The First Fantastic Four

followers

“Then He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’” Matthew 4:21

Long before Stan Lee, the comic book craze, and the Big Screen, Jesus called four fishermen. Two sets of brothers to be exact. They weren’t kings, presidents, politicians, attorneys, or priest. They were ordinary men who made their living breaking their backs, as they cleaned their nets.

Peter, his brother Andrew, James whose father was Zebedee and his brother John, were casting those nets into the Sea of Galilee. Jesus found them and gave His one-line elevator pitch: “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Matthew singled out the four, and we don’t know why.

Maybe, just maybe, there is a reason. Jesus began His ministry at Galilee, these men were the first four called, and they lived in Galilee, but is there more to it than that?

I think there is. Let me suggest two thoughts:

  1. The CALL of the one line pitch is to Follow Him. That’s universal. From Salvation through Sanctification WE are called to follow. We are NOT leaders we are followers. Somewhere we have mistranslated the call.

Today much more emphasis is placed on leaders than followers. We want followers on Twitter. We want friends on Facebook. But that shouldn’t mean the at we are leaders because we have followers. We are all called to be followers with Jesus as our leader.

  1. Be Fishers of Men. This phrase meant something to them because they were fishermen. They got it. Jesus didn’t use this phrase for Matthew the Tax Collector. It simply means you will help gather more followers (fish) for Me.

This has to with evangelism, but it also means to make disciples. Not every Christian is a great soul winner. However, as Christians use their gifts, soul-winning and discipleship are accomplished through the local church.

These first fantastic four and the rest of the twelve are listed in Matthew 10:2-4. They were commissioned and sent out. They didn’t possess special power before they were called, but they received special power from the One who called them.

Every Christian has been given that power. Are you using it?

Keep Looking Up!

Pastor Rodney

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Pondering before Expressing: “Cross-Trained” before Cultured Trained

Jesus' death requires a personal response and there has to be depth beyond social media.

If you visit social media any time soon, you will be met with scenes of the cross, memes of Jesus’ death on that cross, Scripture verses, church sermons and more … I’m thankful for these times I can log on to social media to be met with posts filled up with Truth, aren’t you?

“He died.” This reality of Jesus’ death as a human being keeps playing in my mind. It is a thought I can not seem to pause so instead I continue to ponder. My pondering leads me down a road of personal experiences with death and how instinctive it is to grieve when death becomes the face of someone we love.

Though everyone grieves differently there seems to be some components of it we all share; the taunting and gut wrenching agony of losing the one we loved, the haunting darkness that encompasses that season of life, the knowing the trajectory of our life will never be what it once was. We grieve in this way because we loved them deeply. This type of grief naturally causes the grieving one to ponder up, in their hearts, the significance of that relationship.

Jesus was a human being, a person. We often talk on his love for us and our love for him. Have we pondered up, in our hearts, his death? “Jesus died on the cross to take away the sins of this world” is a truth painted all throughout the Gospels, but do we feel something about it? His death requires a personal response and there has to be depth beyond social media.

Our intimacy with our Savior has to be more than a Facebook status producing a number of “likes”. This man is the Savior and a relationship with him has to pierce our souls to produce everlasting fruit (John 15). It is like being handed a glass of water when you are parched. Instead of taking the water and gulping it down to quench your thirst, you instead walk around showing everyone you have a glass of water. All the while people are looking at you curious and confused, wondering why on earth you aren’t drinking it then!

Our souls are parched and the quenching happens when this grand narrative of Scripture makes a personal collide with our souls. How is this collide going to start kicking up some dust if we are not taking back our right to ponder things up in our hearts before we express them over social media? Furthermore, how do we even know what to express before we have pondered?

Christians dont worship the Bible by any means, but we believe there is tremendous power in it. We believe it is the revelation of God. We read the Bible because we need an encounter with God; we need to hear His words. These days we are always reading words-scrolling Twitter, reading emails, text messages, and the pretty Instagram quotes. We want quick inspiration. Reading Scripture, however, is slower, quieter work. It takes time, patience, and attention, but if were looking to nourish our souls, nothing can compete with it. (Melissa Moore, Entrusted Bible Study by Beth Moore)

If you don’t mind, I’d like to leave you with a charge. Pondering up Scripture is your right, privilege and responsibility as a Christian. You are entrusted with this right to ponder up Jesus’ death on the cross and I can’t help but ask, have you?

I’m going to borrow a term Beth Moore likes to use here  and that’s being “cross-trained”. As Christians, we have to be cross-trained every time we are culture trained. Culture is training us up to share our thoughts long before we have pondered them up, so what does “cross-training” look like for you this Easter season?

Ponder: to weigh in the mind :  appraise. pondered their chances of success, to think about :  reflect on pondered the events of the day, to think or consider especially quietly, soberly, and deeply

 

pondering with you,

Maria Bowersock

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You can read more from Maria at: www.awomannamedfree.com

Don’t You Remember?

remember

“And they remembered His words. Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.” (Luke 24:8-9)

Many years ago, a little village in Austria was about to be taken by Napoleon’s army. It was Easter morning. At dawn the custom was that all the church bells rang out all over the countryside, celebrating Jesus has risen.

When this happened, Napoleon thought the bells were ringing to celebrate the arrival of the Austrian army so he retreated. Napoleon was defeated because he didn’t know what THIS day meant. The small village won a victory without even fighting a battle.

Luke 24:1-12 tells us some of the ladies show up at the tomb. V.10 tells us who 3 of these ladies were by name and then adds simply some others. They went there in defeat. Their Lord and King was dead.

That’s how too many believers live today. Warren Wiersbe wrote, “Too many Christians are ‘betweeners’ they live between Egypt and Canaan, saved but never satisfied; or they live between Good Friday and Easter, believing in the Cross but not entering into the power and glory of the Resurrection.”

If we have already trusted Jesus we know how wonderful the Cross is, then this weekend means victory and power in our lives.

This tomb is empty. Death’s sting and sin’s curse has been mortified by the Master. The Savior sanctified Sunday as the day of worship when He walked out of the tomb. His Word rolled the stone away and set us all free.

You and I are no longer slaves of sin and Saturday. The resurrection relieved the prince of this world from his position of power. Jesus is NOT dead and neither are you.

Live like you never lived before. Take each day as THIS day. The same resurrection power lives in you. No more shortcuts, half-measures, or quick-fixes. You were made for so much more—Don’t You Remember?

Keep Looking Up!

Heaven is closer than you think.

May God bless HIS day.

Pastor Rodney

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The Grave: Life’s Final Fear

the grave

“So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.” Mark 15:46

Death. It comes no matter how we try to prevent it. We are all dying.

The grave is the final fear of us all. The unknown of what’s next has caused people to fear this final stage of life. Even Jesus faced it. Knowing in the garden the cup He would drink overwhelmed Him.

This day, more than any other, the Christian should think of death as the cruel curse Satan has played on all of us. Today, the father of lies has placed man’s greatest fear in “a tomb cut out of a rock” and “rolled a stone against the entrance.”

Sealed up. Never more to be opened. As if to say this thing called death is final.

But to understand death is to examine His death. As the disciples ran in fear they would be next, we look to what His death meant.

Jesus came to live the life we never could and to die the death we will never know. His death on the cross paid the debt of sin and caused the death of sin. We will not know what it means to die IN sin because His death was that price for us.

We don’t linger here because every born-again follower of Jesus Christ died IN Him that day. “And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him” (Romans 6:8). Saturday is here but Sunday will come.

Like every other fear, faith gets the last word. Matthew Henry said, “He whose head is in heaven need not fear to put his feet into the grave.” Our life and death are hidden in Jesus. This final fear will not best us because God gave His best for us.

This is not over!

Pastor Rodney

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From Noon Till Three

noon till three

“At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.” Mark 15:33

A simple sentence. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all mention this darkness that saturated the hill called Golgotha.

We preachers have tried to explain why it was there. One reason the light of the world was dying. Another reason because God couldn’t look at our sin that lay like a filthy slime on our sinless Savior.

From noon to three—it was those three hours that He thought of you and I. It was then that my sin and yours was so heavy on the skin of the Savior that maybe, just maybe, your name and mine crossed the mind of the Messiah.

This old song says it best: https://youtube/eXX1AiljoIE

Think of it. Jesus, the very Son of God, hung sin-soaked in the stench of our sin and He thought of us. He who knew no sin now knew ours. He saw the real us and decided to love us anyway.

Don’t decide you know what He did until you understand what we are. This world that we live in stinks to high heaven with the garbage pile of sin. It’s so filthy God couldn’t look at it, and the darkness hid the very face of God from His own Son.

But, Jesus not only paid for our sin He placed it on Himself. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross” (1 Peter 2:24). He took all our sin away. In the darkness, it wasn’t just forgiven like a debt paid off, it was forgotten like it never, EVER, happened.

By Himself, sin no longer reigned on Earth. The writer of Hebrews says, “When he had by himself purged our sins” (Hebrews 1:3). The word is like the levitical ritual of a cleansed leper who is now pure. It means that the STAIN of sin is washed clean AND the guilt of sin is GONE.

Think of it. In three hours, the Son of God made us clean and completely forgiven.

On this Good Friday, somewhere from noon till three, pick a time and think of Him. After all, you were on His mind.

Keep Looking Up!

Heaven is closer than you think.

May God bless your day.

Pastor Rodney

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Ridiculous

“And thank you God for all the ridiculous things you do!”

Years ago, when our oldest daughter was a preschooler, she said a prayer that continues to speak to me almost two decades later. She was going through the normal list of thank yous, Thank you for this, thank you for that, thank you for . . .

When she got to the end of her list she said something that caught our attention.

“And thank you God for all the ridiculous things you do!”

At first I thought this was a cute, funny misuse of an ununderstood word by a young child, but the more I thought about it, the more it began to dawn on me that I was the one who didn’t understand.

Meriam-Webster defines ridiculous this way:

arousing or deserving ridicule: extremely silly or unreasonable: absurd, preposterous, ludicrous.

When you look at scripture, it does seem to abound with absurdities:

Paul tells the Corinthians:

For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)

Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:21)

James says:

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.

Seriously?

And what about the words of Jesus:

If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it. (Luke 17:33)

When Jesus told Nicodemus he had to be “born again,” I believe Nicodemus found that to be a bit preposterous. Jesus also spoke of loving your enemies, blessing those who persecute you, but hating your father and mother. And what about the verses where he mentions gouging out eyes and cutting off hands if they cause you to sin. (John 3:1-21, Matthew 5, Luke 14:26)

Unreasonable. Ridiculous.

Jesus words often aroused ridicule among the crowd.

The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself. He said this to indicate how he was going to die.

The crowd responded, “We understood from Scripture that the Messiah would live forever. How can you say the Son of Man will die? Just who is this Son of Man, anyway?” John 12:31-34

How can you say the Son of Man will die? Just who is this Son of Man, anyway?

Jesus

The prince who became a pauper.

The mighty who became weak.

The served who became a servant.

The worshiped who became rejected.

The sinless who became sin.

The one who died so we can live.

It’s preposterous. Absurd. Silly.

Why should I gain from his reward?

I do not have an answer.

But this I know with all my heart.

His wounds have paid my ransom.*

It defies human wisdom. It’s Ludicrous. It’s Ridiculous.

And so we pray, Thank you, God, for all the ridiculous things you do!

Tami Lowman

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*How Deep The Father’s Love for Us (Stuart Townend)

 

Just One More

In order to be satisfied with Jesus I have to come to him, empty, humble, longing for His filling, aware that I can’t produce it. I have to be willing to wait. To be still.

New York is not a good place for someone who has a weakness for scarves. Beautiful, soft, warm scarves are everywhere. It’s easy for me to justify buying them because it is cold, therefore I NEED them.

I posted about this once on Facebook. One sweet friend commented that we were kindred spirits.  She had about 15 scarves.  I grimaced.  Fifteen.  That didn’t sound like many to me but she thought it was a lot.  Did I dare count?  I did.  I also had 15 . . . x3!

Now some of these are spring/summer scarves and some are fall/winter scarves. Some aren’t really in style now but I keep them because they might come back in style. I know for a fact this can happen because I have had one scarf since I was in college over thirty years ago and have just recently started wearing it again.  I believe it would be considered “vintage” now.  And I didn’t buy all of them.  Friends and family who are aware of this love have bought many of them. . .well several, at least and they come from all over the world.  One dear friend didn’t actually give me a scarf.  I stole it from her at one of those Dirty Santa parties.  Now you need to know, I don’t usually do that.  Normally if there is something I like I’ll just let the person who has it, keep it.  But not that scarf.  I took it.

We recently visited the Rockefeller Center to view the famous Christmas tree and ice skating rink.  The view from the top of that building is one of our favorites in the city.  At the height of his incredible personal wealth in the oil industry John D. Rockefeller was asked how much is enough?  He responded, “One more dollar.”

I’d love to be critical of that answer, but my natural tendency is to live by the same principle.  How many scarves are enough?  Apparently not 45 because when I was in NYC recently I kept getting distracted by all the vendors along the sidewalks with scarves and had to will myself to keep walking.  Just one more? And it’s not just scarves.  How many decorative pillows are enough?  Just one more.  How many peppermint Oreos are enough?  Just one more.  How many?  How much? Just one more?

A couple of months after we brought our youngest daughter and son home from Haiti we were walking into a store to look for some boots for our daughter.  Our son dramatically declared, “We’re buying boots for her and nothing for me?  I don’t have ANYTHING!”

I stopped in mid-stride, turned and looked at him.  I knew by the look on his face he knew he had said the wrong thing.  I reminded him that four months earlier when he lived in an orphanage in Haiti, he had nothing.  But now he had a lot of things.

It was also a good reminder for me that getting doesn’t necessarily satisfy our appetites, it often feeds them.

In Mike Wilkerson’s book Redemption, he talks about satisfaction.

Those who chased Jesus for more bread failed the test of manna, just as their forefathers in the wilderness did thousands of years earlier.  They still failed to see that Jesus himself is the bread of eternal life . . . We are often just like them, wanting Jesus only because we think he will satisfy some other desire we bring to him or that he will make us look like we lead satisfying lives, rather than wanting him to be our satisfaction.

Ouch.

Wilkerson also says this:

“Yet we cannot simply will ourselves to be satisfied in Jesus.  Just as it is impossible to put sin to death except by the Spirit, so it is impossible to see Jesus as the bread of life except by the Spirit.”

I managed to will myself to walk past those scarves, but I can’t will myself to be satisfied with Jesus. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just declare, “I will no longer find my satisfaction in ________.  From now on I will be completely satisfied with Jesus alone,” and make it so.  I wish it worked like that, but in order to be satisfied with Jesus I have to come to him, empty, humble, longing for His filling, aware that I can’t produce it.  I have to be willing to wait.  To be still.  Truth is, it’s easier to go buy a scarf, but in the end it won’t do.  Only Jesus truly satisfies. Psalm 63 says this:

O God, you are my God;
    I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
    my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
    where there is no water. . .
 Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
    how I praise you!
 I will praise you as long as I live,
    lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
    I will praise you with songs of joy.

I’m praying for myself, my family, my church and for you. . . For the Bride of Christ to find complete satisfaction in our Groom, who is Enough.

Tami Lowman

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The Gift

When Jesus arrives and knocks at the door of your heart, will He encounter a sign that says, “NO vacancy-there is no more room at the inn?” Or will He knock and be received with His room already prepared in advance for His arrival?

I entered into this Advent season, fully loaded, with a bullet proof plan of how we were going to embrace the “less is more” concept during the time leading up to Christmas and we were going to be armed and ready when facing the many temptations to get caught up in the excessive gift giving mode and the commercialization of the season.  There was no elf on our shelf, cookie exchange on our calendar or lots of festive obligations to keep us running in the fast lane like we have in past years.  We were going to center ourselves and our activities around the true reason for the season.

I was very convicted by the Holy Spirit this week on multiple accounts and at varying degrees.  It was like an all-consuming tidal wave washing over me at once.  Every emotion was evoked and every sense was engaged.  There was no denying that the Lord was trying to get my attention.  Everywhere I turned on social media, I was being bombarded with louder and louder knocks on the door of my heart.  Two words, in BIG, BOLD LETTERS might as well have been trailing behind the Good Year Blimp across the sky with my name written beside them… GRATITUDE and PRESENCE (not presents).

This past week I found out I was going to be the lucky recipient of a very expensive, ultra-luxurious gift that any woman would be elated to receive for Christmas (cue the sarcasm!) My posh “mom van” was getting an awesome Christmas upgrade…a brand new Torque Converter! I know, I know…please try to hold your excitement and don’t let the green monster of jealousy ruin our friendship.  I realize that many of you would love to get transmission work put under the Christmas tree or in your stocking but its only reserved for a select special few.  This “gift” was so unique, I had never even heard of it before and it must be something special because the exquisite price tag was big enough to take my breath away!

Let’s get real here for a second…in my mind, this was NO gift at all!

Or was it?

Without this repair, I could be driving down the interstate, with my kids in tow, and my car could conch out without warning.  Talk about a scary reality.  Without this repair, I would not have a vehicle to drive my kids to school and their activities, we would not be able to drive to get our groceries, attend Sunday worship or to meet a friend for coffee. Bam! Then the reality and conviction hit me like a line drive square between the eyes…BUT… “I have a car”.  Matter of fact, for our small family of 4, we have not one but TWO reliable vehicles! What began as a pity party crashed by a major inconvenience, evolved into an eye opening lesson on gratitude and presence.

How often do we chum up with negative Nelly Sue and use our Grinch filter to view our circumstances when unexpected, unwanted things come our way instead of taking the opportunity to seek the GIFT in the moment?  Now hear me, I still think a torque converter is a lousy thing to get for Christmas!  However, this repair gave me the gift of safety and peace of mind when shuttling my family from place to place.  This new car part gives me the flexibility, independence, and convenience of being able to freely go from place to place a whole lot faster than my own 2 feet could carry me.  Simply having my own vehicle to fix is a huge blessing but one that I take for granted each and every day! Owning a vehicle is a luxury. Yet, when it ceased to serve me well, it became coal in my stocking! How easy it is to lose our perspective and to hang our gratitude out to dry.

In the hustle and bustle of this time of year, it is so easy to get distracted and be abducted into the rat race of the holidays and the “grinchy” cynicism.  If we aren’t intentional and vigilant with our thoughts, our time and our heart’s desires, we may miss the true gift of Christmas altogether…

 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6, NIV).

As we prepare our hearts for the birth of our Savior, have you stopped and given any thought to what Jesus might want to receive for His birthday?  In this week’s sermon, our Pastor said it perfectly, yet simply, “it is what Jesus wants for you, not from you.” What is the status of your heart this Advent season? Is it overwhelmed, distracted and unsatisfied? Or, is it open, grateful and present?  I want to suggest that the best present we can give is the gift of our presence so that we will be in a position to receive the gift of His precious presence in our lives.

When Jesus arrives and knocks at the door of your heart, will He encounter a sign that says, “NO vacancy-there is no more room at the inn?” Or will He knock and be received with His room already prepared in advance for His arrival?

“Let every heart prepare Him room…”

LeRyiah Arant

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Advent

Advent is the fourth Sunday before Christmas. It is a time we prepare our hearts for the birth of Jesus.

Advent is the fourth Sunday before Christmas. It is a time we prepare our hearts for the birth of Jesus.

The different denominations have different traditions. In Western Christianity we use the color purple or blue for the different hangings around the church and the vestments or stoles that the clergy wear. The Lutherans chose purple, while the Methodists chose blue.

The different churches also choose different music that is payed or sung. Handel’s Messiah, the Magnificent and O Come, O Come, Emmanuel are just three of the familiar songs that are sung during this period. We all have our favorites depending on what we grew up with. Traditionally these are not Christmas carols, but songs telling of the coming of Jesus.

There are also traditions the churches follow. In England there used to be a tradition where dolls represented Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary. If you gave a halfpenny coin to the person taking the dolls by your home you were to have good luck. If you did not give a halfpenny the household would have bad luck.

In Normandy, the farmers had the children run through the fields to set fire to the bundles of straw, thus driving out the evil that could damage their crops.

In Rome, there would be bagpipe players that would play as they come to the manger at Bethlehem. This was to recognize the pipes that the shepherds would have played.

Now our churches use an advent calendar or candles. The calendars usually have a little door to open. There can be a Bible verse and possibly a small gift or piece of chocolate.

I pray you take time each day to reflect on the coming of the Christ Child. Please don’t let busy things that don’t really have meaning for your life get in the way of enjoying your family and friends. They want to spend quality time with you. Pick a favorite cookie or two and bake them together. None of us need to eat dozens of different kinds of cookies, cake and pies. Do things together that make memories not exhaustion.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!

Jann Martin

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Bits and Pieces

What morsels have I chosen instead of the Feast? My hungry soul tries to dine upon the crumbs of the world. But the world never satisfies and my soul-hunger turns into famine of the heart.

They were at the Feast.

Twelve men and one Savior. Bound together by bread and wine. A covenant. A last supper. The Last Passover that ever needed to be kept because finally, the Lamb of God was to be slain. It would be finished. And Judas sits satisfied with a bit of bread. It was Judas’ last supper too.

21 After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side, 24 so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the piece, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.

27 Then after he had taken the piece, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. 30 So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night. John 13:21-30

Crumbs and scraps.

Judas settles for a morsel from The Bread of Life, the Manna which comes down from heaven. Mincing and tasting the crumbs instead of consuming the Feast, eaten by faith in the One who saves us. We consume the bread and wine and He consumes our guilt and sin.

And Judas sells his soul to the lowest bidder.

Bits and crumbs in place of a feast.

Thirty pieces of silver in exchange for streets of gold. He seals the unholy deal and Judas settles for bits and pieces. Judas could have had a kingdom.

What have I settled for?

What morsels have I chosen instead of the Feast? My hungry soul tries to dine upon the crumbs of the world. But the world never satisfies and my soul-hunger turns into famine of the heart. My 30 pieces of silver rob me of the streets of gold. God’s hands remain full while my heart remains empty. Gifts given but not received.

Unopened. Unused. Unsatisfying bits and pieces.

Jesus came so we can have life and have it abundantly. But abundance requires sacrifice, receiving, waiting, enduring, abiding and praying.

This Thanksgiving season Jesus calls us to come, buy, eat and feast. Without money, without price. Taste and see that the Lord is good!

Leave your bits and pieces and come to the Feast.

How will you feast on the goodness of God this Thanksgiving? Leave me a comment on the Lift Up Your Day Facebook page. I’d love to chat with you!

Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

Mary Kane

Read more from Mary at: onlybyprayer.com