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Choose Jesus in 2014

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“You did not choose me,

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but I chose you …”

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– Jesus 

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Each day we have the opportunity through our thoughts and actions to choose Jesus.  When we choose kindness over irritabilty or choose reading the Bible before entertainment (social media, TV, etc.) we choose Jesus.  Sometimes I even whisper the words, “I choose you, Jesus.”  At other times, at the end of the day, I will think, “I didn’t choose well; I didn’t choose Jesus today.”  In 2014, let’s make a concentrated effort to “choose Jesus!”

My close friends Dianne and Perry Dodge hold marriage conferences.  One of their talks discusses what five minutes a day can do for your marriage.  When you improve your relationship with God, it can improve your marriage.  Making small choices for just five minutes every day can make a big difference in your life.  Here are some of Dianne and Perry’s suggestions of ways to devote five minutes of time to God throughout the day.  I challenge you to choose a few of these ways to spend more time with God.

 

What Do You Have That You’re Willing To Give To God?

 
 
My first 5 (or more) minutes of the day 
 
 
5 (or more) minutes of television time in the morning 
 
 
5 (or more) minutes of television time in the evening 
 
 
5 (or more) minutes of email/Facebook/internet time during the day 
 
 
Get up 5 (or more) minutes earlier 
 
 
5 (or more) minutes in the car 
 
 
5 (or more) minutes at lunch time 
 
 
Leave work 5 (or more) minutes early 
 
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5 (or more) minutes during ________________________ 
 
 
 
Underneath each one of the above that you’ve picked, write down what you’d like to do during those 5 minutes. ie. Pray (talking to God, and listening to Him), read scripture, thank God for the things He’s done for you, pray for your spouse, pray for others, write in a spiritual journal, listen to inspirational music that draws you closer to God, etc. 
 
    (used with permission)
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I would love to hear what you choose from the list and how choosing Jesus makes a difference for you in 2014. I choose to devote my lunch hour to God. 

How great it would be to hear Jesus say at the end of my life, “You chose me!”

As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  (Colossians 3:22) 

 
Eight and a half years ago, Dianne Dodge and I prayed that my youngest son would be born on her birthday, January 1.  Not only was he born on her birthday, but he was also the first baby born in Nashville, TN in 2006.  Happy birthday to Dianne and my son Sterling!  
 

Persecuted Without Cause

Help me, for I am being
persecuted without cause.
Psalm 119:86
 
A plea to help the church in Egypt
 
If one hundred American churches were burned to the ground, those of us who live in the U.S.A. would want Christians in other parts of the world to notice and care. There was little public outrage for 101 churches and many homes that were burned and attacked in Egypt in August of 2013.  Most of the people I have asked about these events had minimal knowledge of this tragedy.  I only knew about it because I heard a man from The Bible Society of Egypt speak at church last Sunday.  Here is a news story with more details about what occurred:  
 

Massive riots in Egypt in mid-August left behind more than 800 dead, and at least 4,000 were injured, as Egyptian police and soldiers clashed with demonstrators. Unfortunately, supporters of jailed Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi also vented their wrath at the country’s Christian minority, in what activists described as “the worst coordinated attacks on Egypt’s Coptic community in modern history.”

Even Associated Press, which isn’t considered a pro-Christian news outlet, reported on the extent of the assaults.

“In the four days since security forces cleared two sit-in camps by supporters of Egypt’s ousted president, Islamists have attacked dozens of Coptic churches along with homes and businesses owned by the Christian minority,” reported AP. “Nearly 40 churches have been looted and torched, while 23 others have been attacked and heavily damaged since Wednesday [August 14].”

A more detailed report lists 56 churches attacked in a 24-hour span that started on August 14. Fifteen more were hit over the next two days. Dozens of Coptic institutions like schools, monasteries, bookstores, and even an orphanage were also attacked.

The Bible Society of Egypt has been operating for 129 years, and this is the first time it’s been the victim of assaults like those carried out on two of its bookstores. Both were burned to the ground.

On August 18, AFP talked with Dr. Halim Meawad, a deacon for 26 years with St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church, the largest Coptic church in the Washington, D.C. area.

“St. Mark was the founder of the Coptic Church in 45 A.D.,” Meawad explained. “All of Egypt was Coptic for almost a thousand years until the Muslims invaded and started imposing heavy taxes on the Christians. Those who couldn’t pay were forced to convert to Islam under pain of death. Today’s Muslims in Egypt are descendants of Copts who couldn’t pay their taxes hundreds of years ago.”

“The Copts today are only 10% of Egypt’s population of 90 million,” said Dr. Meawad, “but they have much economic and social influence in Egypt. They are the largest Christian community in Egypt and also the largest in all the Middle East.”

Asked what brought about the recent riots and the attacks on Copts, he explained:

“Since its founding in 1929, the Muslim Brotherhood has been involved in assassinations, arson, and terrorism, with the single goal of making Egypt an Islamist republic. They co-opted the Egyptian revolution of 2011, which was a genuine grassroots movement against [former Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak’s tyranny. Shortly after Morsi came to power last year, he started changing the constitution to give himself and the Muslim Brotherhood unlimited power. Millions of Egyptians, including moderate Muslims, secularists, liberals, and Christians, protested against his government last November, but he continued with his goal of turning Egypt into an Islamic republic. On June 30, 33 million Egyptians demonstrated against him in what was probably the biggest demonstration in history, causing his ousting on July 3.”

“The Copts were attacked because as Christians, they were a convenient scapegoat for the Brotherhood,” explained Dr. Meawad.

“Since Morsi’s ousting, his supporters set up camps on town squares and refused to leave,” said Meawad. “They were blaming the Copts for Morsi’s downfall and had already started threatening and attacking us. The sheer scale of the recent attacks against us proves that they were orchestrated rather than a byproduct of chaotic unrest.”

“Neither the Copts nor the military are responsible for Morsi’s ouster,” Dr. Meawad explained. “The Egyptian people simply did not want him. Morsi was elected with only 14 million votes last year, but 33 million Egyptians in the streets on June 30 told him they didn’t want him.”

Thank you, Pete, very much for getting our voice heard out there.  We definitely need as much spreading the word about the atrocities our fellow Copts are enduring as possible.  Sadly, from the day you have reached out to us [August 18, 2013] till today [September 1, 2013], a total of 101 churches have been burned down/attacked. 

  –St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church  

For the full news story, click here. 

According to the man I heard speak from The Bible Society of Egypt, those who started the fire did so with the intent that the Christians would retaliate and cause the country to be thrown into a civil war.  He reported that there was no retaliation!  They considered their churches being burned as a burnt offering to God, and they choose the path of peace. 

So what can we do in response to the persecution the church in Egypt has faced?  November 10, 2013 is the International Day of Prayer for the persecuted church.  Joining together with Christians around the world to pray for those being persecuted is a great place to start.  We can also contribute to The Bible Society of Egypt.
 
The Bible Society of Egypt exists to make the Scriptures available to all at an affordable price.  They are the largest publisher of Arabic Bibles in the world.
 
Please share this information with your family and friends.  For more information about the International Day of Prayer for the persecuted church, click here. 
 

Jesus Noticing You

 
The woman, seeing that she could not go
unnoticed, came trembling
and fell at his feet.
 
Luke 8:47
 
 
She didn’t want to be noticed … She didn’t want anyone to see her shame or to know her pain.
 
He wanted to give her the gift of being noticed.
He wanted to take away her shame and to heal her pain.
 
Jesus wants you to know that he notices you …
He wants to remove all your shame and wants to heal all your pain.
 
Will we now notice others in their pain?
 
Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mark 5:34
 
To read the story click here:
 
Dedicated to Missy Gaw who inspired this post

Thirsting for Jesus

 
“If you knew the generosity of God
and who I am,
you would be asking me for a drink,
and I would give you fresh, living water.”
 
~ Jesus
 
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Do you thirst for Jesus?  When I try to answer that question, I want to scream “yes,” but in reality the answer is often “no”.  In the book, Beautiful Outlaw, John Eldredge masterfully discusses the “playful, disruptive, extravagant personality of Jesus.”  I love it when I read something new about Jesus!  This book highlights aspects of Jesus’ personality that are clearly seen in scripture but too often overlooked because of years of religious muck.  It makes me thirst for Jesus in a way I never have before, and I invite you to join me in reading this book.  The following is a compilation of quotes from Beautiful Outlaw:
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We need Jesus like we need oxygen. Like we need water.  Like the branch needs the vine.  Jesus is not merely a figure for devotions.  He is the missing essence of your existence.  Whether we know it or not, we are desperate for Jesus …. A true knowledge of Jesus is our greatest need and our greatest happiness.  The purpose of your being here on this planet, at this moment in time, comes down to three things:
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1. To love Jesus with all that is within you.  This is the first and greatest command.  Everything else flows from here.
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2. To share your daily life with him: to let him be himself with you.  On the beach, at supper, along the road – just as the disciples did.
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3. To allow his life to fill yours, to heal and express itself through yours.  There is no other way you can hope to live as he did and show him to others.
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Sadly, for too many people, the Christ they know is too religious to love, too distant to experience, and too rigid to be a source of life.  It explains the abject poverty of the church.  But hear this — Jesus hasn’t changed one bit.  He is still quite himself.  The Scriptures assure us that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). 
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It’s a little ironic that in a sophisticated visual age like ours we still cling to a two-dimensional Jesus.  Such is the power of religious fog.  Everyone talks about Jesus’ “great acts of humility, faith and compassion.”  What about his great acts of playfulness, or cunning?  What about his brilliance, his wit, his irreverence, the scandalous freedom with which Jesus lives, his exasperation and impatience?  Not to mention his humanity; we have nearly forgotten he was a man.”
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Let’s take time and extend effort to get to know who Jesus really is … 
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“I offer water that will become a wellspring within you that gives life throughout eternity. You will never be thirsty again.” ~Jesus
 
 
Quotes from Jesus from John 4, translations The Message and The Voice
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 I pray you may have power to grasp how
wide and long and high and deep
is the love of Christ, and to know this love.
Ephesians 3:18-19
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People often feel blessed when their lives are going well and angry with God when their lives are painful.  Our challenge is to know we are loved, even when our life circumstances are distressing.  It is important that this knowledge is not based on feelings.  The apostle Paul was greatly loved and the Lord said of him, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”  Many different times, Paul boasted about his suffering.  His suffering did not make him think God loved him less.
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Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move.  I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.  I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food;  I have been cold and naked” (2 Corinthians 11:25-28).
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If I were going through what Paul went through, I would be thinking, “God has abandoned me,” but Paul confidently assures us, “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).  I believe that Paul knew Jesus so well and knew that he was loved so well that whatever his circumstances were, he had peace.   
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From Jesus
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“I thirst for you. Yes, that is the only way to even begin to describe my love you: I thirst for you. I thirst to love and be loved by you — that is how precious you are to me.  I thirst for you.  Come to me, and fill your heart and heal your wounds.” Mother Teresa 
(see complete essay below)
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“I know you through and through – I know everything about you.  The very hairs of your head I have numbered.  Nothing in your life is unimportant to me, I have followed you through the years, and I have always loved you – even in your wanderings.
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I know every one of your problems.  I know your needs and your worries.  And yes, I know all your sins. But I tell you again that I love you – not for what you have or haven’t done – I love you for you, for the beauty and dignity my Father gave you by creating you in his own image. 
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It is a dignity you have forgotten, a beauty you have tarnished by sin.  But I love you as you are, and I have shed my blood to win you back.  If you only ask me with faith, my grace will touch all that needs changing in your life; and I will give you the strength to free yourself from sin and all its destructive power.
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I know what is in your heart – I know your loneliness and all your hurts – the rejections, the judgments, the humiliations.  I carried it all before you. And I carried it all for you, so you might share my strength and victory.  I know especially your need for love – how you are thirsting to be loved and cherished.  But often have thirsted in vain, by seeking that love selfishly, striving to fill the emptiness inside you with passing pleasures – with even greater emptiness of sin.  Do you thirst for love?  “Come to me all you who thirst” (John 7:37).  I will satisfy you and fill you.  Do you thirst to be cherished?  I cherish you more than you can imagine to the point of dying on a cross for you. 
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I thirst for you.  Yes, that is the only way to even begin to describe my love for you:  I thirst for you.  I thirst to love and to be loved by you – that is how precious you are to me.  I thirst for you.  Come to me, and fill your heart and heal your wounds. 
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If you feel unimportant in the eyes of the world, that matters not at all.  For me, there is no one any more important in the entire world than you.  I thirst for you.  Open to me, come to me, thirst for me, give me your life – and I will prove to you how important you are to my heart.
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No matter how far you may wander, no matter how often you forget me, no matter how many crosses you may bear in this life, there is one thing I want you to remember always, one thing that will never change: I thirst for you – just as you are.  You don’t need to change to believe in my love, for it will be your belief in my love that will change you.  You forget me, and yet I am seeking you every moment of the day – standing at the door of your heart, and knocking.
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Do you find this hard to believe?  Then look at the cross, look at my heart that was pierced for you.  Have you not understood my cross?  Then listen again to the words I spoke there – for they tell you clearly why I endured all this for you: I thirst (John 19:28).  Yes, I thirst for you – as the rest of the Psalm verse which I was praying says of me: “I looked for love, and I found none” (Psalm 69:20).
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All your life I have been looking for your love – I have never stopped seeking to love and be loved by you.  You have tried many other things in your search for happiness;  why not try opening your heart to me, right now, more than you ever have before.
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Whenever you do open the door of your heart, whenever you come close enough, you will hear me say to you again and again, not in mere human words but in spirit: “No matter what you have done, I love you for your own sake.”
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Come to me with your misery and your sins, with your trouble and needs, and with all your longing to be loved.  I stand at the door of your heart and knock.  Open to me, for I thirst for you.”
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Essay by Mother Teresa, From Bread and Wine ~ Readings for Lent and Easter, The Plough Publishing House 2003
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Grace and peace to you from God 
our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
 
1 Corinthians 1:3
 
 
“I always thank God for you because of His grace given you in Christ Jesus.  For in Him you have been enriched in every wayin all your speaking and in all your knowledge–because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you.  Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.  He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” 1 Corinthians 1:4-9
 
– You have been enriched in every way.
– You do not lack any spiritual gift.
– Jesus will keep you strong until the end.
– God is faithful.
 

Valentine’s Day Revolution

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in distress.

James 1:27

 
  

Let’s start a Valentine’s Day Revolution!

On Valentine’s Day, it is natural to focus our attention on those we love.  However, I would like to challenge us to be just as aware of those who desperately need love.  It is easier to ignore the pain that Valentine’s Day invokes for some people than to enter into the distress of the heartbroken, isolated, and lonely.  Let’s deliberately and intently search for people that we can show God’s gracious compassion and unrelenting love.  Let’s look for practical ways to demonstrate this love and “look after” those living with a relationship void. 

Please share this idea with your friends: Remember orphans, widows, and the heartbroken on Valentine’s Day.

 

If you are in emotional pain, please know that there is hope.  God is “closer to you than the blood in your veins.”  Many encouraging words can be found on my Dad’s blog, Your Story Matters.