Thanksgiving 2020: Give Thanks to the Lord, for He is Good!

Ladies and Gentlemen, even though 2020 has been a year of great upheaval, please take heart. God is still on the throne!
Have you ever heard it said that someone has “the patience of Job”? That saying is about the hero of one of the oldest stories in the Bible.  Here is how it begins:
“There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1). Now the name of the area of Uz, where Job’s story takes place, means “unseen inner strength.” The theme of the Book of Job is about how God allowed Job’s inner strength – his faith – to be severely tested. In fact, the instrument of this testing, the agent of God’s action in this case, was the enemy, Satan. And even he did not understand what God’s plan for Job actually was.
Let’s eavesdrop on their conversation…
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.”
And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:6-8)

…As this discussion continues God grants Satan permission to do just about anything he wants to do to Job and his household, short of taking Job’s life. Afterward, innocent and uninformed Job suffers a series of devastating losses that caused him to tear his robe, shave his head, and fall on the ground and worship saying “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (1:20-22). The scripture says that even in the presence of his terrible suffering “…Job did not sin or charge God with wrong” (1:22). Job kept the faith. But it wasn’t easy! In fact, after days of misery, Job cursed the day he was born (3:1)!
While pondering why God would allow such devastation to overtake an upright man such as himself, Job was beset by his best friends, and even his wife, who blamed his woes on what they believed must have been some heinous hidden sin in Job’s life, and they insisted that God really did not care for Job in the first place. After about ten more chapters of harassment by these well-meaning busybodies, Job steadfastly proclaimed, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him…” (13:15a). Which is surely the proper attitude in the midst of difficulties, but there was still a small fly in Job’s ointment because he followed that statement of faith with one of defiance, stating, “…yet I will argue my ways to his face” (15b).
Shortly thereafter God gave him the opportunity to do just that, appearing to Job and his friends in a whirlwind:
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (38:1-7)

Have you ever said to one of your teenaged children or grandchildren something like, “Well, Sonny, you’d better go on and leave home and get yourself a job now, while you still know everything”? That’s pretty much what God was saying to Job. In fact, God continued, “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it” (40:1). To which Job replied, “Behold, I am of small account; what I shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth” (40:4). God took this conversation very seriously, going so far as to caution Job to prepare himself and “gird up his loins” or to “Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right? Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his?” (40:7-9).
Some of the most beautiful poetic passages in scripture are in God’s descriptions of his creative power in Job chapters 38-41, where the Almighty himself puts everything in its proper context. Job finally comes to understand who The Creator is, in the final chapter:
“Then Job answered the Lord and said: ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.  ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know’” (42:1-3).
What God has given Job is perspective. It wasn’t that Job had blatantly sinned, or even that he did not have faith. He could have gone along worshipping God and enjoying his life without ever questioning himself, or God. But if God had allowed his servant Job to remain ignorant, Job would have been unknowingly worshipping an idol – his idea of God, rather than who God really is. And hidden at the center of that worship would have been Job’s belief in his own blamelessness - that God blessed Job because Job deserved it. But, Beloved Friends, that is never the case. God does not bless us because we deserve it. We cannot, in our own strength and by our own wills, measure up to the holiness, glory, and power of Almighty God. If God had allowed Job’s hubris to go unchallenged, Job would have strayed even further down the wrong path. And so Almighty God, who is also a loving Father, interrupted Job’s progress, and altered his course.

At the end of the story, Job finally says, “Hear and I will speak…I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (42:4-6). At the beginning of the story, after God allowed Satan to take every earthly thing away that Job valued, he repented in dust and ashes. But this time, after seeing God with his own eyes, Job’s repentance was genuine because it was based on knowledge and not pride. As Solomon wrote in Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (NIV).
After Job’s position before God was restored, God also restored everything that had been taken away:
And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him… And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning…And after this Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, four generations. And Job died, an old man, and full of days. (42:10-17).
One day when we meet Job in heaven and he tells us about everything he went through, we can simply say in return, “I lived through 2020.” And Job might say, “Friend, I completely understand! Isn’t God awesome!” Because Job was given the blessing in his lifetime of coming to know that, no matter what happens, God is good all the time; and all the time, God is good.

What makes God good? No earthly measure. God is good because God is God. And he is good, all the time. Everything that God allows is ultimately for the good. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
As God said to Isaiah the prophet, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 53:8-9).
And as God assured Jeremiah, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen’” (Jeremiah 29:11-12 NLT).
God is on his throne, and he is Almighty. He is always working behind the scenes, turning everything to the good for his people who trust in him. We have nothing to fear, because God is God, and he is good. And for that we give thanks, in all circumstances.
“The Lord is on my side; I will not fear…the Lord is on my side as my helper…It is better to trust in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” (from Psalm 118)

 

 

All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation, unless otherwise noted.

Where is God When We’re Lonely? Repost.

A Pew Research poll recently found that in the United States, 27% of people sixty and over live alone, compared to 16% living alone elsewhere in the world, where elders in the Asia-Pacific region, Sub Saharan Africa, and the Middle East are least likely to live alone, at only 5%.
But Beloved Friends, these are the days of Covid 19, when people of all ages may be in quarantine, and those of us who want to be with our loved ones may be prevented from visiting friends and family out of concern for their health, and even their lives.
How can we cope in isolation? Where can we go when there is literally nowhere to go? To whom can we turn for help when we can’t reach out to the people we need the most? What do we do when we miss each other and all the little joys and pleasures of life that we once took for granted, in a world where everything familiar seems to have disappeared right before our eyes?
The two-part series reposted below, “You Are Not Alone,” follows some of our heroes and heroines from scripture in their loneliest and most difficult times, and asks the questions “What are we missing?” “Why are we here?” and “What do we need?” when we are feeling a loneliness that we cannot escape.
Even though these articles were written in 2018, well before the time of this pandemic, God’s Word is eternal and it applies not only to the heroes of scripture, but to all of us who are called to hold on to hope and courage during the many trials that life here on earth inevitably brings.
We hope you enjoy reading God’s answers to the questions above by clicking on the links below.
As I wrote in “You are not Alone:Part Two”:
 “Rick Warren reminds us, ‘God uses problems to draw you closer to himself. The Bible says, ‘The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit [Ps 34:18].’ Your most profound and intimate experiences…will likely be in your darkest days – when your heart is broken, when you feel abandoned, when you’re out of options, when the pain is great – and you turn to God alone.’“
Always remember that especially when the night seems to be the most dark and the days are unbearably long, Jesus promised to all who believe in his name, “And remember that I am always with you until the end of time.”  (Matthew 28:20 GW).

Pray for the United States and All Our Leaders, All Over the World.

As citizens of the United States, whether we are natural-born or naturalized, we learn to recite the Pledge of Allegiance:          
"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
We recite the Pledge, because we believe in the founding principles of our country that are based on the equal standing of every human being before Almighty God and our God-given rights, which are to be protected by a freely elected government that is established by the people in order to be for the people - as stated in our Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”
But in these tumultuous times, a spirit of unrest, hatred, and division is attempting to destroy what our Founding Fathers and Mothers built. And yet, because we remain one nation, under God, it is our duty as citizens of the United States that we pray for the healing of our nation. Otherwise, the blessings of liberty and the freedom to practice our religious and spiritual beliefs – whatever they may be – will be taken from us.
It is recorded in all three of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) that Jesus stated very clearly that “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mark 3:24-25). Therefore, what kind of a spirit is it, that goes against the words of Christ, attempting to divide what God has put together?

Therefore, as Christians it is our duty to pray for the healing of the divisions that are beginning to form in the United States – and in our world. God said, in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
Beloved Friends, wherever we are in the world, from whatever nation, as children of God, we are citizens of heaven. And as brothers and sisters who are citizens of heaven, it is our duty to pray according to God’s instructions. As God instructed the young pastor Timothy through the apostle Paul, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,  for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
Therefore, I ask you today, to please join us in prayer for our nation, and for every nation. For all our leaders and for every leader on the face of this good Earth. And I ask you today to join us in prayer for all peoples, that all will be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth of salvation through Christ Jesus. Because as the sweet psalmist King David wrote, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers [and sisters] dwell in unity!

And I humbly and sincerely ask you to join us in special prayer for our President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania and their family, for healing, strength, comfort, and wisdom. And for continued health, strength, and wisdom for Vice President Pence and his family. And I ask you to join us in prayer for former Vice President Biden and his wife and family, and Senator Harris and her family, that they will continue to be healthy, and for strength, comfort, and wisdom.
Please pray that whomever is granted the privilege of leading this country in all the levels of government now and in the future will be guided by the word of God, and led by his Holy Spirit to uphold the principles of peace, faith, morality, and equal justice under the law.
“For the Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
    he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
 guarding the paths of justice
    and watching over the way of his saints.
(Proverbs 2:6-8)

 

All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation.

Beauty for Ashes.

In his book, “Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit,” Henri Nouwen wrote about the experience he had watching a sculptor chiseling away at a large block of stone. As he watched, Nouwen wondered whether the striking of the hammer against the chisel, and the chisel against the stone caused the rock to feel pain. But suddenly, he realized that emerging from the marble was the form of a beautiful dancer. In that moment, Nouwen understood that in the hands of God, everything is grace.
The gospel of Luke tells us that immediately after Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan river, he “…was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil” (4:1:2). Luke went on to write that afterward, again being led by the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned to his hometown of Nazareth in Galilee, “…and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country” (4:14). When he came into the synagogue on that Sabbath day, Jesus unrolled the scroll of the book of Isaiah before the people, and read:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”
And Jesus said, “’Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’” (Luke 4:18-19, 21).

While Jesus was forty days fasting in the wilderness after his baptism, he was given his assignment by God the Father, through his Holy Spirit. No wonder the enemy chose that time to come against him and tempt him to abandon his mission!
But the prophecy of Isaiah did not stop there, and neither did Christ’s ministry. When we continue to read the words that God gave to the prophet in Isaiah 61, the next part of Jesus’ commission unfolds:
“…to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;
 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.”
(Isaiah 61:2-3)
Jesus’ mission to the world is one of transformation, bringing us beauty for ashes and the oil of joy for mourning, comfort for pain, and strength in his Holy Spirit for our weakness in times of trouble.
The prophet Ezekiel wrote of God’s promise to transform our hearts from cold stone to warm flesh, when he wrote, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (36:26).
Like a potter working the clay, and the sculptor wielding hammer and chisel, God forms us and shapes us, making all things new. He transforms us from the inside out from spiritually cold, dead stone into his redeemed people, filled with the breath of his Holy Spirit and the gift of eternal life.

If you are feeling that the mission God has planted in your heart is facing opposition from the enemy, or that the hammer and chisel of transformation are ringing a little too loudly in your ears, fear not, dear Friend! God is at work in you, right now, to bring forth the original purpose he designed specifically for you. Sometimes God’s handiwork feels like trials and testing. But remember, our mission is to allow ourselves to be transformed so that we may glorify his name – and then – give him all the praise as we become his hands and feet sent out into the world to speak his word with boldness and his truth with love. Isaiah saw this when he wrote, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’” (52:7). Jesus demonstrated this to his disciples when he washed their feet at the Last Supper, before his crucifixion (See John 13).
As Henri Nouwen discovered, with God, everything is grace. As we climb the mountains set before us, our steps become beautiful as Jesus transforms our journey from the ashes of mourning to joy and beauty. Because he is with us, we have nothing to fear, and there is no need to rush.

On the road to Emmaus, Luke tells of two of Jesus’ disciples who were walking away from Jerusalem, heartbroken at the tragedy of Jesus’ death. Suddenly, a man appeared on the road, who went with them, revealing to them the mystery of the scriptures from Moses through the prophets. Once they realized that it was Jesus who had been walking with them all along, they proclaimed, “…’Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’” (24:32). While they walked along the road, they were being transformed by the presence of Jesus and the word of God. They didn’t even realize it, until the moment when they recognized who had been with them all along. The presence of Christ transformed their journey from mourning to joy and from ashes to beauty, while they were walking, until their broken hearts revived and burned with a fresh fire within them.
Beloved Friend, Jesus is doing the same with you. Stay on the straight and narrow road. Just keep moving forward and do not be in a hurry. The God of Transformation is at hand, and he will never leave you nor forsake you, whether he is walking with you on the mountain or in the valley.
Jesus assured his disciples, “… And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). As he was with them, so Christ is with you. 

 

 

All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation.

What is the Rapture?

Have you ever heard of the rapture? Most non-Christians, and even many believers, either have not heard about the event known as the rapture, or do not really understand what it is all about. Part of the reason for this is that the Bible does not specifically use the word “rapture” to describe it, but instead uses the Greek, harpazo, which means to seize, catch away, call up, or take for oneself (Strong’s #726).
Let’s look at a very interesting, and supernatural, way that the term rapture – or harpazo – was used in the story of the apostle Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch, beginning in Acts 8:26…
Philip and the other apostles were preaching in Jerusalem, when an angel appeared to Philip, and instructed him to Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza…And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Queen Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come up to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah.
And the [Holy] Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to sit with him…Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture [Isaiah 53] he told him the good news about Jesus.
And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.
And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away [harpazo], and the eunuch saw him no more, and he went on his way rejoicing.
But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed though he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea. (Acts 8:26-40)
Can you imagine what both men must have experienced, as Philip disappeared from the Eunuch’s sight, and suddenly found himself in a completely different city? The beautiful Greek phrase for what happened is, pneuma kyrios harpazo philippos, or “the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away.” The Holy Spirit literally raptured him and set him down in a new location! Therefore, we can understand through this example that the term rapture can refer to being bodily caught up by the Spirit and set down in another place.

Now let’s look at how Paul uses the term harpazo in his first letter to the church at Thessalonica:
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep [died in Christ].
 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up [harpazo] together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Notice that Paul makes a distinction between the living and those believers who have previously died, or “fallen asleep.” As we can see, he is specifically saying that those who are alive will be caught up, harpazo or raptured, to meet the Lord (along with those believers who have died and gone before them) in the air. In Acts chapter 8, we witness Philip being caught up or raptured by the Holy Spirit and carried bodily to a new location on Earth. Here, Paul describes believers who are alive being caught up to meet Jesus in the heavens, using the word harpazo, or in the Latin, rapturo, and in English, rapture.
Notice too that Paul specifically instructs the church to comfort one another and take comfort in these words, this blessed hope, of the rapture. Why is it that the hope of the rapture should be comforting to believers? 1 Thessalonians 1:10 tells us that Jesus saves believers from the wrath to come, and Romans 5:9 states, “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”

There is a time, during the second half of the seven-year Tribulation period, that God’s wrath will be poured out on those who remain on the Earth. Jesus refers to this time as the Great Tribulation during his prophetic Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.” However, God will not focus his wrath on the Church, which is the Body of Christ, because at the cross Jesus paid the full price for all our sins. For all those who believe in the finished work of Christ at the cross and accept him as their Lord and Savior, God’s wrath against sin has been satisfied, and we are saved from his wrath forever. Therefore, when the wrath of God is poured out on the unbelieving world, the Church will have already been raptured, or caught up to heaven. And so shall we always be with the Lord.
When will this blessed event take place? That is something that it has not been given to us to know. In fact, Jesus himself stated, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36). Only our Father in heaven knows the perfect timing of the moment when God will instruct the Bridegroom to call for the Church, and his Bride will be caught up to heaven in the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:52). However, in Luke’s description of the Olivet Discourse, Jesus instructs us, “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).

In Matthew 16:3, Jesus scolds the Pharisees for not being able to discern the signs of the times, and Jesus, himself, has given us a picture of what to look for in these last days. If you want to know more, take some time to read both versions of Jesus’ Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, and look around and see if what Jesus was pointing to looks familiar. And if you discover that it does, remember Paul’s words of comfort and Jesus’ exhortation to recognize the signs of the times, and do not be afraid, and do not get caught up in anxiety and worry about what is happening in the world. Jesus instructed us to look up and not to focus on the troubles of this world, but to keep our eyes firmly fixed on our Redeemer. He is drawing nigh, and when our Father gives the call, the Body of Christ will be caught up together, to meet the Bridegroom in the air. And so we will forever be with the Lord. And the Lord said, “…’Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!...” (Revelation 22:20-21).
If you are unsure whether or not, when the call comes, you will be included in the number of those who are caught up together in the rapture, please take a moment and read and pray this Prayer of Salvation:
Dear God, I believe with all of my heart that Jesus died on the cross for my sake, and that He has risen from the dead for my deliverance. Lord, I receive your Word, and I repent of my sins.  I receive the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. I receive Your complete forgiveness and my new birth into Your kingdom. I receive Your Holy Spirit to guide me and teach me, and I make You the Lord of my life. I receive salvation in the holy name of Jesus, today and forever. Amen.
If you prayed this prayer from your heart today, then you have been cleansed of all your sins and born again into new life through Jesus Christ, and we are so happy for you! We suggest that you find a copy of the Bible which is God's Word, and begin reading with the Gospel of John in the New Testament. Please consider visiting a Bible-based church in your area and let them know that you have recently received salvation, so that you can enjoy fellowship with other believers and ask any questions that you may have. We are praying for you, we love you, and God bless you, in Jesus' name.
Jesus said, "In the same way God's angels are happy when even one person turns to Him" (Luke 15:10 CEV).

 

 

 

 

All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation unless otherwise noted.

What to do When You Feel Helpless.

On the first day that Moses led the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt, hard-hearted Pharaoh and his chariots pursued them all the way to the shore of the Red Sea. Caught between drowning and destruction, the people were understandably terrified. They cried out in fear, “But Moses told the people, ‘Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again’” (Exodus 14:13 NLT).
Saint Paul wrote about some of the things he suffered as a minister of Christ in his second letter to the church at Corinth: five times he was beaten with the lash and three times with rods. He was shipwrecked and lost at sea. He faced ongoing threats from robbers, unbelievers, and even his own countrymen. He was persecuted, mocked, exhausted, in constant pain, hungry, cold, and naked. He spent much of his ministry in prison and was constantly burdened by the care of all the churches he had planted from Athens to Asia (2 Corinthians 11:16-33).
When he pleaded with God to relieve him of this constant torment, the Lord answered, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). About which Paul proclaimed, “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me” (v. 9).

The book of Galatians instructs us to be strong in the Lord and his might, and when we have done all we can to stand, clothed in the full armor of God, praying in the Spirit for all the saints, and watching with all perseverance to see the power of the Lord in action (Galatians 6:10-20).
Again, and again the Word of God instructs us to stand still, keep calm, and witness what God will do, when we are faced with what certainly appear to be insurmountable obstacles. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul said we should be strong – not in our own might, but in God’s – and to the church at Corinth, he was glad to boast in his own weakness, so the power of God could work through him. When they were trapped between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea, Moses commanded the children of Israel, “The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm” (Exodus 14:14 NLT).
The next time you find yourself in a situation that is so big, so frightening, so unexpected that you feel that there can be no way out; the next time you feel, like Paul, that the whole world seems to be working against the call God has placed on you; when you feel like you just can’t face another day that brings another battle, and you feel like you’re ‘caught between the devil and the deep blue sea’ – let not your hearts be troubled! Stand still, keep calm, and see the salvation of the Lord in action! Every time we come up against a circumstance that unavoidably demonstrates our own helplessness and weakness, we have at the same time come upon an opportunity to stand still and stay out of God’s way so that he can demonstrate his almighty power.

As Paul, who was once a very influential Pharisee (before he was knocked off his high horse on the road to Damascus in Acts chapter 9), came to understand, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). But Paul never became strong in himself. The strength that he received came from God, because our strength can never be sufficient to meet the forces that are arrayed against us. So, no wonder we often feel helpless! When it is time to meet a challenge, we must embrace our own weaknesses as blessings and have confidence in the power of God and his Christ to see us through the storm.
It sounds counter-intuitive, but as King David wrote in Psalm 103:1-5, in times of trouble our response should be:
Let all that I am praise the Lord;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
Let all that I am praise the Lord;
 may I never forget the good things he does for me.
 He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.
 He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
He fills my life with good things.
My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!
(NLT)
Be still, stay calm, and let God fight for you. As the prophet said to the children of Israel, “…Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God's’” (2 Chronicles 20:15).

 

 

All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation, unless otherwise noted.

We are Praying for You!

“May the Lord bless and protect you; may the Lord’s face radiate with joy because of you; may he be gracious to you, show you his favor, and give you his peace” (Numbers 6:24-26 TLB).
During these difficult times, we wanted to provide the opportunity for our Beloved Readers to ask for prayer for yourselves and your loved ones. Therefore we have added an interactive prayer wall where you can submit prayer requests and receive feedback on how many people have prayed for your request each day. Whenever you are in need of prayer or are aware of a special need, please visit our Prayer Request Wall on the navigation bar above to include your prayer requests.
To our wonderful prayer warriors and intercessors out there, when you have time, please take a moment to visit the Prayer Request Wall and pray over the prayer requests listed on the Submit a Prayer Request page. Our Speak Comfort prayer team will be praying for each request with you!
The Prayer Request area is a safe space where we can come together to bear each other’s burdens and lift our requests up to the throne of Almighty God, in Jesus' name. We will be praying for you there!
“I also tell you this—if two of you agree down here on earth concerning anything you ask for, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together because they are mine, I will be right there among them” (Matthew 18:19-21 TLB).

“…Lord, teach us to pray…”

Did you know that prayer brings about transformation?
Jesus said that when we pray, we are not to “heap up empty phrases” hoping that the more words we say the more likely God is to hear us. In fact, he stated that our Father in heaven knows exactly what we need, even before we ask him (Matthew 6:7-8). So why, then, do we need to pray? What is the point of going to God in prayer, if he already knows everything we need anyway?
Because prayer is not only about what we need. Prayer is about who God is, and who we are in our relationship with him. When we go to God in prayer, the time we spend in his presence begins to transform us into the women and men of God that he created us to be.
Jesus instructed his disciples, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money [mammon].
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:24-25).
He continued, reassuring his disciples, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (7:7-8).

As we can see, Jesus specifically taught that God has every intention of providing for all our earthly needs. God knows what we need, and he is our ultimate provider. What God  most wants to give us is his fellowship, his companionship, and his presence. Whenever  we go to God in prayer, we are deepening our relationship with him.
It is from within this deep fellowship with God that the answers to our prayers arise. Our Lord instructs us not to pray “with much speaking” as unbelievers do because those prayers are shallow. They do not spring from the well of an intimate relationship with our Creator.
Jesus said, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:31-33).
Seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness means that the first goal of our prayer life is to develop an intimate, ongoing relationship with God. Seeking God’s kingdom and his righteousness means coming to understand his character. His character is righteousness. His character is goodness. His character is mercy. His character is grace. His character is love.

Righteousness, goodness, mercy, grace, and love are not something that we hope God demonstrates. God is the literal source of all these ideals. He is the font from whom all blessings flow. Without God, there would be no righteousness, goodness, mercy, grace, or love. They cannot exist without him, because these attributes are what the Triune God literally is, in himself.
God is First Cause: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1-3).
Because God’s character is perfect, and through his perfection he is the Creator of all things, we can completely trust in his righteousness, goodness, grace, and love to supply all our needs (Philippians 4:6-7,19). Jesus’ brother James wrote that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). God’s character is eternal, and it does not change (Hebrews 13:8). He is always righteous, loving, merciful, and good, and God wants to give his good and perfect gifts to his children.

Therefore when we go to God in prayer as his beloved children - bringing him all of our needs, our fears, and our praise - as we rest prayerfully in his presence he has already begun moving from the unseen to demonstrate the proof of his lovingkindness, his goodness, his grace, and his provision. As Jesus said, God already knows everything we need before we ask him. He said, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11). God wants to bless us because his blessings are the proof of his righteousness. God’s blessings always bring him glory!
 When we are in the presence of God’s blessings, we are also in the presence of his glory. This is what Paul describes in his second letter to the church at Corinth:
Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end…But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this [transformation] comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:12-18).

When we come to God in prayer, when we seek first his kingdom and his righteousness – and that means “when we seek to know his character” – we become saturated by his goodness, his love, and his glory. Being saturated by God’s presence transforms us – from glory to glory – as we become more like him. We become more loving, good, kind, and merciful through the presence of his Holy Spirit acting in us and through us.
God intends to supply all our needs in Christ Jesus. And he wants us to come to him with all our cares and desires. In fact, Peter instructs us to “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7). God wants us to cast ALL our cares on him, holding nothing back.
God asks us to do this so that we may come to know him – his kingdom and his righteousness. When we do this, we come to understand how the kingdom of God operates, and what God’s character is like. As we rest in him, he meets all our needs, transforming us into the people of God that he originally designed us to be.

As we are being transformed through the presence of God and his Spirit, then not only does God meet all our needs through Christ Jesus, he also forms us to become vessels that are fit for the Master’s use so that we in turn can be used by God to bless others. The more we trust God, the more God can bless us, and the more available we become to be a blessing.
As Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing… If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.  As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love…These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:5,7-9,11).

 

 

 

All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation.

Faith in Times of Crisis.

When Jesus’ disciples asked him to increase their faith, he answered, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you” (Luke 17:5-6).
A lot has been said about these verses, but when we simply read them as they were written, we can see that Jesus was telling his students that their problem was not that their faith was too small. They asked, “Make our faith bigger!” and Jesus answered, “What you need is not bigger faith.”
Beloved Friends, it is not that we do not have enough faith to see us through in times of crisis. The truth is, we have more than enough faith. We have lots and lots and lots of it, and we use it all the time! The problem is not that we do not have enough faith. The problem is in where we are placing it!

Psalm 118 instructs us that “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes” (v.v. 8-9).
Did you know that when we worry, we are exercising our faith? This is true because when we worry, we are placing our faith in something or someone other than Almighty God. When we worry, we are placing our faith in our own strength - or in money, our job, our doctors, our leaders, or even our friends and family. And it can be especially frightening to place our faith in something we heard on the news or social media.
Worry is not faith-less. Worry is investing our faith in the wrong place.
The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust  in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord!...The Egyptians are man, and not God, and their horses are flesh, and not spirit. When the Lord stretches out his hand, the helper will stumble, and he who is helped will fall, and they will all perish together” (31:1,3).
 Uh oh! That does not sound like a very good outcome for the one who puts their trust in the mortal world and all its trappings, instead of in God!

In the book of 2 Kings chapter 6:1-22, the prophet Elisha and his servant woke up early one morning to discover that during the night the city where they had been staying was surrounded by a hostile army. Confronted by the intimidating array of warriors, horses, and chariots, the servant was very distressed, and he ran to Elisha, crying “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” But Elisha replied, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed that the eyes of his servant would be opened so that he could see that the power of God was with them. The scripture relates that “…the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of [God’s] horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” Then the prophet prayed that God would strike the surrounding army with blindness, which the Lord did. This allowed Elisha to lead the army into the hands of the king of Israel, instructing him to exercise mercy with his enemies, and this detente eventually led to peace between Israel and Syria.
The prophet Elisha did not place his faith in what he saw with his earthly eyes, or even in the fears of the people around him. He placed his faith in God and what he perceived with his spiritual eyes, because he knew that no matter what it looked like on the outside, God had a plan.
Notice, too, that Elisha did not stand idly by, waiting for God’s plan to reveal itself. Instead, he took an active part through prayer in the furtherance of God’s will for the nation. Even though Elisha did not depend on his own power, he knew that because he had developed an intimate relationship with God, he was not powerless. Elisha knew that his ability to face down the crisis was founded on the power of prayer through his faith in Almighty God.

In the New Testament, just before the crucifixion, Jesus prepared his disciples to face the most difficult crisis of their lives by saying, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1). Jesus was reminding them that they were responsible for the condition of their hearts, and that if their hearts became troubled, the remedy was to place their belief – their faith and trust – in the Son of God.
Psalm 146 sums this up beautifully, giving us relief from the burden of worry by illustrating where to place our faith:
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
Put not your trust in princes,
 in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
 on that very day his plans perish.
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
 who made heaven and earth,
 the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the sojourners;
 he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
 but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
The Lord will reign forever,
 your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the Lord!

 

 

All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation.

Pentecost 2020 – Final Repost: Who is the Holy Spirit? Parts Seven and Eight.

“James wrote that although we can bridle the strength of horses, and steer huge ships with just a small rudder, none of us has the wherewithal to control the power of the tongue, which he says is like a wildfire set loose in a dry forest, and full of deadly poison. (See James chapter 3.) We all know what he means because we’ve all felt the sting of unkind words which can be very painful, leaving lasting scars for the giver and receiver. Solomon wrote that life and death are in the power of our tongues (Proverbs 18:21). With our words we can either build up or tear down.
Therefore we can see that the one, single part of the human body that it is impossible for we humans to control – our tongues, as James said – would be the one part of our selves that God would ask us to surrender for his use and for his glory through the work of his Holy Spirit.”
In this final repost of our series we explain how the power of the Holy Spirit helps us to tame our tongues – and the words we speak – by surrendering ourselves completely to God. To find out more, please click on the links below: