Psalm 43:5

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

Cross found on all donkeys' backs?

Some donkeys (often called Christian donkeys) have a narrow strip of dark hair that runs down their backs and each of their shoulders. These markings are in the shape of a cross. Like the color traits of other animals (such as zebras), we don’t know exactly why these donkeys have this cross. But, it does show the wonderful variety among God’s creatures.

There is legend that the crosses on these donkeys appeared after Jesus rode one into Jerusalem (read Matthew 21:1-11). There is no evidence that this is true. The dark stripe in the form of a cross was a trait in these donkeys long before Jesus lived. However, the fact that Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem is very important. It fulfilled a prophecy that was spoken 500 years before Jesus lived, and showed He was the Messiah (read Matthew 21:5 and Zechariah 9:9).

Dear Prayer Partners

Please remember the following needs and requests in prayer:

1} President Obama and his advisors

2} the men & women serving in our armed forces and their families

3} Bobby- a missionary in Haiti who was flown back to the states with a broken back

4} Holly- recently gave birth to a son

5} Hailey- has Hodgkin’s lymphoma and is unable to work due to it

6} Margo- recovering from a stroke

7} Dan- has Leukemia & an inoperable brain tumor, the tumors in his stomach and lung have been removed successfully

8} Christine- recently gave birth by an emergency C-section and her new son is in critical condition

9} Living Waters A/G looking for a youth pastor with a vision to reach the youth

10} Dennis- having problems breathing

11} The Holm Family- death of a loved one from cancer

12} The DeRien Family- death of a loved one

13} The Fraley family- death of a loved one

14} Eugene- is battling cancer

15} Schimmica- husband is having an affair

16} Kevin- has some serious dental problems and is recovering from emergency oral surgery

17} Faith- is hospitalized after a heart attack and partial amputation of right foot, has a serious infection in heart, lungs and kidneys and is back on dialysis

18} Chantella- is expecting her 1st baby in the spring

19} Julianne- having difficulty with her pregnancy

20} Marc- family problems

21} Tom- problems with weight control

22} Achan- has HIV, an infection in her lungs and gall bladder is shutting down

23} Rick- has bulging disc in his back

24} Noah- a toddler having complications from heart surgery, has a very high fever

25} Frank- fighting depression

26} Gloria- hospitalized after passing out at work

27} Chaplain Sam- recovering from eye surgery

28} Chaplain Jay- preparing for a missionary trip to Uganda next year

29} For all the unspoken and personal requests that people have

30} For us at Highway Mission Outreach that we will continue have the doors opened to share the gospel and the needed finances to carry out the ministry of the mission and as we plant The Cross-Roads Chapel

31} For Michael Frankland, Gill Ainsworth, Mark Ainsworth, Tracy Ainsworth, Tony Wood, Eileen Walsh, and Elaine - break down strongholds in their lives

"Hold Us Together" - Matt Maher

Opening Our Hearts to God

Psa. 19:14 - May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable before You, O Jehovah, my rock and my Redeemer.

Acts 13:22-23 - And when He had deposed him, He raised up David for them as king, to whom also He testified and said, I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man according to My heart, who will do all My will. (23) From this man's seed, God, according to promise, brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus.

~~~~~ Words of Ministry ~~~~~

Both of the above passages are related to David. Psalm 19:14
is a prayer of David, while Acts 13:22-23 is a description of
David. In David's prayer, there are the “words of my mouth”
and the “meditation of my heart,” or the thoughts of the
heart. He prayed that he would not only be kept in his words
outwardly, but also be acceptable to God in his thoughts
inwardly. The words of the mouth are an expression of the
thoughts of the heart. The heart is the root problem.

Whether or not one outwardly says the right words is not the basic problem. Whether or not one has an outward attitude in his speaking that is right is also not the basic problem. The
thoughts of the heart are the basic problem. The thoughts of
the heart constitute the root problem and cannot be overlooked. David did not merely pray, “God, may the words of my mouth be acceptable before You.” He added to the prayer, “May the meditation of my heart be acceptable before You.”

David's prayer was for the thoughts of his heart to be
acceptable before God. This is why Paul could later testify
that David was a man according to the Lord's heart. A person
who is according to God's heart allows God to touch his heart. If you will not allow God to touch your heart, it will be hard for you to be one who is according to His heart.

Many Christians ask, “Why is it wrong for me to do this? Why
is it wrong for me to say this? Why is it wrong for me to
express myself this way?” Brothers and sisters, whether or
not you are doing the right thing, saying the right thing, or
expressing yourself the right way is not the real problem.

Rather, is your heart right when you are doing such a thing,
saying such a word, or expressing yourself in such a way?
What is the condition of your heart? What is the condition of
the root? Even if you are right in every outward thing, it is
still possible for your heart to be wrong. God is touching the condition of your heart and asking about it. He allows many winds and waves to beat upon His children for this very reason.

He uses these things to touch your heart and to expose the condition of your heart.

Why was God harsher in O.T.? - by John Piper

Thy Redeemer

By C.H. Spurgeon

"For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called" (Isaiah 54:5).

JESUS, the Redeemer, is altogether ours and ours for ever. All the offices of Christ are held on our behalf. He is king for us, priest for us, and prophet for us. Whenever we read a new title of the Redeemer, let us appropriate Him as ours under that name as much as under any other. The shepherd's staff, the father's rod, the captain's sword, the priest's mitre, the prince's sceptre, the prophet's mantle, all are ours.

Jesus hath no dignity which He will not employ for our exaltation, and no prerogative which He will not exercise for our defence. His fulness of Godhead is our unfailing, inexhaustible treasure-house. His manhood also, which he took upon him for us, is ours in all its perfection. To us our gracious Lord communicates the spotless virtue of a stainless character; to us he gives the meritorious efficacy of a devoted life; on us he bestows the reward procured by obedient submission and incessant service. He makes the unsullied garment of his life our covering beauty; the glittering virtues of his character our ornaments and jewels; and the superhuman meekness of his death our boast and glory. He bequeaths us his manger, from which to learn how God came down to man; and his Cross to teach us how man may go up to God. All His thoughts, emotions, actions, utterances, miracles, and intercessions, were for us.

He trod the road of sorrow on our behalf, and hath made over to us as his heavenly legacy the full results of all the labours of his life. He is now as much ours as heretofore; and he blushes not to acknowledge himself "our Lord Jesus Christ," though he is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords. Christ everywhere and every way is our Christ, for ever and ever most richly to enjoy. O my soul, by the power of the Holy Spirit, call him this morning, "thy Redeemer."

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FREE Book: “Desiring God” by John Piper

Prison Ministry:

On Monday evenings, I have the unique priveledge of visiting the Greenville Detention Center. Scripture, bible lessons, tracts, bibles, Daily Breads, bible studies, testimonies, and prayers are shared. Please keep these men in your continued prayers as we continue studying Paul's letter to the Romans: Jonathan, Lenita, David Anderson, Luke Elmore, Eric Hall, Leslie Mashburn, Keith Rollins, Billy, Jared Rhines, Quinton Brown, Jeremiah Hendrix, Chris Osbourne, Jermain Cheech, Quincy Massey, and Leo Clarence.

Thank you for your support and continued prayers for these new believers and this ministry!

In His vineyard,

We Shall Worship the Lord!

By John Piper

Do you delight more and more in the majesty and glory of God? Does your heart incline to worship God more consistently and intelligently and earnestly and intensely today than it did five years ago?

Is your love for your brothers and sisters in Christ abounding more and more so that you use your gifts more and more effectively to strengthen their faith and stir them up to love and good works?

And do you feel a greater burden for the lost? Are your prayers for unbelieving relatives and friends more consistent and earnest? Are your efforts to give a reason for the hope that is in you more bold, less ashamed? Are you becoming a world Christian with a zeal for the final mission thrust of the church to reach the hidden peoples?

If you can answer yes, we are making progress as a church. If not, we are failing in those areas. But at least we have goal and a definite Biblical theology behind it.

But it is not new. Listen to the way another pastor and teacher describes the meaning of membership in the church:

Membership, therefore, involves a personal obligation to promote the objects of the body as expressed in the covenant.

These objects are three:

1. The social, united worship of God...
2. The perpetuation and diffusion of the gospel...
3. The sanctification of its own members...

The church, thus comprehensive in its scope, looks upward to God, outward upon the needs of a lost world, and inward to the processes of sanctification in the souls of its own members; the neglect of any one of these grand objects of its organization imperils its whole design.

This is our philosophy of ministry. The quote is from Hezekiah Harvey, who was born in England in 1821 (The Church, 1879, reprint 1982, pp.35-36.). There is nothing modern or trendy about the priorities of our church. They have been around for two thousand years. They are tried and true, and it shouldn't bother us at all that they are not new.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Commercialism and Faith Pt 3: Rituals and Evangelical Voodoo

By Donald Miller

I want to focus for a moment on rituals and how both religious people and marketers play on the human need for ritual in order to bring security and comfort. In his breakthrough book Buyology, Martin Lindstrom talks about how marketers package their products within rituals, even going so far as to create rituals within which their products can be used. He notes there is no cultural tradition that would have us put a lime in a bottle of Corona, for instance, and how that ritual came about when a marketer placed a bet with a friend at a bar that he could make the masses put a lime in a bottle of beer. By introducing a ritual, Corona beat out Heineken the following year, and has beaten them every year since. And there are many rituals that marketers have invented. Whether it’s taking a family vacation, or cleansing your face before you go to bed or getting together for coffee, marketers have been creating rituals for years, selling their products within behaviors they’ve announced that help bring security and stability to our lives.

Of rituals, Lindstrom says this: “Rituals and superstitions are defined as not entirely rational actions and the belief that one can somehow manipulate the future by engaging in certain behaviors, in spite of the fact there’s no discernible casual relationship between that behavior and its outcome.”

As stresses in life increase, people turn to rituals and magical thinking. Lindstrom tells of the study done at Tel Aviv University in which 174 Israeli soldiers were questioned after being attacked by Iraqi Scud Missiles, each of them showing an increase in ritualistic behavior (only entering a room right-foot first and so on) connecting their behavior to good fortune.

But rituals don’t exist because of marketers. Rituals exist because of a need in the human spirit for magical beliefs that their repeated actions are tied to good luck, fortune and security. To find the most ritualistic of people, one need look no further than the religious community. Some denominations take communion every week, some believe that unless you are baptized you cannot go to heaven, and wars have been fought over how these rituals should be acted out. And so the rituals that advertisers sell us, whether it’s putting on makeup, using aftershave lotion, renting a tux for a wedding or being buried in a wooden coffin, are plays upon an innate human and even religious need. Some might even say consumer rituals have replaced religious rituals for many. Our culture would then, in effect, subscribe to a kind of consumer voodoo. This will no doubt offend many, but perhaps this is offensive because this revelation threatens the very rituals from which so many find their security?

One need look no further than Christmas to see how marketers have created rituals to sell products, and how those rituals have replaced religious rituals for a feeling of security and comfort, and even spirituality.

But are rituals bad? Not from a Biblical perspective. Christ asked us to remember Him through the breaking of bread and drinking of wine. This took place around a table not unlike a dinner table, but it was not to be partaken for reasons like hunger, and it’s safe to say the Biblical ritual initiated at the Lords table looks nothing like what we see in any church today. The informal, relational gathering of those who are to remember Christ has been turned into a ceremony that would not be recognized by those disciples who partook on that first night. Communion was a ritual designed to bring comfort through the remembrance of Christ, but the power was in the remembrance, not the ritual.

Christ also asked that we be baptized, though it is theologically debatable whether this was symbolism for the true baptism we have in the likeness with Him and association with His death. We are also asked to pray and to fast, both rituals. That said, from nearly any perspective, we would agree some religious cultures take ritual too far. (Who could argue that the handling of snakes by some churches is ritual taken too far?) And yet there is no power in ritual at all, save psychological power. Rituals do nothing magical for us. Perhaps it could be said the more insecure a persons faith, the more he might turn to religious ritual for security? But then if a person with a sincere faith connects with God through ritual, the same could be said of the devout. The truth is in the motives, I suspect, and in the understanding that the rituals themselves have no magical powers.

Attending church on Sunday morning is a ritual, having worship before a teaching is ritual, having a teaching is a ritual, attending Sunday School is a ritual, studying the Bible in the morning is a ritual and so forth and so forth. Most of these rituals have a very loose affiliation with a behavior in scripture, but to us they feel entirely sacred. Tell a southern evangelical you don’t attend church but a few Sundays a year, and their reaction will be as though you have tempted the god’s with a failure to sacrifice. We have come to have faith in ourselves, in our rituals, rather than having a relationship with a living God. We are practicers of evangelical voodoo.

What if the power is not in the ritual, but what the ritual points to? Just as a wedding is a ritual, it’s power is not in the ritual, but the decision to be committed one to the other, and the ritual is a tool in aiding that commitment. The wedding does not make us married, the marriage makes us married, the commitment, the agreement that God sees us now as one. The ceremony is simply symbolism. If a couple wanted to be legally married, they would simply sign a document in the presence of a legal witness and so forth. What if even the few rituals given to us in scripture were supposed to be reminders of a relationship, and that relationship were to be the power that redeems and guides us? And what if that relationship were being neglected because of the false, pacifying power of both religious and consumer rituals?

As said, however, rituals are not all bad. And God does give us some rituals in scripture.

On the benefit of rituals, Lindstrom says this:

“But are superstitions and rituals necessarily bad for us? Interestingly, some rituals have actually been shown to be beneficial to our mental and physical well-being. According to a study published in the Journal of Family Psychology “in families with predictable routines, children had fewer respiratory illnesses and better overall health, and they performed better in elementary school.” The article added that rituals have a greater effect on emotional health, and that in families with strong rituals adolescents reported a stronger sense of self, couples reported happier marriages and children had greater interaction with their grandparents.”