Articles

21 Days of Prayer & Fasting

We’re praying and fasting together for 21 days. Our theme for this event is “Kneeling With the Savior”. We invite you to pray with us. Tune in every morning at 6 am for a live conference session online.

We encourage you to go a step further in your experience by fasting. You may fast once during the event; once a week during the event; or more often if you’re able.

The event happens May 27 through June 16.

Please submit your information below:

Confident Persistence

Every time we read a Bible story, there is something new that can impact us. Luke 7:36-50, a story about a dinner party, is no exception.

One of the characters in this passage is an unnamed woman, who was popularly unpopular. Well-known for all the wrong reasons, the court of public opinion didn’t have much to say in kindness to this woman. Regardless, she found herself at a Pharisee’s dinner party one evening, after hearing that Jesus was to be a guest.

She didn’t go for the meal or looking to cause a stir. She had one intention that evening.

To thank Jesus, personally.

As Jesus was eating and mingling with the other guests, she knelt behind him, at his feet. Though tears pour out through her eyes, the emotion came from deep within her soul. She didn’t just sprinkle Jesus’ feet; they were wet enough to require wiping.

Continuing her personal act of gratitude, the woman used her hair to wipe his feet. Then she poured expensive perfume all over them.

The snickering and whispering may have started when she was noticed, but Jesus spoke up. Though addressing Simon’s thoughts, Jesus used this moment to affirm this woman. He reassured her that her act of love and gratitude had not gone unnoticed by Him.

She was able to persist in what she was doing because she was forgiven by Jesus.

There is a confidence that we can have when we accept the forgiveness that Jesus offers and believe that our slates are wiped clean. The forgiveness that Christ offers is thorough. He forgives and promptly erases it from our record.

The forgiveness that Christ offers us in 2018 is just as thorough as it was for that woman. When we ask for forgiveness, He forgives and promptly erases it from our record.

Sadly, the people around us don’t choose to forget as easily as Christ does. There are also consequences that will be unavoidable at times. We may continue to hear snickering and whispering anytime we enter a room. These realities are temptations from the enemy to stop us from believing God’s truth about us.

This is another great reason why we need to give prayer and the study of God’s Word priority in our lives. We need His truth to become well-rooted in our hearts and minds. God will help us to discern His loving voice through the distractive cacophony and cling to His truth.

The Bells and Pomegranates

“So when all these things being to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!” Luke 21:28, NLT

As we conclude our series on the High Priest’s garment, there is one aspect left. The fringe.

Yes, God’s attention to detail also includes the edges of clothing. He is that comprehensive and thorough in all that He does.

The fringe is a combination of tiny bells and pomegranates. Though it sounds like ear-pleasing décor, even this detail serves a purpose.

The Most Holy Place was to be accessed only one day each year. The High Priest was the only one permitted to enter this room. Because of the solemnity of this space, the High Priest required special preparations, including being cleared from sin before meeting with God.

The bells on the fringe of the garment would tinkle lightly as the High Priest moved about doing his duties. Attentive listeners stood outside, making sure that they kept hearing these bells. The tinkling meant that the High Priest was still alive while in the glory of God. His personal sinful condition and the sins he carried on behalf of the people did not overtake him while in God’s presence.

The bells on the garment of the High Priest gave the people an audible sign that he was alive and interceding for them in the Most Holy Place. As Christ intercedes for us in the Most Holy Place, even though we cannot hear the bells on His garment, we should pay attention to signs that He is about to finish His work as High Priest and come back as a Judge and King.

As we’ve studied the High Priest’s garment, we’ve been reminded that God has a plan.

We are not alive without an intended purpose from our Creator. There is significantly more to life than we see each day. Jesus is coming back to take us to our home in Heaven.

Because of sin, God sent Jesus, our High Priest, to earth to die in our place. Jesus was that unblemished and innocent young lamb that was sacrificed to atone for our sins. When Jesus died, the veil tore in the curtain, from top to bottom, allowing the Most Holy Place to be accessible to everyone at any time.

We are able to pray–talk to God–directly. We can be direct in seeking His forgiveness. We can be direct in bringing our needs to Him. Likewise, God can be direct with us as tells us His plans for our lives.

So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:14-16, NLT

 

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This article is part of the Ten Days of Prayer 2018 series. Visit that page to find all the other articles in this series.

An Unlikely Source of Hope

The worst day of my life was the best day of my life.

It was the day I learned that hope can come from the most unlikely source.

It was a travel day. Though notorious for its hazards, I’d always been fine when traveling on this path. Until this particular day.

One moment I was walking upright. The next, I was face-planted into the ground, choking on dust. I was viciously beaten and kicked. My clothes were stripped off and everything I had with me was stolen.

I don’t know how long I lay there, floating in and out of consciousness. I discovered that one could shiver underneath the blazing sun rays.

At some point, I heard footsteps. I cracked an eye open to see a minister’s robes. Finally, my help had come!

Except he did nothing.

He didn’t even check to see if I was breathing. In my haze, I was confused. Why would the minister not help me? He’s not blind; he can see that I’m unable to help myself. It sounded like he actually ran away from me. He did not represent the same God that He taught about in church.

Later, I heard more footsteps. I caught a glimpse of a church worker’s clothing. Surely he came to help me.

But instead, he did not a thing. This must be the new standard in churches. Do nothing when people are in need.

Well, I give up! I’m about to die under this hot sun. If was a lost cause with my own church people then I must not be worth saving. No one wants me.

God, if You’re still there, please take me now, I pleaded.

After some time, I heard sounds. Great! I’m about to be trampled to death by a wild animal. Wait—there’s also a man. A third person has come to look at me before turning away.

This man is hovering, rather than leaving.  I don’t recognize his clothes. His scent is distinct though.

Uh oh! It’s a Samaritan. This is the worst day ever!He probably came to finish me off. What a humiliating way to die. I have no energy to resist even him.

Another set of smells. It’s—owwwwww!!!! I winced. Is this what death feels like? Hang on a minute–this Samaritan guy is cleaning me up. He is actually helping me. Doesn’t he know that our people don’t ever mix?

He’s mumbling something. If my head didn’t hurt so badly, I’d think he was praying for me.

Wherever I am, it’s much cooler now. It’s dark and I’m in a bed. I laid eyes on my rescuer.

It IS a Samaritan. Oh boy! What are people going to think when they hear just who helped me.

How can I twist this story? I can’t exactly lie about the minister or the church official. But could I lose my job, my friends, because this other guy helped me out?

He did help me out, didn’t he? No one else stopped, but this man. He didn’t even torture me first. Instead, he tended to my wounds and brought me to safety.

He saved my life. Wow! I didn’t know that these people were the compassionate type. Those are not the stories I grew up hearing about Samaritans.

I wouldn’t have learned the truth had I not been lying on that roadside.

When I was flat on my back feeling completely hopeless, the hope of rescue came in an unexpected manner.

Wow, God! I guess You really are there. Thank You for sending help. You care about all kinds of people, even Samaritans. I learned something new about You, God.

Turns out that this was the best day of my life.

(adapted from Luke 10:30-37)

The Censer

Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf. Hebrews 7:25, NLT

There is great pomp and circumstance when it comes to meeting royalty and high-ranking dignitaries. They don’t just meet all people when requested. We can’t easily call them or send a text message hoping to arrange a tea date for any random afternoon.

If we’re to cross paths, it’s because we were invited. Not even a personalized invite, mind you because these people have no clue who most of us are. Perhaps we’re associated with an organization or cause of interest, so a meeting with us would benefit their cause. Usually, it’s nothing personal.

Included with these invitations are a detailed list of rules and guidelines for the upcoming meeting. As an added bonus, for their safety, they may conduct a background check. They will investigate us months in advance, in some cases, to ensure that we are not a threat or that there is nothing risky about having us in their presence.

With all of this, I’ve never heard anyone decline these prestigious invitations. We’d willingly go through hoops and red tape for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. To see someone from afar, not even to sit and chat. The guest of honor may leave there without even learning our names from our lips.

As a complete opposite, there is God. He is the highest-ranking Being that exists. If there’s anyone who deserves and has earned the right all kinds of prestige at approaching Him, it’s the Almighty God.

The censer and the incense are a symbol of Christ’s intercession for us.

Though our sin has caused a vast chasm between us and Him, God has gone through hoops and blood-red tape to bridge the gap.

Through prayer, God is always approachable. We can chat with Him while sitting, standing, walking, dozing off, and much more. He knows us all by name. God desires an intimate relationship with each of us because He loves us intensely. He has given us a personal invitation to come to Him that has no expiry date.

God requires no background checks first before we pray. Our prayers will not get stuck in a holding queue, to see if we’re deemed worthy of His ever-attentive ear. God knows all about our pasts. In fact, He freely offers to forgive us if we simply ask. Once God forgives, the offense is gone, stricken from the record.

With God’s excellent character coupled with the fact that He loves us, why do we hesitate to come to Him?

We don’t have to worry about impressing God. We’re able to talk to God through Jesus, our intercessor. Jesus has covered us with His righteousness when He died on our behalf.

The enemy uses falsehoods and phony feelings to make us believe otherwise. There is power in knowing God’s truth. We can get better acquainted by spending time with God through daily prayer and reading His Word.

God enjoys us and being with us. May we also be excited to be with Him.

 

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This article is part of the Ten Days of Prayer 2018 series. Visit that page to find all the other articles in this series.

Urim and Thummim

So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Ephesians 5:15-17, NLT

On the television program, Undercover Boss, a top-level executive would alter their appearance to immerse themselves in their company undetected, to learn more. While the chief executives had overall goals, they needed all parts of their organization to work together to achieve them. They wanted to be sure that employees on all levels understood the mission and purpose of the organization.

Pretending to be a new applicant, the disguised executive would ask questions to learn about the company. They would ask about the overall goals and whether this was clearly communicated and upheld all throughout the organization. Additionally, the executives would also spend time getting acquainted with staff, learning what their personal goals and intentions were as part of the organization. Why did this job matter to them.

The Urim and Thummim were placed on the shoulders of the High Priest and revealed God’s will to His people. It is essential for us to understand the work of Christ on our behalf and His will for our life today.

Jesus came to earth as a type of undercover boss. He altered His appearance and immersed Himself in our world to learn more. Disguising His glory, Jesus put on a costume of human flesh. His goal was our salvation. He wanted us to be sure of God’s love for us.

Jesus spent time asking questions and teaching those who were willing to learn. He also spent time getting to know people on a personal level. He learned what mattered most to them. Jesus also showed us what things are valuable to Him. He was always willing to meet needs. Especially if that fulfillment would help to strengthen a relationship with Him.

We no longer rely on the Urim and Thummim method to learn of God’s will. Jesus’ death on the cross gave us direct access to God. We see His will revealed throughout history and in the Bible. God’s will is for us to be saved.

We don’t have to live forever wondering why we’re here. God has a plan for us. To save us and to help share this good news and blessed hope with others. Anytime we’re unsure of how to serve Him, we can ask. We have access to Him at any time, through prayer. He always has time for us.

 

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This article is part of the Ten Days of Prayer 2018 series. Visit that page to find all the other articles in this series.

The Breastplate

I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. 1 Corinthians 1:10, NLT

When you first unbox a new puzzle, the pieces are not pre-assembled. A puzzle is a deconstructed image. It’s up to the user to take the time to put the puzzle together. Often the box cover serves as a reference point.

Each piece is a tiny section of the larger image. It’s hard to understand what the final product is supposed to be if we’re only looking at the puzzle as individual pieces. They must come together to achieve the effect that the artist intended.

The 12 stones representing the 12 tribes of Israel were kept in the breastplate close to the heart of the High Priest. From this we learn how important it is for us to press together, to be united in Christ’s love, and to reveal this love to people, inside and outside the church.

The Breastplate was a beautiful part of the High Priest’s garment. However, its significance is more than ornamental. The breastplate symbolizes that loves that God’s people should have, for Him and for each other.

In order to represent Christ accurately, God’s children need to be united. Just as a puzzle is designed to fit together, God has created us to fit together. There are talents and skills that He has gifted us with to compliment each other as we work toward the Kingdom.

Have you ever tried to complete a puzzle on a soft or uneven surface? It doesn’t work well. Jesus is the solid foundation on which we can assemble together.

Unity is key in order to display God’s love as He intended. His love is perfect. If we, as puzzle pieces, are missing or try to force ourselves into places where God hasn’t called us, we ruin the larger picture. The image is distorted without all the pieces in the right places.

The love that we display when we’re not unified is distorted. Let’s keep working together to provide a clear and accurate picture of God’s love.

 

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This article is part of the Ten Days of Prayer 2018 series. Visit that page to find all the other articles in this series.

When God is With Us

I open my eyes as a new day dawns. Sounds from the early morning drift through my window. Children are waking, filled with energy after a night’s rest. The streets are getting busy as the markets are set to open. There are things to do, places to go.

I should go to the temple to pray today. Praying at home is fine, but there’s something comforting about being where God is. If only I were invisible.

It’s not easy to navigate the streets, even with the daytime crowds. Someone always seems to point me out. Or they whisper angrily as we pass each other. Even without making eye contact, I just know they’re talking about me.

Sigh

They hate me. I’m not a bad person. God is working on me. But my job? People hate what I do. I’m a tax collector. I’m really trying to make the most of a bad situation, but no one cares to listen to that part of my story.

As I approach the temple, my eyes scan the area for a place to pray. Over there! I spy a little corner where hopefully I can pray unnoticed. Maybe I’ll blend in with the crowd. With head bowed, ready to talk to my God, my thoughts are interrupted by a loud, pompous voice.

I hear a Pharisee praying. Aloud. As though these temple steps were his private chamber. I want to ignore him, but I can hear every word he says.

Wait, what? He’s not like me?

He’s right—he’s nothing like me.

Sigh

I shouldn’t be here. I am nothing. My days aren’t filled with religious duties like his. My speech isn’t as eloquent. I’m not versed in all the scriptures and fancy teachings. People like him.

All I know is what God has done in my life. Is that even enough? If a Pharisee is going to stand on the temple steps, of all places, and declare that I’m horrid before God, is it true?

Well, maybe, just maybe I’ll give this prayer bit one last shot. I don’t even know what to say anymore. I had something in mind, but my head hurts. My heart hurts. I should really go home. I won’t bother coming back to temple anymore. Yet, I feel compelled not to leave before saying something. Maybe God will understand? Maybe He’ll hear me?

“O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.”

That’s all I have the strength to pray. I don’t need anything else. I don’t want anything else. Just His mercy.

Ouch! How long have I been beating my chest? I didn’t even realize.

Suddenly I’m feeling better than when I first arrived. God, is that You? Are You here beside me on these steps?

I’m glad I stayed.

I have peace.

(Adapted from Luke 18:9-14)

The Girdle

 

Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. (1 Peter 3:15, NLT)

I remember learning about the benefits of a girdle. Designed to be worn under clothing, this article was small, yet powerful. The main goal was to restrict and alter your shape into something more flattering. Many people do not want to reveal their full selves. Many are uncomfortable with their true selves being on full display. Certain clothing drapes the body better when parts of the midsection are held back.

One of the articles of the high priest’s garment is a girdle. Surely with all the layers of his clothing, no one would notice whether or not his midsection was a bit bulky. Why would he need a girdle?

For the high priest to be girded with his sash meant that he was fully arrayed in his garments and ready to serve. Likewise, we should always be prepared to serve and witness.

The girdle or sash the high priest wore was the opposite of what we know today. His girdle was not restrictive in any way. Rather, when his girdle was on and tied, it was a symbol that he was ready for service. He was ready and available to be used by God.

Are we ready to serve?

Have we loosened whatever may be holding us back from fully engaging in God’s work? He wants to use us to reach other people. God has filled us with gifts and passions that will help spread the gospel message in a unique way. Our stories, our daily life experiences allow us to share a common ground with people in similar situations. But we cannot be effective if we’re living restrictedly.

God wants us to be free.

Free to love. Free to serve.

 

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This article is part of the Ten Days of Prayer 2018 series. Visit that page to find all the other articles in this series.

Bare Feet

“Do not come any closer,” the Lord warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5)

Beaches are beautiful meeting places. The best way to enjoy the beach is to experience it. Postcards, while picturesque, don’t offer a scratch ‘n sniff option. The air is different, the noises are different at the beach. To truly experience the beach, your feet need to be bare. This allows you to feel the heat from the sand as your toes sink in. As the curves of your feet come in contact with the sand grains, they sink in deeply. Some of the gritty sand sticks to us even as we walk away from the shore. The evidence of where we’ve been lingers.

Bare feet were part of the high priest’s attire for temple service. Going into the sanctuary to serve and worship God was a holy meeting. The high priest met with God in the sanctuary. In addition to the reverence and humility required for this role, with his feet bare, the high priest was able to have an intimate experience with God.

With his feet bare, the high priest had nothing between him and God. He was all in, able to immerse himself fully in the presence of God.

While many of the sanctuary customs have changed since the death of Jesus, God’s love for us has remained steadfast. He continues to love us with the same intensity and desires an intimacy with us. He wants us to immerse ourselves fully in our worship to Him. He doesn’t want there to be any obstacle between our hearts and His indescribable love.

As we spend time in worship with God, our lives will be the evidence of our time together. There will be something different about our characters, our behavior, our words, our service that will linger long after we’ve left His presence.

 

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This article is part of the Ten Days of Prayer 2018 series. Visit that page to find all the other articles in this series.