It was one place I had looked forward to visiting during my pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Just two miles outside Jerusalem, in the small town of Bethany, there is a small cave-like structure. The walls are narrow and the room at the bottom of the steep rock stairway is small and dark. You must stoop to enter the cavern that was hollowed out by loving hands, the place which visitors and locals alike call this place Lazarus' Tomb.
The apostle John referred to the miracle which occurred here as the "Seventh Sign." It was the last in a series of works which Jesus performed to point the people to faith in the Son of Man as the Messiah and redeemer. His best was saved for last! Lazarus, a beloved friend, had been dead long enough for his body to begin to decay. The Lord's disciples urged him to hurry the journey, but Jesus knew something they didn't know. When they arrived the family ushered them to the place of burial. With a word, the Lord Jesus raised Lazarus back to his earthly existence. Glory!
Beloved, today's troubles come in all sizes. Whatever problem you are battling, I want you to know that it can end with glorious triumph. Nothing, not even death itself, can claim victory over the mighty hand of Jesus our Lord. Allow your fears to be turned to courage because He who has power over the grave is also able to make your life a testimony of His riches and grace.
GospeLines Prayer:Almighty God, You are exalted above heaven and earth. You reign as King over your kingdom, ruler of all that lives and dies. With a word, You silence Your adversaries and breathe new life into Your church. Circumcise my heart, O Lord, and cut away the sin that hinders Your work. Deliver me from the tragedy of defeat, and enable me to live victoriously. Amen and amen.
Editor’s Note:To commemorate Black History Month I asked Carla to write an article which would properly remind us of this little known segment of our USA history.The excellent devotional below is the result of her labors.Please send Carla a note of appreciation for the fine contribution she has made for us, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Over 400 years ago, Africans were brought against their will to the United States and other parts of North America to serve as slaves.So much of their history and culture along with their dignity and humanity was stripped from them to promulgate someone else’s fortunes.
There was no land of plenty for us, as hardship abounded.There was no vision of coming to America for a better life, a better opportunity for us and/or our families.We had no choice and no voice.In spite of the many trials that lay ahead, we endured--as we called out and often to our mighty God for deliverance from our oppressors.
Since 1976, February has been designated as Black History Month in the U.S.(Carter G. Woodson conceived the idea of a Negro History Week to highlight a significant part of American history.)Various programs are aired on TV during this time period, advertisers often attempt to acknowledge the contributions of black Americans, and thousands of schools incorporate some historical reference in their curriculums.
But let’s be truthful.How do you study an oft-neglected and discounted race of people in a week or even a month’s time (the shortest month in the calendar year at that)?Text books should be filled with our contributions throughout and should be a normal course of history lessons for all Americans.
Don’t misunderstand me, I am thankful for some modicum of acknowledgement for those whose shoulders I stand upon including but not limited to the likes of Benjamin Banneker, Harriet Tubman, Madame CJ Walker, Dr. Charles Drew, Thomas L. Jennings, Mary Jane Patterson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Jack Yates, Hattie Mae White, Gwendolyn Brooks, Edward Brooke, George Washington Carver, Garrett Morgan, Lewis Howard Latimer, Malcolm X, Colin Powell, the Tuskegee Airmen, Carlton Dickerson, the Buffalo Soldiers, A.B. Howard, Rev. Emanuel Cleaver, Jackie Robinson, Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, Earl Lloyd, Fritz Pollard, Tony Dungy, Bill Russell, Guy Rodgers, Michael Jordan, Mahalia Jackson, Leontyne Price, Marian Anderson, Hattie McDaniel, Sidney Poitier, Richard Allen, W.E.B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, Barack Obama and the list goes on and on.I also salute the unsung heroes...those in our communities—parents, nurses, doctors, lawyers, educators, business owners, druggists, newspaper owners, bankers, preachers, sanitation workers, barbers. beauticians, bus drivers, etc....the village that has brought us a mighty long way despite the odds.In fact, I am reminded of the words to the gospel song –
If it had not been for the Lord, on my side;
Tell me where would I be, where would I be
He kept my enemies away,
He brought the sunshine to a cloudy day,
He rocked me in the cradle of his arm.
When he knew I had been battered and scorned.
He never left me all alone,
He gave me peace and joy I'd never known,
He answered when I knelt to really pray,
And in victory, the Lord showed me His way.
As Dr. Maya Angelou so eloquently states--"Your ancestors took the lash, the branding iron, humiliations, and oppression because one day they believed you would come along to flesh our dream."
Prayer:Father, our dreams have not been deferred.We are fighters and conquerors and while it may seem to some we have wandered aimlessly in the wilderness, You had a purpose for everything.Our path has never been easy and certainly not straight, but Your vision for us is clear.
Oh, Lord, there are days when the burdens of the world seem so heavy; they are light compared to others’.But, oh, How I Got Over thanks to You, Lord.
Let us acknowledge You in all things and appreciate and value our uniqueness and remind each other that we are made in Your image.We are Your children and should celebrate every day that You allow us to live on earth.We don’t need validation of our worth from anyone else.We are God-enough!
A month will never be sufficient to teach or learn more about our history, our contributions to this great nation, to value the many shades we are, our style, our inner beauty, our strengths or the courage of our convictions.But one thing I do know, without a doubt --
We, too, are America!
In His Love,
≈ Devotional for Wednesday, February 16, 2011
"The Valley of Persecution"
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Persecution is the mantel of the Christian life.There are two facts which are indisputable in our generation:Christians have been persecuted for their faith, or they will be persecuted for their faith.
Persecution comes when least expected. It is a favorite tool of the enemy because it strikes at the heart and soul of the victim.It knocks us to our knees, then holds its ugly foot on the back of our necks and laughs hideously at the conquest.It hurts because it comes in the night, sneaking through the darkness from unsuspected sources.
Slander and insults are the prolific darts hurled at Christians today.They come from family, co-workers, next-door neighbors, church members and strangers.People we admire, people we love, people we must see every day of our lives knock the wind out of us with nasty remarks, filthy garbage, and unsupported lies.That familiar sick feeling grips our stomachs, tears flood our eyes, and we fight against the anger welling up within our hearts.We want to strike back, retaliate, or defend ourselves against the unjust criticism.
The assault against our godly character leaves us feeling powerless, unloved, forgotten and raped of dignity.“God, where are You?Why don’t You do something about this?”
If you are presently in this valley of persecution, you are walking in the company of the committed:Isaiah was sawn asunder with a wooden saw.Jeremiah, mistreated most of his life by those to whom he ministered, was stoned to death in Egypt after being taken there against his will.Ezekiel was verbally brutalized for his preaching; Amos had to take his prophecies elsewhere; Zechariah was unappreciated.And Jesus, well, you know what happened to Him!
In the movie “Dead Poets Society,” the teacher of a literature class instructs his students to rip pages from their books which he considered outdated.There are times when I wish I could disregard a Bible passage, rip it out, and ignore its message.A good example is something from Paul in his writing to the church at Corinth:“…When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly.”I Cor. 4:6.
Not only do we suffer these indignities because we are part of the heritage of committed martyrs, we also are called upon to endure unfair treatment out of loyalty to Jesus.What is our crime?Our crime is Christ.Once we step foot into His kingdom we cannot hold back with one foot in the world.It is all or nothing.And that commitment to Him must be reflected in our response toward our accusers.We cannot turn back when it seems that our Christianity is about to cost us something.Jesus said it is the moment to “leap for joy,” a time of unprecedented privilege to stand against the enemy.
Finally, we will never be called upon to suffer persecution alone.Remember the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who were thrown into the fiery furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar?The king leaped to his feet and saw, not three, but four men walking around in the fire, “and the fourth looks like a son of the gods,” he said.Afterward, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego walked away from that furnace untouched by the flames.
Are you walking in the fire of persecution right now?Look up and see the hand of the Righteous God reaching through to rescue you.He will never leave you alone!
GospeLines Prayer:Help me, God!Since I was a child I have heard that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” As an adult, I know how untrue that is and that pain of the spirit can be worse than physical pain.It still feels like more of a curse than a blessing when others “say all manner of evil against me falsely.”Father, I am weak in this area of my walk.Please teach me how to turn the other cheek and really mean it, how to leap for joy when I am included in the company of the committed, and not shirk from the privilege of suffering for Your Name’s sake.Amen and amen.
Sitting in my Old Testament class, I listened fervently as Dr. Branch delivered her lecture on Moses, Aaron, and Korah's Rebellion. Found in Numbers chapter 16, this story is a great example of the result of disobedience to God.
Moses and his brother Aaron were leading Israel through the desert after the Exodus from Egypt. Along the way, a Levite man named Korah, along with his fellow Levites Dathan and Abiram, and a handful of Israelites (250 to be precise), decided that they were tired of Moses and Aaron, and began telling them that they had gone too far and they will take no more. Moses fell facedown and told Korah, “The Lord will decide who belongs to him.” A plan was devised for each man to fill his pan with incense and present it before God.
Moses then pointed out that the Levites should be satisfied with being set apart from the Israelites by God to perform His work in the tabernacle and minister to the Israelites, but instead they seek the priesthood as well; therefore, THEY are the ones who have conspired against the Lord.
The following day, each of the men filled their pans and assembled in front of the tent of meeting. Jehovah told Moses and Aaron to separate themselves from the entire congregation so that God could consume them instantly with fire. However, Moses and Aaron fall on their faces and asked, “Will you vent you anger on the entire community for the sins of the few?”
Moses then instructed Korah and his congregation that they will know whether this is an act of God; if the ground opens up and swallows the group it is certainly the work of God Himself. When Moses finished speaking these words, the ground violently split in two and Korah's entire congregation was swallowed alive into the earth! You would think after this that Israel would have learned their lesson about grumbling to the Lord, but of course not!
The day following the insurrection, Israel was back to grumbling about their condition once again, murmuring that they would rather be back in Egypt than in the desert with Moses! This time God's justice had an effect on the entire community, and Moses and Aaron were not able to save all of Israel. Though Aaron intervened and made atonement for Israel's grumbling, a plague ttook the lives of 14,700 Israelites.
One of many lessons to take away from this is to accept the gift that God has given, whether you recognize it or not. Israel blatantly ignored the acts of Moses and Aaron that spared their lives the first time that God's judgment fell upon the community. However, as the plague fell upon them and Aaron was forced to intervene again, I believe that Israel may have received the point of accepting the grace of the Lord that saved their lives once again. And in this day and age, when we are spared from certain situations, we have a tendency to keep walking without taking a moment to thank the Lord for what He has done for us. What a shame!
GospeLines Prayer: Father, give us the patience to stop and thank you when you have delivered us from a situation of despair. Help us to take time each day to accept the gift of salvation through your precious and holy son Jesus Christ, and give thanks for what he has done. Give us the knowledge we need to work this salvation out each day of our lives, and share your love for us as Moses and Aaron shared their love for Israel. Amen.
S.I.C. Ryan McCammon
≈ Devotional for Friday, February 18, 2011
If I have the opportunity to write my epitaph it will have only one word... "Reconciled!" Pity the soul who believes that reconciliation means someone wins and someone loses. No matter the transgression, reconciliation with your friend, your spouse, your neighbor, you, or your God can become a reality.
How? Even if you are not the transgressor, empty yourself of all the pride you have accumulated since birth, and live a life of reconciliation toward that person. That’s right; words are sometimes powerless, whereas, our conciliatory living testimony will heal that which the spoken word will not.
Pray that the Father will lead you to live a reconciled life with everyone in your circle of acquaintances.
GospeLines Prayer:Father, to this end we give our focus and pray that Your sweet Spirit will intervene where our words have failed. This I humbly pray in Your Son’s name, Amen and amen.