Blessed Are the Persecuted

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“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” — Matthew 5:10-11

Scripture tells us we’ll encounter persecution if we’re sincerely pursuing a godly life (2 Timothy 3:12). We may not know much about more intense forms of persecution. That doesn’t mean we should seek it out. Instead, let’s pursue godliness. We learn more about what it means to love God well and honor Him in our actions.

Whatever weakness is revealed in us, God’s strength will fill it tenfold, imbuing us with His fervent love and strength. Yes, we’re weak-kneed saints. Thankfully, we aren’t what’s most important. He is. Regardless of where you find yourself, whether it’s a season of persecution or a season of rest, make sure you walk through it for God.

In your First 20, ask God where you need to become more godly. Ask Him to teach you to delight in His blessings when the world tells you not to. Meditate on the following verses:

  • “That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” — 2 Corinthians 12:10

  • “But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” — Matthew 5:44

  • “Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” — 2 Timothy 3:12

In your Crew, talk about why you are or are not facing persecution.

Our God hears,
Jessica Delp

His Blessed Family

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” — Matthew 5:9

Our peace transcends circumstance. Thanks to the cross, we now live under the weight of His grace and can look to our future with assurance. Thank Heaven.

God didn’t make peace exclusively for individual use. We were never meant to hoard it. His peace is communal — made to strengthen His family and embrace the broken, showing them glimpses of His coming Kingdom. Our peace is made to invade.

Are you keeping His peace to yourself? Or are you building up your family?

In your First 20, ask God to reveal where you haven’t pursued peace, whether that means over relationships, circumstances or recurring sins. Meditate on the following verses:

  • “Look at those who are honest and good, for a wonderful future awaits those who love peace.” — Psalm 37:37
  • “Deceit fills hearts that are plotting evil; joy fills hearts that are planning peace!” — Proverbs 12:20
  • “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” — Romans 14:19

In your Crew, plan ways to spread peace in your family and community, then commit to it. Stay accountable to each other as you soak up and spread His peace.

Our God hears,
Jessica Delp

Pursuing Purity

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” — Matthew 5:8

No blessing compares to sitting with God and soaking in His light and love and grace. Thanks to the cross, that’s within our reach. We know one of the best ways to accept this blessing is to pursue purity; however, this can be intimidating. It’s a difficult trait to grow, it surpasses action, and it demands maintenance and sincere commitment. It’s not for the fainthearted, but it’s worth the work.

Don’t let growth become tedious. Keep your focus on the blessing that comes with purity. Lean into Him more and stay in His Word. He’ll help you. He adores you. He’ll tend to your purity and watch in excitement as it grows, showing you more of Himself all the while.

During your First 20, ask God to draw out your impurities. In your Crew, pray over each other, and ask God to safeguard your friends and make their way pure. Meditate on the following verses:

  • Matthew 5:27-28: “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
  • 1 Samuel 16:7: “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’”
  • Psalm 119:9-16: “How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your Word. I have tried hard to find you — don’t let me wander from your commands. I have hidden your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. I praise you, O LORD; teach me your decrees. I have recited aloud all the regulations you have given us. I have rejoiced in your laws as much as in riches. I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways. I will delight in your decrees and not forget your Word.”

Our God hears,
Jessica Delp

Who You Are

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” — Matthew 5:7

“Control your temper, for anger labels you a fool.” — Ecclesiastes 7:9

“So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when He judges you.” — James 2:12-13

Rage comes more naturally to the lost than mercy does. In their mind’s eye, they’re fatherless, unguarded, without a King to deal out justice. Of course they’re not merciful. They can’t afford to be.

Thank Heaven we’re not lost anymore. We’ve been redeemed and made sons and daughters of the King. Yahweh took us off the streets and brought into His home, clothed us and laid out feasts for us. In light of these truths, mercy makes sense. That’s why Scripture calls the angry foolish. They forget who God is. Let’s make sure our grip on God’s identity is firm as we learn to imitate and worship Him.

In your First 20, read Psalm 71. Ask God to remind you of His identity this week. In Crew, talk about who you believe God is and who He truly is. There’s a difference between the two, even in the strongest saint.

Our God hears, 
Jessica Delp

Come and Feast

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” — Matthew 5:6

When God tells us blessed are those who hunger for righteousness, for they will be satisfied, He means it. That doesn’t mean it won’t occasionally feel like we’re starving. When the temptation to settle for lesser satisfaction comes, remember God doesn’t create gangly saints. He fills us, makes a great feast and smothers us with His blessing. He satisfies.

Don’t settle for lesser satisfaction. Whether it’s comfort or accomplishment, social media or pornography, give it to Him. Walk away. Know your Father will feed you.

In your First 20, ask God what you crave and fill yourself with instead of His righteousness. Ask Him to help you keep that craving from ruining your spiritual appetite. In your Crew, discuss strategies to keep yourselves from turning to lesser satisfactions. Here are some verses to reflect on:

  • “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” — Matthew 6:33
  • “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!” — Matthew 13:43
  • “Give your burdens to the LORD, and He will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” — Psalm 55:22
  • “But for those who are righteous, the way is not steep and rough. You are a God who does what is right, and you smooth out the path ahead of them.” — Isaiah 26:7

No good father lets his children starve. Cling to that.

Our God hears,
Jessica Delp

Be Humble

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“God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.” Matthew 5:5

Another word for humble is meek, yet if someone called me meek, I’d be insulted. Most people would be. Between our inherent selfishness and the twisting of that virtue, it’s difficult to sincerely want to be meek. 

When we struggle to desire this trait, we must turn to Scripture and see what true meekness and humility look like. A humble heart comes from a place of confidence and wisdom. Even in fear, the humble trust God. In the face of the unknown, they remember His fervent heart and all-encompassing power. They remember, and they submit to Him. That’s the mark of the meek. Their faith memory is powerful, and they act on it.

God asks us to be humble in different ways. Some of us need to submit in our thought life, and others need meekness in a specific circumstance, just as Moses did. Here are some verses to reflect on regarding humility:

  • “While they were at Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses because he had married a Cushite woman. They said, “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Hasn’t he spoken through us, too?” But the Lord heard them. (Now Moses was very humble — more humble than any other person on earth.) So immediately the Lord called to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam and said, “Go out to the Tabernacle, all three of you!” So the three of them went to the Tabernacle.” (Numbers 12:1-4)
  • “If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.” (James 3:13)
  • “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.” (James 1:19-21)

In your First 20, ask God where He wants you to surrender. If you struggle to submit, tell Him why. Talk in your Crews about where you struggle to be humble and how you can keep each other accountable.

Let’s reclaim this virtue.  

Our God hears,
Jessica Delp 

Mourn Well

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Grief shifts priorities. In times of mourning, we find ourselves lying in bed sleepless with doubts and hurts swirling. In times like this, we can do nothing better than cling to our God.

But that’s not always what we do. Sometimes we numb our pain or turn to false comforts. We can’t let this happen. Our grief is too precious to be wasted. We must mourn well. We must learn to give ourselves — in all our pain — to God. In His presence, we’re stirred to sing even in grief. We can’t help it. It’s a natural reaction to the Great Comforter. 

In your First 20, invite God into whatever you may be mourning. Ask for His comfort and for Him to create a new song within you as you mourn. In your Crew, talk about what mourning well looks like. 

Our God hears,
Jessica Delp 

Poor in Spirit

“On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’” — Mark 2:17

“‘Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build me? And where is the place of my rest? For all those things my hand has made, and all those things exist,’ says the Lord. ‘But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at my word.’” — Isaiah 66:1-2

No one likes the phrase “poor in spirit.” We don’t even need to know what it means. We just know we dislike the sound of it. We cringe at the suggestion of weakness. Our pride can’t help but recoil.

Technically we’re all poor in spirit, whether we like it or not. It’s an inherent part of being human. When Christ said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” He was declaring blessing for us if we acknowledge the reality of our human weakness. He was saying that, in surrendering our self-importance, we accept God as our Defender, our Savior and our Adonai. We learn to love Him as our superior.

In today’s First 20, ask God to help you shed your pride and increase your confidence in Him. In your Crew, spend time discussing what prevents you from being poor in spirit.

Feel your pride yet? Mine is throwing a tantrum.

Our God hears,
Jessica Delp

Introduction to the Beatitudes

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God loves us too much to wish us happiness. Instead, He wants us to live “Beyond Happy.” We see in the Beatitudes that God wants to mold us and lead us fully into our identity as His beloved children. He wants us to shake off our rags so He can clothe us in clean, splendid robes of joy. He wants to bless us richly. 

Unfortunately, we don’t always believe this. Instead of reveling in His blessings, we turn to the world for filling. Some of us fill ourselves with accomplishments, immersing ourselves in busy schedules. Many of us ignore habits that — while not inherently sinful — consume time that is rightfully God’s. In the face of hurt, some of us numb ourselves with entertainment instead of going to God. We can’t feast on His blessings when we’re already full. 

In your First 20, ask God to empty you in preparation for His blessings. Ask Him to point out what doesn’t belong in your life.

For many of us, this is a difficult prayer to pray. Here are some verses to guide and encourage you:

  • “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
  • “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2) 

Our God hears,
Jessica Delp

The Resurrection of the Body and Life Everlasting

The end of suffering.

No more pain. No more strife. No more toil.

No more war. No more bondage. No more grief.

The death of death.

The promise of Heaven and eternity with our Creator.

If we believe God is real, He is who He says He is, He is good, He keeps His promises, and we can take Him at His word, then as Christ-followers, we choose to go beyond the sufferings and pain of today to press into Jesus. We choose to trust even amid despair. This is our hope. 

We can never wrap our heads around the suffering in this world, but we find peace, solace and even a supernatural joy in God’s promises of what is to come. I suffer from chronic migraine, yet amid that, I have had to walk this out. I don’t always emotionally “feel” this truth, but the Holy Spirit provides me with the strength and stamina to press into it. I know this earthly body is just temporary, and I can look forward to the promise of Heaven and eternity. 

I have had a dream that I feel God has given me. It’s one of dancing in a field of wild flowers next to a blue sea. Colors of violet and yellow surround me. I can feel the sun on my skin. I can smell the fresh salty ocean air. I am at peace. I have an overwhelming sense of love all around me. I am dancing with Jesus. Although I can’t say this is what Heaven will look like, I believe it might be something like this. One day, He will return, and I believe we will all dance with Jesus. Suffering will be no more. 

Jesus teaches us, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NIV) The Passion translation reads, “And everything I’ve taught you is so that the peace which is in me will be in you and will give you great confidence as you rest in me. For in this unbelieving world you will experience trouble and sorrows, but you must be courageous for I have conquered the world!”

In our First 20 today, let’s ask God to help us rest in the truth of the resurrection and life everlasting. Let’s ask Him to give us peace where we struggle and to find our foundation in nothing but Jesus. 

Our God hears,
Jen Cardinal

The Struggle to Forgive

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” Ephesians 1:7 NKJV

Living a lifestyle of forgiveness, as in seeking forgiveness from the Father and choosing to forgive those whom have wronged us in some way, should be fairly straight forward. It should be a simple process even if we need support at various times, but for some reason, it can be one of the biggest stumbling blocks in our walk with Jesus. Forgiveness comes from the heart of the Father through His son Jesus who suffered on the cross. It brings the greatest freedom in our lives when we receive it and release it to those who have harmed or hurt us. It’s the very central focus of our salvation and surrender to Jesus. Yet there is a struggle that can take place when we are called to walk in it! 

I see it on a regular basis in our home. We have three lively children, all with great ideas and huge hearts until they are “wronged.” Then the home becomes a battle zone. Often it takes skills that could be used in establishing world peace to resolve the arguments! The key is enabling one injured party to forgive the other. They have to choose to forgive one another and move forward. This illustration might seem a little too simplistic, so I’ll share a revelation that the Lord gave me some time ago. 

I was struggling to forgive someone because their actions had caused much hurt and pain. As I prayed about the situation, Holy Spirit prompted me to extend forgiveness, but I couldn’t do it. I had placed their sin or actions in the “really awful” category and I couldn’t move from that place. I was completely stuck. That is when the Father lovingly spoke to me. With His gentle and compassionate voice, He said, “When Jesus hung on the cross, He did not hold a list in His hand. There was no list of what would be forgiven. He died for ALL so that ALL things could be forgiven. I have no categories. There was no list in my Son’s hand.”

I sat and wrestled with the words “there was no list.” It was good to know this when seeking forgiveness of my own sin, but extending it to another who had caused much suffering was a different matter. I eventually surrendered and released forgiveness. It wasn’t easy, but there was a release from anger and bitterness. When we choose to forgive, further healing and restoration can take place. If you are struggling with either seeking forgiveness or extending it to another person, ask the Father for help. He is compassionate and has incredible love for us. Even if the words you hear may be a challenge, trust the heart of the One whom is speaking to you. He knows what He is doing.

“Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’” Luke 23:34 (NKJV)

Our God Hears,
Lucy Houghton

I Believe in the Holy Spirit

“But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative — that is, the Holy Spirit — He will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.” — John 14:26

In John 14:18-25, Jesus prepares His disciples for what is to come. He is going to the heavenly Father. The disciples will not be abandoned, because God has promised to send the Holy Spirit. 

Who is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is the third person of the holy trinity the third person of the triune God. Father, Son and Holy Spirit make up the holy trinity (Matthew 28:19). The Holy Spirit has been described as our Advocate, Comforter, Encourager and Counselor. 

“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.” — John 16:7

As Christians, when we first dedicated our lives to Jesus, asked for forgiveness of anything we had done wrong and acknowledged that Jesus Christ was Lord and Savior of our lives, we received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

We have all experienced times in life as children, adolescents or adults when we have needed an advocate, someone who will speak up for us or defend us in a given situation.

“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.” — John 14:16

We are never alone. The Holy Spirit is always with us, reminding us that we have been set free from anything that has tried to entrap us. We are free to worship and glorify God. We are free because of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross for our sins. 

“But I will send you the Advocate — the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me.” — John 15:26

As you read your Bible, ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand the Holy Word of God. A particular verse may jump out at you. Make a note of it in your journal or on a note card. Take a few minutes during your day to “meditate” on that verse. Read it again and, if possible, commit it to memory.

As Christians, we are to honor and respect the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:32 and Luke 12:10). The Holy Spirit also confers various spiritual gifts, which include the gifts of prophesy, service to others, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership and kindness (Romans 12:6-8). 

“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!” — Galatians 5:22-23.

This is my prayer for you: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2 Corinthians 13:14).”

Our God hears,
Beverlie Brooks

From Whence He Shall Come to Judge the Living and the Dead

During your First 20, here are some Scriptures to meditate on regarding judgment and the great hope and salvation we have in Jesus:

  • “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.” — John 3:19 (NASB)
  • “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” — John 17:3 (NASB)
  • “Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know personally and intimately the one who invited us to God.” — 2 Peter 1:3 (Message Bible)
  • “But we all with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into that same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” — 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NASB)
  • “By this love is perfected in us, so that we may have confidence on the day of judgment; because as He is so are we in this world.” — 1 John 4:17 (NASB)

Our God hears,
Joe Halpin

He Descended to Hell, the Third Day He Rose Again

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“Yes it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day.” — Luke 24:46

So much excitement wells up in my heart when I read this line of the Creed. You see Jesus wasn’t just lying in the tomb. From the point of His death, His spirit was at work. He was doing only what He could do and what the Father had instructed Him to do. Jesus went to the very gates of hell/hades. He unlocked those gates and set the captives free! Satan thought he had won. He had seen the demise of the Savior of the world, but the Lord will always have the final WORD. On the cross, Jesus declared, “It is finished.” His spirit was released but there was more to be done before He would join His Father.

“I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” — Revelation 1:18 (NKJV)

What I hear in these words is victory, a call for us to walk in and receive the victory that Jesus has died for on our behalf. When Jesus took the keys, it was a declaration to Satan, “It is finished.” Death has lost its “sting” and Satan’s days were numbered. 

“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’” — 1 Corinthians 15:54-56 (NIV) 

There isn’t one thing that our Jesus cannot understand, comprehend, heal, forgive, redeem or restore! This is the very same Jesus who took the keys of death and hades. Today, He stands before you as your risen Savior. He is more than able to set you free and empower you by His Spirit to walk a victorious life. Come and worship at His feet today, as the two Marys did when they discovered that their Lord, Savior and friend was alive. They “grasped His feet and worshipped Him.” (Matthew 28:9) It might be a sacrifice of praise and reaching out for Jesus’ feet while grappling with sorrow and struggles, or maybe it’s coming from a place of exuberant praise, but wherever you find yourselves as you worship, let Him come and set you free … for He is Risen. King Jesus is alive!

Our God hears,
Lucy Houghton

Suffered Under Pontius Pilate, Was Crucified, Died and Was Buried

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Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”

Pilate said, “So you are a king?”

Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”

“What is truth?” Pilate asked. — John 18:36-38a

Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above.” — John 19:11a

For this is how much God loved the world — He gave His one and only, unique Son as a gift. So now everyone who believes in Him will never perish but experience everlasting life. — John 3:16 (The Passion Translation)

The passages of Scripture that talk about the trial of Jesus leading up to His crucifixion state so clearly His mission, where He came from, who He is and the authority over Him. I have found myself at times after watching a movie on the life of Jesus thinking of Him more as a superhero than the Deity He really is. 

I thank God for His Word, which secures me back to truth. 

He has All Authority in Heaven and on the earth! 

He is King! 

His Kingdom is heavenly!

He is Truth! 

He is Good! He is Love!

I love the question Pilate asks, “What is truth?” Isn’t that the question the entire world is really searching to answer? Many are searching in all the wrong places but thank God they are searching. We know the truth and we have the truth living in us. So that means we hold the answer the world is searching for. We hold the key to unlock the lost hearts.

In your First 20, would you dare to pray this daily prayer our former senior pastor Clive Calver’s mentor, Alex Buchanan, taught us?

Lord, will you give me an opportunity today to share the love and truth of Jesus with someone? Lord, will you help me not to miss it? And Lord will you fill my mouth with the words to say?

— Karen Sergey

Born of the Holy Spirit

“LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.” — Psalm 16:5

“And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” — Romans 5:5

Many sense a hole in their lives, knowing that there is something else or something missing. No matter our walk in life, many of us can relate to this. We all look to various things to fill this hole, such as relationships, careers, recognition, homes, vacations, food, drugs, adventure, attention, security, stuff and more stuff. I had always sensed this hole but never really knew what it was or how to even give it a name. I just knew it was always there. And I always sought to fill it somehow, someway.

It was not until I encountered God that this hole was touched in a way like nothing else ever did, could or would. Something changed. This was a turning point for me. It was more than just a passing fancy. It stood the test of time, questions, trials and doubt. I began to sense that hole being poured into by something much bigger than me. It was bigger than any goal, dream, person or desire. This came in the form of a relationship with the living God.

To some degree, I believe I will always be aware of this hole this side of Heaven. Until I leave this earthly body, that hole reminds me that this place is temporary, and it keeps me seeking. The difference now is that I know it calls me to seek Him.

As His creation, I think we all feel that void at times, thinking there must be something more, something we are missing …. and I think it is an invitation from God. He lets us know that we belong lovingly to Him. He invites us to seek Him, let Him pour into us and let Him fill that void.

When I think of Jesus being born of the Holy Spirit, I believe He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and He is complete. Through Him, He brings this same Holy Spirit to us, pouring His love into our empty places.

In your First 20 today, invite the same Holy Spirit who Jesus was conceived by into the voids you may be carrying in your heart. Ask Him to pour His Spirit into you.

Thank you, Jesus, for making us complete in you through the Holy Spirit.

Our God hears,
Jen Cardinal

I Believe in Jesus

I believe in Jesus. This is a statement that can have many meanings. Some believe the historical records that Jesus lived. Most Christians believe that Jesus not only lived but that He also died on their behalf. 

The Gospel of John tells us Jesus was alive before creation, that He was God with the Father and that “all things were made through Him and without Him was not any thing made.” (John 1:4 ESV)

The book of Colossians describes Jesus as “the image of the invisible God.” (Colossians 1:15 ESV) When we read the Gospels, we see the Father. 

Colossians goes on to say that not only was everything made by Jesus but also that everything was made for Him. And everything made was reconciled to God by Jesus shedding His blood on the cross. And not only was everything made and reconciled by Jesus but everything that exists is also held together in Him. It really is all about Jesus. Jesus is Lord of all.

I believe in Jesus. I believe He is creator and redeemer. I believe that nothing would continue to exist if Jesus did not hold it together. 

I believe that, when I pray, He gives me His full attention. I believe that, when I worship, He dances for joy, and when I sin, He is truly grieved. 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your strength. He is worthy! 

Our God hears,
Joe Halpin

Father Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth

As I walked down the road, I came around a bend and the trees started to swallow up the sky. All of a sudden, I was enveloped in a blanket of bright green spring. This sense of being blanketed in nature spoke to me of God’s love.

I am protected. I am shielded. I am embraced. He circles me with “I love you.” His love is present always. I am cherished and adored by Him. I cannot escape His love, nor can I comprehend the depth of it.

At a moment like this, I catch a glimpse of the enormity of His love. It literally takes my breath away. My soul gasps and my heart is brought to its knees. There is nothing I can do to earn this love. It is free. It is pure. It is all enduring. All I must do is accept it. Trust Him. Follow Him. Rest in His love.

Through His creation, my Lord beckons to me, “Here I am, all around you. You are safe. You are loved. Come and be with me.” Psalm 27:8 declares, “My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘Lord, I am coming.’”

Through all the ups and downs that life can bring, I hear God’s voice and sense His presence most in and through nature. Scripture teaches us in Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.”

In your First 20 today, thank God for the gift of His creation that surrounds you. Ask Him to quiet your heart and mind so you might see the works of His hands and sense the promise of His love and care.

Let us pray …

“Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name, your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.”

Our God hears,
Jennifer Cardinal

I Believe in God

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So Paul, standing before the council, addressed them as follows: “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about.” — Acts 17:22-23 (NLT)

Is it possible to know God, without ever being instructed about who He is? Author and educator, Helen Keller (1880-1968), was deaf and blind from the age of two. Miss Keller wrote, “that she had always known about God, even before she had any words. Even before she could call God anything, she knew God was there.”1

In Acts 17:16-34, we learn about Paul’s experience in Athens. Paul left Silas and Timothy in Berea when he was hastily escorted to Athens by fellow believers. Paul noticed that idle worship was rampant in Athens. He spoke about Jesus in the synagogue, on the street and eventually on Mars Hill. While explaining the death and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, Paul experienced three types of responses.

“When they heard Paul speak about the resurrection of the dead, some laughed in contempt” (Acts 17:32a)

When we try to tell friends or family about our faith in Jesus Christ, they may make fun of our belief or even laugh at us. This can be very painful. They may be resorting to ridicule because they are afraid to believe the truth we have spoken.

“but others said, ‘We want to hear more about this later.’ That ended Paul’s discussion with them” (Acts 17:32b-33)

Sometimes, those we talk to about our faith nod their heads in agreement and promise to learn more about what we have told them. They are delaying making a decision to follow Jesus Christ. 

“but some joined him and became believers.” (Acts 17:34a)

How wonderful it is when those we have told about our faith in Jesus Christ actually accept the truth and want to become Christians too. So, what is the next step? Invite your friends and family to come to church with you. Tell them about the various opportunities there are at church to go deeper into the Word of God and to have a heart knowledge of Jesus, not just a head knowledge. Come forward with them after any service. Pastors and Prayer Servants are willing to guide new Christians on their journey.

If you have just started your Christian journey by accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, tell someone about your decision. 

Dear Lord, thank you for the opportunities you provide for us to tell others about your saving love and sacrifice. Help us not to be discouraged but to stay strong in our faith. Amen.

Our God hears,
Beverlie Brooks

1“Phillips Brooks and Helen Keller,” by the Rev. Barbara C. Crafton.

The Power of the Cross

To preach the message of the cross seems like sheer nonsense to those who are on their way to destruction, but to us who are on the way to salvation, it is the mighty power of God within us.” — 1 Corinthians 1:18 (TPT)

Two thousand years ago, Jesus changed everything on a cross. In the temple, Passover lambs were being sacrificed and the magnificent, massive veil was torn in two as Jesus bore our sins and was fully forsaken by the Father. Yet, for the joy set before Him, Jesus opened the doorway for believers to live forever forgiven in God’s holy presence.

On March 2, 2018, the life of the greatest evangelist of our time was celebrated in Charlotte, NC. Pastor Billy Graham faithfully preached the message of the cross to millions around the world saying, “God proved His love on the cross. When Christ hung, and bled and died, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.’” Billy Graham exhorted all believers who came to the foot of the cross surrendering their lives to Jesus with, “I am convinced the greatest act of love we can ever perform for people is to tell them about God’s love for them in Christ.” 

Saved as beloved children of the crucified Redeemer, we now serve as God’s chosen people, a royal priesthood, with continuous access to the Father by His Spirit and through prayer. We have the privilege of joining Jesus on His rescue mission to help others have a personal encounter with Him. We’ve been divinely appointed to share the message of the cross, speak about the new hope we’ve found in our new lives in Jesus, and reflect His love and joy.

On this Good Friday, in your First 20, spend time basking at the foot of the cross. Let this turning point in human history take root in your souls, and absorb the immensity of its power. Be transformed as you remember and rejoice that you’ve been redeemed and rescued by Jesus’ blood. “The Lord Himself is the One who has done this, and it’s so amazing, so marvelous to see! This is the very day of the Lord that brings gladness and joy, filling our hearts with glee. O God, please come and save us again; bring us Your breakthrough-victory!” Psalm 118: 23-25 (TPT)

Our God hears,
Barb Wibling