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


“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


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

The Story of Palm Sunday

“The next day the great crowd that had come for the feast heard that Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet Him, shouting, ‘Hosanna!’ ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ‘Blessed is the king of Israel.’” — John 12:12-13

“It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon. ‘Here is your king,’ Pilate said to the Jews. But they shouted, ‘Take Him away! take Him away! Crucify him.’ ‘Shall I crucify your king?’ Pilate asked. ‘We have no king but Caesar,’ the chief priests answered.” — John 19:14-15

“Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in Him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God.” — John 12:42-43

The story of Palm Sunday shows that it is possible to worship exuberantly while not really loving God. It is also possible to believe in Jesus but be controlled by the opinions of other people. What we do is not always a true expression of who we are deep inside. 

Luke 6:47-48 offers a remedy to bridge the gap between who we are now and who we can become by the grace of God: “As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.”

Your First 20 is a time to come to Jesus and listen. Time alone with God gives Him the opportunity to go deep into us and clear away the sand and silt. As we listen and respond to God, He builds us up on a solid foundation, and we discover that the greatest fulfilment in life is knowing Him. 

Our God hears,
Joe Halpin

Personal Preparation for Easter


Then He took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. Then He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. For I will not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God has come.” He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then He broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” After supper He took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and His people — an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you. — Luke 22:17-20

I never want Easter to just be another day, so I need to be very intentional how I prepare myself so that its message remains alive and fresh. Holy Spirit helps tremendously in this area. I ask Him to highlight something He wants me to focus on from the Easter story, and I ask Him for deeper revelation into its meaning. I read through the Easter story in a different version of the Bible each year. I start at the Last Supper and read through to the Ascension. Approaching the story of Easter in this manner has helped me remain thankful for Jesus’ sacrifice. It’s given me reverence for the holiness of this time of year and causes great rejoicing in my heart for Jesus’ victory over sin and death.

About 15 years ago, I began to prepare for Easter by observing Lent and choosing to fast from something that would allow me to have extra time to seek God. It wasn’t always easy, but it was always fruitful. The year I chose to give up TV was the year of my greatest breakthrough — so much so that, at the end of the 40 days, I gave my TV away. I realized how much time it was robbing me from seeking His Kingdom first and how much it had been affecting my thought process, allowing fear and cynicism a foothold.

This year, I have been led to partake of communion each day. This truly has been a blessing to have the daily remembrance of Easter.

Most years, I arrange my schedule so that I don’t have to work on Good Friday. I then take the day to fast, pray, worship and meditate on His Word. Easter is my favorite holiday, as it is the day I celebrate my new life in Christ.

I hope the things I’ve shared will stir some ideas in you for how you might prepare your heart for this coming Easter. May you be blessed as you take time to reflect on the magnitude of His love poured out on the cross.

Our God hears,
Karen Sergey

Take Heart

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Last week, as we heard our Church in Action partners share about the heartbreak around the world — from the Rohingya refugees in Myanmar to the Iraqi/Syrian refugees in the Middle East to human trafficking taking place right here in our backyard — our hearts can be overwhelmed. Although God wants to shine a light on these dark places and calls us as His church to action, His plan is not to leave us alone, feeling overwhelmed.

Jesus reminds us in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” As we navigate our lives in our busy culture and deal with suffering, whether it be our own or that of others, let us turn to God’s Word and promises to remind us that we know the end of the story – God does have the victory! Yes, we live in the “in between,” as Pastor Brian preached on Sunday, but we do have victory through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross.

In our communities and around the world, let’s be the hands and feet of Jesus. During your First 20 today, ask God to meet you where you might feel overwhelmed. Commit to pray into those areas and to speak God’s truth over them. Focus on one thing at a time, and ask God what “next right thing” He would have you do: 

Pray: Stay connected with our ministries we are coming alongside and pray for our brothers and sisters serving. Subscribe to our Church in Action Newsletter at and follow Church in Action on Facebook via our Walnut Hill Missions Page.

Give: Please visit to make a Church in Action pledge and support 33 ministries worldwide.

Go: Contact us at for more information on several short-term mission trips that are coming up locally and globally, or if you would like to volunteer to help during our Church in Action week or other events/activities throughout the year.

Thank you for being a church that prays, gives and goes. Thank you for being a Church in Action!

Our God hears,
Jen Cardinal

Pray for Christian Service Society’s Work in Bangladesh

Just in case you have not heard, it’s Church in Action Week here at Walnut Hill!

We are a church that comes alongside 33 ministries both locally and across the globe each week of the year, but this week is a very special time where we get to highlight some of what we do all year.

One of our visiting Church in Action partners is Rev. Mark Munshi from Christian Service Society (CSS) in Bangladesh. Through the support of Church in Action, we have been able to come alongside CSS as one of our regularly supported ministries. Through a recent flood relief outreach, we aided those affected by the devastating floods that took place here in the states and in Bangladesh. 

CSS is a non-government, non-profit, humanitarian development organization serving more than 26 million people in Bangladesh. It is one of the most renowned and oldest non-government organization in Bangladesh. CSS is dedicated to bringing change for the benefit of the poor, marginalized and unwanted people of Bangladesh. More recently, CSS has been called to come alongside the unwanted Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. “The Rohingya Muslims are regularly referred to as among the world’s most persecuted people. They are not included on the list of 135 recognized national ethnic groups under Myanmar’s Citizenship Law and, while the ruling Myanmar government considers them Bengali, the Bangladesh government doesn’t recognize them as such.” (Nathan A. Thomspon, CNN)

In your First 20 today, please pray:

  • For God to strengthen CSS
  • For the love of Jesus to shine brightly as CSS serves the Rohingya refugees, unwanted, poor and marginalized
  • For Rev. Mark Munshi to be blessed and encouraged by his time with Walnut Hill this week 
  • For Church in Action this week and all our visiting missionaries/ministries to be lifted up in our love and support

Thank you for your prayers and for being a Church in Action.

Our God hears,
Jen Cardinal

Pray for Preemptive Love Coalition


In preparation for our Church in Action week, which starts Wednesday, Feb. 28, we appreciate your intentional prayers for the 33 ministries we support globally and locally. Each and every ministry and missionary holds great value in demonstrating the love of Jesus, but today we will focus on one of our ministries that will be here during Church in Action week — Preemptive Love Coalition.

Our theme for Church in Action this year is “Love in Action.” It is not hard to see how Preemptive Love fits into this theme. In Syria, where civil war has displaced half the population and ISIS maintains a foothold, Preemptive Love is feeding families, responding to chemical attacks and rebuilding homes. In Iraq, where decades of war have decimated institutions and ISIS has displaced millions, Preemptive Love is providing frontline relief and helping refugees rebuild. Where violence has robbed families of everything and seeks to drive us apart through fear, Preemptive Love is on the front lines of this conflict, engaging in love in the midst of war. 

Today, in your First 20, pray for Church in Action week: 

  • For all our visiting supported ministries and missionaries to sense our love and support
  • For events to be well-attended
  • For our Walnut Hill family to be blessed 
  • For those who Preemptive Love serves and loves in these war-torn and devastated countries to know the love of Jesus
  • For peace and the light of Jesus to shine brightly even in the darkest places where terror reigns
  • For God’s goodness, comfort and mercy where all seems to be lost

Our God hears,
Jennifer Cardinal

Living for the Glory of God

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 “… whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” — 1 Corinthians 10:31

I was in a season of staying at home while my family was adapting to a new life after moving to New England from the West Coast. During this season of transition, I sensed a calling from God to get up early, make my family a hot breakfast and share a devotional time together. I imagined my family would come bounding down the stairs bright and early for their hot breakfast and just pour over me about what a wonderful wife and mother I am. Instead, they started coming down later and later each day. It started to become a routine that I was serving them cold eggs ... and it got under my skin. This critical voice in my head started to tell me, “It does not even matter what you do. Serving them breakfast is not really any big deal.”

Well, I decided to say something that went like this, “Well you must like eating cold eggs because it seems you are just getting later and later every morning.” Soon after the words left my lips, I realized I set the tone for the day and guess what … it was my husband’s birthday. 

I felt annoyed and unappreciated that he did not skip down the stairs to eat my hot breakfast, singing my praises. But God allowed me to see how silly and critical I was being. I now get up early and make breakfast as my small way of giving back to God and my family — not to receive any praises or accolades. If the eggs are cold when they come down, they will get the picture and realize if they want a hot breakfast, they better come down earlier. After all, no one ever died over cold eggs.

Whether it’s culture, my human flesh or a little bit of both, when I think of “living for the glory of God,” my mind tends to automatically go to this image of a missionary giving up everything to travel across the seas to unknown lands feeding the hungry, fighting for the oppressed and giving compassion to the forgotten. Although this image is indeed a worthy call, I think many of us can automatically disqualify ourselves if what we have to give God just doesn’t seem “big enough.” But, these seemingly small things matter in the Kingdom of God. I have come to realize my words and my attitude will have more impact on my family than my eggs ever will. This is what it means to me to live for the glory of God, and it’s only through inviting in His Spirit I am able to do so.

In your First 20 today, ask God where in your life you might invite Him in to live for His glory.

Our God hears,
Jen Cardinal

Transforming Our Communities With Salt and Light

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“You are the salt of the earth.” — Matthew 5:13

“You are the light of the world.” — Matthew 5:14

I recently heard someone say, “Don’t blame the darkness for being dark. There needs to be more light.” To be honest, I hadn’t quite thought about it that way before. Yet, that is exactly what we are called to be and do. John 13:35 says, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” And Colossians 3:14 says, “Above all, clothe yourselves with love.”

“Above all” — more important than anything else — we are exhorted to walk in the same love that was extended to us by Jesus. The same love that was extended to us to set us free is the same love that we need to extend to those we come in contact with. The same love that was extended to us to open our blinded eyes is the same love that we need to extend to our neighbors and communities. That same love shows the world we belong to God and puts Jesus on display! And that same love holds the power to change lives and transform the communities around us.

How can you extend to others the same grace and love that has been so generously poured out to you? What does it look like for you to be salt and light? How can your life reveal that you have been marked by the love of God? I believe it’s by the working of the Holy Spirit. “I will put my Spirit in you. I will move you to live by my commands.” (Ezekiel 36:27)

May the Holy Spirit, who is alive and active in us, shine brightly through us so much more that we light up the lives and communities around us with the transforming power of God’s love.

Our God hears,
Lynne Bauman

Praying for Families to Be Restored

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“But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.”— Ruth 1:16-17a (NLT)

Restored Through Loss

We all know or are part of a family that has suffered a loss. It may be through death, divorce or separation. In the Book of Ruth, we learn about Naomi. Forced to leave her home because of a famine, Naomi, her husband and two sons move to Moab. Naomi’s husband dies, and she is left with her two sons. The young men get married, but they also die, leaving Naomi with her two daughters-in-law. Learning of a good harvest, Naomi decides to return to her homeland, Judah. Naomi blesses her two daughters-in-law and advises them to return to their respective families. One does so reluctantly, but the other, Ruth, pledges to stay with Naomi until death. 

In Judah, Ruth supports herself and Naomi by picking up the stray corn in the field of Boaz, a distant relative. Boaz marries Ruth, and together they have a son, Obed, who would be the grandfather of King David.

“Then the women of the town said to Naomi, ‘Praise the Lord, who has now provided a redeemer for your family! May this child be famous in Israel. May he restore your youth and care for you in your old age. For he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you and has been better to you than seven sons!’” (Ruth 4:14-15)

Restoration for Naomi came in a unique way. God is able to restore even in the hardest situation. 

Restored Through Broken Relationships

In Genesis Chapters 37 and 39-48, we learn about Joseph and his family. Joseph’s father, Jacob, loved him more than his other children. Showing favoritism, Jacob gave Joseph a magnificent coat. The gift made Joseph’s bothers hate him even more. Taking out their anger by selling him as a slave, they believed they had taken care of their “problem.” Joseph’s life took a dramatic turn. Over many years, Joseph experienced being falsely accused, imprisoned, forgotten by those he helped, and ultimately honored by the Pharaoh. Through Joseph’s governmental position, he was able to help his estranged family during a time of famine. Joseph could have taken revenge against his brothers, but he showed compassion. 

“Now hurry back to my father and tell him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me master over all the land of Egypt. So come down to me immediately!’” (Genesis 45:9)

Waiting to Be Restored

Remember to pray daily for restoration. Our Lord will help you on this journey.

Dear Lord, thank you for restoring families, forgiving old hurts, mending broken hearts and healing souls. Amen.

Our God hears,
Beverlie Brooks

Praying for People to Come to Jesus

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed.” — Mark 1:35 (NIV)

“Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send to send out workers into His harvest.’” — Matthew 9:37-38 (NIV)

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.” — 1 Timothy 2:1 (NLT)

Meditate on these Scriptures during your First 20 time with God. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill your heart with prayers for the unsaved.

Our God hears,
Joe Halpin

God Is Our True Home

“Do you not know that you are a house of God and that the Holy Spirit lives in you?” — 1 Corinthians 3:16 (New Life Version)

There is something about the word “home.” The dictionary defines home simply as “something that relates to or happens inside the place where a person or family resides.” Yet, for most of us, home means so much more. Home may stir up warm memories of family and love, or it may make us long for something we never had. Regardless, home seems to be something we all want on some level. There is even a word designated for this longing – homesick.

Four and a half years ago, when my family and I moved from the West Coast to New England, I had no idea just how much my heart would begin to know what it meant to be homesick. This sense of loss drew me near to God as I longed for that which I knew. God used my pain to show me home was not a place on a map or a certain house. It was being with Him. God wanted me to know this truth in a much deeper way. I am not talking about some Pollyanna form of positive thinking but truly a pressing into His promises despite my circumstances and all the overwhelming feelings. God wanted me to know that He resided in me and He was my home. 

Four years later, my family has been blessed to purchase our first house here in Bethel. It has been a gift and a time of celebration. But the bigger gift has been how God has established within my soul that He is my home. 

While we live temporarily on earth, God calls us to pitch our tents where He leads and to stand on the truth that He alone is enough. We may find ourselves wandering much like the Israelites, but God is our foundation, our sustenance and the answer to our longings. We will fully know this in its entirety when we finally go to that Promised Land – our true home in Heaven. Until then, we invite His Spirit to fill us by pointing our compass to our true north and true home – Jesus.

Friends, we live in a broken world, and we all ache and long for people, places and things. If you find yourself like me – longing for home or perhaps something else – invite the Holy Spirit into that longing. Instead of temporary earthly comforts, ask Him to fill that hole with His promises, His Word and His love. May His love and presence surround you. May you know this truth in a real way, even amid the heartaches life can bring. May you know He is within you and He is your home. 

Our God hears,
Jen Cardinal