Fruitful Response to Tragedies

 

Prayer

As a seamstress since age 13, I have collected a variety of colored spools of thread through the years. Stored in boxes and cabinets, at times the threads get intertwined and end up in a complete mess of knots. My response is to patiently untwine the threads or cut off the knots and reorganize the spools.

Finding solutions to knotted and tangled threads is easy. Finding answers to knotted and tangled tragedies in our world seem insurmountable. The intertwining messes of deadly shootings, catastrophic storms, loss, and destruction need solutions. But the solutions are more than human sized. We watch from a distance or sit with those who are hurting and wonder “what can I do”?

In these tragic times, we as believers in Jesus know that only God Almighty has the solutions to the messes around us. He knows that we live in a broken world full of sin and evil. And His heart is broken over this evil.

 “The LORD observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil….It broke his heart.” Genesis 6:5-6 

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

God most often chooses to show his compassion for the hurting through the actions of His people. So what is our most fruitful response to those people who live far away or close by? The most fruitful response is to PRAY.

How is it that we often say? — “Well, all I can do is pray.”  Yet that is the best thing we can do. Our prayers have a deep effect on God working in this world and in people’s lives. Here is what God says about prayer:

“The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16

 “…the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him. “ Proverbs 15:8

 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer…”         1 Peter 3:12

Paul, who preached the good news of Jesus, urged believers to pray and intercede for others:

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”       Ephesians 6:18

What do we pray for those who are hurting and suffering through tragedies?

1. Pray that they will know God’s comfort and peace.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction,” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

2. Pray that those who don’t know God personally will come to trust His great love for them through Jesus.

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

3. Pray for God to give them wisdom and guidance in making daily decisions in their trials and sufferings.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5

4. Pray for other Christians around them to show compassion and mercy, serving them with kindness as they give to their physical needs.

“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” Colossians 3:12

Will you respond to the recent tragedies in our nation and communities by committing to pray 10 to 15 minutes daily for these individuals and their lives? Ask another friend to pray together with you in your home, on the phone, through a text. We need the hand of God to move in a mighty way in our nation and He hears our prayers as we ask Him to work. The fruitful response of our prayers can change our world because Almighty God, who is loving and compassionate, is all powerful. He can do anything as we trust in Him to answer our prayers.

“The greatest thing anyone can do for God and for man is to pray. You can do more than pray after you have prayed but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.”  S.D. Gordon

“God shapes the world by prayer. The more praying there is in the world the better the world will be, the mightier the forces against evil.”  E.M.Bounds

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WANTED: Courageous mothers

Growing up in the time of western movies and Zane Grey books, my mother spent hours with her brother at the movie theaters or in the living room reading – taking in the adventures of these westerners. Watching western TV shows as a child, I too was enthralled by the adventure and courage of the strong women and men ready to fight against evil and protect the good. They were firm in what they believed and basically, you just didn’t “mess with them”. Today we need Christian mothers who like these heroes, fight against evil, stand up for good and who are:  Firm, Faithful, and Good.

The mothers in my own family have shown me how to be firm, faithful, and good. My maternal great grandmother and her daughter, my grandmother, were loving, strong women, and firm in their stand for God and His Word. They were both active in mission groups and teaching Sunday school classes at church, faithfully teaching their own children to love and worship God, to do good and hate evil by their example. They prayed for their families knowing God would take care of them.

Their faithful lives influenced my own mother – another strong woman, firm in her faith in God, His Word, her Savior Jesus, prayer, and doing what is right. My sister and I were often amazed at her connection with God. She could find out anything without trying when we did wrong and instilled a deep respect for God in our lives, telling us – “I may be your mother but God is your Heavenly Father and you answer to Him.”  We also knew God’s love and forgiveness through her love for us and her love for others. Although she taught Middle School math all week, she would still give up her time on Sunday mornings to teach middle school girls in Sunday school classes. She never had time or wanted to join in the women’s gossip groups but spent her time teaching others, loving our father, encouraging her family and helping us succeed.

Today, more than ever, there is a need – a wanted poster in every community and city in our nation for courageous mothers who are Firm, Faithful and Good!

Christian mothers who love their children are firm, not spoiling them but teaching them to love God and His Word, love and respect others, and to stand up for good, speak out against evil. They do not let the culture around them or others turn them away from their faith in God and His Word even if it means ridicule or unpopularity. They are immoveable.

 “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Christian mothers who really love their children are faithful, taking care of their children emotionally, mentally, and physically. They are faithful to pray for their children and never give up praying. They know there is an evil enemy who wants to destroy their children and they stand as faithful guards praying for them daily.

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”     Colossians  4:2

“Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17

“Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.” Romans 12:12 

Christian mothers who love their children are good; they love good not evil. They train their children in what is good in the things they read or watch in various media, keeping evil influences away from their children that are around them in schools and neighborhoods. They show by example how to be good in taking care of the weak and giving to the poor.

Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is.” Amos 5:14

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” Hebrews 10:24

As we celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday, I encourage all Christian mothers and those who are like a mother to other children, to be firm, faithful, and good. Just like the western heroes, may you be an example of courage to your children – a mother who abides with Jesus who gets her strength from Him.

 

Daily Faithfulness Rewarded

Reminiscing about his many years of service to God, this past Sunday friends and family, past and present members all gathered to honor Pastor Ken Aune as he retired from 39 years of faithful ministry. My husband Lowe and I joined many who traveled to this Evangelical Free Church (EFCA) in Cary, NC which Ken started in 1994, to celebrate a life of faithfulness to God. A servant, who had run the race well and finished well, planting two churches in Nebraska and North Carolina, influencing hundreds of lives with the gospel of Jesus.

Ken joins a host of pastors, missionaries, and teachers who have given most of their lives to serve God in ministry without much recognition from the world. Like many, he preached thousands of sermons, visited the sick, married couples, baptized believers (including our daughter), shared the good news of Jesus and prayed for those who needed God in their lives. These are the faithful who continue to plant seeds for the gospel of Jesus trusting God daily for spiritual fruit.

You may know about the great servants of God – King David, Daniel, Peter and John, and Paul but have you heard of Epaphras, Tychicus, Onesimus, and Silas?  We may not know much about them but they too are listed as faithful servants of Christ:

“…Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ…” Colossians 1:7

“Tychicus…is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.” Colossians 4:7

“…Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you” Colossians 4:9

“With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother,” 1 Peter 5:12

Paul, an apostle of Jesus, desired faithfulness in his calling to preach the gospel. He said, “However, I consider my life nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me…” Acts 20:24  And after a faithful life of following Jesus, enduring hardships, beatings, imprisonments, hunger, sleepless nights, and hard work (2 Corinthians 6:3-11), Paul could finally say:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7

As followers of Jesus how can we be faithful to the course God gives us in a society that so easily quits? Where every day people walk away and say, “I just can’t do this anymore.”?  We need to lean on Jesus – abiding with him, trusting in his words that encourage us, asking for his power to produce the fruit of faithfulness in our lives.

Have you already quit or considered leaving what God has called you to do? Are you not seeing success as the world counts success?  Are you burned out and tired? God is your strength. He sees your faithfulness. His view of success is daily obedience and faithfulness to his calling no matter the results.

“To the faithful you show yourself faithful…” Psalm 18:25

“the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones.” Psalm 37:28

Has God given you a ministry to others in a church or on a mission field? Then be faithful to serve trusting God for the results.

Has God given you a family to provide for?  Then be faithful to work hard and trust God to provide.

Has God given you a husband or wife? Then be faithful to each other, serving each other.

Has God given you a season of being single? Then be faithful to be pure and holy in your singleness.

Has God given you children to teach and raise up to know him? Then be faithful to take care of them, teaching and training them to know God.

Has God given you the opportunity to be a student? Then be faithful to study, making wise use of your time.

Has God given you someone to serve – an aging parent, a handicapped child, or someone who is sick? Then be faithful to serve knowing you are serving Christ (Colossians 3:23)

As believers in Jesus, God calls us to be faithful and someday he will reward us for our faithfulness on earth. Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.” Revelations 22:12

Even though our friend, Ken, is finishing this part of the race by retiring from his church, I know he will continue to be faithful to God in whatever is next for him. May we daily abide with Jesus making it our only aim to “finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me.”

 

Is Your Spiritual Life Dormant?

 

Daffodils, gladiolas, and tulips are blooming in full colors, a sign of spring and new life. Their blooms burst out from bulbs that lie dormant during the cold winter months, hiding in the dark ground until the days become warmer and the power of the sun shines in the sky.

Much like the flowering bulbs, many Christians are hiding in the cold ground, lying dormant even though they have the potential to bloom and produce abundant fruit. Instead, there is no sign of new life. They seem frozen in their walks with God, at a standstill. Because of a cold heart towards God and His Word, the Holy Spirit’s power is dormant. Apathy ensues and soon there is little or no sign of life. They wonder why they can’t love others, can’t be patient, have no desire to forgive, don’t have self-control to stop certain actions, or don’t experience peace but instead fear and strife. They just don’t desire the things of God.

Believers in Jesus have been given an inner power, the Holy Spirit, who gives new life which produces spiritual fruit in those who desire to live godly lives. Jesus promised his disciples the Holy Spirit would come to guide and instruct them, giving them the power to obey his commands.

“[God] will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you…He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.” John 14:16-17

The Holy Spirit is the One who gives us new life in our thinking and actions when we come to receive Jesus as Savior:

“the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God…you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his children.”  Romans 8:10, 15

“He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth, and new life through the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:5

So why are some Christians not experiencing this new life?  Many do not rely on the power given to them by the Holy Spirit, and some walk away from God and his commands to be different from the world. They have gone back to their sinful ways and look no different than the world. Evidently, the Christians in Galatia also had this problem:

You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?. So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves… the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires…But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. “Galatians 3: 2-3, 5:16, 22-23, 25

There is hope from God’s Word. He says to take action. Don’t make the Holy Spirit sad, but choose to put away the sinful actions that keep us dormant in the cold:

throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception…Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live.” Ephesians 4:22-24, 30

When we as Christians admit that our lives are not fruitful and the Holy Spirit is dormant, we can go to God in prayer. He desires us to ask him to change us.

“And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.” James 5:15

Maybe you need to pray right now, asking God to make you alive and fruitful through the Holy Spirit. Ask him to produce the spiritual fruits in your daily life. Then watch for the beautiful blooms as God works and renews your life through the Spirit.

 “When it is a question of God’s almighty Spirit, never say, I can’t.”            Oswald Chambers

Finding Peace in the Storms

A dark line of clouds in the distance, unusual calm outside, sudden darkness and roaring winds all alert me to what I experienced so often growing up – a possible tornado approaching.  Growing up in Alabama, part of “tornado alley”, I have a strong sense of knowing when a tornado is coming. Thankfully, I know what to do. In our schools we would have tornado drills in the hallways, and at home I knew when to run to the basement for safety. We always took the warnings seriously. Because I was prepared in knowing what to do, even though my heart pounded with some fear, I had peace.

Often we experience storms in life, some small and some with tornado force winds that bring a path of destruction. If we are not prepared we will not know what to do when they come. And they will come at some point. Our minds will become confused, our hearts will be stricken with fear and we will panic if we are not prepared.

When a sudden storm came on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus’ disciples panicked in fear:

“But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”   Mark 4:37-40

When storms come into our lives, we often do all we can to survive, then we panic, like the disciples, waiting for God to respond. Perhaps, we too become frustrated at God and ask Him, “Don’t you care?” Before we get to that point, though, there are ways to prepare for the coming storms in life so we can have peace instead of fear.

  1. Know God and read His word daily. Memorize Bible verses about His character so you can remember these when you become fearful. Keep your mind focused on God daily trusting in Him.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”  Isaiah 26:3

Know that God is good:

“Give thanks to the Lord for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.” Psalm 136:1

Know that God loves you and rejoices over you:

“For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:17

Know that God is in control:

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10

  1. Make prayer to God a daily habit. Spend time talking with God and listening to Him also. Thank Him for His blessings, rejoice in His love and goodness and ask Him for your needs. Make it a habit to give him your cares and concerns.

If we haven’t been talking to God daily and rejoicing in Him at all times then we will not know His peace in difficult times. Paul wrote these words while experiencing the storm of being in prison for his faith:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”   Philippians 4:4-6

King David often prayed to God. He gave his fears to God then rested knowing God would take care of the storms in his life.

 “Answer me when I call to you, O God…Free me from my troubles. Have mercy on me and hear my prayer… The LORD will answer when I call to him…In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe.” Psalm 4:1,3,8

So are you prepared for storms? Are you in one now? Go to God in prayer and read His word daily. He DOES care. He hears and will answer. Ask Him to replace your fears with His peace. Jesus told his disciples these comforting words:

 “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid.” John 14:27

The Power of Self Control

It’s February, just a few weeks since New Year resolutions. How is it going? Some victories, some changes? By now, some people may have given up or forgotten their new direction and desire for change.

When I decide to make a road trip I plan the route, clean the car, put my packed suitcase in the back, take food and drinks for the ride, and I’m ready to go. But if there is no gas in the car, with all my planning and preparing I’m not going anywhere. Like the road trip, I can make plans and have the best intentions for change but I need something important to get going. I need the power of self-discipline and self-control. Daily!

Right now, we are living in a time where self-control is almost nonexistent. We often hear people say, “I just can’t stop it”, “It’s just part of who I am.” Even Paul, the Apostle of Jesus admitted: “I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind.” Romans 7:21-24, NLT

The world around us and our own sinful nature war with our minds trying to stop us from doing what is right. So what do we do?  Give up?  Where is the power to change? Even on a long road trip, eventually you will need to fill up with gas again when you are running on empty. Are you running on empty?

Thankfully, as believers in Jesus we have the power that never goes empty. Paul went on to say, “Who will free me…Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 7:25 NLT

Jesus told his disciples, “Apart from me you can do nothing…but if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.” John 15:5, 7

We can’t accomplish anything but through Jesus’s power. As we walk with, “remain” with Jesus, reading and “remaining” in God’s Word, then we will want what Jesus desires. Our desire will be to produce spiritual fruit. Then when we pray what Jesus desires Jesus will grant our requests. Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit who will produce this fruit: “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives… the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives…self-control.” Galatians 5:16, 22-23

As believers in Jesus, we should be the best example to the world around us of self-control. Yet, we often look like the world with little or no power. I call it spiritual “amnesia”. We have forgotten Jesus, His words and His promises to answer our prayers. We have forgotten the power He has given to us through the Holy Spirit to live the Christian life. Jesus desires for us to change and He is willing if we just ask. It is a new year with new resolutions- a new week, a new day, a new direction. Don’t forget the gas, the power of self-control to keep you on the right track. Ask Jesus for His power:

Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for your power to not only forgive my sin and make me your own, but also the power you give me through the Holy Spirit to live a fruitful life. Thank you that you desire to produce the fruit of self-control in my life. I give you my life and my lists and ask that you would change these areas. I am trusting in you to bring these changes. I need the Holy Spirit in my life moment by moment to guide me. Thank you that you promise to answer my prayer in your will. I look expectantly for what you will do in my life this year and desire to give you the glory for the change. In your powerful name, Amen

What Is Missing This Christmas?

 

It’s December 24th, Christmas is almost here.
Things are still missing. Hurry! Bring them near.

Candy for stockings, bows for the gifts,
Presents for neighbors and others on my list.

Ham for dinner and cookies to bake,
Trips to the store, how long will this take?

But there’s other things missing, what can they be?
Things more important than those gifts that I see.

A hug, a smile, a “Merry Christmas” too.
Kind words instead of curt remarks, an “I love you”.

A call or a visit to a lonely one, a family kin?
The gift of forgiveness in order to make amends.

Or have you forgotten a “thank you” from your heart?
Appreciation for family and friends, the list is long, where do we start?

And Jesus, God’s Son, born to save us, where is He?
Is He included out front or hidden under the Christmas tree?

Will you be singing and praying to Him on Christmas day?
Reading His words, talking about Him in conversations of praise?

Its December 24th there is so much to do!
Will we only think of ourselves or Jesus and others too?

The list is not that long, you’ll see.
If you just think of Jesus and others instead of “me”.

Christmas is the celebration of love from heaven came down.
Of God’s forgiveness when His Son Jesus is found.

Don’t let Him go missing this Christmas day.
Ask him into your heart for there He will promise to stay.