Running to Jesus

When people are needy for God they will go to great lengths to hear about Him.

As Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. Luke 5:1

By 1741 a hunger for real Christianity affected every strata of society. Nathan Cole, a Connecticut farmer, describes what happened when news came to his farm that George Whitefield would be speaking nearby.

“I brought my horse home and soon mounted and took my wife up and went as fast as I thought the horse could bear . . .We went along as if we were fleeing for our lives, all the while fearing we should be too late, for we had twelve miles to ride double in little more than an hour.

“And when we came within about half a mile, I heard a noise like a low rumbling thunder and found it was the noise of horses coming down the road. A cloud of dust arose into the air over the tops of the hills and trees. No one spoke a word but every one pressed forward in great haste. Three or four thousand people assembled. I turned and looked towards the great river and saw the ferry boats bringing loads of people; the land and banks over the river looked black with people.

“Mr. Whitefield come upon the scaffold clothed with authority from the Great God. Hearing him preach gave me a heart wound. . . I saw that my righteousness would not save me.”(24)

Prayer: Almighty God, fill us with a hunger that will cause us to forsake all other work and run to you.

George Whitfield

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The Grand Life of a Servant

Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. Isaiah 42:1

After two of her three children were murdered five years apart, Joan Sepp found making right choices was critical to maintaining her sanity. She tried joining a grief group, but found some had been attending for twenty years with no sign of progress.

Joan said: “I had to choose not to live just to remember my children. I chose not to be identified as a woman of tragedy. I chose not to fall apart although I know people would give me permission to do so. I chose not to live in grief but to squeeze every ounce of good out of my tragedies.”  

Joan made one choice that governed the rest of her life. She chose to serve Christ by serving others. She kept a constant watch for opportunities. As an artist, she donated her paintings to community fundraisers. As a grieving mother, she established a scholarship in her children’s names. She volunteered to drive seniors to doctor’s appointments. Most gratifying of all, she became a surrogate mother to several young women who had either lost their mothers or been abandoned by them.

Joan lived with an open heart, a servant’s heart. The Lord sent strangers to her, grieving parents. They phoned from far-away places just to talk to her because they knew she understood their pain. A quiet woman and a great listener, people gained strength from Joan. She was firm about one thing and she shared it with every person who sought her help: Serving is the road to mental and spiritual health. Self-pity is the road to ruin.

Human nature tells us to take all we can get. Jesus taught us to give all we can. Self-help gurus tell us to look inside ourselves for fulfilment. Jesus directs to something grander – becoming a servant to others. “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38).

Choice: the shallow life of self or the grand life of the servant. Jesus chose the latter. So did Joan Sepp and it made all the difference in her life and in her legacy. (Read more about Joan Sepp.

Prayer: Jesus, serving doesn’t come naturally to me but I want to follow your example in this.

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Don’t Forget to Sing and Dance

Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her with timbrels and dancing. Exodus 15:20

Miriam watched over Moses when their mother put him in a conspicuous place where the daughter of Pharaoh would be sure to find him. When the Egyptian princess discovered baby Moses Miriam carried out her mother’s instructions by telling her she knew a Hebrew woman who could nurse him until he was old enough to live in the palace. Thus Moses went home to his own mother.

Years later, Miriam was a supportive sister to both Moses and Aaron as they led the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land. A strong woman of God, she was the first of several prophetesses mentioned in scripture (Num. 12:2).

After God made a path through the Red Sea, Miriam led the women of Israel in the Song of Deliverance (Exodus 15). Their laughter filled the air.  They danced to express extreme joy. God had performed a miracle for them.  Singing, laughing and dancing was a fitting way to express their elation.

Jesus has become our pathway to the Promised Land. We who were threatened with hell are now heaven-bound. When we think of how lost we were, how far from God we once were, and that now through the blood of Jesus Christ we are at home in God and He in us, shouldn’t we laugh? Shouldn’t we celebrate and dance? Miriam’s joyful song of deliverance is our song: “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously” (Exodus 15:21).

Let the redeemed of the Lord laugh and skip for joy.

David also laughed and danced (I Chron. 15:29). “We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, ‘What amazing things the Lord has done for them.’” (Psalm 126:2). What amazing things has the Lord done for you? Praise Him!

O praise the Lord! The earth is crammed with Heaven

O praise the Lord! Christian look around

For every bush you pass with fire is flaming

And every spot you tread is holy ground.

Anne Ortlund

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I sing and dance with joy today because my sins are gone, erased forever.

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The List

If I wanted to – and I try hard not to – I could make a list at least as long as my arm of times when I have messed up. By that I mean, I have said the wrong thing, not said anything when I should have said something, ignored a need when I should have intervened, put my foot in my mouth by making a stupid statement, or put myself first when I should have put my children, or someone else, first. This list doesn’t cover intentional wrongs – that’s another list – this one covers unintentional wrongs where there was no malicious intent. These are faux pas, things that when recalled cause embarrassment or regret.

You may have a list too. I would be surprised if you didn’t, and even more dismayed at my own faux pas. I suspect that every person with a conscience has a list. The problem with the list is it gets in the way of everyday living. It steals joy from the present and peace from the soul. It prods and digs the delicate places of the mind and leaves wounds.

What to do? Take Paul’s advice.

Forget what is behind . . .press toward the goal” (Phil. 3:13,14).

If Paul, a Pharisee (hypocrite) and persecutor of Christians can accept Christ’s forgiveness and move on, so can I. If Peter who betrayed Christ at the cross can move on, so can I. If James and John the Sons of Thunder who blundered big-time when they urged Jesus to slay His enemies with lightning can move on, so can I. The road to Heaven is populated with people who have slipped up, made decisions they regretted, yet they moved on. If they can, so can I.

If Jesus has forgiven me, can I not forgive myself? The reason Satan keeps reminding us of our failures is to keep us from moving on. We must never become useful. Never tell others about Jesus. After all, Satan reminds us, we’re not perfect and one must be perfect to tell others about the Savior. The problem is we never attain perfection.

We have all done foolish things. Regrettable things. Some are sins now forgiven by Jesus. Some are simply stupid actions, times when we embarrassed ourselves, times when we stuck our noses into someone else’s business and received a rebuke, times when we made an unintentional rude comment. It’s strange, but often it is easier to accept forgiveness for wicked acts than it is to accept forgiveness for unintentional blunders.

I must turn over my list to God and forgive myself. And so must you. If we don’t, our mistakes will paralyze us and keep us from doing the things God has prepared for us to do right now and in the future.

God will enable us, if we ask Him, to forget the things on our list. Will He erase the memory of them? No. He will help us not to obsess about the list. He will take the “sting” out of painful memories and keep them from invading our everyday living.

Ask Him. He did it for me and countless others. He will do it for you.

Father, I bring every painful memory to You. Heal me. And set me free from the sting of the items on my list. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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The Best Christmas Gifts Come in Small Packages

The Old Mill, Caledonia, Ontario

On the last Thursday of November, the whole town (it seemed like everyone in town showed up) gathered to open the Christmas season. We filed out of our homes, down the streets and along the Grand River to the Old Mill. Choirs sang, Winners of a colouring contest were announced. The town mascot led in a countdown – 10, 9, 8 – no sooner had we shouted 1 than a magical light show began. Set to music, lights ran up, down and around the Old Mill. Snow drops lit cedars nearby and running lights outlined a tiny island in the center of the river.

Afterwards my husband and I, with our daughter, her husband and their two children, tramped across the bridge and through the quaint assortment of downtown stores for hot chocolate, apple cider and shortbread. My four-year-old grandson’s eyes lit up when he saw rows of Santa cookies in the window of Jones’s Bakery, a 100 year plus establishment.

A foolish question but I asked it anyway – “Is there something in the window you’d like?”

“Gramma, can I have a Santa cookie?”

We opened the ancient door of the bakery and took our places at the end of a line that wound through the store aisles and ended at the counter. By the time that Santa cookie made it back to the sidewalk it already had several little bites missing.

I love Christmas but the pressure to buy, buy, buy has stolen some of my joy. I long for simpler ways to celebrate. I experienced one of those simple joys at our town’s official opening of Christmas. I saw a little boy grin with delight while he ate a forty-cent cookie.

I plan to buy my grandson more than this forty-cent cookie for Christmas but I doubt he, or I, will have any more pleasure in it than we did tonight at Jones’s Bakery.

Piglet: The best things come in small packages don’t they Pooh?

Pooh: Yes Piglet, very often they do.

The best Christmas gift was a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and laid in a manger in Bethlehem.

(this was written in 2010)

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Is There a Message in the Alignment of Jupiter and Saturn?

On December 21, 2020 Saturn and Jupiter will almost align creating the appearance of one super-bright star. Some are calling it the Bethlehem Star. Since this rare event occurs only once every 800 years, is there a mystery? Is there a message?

Planets Will Align Causing Rare 'Christmas Star' to Appear in the Sky This DecemberWe know from Johanne Kepler, a seventeenth century mathematician and astronomer, that in the year preceding Christ’s birth, Saturn and Jupiter aligned in the House of the Messiah (Pisces) three times. Since this phenomenon usually occurs only once every 800 years, it alerted star-gazers.

Among the star-gazers were the Magi. They knew, most likely from teachings passed down from Daniel, that a Messiah, a King, would be born to the Jews. When they arrived in Jerusalem, the Magi asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:2) 

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows and proclaims His handiwork. Day after day pours forth speech, and night after night shows forth knowledge. There is no speech nor spoken word from the stars; their voice is not heard. Yet their voice in evidence goes out through all the earth. . .” Psalm 91:1-4 (AMP)

It wasn’t the conjunction of the planets that drew them to Bethlehem. This phenomena caused them to look to the sky for further revelation. And when they did, they saw a new star. Ignatius, first century Bishop of the church at Antioch wrote: “At the appearance of the Lord a star shone forth brighter than all the others.”

This new star arose in Coma, a small constellation that presents the outline of a male child on his mother’s lap. A prophecy, traditionally attributed to Daniel, foretold that a new star would appear in Coma when the One it represented was born. Shakespeare referred to Coma in the play, Titus Andronicus, when he wrote of “shooting an arrow up to the good boy in Virgo’s lap.” In earlier days, people were more knowledgeable of the stars. They depended on them for navigation. Their view of the sky was clearer.

The new star led the Magi to the exact house where Jesus lived with his parents. Their search for the king of the Jews ended when their silk robes brushed the dust as they knelt at the toddler Messiah’s feet. When God warned them in a dream not to report back to Herod, these wise men slipped away by another route, choosing to obey God rather than a Roman ruler.

Is the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter speaking to us in 2020?

Jesus said that before His return there would be, “signs in the sun, moon and stars” (Luke 21:2).  Is this rare conjunction of planets a sign to us? 

Considering other spectacular happenings in the world in 2020 – the global pause due to a virus, multiple peace treaties with Israel – is it possible that God is speaking to us? He is always speaking, but sometimes His voice increases in volume, as it did before the birth of Jesus. Is this one of those moments? Is the volume turned up?

“We have seen His star and have come to worship Him,” said the Magi. 

God’s message to them; God’s message to us is this: worship my Son. 

For more information on this subject, read, The Heavens Declare, by William D. Banks. 

***

Rose McCormick Brandon’s books are available here.

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Jesus, our Shepherd

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. John 10:7 (NIV)

In ancient Israel shepherds constructed enclosures for their sheep, usually of rocks gathered and piled to a modest height. When in need of an immediate fold, the shepherd might gather thorns and fallen branches and arrange them into a four-sided pen. Always, the shepherd left an opening for the sheep to enter and exit.
At nightfall, the shepherd stretched his tired body across the opening. If one of his sheep tried to escape, or a thief or animal tried to enter, they’d have to walk over the shepherd’s body. The movement would alert him to danger, he would awake and protect his sheep. It was literally over his dead body that harm would come them.


“The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Jesus laid down his life to fill the gap between man and God. We need a gap-filler because “we, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

The familiar image of Christ as Shepherd appears in paintings, poems and hymns. It reminds us that we have a Savior who laid down His life for us.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for filling the gap and laying down your life for me.

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God’s Precious Promise is for You

Take this precious promise from Jesus and press it into your heart.

Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. John 14:1-3 NLT

Great confusion awaited the disciples. They were soon to encounter the chaos of the cross. They wouldn’t understand it. They expected Jesus to set up His kingdom. They expected to rule with Him in a world dominated by His peace. They couldn’t see the vast river of time separating the cross and resurrection from the Kingdom of God.

                They, and we, are still waiting.

                Jesus’ message for His disciples is also for us – “Don’t let your heart be troubled.” Sin and madness appear to rule. Unplanned events blow up our agendas. Anarchy shrieks. Lawlessness threatens. Take a deep breath and remember His promise – “I am going to prepare a place for you.”

                Scoffers deride Jesus’ message. They heap scorn on us who wait for His coming. Don’t be discouraged by their mockery. Jesus always keeps His promises. When the time is right. When our home in Heaven is ready. When the last soul kneels at the cross. When the Almighty gathers all the threads of history and ties them together. Then He will come. Then He will release us from gravity. And take us home.

Home. How the heart warms at the thought of home. A sanctuary. A place of relaxation. We can go shoeless, shirtless, pyjama-clad, hair undone, and feel no guilt. Because we’re home. A much greater life than one of security and ease awaits us in our true and eternal home.

We haven’t identified it as a longing for God’s house, but it’s been there, always, niggling at the soul, a nameless pining. A yearning for His voice to call our names. And take us HOME.

When the drapes are opened to let in today’s light, ask, “Is it today, Jesus, that everything will be ready?”

Perhaps not today. Maybe not tomorrow either. But some day, oh my, the curtain between heaven and earth will rend. A blast of heavenly light will release all Jesus’ followers from the dust and carry us all – HOME.

Prayer: Today, my Lord, let me ponder the heavenly home you’re preparing for me. It’s beyond my imagination. Still, I can dream of it as I wait for You.

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The World’s in a Mess But . . .

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Are we living in the last days? That’s a question that comes up every time there’s a major disturbance in the world. It could be a political clash, a natural disaster, a financial meltdown, anything that causes chaos. These events … Continue reading

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The Fingerprint of God

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One of the ways God reveals himself to us is through His creation – everything we see around us in the natural world, including our own bodies. “By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people … Continue reading

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