Powerful messages that encourage, inspire, and convict “People of the Way” to enter into the presence of the Living God and to mirror the image of the precious Lord Jesus, bringing his life to this hurt and broken world. The messages are mainly written by a retired pastor whose prolific writings have spanned six decades.
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OBSESSED, OPPRESSED, POSSESSED, DEPRESSED
The mind under a cloud.
Define it as you will.
Explain it if you can.
When the mind is under that cloud, nothing makes sense.
But how do we disperse the cloud?
How do we escape this prison of despair?
Do we turn to Norman Vincent Peale and The power of Positive Thinking?
Do we pull out the schnapps?
Go on a cruise?
Buy a new hat?
One thing we learn from that dark cloud is that life in this world is not a comedy.
Our vision may be distorted and our judgment skewed, but at rock bottom we are now aware…
…that something is amiss—not only inside my head, but in that world out there.
So how do we come out from under the cloud?
Who will bring us from darkness into the light?
Nobody ever experienced that dark cloud like Jesus did.
Forty days and forty nights in the wilderness; then face-to-face with the devil himself.
The oppressed and possessed were drawn to Jesus.
They knew he could help them.
The tormented soul who cried out in the synagogue.
The man who lived among the tombs, cutting himself with stones.
He set them free.
Jesus still sets us free.
When we forsake the distractions and focus on him alone,
Jesus is right there.
He knows what we’re going through.
He knows what to do about it.
He came to set at liberty those who are oppressed.
He will set you free.
Jesus is at your side as you read these words.
As a sign of his love,
as a door to his Kingdom,
Jesus will deal with your darkness, if you bring it to him.
He will remove the cloud.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed…”
Message REB April 2021 Printable PDF
Art: Ramone Romero ramone-romero.blogspot
Prayer- Lord Jesus, these dark clouds are obscuring my vision of you. Help me to see you despite the clouds, to know you are with me even when the clouds are thick. In your mercy and kindness remove these clouds, release me from this captivity, revive me with the good news you bring, give me vision again. Set me free, set me free. MM
So you got rid of the demon.
You repented of that sin.
You gave up that grudge.
You even gave Lazarus a sandwich as he begged at your gate.
Your spirit is now clear of all the garbage.
It’s clean…..but empty.
It won’t be empty for long.
“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, he passes through waterless places seeking rest; and finding none he says, `I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.”
An empty house attracts squatters.
An empty spirit attracts darkness.
Once the demon is gone, the sin forgiven, the space once occupied by darkness must quickly be filled with light.
The same Spirit of the Lord that drove out the demon, that brought you to repentance, must now be given the throne within your spirit.
We’re not talking about the “gifts”—tongues, prophecy, miracles, etc.
All those things can be counterfeited.
We’re talking about the Spirit filling us with the love of God, as only he can.
A love which the evil one can never counterfeit.
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.
The Holy Spirit can “pour God’s love into our hearts” only when he is on the throne.
When the Spirit is on the throne of our hearts…
He convicts us when we deceive, exaggerate, or belittle our neighbor.
He nudges us, when we pass by Lazarus at our gate.
He sets off an alarm when that old grudge comes knocking at our door.
He encourages us, when we reach out with a helping hand.
He pours heaven’s fire into us when we walk in love.
So we open our heart to the Spirit daily as we approach our Father’s throne.
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”
Lord, let me walk in the Spirit today…
…think in the Spirit, hear, see, work in the Spirit.
…connect with people in the Spirit.
…end the day in the Spirit.
The Father never fails to answer our prayer for the Spirit to rule and guide our lives.
Message: REB April 2021 Printable PDF
Art: Ramone Romero ramone-romero.blogspot
Prayer- Lord, rescue us from the darkness that waits to fill our empty hearts. We lay our empty hearts before you, fill them with your Spirit. Yes Lord, helps us to walk in your Spirit each day…. think, hear, work, and connect in your Spirit. We cannot do this without you. How we need your love to keep walking in your light. Help us to place you on the throne of our hearts… so your love can reign, so your light dispels the darkness, and so we will never be empty again. MM
THE SPIRITUAL BIG BANG
And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. (Matthew 28)
Stepping out of the tomb into the gray dawn was a being unlike anything this earth had ever seen.
He was the Firstborn of a New Creation which will soon replace this world of sin and sadness.
Few people understand who he is. But in the coming days it will become clear to many that the man who stepped out of that tomb is….
Lord of heaven and earth.
He is the Way into God’s World.
He is the Truth that searches hearts.
He is the Life of God that fills the universe.
He is the one who watches over you as you read these words.
The only ones who saw Jesus after he rose from the dead were men and women who believed his words, who were walking in the light of those words.
Before his crucifixion he promised them,
“Yet a little while and the world will see me no more. But you will see me. And because I live you will live also.” (John 14)
When they “saw him again” these men and women knew that they were actually seeing him for the first time.
“Did not our hearts burn within us as he spoke to us on the way, and as he opened to us the scriptures?”
We “see him” when he chooses to reveal himself.
We “see him” when we get under his yoke and learn his ways.
We “hear him” when we open our hearts to his words which now circle the earth.
The Risen Lord is not only the Firstborn of the New Creation, he is “the Firstborn among many brethren”.
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren.
The blinding glory that exploded in that tomb and stepped forth as the Firstborn of the New Creation is calling all who have ears to hear to rise from the dead and become like him.
Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.
Message REB March 2021 Link to Printable PDF
Art: Ineke Hopgood at inekehopgood.weebly.com
Prayer-Lord help us to see you, really see you, so we may rise from our graves and live in this precious light you offer us. May the truth and power of your resurrection explode into our lives and wake us up. MM
We’re at a crossroads with nothing in sight but wilderness in both directions.
God is far away.
Jesus has vanished.
There’s nothing left.
Have I been a fool all these years?
Or am I missing something?
Those two disciples trudging toward Emmaus were overwhelmed with discouragement.
Jesus was gone.
And so were all his promises.
“Why are you looking so sad,” said a stranger joining them on the journey.
“Are you the only one in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that happened here?”
They spilled their bitterness to the stranger, who listened for a while, and then began to speak.
“O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
Who is this man? We need to hear more.
“Come in and stay with us!”
The stranger took the bread, gave thanks, broke it, and was gone.
And so was their discouragement.
When God is far away, when Jesus has vanished,
maybe we too are “slow of heart to believe all the prophets have spoken.”
The same Lord who visited those disciples will find his way to us.
If we are ready to slow down and listen, we will hear his voice.
“Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?”
Discouragement is the door either to despair or to revelation, depending on the welcome the Lord receives when he meets us on the road.
As he always does.
Message: REB March 2021 Link to Printable PDF
Art: Fritz von Uhde Public domain… about
Prayer- Lord when we are discouraged may we sense and welcome your sure approach. May we not be slow of heart, allowing despair and discouragement to weigh us down. Instead, open our ears to your holy voice, cause our hearts to burn within us and to be filled with revelation, awe and encouragement because you meet us where we are.
THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD
It’s a road well-traveled.
Doctors, lawyers, preachers, billionaires, athletes, actors, brick-layers and plumbers, clerks and burger chefs are all plodding along this road with high expectations.
Pursuing a Land, where the sun always shines and never a tear is shed.
When we arrive at our destination there’s nothing there.
It’s an illusion.
The Wizard behind the illusion is not only a fraud, he’s an idiot!
But here’s what’s really baffling.
When we wake up from our delusion, where do we go?
Right back to the Yellow Brick Road!
Will we never learn?
The devil is smarter than we are. Yet the devil is a fool. Like all liars, the biggest lie is the lie he tells himself.
The devil thinks he still owns the world.
“All you have to do is trust me, and I’ll put you on top!”
And the devil took him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will.
If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours.”
And Jesus answered him, “It is written, `You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'”
The kingdoms of the world no longer belong to the devil. They are now under the power—and the judgment—of the Risen Lord.
There is no Yellow Brick Road to his Kingdom.
Only Calvary Road.
Only faith and obedience to the Lord of heaven and earth.
“I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Message: REB March 2021 Link to Printable PDF
Art: Courtesy of Chris Cook chriscookartist.com
Prayer- Lord help us to recognize when the devil is calling us to trust him, to follow our illusions… luring us to make compromises, to manipulate circumstances, and into seeking power to achieve our desires. Lord may we trust you, only you…even if the path is a difficult one, even if it’s not a prosperous one. Wake us up to the lie of the devil, that the path of Calvary is not for us. Lord may we be determined to follow you, even if it’s tough. May we avoid the pursuit of illusions, knowing that darkness will not overcome us…knowing that we will have the light of life, knowing we need not fear and we will be set free as we embrace your truth. MM
WHEN THE DEVIL SAYS, “TRUST ME”
Whether the devil shows up….
…as an angel of light,
…. a billionaire,
…. a beautiful woman,
…or a premature answer to prayer,
his “gospel’ is always the same:
“Did God say, `You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?”
“We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, `You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'”
“You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
“Trust me, God is holding out on you.”
“Trust me, God doesn’t even know you exist.”
“Trust me, there is no God. You are on your own.”
“Trust me, a little lie goes a long way.”
The devil loves to bring his gospel to church.
“If you had more money you could do more good. Money is the answer. Trust me!”
“The thing you need is power. Think of all the great things you could accomplish if you controlled what goes on in Washington!”
“You want your church to grow? Get rid of the riff-raff.”
“If you want to be a success, learn to compromise.”
Why does God give the devil so much rope?
Not to worry, God holds the rope.
The devil is on a leash, and the leash is getting shorter by the day.
When the devil says, “Trust me,” we have a choice.
….between following the Truth or following the Lie.
….walking in Light or walking in Darkness.
To those who choose the Darkness, Jesus has terrifying words.
“Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
To those who choose the light Jesus says,
“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
Message: REB March 2021 Link to Printable PDF
Art: Courtesy of Chris Cook chriscookartist.com
CRYING OUT TO GOD
“And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? I tell you he will vindicate them speedily. Yet when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” ( Luke 18)
There are those who live as though there is no God.
There are those who never stop talking about God.
And there are those who “cry to God day and night”.
Because God is the rock-bottom reality of their life.
Because they know they need God’s help.
God alone knows who they are, these men, women and children, scattered across the earth, who “cry to him day and night.”
But here’s the question:
Do these people cry to God day and night because they are “the elect”?
Or are they “the elect” because they cry to God day and night?
Crying out to God is never futile.
As surely as the widow pestering the Unjust Judge got what she pestered for;
Those who keep crying out to God are always vindicated.
The world stumbles on in its absurd vanity (“When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”).
But the heavenly Father watches over those who never cease to cry out to him for help.
Unto thee will I cry, O Lord, my Rock! Be not silent to me, lest I become like them that go down into the pit. (Psalm 28)
We live our lives on Eternity’s razor’s edge.
Day and night we walk the rim of an unknown.
So we keep crying to God to lead us on.
“And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? I tell you he will vindicate them speedily.”
Prayer: O Lord, our Rock, our Master we cry out to you to lead us, to sustain us. Be not silent to us, give us what we need to keep clinging to you, to keep trusting you, to keep faithfully following you wherever you lead us
REB March 2021 Link to printable PDF
Art: Father James Hasse … Our Father, The Persistent Widow, and Black Prayer in a White World at Claver Jesuit Prayer Gallery
MY GOAL: THIS DAY
My goal is not to save a thousand souls or spark a new revival,
but to simply live this day to the glory of God.
To present my body as a living sacrifice, poured out for God’s glory—today.
To turn my mind away from the darkness and open it to the light of his Spirit, so I can love God this day with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, and love my neighbor as myself.
To trust God today in all things.
To serve God today in the place where he has put me.
To focus today on the one thing needful.
God’s Kingdom opens before me every morning.
So I press on toward “the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”
in this place where God has put me today.
… that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize
The glory of God blazes before me this day!
What more could I ask for?
Prayer- Lord we present ourselves to you this day. Today we choose to turn from darkness and gaze at your beauty. We choose to love you with all we have, to trust you in all things, and to serve you wherever we are, today. And yes, may your glory blaze before us and within us as we seek and find your love, your pure light each new day.
Message: REB March 2021
Art: Lisa MD Skinner at Lisa MD Skinner Art
THEY WALK WITH GOD
He who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
I John 2
They are out there.
Men and women who walk with God.
Amid all the confusion, hypocrisy, conflict and deceit, they just keep walking with God.
They never break the bruised reed or quench the smoking flax.
They wave no flags, blow no trumpets.
They serve in the place where God puts them, with humility and grace.
The Spirit of the Lord Jesus sustains them as they pour out their lives with holy joy.
When we look at these people we see Jesus.
When we listen to them speak we hear the Master’s voice.
There is but one thing unique about them:
They walk with God.
They are the true Body of Christ.
They are the Kingdom of God.
God grant that we may be found among them!
Prayer: We trust you are with us as we walk with you, beloved God. May we be among those who keep hearing your tender voice, who are graceful and humble, who extend mercy and lift others out of their brokenness. And yes, fill us with a holy joy that will sustain us to the end, as we walk with you, cry out to you, listen to you, and find ourselves wrapped in your tender love.
Written: REB March2021 Link to Printable PDF
Art: Jane Spencer via The Secret Place on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/artjspencer
WHILE WAITING FOR ORDERS FROM HEAVEN….
….How about taking care of what heaven has already put in front of our face?
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.
Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
We do not need an angel to point it out to us. It’s right in front of our nose.
That cup of cold water carries redemptive power.
That word of encouragement breaks chains of despair.
That anonymous gift of cash opens the windows of heaven.
Words of Jesus from our lips raise dead souls to life.
If we’re waiting for God to ordain us “a prophet to the nations” or the “healer of the year”, we may have a long wait.
God’s kingdom is never big-time.
Signs of the kingdom are never show-time.
Signs and wonders confirm, at God’s pleasure, the words he puts in our mouths—-as we walk in obedience to the Lamb.
The one who abides in me,
and I in them, is the one who bears much fruit.
For apart from me, you can do nothing.
Prayer: Lord give us the insight, humility and resolve to see and do the simple calls to kindness you put in front of our faces. May we continuously abide in you so we hear and live your heavenly orders.
Written: REB January 2021
Art: Jane Spencer via The Secret Place on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/artjspencer
The Jesus who met the disciples for the last time on a mountain in Galilee was the same Jesus they had traveled with for more than three years.
Yet something about him told them he was not the same.
This Jesus was the First-born of the New Creation.
This Jesus was Lord of heaven and earth.
No wonder they worshipped him!
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
Jesus sent these men out under that authority.
An authority which set the world on fire.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28)
Soon disciples of Jesus were found everywhere in the Empire. Little gatherings of believers sprang up in cities, towns and villages throughout the Roman world.
There was joy, zeal, a love for God and neighbor in these folks which the world had never seen before.
One could say that they gladly sold all they had to buy the field with the treasure—God’s Kingdom.
So what happened between then and now?
Only God knows.
But this much we do know: If God can raise up children to Abraham from stones (Luke 3:8) God can raise up laborers for his harvest out of “stones” like you and me.
He does it without violating our wills.
Jesus calls us each to follow him.
If we say “No” he moves on, and keeps moving on until he finds a “Yes”.
The Lord then takes the “Yeses”, empowers them, and sends them out….
not to build more churches,
not to change the laws,
not to “take over the world”,
but to make disciples.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations….”
Baptizing them into his death and resurrection.
So that their lives belong to him alone.
Teaching them, by word and example…
—The life Jesus portrays in his Sermon on the Mount
—In the admonitions Jesus gives in his final discourse in John 13-17.
—In the call to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow him.
The Lord of heaven and earth will make it happen.
With us, if we answer his call.
Without us, if we choose to say “No”.
But it will happen.
It’s happening now.
“And lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”
Prayer: Jesus, Lord of Heaven and earth speak to our hearts so we can truly know your lordship, so we are awed, inspired and driven to not only seek you but to teach your commands, to make disciples for you. Help us to rise up and step out in the authority you give us to do this…knowing that we belong to you, knowing we are not alone and knowing we can set the world on fire because you are ever with us.
Message: REB February 2021 Link to printable PDF version
Art: Step Out and Match Light by Mindi Oaten at mindioaten.com and Praise the Lord and I am with You by CMK at art4prayer.co.uk
WHY ALL THE WEEPING?
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born. (Zechariah 12)
Zechariah is giving us a glimpse of the spiritual awakening that will visit Jerusalem before the Day of the Lord.
A spirit of repentance and supplication will envelope the people like a cloud.
The Spirit of the Lord will cover Jerusalem with unspeakable love.
And Jerusalem will weep.
The weeping will turn to joy, as repentance is answered by the Lord’s unspeakable forgiveness.
Presently Jerusalem is under the shadow which fell over the city as Jesus approached it for the last time— and wept.
And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it, saying, “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you, when your enemies will cast up a bank about you and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another in you; because you did not know the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19)
Jesus wept over Jerusalem.
And now Jesus weeps over his Body on earth.
Again and again his church has missed its “time of visitation” stumbling through the centuries bewildered and confused.
But this is about to change.
When they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born.
When God awakens his people, and opens our eyes to Truth,
what else can we do but weep?
We will look upon “him whom we have pierced” with our hard hearts, and we will mourn.
The spirit of weeping which will one day sweep over Jerusalem has already begun to visit the Body of Christ.
We are weeping in repentance.
We are weeping in awe before the glory of God.
Our weeping will be swallowed up by joy as the Spirit raises the church from its long slumber.
If we find ourselves weeping when we are alone at prayer…
If weeping takes us by surprise as we worship the Lord with sisters and brothers…
Don’t be alarmed.
The Spirit of the Lord is leading us to repentance.
And he will turn our repentance into joy….
….as he sends us out into the waiting harvest.
He that goeth forth and weepeth, Bearing precious seed, Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, Bringing his sheaves with him. (Psalm 126)
Prayer- Lord grant that when we look at you our hearts are truly pierced. May we see the truth and truly weep over our hard hearts. May we be truly repentant and covered with a spirit of compassion. May we indeed feel covered by your unspeakable love and unspeakable forgiveness. Turn our repentance, our weeping into joy. May our weeping bear precious seed and may we rejoice in the sheaves you place into our arms.
Message: REB February 2021 Link to printable PDF
Art: Cindy MacDonald: He was Wounded for Our Transgressions, Man of Sorrows and Crown of Thorns at Facebook CindyMacDonaldartist1 And Christa Rosier Psalm 126 at Psalmpaintings.com
OPINION: THE ENEMY OF FAITH
The church door opened and out they came with their eyes burning and their jaws set. The stirring sermon had fired up the folks for another week. They knew what they had to do as Christians in a world that no longer shared their values.
Will the world see Jesus in their fired-up lives?
Over the centuries faith has often been replaced by opinion in the lives of Christians.
…As when the priest, in his Good Friday sermon, encouraged the believers to “go after the Christ killers!” The church doors would fly open and the believers would march through the village, smashing windows in Jewish homes and burning their synagogue. The priest fired them up with the opinion that the Jews were to blame for the crucifixion.
Their rampage was driven, not by faith, but by opinion.
When Jesus taught in his home-town synagogue…
…his call to faith shook their opinions so badly that they flew into a rage, dragged him out of the synagogue and tried to throw him over a cliff.
Jesus’ call to faith
He opened the book and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:17-21)
At first the people were moved. But as Jesus looked into their faces, he could see anger rising up.
These folks were so full of opinions that there was no room for faith.
Jesus shook their opinions.
Opinion number one:
We’ve known young Jesus all his life. How could he be a prophet?
And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; and they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, `Physician, heal yourself; what we have heard you did at Caper’na-um, do here also in your own country.'”And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country.”
Opinion number two:
We Jews have the inside track with God.
“But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Eli’jah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; and Eli’jah was sent to none of them but only to Zar’ephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.
And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Eli’sha; and none of them was cleansed, but only Na’aman the Syrian.”
Don’t mess with our opinions!
When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. But passing through the midst of them he went away. (Luke 4)
Our opinions are the enemy of our faith.
They elbow their way into our hearts and push faith over the cliff.
When we come to hear Jesus, we need to leave our opinions at the door.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
The poor in spirit have no opinions; they have faith.
They have ears to hear what God has to say.
If we want to hear Jesus, we need to leave behind….
…our doctrinal opinions.
…our theological opinions.
…our political opinions.
Only when our opinions are out of the way can our hearts hear the voice of the Master.
When we go out to proclaim Jesus, we need to leave our opinions in the garbage.
No wonder the world shakes its head when it looks at the church.
When the world looks at us…
…it hears us talk about “Christian values”, “Christian principles”, Christian culture”….all of which are more opinion than faith.
It rarely hears the voice of Jesus.
It rarely sees the love of Jesus.
It rarely encounters the truth of Jesus.
We need to leave our opinions in the garbage, and simply bear witness to Jesus,
By the way we live.
By the way we speak.
With our opinions out of the way our gospel has power.
By that power we will continue the work which our Master began, until he returns to settle accounts.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
Prayer: Holy Lord help us to leave our opinions behind as we proclaim you to this world. May our faith in our theology, our doctrines, and our political views not lead us to boil with rage so we are ready to push you over the cliff. Sweet Master, help us to continue to listen to your voice above the angry mob, the crowd seething with opinions. May the poor, the captive, the blind and the oppressed encounter your truth by the way we live, by the way we speak and by our simple faith in you, only you.
Written: REB January 2021
Art: Ramone Romero Weeping Jeremiahs
THE UNKNOWABLE ONE
Some people call him Daddy.
Some people think he’s their Buddy.
Some folks believe they deserve special consideration.
“God I thank thee that I am not like other men….I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I possess.”
Some arrogant souls command him to do their bidding.
So what’s missing here?
Why is heaven silent?
Jesus teaches us to pray,
“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.”
“Hallowed be thy name.”
Hallowed, because the Unknowable One is beyond human comprehension.
Hallowed, because his very Name is wrapped in blinding glory.
He can only be known if he chooses to reveal himself.
All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
The Living God is hardly our “Daddy”, our “Buddy”, “The Man Upstairs”, or even “God as you understand him.”
God is the Unknowable One who can be known only when he chooses to reveal himself….
…to those who have ears to hear and eyes to see.
…to those who take off their shoes on holy ground.
In his mercy, the Unknowable One has chosen to manifest himself to us on a human level, to speak to us in human language.
He approaches us as the Incarnate Word, better known as Jesus of Nazareth.
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father.”
Yes, the Unknowable One has spoken through prophets since the days of Abraham.
But now he speaks through Jesus, who alone makes the Unknowable One knowable.
In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
Do we actually know Jesus?
Do we know who he is?
“No one knows who the Son is except the Father.”
Who Jesus is remains a mystery.
Paul, after years as an apostle was still seeking to know Jesus.
…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Since the beginning of time, people have come up with “designer gods” to suit their needs or to manipulate their neighbors.
But the Unknowable One, who searches our hearts, waits for us to get over ourselves and listen when he speaks.
Waits for us to draw near with these simple words:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Prayer- Our Father…glorious…holy…unknowable, we honor you, we bow before you. Give us hearts that reverently take off our shoes in the midst of your glory. Give us ears to hear your voice that calls us to your holy presence. Oh that we truly hear you speaking to us through the beloved voice of Jesus. Oh Lord how sweet it is and how blessed we are that you make the unknowable one knowable. Hallowed be your name
Message: REB February 2021
Art: All artists belong to the art ministry sanctified art… a team of artists who minister through their art sanctifiedart.org
UP FROM THE ASHES
Jeremiah predicted it.
Ezekiel confirmed it.
And now it has happened.
Jerusalem has fallen under the judgment of God, and has been destroyed.
It was God’s judgment on a people who had traded greed for mercy and lies for truth, who had turned their backs on the God who had blessed them in a thousand ways.
And now, after 70 years of captivity in Babylon, the people of Israel trudged their weary way back to the ruined city—and wept.
But their humiliation had softened their hearts.
They began once more to cry out to God and yield to his guidance.
Once again the God of Israel forgave their sin and helped them rise from the ashes.
They shall build up the ancient ruins,
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.
At last the Temple rose from the ruins. The city came back to life. There was joy in Jerusalem after years of despair.
How many times this pattern has been repeated in the history of Israel, in the history of your life and mine!
God redeems us and fills us with joy.
We give thanks and walk in his light—for a while.
Then we drift.
Our hearts stagnate and grow cold.
We start taking shortcuts to satisfaction.
We add idols of fame, gain and pleasure to our “walk with God”.
God waits for us to wake up.
Finally the fire of judgment falls. Our “Jerusalem” is destroyed.
But does this pattern have to go on forever?
Isn’t it possible to leave futility behind and enter God’s kingdom for good?
Jesus came to break the curse of rising and falling, climbing and sliding back.
So he calls us ….
…to draw near to the mystery of his cross.
….to focus on the blinding glory of his resurrection.
It is possible to rise from our ashes and never fall again.
It is possible to enter God’s World and stay there forever.
To break the curse we need to let go of our past, smash our idols, and keep following the Shepherd.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. (John 10)
Thousands and thousands have risen from their ashes and walked into the eternal kingdom and never fell again.
It’s time for us to rise up and do the same.
No longer trusting in our favorite doctrine.
No longer clinging to our favorite spiritual advisor.
No longer relying on our money.
No longer looking to the left or to the right.
Keeping our eyes on the Master.
Following Jesus only.
So when the angel points to us and asks the Apostle John, “Who are these? Where did they come from?” the Apostle will answer,
“Sir, you know.”
And the angel will explain,
“These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night within his temple; and he who sits upon the throne will shelter them with his presence.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7)
Prayer: Lord, kind Shepherd, when we fall, when we are humiliated, you have been so faithful… forgiving us, lifting us up, pulling us up from the ashes of our own hardness and putting joy back in our hearts again. Lord help us to stop returning to this hardness, this coldness, we want to rise from the ashes and not look away from you again. You deserve no less, tender Lord. May we hear you, know you, follow you and willingly rest in your hands. May we spend our lives washing our robes in your blood, seeking your presence, and faithfully following your loving call wherever it leads us.
Message: REB January 2021
Art: Courtesy of Ramone Romero ramone-romero.blogspot.com/
“Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics.”
Jesus traveled light
He commanded his disciples to do the same.
When we are about the business of the Kingdom we do not need gadgets and trinkets and tons of equipment.
We need Truth.
The Living Word ruling our lives.
The Spirit of God lighting our way.
“Take nothing for your journey,” means get rid of the baggage.
Too much stuff
“The more stuff, the more status” has been the theme since the dawn of history. What a price to pay for status!
When we’re surrounded by stuff we cannot see the road ahead. Our minds are cluttered and confused.
Too much doctrine
Believers love to embellish their faith in Jesus with elaborate doctrines that “explain everything”. Pretty soon the doctrines take over, and Jesus is left behind.
Jesus keeps it simple. We don’t need to add Moses and Elijah and Aristotle and Luther and Calvin to improve on his gospel.
Jesus is Lord of Scripture and King of Truth. We don’t need to systemize his teaching; we simply need to walk in it.
“Grace theology”, “Eternal Security”, “Gifts of the Spirit”, “Healing”, “The Sabbath” and all our other doctrines become idols side-by-side with Jesus.
And how we fight to defend our idols!
Too much politics
If we live in a democracy we do our duty as citizens and vote. But we see all governments for what they are: something less than the Kingdom of God.
We do not compromise with evil in order to advance a political agenda. We do not waste time trying to impose a “Christian Culture” on a pagan world.
Our focus is the Kingdom, to live it, proclaim it, and welcome others into it.
“Take nothing for your journey.”
If we follow Jesus, we travel light.
If we travel light, we are sustained by the power of God.
When we are sustained by the power of God, we are the Light of the World.
Prayer: Lord help us to get rid of our baggage. Help us to leave the stuff, the status, the theology, the opinions, and the politics behind. All we need for this journey is you. Rule our hearts your living words. You alone are our light, our life, our strength on this journey.
REB December 2020
Art: Rudy and Peter Skitterians via Unsplash
JEREMIAH AND THE NEW YORK TIMES
Jeremiah and the New York Times…
They had one thing in common:
They were both despised by many.
They were distrusted.
They were seen as a self-righteous pain.
The other prophets jeered at Jeremiah.
The princes dropped Jeremiah into a dungeon.
Yet time and again Jeremiah turned out to be right.
Still no one trusted him.
Now the New York Times is no prophet of God. But, like Jeremiah, the Times’ popularity is tanking.
Maybe we should forget about the New York Times for a while, and just read Jeremiah.
You’d be surprised how up-to-date he is.
You would think Jeremiah was talking about Miami or Washington or Chicago.
And when Jeremiah talks about the Temple, just substitute “Church” or “Christianity”, and you’ll get the picture.
If you don’t like the New York Times, you’ll really hate Jeremiah!
But you might just hear the voice of God as you listen to this despised prophet….
….who turned out to be right as his nation disintegrated.
Prayer: Lord give us the courage to listen to the Jeremiahs’ in this world. To accept the truth about us, even if it’s ugly, even if it hurts. Help us to accept our role in how far the church has wandered from the nature of Jesus. Convict us for reacting in scorn, anger and rage when we hear the truth. Replace our denial, our scorn, our bitterness with mourning. We want to listen, really listen even if it hurts…so we can hear your voice again.
Written: REB November 2020 Art: Photo via Unsplash w/inset of Weeping-of-Jeremiah-March Chagall
HARD-EDGED CHRISTIAN OR FOLLOWER OF JESUS?
Hard-edged Christians know their rights and aren’t afraid to stand up for them. They fight for Christian principles. They have a clear agenda.
But mercy toward those who do not share their views is strangely missing.
Their agenda has a hard edge.
Followers of Jesus, on the other hand, are focused on one thing:
Doing the will of the Master.
Seeking the Kingdom, no matter which way the political winds are blowing.
Followers of Jesus are less concerned with the speck in their brother’s eye than getting the log out of their own eye.
The power of Rome, the power of Herod, even the power of the Temple authorities—never impressed Jesus.
His focus was the Kingdom, doing the Father’s will.
He commands us to do the same.
So which are we?
Or followers of Jesus?
At that time Jesus declared, “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.
All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, who was shamed, wounded, tortured and executed by those with cold hearts… forgive us for preferring the anger of this world over your truth, over your holy, tender words… Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are the gentle. Take way the hard edges that have become our idols, that oppose your truth, your holiness, your tenderness. Make us like babes again looking to you, trusting in you and following you into gentleness, into humility, into mercy and choosing peace over turmoil.
REB December 2020
Art: Ann Cameron Cutri anne-cutri.pixels.com
FOR SO HE GIVES HIS BELOVED SLEEP
It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he gives his beloved sleep.
The storm is raging, waves are crashing over the boat, yet he sleeps, without a care in the world!
He knows how to stay awake all night and pray.
He knows how to focus and concentrate.
But when it’s time to sleep, he just abandons himself to the Father’s care and sleeps.
“Lord, wake up! We’re going to perish!”
“Where is your faith?”
We get drowsy when we should focus and stare at the ceiling when we should be sleeping.
What’s wrong with us?
It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows…
We’re distracted and drowsy when we should concentrate.
We’re distracted and anxious when we should be sleeping.
So Jesus teaches us to focus on one thing.
Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
If we turn our minds away from the rat race and center them on his kingdom, God helps us to focus during the day and to sleep during the night.
When we’re focused on his kingdom we can take care of the work God gives us to do each day, and abandon ourselves to him in sleep each night.
For so he gives his beloved sleep.
Prayer: Beloved Lord, help us to stop choosing to eat the bread of sorrows. Help us to let go of our weariness and our distractions so we can abandon ourselves to you and find your sweet rest. Help us to concentrate on your kingdom, to center our cares on you, knowing you care for us, your beloved sheep.
Written December 2020 REB
Art: Sinead Kell. Sinead does not have a website, she posts on Facebook’s Prophetic Art Studio occasionally
THE GIFT OF A GRATEFUL MIND
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving
And into his courts with praise!
Be thankful unto him
And bless his name!
None of us was born with a grateful heart.
We’re too preoccupied with ourselves to see the goodness of God.
But there comes a moment…
…when we hear a word of truth.
…we’re struck with a flash of insight.
Our eyes open,
and we give thanks for undeserved mercy.
We are being offered the gift of a grateful mind.
Will we receive it?
Or will we let the moment pass?
Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet giving him thanks. Then said Jesus, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?……..Rise, go your way, your faith has made you well.”
A grateful mind is a precious gift.
God help us to nurture it.
For true faith can be found nowhere else.
Prayer: Yes Lord, we turn to you with gratefulness, with amazement at the tender mercies you have bestowed on our lives. In gratefulness is our joy, in gratefulness is our healing. In gratefulness is new life. Thank you for this precious gift of having a grateful mind. Help us to see it as a gift that we want to open, cherish and nourish.
Message written 2011 REB
Art: Courtesy of Gwen Meharg DrawNeartoGod.com
Sustaining a grudge behind a Christian smile,
nourishing an attitude beneath a veneer of love,
speaking “truth” out of both sides of our mouths,
The thing about hypocrisy—
it is always exposed.
Sooner or later the covers come off and the light comes on.
Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops”.
So what happens when our favorite leader is exposed?
When we can no longer cling to the hope that he was speaking the truth.
When we have to face the fact that this man was exploiting us.
The Lord God allows us to hide under the blanket of hypocrisy for only so long.
And when our leader invites us to come under his blanket, what happens to us when his blanket comes off?
The thing about hypocrisy is that it’s contagious.
You hang around a hypocrite, you become a hypocrite.
You follow a hypocrite, you become a hypocrite.
The most merciful thing God can do for us when we catch this disease
is to expose us.
“In the meantime, when so many thousands of the multitude had gathered together that they trod upon one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.”
It’s like waking up from a bad dream, like rising out of a filthy pit,
when the Lord, in his mercy, exposes our hypocrisy.
It’s a wonderful relief for the soul.
Lord Jesus, give us eyes to see and ears to hear, and set us free from the leaven of the Pharisees!
Prayer: Yes Lord, give us eyes to see and ears to hear our own hypocrisy. Lord Jesus, in your mercy, clear the fog that has blinded us to our nakedness. Expose us. May we find your healing and cleansing as we allow ourselves to be freed from our grudges, attitudes, and blind spots, our compromises, and our lack of love. Draw us close again, so we may meet you in our vulnerability and have our nakedness lovingly covered by you.
Written: REB January 2021
Art: Rebecca Brogan https://jtbarts.com/
GET US OUT OF THIS MESS
Last year at this time we were riding high.
Now we don’t know how we’re going to survive.
Lord, where are you?
How long, O LORD? Wilt thou forget me forever?
How long wilt thou hide thy face from me?
How long must I bear pain in my soul,
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;
lighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him”;
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in thy steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
The leaders we trusted have let us down.
The faith that once sustained us has begun to falter.
Lord, where are you?
Out of the depths I cry to thee, O LORD!
Lord, hear my voice!
Let thy ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplications!
If thou, O LORD, shouldst mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with thee,
that thou mayest be feared.
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the LORD
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the LORD!
For with the LORD there is steadfast love,
and with him is plenteous redemption.
And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities.
So, like the widow pestering the Unjust Judge, we cry out, and never give up.
We storm the gates of heaven.
We keep knocking on our Father’s door.
We never quit.
“And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? I tell you, he will vindicate them speedily!”
Prayer: Jesus get us out this mess that entangles our souls, that wrenches our hearts. We cry out in the midst of our need and our anxiety. We wait for you. We trust in you and look forward to lifting up our souls in song to you again.
Message written October 2020 REB
Art: Graham Braddock graham-braddock.pixels.com
THE ONLY ONE LEFT
I guess I’m the only one left.
The “Christianity” I see out there is so superficial, so phony.
Nobody takes any risks.
Nobody sticks their neck out.
Everybody’s afraid to speak up!
Evangelists fly around in their private jets. The preachers live in their safe “clergy cocoons.” And “Christians” huddle together in plush churches and encourage each other to “praise the Lord.”
Meanwhile the streets are empty of witness. Down where the people are it’s politics, rap, sex, money and nature worship.
I know what Elijah was going through.
I feel like he did.
And behold, there came a voice to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Eli’jah?” He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the people of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thy altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”
I Kings 19:9b-10
Like Elijah, I don’t know how much longer I can keep going.
“And I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”
Well, maybe they’re not coming to kill me—yet. But I’m tired of being out here all alone with the gospel.
And the Lord replies,
“Who says you’re all alone?
Elijah thought he was all alone. But there were 7,000 in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal. And there are more people than you could ever count who are out there bearing witness to my death and resurrection. Open your eyes and pay attention, while I connect you with men and women whose hearts are nailed to my cross.”
In ancient Israel they blew the shofar to get the Israelites to pay attention. When the Lord returns there will be “a loud trumpet call” as the angels gather the elect “from the four winds and from one end of heaven to the other.”
Today the “trumpets of heaven” are calling sons and daughters of the Kingdom to rise up, come together, and receive direction from the Master as he sends them forth in the power of his resurrection.
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Sama’ria and to the end of the earth.”
The same Lord who spoke those words in the “Alpha Days” is now addressing his disciples in these “Omega Days.”
All the “lonely Elijahs” across the earth are beginning to hear the trumpet call of heaven, commanding them to gather around the cross of the Master.
Even now, in the shadow of that cross they are beginning to pray like their early counterparts.
They lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who didst make the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who by the mouth of our father David, thy servant, didst say by the Holy Spirit, `Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things? The kings of the earth set themselves in array, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’ — for truly in this city there were gathered together against thy holy servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever thy hand and thy plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness, while thou stretchest out thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of thy holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.
There is a radical difference between “Revival” organized by human ingenuity, and the mysterious moving of the Spirit which is now happening down among the grass roots.
The “Omega Call” of heaven is beyond the reach of human manipulation. The judgments of the Spirit’s call “are unsearchable and its ways past finding out.”
Those who are meant to hear will hear!
Once we hear the call, we have no choice but to lay aside our cherished views of how God does things, repent of our compulsion to control, and offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to the Master.
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Written August 2019 REB
Prayer: Lord when we are tempted to feel alone, abandoned, and threatened may we hear your call in the midst of our dejection. May we embrace your offer of peace, may we inhale your breath and be filled with life once again. May we be shaken and filled with your Holy Spirit so we can rise up from our dejection and are emboldened to leave our disappointments and fears behind and carry your message to the earth
IN A WORLD LIKE THIS?
If we’re looking for joy in this absurd world, we’re out of luck.
Anyone with eyes can see trouble waiting in the road ahead, tribulation dogging our steps.
Greed, lies, malice, suspicion fill the air with a smoke so think, it’s hard to breathe.
Even Billionaires are getting depressed.
Joy? Where is it?
From the beginning of time joy has had only one source:
Find God—the true God—and you find joy!
Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.
When a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she is delivered of the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a child is born into the world.
So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
John 16:20-22 &24
The source of joy is God.
And the way to find God is to pray.
No matter how shaky our faith.
No matter how skeptical our hearts.
Even if we haven’t a clue how to pray.
Just start to pray.
And keep at it.
Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
No matter how bad things are out there, the road to God’s Kingdom is alive with joy!
“In the world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
Prayer: Lord, help us even in the midst of sorrow, disappointment, and tribulation to find joy. Help us to keep praying until we find your presence beside us, your beautiful, comforting presence. Help us to keep praying until we are lifted up from our sorrow and despair, until we know with everything within us that you have overcome the world. Until we know that we can trust you. Until we are ready to open our hearts to the fullness of joy you offer us
Message written October 2020 REB
Art: Melani Pyke melpyke.com
SHELTER IN THE STORM
It’s getting depressing!
Every day more tragedy and pain.
Suspicion and anger spilling over the earth.
Danger spreading into our peaceful land.
Why can’t people just live in peace?
Why does it have to be this way?
Sooner or later our “pocket of peace” in a world of fury is bound to succumb.
It’s time for us to learn to function in the real world, where nation rises against nation and kingdom against kingdom; a world of famine and earthquake and strange weather.
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, Came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though a host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; Though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.
One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.
It is possible to “dwell in the house of the Lord” while walking through a war zone.
To dwell in “the secret place of the Most High” in the midst of chaos.
To “abide under the shadow of the Almighty” while the earth trembles.
Real peace never comes from our environment.
It comes from within.
From the Spirit of God.
All who seek it from God, find it.
All who ask, receive it.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
Prayer: Yes Lord, in the day of our troubles, shelter us in the presence of your holiness. In the midst of chaos keep us safe in your secret place, keep us delighting in your beauty, in your glory, in your grace. Help us to find not only peace, but joy as you shelter us from any storm that comes to shake us.
Message (AKA It’s Getting Depressing) written June 2015 REB
Art: Signe Flink deviantart dot com/signeflinkart
“Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
Will we survive?
And when I die, what then?
—Questions generated by anxiety.
Once we place our lives into the hands of the Master,
trusting him to guide and provide,
we can be sure of this:
Jesus is Lord of the future—our future.
We will know what we need to know when the time comes.
Meanwhile, we keep walking by faith, wrapped in his peace.
“It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.”
That’s all we need to know.
Walk in the light of the Spirit, and doors will open.
Everything we need, including knowledge, will be provided.
“I am the light of the world, he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Prayer: Jesus, You are the Lord of our future. You are our treasure. We place our hearts, our hopes, our all in you. Keep our hearts from being troubled and afraid. We ask, despite our anxieties, that you wrap us in your peace.
Message written November 2008 REB
Art: Chris Powers Full of Eyes
A NEW START
Okay, I’m loaded with debt, burdened with guilt and abandoned by all but a few dubious friends.
In other words, I’m lost.
You may be thinking, “It’s his own stupidity. He created that mess.”
I don’t deny it.
And I don’t expect you to bail me out.
But has God turned his back on me too?
And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
Go and learn what this means, `I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus is always there for those of us who made a mess of our lives.
He never turns us down.
He never walks away.
All we need to do is come to him, put the mess at his feet, throw ourselves on his mercy, and cry,
“Lord, help me!”
Everyone who comes to him gets help.
No matter how big the mess, or how great the sin, Jesus cuts us free from our past.
He gives us a new start.
So what are we waiting for?
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-20
Prayer: Lord Jesus thank you that you give us a new start. Thank you that you have mercy on the sick and broken. We admit that we are lost, we are sick and we are broken. Help us merciful Lord, give us a new start. We are asking for relief from our burdens and rest for our souls as we come to you and learn your tender loving ways.
Message written December 2020 REB
Art: Maria Lang Garcia Maria Lang.net
* CONDITIONAL FRIENDSHIP *
God’s love is unconditional.
That love floods our sin-sick world at this moment.
It’s here for everybody.
“Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
A new life, a clean slate for every human soul.
Not because we’re worthy.
Not because we’re worth saving.
Simply because he loves us.
All of us
God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
The Father sees every sparrow fall, observes every blade of grass,
and looks into each of our hearts with unconditional love.
“Come to me!
“I will heal every wound, break every chain, wipe away every tear!”
When we open our hearts to that love, we are drawn to the Father through a single door:
The door of forgiveness.
Which is Jesus, crucified and risen.
He is the door to the Father’s unconditional love.
Moreover, Jesus invites us to be his friends.
But here’s the mystery:
Friendship with Jesus is conditional.
“You are my friends, if you do what I command you.”
And what does Jesus command us to do?
Requite the Father’s love.
Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength,
and your neighbor as yourself.
Every parable, every teaching, every command of Jesus boils down to this simple command:
Love God and your neighbor.
“You are my friends, if you do what I command you.”
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus describes the life he empowers us to live, when we are his friends:
A life driven by love.
“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.”
John 15: 9-10
God’s love is unconditional.
It’s as steady as the burning sun.
But to actually know that love, we have to requite it.
Jesus makes it possible for each of us to walk in love, if we will get under his yoke and learn from him.
And be his friends.
“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”
Dearest holy and loving Lamb of God, Help us to sense your unconditional love that surrounds us at all times. Draw us into your arms. Flood us with your love. Heal us. Free us. Wipe away our every fear and tear. Oh Lord, that we would be so filled with your love that we are able to return it with an intensity like we never have before, an intensity that draws us into your very heart. As we are covered with holy love and holy forgiveness, may we enter into a deeper fellowship with you, as friends. As friends may we love you with all we have, as friends may we not let you down, may we do what you ask of us… to live a life driven by the very love you give to us. Yoke us close to you, our dear, beloved friend,…so we are empowered to abide in your love…empowered to truly love our neighbor, empowered to unleash your forgiveness to this needy world … and as we share your love… may wounds be healed, chains be broken, tears wiped away and billions enter into friendship with you.
Message written August 2020 REB
Art: By Chris Powers at Fullofeyes.com
THE MERCY PRAYER
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:44
It doesn’t make sense
I finally landed a decent job, good pay, beautiful place. Except for one thing: my boss. From Day One he decided I don’t belong. He tells me to go back to Africa. He never leaves me alone. Makes my life miserable. Human Resources won’t help. So I’m leaving.
And I’m supposed to pray for this guy? No way!
I thought I found my Prince. We had a magnificent wedding. A great honeymoon. A few pleasant years.
But now, with three little ones in a beautiful house my Prince has turned into a Monster. A few drinks and he comes home in a rage. He beats me. He’ll beat the kids if I let him get near them. Life is intolerable, actually it’s dangerous. The children and I are heading for a shelter before he gets home tonight.
And I’m supposed to pray for him? Thanks anyway!
Maybe in Galilee
Maybe back in those days, when life was sane, Jesus could say,
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
But in this world of lies, greed and violence, who in their right mind would waste time praying for those monsters who make our lives a terror?
It’s the same world
Actually, the world back then was no more “sane” than it is now. And no less violent.
When Jesus showed us the way of God’s World, he was revealing the only way to live in any world.
The only way that works.
The way he lived to his dying breath.
They whipped him, beat him, taunted him, and nailed him to a cross to die.
Did he call down curses from heaven?
Did he threaten them with the fires of hell?
He prayed for them.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
That prayer had unspeakable power. Power that hovers over us as I write these words—and as you read them.
God’s forgiveness flows like a healing river.
That forgiveness enters us and transforms us.
But it refuses to stagnate within us.
Either God’s forgiveness flows through us to those who have wronged us or it disappears.
Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Forgiveness is God’s supreme power on this earth.
God’s amazing grace.
When the risen Lord said, “Peace be with you!” to his trembling disciples, he was flooding their lives with forgiveness
Forgiveness for their cowardice, their unbelief.
The instant we receive God’s forgiveness, we are empowered to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
When it seems impossible to forgive the one who destroyed our life, the Spirit of God comes like a wind at our back and helps us break through our bitterness.
The Mercy Prayer
Many years ago Rex Andrews, a Bible teacher in Zion, Illinois, lost his way. Andrews suffered through a long season of devastating guilt and despair, until the Lord found him, forgave him, and restored him to life. From then on, the theme of Rex Andrews’ life was God’s unspeakable mercy. Whenever Andrews was wronged or slandered, he would pray what he called “The Mercy Prayer”:
Lord, flood the person I am thinking of with your fulfilling mercies, meeting all their needs!
It’s not always easy to pray this prayer.
Sometimes we have to begin by saying, “Lord, I’m not sure I can mean the words, as I pray mercy on this person. Help me to keep praying the words until I can say them from my heart!”
Lord, flood the person I am thinking of with your fulfilling mercies, meeting all their needs!
Why should we stumble through life loaded down with bitterness toward those who have wronged us?
The same Master who paid our debt with his own blood will help us clear away those debts we hold against our tormentors.
And fill us with his peace.
Prayer : Beloved Lord, you cover us with such grace, such forgiveness….. again and again you wrap us in your tender mercy. But we are stagnating in anger, resentment, criticism and hurt. Jesus, release us from this torment. We need your help to break through this bitterness. We want to be filled to be filled with your love and peace instead. Transform our hearts. Empower us to love those who have hurt us, wronged us, betrayed us, those who annoy us, and those who oppose us. May your forgiveness and healing flow from our broken and twisted hearts. Give us hearts that truly desire for them to be covered in your tender mercy. Flood them with your loving mercy, meet their needs, give them their hearts desire. Bless them, bless them.