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Monday, June 20, 2022

How To Pray For Families

There is a scripture from the Old Testament I have been using as a point of prayer. Malachi was the last prophet who spoke for God in the Old Testament period. The next 400 years were a period of silence. No prophet spoke and no angel visited Israel. Malachi prophesied about a coming day when the preaching of God’s messenger would “turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” For years, I have prayed for families, specifically fathers and parents, from this passage. I believe that Malachi’s prophesy reveals the heart of God towards families. God desires that the hearts of fathers and mothers turn towards their children and the hearts of children towards their parents. The health of a family is affected by the hearts the parents have towards each other and towards their children. Family health is also affected by the children’s hearts towards their parents. When family members no longer have a heart for each other, the family can’t help but be dysfunctional. When fracturing occurs, people no longer talk to each other, or care about the welfare of their family members. The complexity of individuals makes family relationships complicated. People disappoint each other, say unkind things, and make assumptions and judgements. Every new person that is added to the family adds to the complication. They each have unique personalities. Each family member has their own hurts, history, unforgiveness, and repeated offenses. The diversity compounds the complexity. The answer to fractured families and broken relationships is found in “turn the hearts.” The Apostle Paul described the attributes of love in 1 Corinthians 13. “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice, but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT) The love Paul describes is the love of Malachi’s “turned hearts” and the first place it should be found is in families. This Father’s Day weekend, would you join me and pray for families across our country? Pray that God will turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the hearts of children towards their parents. If you and I pray, our hearts will be changed and the “turning” could begin with us.

Find Shelter In The Midst Of Life's Storms

Multiple storms are converging on the world. Their winds are creating levels of uncertainty. The clouds of racial, economic, political, mental illness, drug abuse, violence, war, family breakdown, and moral division are unleashing rain from every direction. In a storm, there is no better place to be than in the “shelter of the Most High.” Unfortunately, there is no avoiding the storms of life. Storms will wreak havoc on everyone. The big question is, “Where will you find shelter?” David included in the Psalms a song from Moses about sheltering in a storm. “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty … He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings…. His faithful promises are your armor and protection … If you make the LORD your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter … he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. The LORD says, ‘I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.’” Psalms 91 (NLT) God never promised a life without storms. He promised, “I will be with them in trouble.” Never go through a storm alone. Run into the shelter of the Most High. God will “shelter you with his wings” and “His faithful promises will be your armor and protection.” When the winds of financial uncertainty blow your way, run to the Lord. When winds of health struggles approach, snuggle under God’s wings. “Jesus, I can’t face this storm alone. I don’t want to face this storm alone, HELP! Jesus loves that kind of prayer!

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

There Is A Reason To Hope

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth about death and life after death. He quoted the Old Testament Jewish prophets Isaiah and Hosea. For centuries, believers have gained comfort from Paul’s words. “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:54-55 (NLT) At first glance, someone could assume that death should not be painful or “sting.” The assumption could also be made that grieving, depression, crying and even weeping should not be part of a believer’s response to death. That somehow, death is no big deal. “Get over it” people advise. A close reading of Paul’s words contradicts the simple assumptions that result from careless reading. Paul wrote: “Our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. THEN, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, … ‘Death is swallowed up in victory… .” Paul wasn’t glossing over the pain caused by the death of a loved one. He wasn’t minimizing the brutal loneliness, paralyzing silence, and the loss of touch that the death of a loved one brings. Death hurts. Death stinks. Death is not fair. The stinger of death will ultimately be painless when temporary bodies are transformed into forever bodies. The final blow to death occurs when “dying bodies are transformed into bodies that will never die.” Then believers will declare, “Death is swallowed up in victory!” Paul was trying to breathe hope into believers. He told the church in Thessalonica, “Brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13 (NLT) Paul understood grieving. He experienced grief. He watched people grieve, who have no hope. He watched people grieve, who believed life on earth is all there is to someone’s existence. He saw what happens to people who have no hope of reuniting with loved ones after their earthly life was over. But Paul knew there is something more. There is a reason to hope. Those who die as followers of Jesus open a door and step into an eternal kingdom beyond EVERYONE’S wildest imagination. Once people have been to the eternal kingdom, no one thinks about coming back to earth.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Fear Not

The chaos of the world has become a powerful breeding ground for fear. I get glimpses of fear in the eyes of men, women, young people, and children. People are in fear when they are alone and when they are in groups. People are fearful of the world financial situation, loss of freedoms, war in Europe, ability to get goods, the next court ruling and the political turmoil in Washington D.C. I talk to people that have no reason to fear. Life is up and to the right. They don’t have financial worries; their health is stellar, their family is healthy and beyond functional and yet they worry about some things or everything collapsing. Out of fear, people don masks and hide from each other. The mask keeps people from revealing their true feelings, opinions, and values. Relationships never become what they should be. God regularly commands His people to not be afraid but to be strong and courageous. God desires His people to be free from fear. Fear holds people captive and keeps them from becoming who He wants them to be and living the flourishing life Jesus spoke of. Jesus said, “I came to give life--life in all its fullness.” John 10:10 (NCV) The way to live the life Jesus plans is to focus on the greatness and sovereignty of God. Put your hand in His hand. Give Him access to your heart when you are afraid. He will breathe courage into you. Your circumstances might not change, but the grip of fear on you will loosen. “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.” Psalms 23:4 (NLT) “The LORD is my light and my salvation—so why should I be afraid? The LORD is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?” Psalms 27:1 (NLT) “I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” Psalms 34:4 (NLT) God is the answer to your fears. Turn everything over to Him. Spend time focusing on everything God’s Word says about fear. You’ll be encouraged and strengthened.

Ask Questions

If you’ve spent any time reading the accounts of the life of Jesus in the New Testament, you probably noticed that Jesus asked a lot of questions. His practice was to ask questions. When people questioned him, he questioned them in return. When someone tried to challenge him, he responded with a question. Jesus didn’t ask questions because he didn’t understand. He understood everything. He knew what people were thinking before they opened their mouth. He asked questions to get other people thinking. Jesus asked the “rich young ruler,” “why do you call me good?” He asked the woman, the religious leaders dragged before him, “where are your accusers?” When he sensed that “power had gone out from Him,” He asked those around him, but to no one in particular, “Who touched me?” When people were abandoning him and the disciples challenged him, he asked them, “do you want to leave also?” Asking questions is an art. Questions say to the other person, “What you have to say is important” and “I don’t know everything” and “I can learn from you.” When a person asks questions and listens, they are telling the other person you are important and valuable. James Thurber correctly states, “It is better to ask some of the questions than to know all the answers.” When Jesus’ brother James wrote, “Be quick to listen, and slow to speak” he could have just as easily written, “Be quick to ask, and slow to answer.” Too often we’d rather hear our own voice, give our opinions, and make our point than ask questions and listen. We’d rather be heard than hear. The Apostle Paul wrote: “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” Philippians 2:3-4 (NLT) One of the best ways to “take an interest in others” is to ask questions and listen. Could it be you and I can learn from others? Is it possible that asking questions and listening is the way forward in our fractured world? Could asking questions and listening to those we don’t agree with or find appealing is the key to building bridges between divided people and groups? “The person who asks is a fool for five minutes, but the person who does not ask remains a fool forever.” Unknown

Monday, May 16, 2022

Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak and Slow to Anger

Jesus’ brother James wrote the letter, bearing his name, to Jewish believers. His letter is one of the oldest letters in the New Testament. He encouraged their growth as followers of the Messiah. James was the leader of the church in Jerusalem until his death at the hands of the Jewish establishment. They gave him the chance to deny his brother Jesus as the Messiah. He refused, and they executed him violently. James’s letter is filled with truths, challenges, encouragements, and direction for believers. Much of what he wrote is as important and relevant now as it was 2,000 years ago. One line of instruction recently caught my attention. “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” James 1:19-20 (NLT) “You must ALL be quick to listen.” James didn’t distinguish between men and women, young and old, mature, or immature. His instruction is straightforward – “You must ALL be quick to listen.” Listen first, talk next if necessary. Since people have two ears and one mouth, it's obvious they were designed to listen more than talk. “You must ALL be slow to speak.” I recently read some “Cowboy Wisdom” that says basically the same thing. "Remember to load your brain before you shoot off your mouth." Too often we are quick to speak and slow to listen, and it gets us in trouble almost every time. “You must ALL be slow to get angry.” This one is challenging. Anger results from a mixture of judgement, fear, disappointment, frustration, and pride. That’s the short list of ingredients when mixed, and left to stew, boil over. “Quick to listen” and “slow to speak” are less complicated than “slow to get angry.” We can control the speed of the first two by sheer willpower. Anger seems to ignite like gas from a slow leak. When enough emotional propane leaks out, just a little spark can ignite it and there is chaos and destruction. James continues, “Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” Rarely, if ever, is human anger productive. Anger may get someone’s attention, but it doesn’t hold it or cause forward progress for long. What would family life be like if people were quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger? How would the relationships between husband and wife, parents and children, and siblings with each other benefit? Wouldn’t you agree if people were quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry, relationships in work, community, and school would flourish? Will you take up the challenge to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger”? Jesus, help us!

Monday, May 9, 2022

The Goodness of God

We’ve been singing a newer song for a few months called, “Goodness of God.” Almost every time one of the worship leaders sings this song, I have a hard time not tearing up. I don’t know why but it makes me remember a weekend when I was 10ish years old. I had this overwhelming urge to go to “Mass” at the Catholic church my family attended. It was a mile from my house and up a hill. Sunday morning, I got up, got my church clothes on, and rode one of the “sting-ray” bikes to church. I entered the sanctuary and went right up to the front row of pews and took my place. I can still remember what today I know was God around me. My life wasn’t profoundly changed that morning. I didn’t see or hear angels. But I have looked back over the years to that day and know God was doing something in me. The chorus to the song goes like this: All my life you have been faithful All my life you have been so, so good With every breath that I am able Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God. I can look back to that day, when I first had an awareness of God’s presence and then scan through my life and see God’s work. God’s faithfulness. God’s goodness. There have been high mountains and deep valleys. There have been times of greatest joy and moments of profound sorrow. I can look back and see the goodness and faithfulness of God. His goodness was there, in every part of my journey and the journey of those I’ve walked with. King David spoke truth when he wrote, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I SHALL DWELL IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD FOREVER.” Psalms 23:6 (ESV) The Apostle Paul found strength in this truth: “This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” 2 Corinthians 4:17 (ESV) One more line from the song. “Goodness of God” grabs my heart, “Your goodness is running after, it’s running after me! Jesus, thank you for running after me for more than 50 years! You’ve been so, so, so, very GOOD!

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Grief and Hope

I know I’ve written about grief and grieving at other times, but I’ve been thinking about grief again. Grief is a funny emotion. Grief has characteristics that make it unique. Everyone who walks through grief experiences it differently. For some, grief is very emotional, while for others, grief has a numbing effect. Grief isn’t just felt at the time of physical death. People experience grief over losing health, businesses, relationships, jobs, pets, homes, dreams and aspirations can all produce grief. Grief has multiple sub-feelings and mindsets that accompany it. Often swirling around grief is anger, regret, shock, and denial. As the grieving subsides, people move towards acceptance of the new reality. I have been thinking about a few different scriptures from the Apostle Paul. To the church in Thessalonica, he wrote: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13 (ESV) Followers of Jesus grieve loss. God made people to grieve. God grieves losses, and He made us in His image so naturally people grieve. Mental health research has revealed the necessity of grieving losses and the toll failing to grieve takes on a person mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Followers of Jesus grieve, but not like those “who have no hope.” We have hope because God comforts those who turn to Him. “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NLT) We also have hope because “death,” is not an ending. Someone has rightly said, “Death is not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning.” Death is a move to a new chapter in a believer’s life with God. Paul also wrote, “We are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:8 (NLT) People often say to someone who’s loved one has died “I’m sorry for your loss.” Those who trust in God experience a loss, but the loved one is not “lost.” We know right where they are: “At home with the Lord.” Yet, we feel the loss, the emptiness, and the temporary disconnect. I’m telling myself, “Grieve, it’s good for you!” I’m at the same time striving to remember that buried below grief is HOPE and comfort.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Walk In The Light

The Scriptures often refer to people who have turned their backs on God, deny His existence, and reject Him as blind. A thread that runs cover to cover in the account of God’s dealing with people is that those who reject absolute truth and biblical standards of thought, speech and lifestyle are in “darkness.” The Prophet Zechariah said the Messiah would “Give light to those who sit in darkness.” Luke 1:79 (NLT) The Apostle John used similar words describing Jesus’ arrival 2,000 years ago. “God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light.” John 3:19 (NLT) Jesus spoke to the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus saying, “I am Jesus… I am sending you to the non-Jew to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light.” Acts 26:15-18 (NLT) Our modern culture describes those who no longer embrace God, absolute truth and biblical morality as “enlightened.” While it considers people who live as a disciple of Jesus in the “dark ages.” The mission of enlightened societies is to “enlighten” Jesus’ followers and the church, thus bringing them out of the “dark ages.” I find it interesting people that who “walk in the light as He Himself is in the light” are living in the “Dark Ages” while those who “love darkness more than the light” are considered “enlightened.” We live in an upside down, backwards, confused, unstable world that has drifted far from common sense! Paul describes those who reject God in the ancient world this way: “They knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools.… Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done.” Romans 1:21-28 (NLT) Media, entertainment, policy makers, activists of every sort, higher education, and sophisticated people will try to convince you that Jesus’ followers are living in the “dark ages.” Don’t believe their narrative and propaganda! Jesus taught, “Ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.” Matthew 15:14 (NLT) The Apostle John told the 1st century believers: “This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:5-7 (NLT) Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 (NIV) Walk in the Light!

Monday, April 18, 2022

What Does The Passage Of Time Reveal About Your Life?

At some point, you’ve probably come across facts and figures about time. They might have meant something to you at the moment, but for most of us, they pass through our brain but don’t stick. You might have read that everyone has 10,080 minutes in a week or 8,736 hours in a year. If a person sleeps 8 hours every day, they sleep 56 hours in a week or 2,912 hours in a year! The person who keeps that sleep routine for 30 years, in those 30 years sleep 262,080 hours! Time is uncontrollable. We can’t stop it. We can’t start it. We can’t stockpile it or save it up. People often ask, “where has all the time gone?” or “Where did the years go?” Andy Stanley’s wife, Sandra, often says to young parents, “The days are long, but the years are short.” Her statement is so true. Kids and grandkids are cute little tikes, and in a flash, they are budding young adults. I’ve been thinking about some things that time reveals. Time unearths the level of our patience or impatience. Patient and impatient describe our attitude towards circumstances and time. Time and how we use it uncovers a person’s priorities and the values. Time, or passaging of time, unearths a person’s character. It is uncomplicated for people to be honest for a minute. Being honest for a day, a week, a month, a year, a decade or a lifetime is another matter and is exposed by the passing of time. The passing of time shines a light on a person’s integrity, faithfulness, diligence, work ethic, financial habits, and so much more. The Apostle Paul ordered believers to “Be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.” Ephesians 5:15-16 (NLT) In other words, “Pay attention to how you are living. Don’t be a fool. Learn to be wise. Make the most of the time you have. You won’t get any more.” What did the passing of last week, month or year reveal about your life? Are you ashamed by what has been uncovered? Is there some area that you wish you could take a mulligan on? What foolish things need changed? What wise things need to be integrated into your life? Jesus, thank you for your patience with us! Keep transforming our lives and help us make the most of our time. Amen.