
The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’?”
 
CONSIDER
Jesus outrageously claimed, as a man, that he was “one” with God the Father. That means that who we see Jesus to be is what God is actually like. That means that what we see Jesus do is what God actually does in us and for us. That means there is no hidden God behind the back of Jesus. There is no secret God who will turn out to be other than who we see and hear Jesus to be.
 
What does Jesus’ oneness with the Father have to do with his declaration that he gives his sheep eternal life?
 
What does it have to do with our security that no one can snatch us out of his hand?

__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, one with the Father, you are I AM,
the one true God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is no other.

__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

1 CORINTHIANS 12: 12-13, 26-27
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 
 
If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 
 
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
 
CONSIDER
Jesus is one with his Father in the bonds of the Spirit. He declares that we who are joined to him are one body with him, the one who is one with the Father.
That means we are one with each other for we share the same Spirit.
 
How does this reality challenge my idea that spirituality is an individual choice?
 
What does this oneness of Christ’s people have to do with the choices I make to pursue others who belong to him? To pursue reconciliation? To love those who are harder to love? To gather wandering sheep? To make the effort to show up? To open my heart? To seek greater expression of oneness in Christ who is one with the Father?
 
Close by singing these verses from the mystical ancient hymn “Of the Father’s Love Begotten:”
 
Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega, he the source, the ending he,
Of the things that are, that have been, and that future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore!
 
At his word, the worlds were framed. He commanded; it was done.
Heaven and earth and depths of ocean in their threefold order one;
All that grows beneath the shining of the moon and the burning sun,
Evermore and evermore!
 
He is found in human fashion, death and sorrow here to know,
That the race of Adam’s children doomed by law to endless woe,
May not henceforth die and perish in the dreadful gulf below,
Evermore and evermore!
 
Aurelius Prudentius, AD 400, trans. John Mason Neale. Of the Father’s Love Begotten. 1854.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

 

Day 20, Friday (March 29) - Living into His Name

JESUS SAID, "I AM"

The True Vine
Day 20   Friday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

JOHN 15: 1-11
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. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 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. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
 
CONSIDER
Grapevines were all over ancient Israel. Wine was a staple of life and vineyards were crucial to the life and economy of God’s people. Also, Israel herself was likened to a vineyard planted by the LORD (Isaiah 5). Across the Temple was a gilded grapevine symbolizing a special people. But the prophet declared that the people had failed to produce a harvest. They were barren of faithfulness.
 
How does this context help us understand why Jesus likened himself to a vine?
 
How is Christ’s faithfulness necessary to our faithfulness and fruitfulness?
 
How does Jesus tell us to remain, or abide, in him, the Vine?

__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, True Vine to my small branch,
hold me fast today and grow your fruit through me
that the world might taste you. 

__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

PSALM  52: 8-9
But I am like a green olive tree
in the house of God.
 
I trust in the steadfast love of God
forever and ever.
I will thank you forever,
because you have done it.
I will wait for your name, for it is good,
in the presence of the godly.
 
GALATIANS 5: 22-25
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
 
CONSIDER
The fruit of living from Jesus the Vine is a life that tastes like this Galatians passage. What tips does Psalm 52 give us for things we can do in order to live more as a fruitful vine?
 
What is the connection between living from Jesus and living for Jesus?
 
Close in prayer as you meditate on lines from this hymn, 
 
Thou true life-giving Vine, let me thy sweetness prove;
Renew my life with thine, refresh my soul with love.
Rough paths my feet have trod, since first their course began;
Feed me, thou Bread of God, help me, thou Son of Man.
 
John S. B. Monsell. I Hunger and I Thirst. 1866.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

 

My Cup Overflows

In well-known Psalm 23, David is so content, so overwhelmed with emotion in light of God’s provision and promised blessings that he proclaims, “My cup overflows!” Women, in some capacity or another, all yearn to feel like David in this psalm. We are all thirsty for God’s Word and God’s grace and blessings. We want to be “filled up” to the brim, to the point of overflowing! We show up with our empty cups, ready to be filled with God’s goodness and joy.
 
But often, we underestimate our ability to pour into other’s cups. We believe the lie that we can’t really contribute unless our own cup is overflowing.  Or maybe we miss opportunities to pour into others because we believe that we have nothing to offer, that our presence doesn’t really matter. Or more boldly, we don’t pour into others because it’s inconvenient or uncomfortable for us, or because it means sacrificing something we don’t want to give up like our time or energy. But the truth is, on a daily basis, we can simultaneously feel “full” in some ways and “empty” in others. And so it’s possible to approach each day with an empty cup in one hand and a water pitcher in the other. 
 
Women’s ministry requires all of us. We are a complex gender, full of wants and needs, desires and dreams and emotions. We are absolutely not one size fits all. So we need all hands on deck. We need to retrain our brains to believe the truth that we do have something to offer, that our presence DOES matter. After all, God created us for a reason, giving each of us our own characteristics. And wherever he has put us, we express the gifts and strengths he’s given us. Even in our everyday lives, we have endless opportunities to be ministers of the gospel. God can use anyone (and we mean anyone!) to spread gospel truth and to be his hands and feet. We are all different, but we are all united in Christ.
 
So come thirsty. Come with an empty cup in one hand because the good news, more than anything else, is that God’s Truth is sufficient to fill us up. God is always ready and willing to pour out his grace. Come ready to drink up God’s goodness and joy.
 
But also come with a water pitcher, ready to serve his life-giving water to others. Come willing to be inconvenienced. Come willing to move into empty spaces and stir one another up in love using the gifts and talents he has instilled in you. Come willing to nurture other women in their relationship with Christ. It’s a weighty and important responsibility, but oh, what a privilege it is!    
 
We believe that God has intentionally placed every woman in this church, not only to grow our faith upward, but also to grow it outward, with one another. Our prayer is that Women’s Ministry would be a safe, honest, God-glorifying place where we can come together in study and prayer, serve one another in love, and connect in deep, meaningful ways. Our prayer is that we come together with compassion, attentiveness and grace-filled sacrifice, and then we take our water pitcher outside of the church walls, outside of Sunday morning and into the mission fields God has called us to. Our prayer is that each of us come with an empty cup in one hand and a water pitcher in the other. Let’s encourage a culture of water pourers, and may our cups overflow!
 
By Elizabeth Parker
Women's Ministry Director
 

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1: 6-8).

 

Day 19, Thursday (March 28) - Living into His Name

JESUS SAID, "I AM"

The Way, the Truth and the Life
Day 19   Thursday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

JOHN 13: 36-14: 9
Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.
 
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 
 
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”
 
CONSIDER
On the last night before his crucifixion, Jesus’ disciples were worried that he was leaving them. They wanted to know where he was going and how they could follow him. Jesus did not give them a map, or even a list of instructions on how to reach him in heaven. Jesus assured them that he himself is both the road and the destination, both the goal and the plan. He is all, and we must be in him, not just knowing about him. 
 
In the 4th century, Augustine preached, “Christ-God is the country where we go, Christ-man is the way by which we go.” Jesus the man provided the way that we might go to live in and with Christ Jesus our God. 
 
What is the hard news in Jesus being the exclusive way to the Father?
 
What is the good news in Jesus being the way? 
 
What does it mean for your life that Jesus himself is the truth about God, life, the world and everything?

__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, Sure Way and Only Truth,
lead me forth in your truth and teach me, 
for apart from you I have no good. 

__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

PSALM 16: 1-2, 11
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
 
CONSIDER
Recall times in your life when you “sought your own truth” apart from God. What were the effects of that?
 
Recall times when you “sought fullness of joy” apart from Christ. Describe the disappointment in such independent quests. Consider how the presence of the Triune God actually does fulfill us. What activities enhance the experiences of that presence?
 
Close by singing three verses from this hymn based on John 14: 7. The tune is the same as “Rejoice, the Lord Is King.”
 
You are the Way to God, Your blood our ransom paid;
In you we face our Judge and Maker unafraid.
Before the throne absolved we stand,
Your love has met your law’s demand.
 
You are the living Truth! All wisdom dwells in you,
The Source of every skill, the one eternal True!
O great I AM! In you we rest, 
Sure answer to our every quest.
 
You only are true Life! To know you is to live
The more abundant life that earth can never give.
O risen Lord! We live in you
In us each day your life renew!
 
Edith Margaret Clarkson. We Come, O Christ, to You. 1946.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

 

Long Live God!

I had only recently come awake to Christ. My heart was full of praise. I  was eager to enter the drama of his saving acts. Around that time, Godspell became a hit Broadway musical. I had the soundtrack and one Easter Sunday, my father took me to see a visiting production. The crucifixion scene against a chain link fence was simple, searing and sad: 
    “O God, I’m dying,” sang Jesus.
    “O God, you’re dying,” echoed the disciples.
    “O God, I’m dead,” and Jesus sang no more.
    “O God, you’re dead,” mourned the disciples.
 
Then quietly, the music turned. All our hopes rode on a simple, wistful call:
    “Long live God. Long live God.”
 
Then, as resurrection dawned on the disciples, the band struck up and the soft wish became jubilant proclamation, “Long live God!” Jesus was alive. The show ended by taking us all the way back to the beginning lyric, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!” 
 
Back then, there wasn’t much music that sang of Jesus in a style similar to songs I liked on the radio. Godspell filled an important gap. It brought me deep in the story of Jesus. Though several decades have passed, this musical still works to bring us Jesus exuberantly, creatively and winsomely. This April 5-7, it will be a great prelude to Easter. 
 
As ever, we will enter the story of Holy Week through a joyful Palm Sunday service, followed by egg hunts, a crawfish boil and tons of games and fellowship. The mood turns contemplative on Thursday with the Service of Shadows. Once again, we will enter the passion narrative through the voices of our great actors. This year, for the first time, we will mark Holy Saturday with a simple service called “The King Sleeps.” We will read and pray as we consider the prayers at hand for Jesus as he underwent death. Such entry into the sorrow releases great joy on Easter Sunday. We gather in the terraced garden for the sunrise service and then two festive services in the Sanctuary. These are the days when we draw closest to Christ Jesus as we join ourselves to his story. See you at the House! And know that especially in these holy days, I love being your pastor,
 
Gerrit

 

Day 18, Wednesday (March 27) - Living into His Name

JESUS SAID, "I AM"

The Resurrection and the Life
Day 18   Wednesday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

JOHN 11: 17-27
Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
 
CONSIDER
How would you define resurrection?
 
In what way is Jesus himself the resurrection?
 
How does Christ’s resurrection affect our future resurrection?
 
Our present spiritual resurrection?
 
In what areas of your life do you desire to see resurrection?
 
What does the hope of future, embodied resurrection do for your daily life now?

__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, Resurrection and the Life, 
you wept over Lazarus as a man yet raised him as God; 
so by such tender mercy raise me to life in you.

__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

ROMANS 6: 8-11, 13A
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 
 
Do not present your members to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life.
 
CONSIDER
Paul considered that the literal events of Jesus’ death and resurrection have spiritual effects in us right now. 
 
Based on the hope that we will live in Christ, how are we to live right now? If you’ve ever had to leave home for work, you know it’s important to “present” yourself so your boss and coworkers know you are there and ready to go. Every day, we have to “show up” to our work as those who are in Christ by making a choice about who our boss is. By presenting ourselves either to the old life of sin or the new master, Jesus the resurrection. 
 
In what areas particularly do you feel led to renew your choice to be dead to sin and alive to God?
 
Will you claim the resurrection power of Jesus today for victory?
 
Close by singing these verses from Charles Wesley’s famous Easter hymn,
 
Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids him rise, Alleluia!
Christ has opened Paradise. Alleluia!
 
Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia! 
 
Charles Wesley. Christ the Lord Is Risen Today. 1708.
 

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

 

Day 17, Tuesday (March 26) - Living into His Name

JESUS SAID, "I AM"

The Good Shepherd and the Door
Day 17   Tuesday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

PSALM 23: 1-3
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul. 
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
 
JOHN 10: 7-15
So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
 
CONSIDER
If Jesus is the door, where does entering through him lead?
 
What can happen if you try to get in some place without using the door?
 
Go back through the three verses from Psalm 23 and describe how Jesus fulfills each of the shepherding functions.
 
In John 10, what qualities of being a good shepherd does Jesus give?
 
What does it mean to you that Jesus your shepherd knows your name?

__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, Shepherd of the Sheep, call me by name and tell me again that I am your own. Lead me through the Door of life. 

__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

1 PETER 2: 24-25
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
 
MATTHEW 7: 12-13
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.   
 
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.”
 
CONSIDER
Recall times when you felt as if you were straying like a lost sheep. Recall how Jesus your Shepherd brought you home. From what far pastures might you need to return today?
 
The paths of sheep on hillsides are quite narrow: describe a narrow way you are called to walk amidst the broad ways of this present culture.
 
Close by singing these two verses from the hymn:
 
Savior, like a shepherd lead us, much we need thy tender care;
In thy pleasant pastures feeds us, for our use thy folds prepare:
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, thou has bought us, thine we are.
 
We are thine, do thou befriend us, be the Guardian of our way;
Keep thy flock, from sin defend us, seek us when we go astray:
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, hear, O hear us when we pray.
 
Dorothy Ann Thrupp. Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us. 1836.
 

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

 

Day 16, Monday (March 25) - Living into His Name

JESUS SAID, "I AM"

The Bread of Life
Day 16   Monday

__________________________________________________

EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

JOHN 6: 29-35
Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 
 
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
 
JOHN 6: 48-56
“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
 
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”
 
CONSIDER
In the days following the Exodus, the LORD’s people journeyed through the wilderness. God fed them by providing a bread-like substance called manna. It appeared every morning, just enough to satisfy the day’s needs. 
 
What improvement on manna, the bread from heaven, does Jesus declare in these passages?
 
What is the “health benefit” of eating Jesus, the bread of life?
 
How does he say that we “eat” of him? 
 
Recall a time or season of life in which Jesus sustained you with the bread of life through the wilderness.

__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, Bread of Life who alone can satisfy,
fill me with yourself this day. 

__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

PSALM 145: 15-19
The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand;
you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and kind in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them.
 
1 CORINTHIANS 10: 16
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?
 
CONSIDER
How is communion a participation in Jesus the Bread of Life?
 
Why does it matter that we partake of the Lord’s Supper together?
 
How is the cumulative effect of the Supper more important than any one Sunday’s partaking? (As someone said, “I may not remember exactly what I had for lunch last Wednesday, but I know I’ve eaten!”)
 
In what ways have you found Jesus to be as necessary as basic food to your life?
 
Close by singing this verse from a hymn by Martin Luther:
 
Then let us feast this joyful day on Christ, the bread of heaven;
The Word of grace hath purged away the old and evil leaven.
Christ alone our souls doth feed, he is our meat and drink indeed.
Faith lives upon no other. Hallelujah!
 
Martin Luther. Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands,  
adapting the medieval prayer called Exultet. 1524. 

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

 

Day 15, Sunday (March 24) - Living into His Name

JESUS SAID, "I AM"

In Exodus 3, God revealed to Moses his sacred name: I Am who I Am. The name in Hebrews is just four letters, and we write in English as “The LORD.” Our God is not just any old God. He is the LORD I AM, the one who is pure being and pure freedom, pure potential: I will be who I will be. The ancient Hebrews reverenced this name as infinitely holy.
 
The fourth Gospel, however, places this name on the lips of Jesus as a way he identified himself. The shock to a Jewish audience cannot be overstated. “Before Abraham was, I am,” (John 8: 58) Jesus declared. No wonder they picked up stones to kill him for blasphemy! They knew Jesus knew what he was saying. 
 
Seven other times in John, Jesus made “I am” statements attached to a particular image which explained his person and work. “I am . . . the door, the way, the resurrection, the vine, the life, the bread of life, the good shepherd and the light of the world.” The mighty God in flesh came to be known through these basic images.
 
This week, we consider one of the earliest mosaics in Ravenna. It depicts Jesus as the Good Shepherd. His face is beardless and young, though clearly powerful. He affectionately feeds a sheep from his own hand. This is not a detached God, a shepherd by proxy. He is among his sheep. His staff is the cross, by which he has cleansed us from sin and protects us from evil. The placidity of the flock, set against a peaceful backdrop of deep blue, reveals that they each know how the shepherd calls them by name and leads them gently through the world. The great I Am is our tender guardian.
 

The Light of the World
Day 15   Sunday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

JOHN 1: 4-5
In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 
 
JOHN 1: 9-13
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
 
JOHN 8: 12
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
 
CONSIDER
The contrast between light and dark strikes deep in the human soul. Across times and cultures, the night represents stumbling, lostness, fear and death. Light represents hope, direction, healing and life. 
 
From earliest childhood, we long for light to shine in the darkness to dispel our fears, give us safety and bring a better day. John’s Gospel boldly begins with the recognition that humanity is in the dark and under the power of darkness. But Jesus has come to shine his light and so give us his life.
 
Could you come up with at least three endings to this sentence:
If Jesus is the light of the world, it means. . . . 
 
In which areas of darkness would you particularly like Jesus to shine this day?
 
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PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, Light of the World, shine in the darkness of my heart 
and light the way before my feet. 

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LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7). 

JOHN 12: 35-36a
So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.
 
MATTHEW 5: 14-16
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
 
CONSIDER
Jesus alone is the true light of the world. But he also called his disciples the light of the world. We catch fire from his flame. We shine with his life within us. We illumine dark places with the love of the gospel.
 
When have you felt especially called upon to be light in a dark place?
 
Into which dark places will you go this week with the light of Christ?
 
How will you pray to let that light shine more brightly?
 
Close by singing the words to this simple yet deep worship song, 
 
Light of the world, 
You stepped down into darkness,
Opened my eyes, let me see.
Beauty that made this heart adore you,
Hope of a life spent with you.
 
Here I am to worship,
Here I am to bow down,
Here I am to say that you’re my God.
You’re altogether lovely,
Altogether worthy
Altogether wonderful to me.
 
Chris Tomlin. Here I Am to Worship. 2009.