Friday, January 5
Then Paul stood in the middle of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that you are extremely religious in every respect.” (Acts 17:22, HCSB)
Mars Hill Moments
It may be when a co-worker sighs about balancing work and family. It may be when a classmate realizes the professor doesn’t have all the answers. It may be when a new family moves into the neighborhood. What is it? It’s a “Mars Hill moment” when you realize someone has just opened to some aspect of the gospel. What is a Mars Hill moment? In Athens, Paul saw an inscription, “To an Unknown God,” and seized it as a moment to tell the Greeks about the gospel of Jesus Christ. He found a connection between their world and God’s kingdom.
Like Paul, we can have a Mars Hill moment when we see a connection between someone’s world and the gospel. How can we prepare ourselves for those Mars Hill moments? Try these steps:
• Practice the spiritual disciplines. Prayer, Bible study, fellowship, and worship are the foundation for preparation.
• Cultivate spiritual inputs. Words and images bombard us daily, but we can choose much of what we take in. Let’s make those choices count.
• Earn the right to be heard. Character and competence are the coin of the realm, so let’s rise above the lowest common denominator in our families, at work, and around the neighborhood and be known for excellence in who we are and what we do.
How will Mars Hill moments turn out? Not everyone there accepted the good news. Likewise, we may not see someone become a Christian. On the other hand, God may use us to bring that person home. In all situations, remember God is delighting in our obedience, not our success.
– Leroy Hurt
Thursday, January 4
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”. . . And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:14, 16, NIV)
I pressed the blinking message button on the answering machine and smiled when I heard the caller’s familiar voice. “Li- e-sa, this is Bessie.” I smiled because Ms. Bessie Hamner is the only one who stretched my name to three syllables, making me feel extra special. She was calling to remind me of an upcoming Cradle Roll meeting. As she talked, I could feel enthusiasm for this ministry radiating through the phone line.
It was not uncommon to find Ms. Bessie calling prospective Cradle Roll parents, making gift bags for new parents, or cutting out white blooms for her signature flowering dogwood tree bulletin board. Each bloom held the name of new parents-to-be and their expected due date. Ms. Bessie was ecstatic when the dogwood was in full bloom. “Let me tell you, I love my babies!” she would exclaim each time a new name would go up or a new baby was brought to the church nursery.
I often wondered, while watching parents place their baby in Ms. Bessie’s arms, if they had any idea how many times she had prayed for them and their child. Through the years she welcomed, loved, and rocked many babies. I know each little one she cradled in her arms felt love wrapping their tiny body. Cradle Roll was Ms. Bessie’s ministry for the Lord, and I know he had to be pleased.
I miss Ms. Bessie’s earthly presence, but I can’t help picturing her in heaven, sitting under a white flowering dogwood tree rocking some babies, because, let me tell you, the Lord knows she loves her babies! – Lisa Ford
Wednesday, January 3
“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for man.” (Colossians 3:23, NASB)
Living My Life Today
Many years ago, while attending a Promise Keepers convention, I met a remarkable young man, and we talked all day about our families, careers, football, and the different ways we could serve the Lord. Then he asked me the silliest question. “Lake,” (that is what he called me), “do you think that when we are doing jobs like cutting our grass, we are serving the Lord?” He said he had asked the Lord that question the other day after reading from Colossians 3:23.
I had to pause before answering the question, but he could not wait to tell me. He said, “Everything we do should be for the Lord. Also, don’t forget, we should do all of our work heartily. Yes, even mundane chores like cutting the grass.”
As we discussed that Scripture, we started looking back over our lives and how we lived each day and the priorities we had in our work. It did not take long until both of us agreed that we spent a lot of time serving man and ourselves rather than God, and that our lives would be so much richer if we were trying more to please God.
Wow, what a difference that one verse of Scripture can make in our lives. I meditate on that verse all the time to make sure I am working for God in my daily walk. As with reading other Scripture in God’s Word, we can live more Christ-like lives as we live our lives each day. What about you? Who are you going to work for today, God or man? – Jerry Lake
Tuesday, January 2
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1, NIV)
Genesis 1:1 is a simple verse, yet it contains a lifetime of Christian theology. If the first five
words of Genesis 1:1 are true, the rest of the Bible makes sense. If they are not true, what does it matter anyway?
“In the beginning. . .” With these three words God communicates two astounding principles. First, he established the beginning of time. God was before time. If there was a beginning, there most certainly will be an end to life as we now know it.
Second, and most importantly, he introduces us to his Son. God’s plan from the very beginning was for mankind to meet and believe in his Son. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” In Revelation 22:13 Jesus said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” At these first three words, God drove an eternal spike, tied the scarlet cord of his grace and the love of Jesus, and wove it continuously all the way to Revelation 22:21.
With words four and five God tells us who is in charge. “God created.” I don’t know about you, but I need for God to be in charge. Oh, I get full of myself on occasion and begin to think I have all of this figured out, that I can make it just fine on my own. That usually comes right before I fall flat on my face. I am so grateful that God has always picked me up, dusted me off, and given me one more chance! For this I am eternally grateful! We are on God’s time, and God is in control. – Joe Kines
Monday, January 1
“. . . the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16b, NIV)
Passion for Prayer
In our sanctuary is a stained-glass window that memorializes a man who was a member of First Baptist Church Tuscaloosa in the 1800s. His name was Deacon Richards. The script on the window simply reads, “To Deacon Richards and others like him . . . behold he prayeth.” In the center of the window is a picture of a lantern. It’s that lantern that tells the story.
Deacon Richards lived on the north side of the Black Warrior River, and there were times during floods or heavy rainfall that it was impossible to forge or ferry across the river. However, because Deacon Richards had such a passion for prayer, when he could not cross the river to be present for prayer meeting on Wednesday night, he would carry a lantern and a prayer list to the north bank of the river where he, “and others like him,” would pour their hearts out to God in prayer while other members of the church prayed on the south side of the river inside the church.
First Baptist Church Tuscaloosa was founded and built by people who had a passion for prayer. They believed with all of their hearts that, as Jesus himself said, God’s house should be a house of prayer (Matthew 21:13; Luke 19:46). Deacon Richards – and others like him– stand as incredible examples of people who were so passionate about prayer that not even a flooded river could keep them from gathering to pray.
Pray and thank God for Deacon Richards – and others like him – who, through the years of our church’s existence, have exemplified a passion for prayer. Pray and ask God to give our church a greater passion for prayer! Pray and ask God to give you a greater passion for prayer! – Gil McKee