Prayer of Victory III

Lord, death could not hold You, and because of You—the resurrection—we, too, can live. Thank You that the grave is only a journey into the presence of God. You have removed the sting of death and empowered this thing called life. Now I will live in Your presence forever. Amen.

– Rebecca Barlow Jordan

A Prayer for Friday

Lord God,

Jesus cried out to you on the cross, “Why have you forsaken me?” You seemed so far from his cry and from his distress. Those who stood at the foot of the cross wondered where you were, as they saw Jesus mocked and shamed and killed. Where were you then?

Lord God,

We, too, ask where you are, when there is trouble and suffering and death, and we cry out to you for help. Be near to us, and save us so that we may praise you for your deliverance.

Lord God,

We wait, on Friday, for the resurrection of Sunday. Sometimes our lives seem a succession of Fridays, and we cannot see what is “Good.” Teach us to call your name as Jesus did. Make us trust in you like little children. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

– Rachel Marie Stone

Prayer of Victory I

Father, Thank You for the miracle of life – abundant life here, and eternal life with You in Heaven. Help me celebrate that life every day as I seek You and follow Your plan for my life. Today, I say with the Apostle Paul, “Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?”

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

– Mary Southerland

A Resurrection Prayer

Dear God,

Thank you that you make all things new. Thank you for the victory and power in your Name. Thank you that you hold the keys over death, that by your might, Jesus was raised from the grave, paving the way for us to have a new life with you. Thank you that you had a plan, that you made a way.

We confess our need for you … fresh … new … again. We ask that you renew our hearts, minds, and lives, for the days ahead. We pray for your refreshing over us.

Keep your words of truth planted firm within us, help us to keep focused on what is pure and right, give us the power to be obedient to your word. When the enemy reminds us where we have been, hissing his lies and attacks our way, we trust that your voice speaks louder and stronger, reminding us we are safe with you and that your purposes and plans will not fail. We ask that you will be our defense and rearguard, keeping our way clear, removing the obstacles, and covering the pitfalls. Lord, lead us on your level ground.

Shine your light in us, through us, over us. May we make a difference in this world, for your glory and purposes. Set your way before us. May all your plans succeed. We may reflect your peace and hope to the world that so desperately needs your presence and healing.

Thank you, God, for your indescribable gift! To you be glory and honor, on this Resurrection Day, and forever.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

– Debbie McDaniel

Easter Sunday Prayer

Lord God,

You loved this world so much that you gave your one and only Son that we might be called your children too. Lord, help us to live in the gladness and grace of Easter Sunday, every day. Let us have hearts of thankfulness for your sacrifice. Let us have eyes that look upon your grace and rejoice in our salvation. Help us to walk in that mighty grace and tell your good news to the world. All for your glory do we pray, Lord, Amen.

– Rachel Marie Stone

On the Way to Emmaus

When Jesus was at the table with the two disciples he walked with on the road to Emmaus, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24.30-32)

How many times during worship or during fellowship with friends and family have we not recognized Jesus in our midst?

Giving You an Update

My goal is to transition from a writer to an author.  I have two works in progress.  First, I am writing a commentary on the Epistle of James, titled A Guidebook on Christian Living.  Further, I am researching 17th century Europe so I can write a series of novels set during events such as the Thirty Years’ War and English Civil War.  In the aftermath of the Reformation, several regions in Europe came to be self-governing, offering freedoms of religion and conscience.  But the eventual ascension of the new Holy Roman Emperor removed the right of self-government and any freedoms of religion and conscience.  This crisis ignited the Thirty Years’ War.  The European map at the start of the century looked much different by the time the 18th century began.  Such redrawing of national boundaries did not occur again until the aftermath of World War I.  Finally, I am considering whether I should produce books on the Kingdom of God/Heaven, faith, hope, love, etc.  This allows me to publish something and learn more through personal experience.

Compromising Our Faith

In response to Timothy’s report on the Thessalonians, Paul complimented them for their steadfastness under trial and offered encouragement to them for whatever future conflicts they might experience.

The Thessalonians had become “imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you suffered the same things from your own people as they did from theJews” [I Thessalonians 2.14].  Like the churches in Judea, the Thessalonian believers faced fierce persecution from their neighbors [Acts 17.5–9].  Their enduring this persecution with faith and joy proved that the power of God’s word was in them.  God’s working in their hearts caused the Thessalonians to respond like all who follow Christ.  Despite the suffering, the Thessalonians readily accepted the Gospel as the Word of God, a fact confirmed by their faithfulness to the gospel.

Do our congregations today imitate “the churches of God in Christ Jesus” that were in Judea and Thessalonica during Paul’s days?  Do we compromise our beliefs in order to not look different from our neighbors?

Each day we hear of Christians around the world under severe persecution dying for their beliefs.  Yet, due to peer pressure, which is not truly life threatening, many of us are tempted to shift Christ from having top priority in our lives.  Therefore, I ask, why are our Christian brothers and sisters around the world willing to die for Christ when the ‘Christians’ around us are not even willing to live for Him?

In I Thessalonians 3.1-4, Paul sent Timothy, “our brother and co-worker for God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage [the Thessalonians] for the sake of [their] faith, so that no one would be shaken by these persecutions.”  Having experienced tribulation and affliction, Paul sent Timothy to them to encourage them, instruct them, and let them know that such trials are normal for the Christian church.  Paul was concerned that unbelievers may tempt them to compromise or abandon their faith because of their tribulations.

Paul reminds the Thessalonians, “In fact when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we were to suffer persecution.”  Paul was honest with the new believers.  He did not promise the followers of Jesus a life of ease or public approval—and neither did Jesus.

True, the Psalms are filled with wonderful reminders that God protects us, comforts us, and shields us like a shepherd watching over his flock.  Even our Good Shepherd promised to be with us always, even to the end of the ages.  Yet, even being wrapped in the arms of Christ, we still are filled with fears and questions.  Jesus is the answer to those questions, though He is not the answer to all questions (e.g., “Who is buried in Grant’s tomb?”).

Scripture is filled with encouraging words from God and examples of people who remained faithful.  Like Paul, we should encourage and remind one another that when we face persecution, affliction, and even peer pressure to remain faithful as God has been faithful to us since the beginning and throughout eternity.

Grace and Peace

Was First Thessalonians the “First”?

Disclaimer: I enjoy studying the potential timeline of when the New Testament books were written so that I may gain an understanding of the possible thought development of fellow believers during this time period.  I believe that each text was written for a particular audience at a particular time for a particular purpose, but also has universal application for the Body of Christ throughout the ages as each was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Thank you.

In honor of his wife Thessalonike (the half-sister of Alexander the Great), Cassander, King of Macedon, established the city of Thessalonica around 315 BC.  As the largest and most important city in Macedonia, it became the capital of the Roman province.  Located at the crossroads of two major Roman roads—the Ignatia Way (a military road connecting it to both Rome and the Adriatic Sea) and the other from the Danube River to the Aegean Sea—Thessalonica was a critical trading center and seaport for the Roman Empire.

During his second missionary journey, Paul and his companions came from Philippi to Thessalonica and founded the Christian church there [Acts 17.1-10].  Consisting of some Jews, the largely Gentile church grew quickly—numerically and spiritually.  Paul was so appreciative of their progress that he describes them as examples to the believers in Macedonia and Achaia [I Thessalonians 1.7].  However, the ministry of Paul and his companions had become difficult as other Jews stirred up a mob against Paul and his group, so that they had to flee during the night to Berea [Acts 17.5-10].

Later in Athens, Paul became concerned about the condition of the new community of believers in Thessalonica.  As his anxiety grew, he decided to send Timothy to strengthen and encourage the faithful at Thessalonica [I Thessalonians 3.1-3].  Timothy returned with a positive report about the Thessalonians.  Paul was so overjoyed with the news that he wrote an epistle to them.  The epistle that Paul wrote is what we refer to as Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians.

Greatly accepted by scholars and theologians, either Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians (written between AD 48-52, depending upon the northern or southern Galatian theories) or his First Epistle to the Thessalonians (around AD 50-51) is the first epistle written by Paul contained in the New Testament.  [I find myself standing in the camp with those who believe Paul wrote Galatians before the Jerusalem Conference in Acts 15 while others argue that Paul wrote it after the Conference, but again, one’s viewpoint is dependent upon the northern or southern Galatian theories.]  Furthermore, some argue that Galatians or I Thessalonians is the first “book” written in the New Testament, as another five or more years would pass before Mark would pen his Gospel.  Unfortunately, the Epistle of James contains nothing definitive as to when James wrote it.  The date of his composition ranges from around AD 45 to 70, before the Jewish rebellion.

Furthermore, some argue that Galatians or I Thessalonians is the first “book” written in the New Testament, as another five or more years would pass before Mark would pen his Gospel.  Unfortunately, the Epistle of James contains nothing definitive as to when James wrote it.  The date of his composition ranges from around AD 45 to 70, before the Jewish rebellion.  [I agree with the arguments for an earlier composition date (in the late 40s), which are more compelling, as the “Audience” for James’ epistle (“To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion” or “scattered abroad”) aligns with the believers who are “scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria,” resulting from the “severe persecution … against the church in Jerusalem” (Acts 8.1) following the martyrdom of Stephen.]

Interesting, eh?