St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church

Service Times: Sunday School: 8am Breakfast: 9am Morning Service: 9:30am "In for Preparation...Out for Demonstration." Allen G. Madison II ~Senior Pastor Louis Berry Sr. ~Assistant to Pastor

Heaven is in Our Hearts
From the Beginning

I often read Ecclesiastes because I enjoy its philosophy. I found this passage interesting because of the line in it that states that God has “set eternity in their hearts.” It reminds me of a saying of St. Augustine, “The heart is restless until it rests in Thee.” There is something within us that knows that there is something more; something we keep striving for, something beyond our reach. People try to satisfy this yearning with all sorts of different things. Some turn to shopping, or trying different relationships that don’t seem to satisfy. Some use sex, others alcohol or drugs. Others use food, thinking that it will fill the void. But until we find God, we still have that empty feeling within us. The interesting thing is that once we have God in our lives, and trust in his love for us, we stop trying to fill up that empty spot in our hearts. We are then free to engage in healthy relationships with people who value the same things we do. We can recognize habits that cause us pain rather than joy, and can give them up. God placed eternity in our hearts so that we would search for him until we found him. Once we find him, everything falls into place in our lives. It’s not that we won’t have problems or suffer, but it does mean that we’re not alone. Whatever life brings us, we can get through it because this eternity within us gives us confidence in his promise of eternal life.

Gracious God, you love your children so much that you put this longing for you deep within our hearts. Thank you for giving us the gift of your presence and the promise of eternal life with you. Amen.

Night prayer
James 1:22
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

We aren’t just supposed to listen to or hear God’s Word; it doesn’t end there. We are to apply the word of God in our lives as well. The more we learn about God and His character, we are to apply what we have learned in our lives. God doesn’t expect us to just be hearers of the word, remaining idle in our ways. The Christian life is about being active. We must be conscious of the transformation occurring in us, and when we are required to do our part, we shouldn’t hesitate in doing it.
Dear God, I pray that as I study and listen to your Word, may I never become idle with it. I desire to be one who expresses the nature of Christ in their lives day in and day out. May I never become lazy about the word of God, and may I never be known as a simple hearer. I commit myself to making an active effort in my Christian walk. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Night prayer
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
Romans 1:16

We should wear our faith in Christ on our chests for the world to see. We have no reason to be ashamed of the fact that we have decided to follow Jesus. As Christians, we have realized that there is no other way than the way of Christ. There is no other name more powerful than the name of Jesus. The gospel of Christ comes full of power because it testifies to the victory of Jesus Christ that He won for all mankind.

Dear God, I can state, boldly, that I am fully convicted by Your word and I am totally proud of being identified as a Christian. I am not ashamed of the world knowing that I follow You wholeheartedly. To the world, it may be foolishness, but I know that this is the only life to live. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Being Generous is it's own reward
Have you ever started a garden? When I was a child, we had a garden in our back yard. Although I sometimes thought we had more zucchini than we needed, my father always made sure he planted enough seeds so that enough would take root and grow in case some didn’t survive or got eaten by the birds. If we only sow a few seeds, we might not get the result we hope for – as I have found out from my own mistake trying to grow herbs. In this passage, Paul was talking about their generosity to support other Christian communities that were in need. However, as important it was and is important for all of us to support missionary activities both at home and in countries where there are missionaries at work, we should also consider this in light of the parable of the sower. The more we spread the seeds of faith to those around us, the greater will be the harvest of believers. It is not just the role of the missionaries to spread the Good News, it is the job of all the baptized. Money is important, that’s true, if those who are sent into mission fields will have the resources necessary to help, as those fields are generally in impoverished areas often without clean water, enough food or medical equipment. Jesus knew that we have a responsibility to the body as well as to the soul, and that it is difficult for someone to listen when they are hungry or homeless. Paul is asking everyone to give according to one’s means and to sow the seeds of faith bountifully.

Loving God, you endow us with faith and ask us to be generous in sharing it. You give us what we need and ask us to share as we are able. May you also give us a spirit of generosity so that we can share the Good News, and to provide the means necessary for others to hear it. Amen.

Are we willing to accept God's Rebuke?

In this follow-up to yesterday’s reading, God sent Elijah to Ahab to tell him the punishment he would suffer because of his sins. When Ahab heard this, he “humbled” himself before God and God took back his punishment. It’s not clear in the readings if Ahab was aware of Jezebel’s maneuvering to kill Naboth, but he was guilty of all of the other sins of disobedience and rejection of the Law. There are a few lessons here for us. The first is that God knows when we sin. There is nowhere we can go, and no place where we can hide from God. He knows when we sin and he knows when we do the right thing. The second is sins are punished. Usually the sin carries its own punishment. The liar and the thief cannot be trusted! Violence brings on violence, and it usually escalates. The third thing we see, is that God respects the one who confesses his sin, repents and does penance. We can’t be sure if Ahab repented and did penance because he was actually sorry or if he was afraid of the punishment God proclaimed. The same can be true of us. Do we repent because we fear the punishment we deserve, or because we are truly sorry for our actions? It is our responsibility to examine our hearts when answering this question. Children, we know, don’t like to get caught because they don’t want to be punished, but as we age, we should avoid sins because it’s the right thing to do and not because we might suffer for them. We can be like Ahab, or we can follow the commandments and not put ourselves in Ahab’s position.

Loving God, you wish all your children to be happy and that means doing the right thing. You have given us the commandments and Jesus’ law of love to guide us. May we try to always do what is right, but we know that when we fail, you are there to forgive us. Amen.

Night prayer
For the body is not one member, but many. 1st Corinthians 12:14

All believers do not have the exact same spiritual gift(s) from God. None of us have arrived at perfection, and God uses each of us in different ways to help each other grow in grace. We should not despise any member of Christ's body based on their having a different gift that what we have been blessed with.
Help me to appreciate and benefit from the gifts you have given to others, Lord. May I not think my gift is more important then everyone else's but give thanks to you for the great diversity of gifts you have so graciously bestowed!

Just because it's wrong, doesn't make it right.
This is an interesting story from the first Book of Kings, and will continue tomorrow. Ahab is the king of Israel and he wants a neighboring vineyard that the owner doesn’t want to sell. He goes home and tells his wife, Jezebel, that he is too sad and angry to even eat. She devises a plan to get Naboth killed, and this passage is the result. Do you ever wonder why passages such as these are included in Scripture? I know I do. Are they included as warnings, or are they there to let us know that history of Israel was not without its scandalous behavior? We are aware that Jezebel was a wicked woman. She plotted the death of Elijah – even though she didn’t succeed – but she was successful in getting Naboth killed. She got people to lie about him, claiming that he had cursed God and the king, and they stoned him to death as punishment for his crime. There were other kings and queens of Israel who sinned and led others to sin. And there were good kings and queens as well. But we need to remember that we can be seduced by leaders who make us believe that what we are doing is the right thing. This happened in Germany during the Holocaust; it has happened in Northern Ireland, in the Middle East, in South America. It can happen anywhere! We need to be watchful and not be led astray just because someone is in a position of authority.

Lord, you sent Israel good kings as well as bad; but you had given your people the Scriptures to guide them so that they would be able to know the difference. You have given your Word to us as well so that we would not fall for lies that would lead us astray. Amen.

Night prayer
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

How can we know and obey the will of God for our lives? It will not happen if we are conformed to the ways of this world. But we must be transformed within, that that change may have its visible outward effects. And that transformation is by what? by the renewing of our minds, through conformity to the Word of God.

May I not be conformed to the pattern of this sinful world, Lord, but instead seek to be conformed to the patterns and teachings and commands found in your holy Word. Transform me through your Spirit, I pray, by renewing my mind unto godliness.

Happy Birthday Pam Williams!!!

Together, we form the Living Body of Christ

We are the body of Christ. There is a quotation from St. Teresa of Avila that states: “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” In recent years, the singer Jewel recorded a song called “Hands” which has the same meaning, and even goes further as the song states that we all can do something to help even is our hands are ‘small.” Who will fight for justice for the poor and the vulnerable if not us? Who will show compassion for the weak if not us? Who will be Christ to the world, if not us? In the early days of the church, the Christian community would gather together to retell the story of Jesus, to read the letters sent to the community from Paul or one of the other disciples, and to offer a sacrifice of bread and wine as Jesus did at the Last Supper. In this passage, Paul is reminding the community that they are all a part of the body of Christ. The Corinthians were an interesting group and I would have loved to be a fly on the wall at some of their gatherings. This passage will be followed up in chapter 11, by a further passage on the institution of this institution of the Eucharist and then by the gifts given to the body of Christ in chapters 12, 13, and 14. Although not all Christian traditions interpret the Eucharist in the same way, or celebrate is as often as others, all denominations agree that we are a people of “thanksgiving” who have an obligation to be Christ’s body on earth, using our gifts for the betterment of the world. Today, let’s look at the gifts and opportunities we have been given and see how well we have been using them for the common good.

Loving God, you gave us the responsibility of carrying on your work here on earth. Please help us to know what you want us to do and the ability to do it. Amen.

Night prayer
Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. John 11:21

Martha knew Christ's power to keep alive and to heal even those on a death bed, but she did not yet know his power to give life to one already dead. Her faith was hard pressed by the death of her brother, but it was there and real. Jesus would strengthen her faith and grow it by a powerful display when he raised dead Lazarus by a simple command.

O God of resurrection power, you give life or take life as you please, for it is all in your power and authority to do so. There is no situation too bleak for you reverse it and turn it into a great display of your power and glory. Strengthen my faith, Lord, and let me not doubt you.

Don't jump to conclusions -
Check the Facts first!!!

The book of Proverbs gives us a lot to think about. The ones I have chosen today are some of them. The first reminds me of the saying, “Act in haste, repent at leisure.” We can be tempted to jump in and act without considering the consequences. True, if a person jumps into the water to save a life, he does so for good reason. If we hear a rumor about someone and can’t help passing it around without knowing if it is tree or not, can do incredible harm to a person’s reputation. I was watching television the other morning and the guest had written a book about people who jump to conclusions. As a young child she was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes and learned how to give herself insulin shots. She was in a restaurant and needed to give herself a shot and so went into the ladies’ room to do so. A woman came in as she was putting her kit away. Later, she passed the table where the woman was sitting and heard her say that she was a drug addict. She went over to the table and explained that she was not a drug addict but a diabetic. What would have happened if the people at the table had believed this woman? What happens to people wrongly accused when they are innocent? The other proverb that caught my eye was the one about currying favor from the wealthy. How do we choose our friends? Do we see how much they can do for us, or the quality of their lives? Is the home with the pool the one that is the most popular in the summer heat? Are the only ones invited to weddings or parties the ones who are able to give the most expensive gifts? Some things to think about today!

The wisdom of the Proverbs gives us so much to think about, Lord. Please give us the understanding we need to take advantage of this gift. Amen.

Night prayer
Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. 1st. Corinthians 1:11
Paul teaches in this chapter on the roles of women and men in the local church. He says that the woman is "of" the man since God made Eve from Adam's rib. But men are "of" women in that they are born of them. But all things are "of" God, the Creator. There is a difference of role between men and women in the Church, but they are equal as to salvation and value before God.
O Maker of mankind, who created us male and female, you have the right to decide the roles appropriate to each gender both in your Church and in the world generally. You have wisely designed men and women differently for different purposes, but all are your creations and serve to your glory. Let us seek guidance from your Word in these matters no less than in all matters.

Night prayer
This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. Psalms 34:6

The Lord draws close to the broken-hearted. God doesn’t delight in seeing His children being in pain. When He hears our cries, He rushes to our aid. He comforts us, He heals us, and He helps us get back on our feet. We can always find reassurance in God; He is always ready to give His love and His support. Always.
Dear God, I am so grateful that I can turn to You – in good time and in times where it feels like I cannot keep going. Lord, thank you for always hearing my cries. When I am faced with painful situations, I find comfort in knowing that You are always with me. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Where do we look for the Face of God?

Elijah knows that Jezebel is looking to kill him. God has been caring for him and he has been told to go to the cave because God will be passing by. God is not in the wind; he is not in the earthquake or the fire. But he recognized the voice of God in the still small voice. We talk all the time about recognizing God and God’s voice, but where are we looking? What do we expect? The people of Jesus time expected a fearless leader who would raise up an army and chase the Romans out of Jerusalem. What about us? Have you already started thinking about where God has been in your day? Today, I visited a friend in a nursing home in a city that I am totally unfamiliar with and lost my GPS signal at a very important time, but still made it. On the way home, I got lost again and spent a lot of time just figuring out where I was. By the time I was on the right road, I got a phone call telling me that I had forgotten to do something important, so I stopped and took care of it. Where was God? For me, he was in the getting me to my destination, as well as in my getting lost so that I would be where I needed to be. Because God was with me, my day worked out just fine. It could have been so different. It was an ordinary day in so many ways, but God was with me all the way. I didn’t meet God in wind, earthquake or fire, but he was in the still small voice telling me, “I am with you.”

Loving God, you are with us in the ordinary events of the day. I am grateful for your presence today, and I know that you will be there tomorrow as well. May I recognize your presence tomorrow as I did today. Amen.

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