Light for Darkness, Joy for Gloom

‘Nevertheless there will be no more gloom for those in distress………….
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light……………’ Isaiah 9:1,2

The light that illuminates every darkness has come into the world. Darkness cannot comprehend this light. This light transforms gloom into joy and brings deliverance to the oppressed and distressed.
The light of God in the person of Jesus Christ came into the world. He went into the lands of Zebulum and Naphthali and made the public declaration of His ministry. Lands of darkness and gloom received the light that came into the world. All these happened in fulfillment of the prophecies of old, teaching us that the word of God will always be fulfilled. Hold fast to the word that has been given to you or spoken over your life. God’s word will always be established.
Are you faced by challenges that suck joy out of life. Life problems that make life gloomy, dark and uninteresting. They could be in the form of loss, betrayal, sickness or lack. Remember that there is no cause of sadness and confusion that can withstand this light.
Jesus says in John 8:12…….I am the light of the world. Come to Him, rest in Him and allow Him dispel the gloom and darkness that threatens your life. Jesus says again in John 16:33 ……..,.be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
In Him you find rest and joy. In Him you are always more than a conqueror. Embrace this light in the person of Jesus Christ.

PRAYER
LORD Jesus, I come to you, let your light shine into every dark area of my life and deliver me from every form of oppression. Fill my life with your joy and peace. Amen.

Your Turn
Come join our conversation on the blog. We would love to hear your thoughts, prayer points, testimonies and questions.

Love, Despite

Tell It Slant Mama

 Before I married my husband, I told him to make sure that he was marrying me for who I was that day, and not for any future changes he hoped to have wrought in me through the “transforming” power of marriage. Though we were both young, I had seen enough unhappy marriages to make me wary of the institution, and who wants to be institutionalized, really?  I had no question that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him, but I wanted us to start off with as little illusion as possible.  I wanted to know that he saw me, and not some airbrushed version of a girl to be placed on a pedestal.  It is easy to fall in love if you believe all the fairy tales and movies.  Beautiful women with flowing hair and flawless skin meet muscled men with pure hearts and chivalrous intentions and they ride off to his manor with servants aplenty…

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Beautiful Beginings

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Today being the first day in the month of March, is significant for me and all the members of my local church assembly. The LORD had told us that we were standing at the edge of something new. And after a period of an active waiting on the LORD, we have a new Rector who both worshipped with us for the first time today and preached his first sermon to our congregation.

One of the first things that caught my attention during the sermon was his description of the relationship between the congregation and their pastor as akin to that between a husband and a wife. The second was his description of scripture as the ‘world in which a believer dwells’. This blew my mind and sums up everything.

Then comes the body of the sermon on the transfiguration of our Lord Jesus on a high mountain taken from the gospel reading for the day in Mark 9:2-9. He made references to this account in the gospels according to Luke and Mathew.

In Luke 9:29, the appearance of his face was altered and his robe became white and glistening as he prayed. This teaches us that as we depend on God as Jesus did and relate with him in prayer we are changed into his likeness from glory to glory. God transforms us as we relate with him intimately in prayer.

In Mathew 17:7, Jesus came and touched them and said arise, do not be afraid. Jesus tells us not to fear, greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world. In his presence we should fear nothing.

Jesus was transfigured and his clothes which were external to his person also became white and glistening. We do not know the original color of his clothes and if the clothes were dusty due to the mountain climb. But it didn’t matter because everthing about him including his clothes were transfigured in that encounter. Through Christ we too will be transfigured. Everything about us included. God’s presence transforms. It doesn’t matter if it’s our hobbies, our work, our relationships, our business. The state it is in does not also matter. God’s presence transforms. Offer all you do to the mercy of God continually. LORD have mercy. Christ offers us all that’s he has. May we be willing to accept his offer completely and offer him everything about us.

We all look forward to an enriching period and from the deepest places in our hearts appreciate our retiring Rector and his wife for the amazing work the LORD has used and is still using them to do. We love you two.

This Ash Wednesday, I can’t do ‘Ashes to Go’ or ‘#Ashtag’

The Millennial Pastor

ashtag-selfie-ashwed-churchmojo-squareThis morning a blogger and writer that I like to read and whom I respect, David R Henson, posted an insightful blog post about the problems with #AshTag.

As I prepare for Ash Wednesday, my own thoughts have been swirling around how to approach and understand this first day of Lent. As David considered the problem of Ash Wednesday selfies posted to social media using the hashtag #AshTag, one line in particular caught my attention.

The systemic push within the church for Ash Wednesday selfies is an exercise in whistling past graveyards.

Needless to say, I won’t be posting an Ash Wednesday selfie (one would think that Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras would be the big selfie night).

AshestoGo4But another Ash Wednesday innovation that I have surprised myself by not being terribly interested in is ‘Ashes to Go.’ Ashes to go is where clergy go out…

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People of the Cross

“They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated, the world was not worthy of them.” (Hebrews 11:37- 38)

Dear friends,

This is a very sad time in Egypt where we are in seven days of official mourning for the 21 young Christian men who were brutally slaughtered by ISIS in Libya on Sunday. The gruesome, professionally-produced video of that execution shocked the country and has united Christians and Muslims as never before. As soon as the video was broadcast on Sunday evening, the President delivered a speech declaring 7 days of mourning for the nation. Shortly afterwards the Egyptian Air Force bombed ISIS targets in Libya.

As I arrived at the Bible Society office in the morning, feeling sad and depressed, I met a young coworker who told me that she was “very encouraged.” I could not imagine what on earth could encourage her!

“I am encouraged” she said, “because now I know that what we have been taught in history books about Egyptian Christians being martyred for their faith is not just history but that there are Christians today who are brave enough to face death rather than deny their Lord! When I saw these young men praying as they were being prepared for execution and then many of them shouting “O Lord Jesus” as their throats were being slit, I realized that the Gospel message can still help us to hold on to the promises of God even when facing death!”

This same sentiment is being reflected in different ways by people who watched that gruesome video!

I don’t think I will ever read Chapter 11 of the Epistle to the Hebrews again without seeing in my mind the images of these men dressed in orange jump suits with black-clad, masked executors behind each one of them!

As many of you know, these men were simple, Egyptian laborers who had gone to Libya to make a living. They were captured and executed by ISIS for being – as the video caption charges – “People of the Cross”. Egyptians have been shocked by this news and it is the most talked about event in our country at this time.

The purpose of the video was to foment sectarian strife in Egypt between Christians and Muslims. Those Islamic extremists clearly intended to provoke the 10 million Christians in Egypt to rise up violently against their Muslim neighbors.

But the loving and caring response of Muslims all over the nation softened the blow which many Christians felt. Up till now the Christians of Egypt have responded with restraint, sorrowfully calling out to God.

The President and dozens of political leaders personally gave their condolences to the Coptic Pope. The Prime Minister travelled to the small village where most of these men come from, sitting on the floor with their poor relatives to express his concern. All this sends a clear message that Christians are considered an integral part of the fabric of Egyptian society.

Prayer Requests
1. Pray for comfort for the families of the victims who are in a terrible emotional state.
2. Pray for the effective mass distribution of a Scripture tract we have just produced (above left), that God’s Word will comfort and challenge the many who will receive it.
3. As I write, there is news of more Egyptians being kidnapped in Libya. Lord have mercy!

Please pray for Egypt as we pass through this painful period.

With much thanks,

Ramez Atallah
General Director
The Bible Society of Egypt

Copyright © Bible Society of Egypt, 2015 All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
1 Ali Fahmy El Zanaty St, PO Box 5277, Heliopolis West 11771, Cairo Egypt

Website: http://www.bibles4egypt.com

Living Hope

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In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1: 3b-5 (NIV) [emphasis is mine]

My hope is alive. I rejoice that the hope I have in God as my helper is not dead but alive because Jesus Christ is alive forever. He is risen from the dead overcoming every principality and power, triumphing and making a public show of them.

We are born in Christ into a hope that is alive due to God’s great mercy towards us. We are chosen and called by God to receive an inheritance that can never depreciate in value, kept for us in heaven. Yes, it doesn’t all end here. There is life after here and where we spend it depends on what we do with the great mercy that God has offered us in Christ Jesus.

If you ask Jesus to come into your heart, cleanse you from sin and be your saviour and master, he will do so and give you a new birth. Then you can be sure that the hope you have in God for answers, healing, deliverance and ultimate salvation will not disappoint you but will be satisfied. While you wait for the fulfillment of God’s promise, he shields you through faith by his power which is limitless. He does not leave you to whether the storms and challenges of life alone but protects you from the attacks of the enemy. So, what should we say about this? If God is for us, no one can stand against us. And God is with us. He even let his own son suffer for us. So now with Jesus, God will surely give us all things…………But in all these troubles, we have complete victory through God who has shown his love for us. Romans 8:31-32,37(ETRV) 

Therefore lift up your heart and your eyes and hold firmly onto your living hope in God, always with that firm assurance in your heart that his power shields you, preserving you for your final inheritance for you kept in heaven. Do not allow the cares, temptations and distractions in the world shift your gaze away from him who gave all to redeem you. Complete victory is yours. Alleluia!

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for choosing me and saving me. Thank you for your great mercy towards me. Help me to focus on you and hold unto the living hope that you have given me. Thank you because your power shields me. Grant me the grace to walk faithfully with you till the end through Jesus Christ my Lord, amen.

Your turn

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E mail at lightdevotionals@gmail.com

Sequel to ‘Don’t give up’

The Difference of One Word

The Good Book Blog

By John McKinley

The Christian belief system is consistent and coherent. This shows in the way that adjustments in one concept of the system often require modifications in other aspects. Increased clarity about one topic elucidates other topics. The interdependence of my beliefs was again displayed when I came across a common mistranslation of a single word in Luke’s gospel. Once I had been persuaded that the prevailing translation was misleading, I experienced shifts in the ways I view and relate to God, and how I pray and think about God’s involvement in daily life. These implications of a single word have been strong reverberations that I am grateful to experience.

The single word in this little earthquake is the noun anaideia. The word occurs in the New Testament only in Luke 11:8. Normally, anaideia is translated as “persistence” (NASB, NRSV), “impudence” (ESV), “boldness” (NIV84), “shameless persistence” (NLT), and “importunity” (KJV, RSV). The context is Jesus’ parable on prayer in which a friend goes to his neighbor-friend at night for bread. Translations take the words as describing the asking friend’s dogged determination to nag his neighbor until he receives what he has asked for. Persistence in asking is the point of the parable. That’s what I’ve always heard and thought about it. Now I think that’s misleading.

This parable seems similar to another parable in Luke in which a widow goes to a bad judge for vindication (Luke 18:1–8). The widow’s persistence in Luke 18 is a clear theme that seems to influence the translation of anaideia in Luke 11:8. Typical interpretation of the parable of the friend at night in Luke 11:5–8 is that we should be persistent by continually insisting through prayer that God pay attention to our need. This meaning is usually paired with the next statement in vv. 9–10 that we should ask, seek, and knock, not simply once, but in a continual and persistent way. This meaning pictures God as reluctant to respond to his children, and requiring that they show they really mean what they ask for by nagging God for their needs. Prayer then becomes work to progressively pry open God’s hand to release what we have asked of him.

Early Christian interpreters thought the meaning of anaideia in Luke 11:8 must be the persistence of the asking friend, a kind of disregard for shame in bold and persistent pressing for a response, despite the embarrassment of doing so. Christian writers were unique in taking the term this way. The only extrabiblical uses of anaideia to mean “persistence” occur in Christian writings in relation to this biblical passage. By contrast, no one else used the term in this way, since the uniform meaning for anaideia in 258 occurrences in the TLG database (including the LXX, Josephus, and Greek papyri) is always a negative concept that David Garland renders “shamelessness” (Luke, ZECNT, 467). The term is frequently a synonym for disgrace. Never does anaideia occur as a positive concept in the way of “persistence.”

Important in interpreting Luke 11:8 properly is to identify the “shamelessness” with the grumpy neighbor instead of with the friend who is asking and knocking. Notice that the friend asks only once; impending shame from social pressure does the rest; what will others say when they hear a neighbor has refused to help his friend in severe need? The term should be descriptive of the grumpy neighbor as a man who has no regard for his own disgrace in such a cold-hearted refusal of a friend in need to provide food for a near-starving visitor. Garland rightly points to the social shame that the grumpy neighbor would suffer for flippantly refusing his friend in need as the operative pressure moving him to action. Such coldness would be comparable to a friend refusing to lend his car to a friend who needed to drive his pregnant wife to the hospital to give birth (Garland’s contemporizing example).

I think Garland is right to distinguish the parable of the widow in Luke 18 as not about prayer in general, but in connection with eschatological distresses during which Christians must not lose hope. God is not to be likened to the bad judge, and God is not to be likened to the grumpy friend who initially refuses to give bread at night. These two parables are not mutually interpreting. Both parables display a greater-than relation of comparison. If even a grumpy neighbor will respond positively to a request, then how much more will God as a loving father respond. If even a bad judge will respond to a widow’s firm resolve, then how much more will God vindicate his people in connection with the return of Jesus (the preceding context in Luke 17).

When linked with Luke’s presentation of the Lord’s prayer to “Father in heaven” (Luke 11:1–4) and the comparisons for prayer with what even evil parents do for their children (Luke 11:11–13) the emphasis on God’s readiness to respond to his children’s requests in prayer is much stronger. This emphasis on God is commonly eclipsed by the interpretation that prayer requires human persistence. That was the primary change for me, to see God differently as a loving father, eager and willing to give everything that is truly good and needed. Second was a change in how I understand prayer as a simple ask-for-what-you-need appeal to God, by contrast to a tug-of-war that must be engaged with God before he is willing to dispense the things we have repeatedly appealed for. These are different views of God and prayer that motivate me to pray more, though with less repetition, since I am no longer nagging him to give what I need.

These large differences in my experience turned on the meaning of a single word.

Don’t Give Up

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‘ Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up’. Luke 18:1 (NIV)

What is your perspective on prayer? Is prayer really that important?  Who originates prayer, the person who prays or God? Who is a more willing participant in the act of prayer, the one who prays or God? How can we be sure that God is present when we pray and that he will answer? What is the true answer to every prayer? How do we pray? I could go on and on.

Jesus used the parable of the persistent widow to teach persistence and hope in prayer. This hope serves as a precursor of the faith that keeps us believing. Prayer is a time of intimate relationship with God as our father. He calls us to the place of prayer. ‘ Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’ Matt 11:28 (NIV) ‘ Call to me and I will answer you, and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know’. Jere 33:3 (NIV). 

He invites you to come, thereby initiating the interaction, promises to answer and grant rest, assures that he will not be passive during prayer, but will tell you you things too. At that moment when you feel overwhelmed or stressed out and you just want to commit it all to God, know that it is the LORD calling you to the place of prayer. Then he says ‘ Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.’ Isaiah 65:24 (NIV). 

This knowledge makes you certain that he is more willing to answer than you are to pray. He calls you to pray because he wants to work with you and through you to sort those issues out. The more quality time you spend in prayer, the more intimate you become with God. When you genuinely pour out your heart in prayer, God begins to be birthed in you, in such a way that your desire becomes embedded in his desire and will for you and ultimately the answer to your prayer is the gift of God himself. That is when you begin to say that the  Lord grants you the desires of your heart. You have delighted yourself in him and he has planted in you his perfect desire for you that will ultimately lead to the fulfillment of his plans and purposes for your life.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests’. Eph 6:18 (NIV). ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God’. Phil 4:6 (NIV).

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for calling me to the place of prayer. Always fill my heart with the burden and desire to seek you out in prayer. Open my ears that I may hear you, open my heart to receive you, open my eyes to see, through Jesus Christ my Lord, amen.

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A theology of suffering – from devotionals daily

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I was blessed by this article in Devotionals daily, am sharing it with you.
‘We have been called to follow One who understands and empathizes with suffering.’ – Ken Wytsma

A Theology of Suffering: Sing a New Song
by Ken Wytsma, The Grand Paradox: The Messiness of Life, the Mystery of God and the Necessity of Faith

Meet Ken Wytsma

Without a theology of suffering, we will assume something is wrong, broken, or out of balance whenever we face trials. We may then find ourselves wavering, frantically searching for prosperity and blessing that we believe is the Christian experience, rather than obediently moving forward in the steps of the Savior.

Our comprehension of suffering as intrinsic to the life of the believer is essential if we are to find our voice among the faithful — among those who know lament.

Throughout the Psalms, we are told to sing a “new song” to the Lord. As the church and as individuals, it is time that we find our song.

When we find ourselves caught in the violent grip of fatigue, suffocating in the terror of the soul’s dark night, we need a song to sing. Like Paul and Silas, sitting in a damp, dark prison cell, ankles raw from heavy chains, singing loudly enough so that all the other prisoners could hear, so should we lift our voices.

This need for song is really an expression of a deeper issue — our need for a richer theology of suffering.

A friend of mine, Alex Mutagubya, is the founder of Transform African Ministries and pastor of the City Church in Kampala, Uganda. Speaking on the differences between the African and the American church, and on the African Christians’ greater resilience in the face of trials, he said, “There is, within the African Christian community, a robust acknowledgment of spiritual warfare that informs the church’s ability to endure the agony of fatigue. Even when it does not make sense, God remains God in the midst of suffering and pain.”

This theology of suffering is not unique to the African church. In most of the world, the church is familiar with adversity. The prosperity of the West has sheltered us from hardship, which has led to an anemic understanding of the place of suffering in the life of believers. Songs of suffering help us endure our seasons of fatigue. Suffering should make sense to the believer.

One of the ways we come to know God is in adversity. We draw close to Jesus in suffering.

The very One who calls us to follow Him was well acquainted with suffering and sorrow.

“In Gethsemane the holiest of all Petitioners prayed three times that a certain cup might pass from Him. It did not.” – C. S. Lewis

Paul wrote of how Jesus spoke to him of His trials,

But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore,” Paul added, “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.” He concluded with one of the more astonishing spiritual truths of the New Testament, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Paul had the maturity to say in the midst of difficulty that God could move and was moving.

Can I also look at the challenges in my life as the grace of God? It is easy for us to see God in our blessings, but can we see God in our trials?

Training to Endure

It’s been said that the way you train is the way you will perform. We must train ourselves for bad times as well as for good. Just as marriage covenants refer to both bad times as well as good, so our covenant with God should acknowledge the certainty of both.

How we anticipate and are willing to accept pain will dictate whether we walk away or sustain faith through times of suffering.

Our expectations and preparation for trial will govern our ability to endure spiritual drought and burnout. Building a robust theology of suffering both prepares us for and acquaints us with the journey we have been called to walk.

How we train is how we perform. How we pattern our thinking with regard to difficulty affects our response to God when difficulty comes.

In the life of faith, it is easy to tend toward either extreme optimism, a gospel of health and wealth only, or a fatalism that sees God as distant and unfeeling. A realistic understanding will accurately locate us in the middle of a story in which to suffer is to share in what it means to be human.

We have been called to follow One who understands and empathizes with suffering. Our Lord warned His disciples,

“’A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” – John 15:20

Jesus suffered, so we should expect to suffer. We should expect it, but we should also begin to rebuild a proper theology of suffering within our confessions of faith. We need to strengthen our trust that, although we will undoubtedly meet adversity and pain on His account, He is also the one who has overcome the world and in whom we have life.

As Corrie ten Boom, the famed Dutch Christian whose family hid Jews from the Nazis during World War II, once said, “joy runs deeper than despair.”

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. — Psalm 40:1

So perhaps it’s time for a frank conversation about the true nature of Christian faith. Maybe there are many desperately in need of a clear dialogue about how— despite living in a turbulent, chaotic world — our greatest joy is found in our pursuit of God.

In The Grand Paradox, Ken Wytsma seeks to help readers understand that although God can be mysterious, He is in no way absent.

Copyright © 2015 HarperCollins Christian Publishing, All Rights Reserved.

501 Nelson Place, Nashville, TN, 37214 USA

Your Reality

Sleeping giant

Sleeping giant

‘ for  I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ Jeremaiah 29:11 (NIV)

Making plans is a part of life, whether short term or long term plans. Realistic plans are made based on the existing or projected facts available. However there are times in life when it is difficult or near impossible to plan or make projections of any kind due to the uncertain nature of circumstances. The context of our text was one of such. The Israelites were slaves exiled in Babylon. They were in no position to project into the future because they did not know how long their captivity would last. They were in a despondent state and no wonder some false prophets preyed on them giving false hopes about their return to Israel. Who knows, but some of them who were exiled may have felt they were worse sinners than those left behind in Israel.

There are times in life when the hopelessness in us and around us leave us in such a state that we fall prey to devilish schemes and advise. The reality we perceive does not give room to hope for happiness or deliverance the next moment not to talk of the long term. Then you are reminded of all your errors and mistakes of the past and the guilt of past wrongs are added to the heavy burden.

It is so heart warming to know that though our present perceived reality does not give room for hope or joy, God has a perfect reality for us. It does not matter to Him how we came to be where we are, His reality offers us hope and deliverance. ‘For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him’. John 3:18 (NIV). 

God’s plans and thoughts for you are higher than your own. No matter how complicated or hopeless the situation may be He can straighten it out because, to God impossibility does not exist. Above all, He loves you and seeks actively to do you good not evil. Will you give Him a chance to make things right for you? Come to Him in absolute surrender and let Him wash you clean of sin and guilt, let Him give you wisdom, let Him bring healing to your body and emotions. Allow Him into your home to heal your marriage and bring back your wayward children. He is able and He can and will do it if you let Him. Let your reality bow to His reality and plans for you and see what His power will bring to manifestation in your life.

PRAYER: LORD, I surrender my life and my reality to your reality for me. Please bring to manifestation your perfect plan and will for my life. Grant me the grace to walk with you in your path, through Jesus Christ my LORD, amen.

Your turn

You are welcome to share with us on the blog. E mail at lightdevotionals@gmail.com