O Come Let Us Adore Him

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And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:9-11

We know the story well. Wise men came from the east to worship the newborn child, and give gifts to the one they believed was the king of the Jews. They did not come to worship Mary, but to bow low before the child in her arms. They did not come to honor a father, but to lay their gifts before a newborn son. These were the very best gifts their country afforded. Gold representing kingship, frankincense- the holy oil of worship- representing the presence of God among us, and myrrh-a fragrant oil used in the embalming of the dead- representing Christ’s future death and sacrifice. These were gifts fit for a king, given as an act of worship.

Like the wise men, let’s bow low before King Jesus, expressing our adoration to the one who left heaven’s courts to make himself known to us. He’s our Emmanuel—God with us—and He alone is worthy of our worship. 

Our God Hears,
AJ Picard

Hearing God for Yourself

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“Many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.’”— John 4:39 (ESV)

We are drawn to God and can learn about Him by listening to others tell of their experiences. But to really know Him and praise Him for who He is, we must hear Him for ourselves. We need a PERSONAL relationship with God. One of the ways our relationship with God grows is through personal prayer. Prayer begins with “showing up.” Often, it starts as a discipline that becomes a habit that grows into a passion.

Take time each day to be alone and quiet with Jesus. He is so pleased when we make space in our schedules and hearts to get to know him better, as the Samaritans discovered in John 4:42 (ESV): “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

Our God hears,
Joe Halpin

Praying for Our Lives to Be Lived for His Glory

But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” — 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (NIV)

I love how this Scripture encourages all who have surrendered their lives to Jesus to “contemplate” the Lord’s glory. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines contemplate as “to view or consider with continued attention.” The apostle Paul asks us to be intentional and give continued attention to the Lord so that we can have a greater understanding of God’s holiness, majesty and splendor. In 2 Corinthians 3:7, we are reminded that, when Moses met with God, his face “shone with the glory of God” and that the Israelites couldn’t bear to look at his face. Before Christ came, only a chosen few were able to hear from and see God. Now, through the New Covenant, the curtain has been torn in two (Luke 23:45) and we are all invited to go and seek God in all His glory.

Thankfully we have the Holy Spirit to help us unravel Scripture, show us how it is relevant to our lives and breathes life into the words. As we read the Bible more, we become more familiar with who God is, His character and His promises, and we begin to see and contemplate His glory.

As we daily surrender our sin, agendas and burdens, we begin to pray for our lives to be lived for His glory in a place of humility and repentance. This “secret place” with God denies access to the enemy, as we are choosing to exalt God and put Him first. It is where battles are won and God’s glory shines through. I recently read the following quote by Pastor Francis Frangipane: 

Satan fears virtue. He is most terrified of humility; he hates it. He sees a humble person and it sends chills down his back. His hair stands up when Christians kneel down, for true humility is the surrender of the soul to God. The devil trembles before the meek because in the very areas where he once had access there stands the Lord, and Satan is terrified of Jesus Christ. — “The Three Battlegrounds”

As you take time pray in your First 20, be vulnerable with God, give Him your burdens and agendas, and ask Him to reveal areas of sin. He will meet you with forgiveness and grace. Our faces may not literally shine like Moses’ did, but our hearts will begin to reflect the person with whom we have spent time. I’m not suggesting we’ll be instantly perfect; however, as 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, we “are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory.” Now that’s quite a promise!

Our God hears,
Lucy Houghton

Praying for Our Communities to Be Transformed

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“One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking Him this question: ‘Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus replied, ‘What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?’ The man answered, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ‘Right!’ Jesus told him. Do this and you will live!’ The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” – Luke 10:25-29 (NLT) 

Be Kind to Each Other

Several years ago, the morning after a snow storm, I heard a soft muffled knock on our front door. At eye level, I saw two bright red shovels facing me. I looked down to see the seven- and eight-year-old sons of our neighbor. They had come to clear our steps and walkway. At their young age, through the direction of their parents, these children were showing kindness to their neighbors (Ephesians 4:17-32). 

Who Is My Neighbor?

In Luke 10:30-37, Jesus relates the parable of the Good Samaritan. A Jewish man was on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. He was attacked, robbed and left for dead. A priest on his way to the Temple ignored him, walking on the other side of the road. Later, a Temple assistant saw him, but left without helping. 

The Samaritan traveler saw the condition the Jewish man was in, stopped and rendered first aid. After transporting him to an inn on his donkey, the Samaritan continued to care for his needs. The next morning, before leaving, the Samaritan asked the inn keeper to continue assisting the injured man. In addition, he left funds to pay for his care and promised to reimburse any other expenditures when he traveled back that way.

During this time, Samaritans were not seen as friends to the Jews. In fact, they were “despised” (Luke 10:33). In John 4:9, the Samaritan woman was surprised when Jesus asked her to give Him a drink of water from Jacob’s well. Those listening to Jesus would have recognized the relationship between these two groups.

What Should We Do?

“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits? Jesus asked. The man replied, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Then Jesus said, ‘Yes, now go and do the same.’” — Luke 10:36-37

The most important thing we can do for our communities is to pray for our neighbors. During your First 20, pray for your neighbors across the street, next door and across town.

Dear Lord, help us to ignite change in our communities through prayer and action. Amen.

Our God hears,
Beverlie Brooks

Bring Your Brokenness to the Great Physician

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“God, your God, will restore everything you lost; He’ll have compassion on you; He’ll come back and pick up the pieces from all the places where you were scattered.” — Deuteronomy 30:3

“‘I will give you back your health and heal your wounds,’ says the Lord” — Jeremiah 30:17

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” — 2 Corinthians 5:17

As the body heals from injury, scar tissue is laid down. Physicians know that the pattern in which scar tissue is made by the body makes all the difference in proper restoration and healing. Modalities like massage, physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments and exercise are commonly used to restore mobility and heal injured joints and tissues. We see a parallel between physical healing and God’s design in healing our souls. In God’s design, He restores, repairs and redeems. We see this truth throughout Scripture from Adam to Jesus. In fact, the words restore, repair and redeem are mentioned 246 times in the Bible.

Most of us have experienced injury to our souls at some level. God wants to reveal those places to us so He can heal us. Although we carry an eternal perspective and look ahead to our future in Heaven, God has a work to do in us today. For too many of us, we have experienced much brokenness within the fabric of our families. Although we can’t answer the why to many of the questions that come with these injuries, we can rest in the truth that we are not alone and that God wants to heal these broken places. Just like scar tissue being broken up in our bodies, the healing of souls is not pleasurable. It can be downright painful, something we avoid and a place we don’t even want to look at much less let God’s hands touch.

Although painful, God’s desire is not to harm us but to give us a hope and a future. He wants to restore us to greater levels of health and well-being. Today, in your First 20, ask God to reveal that which you might need to surrender and allow Him to restore you. If we are honest, we all have something that we can bring to God for healing. Just as an injury experiences greater mobility and healing by a physician’s touch, our Great Physician’s touch brings our souls and families to places of greater freedom and restoration.

Our God hears,
Jennifer Cardinal

Passionately Praying for Yellow Flowers

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How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation.” — Isaiah 52:7 (NKJV)

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” — 1 Timothy 2:1, 3-4 (ESV)

One of the winningest college football coaches in history, Bobby Bowden, now retired from Florida State University, penned a letter to his six children the day after a memorial service was held for his son-in-law and grandson, who were killed in a car accident. Included in that letter were these words: “The good news of the tragedy is that John and Bowden were saved and today live again in the presence of God in their new heavenly home. … Keep in mind, at this time, our family will be together forever, if we all trust in Jesus and surrender our lives to Him. … When I go to Heaven, if all of you and your family are not there with me, I will consider myself to have failed in life. All the statues, trophies, championships, etc., will be in vain. … Now is the time to recommit our lives to Christ just as you did as a child. Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ Each night, this is my fervent prayer.”

Jesus came to seek and save the lost and longs to answer our prayers for the salvation of others (Luke 19:10; 1 John 5:14). When Jesus ascended to Heaven after His resurrection, the Holy Spirit descended to enable and empower believers to evangelize the world. Walnut Hill has a dedicated team of intercessors who passionately pray for our Yellow Flowers — new believers who have surrendered their lives to Jesus. When we stand together in prayer against the enemy, Jesus can open the eyes of the lost to the truth and set them free from the snare of Satan (2 Timothy 2:25-26). As we devote ourselves to prayer with faith, patience and perseverance, God will open doors for more to be saved (Colossians 4:2-4).

Make a list of the friends and loved ones you can pray for frequently and fervently. Then keep “praying until something happens” (PUSH), as you stand in the gap for them to meet Jesus. Persist in passionate intercession, knowing the Lord will answer these prayers in His perfect timing and way (Matthew 7:7; Luke 11:9-10). I know it’s true! After having prayed for 32 years, my loved one was saved!

There is no greater work than the miracle of a new life in Jesus (John 14:12-14) and no greater joy than knowing you’ve partnered in prayer with the Lord for that miracle! So, as we PUSH, may God get all the glory for bringing more Yellow Flowers into His Kingdom!

Our God hears,
Barb Wibling

Inviting His Spirit to Fill Us

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“On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from Heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.” — Acts 2:1-4 (NLT)

Coasting on Empty

I have a bad habit of driving my car until the fuel gage is near empty. I coast downhill, glide on level roadway and reluctantly drive into the nearest gas station. On two occasions, I have run out of gas. The first time, I was a few feet away from a gas station. The second time, I was not so fortunate. I found out, to my peril, that you cannot coast uphill. 

“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (Acts 19:2)

As Christians, we often try to live our lives, coasting on empty. When we first asked Jesus to come into our hearts, repented of our sins and gave our lives to the Lord, we received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In John 16:7, Jesus tells us, “But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t the advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send Him to you.” The Holy Spirit (advocate and comforter) guides us in our daily lives. 

Inviting His Spirit to Fill Us

What a privilege we have as Christians that we can ask the Lord to fill us with His Holy Spirit. Acts 2 recounts what happened on the day of Pentecost. There was a noise that came from Heaven. It sounded like the wind moving around in a very unusual way. The Holy Spirit descended from Heaven and filled all those present in the house. 

In addition to the initial indwelling of the Holy Spirit we received when we became Christians, we can receive an additional “filling” of the Holy Spirit, but we have to ask (Acts 2:37-38). Human nature may try to frighten us. Do not let fear rob you of the gift God wants you to receive. 

Gifts and Fruits of the Spirit

Romans Chapter 12:6-8 tells us about the various gifts we can receive through the Holy Spirit. These gifts include the gifts of prophesy, service to others, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership and kindness.

Galatians 5:22-23 states, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. There is no law against these things!” 

Do you know Christians who exhibit these gifts or fruits of the Spirit? Through prayer, ask the Lord to make you one of them too.

Dear Lord, ignite us with your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our God Hears,
Beverlie Brooks

Giving Control to God

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Often, when people speak of giving control to God, they quote John 3:30, “He must increase, I must decrease” (NSAB). I have prayed that for myself many times. But I’ve come to believe that most of us quote that verse from a misguided motivation. It is not that we lacked zeal or sincerity. I believe that what we lacked as we prayed that prayer was understanding. It is as if we believe God wants to relieve us of autonomy and free will or that He wants to live through us by getting us out of the way.

Scripture puts a different slant on giving God control:

  • Ephesians 3:19 (NSAB) encourages us, “To know the love of God, which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with the fullness of God.” 
  • 1 John 4:16 (NSAB) declares, “We have come to know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God and God abides in Him.”

God did not tell us to decrease. He said arise, shine and be a light in the darkness! Seek His presence, behold His goodness and be progressively transformed into His image. 

Our God hears,
Joe Halpin 

Asking for His Provision and Protection

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“So Jesus taught them this prayer. ‘Our heavenly Father, may the glory of your name be the center on which our life turns. May your Holy Spirit come upon us and cleanse us. Manifest your Kingdom on earth. And give us each day what is needed for that day. Forgive our sins as we ourselves release forgiveness to those who have wronged us. And rescue us every time we face tribulation.’” — Luke 11:2-4 (Passion Translation)

“I repeat it: Don’t let worry enter your life. Live above the anxious cares about your personal needs. People everywhere seem to worry about making a living, but your heavenly Father knows your every need and will take care of you. Each and every day He will supply your needs as you seek His Kingdom passionately, above all else. So don’t ever be afraid dearest friends! Your loving Father joyously gives you His Kingdom realm with all its promises!” — Luke 12:29-32 (Passion Translation)

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.” — Phil. 4:6 (NLT)

Asking God for His provision and protection is part of the model He taught His disciples when they asked Him to teach them how to pray. I take great comfort in knowing that, any time I ask God for provision and protection, I’m praying in accordance with His desires for me. I’m actually praying in line with His very nature as Jehovah Jireh (God provides). As I’ve reflected on my life in these areas, I stand in awe of the multitude of ways He has provided. 

I’m often reminded that we humans are three-dimensional — spirit, soul (mind, will, emotions) and body (physical). God provides for us in all three of these dimensions. For example, He provides spiritual food through revelation in His Word and by reconciling me to the Father by the cross of Jesus Christ. He provides for my soul through shalom (His perfect peace), which takes away all anxiousness and worry. He provides for my body by giving me food, clothing and shelter. 

Take some time to reflect on your own life, and jot down all the ways you have seen the provision and protection God has given you. Give thanks for His faithfulness. Then ask the Lord to provide for you in the areas of your present need. 

May you be blessed and be a blessing as God supplies your every need. 

Our God hears,
Karen Sergey

Forgiveness

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 “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.” — Luke 6:27

I was challenged last year by Luke 6:27 after reading R.T. Kendall’s powerful book, “Total Forgiveness.” My thoughts whirled as God began to tell me to bless someone who had hurt me and pray for him. But didn’t God understand how hurt I had been? Wasn’t uttering the words to myself “I forgive him” enough? I asked God for help, and He showed me a picture of the person who had caused the hurt and asked me to pray for and bless him. It was an incredible challenge and a lengthy process to forgiveness! 

So, why does the Lord want us to offer, receive or ask for forgiveness? Although it’s a process that provokes many different responses, it’s clear from Scripture that our heavenly Father views it very seriously. Let’s take a moment to reflect on being forgiven by the Father. His response to a fallen and sinful world was to send Jesus. We can go to the Father and ask for forgiveness at any moment of the day or night – He always responds to a repentant heart and forgives. Sometimes, receiving the Father’s forgiveness can feel hard. If this is something that stirs within you, then I encourage you to meditate on the words from Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” 

This love sent Jesus to the cross for us so that we can stand forgiven, set free and redeemed! Experiencing the Father’s forgiveness helps us respond to the promptings to forgive others when they have caused us hurt and offense. It is inevitable that people will offend us and cause pain. We will need to choose to forgive them. In Matthew 18:21-22, Peter asks “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” Jesus was quick to respond, “No, not seven times, but seventy times seven.”

Jesus understood suffering and was well aware of the betrayal that would take place by those who loved Him; however, as Pastor Brain Mowrey pointed out in his Sunday sermon, this knowledge did not make Jesus love them any less or act differently. Forgiving is a process. If we have been badly wounded, we may need to keep forgiving every time that person’s face comes to mind, even though we may walk with the consequences of the person’s actions. In my own walk, I had missed the point about forgiving — the bit where, when we forgive others, we are released and experience a deeper freedom and intimacy with our heavenly Father.

In your First 20, ask the Father if there are areas of unforgiveness in your life. Allow Him — the one who comes to release you into freedom — to speak to you. 

For more detailed teaching on what forgiveness is and isn’t, and why we should forgive, listen to Brian Mowrey’s sermon at http://www.walnuthillcc.org/sermons/forgiveness/.

Our God hears,
Lucy Houghton

The One Thing Needed

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“One thing have I asked 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 gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in His temple.” — Psalm 27:4 (ESV)

“But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” — Luke 10:42 (NKJV)

King David and Mary of Bethany knew the joy of being in His presence. Caught up in the pursuit of more of Him, we’ll also be blessed by the fullness of His grace. When we abide in His presence, the wells of our souls are refreshed and refueled, being refilled with Living Water.

Jesus invites us: “Come to me …” (Matthew 11:28). He is always waiting in the “personal chapels of our hearts” (Brother Lawrence), having opened the way for us to abide in Him. As the lover of our souls, Jesus always initiates our drawing closer to Him, but it’s our choice.

The busier we are, the more we need to abide. If we cultivate a holy habit of being aware of His presence, He’ll set our hearts aglow with the fire of His holy love and fill us with unspeakable joy. When we choose to enjoy His presence, our faith grows. Then, when the storms of life come, His indwelling presence supplies the strength we need to withstand them.

When we enjoy “unbroken abiding” with Jesus, He changes us from the inside out, increases our discernment and godly wisdom, and helps us to recognize His still, small voice. As the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more like Him (2 Corinthians 3:18). Giving Him our best First 20 daily deepens the quality of our devotion. Over time, we’re able to move from a First 20 to an all-day attentiveness to His presence.

A breakthrough of sensing God’s presence arrived as I began to understand the character of God more fully. Knowing God as “Elohim,” the Creator and Sustainer of life, developed into knowing Jesus as the more personal, ever-present, loving and gracious “Yahweh,” the LORD. My living God became the lover of my soul. “Immanuel,” God with us, permeated me with an inner peacefulness and nourished me with deep joy. As my understanding developed of who God is, my prayer life also grew. Although my commitment was minimal in the beginning, prayer now has become my way of life. With my mind fixed on Jesus in continuous communion, praying without ceasing is a way of being aware of His presence.

In “The Pursuit of God,” A.W. Tozer described the presence of God. On the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies under the shadow of the cherubims’ spread wings was where God promised to meet His people (Exodus 25:22). The fire that glowed beneath the wings of the cherubim was called “Shekinah,” the Presence, throughout the years of Israel’s glory. Then the old way was superseded by the new, when His Presence came at Pentecost as a fiery flame and rested on the disciples.

The invitation is offered to enter into His Holy Presence. So, press into abiding. The Lord promises that “he who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1). For in His presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).

Our God hears,
Barb Wibling

Discovering God in His Word

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“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness.” — 1 Timothy 3:16

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them is eternal life, and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” — John 5:39, 40

These Scripture verses tell us two important things: 1) All Scripture comes from God and is given for our benefit and instruction. 2) Knowing Scripture and knowing God are not evenly remotely the same thing. That is not to say that the Word isn’t holy. God tells us that He honors His Word above His name. He also tells us in 2 Corinthians 3:16 that the letter kills but the Spirit gives life.

So how do we discover Him through His Word? In the Bible, “Word” can mean the written Word — the whole of Scripture. It can also mean a “word” or message spoken directly by God to a person. We often refer to this kind of word as a Rhema word. Rehma means “living utterance.” “Word” can also refer to Jesus Himself, who is the word made flesh and the one who lived His entire life as an expression of God the Father.

I’m focusing here on the written Word and what it reveals to us about Jesus. I pray that God breathes on the Scriptures used here, that Holy Spirit will use these Scriptures to give each of us a living utterance from God. This is not a step-by-step guide to studying Scripture. It’s just a few Scriptures that reveal some of the desires of God’s heart so that, when we meet with Him in prayer, we’ll have a better understanding of what He wants for us and who He wants to be for us: 

  • God wants us to know Him: “I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be there God, for they will return to me with their whole heart.” (Jeremiah 24:7)
  • God wants each of us to have personal knowledge of Him: “And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor and every man his brother saying ‘know the Lord’ for they shall all know me form the least of them to the greatest of them saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34)
  • God wants a relationship expressed through mutual faithfulness: “I will even betroth thee to me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the Lord.” (Hosea 2:20)
  • God rewards those who seek Him: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
  • God wants to reward us with himself: “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.” (Luke 11:13)
  • God wants us to grow in our knowledge of Him: “But when you pray, go to your room, close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen. Then your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)

Heavenly Father, thank you that you reveal yourself in your Word. Thank you that this revelation is an invitation to know you personally. Thank you that you call each of us by name and that you are drawing us with kindness into deeper love with you.

Our God hears,
Joe Halpen

Facing the Future by Remembering His Past Faithfulness

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“Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all His benefits.” — Psalm 103:2

Sick in bed again … another day of missing work … another day in my dark bedroom unable to be the wife or mother I want to be. I have prayed a million times for these migraines to go away and nothing. They keep coming back as fierce as they have ever been. I feel like my life is not my own. Why won't God heal me? Can't I be healed of these migraines once and for all? I can't stand this!

Yet, as I look to God’s Word and bring my thoughts to Him, I am reminded that He is the God who spun the universe into existence. He created the mountaintops, the clouds in the sky and the rivers that flow. He is the God who parted the Red Sea and brought down the walls of Jericho. He is the God who walked this earth as a man, died for our sins and offers salvation. He is the God of love, mercy, forgiveness and grace. 

As I look to my own life, He gently reminds me that He has always been with me and that He hears all my prayers. I recall how He has delivered a loved one from the stronghold of addiction, raised me out of a pit of depression and brought those I hold dear to Christ.

As I turn my thoughts from my circumstances and thank Him for what He has done, my angst is transformed into gratitude — not despite my circumstances but in the very midst of them. As I thank Him for what He has done, I begin to thank Him for what He will do and what He is doing today. 

In our First 20 today, no matter the trials we face, may we remind ourselves of what God has done. The greatest reminder of all is what He has done on the cross. We may not be able to escape our circumstances, but we can turn our thoughts to Him. May our hearts be transformed as we remember what He has done, and may we rest in the peace of knowing He is not only the God of yesterday but also of tomorrow and today. 

What has gone done in your life that you can thank Him for today?

Our God hears,
Jennifer Cardinal 

Praising Him for Who He Is…

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“Jesus told him, ‘I’m the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.’” — John 14:6

“On His robe at His thigh was written this title: King of kings and Lord of all lords.” — Revelation 19:16

I started on this journey of praising God for who He is about 10 years ago. At first, I thought it was going to be another one of those things you did and then moved on to the next “in thing” in prayer. But what I’ve discovered is the list of who He is – well, it’s quite endless. As I went through the alphabetical list of who He is, I discovered that there is an attribute of God for every single situation I may be facing – be it good or bad. 

As I embrace who He is, I’m growing in relationship with Him. Often, as I discover who He is and praise Him for that attribute, He whispers to me, “If I am your King, that means you’re a daughter of the King!” Or, if I’m praising Him as a Good Father, He whispers, “You are my child.” As you can see, praising Him for who He is has a double blessing – you grow to know Him better, and you also grow to know who you are in Him. 

One of my favorite songs is “Who Can Compare,” by Jesus Culture. The lyrics say, “Who can compare to You my King … to You my Lord … to You my Friend? I looked around all the earth and there was none like you.” If you haven’t discovered that there is none like Him yet, I challenge you for the next month to spend your First 20 praising Him for who He is. 

Below are a few of my favorite resources to help get you started: 

  • The “Adoration” free app by Deeper Waters, which has an alphabetical list of who God is
  • “I AM 365 Names of God,” by John Paul Jackson (free on YouTube)
  • “Nuggets (Revealing the Treasures)” pamphlet by Sylvia Gunter (available at thefathersbusiness.com)
  • “Adoration and Proclamation Prayer Workbook,” by Ben Woodward (available on Amazon

May you be blessed to have your faith ignited as you reap the rewards of deepening your relationship with God through praising Him for who He is.

Our God hears,
Karen Sergey

In Thankfulness

“Shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth! Worship the LORD with gladness. Come before Him, singing with joy. Acknowledge that the LORD is God! He made us, and we are His. We are His people, the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving; go into His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the LORD is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and His faithfulness continues to each generation.” — Psalm 100 

How can we be thankful to God, when we don’t feel like it — when your car stops in the middle of the highway, you lose your job or the dreaded call comes from the doctor? Whether facing great or small challenges in life, we must remember to turn to the Lord in prayer. If we belong to Him, He will help us through every trial we face. Romans, 8:31-39 records the abundant power, love and forgiveness of God. It tells how God’s Son, Jesus Christ, gave His life for us, was raised again from the dead, and pleads to the Father in Heaven for the children of God. Do not forget that nothing can separate you from God’s love. 

As Christians, we must remind ourselves of what we already know — that we belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, He died for our sins, and we are new creations. If you have not surrendered your life to Jesus, take a moment right now and ask the Lord to be your personal Savior — the Lord of your life — and to forgive you of your sins. Be assured that if you just committed your life to Jesus, the whole of Heaven is rejoicing. Tell someone in the church of your decision.

How thankful are we? Do we remember to say thank you at the grocery store, at work or at home? If we forget in these situations, have we remembered to say, “Thank you” to God? We are not alone. The Scriptures record others who forgot to thank the Lord, like the nine lepers who were healed in Luke 17:11-19 but didn’t turn back to thank Jesus. 

In what way can we thank and praise the Lord? We can thank Him during our prayer time each day, before meals and at night before going to sleep. As a congregation, we can thank and praise the Lord with singing, praying and worship during our church service. 

It is only through the grace of God that we can be thankful. As we go through the struggles in life, we must be mindful to cry out to the Lord for His help through every circumstance. Psalm 30 expresses how the Lord can rescue you from any situation, how He can turn things around in your life and how He can bring you through the tears back to joy. 

The Lord does not run out of love. He is not limited by space and time. His love flows to all generations, from grandparents to parents, children and beyond. Each generation can experience the unlimited and unfailing love of God. Whatever your circumstance — in pain, in a valley of discouragement or looking from the mountaintop — remember that God is the source we seek. What can you thank God for today?

Our God hears,
Beverlie Brooks

Worshipping Through the Darkness

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“0 Lord, God of my salvation; I cry out day and night before You. Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry! Every day I call upon you, O Lord; I spread out my hands to you … Why do you hide your face from me?” — Psalm 88:1-2, 9b, 14b (ESV)

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” — Psalm 23:4 (ESV)

Have you ever felt like the author of Psalm 88, who was in deep despair? Experiencing a dark night of the soul, he asked why God had hidden His face from him. Or perhaps you can relate to Elijah, who ran for his life after Queen Jezebel threatened to kill him. Elijah ends up in the desert under a broom tree where he wants to die. Maybe you feel like you’re caught in a “nor’easter” storm like Paul. It looks as though he and the other men aboard the seafaring vessel they’re traveling on are headed for a shipwreck and all hope has run out.

Do you need a word of encouragement? Instead of answering the prayer to the Lord for his life to be taken, an angel provides Elijah with a freshly baked cake and a jar of water. After some rest, he’s then empowered by the Lord for further ministry. (1Kings 19:1-18) An angel revealed to Paul that, if all on the ship remained onboard, they would be saved … and they were! (Acts 27:13-44)

Be encouraged! Jesus defeated darkness by His death and resurrection. As believers, we have a hope that is the anchor of our souls — firm and secure. Even in storms, our Savior holds us fast. (Hebrews 6:18-19) We can choose to invite the Lord into our troubles with the full assurance that He understands and will help us. Even in tragedy, we can worship through the darkness, because we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37, 39)

Thirteen months after Colorado Springs’ New Life Church began its journey back to restoration from the removal of its senior pastor due to moral failure, newly elected Senior Pastor Brady Boyd invited New Life’s former lead worshiper to preach. On November 25, 2007, Ross Parsley’s sermon, “Worship Your Way Through It,” based on Psalm 13, proved to be prophetic. Two weeks later, a fatal shooting occurred on New Life’s campus, leaving two sisters dead. Ross’ sermon became a word of encouragement to the church following the tragedy. We know there’s a real enemy who wants to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10), but we can stand firm on His Word and worship our way through the darkness. Reflecting on the lessons learned through their dark night, Brady Boyd penned a book titled, “Fear No Evil.” New Life Church is now growing, thriving and impacting the world for Jesus.

Although it’s true that seasons of darkness in our life journeys can often happen when we least expect them, God promises a garment of praise to those who have a spirit of despair. (Isaiah 61:3) In His gentleness and kindness, He promises to offer a tender touch when we’re down. (Isaiah 42:3) It’s also true that God promises to be with us when we’re engulfed by waves. (Isaiah 43:2, 5) Once we believe that God is with us in the midst of our darkness, we can learn to embrace our pain and experience His calm within. We can trust that, no matter how dark things may appear, God can transform our darkness into light. (Psalm 18:28) Receive His refreshment in your First 20 as you sit at His feet. Let the psalms wash over you and become your prayer.

Two years ago, a fellow prayer warrior spoke a vision into my life that didn’t seem to make sense at the time. Now, however, that vision has proved to be prophetic. In the vision, I was seen in the center of a whirlwind with ocean waves raging all around. The prayer warrior sensed that, unlike the chaos surrounding me, I was at peace and in the center of His will, having drawn closer to Jesus. I’m thankful for that word of encouragement, as I remain in the midst of this stormy season. I’m also grateful for the small group of believers who have come alongside me to pray.

Trusting in God with our struggles, staying in our sacred place and releasing our tears to Him, He will show us deeper insights into the Father’s heart and mind. (Jeremiah 33:3) When our spirit pours out to His Spirit, He fills us with His love and sings songs over us through the night. (Psalm 42:7-8) By emptying myself and giving everything to Jesus in prayer and worship, I’m being sustained by the power of His love and grace. Envisioning His enveloping presence while embracing the suffering, I’m able to give thanks before all the outcomes are known and to look expectantly for the Lord to unleash His good plans and purposes beyond what I think or imagine.

Although we’ll never completely understand God’s way and why He does the things He does (Isiah 55:8-9), we can worship through our darkness by choosing to believe and praising Him for all the goodness, love, mercy and grace He’s shown us. He’ll meet us with His power and presence when we commit to worship Him. After all, Jesus has already won the ultimate victory! “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36)

Our God hears,
Barb Wibling

Dispelling the Daggers of Doubt

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Have you ever found yourself in a season where it seems like life just doesn't add up? Even though you have done everything right, you still feel empty. You start to doubt yourself and may even doubt God. Whether it’s the loss of health, finances, loved ones or a job, loss can bring about feelings of deep despair followed by doubt.

As human beings, we will all experience loss and doubt. In the book of Job, we see a man found blameless in the eyes of God who undergoes incredible loss. With each day, it got worse. From his wealth to his health, dearly loved family and friends, Job experienced devastating loss and began to question God. The supernatural battle with doubt became very real. Job certainly is not alone in this battle. The struggle with doubt was very real for other great Bible figures. Moses, Elijah, Jonah and Paul all questioned God in their moments of despair. Even in His darkest hour, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

But God teaches us through His Word that these battles are not of flesh and blood but of spirit and mind. According to Ephesians 6:12, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”

Although loss is real and grief is a part of healing, doubt can plague us as a spiritual struggle. Ephesians 6:11 tells us, “Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.” As the daggers of doubt come at us, we can build the shield of faith on the promises of God, not our circumstance or feelings. Ultimately, we can find what our hearts seek, not necessarily in the “why” but in the “Who” through our relationship with Christ. 

These faith-building practices can help in the struggle with doubt:

  • Put on the Armor of God. Let His Word and not your circumstances be your truth. Write down Scripture verses that speak specifically to you, commit them to memory, and put them up where they are readily visible.
  • Dialogue with God. Journal and pray. David, Job and even Jesus all cried out to God. In your doubt, you can cry out to God too. Let Him be your soft and safe place to land. The book of Psalms is a great place to start if you struggle to find the words.
  • Remember how God has brought you through past struggles and hardships. Remind yourself of how God has been good to you in the past and how He is good to you today, even if all you can come up with is the sun rising and setting. Seek to praise Him. Read through the Gospels, and remind yourself of who Jesus is and why He came. God has not forgotten about you .

In your First 20 today, consider where you may be doubting God. Ask Him to meet you there. He awaits you with welcome and open arms.

Our God hears,
Jen Cardinal 

Getting Real With God

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Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight.” — Psalm 51:1-4

If we ever wanted proof that we can be real with God, we only need to look to the Psalms to discover every emotion — from anger to fear, frustration and elation — expressed within these written prayers. King David wrote about 75 of the Psalms, one of which he wrote after being caught by Nathan the prophet in the sins of adultery and murder. This was unquestionably David’s darkest hour. (You can read the whole story in 2 Samuel 11-12). Psalm 51 is a personal outpouring from the heart of a broken man. In it, David gets real with God, confesses his sin and pleads for forgiveness.

One commentator called Psalm 51, “The liturgy of a broken heart.” I find it so amazing that God honored the transparent prayer of a broken man caught in great sin. The very presence of this prayer in Scripture affirms that, when David humbled himself, God’s Spirit began to work through him again, and the Holy Spirit inspired David’s journal entry. Do you think you can’t talk to God about your mess? Well, David did, and his confession is now placed in the canon of Scripture. What an encouragement to all of us that we can be real with God. 

I want to share seven short applications from Psalm 51, and see what we can learn from the way that David opened up to God in confession:

  • David appeals to God on the basis of His character.

“… because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion …” (verse 1)

David begins his prayer by professing to God what he believes to be true about His divine nature and ability. He doesn’t lean on his own ability to fix the mess he’s in, or his own commitment to do better next time. No, David appeals to the goodness of God — His unfailing love and compassion — as his basis for acquittal. In this, David expresses faith in who God is — merciful, loving, faithful and compassionate. 

  • David acknowledges his sin and experiences Godly sorrow. 

“For I recognize my rebellion, it haunts me day and night” (verse 3)

David names his sin. He doesn’t sweep it under the rug. He faces it head on. And he grieves over it. This is significant. We must come to a place where we actually “hate” our sin. We don’t hate ourselves, for we are made in the image of God. Rather, we become intolerant with the very presence of sin in our lives, to the point that we allow God to have full permission to transform us. We become transparent before our God and open to His power to change us.

  • David repents for his wrongdoing and asks God to forgive him.

“Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.” (verse 14)

David realizes that ultimately, it is against the Lord that he has sinned, and it is before the Lord that he must plead forgiveness. So David says he is sorry to God, and he asks the only one who is able to forgive him. We must do the same, coming before the Lord Jesus for forgiveness of our offenses. Then, when we are right with God once again, we can seek reconciliation in our relationships with one another.

  • David asks for renewal and restoration from God.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.” (verse 10)

There’s an amazing progression of language in Psalm 51, where David moves from, “wash me, blot out, remove, and purify” to a more generative language of “create, renew and restore me.” David realizes that God not only takes away what is wrong, but our Creator God also makes something new — a new heart, a new will, and a new joy and intimacy with the Lord. We shouldn’t stop our prayers at redemption alone, but pray through for full transformation with Jesus. 

  • David pleads with God not to remove His presence from him. 

“Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.” (verse 11)

David lived during an old covenant season where God’s Spirit came upon particular people at particular times for particular assignments. He saw the hand of God lifted off King Saul’s life. And he knew that there was a very real possibility God’s Spirit could depart from him as well. We, on the other hand, live under a new covenant of God’s grace. The Holy Spirit is given to all who believe in Jesus as a free gift. He will not remove His Spirit from our lives because we have sinned. This is a promise. But we can grieve Holy Spirit. We can get out of step with Holy Spirit. And we can make it difficult for the Holy Spirit to rest on our shoulders with fresh grace. David knew that God’s presence represented His anointing, and he wanted it desperately. And we need God’s anointing on our lives as well. We need God’s presence to give us fresh guidance, revelation and anointing.

  • David knows that God looks at the heart. 

“You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” (verse 17)

David had prophetic insight to look beyond a sacrificial system of bulls, rams, lambs and goats, and discerned that ultimately God was concerned with an inward sacrifice of a broken spirit. God isn’t interested in our outward appearances. He’s after our hearts. And He’s attracted to our humility. 

  • David declares that the value of his restoration is his testimony. 

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will
teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you.” (verse 13)

David picked up on a key Kingdom value — that our vulnerability creates grace for breakthrough in the lives of others. When we reveal our struggles instead of hiding them in cycles of guilt and shame, it creates grace for others to open up. It releases faith in their lives to experience healing as well. We will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony! (Revelation 12:11)

Friends, there’s so much grace present for us to get right with God. No matter what we’ve done, David’s story reveals that God is able to forgive and restore us of any wrongdoing. But He cannot remove what we do not reveal to Him. And this requires us to get real with Him. Today, in your First 20, why not spend some time pouring out your own heart to the one who loves you. He’s been waiting for you all along. 

Our God hears,
AJ Picard

More Worthy Than We Think

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“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” — Philippians 4:8

In John 4:4-42, I find the woman at the well to be most fascinating. When seen through the eyes of different biblical commentators and teachers, we can see her as a lonely, scandalous, provocative and independent woman. But what did Jesus see? Did He see a woman worthy of a personal encounter with the King of kings? Did He see uncommon boldness as she engaged in a discussion with a thirsty man when society would have discouraged such a conversation? Did He see a woman who would not settle for knowing of God if she could know God? Did He see an undiscovered evangelist? 

Jesus, the word of God in flesh, shows us the impact of living the words we read in Scripture, for He saw in the woman what was true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable and worthy of praise. In doing so, He gives her the opportunity to walk into her true identify.

So, who will we see when the kid plays ball in the streets, the man of color approaches on the sidewalk, or the older woman sits alone on the park bench? Will we bring out, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, the better angels of their nature?

Let us live out Philippians 4:8 today the way Jesus showed us at Jacob’s Well and speak of what is praiseworthy in those we meet.

Our God hears,
Mark Petersen

Tracing the Rainbow Through the Rain

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All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep His covenant and His testimonies. Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses.” Psalm 25: 10, 16-17 ESV

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21: 3-4 ESV

Our immutable King Jesus is on His throne and the sovereign and faithful one is with us in every season. In His steadfast love for us, He promises to always be present. Weaving the tapestry of our lives with joys and sorrows, our Creator is unfolding the masterpieces He began in us for His good purposes. Growing in our faith as we welcome the Lord’s immense love, we joyfully worship as we walk in the light of His presence.

In the Garden of Gethsemane awaiting His crucifixion, the Suffering Servant experienced the sorrow of loneliness from a broken heart. Deserted by the disciples after requesting that they watch and pray, Jesus prayed alone. (Matthew 26:38) Yet for the joy that was set before Him, our Savior endured the cross. (Hebrews 12:2)

Jesus understands us perfectly, He is able to help us in every way we need when we cry out to Him. Even when our world falls apart and nothing seems to make sense, we can hold fast to Jesus because we are being held fast by Him. (Philippians 3:12) We confidently stand on His trustworthy promises that He will preserve those who remain faithful to Him. Our living hope is anchored in the Father’s love that will not let us go.

Jesus’ loving presence was with George Matheson who was left alone after being diagnosed with eventual blindness. Broken hearted after his fiancée ended their engagement, George, within five minutes, penned the lyrics for his nineteenth century hymn, “O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go”. He found the Lord’s joy in his sorrow and expressed it in the third verse:

O Joy that seekest me through pain,

I cannot close my heart to Thee;

I trace the rainbow thru the rain,

And feel the promise is not vain,

That morn shall tearless be.

Jesus’ loving presence was with the first century Christians whose passion for the gospel was ignited. Paul and Silas were attacked by a mob, beaten and imprisoned with the uncertainty that they might not live to see another day, yet they worshiped the Lord with praying and singing hymns.(Acts 16:25) We can rejoice even in difficult circumstances because Jesus is the living hope within us and keeps us going.

Jesus’ loving presence was with Apostle John, who was exiled on the island of Patmos. In a vision, John was given the words from the Lord to address seven churches in Asia Minor, present day Turkey. Although she suffered greatly, only ancient Smyrna has survived with a Christian population today. In the underground excavations, below the modern city of Izmir, the gentle sound of flowing water can be heard. Seen overhead are crown-like arches, a reminder of the promise that those who remain faithful will receive the crown of life. (James 1:12) Smyrna’s hallmark of faithfulness was displayed in courageous Bishop Polycarp, a disciple of John. Even though he faced his martyrdom, Polycarp boldly proclaimed, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He has done me no wrong-how then can I blaspheme my King who died for me?” 

Although we probably won’t be faced with martyrdom like Polycarp, we will suffer stormy seasons that may feel overwhelming. However, when we draw close to the Lord, He draws close to us. (James 4:8) We, too, can be overcomers because of the blood of the Lamb who conquered all on the cross for us.

Over the years of daily scripture reading, I’ve been amazed at how the Lord has always had the perfect word for me.  When I need it most, He gives me a rhema word to strengthen and encourage me, releasing His light into my difficult days. When we choose to keep praying and thanking the Lord for who He is in spite of painful circumstances, He releases us from a spirit of heaviness, refreshes us, and empowers us to endure. Then as we worship Him with our sacrifice of praise, the joy of the Lord becomes our strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)

When heartbreak seems to assail us without relenting, we can rejoice that we aren’t alone. We can worship our loving Father, because He is always worthy to be praised. (Psalm 18:3) Like the prophet Habakkuk who chose to firmly embrace God, regardless of his uncertain future, we, too, can worship the Lord with these words, “Yet, I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength.” (Habakkuk 3: 18-19a) Assured of a living God, we can joyfully hope for that promised crown of life. We can worship God confidently, trusting that His story is still unfolding into a glorious outcome.

Barb Wibling