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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Peace instead of Fear

What burdens are you carrying today? What fears?  What needs do you have?  What do we do with them? This past year, I have joined with others locally and across our nation, to pray earnestly, unceasingly, not like before, as we have been burdened and fearful for our nation- the loss of religious freedoms, the ever encroaching evil in our culture and the fight for godly values in our homes and schools. God is working mightily through our prayers on a large scale.

Now that those times of prayer for the elections have past, will we continue to pray earnestly, unceasingly? The burdens and battles are never over in this world – whether for a nation or in our lives. We continue to fight the darkness around us in our  lives and homes, our communities and churches. Paul reminded the Ephesians living in an ungodly culture:

“Hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil…take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion.” (Ephesians 6: 16, 17) 

Daily we feel the pressures and burdens living in this world. Satan tempts us to believe that God doesn’t care. He has left us. So, we decide to worry and fret, overwhelmed by carrying these burdens ourselves. But when I choose to go to God in prayer and give these cares to him, I do not go away empty handed – God gives me himself in return, his joy and his peace.

Thomas Watson, an English Puritan Preacher who lived almost 400 years ago wrote in his book, The Ten Commandments:

“Let us cast all of our burdens upon him-our fears, our needs and our sins. Christian what troubles you? You have a God to pardon your sins and to supply your needs, therefore roll your burden on him, “Cast all your anxiety on him for he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7. Those who have a covenant union with God may be filled with contentment of spirit, for God is a rich blessing to the soul. He is a sufficient good. He who has God has enough…If God is our God let it cheer and revive us in all conditions…Let us live as those who have God as their own, and walk in holy lives, that others may see there is something of God in us.”

As I abide with God in a close relationship with him, praying daily and hourly for mine and others’ burdens, I can trust he will work things out in his good timing. Then God produces the peace and joy I need in my circumstances. My spirit is refreshed and I become refreshment to those living in darkness around me. Hopeless, they are burdened with sins and sorrows wandering around looking for someone who cares. I can lead them to our God and to His son, Jesus, who takes the burdens of those who call out to him and desire to live godly lives.

“Give your burdens to the LORD, and he will take care of you. He will not allow the godly to slip and fall.” Psalm 55:22

So there are two choices for me and you today as God’s children: 1) worry and fret until I am overwhelmed and totally stressed in my circumstances or 2) give my burdens to God through prayer and experience His peace and joy, trusting in a good and powerful God who loves me.

“Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” Psalm 50:15

One Man, One Day

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And the debates continue. Not the current political debates or the debates over social reform or world order. But the debates focused on one man in history. This man caused uproar over 2 thousand years ago. And that battle continues today– in the market place, the center of governments, among religious leaders of various faiths and among worldly scholars and educators.

One defining day in history has changed the world and it’s thinking forever– “Good Friday”, the day that Jesus’ died on a cross. His followers understood the purpose of the cross. Paul, a follower of Jesus, wrote to the first Christians:

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…the world through its wisdom did not know him…but we preach Christ crucified” 1 Corinthians 1:18, 22, 23

Why is the cross so important?  It was the moment in time when Almighty God in all of His love, grace, and justice allowed the death of His Son Jesus to be the payment for the world’s sins. Jesus said he came “to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” Colossians 1:21-22

But His death then led to the most miraculous event in history– His resurrection from the dead. Yet, without the power of His resurrection from death, those who believe in Him would not know this resurrected new life. Peter wrote to the believers about this death and resurrection:

“Praise be to God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”  1 Peter 1:3

And Jesus defined himself to his followers:

 “I am the resurrection and the life.  Anyone who believes in me will live even after dying.” John 11:25

That is why on this day, a sad day of death and evil crucifixion on a cross, we can say it is “good”. It was and still is “good” for every person who will trust in God’s love and forgiveness through his Son Jesus. Jesus suffered for our good.

Thankfully, someday the debates will end and every person will have to acknowledge the truth:

“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:8-11

But until that day we who know Jesus Christ as the risen Lord and Savior of the world, will continue to “preach Christ crucified”. We who follow the True Vine, Jesus, may continue to debate with others, be persecuted for our faith in the cross, and even die through beheadings. The message is still the same for each generation, and I for one, will continue to write about this message with joy.

Have a blessed Good Friday! It is a good day!

Our Only Hope for Peace and Joy

Hope

Death and destruction seem to be everywhere recently. Chaos, darkness, and despair have brought many to experience hopelessness and fear. For centuries, our world has been shaken by violence, wars, plagues and disasters. This has been the same in every nation past and present and to every people group. It’s nothing new; it’s just new to each generation.

The recent earthquakes in Nepal, the destruction of churches and Christian homes by IS militants, and the violent riots in the U.S. have destroyed not just buildings but lives, thousands of lives. Can things get worse?  Maybe. Is there any hope? Always. In a world that seems hopeless there is an answer. There has always been an answer yet throughout history most have rejected the only true Hope that brings real peace and joy. But others continue to accept and even give up their lives for this Hope; their hope is knowing the Creator God and His eternal love.

Most recently, a group of Islamic State (IS) militants captured and beheaded 21 men in Libya who were Christians. However, one of the men, Matthew, was actually not a Christian. He was asked moments before being beheaded if he would turn to Islam. He turned down the offer. Voice of the Martyrs at persecution.com wrote about Matthew: “After reportedly witnessing the ‘immense faith’ of the Egyptian believers, he decided to become a follower of Christ. On camera, one of the terrorists asked Matthew, ‘Do you reject Christ?’ [his response] ‘Their God is my God,’ he responded, and he became one of the 21 men laying down their lives for their faith in Christ.”

Matthew’s hope, even when faced with death, was the God of the Christian believers. Their hope is eternal not earthly. King David placed his hope alone in God. He wrote:

“…for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25:5

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.” Psalm 62:5

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 42:11

“You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas,” Psalm 65:5

For those who have come to know God’s love through Jesus Christ, they are the ones who hope in Him alone. No bank accounts, houses, possessions, accomplishments, social programs, or positions can bring the real hope for peace and joy in this world. Paul knew this hope and encouraged the believers in Jesus:

“Be joyful in hope…” (Romans 12:12),“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  (Romans 15:13)

Do you know this hope? The hope of eternal life with God through His Son, Jesus Christ? If you do, then, you have the answer for the world, to those around you who are hopeless and shaken by these recent events. Peter told the Christians who were living in desperate times of persecution for their faith to be ready at any time to share this Hope with others. Like the Egyptian men in Libya, would someone see my “immense faith” in Jesus and say, “her God is my God”? I hope so. How about you?

“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15

Shelter from the Stormy Blast

Another year has ended and a new one has just begun. It’s interesting to me that the New Year on our Gregorian calendar starts in the beginning of winter.  It would seem that it should start in the spring when life begins anew and winter has past.  Perhaps starting a new year in the dead of winter when life seems slower and the celebration of Christmas has past is good.  It puts me in a more reflective mood.  It is this time of year when I can think about the past and the future during the dark days of winter.

Like the harsh winter, many people have gone through long dark times this past year.  I know several who have lost loved ones, suffered financial hardship, born months of physical pain, and have walked in despair with no hope for the future.

God’s people experienced the same things through some dark days.  But Isaiah, the prophet encouraged them.  He reminded them that God was still with them and had not left them.  He said, “…for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.”  Isaiah 52:12

Issac Watts, the great hymn writer, paraphrasing Psalm 90, encourages us as we ponder the past and the future.  He wrote these words from the hymn, O God our Help in Ages Past:

“O God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast and our eternal home.

O God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, be Thou our guide while life shall last and our eternal home.” (Verses 1 and 5)

Like winter, life can be full of “stormy blasts”.  God is our shelter during those times that may seem to never end. He has been our help in the past and as a new year comes with new challenges, God is our hope.  No person or thing can bring us the hope that God brings.  He alone is our hope.

Like the branches clinging to the vine in the winter storms, we can hold on to Him and know His love, peace, kindness and goodness.  God goes before us in the new year and as Isaiah would say, He “will be your rear guard” – He “has our back”.  He is still God in control of our world no matter what has happened this past year or what will happen in this new year.

I’m holding on to God this year to be my “guide while life shall last” and “my eternal home”.  I look forward to a new year bearing the fruit He produces in my life.  Is He your only hope?  As you trust in God, remember He “has your back”.