POWER OF PRAYER

In a newsletter from Philip Yancy I was reminded that this month was the 30th anniversary of the Berlin Wall falling and the cascading effect it had on the communist countries around the world. What I didn’t realize was it all started with prayer! In a Lutheran church in Leipzig, East Germany a pastor led a prayer group with a Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other hand. In what is commonly known as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. ‘Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, NASB) At a time when the world is trying so hard to suffocate the LIGHT, this article by Philip Yancy illustrates so beautifully how God’s Light cannot be suffocated. Philip Yancy’s article “An Anniversary Worth Remembering” is below for all to read how the prayer of believers cannot be suffocated:

On a driving trip through Scandinavia I got my first view of aurora borealis, the Northern Lights. In Finland, just twenty miles from the Russian border, I stood shivering in the cold and watched as waves of luminous color arced across the sky, covering perhaps one-seventh of the dark dome above. Tendrils of green light pulsed and slid together like the interlocking teeth of a giant comb, blocking the stars.  It seemed at once ominous and magical.

An hour later, after checking into a cheap motel, I turned on the tiny black-and-white television and saw images of what looked like a riot.  Crowds of young people in blue jeans were smashing something with sledgehammers, obviously trying to destroy it.  Not knowing Finnish, I did not learn until the next day what had happened the night before: on November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell.

For 28 years the wall had snaked across the landscape of a divided Germany.  Quite possibly the ugliest construction in history—concrete posts laced with miles of barbed wire, bunkers slotted for machine guns, watchtowers and searchlights mounted on steel scaffolds—this barrier was built to keep people inside, not out.  It was communism’s last redoubt.

You would have had to live through the 1960s to realize the enormity of what took place in 1989.  Whereas today’s students practice “active shooter” drills, kids in that era practiced “Duck and Cover.”  When an alarm sounded, we moved away from windows and climbed under our desks with our arms over our heads.  Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet Premier, had promised, “We will bury you,” and we had no better defense against an imminent nuclear attack.

Communism was ascendant in those days, ruling over a third of humanity.  Time magazine regularly printed a map showing its global advance and each time, it seemed, the red stain on the page grew in size.  Many universities in the West had taken on a Marxist tilt, and most of Europe was at risk.  In 1968, French Communists and Socialists formed an alliance, and workers began a nationwide strike that virtually shut down the country.

Flash forward two decades.  In 1989, shockingly, not just the Berlin Wall but the entire system of communism began to collapse.  Within months, almost 600 million people would throw off its yoke.

In the thirty years since that momentous day in November, historians have had a field day analyzing what prompted a revolution no one had predicted.  Some credit the arms race driven by Ronald Reagan, which helped bankrupt an already shaky Soviet economy.  The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall details a series of blunders by East German bureaucrats that led to the surprise decision to allow free movement to the West.

Behind the wall, East German churches played a key role.  According to Sam Nunn, then Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, the Cold War ended “not in a nuclear inferno, but in a blaze of candles in the churches of Eastern Europe.”  Church was the one place where the communist state allowed freedom of assembly, and throughout 1989 four churches in Leipzig, East Germany, (including Bach’s Thomaskirche) held weekly prayer meetings.  The pastors conducted the old Lutheran hymns, addressed their congregations with the Bible in one hand and the daily newspaper in the other, and led rounds of prayer.

At first, a handful of Christians, a few dozen at most, assembled.  Gradually, though, the congregations for these prayer meetings began to swell, attracting not just believers but also political dissidents and ordinary citizens.  After each meeting the groups would join together and walk through the dark streets of Leipzig, singing hymns and holding candles and banners—a most benign form of political protest.  Similar demonstrations spread across the country, most of them beginning in this way, with worship.

News media from the West soon picked up the story.  Alarmed, the communist hierarchy debated how to stamp out the peaceful marches.  Secret police surrounded the churches, sometimes roughing up the demonstrators as they took to the streets.  They arrested 3,500 marchers and injured many others.  Yet crowds in Leipzig kept growing: hundreds, thousands, then 50,000 protesters.

On October 9, nearly everyone expected the political pressure to reach a critical mass.  East Berlin was celebrating the forty-year anniversary of the communist state, and authorities viewed the marches in Leipzig as a provocation.  Police and army units moved into the city, with instructions from East German leader Erich Honecker to fire on the demonstrators.  The nation braced for a replay of Tiananmen Square, the tragedy in China only four months before.  Leipzig’s Lutheran bishop warned of a massacre, hospitals cleared emergency rooms, and churches and concert halls agreed to open their doors in case people needed a place of refuge.

No one knows for sure why the military held their fire that night.  Some theorize that Mikhail Gorbachev himself telephoned a warning to Honecker.  Others believe the army was simply cowed by the huge crowds.  But everyone credits the prayer vigils in Leipzig for kindling the peaceful revolution.  Despite the threat, 70,000 people made an orderly march through downtown Leipzig on October 9.  The following Monday, 120,000 showed up.  A week later, 500,000 turned out—nearly the entire population of Leipzig.

In early November the largest demonstration of all took place, almost one million people marching peacefully through the capital city of East Berlin.  Police and soldiers with all their weapons seemed powerless against such a force.  Erich Honecker resigned, humiliated.  And at midnight on November 9, something no one had dared pray for happened: a gap opened up in the Berlin Wall.  East Germans streamed through the checkpoints, past guards who had always obeyed their orders to “shoot to kill.”  On that night the hated Berlin Wall came tumbling down without a shot being fired.

Not a single life was lost as throngs of people holding candles brought down a government in East Germany.  Like a windstorm of pure air driving out pollution, the peaceful revolution spread across the globe.  In 1989 alone ten nations comprising more than half a billion people—Poland, East Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, Yugoslavia, Mongolia, the Soviet Union—experienced nonviolent revolutions.

As Bud Bultman, a producer and writer for CNN, wrote: “We in the media watched in astonishment as the walls of totalitarianism came crashing down.  But in the rush to cover the cataclysmic events, the story behind the story was overlooked.  We trained our cameras on hundreds of thousands of people praying for freedom, votive candles in hand, and yet we missed the transcendent dimension, the explicitly spiritual and religious character of the story.  We looked right at it and could not see it.”

A huge banner appeared across a Leipzig street: Wir danken Dir, Kirche (We thank you, church).

Historians still have not sorted out all the reasons for communism’s collapse.  As one who lived through the 1960s—a decade when barricades went up in the streets of Paris, when leftists were bombing public buildings in the U.S., and when academics were embracing Marxism—I trace the fault line back to a lone Russian, his courage hardened to steel during eight years in the Gulag, who dared proclaim, “It is a lie.”  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn released the first volume of his massive book, The Gulag Archipelago, in 1973.   His relentless documentation worked like a sledgehammer to destroy the façade of Soviet communism and expose its lies and oppressive terror.

Russian authorities recognized early the threat posed by Solzhenitsyn’s truth-telling.  Hoping to silence him, they expelled him from the Union of Writers and refused to let him accept the Nobel Prize in Literature.  The KGB sent him envelopes filled with photographs of car accidents, brain surgery, and other frightening illustrations.  In an assassination attempt, they poisoned Solzhenitsyn with ricin, leaving him seriously ill.  Finally, when The Gulag Archipelago was smuggled out of Russia and published in the West, they deported him and stripped him of Soviet citizenship.  The book went on to sell 30 million copies in 35 languages.

As more truth emerged, one by one the elite of Europe abandoned the illusion of Marxist utopia.  A decade after the events of 1989, a thick book with the title The Black Book of Communism was published in France, causing a sensation.  In its 858 pages, six European scholars (all former communist sympathizers) detail the global crimes of a system based on repression.  The authors calculate that communist regimes are responsible for 85 to 100 million deaths worldwide—compared to 25 million victims of the Nazis.

As history’s most violent century came to a close, truth won out over all the propaganda and false news pumped out by communist governments, a living fulfillment of Jesus’ statement, “…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  As one Romanian told a reporter for Time, “I never thought this could happen, this revolution.  We are like children waking from a nightmare in the middle of the night.  All we want is reassurance that it won’t happen again.”

If you would like to subscribe so you can receive Mr. Yancy’s blogs you may do so by going to http://www.philipyancy.com.

KEEP YOUR FORK!!

There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things ‘in order,’ she contacted her Pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes.

She told him which songs she wanted to be sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. Everything was in order and the Pastor was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.

“There’s one more thing,” she said excitedly..

“What’s that?” came the Pastor’s reply.

“This is very important,” the young woman continued. “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.”

The Pastor stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say.

“That surprises you, doesn’t it?” the young woman asked.

“Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,” said the Pastor.

The young woman explained. “My grandmother once told me this story, and from that time on I have always tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement. In all my years of attending socials and dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, “Keep your fork.” It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming …. like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance!”

“So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder… “What’s with the fork?” Then I want you to tell them: “Keep your fork … the best is yet to come.”

The Pastor’s eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman good-bye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the young woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She had a better grasp of what heaven would be like than many people twice her age, with twice as much experience and knowledge. She KNEW that something better was coming.

At the funeral people were walking by the young woman’s casket and they saw the cloak she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the Pastor heard the question, “What’s with the fork?” And over and over he smiled.

During his message, the Pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the young woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about

what it symbolized to her. 

He told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either.

He was right. So the next time you reach down for your fork let it remind you, ever so gently, that the best is yet to come. 

LORD MY GOD

This was written by a participant in one of the Bible Study classes I facilitated. Meditate and allow each line soak into your innermost being. Each line can also be lifted up as a prayer to God.

LORD MY GOD

Lord my God draw me closer to thee (Hebrews 10:22)

Hold me tight never let me drift away  (Hebrews 2:1)

Gracious Lord, who forgives all my sins (1 John 1:9)

Lift me up as I weep in guilt and shame (James 4:10, 2 Corinthians 7:10)

Restore and Refresh me (Psalm 51:12)

Love and Perfect me (Hebrews 10:14, 2 Corinthians 7::1)

Guide and Redeem me with Your love (Isaiah 58:11, John 3:16)

Gracious Lord.

Lord of Light, share Your Truth and Your will (Psalm 119:105)

Light my path, let me walk with You each day. (Psalm 119:105)

Faithful Lord, hear my prayers and my songs (Psalm 86:1, 11-15)

Give me Hope and desire to honor Thee (Philippians 2:13)

Teach and rebuke me, (2 Timothy 3:16)

Test and equip me, (2 Timothy 3:16)

Judge and Transform me with Your Word (Romans 12:2)

Precious Lord.

(Scripture Reading from Isaiah 41:9-13)

“I took you from the ends of the earth, from the farthest corners I called you.

I said, ‘You are my servant,’ I have chosen you and have not rejected you.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you;

I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

For I am the Lord, your God.”

Righteous Lord, Who blots our all my sins (Isaiah 49:25)

Lead me forth to confession day by day (2 Corinthians 9:13, Nehemiah 9:3)

Holy Lord (Hebrews 7:26)

Give me peace at all times (2 Thessalonians 3:16)

Let me trust in Your promise and Your oath (Hebrews 6:17, 7:28)

When I’m weak, You will strengthen me (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

When I’m sad, You will comfort me (Psalm 119:76)

When I doubt, You will show Your hands to me (John 20:27)

Blessed Lord.

Lord my Hope (Psalm 130:7, Romans 15:12-13)

Guard my heart and my mind (Philippians 4:7)

Set my foot on a rock of certainty (Psalm 40:2, Deuteronomy 32:4)

King of kings (1 Timothy 6:15)

Who secures victory (Psalm 60:12, 20:9)

Let me shout for Your triumphs and Your might (Psalm 20:5,6)

When I call You will answer (Isaiah 65:24, Psalm 20:1)

When I speak You will listen (Isaiah 65:24)

When I bow You will lift me from the pit (Psalm 145:8, 103:3-4)

King of kings

GOD’S LOVE LETTER TO YOU

This is not of my doing but is an email I received. Here is God’s love letter to you, His child, using His own words: 

 My child:

You may not know Me, but I know everything about you–Psalm 139:1                                              

I know when you sit and when you rise up—Psalm 139:2

I am familiar with all your ways–Psalm 139:3

Even the very hairs on your head are numbered–Matthew 10:29-31

For you are made in My image–Genesis 1:27

In Me you live and move and have your being–Acts 17:28

For you are My offspring–Acts 17:28

I knew you even before you were conceived–Jeremiah 1:4-5

I chose you when I planned creation–Ephesians 1:11-12

You were not a mistake, for all your days are written in My book of life–Ps 139:15-16                                                                                                   

I determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live–Acts 17:26

You are fearfully and wonderfully made–Psalm 139:14

I knit you together in your mother’s womb–Psalm 139:13

And brought you forth on the day you were born–Psalm 71:6

I have been misrepresented by those who don’t know Me–John 8:41-44

I am not distant and angry, but am the complete expression of love–1 John 4:16

And it is My desire to lavish My love on you–I John 3:1

Simply because you are my child and I am your Father–I John 3:1

I offer you more than your earthly father ever could–Matthew 7:11

For I am your perfect Father–Matthew 5:8

Every good gift that you receive comes from My hand–James 1:17

For I am your provider and I meet all your needs–Matthew 6:31-33

My plan for your future has always been filled with hope–Jeremiah. 29:11

Because I love you with an everlasting love–Jeremiah 31:3

My thoughts towards you are countless as the sands of the seashore–Psalm 139:17-18

And I will rejoice over you with singing–Zephaniah 3:17

I will never stop doing good to you–Jeremiah 32:40

For you are My treasured possession–Exodus 19:5

I desire to establish you with all My heart and all My soul–Jeremiah.32:41

And I want to show you great and marvelous things–Deuteronomy. 4:29

Delight in Me and I will give you the desires of your heart–Psalm 37:4

For it is I who gives you those desires–Philippians 2:13

I am able to do more for you than you could possibly imagine–Ephesians 3:20

For I am your greatest encourager–2 Thessalonians 2-16-17

I am the Father who comforts you in all your troubles–2 Corinthians1:3-4

When you are broken-hearted, I am close to you–Psalm 34:18

As a shepherd carries a lamb, I have carried you close to My heart–Isaiah 40:11

One day I will wipe away every tear from your eyes–Revelation 21:3-4

And I’ll take away all the pain you have suffered on this earth-Revelation. 21:3-4

I am your Father and I love you even as I love My Son, Jesus-John 7:23

For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed–John 17:26

He is the exact representation of My being–Hebrews 1:3

He came to demonstrate that I am for you, not against you–Romans 8:31

And to tell you that I am not counting your sins–2 Corinthians 5:18-19

Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled–2 Corinthians 5:18-19

His death was the ultimate expression of My love for you–1 John 4:10

I gave up everything I love that I may gain your love–Romans 8:31-32

If you receive the gift of My Son Jesus, you receive Me–1 John 2:23

And nothing will ever separate you from My love again–Romans 8:38-39

Come home and I’ll throw the biggest party heaven has ever seen–Luke 15:7

I have always been Father, and will always be Father–Ephesians 3:14-15

My question is: Will you be My child?–John 1:12-13

I am waiting for you–Luke 15:11-32

THE GOOD SHEPHERD

When studying Charles Swindoll’s LIVING THE PSALMS, Charles went into greater depth with Psalm 23. This psalm is a very familiar one even to unbelievers. What I learned revealed much about the Shepherd who watches over me and His flock. Through insights into the characteristics of sheep, the shepherd’s relationship to his flock, and the shepherd’s responsibilities we can gain new insights into our relationship with our Shepherd, Jesus Christ, “I am the good shepherd I know my sheep and my sheep know me…”(John 10:14, NIV). “The Lord is my shepherd,” (Psalm 23:1a, NIV). Let’s look at some of them now.

We think of sheep being cute white animals eating in a beautiful green pasture. However, by nature, sheep are unclean. They will remain filthy indefinitely unless the shepherd cleanses them. Without the Shepherd’s cleansing, we remain perpetually unclean and unforgiven. It is by asking our Shepherd for forgiveness that we are cleansed. “I shall not want.” (Psalm 1b, NIV)

Sheep are easily alarmed and will actually run over each other, racing away from what startled them. The shepherd catches the sheep; gently, but firmly, forces it to lie down and feed quietly on grass beneath its feet. We also, at times,  sometimes need to be forced to lie down at His feet and feed on His  Word and rest. “He makes me lie down in green pastures,” (Psalm 23: 2a, NIV).

Because sheep are instinctively afraid of rapidly running water even though they may be tired, thirsty, and hot, they’ll only stand and stare at a fast-flowing stream but never drink from it.  Therefore the, shepherd must lead their flocks to quiet, peaceful waters. “He leads me beside still waters,”(Psalm 23:2b, NIV)

Sheep are easily distracted and if they see a clump of grass will wander to it giving no heed to where the flock is pasturing, becoming easily lost. Sometimes followed by other members of the flock.  Quickly danger can overcome them.  It is the shepherd that calls them by name and it is only the shepherd’s voice they will respond to. If a thief or anyone else attempts to call them, they will pay them no heed. Jesus tells us, “When he (shepherd) has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger in fact they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” (John 10:4,5, NIV). Redeeming is not accomplished by the sheep.  It’s only by the shepherd’s action the lost one is restored to the flock. Again Jesus tells us, “…I am the gate for the sheep…I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:7b,9,10b, NIV). “He restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:3a, NIV)

 Sheep lack a sense of direction. They can get lost in the familiarity of their own territory. In our walk with Christ we can’t guide ourselves without getting lost.  “He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3b, NIV)

 They are virtually defenseless. Other animals have growls, claws, sharp teeth, keen sense of smell, hearing, speed, venom, ferocity to protect themselves. However, the sheep is awkward, weak and ignorant, have spindle legs, tiny hoofs, and are pitifully slow. So it is with us against the Enemy. “Even though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4, NIV)

One of the most interesting revelations Charles Swindoll received from Charles W. Slemming writings regarding the shepherds of the Middle East.  When a shepherd moves his flock to a new field, the shepherd will corral the sheep until he has personally walked every inch of the new field for adder holes. When he finds a hole he will fill it with grass and pour oil from his pouch into it. This renders the viper helpless and he is trapped in his hole.  Before allowing the sheep to enter the field, the shepherd will take each sheep individually and  anoint his head with oil thereby protecting the sheep if by chance a hole was overlooked. By oiling the viper’s burrow the shepherd has prepared the table for his sheep to eat from; by anointing heads with oil, the sheep have protection to enjoy their abundance. “You prepare aa table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.” (Psalm 23:5, NIV).

 F. B. Meyer in his book THE SHEPHERD PSALM refers to “goodness and lovingkindness” as our “celestial escorts”. One commentator referred to them as God’s Sheepdogs. It is with these “sheep dogs” The Lord is  always ready and prepared to find us when we stray and restore us to His house.  “Surely goodness and and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever” (Psalm 23:6, KJV).

STAND FIRM

How many times have you felt like this saguaro? Feeling as though your faith is being pulled in twenty different directions and not knowing which way to turn or what to do? It’s at these times that God tells us to “Stand firm”. What does that mean, to “stand firm”? Have you ever seen a two-year-old when he/she has been told “No” to something he desires or wants to do? That’s standing firm! This is what Moses was telling the Israelites to do when they were fleeing Egypt and they looked back to see Pharaoh and his army chasing them. Moses tells the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance of the Lord.” (Exodus 14:13, NIV) It is important for us to stand as firm as that two-year-old and know that our God is going to work on our behalf.

Then there’s the reassurance that strengthens us knowing “…the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations” or, to know just like David that God’s “love stands firm forever…” (Psalm 89:2, NIV) and His statutes “stand firm”. God is the same “yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8,NIV),

Paul in his letters tells ones to “stand firm” in faith fourteen times. When something is repeated more than two or three times, we are to pay attention. That is God telling us something important. When our feet our firmly planted on solid ground, this is the position in which we can best defend ourselves. Therefore, when you feel like this saguaro, listen to Paul: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you.” (1 Corinthians 15:58, NIV)

FOUR-LETTER WORDS

As children we are taught four-letter words are inappropriate. But, as believers, God teaches us the importance of certain four-letter words regarding our walk of faith. Some of the most powerful words in the Bible are four-letter words. Let’s discover them:

LOVE. Jesus was asked by one of the teachers of the law what was the greatest commandment,  “Jesus responded, The most important one…is this:  “LOVE the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: LOVE  your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”(Matthew 22:37-39, NIV). LOVE appears in Scripture 310 times in 280 verses in the King James Version. 1 Corinthians 13 defines love and tells us in verse 7, “these three remain: faith, hope, and LOVE. But the greatest of these is LOVE.”  This definitely shows us the importance of LOVE on our walk with God and Jesus, His Son, our Savior.

HOPE. Without hope, we are dead. Hebrews 6:19 states: “We have this HOPE as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure…” Therefore I say, without hope we are nothing, we are dead. We are called to one HOPE, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one HOPE when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4, NIV). It is why we walk the path God has put before us, “That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our HOPE in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.”(1 Timothy 4:10,NIV). Too many people are looking for HOPE in the wrong places: in objects, in a person, or in an accomplishment. However, only through putting our HOPE in Jesus do we find peace. “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, NIV).  

HOLY.  Too many of us believers think we are not HOLY but Scripture tells us differently. “But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you HOLY in His sight..if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the HOPE held out in the gospel. (Colossians 1:22, NIV). “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, HOLY and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12, NIV). “He has saved us and called us to a HOLY life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace.” (2 Timothy 1:9, NIV).

LIFE. Without LIFE there would be no necessity for LOVE, HOPE, or being HOLY. We must remember it was God who gave us LIFE and we would not be here except for Him. Genesis 1:26 “God said, ‘let us make man in our image, in our likeness…So God created mankind in is His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.”  Because through Adam and Eve, sin entered the world, God “gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting light.” (John 3:16, NIV).

RIGHT EQUIPMENT

1 Timothy 3:16-17, NIV: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Many of us would not consider doing whitewater rafting without instruction and the right equipment. In the same manner, we should not consider a trip through life without the right equipment.

In rafting, the journey does not start without instruction from experienced individuals, an experienced guide, the raft, oars, rudder, life jackets, and fellow rafters.

In life, as with whitewater rafting, we should not even attempt our trip without being properly equipped. With God as the raft, the protection and essential piece of equipment for our trip; Jesus Christ as our experienced Guide; the Holy Spirit as our rudder; the church as our life jacket; prayer as our oars; and, our pastor, Bible Studies, teachers and fellow believers as fellow occupants in our raft to assist us we have the right equipment to successfully arrive at our final destination.

In order to arrive at the final destination each piece of equipment is necessary so that we can navigate the rapids of life. Along the way, we will be tossed, turned, and even tipped over on this adventure but we will survive. During the adventure, we will have some calm waters interspersed among the rapids. As in whitewater rafting, we will get wet but because we have the right equipment to protect and guide us, we will reach our end destination—Heaven. On the way, we will be equipped “for every good work” God has planned for us.

IN CHRIST ALONE

According to Wikipedia, in 2001, Julian Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend wrote the lyrics and melody to IN CHRIST ALONE “with the purpose of creating a modern hymn that would explain the life of Christ”. Keith is a Northern Irish Christian singer and songwriter.

This song was written with English songwriter and worship leader Stuart Townsend. Stuart says regarding the writing of the lyrics, “the only thing I could think was to base it on the eternal theme of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ…I was pretty excited as I thought about the amazing implications of Christ’s finished work on the cross. I wanted to write a fourth verse that was about us—but not just as a emotional response, but as a undeniable statement of the power of Christ to sustain us in this life.”

If you want to hear this sung you can go to YouTube as I don’t have that capability or know how to insert it here. However, here are the lyrics for you to meditate on:

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone! – who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe.
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied –
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine –
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand:
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.


PASTOR AND HIS SON

In our world today, suicides have increased, mass shootings are increasing, bombings still occur, and wars continue leaving mass destruction of property and lives. More and more people are losing hope.

We never know when some little gesture can make a great difference in someone’s life. The story below may never have happened but that shouldn’t stop us from spreading the Good News, JESUS LOVES YOU!

Every Sunday afternoon, after the morning service at the church, the Pastor and his eleven year old son would go out into their town and hand out Gospel Tracts. This particular Sunday afternoon, as it came time for the Pastor and his son to go to the streets with their tracts, it was very cold outside, as well as pouring down rain. The boy bundled up in his warmest and driest clothes and said, “OK, dad, I’m ready.”  

His Pastor dad asked, “Ready for what?” 

“Dad, it’s time we gather our tracts together and go out.”

Dad responds, “Son, it’s very cold outside and it’s pouring down rain.” The boy gives his dad a surprised look, asking, “But Dad, aren’t people still going to Hell, even though it’s raining?”

Dad answers, “Son, I am not going out in this weather.”

Despondently, the boy asks, Dad, may I go? Please?”

His father hesitated for a moment then said, “Son, you may go. Here are the tracts; be careful son.”

“Thanks Dad!”

And with that, he was off and out into the rain. This eleven year old boy walked the streets of the town going door to door and handing everybody he met in the street a Gospel Tract. After two hours of walking in the rain, he was soaking, bone-chilled wet and down to his VERY LAST TRACT. He stopped on a corner and looked for someone to hand a tract to, but the streets were totally deserted. Then he turned toward the first home he saw and started up the sidewalk to the front door and rang the door bell. He rang the bell, but nobody answered. He rang it again and again, but still no one answered. He waited but still no answer. Finally, this eleven year old trooper turned to leave, but something stopped him. Again, he turned to the door and rang the bell and knocked loudly on the door with his fist. He waited, something holding him there on the front porch. He rang again and this time the door slowly opened. Standing in the doorway was a very sad-looking elderly lady. She softly asked, “What can I do for you, son?”

With radiant eyes and a smile that lit up her world, this little boy said, “Ma’am, I’m sorry if I disturbed you, but I just want to tell you that *JESUS REALLY DOES LOVE YOU* and I came to give you my very last Gospel Tract which will tell you all about JESUS and His great LOVE.” With that, he handed her his  last tract and turned to leave. She called to him as he departed. “Thank you, son! And God Bless You!” Well, the following Sunday morning in church Pastor Dad was in the pulpit. As the service began, he asked, “Does anybody have testimony or want to say anything?”

Slowly, in the back row of the church, an elderly lady stood to her feet. As she began to speak, a look of glorious radiance came from her face, “No one in this church knows me. I’ve never been here before. You see, before last Sunday I was not a Christian. My husband passed on some time ago, leaving me totally alone in this world. Last Sunday, being a particularly cold and rainy day, it was even more so in my heart that I came to the end of the line where I no longer had any hope or will to live. So I took a rope and a chair and ascended the stairway into the attic of my home. I fastened the rope securely to a rafter in the roof, then stood on the chair and fastened the other end of the rope around my neck. Standing on that chair, so lonely and broken hearted I was about to leap off, when suddenly the loud ringing of my doorbell downstairs startled me. I thought, “I’ll wait a minute, and whoever it is will go away.” I waited and waited, but the ringing doorbell seemed to get louder and more persistent. Who could this be? Nobody ever rings my bell or comes to see me.” I loosened the rope from my neck and started for the front door, all the while the bell rang louder and louder.

When I opened the door and looked I could hardly believe my eyes, for there on my front porch was the most radiant and angelic little boy I had ever seen in my life. His SMILE, oh, I could never describe it to you! The words that came from his mouth caused my heart that had long been dead, TO LEAP TO LIFE as he exclaimed with a cherub-like voice, “Ma’am, I just came to tell you that JESUS REALLY DOES LOVE YOU.” Then he gave me this Gospel tract that I now hold in my hand.

As the little angel disappeared back out into the cold and rain, I closed my door and read slowly every word of this Gospel Tract. Then I went up to my attic to get my rope and chair. I wouldn’t be needing them any more. You see—I am now a Happy Child of the KING. Since the address of your church was on the back of this Gospel Tract, I have come here to personally say THANK YOU to God’s little angel who came just in the nick of time and by so doing, spared my soul from an eternity in hell.”

There was not a dry eye in the church. And as shouts of praise and honor to THE KING resounded off the very rafters of the building, Pastor Dad descended from the pulpit to the front pew where the little angel was seated. He took his son in his arms and sobbed uncontrollably.

Probably no church has had a more glorious moment, and probably this universe has never seen a Dad that was more filled with love & honor for his son… Except for One. This Father also allowed His Son to go out into a cold and dark world. He received His Son back with joy unspeakable, and as all of heaven shouted praises and honor to The King, the Father sat His beloved Son on a throne far above all principality and power and every name that is named. Heaven is for His people; Jesus is for our hearts!

Remember, God’s message CAN make the difference in the life of someone close to you. Do not be too shy to share that wonderful message.

I MUST TELL JESUS

According to WHOLESOME WORDS HOME by Jacob Henry Hall and edited by Stephen Ross, Elisha A Hoffman, 1839 to 1929, was a pastor and gospel hymn writer. He was raised in a home where during worship every morning and evening it was the custom to sing one or two hymns. A taste for sacred music was created and developed. Songs became as natural to his soul as breathing is for the body. He started writing songs and melodies and had his first song published at the age of 18. During his lifetime he wrote over two thousand songs and fifty different song books.

While doing this he became an evangelistic minister of the Gospel. When he wasn’t working in his study or writing gospel songs and hymns, he would minister to the poor in their homes. It has been said that while visiting a home that was experiencing much sorrow and affliction, he found the mother to be in the depths of despair. He quoted Bible verses to her that he thought would help her, but nothing helped. Then he suggested she could do nothing better than to tell Jesus all her sorrows. After meditating on these words, a light broke across the mother’s face and she cried, “Yes, I must tell Jesus.” He went directly home and wrote:

I must tell Jesus all of my trials;
I cannot bear these burdens alone;
In my distress He kindly will help me;
He ever loves and cares for His own.
 
I must tell Jesus all of my troubles,
He is a kind, compassionate Friend;
If I but ask Him, He will deliver,
Make of my troubles quickly an end.
 
Tempted and tried, I need a great Saviour,
One who can help my burdens to bear;
I must tell Jesus, I must tell Jesus,
He all my cares and sorrows will share.
 
O how the world to evil allures me!
O how my heart is tempted to sin!
I must tell Jesus, and He will help me
Over the world the vict'ry to win.
 
Chorus:
"I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
I cannot bear my burdens alone;
I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
Jesus can help me, Jesus alone."

This song was sung at a Bible study I attend. While I can’t carry a tune if my life depended on it, Christian hymns hold much truth and comfort for me. When you need comfort, this song gives us the answer, “I must tell Jesus! I cannot bear my burdens alone…”

I AM

Do you need Me?
I am there.

You cannot see Me, yet
I am the light you see by.

You cannot hear Me, yet
I speak through your voice.

You cannot feel Me, yet
I am the power at work
in your hands.

I am at work, though you
do not understand My ways.

I am at work, though you
do not recognize My works.

I am not strange visions,
I am not mysteries.

Only in absolute stillness,
beyond self,
can you know Me as I am,
and then, but as a
feeling and a faith.

Yet I am there.
Yet I hear. Yet I answer.

When you need Me,
I am there.

Even if you deny Me,
I am there.

Even in your fears,
I am there.

I am there when you pray
and when you do not pray.

I am in you,
and you are in Me.

I am the law on which
the movement of the stars
and the growth of
living cells are founded.

I am the love that is
to law’s fulfilling.

I am the assurance.
I am peace.
I am openness.

I am the law that
you can live by.

I am the love that
you can cling to.

I am your assurance.
I am your peace.
I am one with you.

Beloved,
I am there.

Anonymous.

GOD’S JEALOUSY

This morning I was remembering how last week I jealously guarded Monday for myself. Nothing short of an emergency was going to be cause for me to give up Monday. Have you ever seen a bird guard a nest containing their babies. That is how much I was guarding last Monday.  Instantly,  I knew this was how much God wants me to protect my time with Him. My NIV Life Application Study Bible concordance defines jealousy this way: “apprehensive of the loss of another’s affection; vigilant in guarding something; feelings of envy or bitterness.

As early as the Ten Commandments, the second one, God Himself commands us, “You shall not bow down to them (other gods) or worship them (other gods); for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…” (Exodus 20:4, NIV). It was definitely an “AHA” moment. It blew my mind to realize God could really be apprehensive of losing my affection. WOW, to think He loves me and cares for me that much.  Not just me but God loves each one of us that much! He also does NOT want to lose our affection for Him to the gods of this world. You know the gods of this world:: “sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5, NIV). And, it is definitely and indication how much He desires a relationship with each one of us. How then can I not be a “jealous” follower of God? How about you?

Then look at the second part of the definition: VIGILANT IN GUARDING SOMETHING. Has He been vigilant in guarding me, in guarding my relationship with Him, is this an apropos description of our relationship? Looking back over my faith walk with Him my answer is a resounding YES to each of the questions. Even when I was sure His ears were plugged and He had turned a deaf ear to me, I can honestly say He was “vigilantly guarding something”. Without a doubt God was “vigilantly guarding” my life, the heart I had asked Him to share, and my faith. How could I not be “vigilant in guarding” my relationship with Him? How about you?

Does God have feelings of envy or bitterness? He definitely didn’t like it when the Israelites kept turning away from Him. He definitely didn’t like it when I turned away and did my own thing. And, He definitely doesn’t like it when anyone turns away and does their own thing. Yes, I believe God who sacrificed His own Son so He could have a relationship with us could be bitter and envious when we eagerly follow the worldly path rather than the path He has chosen for us. Yes, from Genesis to Revelation God is showing us how much He loves us, how much He wants a relationship with us, how far He will go so He can have a relationship with us.  Looking at it this way, makes me want to jealously guard my time, my relationship, my love, my faith for Him. Without a doubt my walk with Him will be stronger because of it.  What about you?

YOU ARE THERE

When I wake or when I sleep, You are there
When I work or when I rest, You are there
When I pray or when I play, You are there
When I walk or when I sit, You are there
 
When I fret or when I’m at peace,You are there
When I ail or when I’m well,You are there
When I roam or when I’m home,You are there
When I’m glad or when I’m sad,You are there
 
When I stand or when I fall,You are there
When I sin or when I obey,You are there
When I forgive or when I repent,You are there
When I live or when I die,You are there
 
Thank You, Abba, for You are there
Thank You, Jesus, for You are there
Thank You, Spirit, for You are there

Based on Psalm 139:7-17, NIV.

WHERE ARE YOU?

Genesis 3:8-9, “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

For many years, when pastors would give sermons using these verses or I would read them in my mind it felt like God was furious with them and was storming through the Garden of Eden hollering to Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” Most certainly because I was projecting my hidden feelings onto this scene. In my mind if God would throw Adam and Eve out of the garden for their sin, He would throw me out of His kingdom if He knew my deep, dark hidden sin. You know the one I’m talking about, the one that keeps gnawing at you, the one you just can’t forget, the one Satan uses to threaten you or uses to blackmail you. So, if I buried this sin in the deep recesses of my heart and mind God would never discover them. There are many believers and unbelievers who feel this same way. 

Satan likes for us to think this way because it breaks the relationship between us and the Lord God. We feel unworthy, undeserving, unforgivable, unlovable and as long as Satan can make us feel this way, the longer he can cause confusion and strife between us and the Lord God. During this time, which was a span of many decades, I had asked Christ to come into my heart, attended churches regularly, attended Bible studies, and was active in the churches I attended. Many of us believe that if God knew how we had lived, knew the many sins we had committed, knew the deep dark hidden sin we’ve kept locked up deep down inside; He could not love us.  He would not desire to walk with us ever.

This is not the truth though “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”(Romans 3:23, NASB). “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”(Romans 5:8, NASB). When this finally went from being head knowledge to heart knowledge that the Creator of this world and me, “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and the Lord of lords”(1 Timothy 6:15, NASB) would forgive me, it was as if the weight of the world was lifted from my shoulders.  When I asked God to forgive me that sin of all sins, that deep dark hidden sin,  no longer was Satan able to hold me hostage. No longer was Satan capable of blackmailing me. No longer was I unworthy, undeserving, unforgivable or unlovable. Why? Because finally I believed God can do what He says He can do. I believed Scripture when it says “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9,NASB). Finally, I believed in my heart “ALL Scripture was inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness…” (2 Timothy 3:16, NASB). No longer was I picking and choosing what parts of the Bible was “acceptable” in today’s time for “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8, NASB).

The truth is: He knows how you have lived, He knows the sins you have committed, and He knows the deep dark hidden sin you have locked up deep down inside. DON’T BELIEVE SATAN’S LIES ANY LONGER. Take it from someone who has been where you are now: HE STILL LOVES YOU AND WANTS TO WALK WITH YOU!!  Do you hear the Lord God asking, “WHERE ARE YOU?”

MY RULES/GOD’S RULES

Several feet from the front of my apartment is a playground used by the children living in this apartment  complex. One spring day,  I had my windows open and was sitting in my easy chair in front of the windows working on my computer. A group of children were playing on and around the playground equipment when I heard one child cry out, “I made this game up so I can make the rules.” This made me laugh until I realized there are many times we take this same attitude with God. This is my life, so I can make the rules.” How often we forget, it was God who created us for His plan and for His purpose. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10, NIV).

Unfortunately, all to often, we forget God’s plan for us is the same today as it was in the days of Jeremiah. His plans are still “to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Unfortunately when we are going through turmoil, or our prayers go unanswered for years, or we asked Christ into our hearts and we are still experiencing hard times, we feel God has forgotten us. So we continue to play by our rules.

Shortly before Jesus was crucified, the religious leaders asked, “Teacher, which is your greatest commandment in the Law?” To which, Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:36-39, NIV). Is it your rules or God’s rules?

BLURRED VISION

Several years ago, I did some cat-sitting for my favorite cat, Sunny.  The first night there, I put my glasses on the bed stand.  The next morning, I reached over, grabbed my glasses and started my day.  For some reason, everything was blurred and out of focus. I thought this was strange as my eyes or glasses had not been causing me any problems. While brushing my teeth, I learned the cause of the blurriness.  In my haste I had picked up the cat owner’s eyeglasses.

As Christians our vision can easily become blurred when we: fail to spend time daily with Jesus, fail to spend time in His Word, fail to spend time talking with Him, are disobedient, or finally when we sin and don’t ask for forgiveness. Correcting this vision is as easy as it was for me to correct my situation: by spending time daily in prayer with Jesus, by spending time daily in His Word, by being obedient to Him and His Word, and by asking for forgiveness when we sin.

In READ THE BIBLE FOR LIFE by George Guthrie the following statistics were given if you took a survey of 100 Christians:

Ask them if they have read the Bible at least once in the past week, and sixty-eight of them will say no. Even more disconcerting, ask those one hundred church members if reading or studying the Bible has made any significant difference in the way they live their lives only thirty-seven out of one hundred will say yes.

Is your vision blurred?