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harriet

It was recently announced that Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. Harriet Tubman is remembered as an abolitionist who risked her own life to rescue others, but it is the story of her living faith that truly made her famous.

She was born into slavery around 1820 and was raised as an illiterate child. Harriet’s mother often shared Bible stories and helped to develop a passionate faith in her child.

Tubman escaped to freedom in 1849. She made use of a network known as the Underground Railroad to find her freedom. This informal, but well-organized system was composed of free and enslaved African Americans, white abolitionists and other religious activists. Most prominent among the latter in Maryland at the time were members of the Friends Church, also known as Quakers.

Even after securing her own freedom, Tubman later made more than 13 missions to rescue enslaved families and friends. Her notoriety and wide ranging success with the Underground Railroad grew. Tubman was nicknamed “Moses” after the biblical rescuer who delivered the Jews from slavery in Egypt.

Tubman ultimately led hundreds of slaves to freedom. The groups would travel at night and always in secrecy. All of her rescue missions were successful. She “never lost a passenger” and attributed all of her strength and success to God.

Today, even as Christians are being persecuted for their faith, we should look to the story of Harriet Tubman and be reminded how important it is demonstrate a living faith. Harriet’s mother could not teach her daughter to read, but she could share Bible stories to develop a lasting faith. Christians could be fined and arrested for harboring fugitive slaves, but they carved out time and space to help people in need. They shared food, shelter, and protection with fellow believers so that they could find freedom. Harriet also practiced a living faith by crossing the Mason-Dixon Line, risking her own arrest to save others who had no way to escape the cruel grasp of slavery.

Just as God has richly provided for us in 2016, may we boldly live out our Christian faith in a way that benefits others and guides them to a newfound freedom.

 

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blank page

Everyone talks about a different kind of list this time of year.  And it has nothing to do with being naughty or nice.  Our New Year resolutions for 2016 are taking shape on apps and lists across the globe.

Most resolutions focus on going to the gym and eating less.  The need for personal improvement can be physical, and it can be spiritual as well.  As you consider items for your list, here are five items that can strengthen your faith in 2016.

Schedule prayer time.  Find the right time of day where you can devote some effort to this.  Prayer is central to our faith. It is deliberate communication with our Heavenly Father. It is an act of worship. It is a spiritual discipline. It allows us to adore, petition, praise, and confess. On several occasions Scripture shows us examples when Jesus made time and space to pray. Follow in the example of Christ and find time to pray.

Meditate on the Bible.  You can read the text, receive a daily email, or listen to it on your smart phone.  Once you have a mode that is meaningful to you, make it a routine.  Spending time with God’s Word is vital to any Christian. It encourages and educates us. It provides direction when we feel lost. It reminds us that God is near.

Take a break. God gave the Sabbath for two reasons.  First, it is a day dedicated to honor and worship Him. Second, it is a day for us to rest.  Prevent burnout by setting aside work for one day out of the week.  Activities and events are always quick to crowd the Sabbath for other purposes. Resolve to use your God-given day differently in 2016.

Talk to your parents on a regular basis.  Set aside time for your family.  It can be on the phone, a video chat, or just stopping by the homestead.  Show them love and respect.  Show them that you care.  Continue to connect with them.  It will serve as a reminder of God’s love.

Try a new act of worship. This may sound radical, but too often we stay in a rut.  We stay with what we already know.  Try something new and different.  Feed your creative side and let it honor God.  Write a poem. Paint a picture. Learn to play an instrument. Create a new song or chorus for church. Volunteer your time at a local charity.  Find a new way to glorify God with a talent you haven’t used before.

As we prepare for 2016, make faith a part of your New Year resolutions.  Make a plan to strengthen your faith today and for the new year.

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pilgrim landing

There are many words that express the attitude of the day. You will hear thankful, grateful, and blessed. Our day is focused on early American settlers who crossed a freezing ocean on a little rickety boat because of their faith. While those words and themes are important, let us also focus on the words that inspired these settlers.

In Psalm 103, we find a hymn of Thanksgiving.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,

who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit, 

who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

These words reminded them to look beyond their losses, their hardships, and difficulties. These words reminded them to instead focus on the Almighty. Little food, poor housing, and a harsh winter made their first year difficult. Only 50 Pilgrims survived the winter of 1620. They gathered together in the fall of 1621 to celebrate their first harvest and the blessings we often overlook today.

May we follow in their example. No matter the problems we have experienced in 2015, let us join together and bless our God, whose love and care sustains us through all things.

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911

Precious God, we remember this day with sorrow.  We remember it with heartache, pain, and despair.  Lives lost and visions of destruction linger with us.

Lift up our faces.  Take the tears from our eyes.  Lighten our hearts.  Strengthen and restore us with your power and grace.

Psalm 147:3 declares that you, “heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.”  Be our God. Be a stronghold in time of trial.  Be our redeemer, comforter, and friend.

Let your healing mercy be a salve upon our hearts.  Allow it to rain down from heaven and minister to our hurt and pain.  Sustain us with your peace and grace.

Heavenly Father may we always find our strength in you.

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Good Friday

Isaiah 53

Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
    he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
    and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
    and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

John 3:16-17

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Romans 5:6-8

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Matthew 26:2

“As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

Mark 8:31

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

Matthew 27:27-31

27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

Luke 23:33-34

33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

Luke 23:39-43

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Matthew 27:45-54

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land.46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lemasabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). 47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” 48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” 50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. 54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

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trinity knot1

The Celtic Trinity Knot is a tradition Celtic symbol representing God the Father, his son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.  Celtic knots are perhaps the most recognizable artwork in Celtic history.  They are an iconic symbol of Ireland and a popular feature in Celtic art dating back to 450 A.D.  Trinity knots are frequently used in Insular art.  Insular art is believed to have originated from the Irish monasticism of Celtic Christianity in the early middle ages.

trinity knot2

Trinity knots can also have a circle incorporated into the symbol.  Depending on who you ask, the circle represents eternity, eternal life, or the love of God. Regardless, the knots are a beautiful way to communicate a spiritual truth.  In each knot, there is no beginning and no end.  So is the timeless nature of our Heavenly Father, who showers us with mercy, grace, and love.

God bless your Saint Patrick’s Day!

 

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emmanuel

What is the longest time you had to wait for something?  We wait a matter of minutes for food at a restaurant and it feels like a long time.  We wait 5 years to start kindergarten classes at school.  We wait 20 to 30 years to find a spouse.  As a people, we do not wait well, no matter how great the reward may be.

The Advent of Christ is also a story of waiting.  The time between the Old and New Testaments total 400 years.  This time span moves from Nehemiah to the birth of Jesus Christ.  These years are known as the intertestamental period, but they are often called the “silent” years.  A time when people were waiting to hear something from God.

The New Testament gospels give us more than a whisper.  They announce the long-awaited birth of the Messiah, the Desire of nations, the Son of David, the Prince of Peace.  Jesus arrives as our Emmanuel.  Jesus arrives as our Redeemer, Savior, and King.  The most precious gift we could receive.

His birth shows the faithful promise of God to provide salvation.  His birth allows God and sinners to be reconciled.  His birth brings light and life to a world that has only known darkness and death. Jesus was born that mankind may have life, a second birth, a home beyond this world.

We celebrate the Advent of Christ on earth.  We celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and the deliverance that it brings.

Now we wait again.  We wait on the second Advent of Christ and His promised return.  May God hasten the day when we can finally see Jesus, the one pierced for our transgressions, the one crushed for our iniquities, the one who died so that we may have eternal life.

 

 

 

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