When Thoughts and Prayers Are Not Enough

When Thoughts and Prayers Are Not Enough

Once again our Nation is glued to the media as another horrific and incomprehensible murder of innocent children has occurred. The news reporters and politicians offer their “thought and prayers ” as a way of expressing their sorrow but it doesn’t comfort the grieving families. Our good thoughts or wishes might make us feel better but prayer has no power if it isn’t directed toward the Sovereign God of the universe who hears and sees all. I viewed quite a few memes that stated “thought and prayers” are not enough.

The Jeremiah prophesied, “Thus says the LORD: “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” He depicts the wailing at the time of Israel’s exile to Babylon and it is quoted in Matthew 2:18 after King Herod slaughtered all male babies because he felt threatened by the announcement of the newborn King – Jesus. Today the parents in Texas refuse to be comforted…. there are no pat answers to explain away the terror these children faced in their last moments or why. No amount of words can fill the void in their homes because nothing will ever be the same. It is bad for our own mental health to continuously watch the news but we do need to discuss openly and honestly with our children about what happened at an age appropriate level and then shut the news off.

What to do for ourselves: 6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. What you will receive: 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. What we can focus our thoughts on: 8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:6-8

Following Him and reading His Word is the answer for the issues of today. Faith should lead to action. Be a positive role model to the children in your neighborhood, church, school or community. Advocate for safety and increased mental health awareness and treatment. Watch your own children and monitor their use of media, violent games and movies. Children need a sense of security and boundaries. They also need to be taught respect for authority. It is our responsibility – not the school or church!

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 (ESV) Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. Proverbs 11:14

Read some of the promises of God :

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:9-10

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

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:26–27

Truly pray for those who are suffering right now and share the eternal hope we have because of Jesus in word and action .

RISEN

RISEN

As I stood on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, I was profoundly moved standing in this place and recognizing my own deep need for soul restoration and peace with God. Tabgha is the traditional site where Jesus first called His disciples, performed several miracles and prepared a last breakfast for his disciples post-resurrection. Here He restored Peter to relationship with Himself and to future service as head of The Church. However, my mind was also flashing back to scenes from a movie we had recently watched called Risen.

The crucifixion of Jesus is over but Pilates’ problems are still unravelling. Three day later the body is missing from the tomb and Clavius, a Roman tribune is tasked with finding the body. He examines the tomb and finds the Roman seal has burst from the inside, the heavy stone moved, used grave cloths lay empty and the guards cannot be found. He begins his pursuit of ferreting out the truth.

The Tribune sends his guards to find all followers of this Yeshua to find what they did with the body and to stop the rumors that their crucified teacher had risen from the dead as He prophesied. Clavius enters the upper room where he finds the disciples with Jesus, he drops his sword as he views the man he saw die on the cross, sitting among them. He watches in shock as Thomas examines the mans’ hands and pierced side. He cannot reconcile two things in his mind, “A man dead without question, and that same man alive again.” He then abandons his post and follows these disciples back to Galilee to learn more. He is at Tabgha with the disciples and realizes this man Jesus is like no other. The Tribune admits his part in the crucifixion to which Jesus replies, “I know”. And then asks him, “what bothers you?” Clavius replies, “being wrong”. “What is it you seek?” but before he can reply Jesus answers,” Certainty, peace and a day without war?“‘ The very same answer this Tribune had given Pilate earlier. At the end of the film, Clavius is retelling his story to an inn keeper and states, “I believe. I can never be the same.”

Have you examined the facts of The Resurrection? Jesus’ willing sacrifice on the cross was for our sin to reconcile us with The Father. His last words were, “It is Finished”. There was no more need for animal sacrifice and we can not earn our salvation by doing good works. The power over death and the grave has only been accomplished by Jesus, the Son of God . Every other prophet and leader in history remains in their grave. Being a Christian means being a follower of Jesus Christ, having peace with God, sharing His love and being certain of our eternal future. What bothers you my friend? What is it that you long for? Do you seek certainty and peace? Follow Him and your life will never be the same.

Standing at Tabgha on
the shore of the Sea of Galilee

Behold Immanuel

Behold Immanuel

This advent season I have heard a lot about two terms; Behold and Immanuel. The word “Behold” is used 1298 times in the whole Bible. It means to look intensely not just a glance but to gaze upon, regard, pay attention to something special.

 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. [8]   Isaiah 7:14

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.      Isaiah 9:6

Immanuel means God with us. It is a title (among others given) and not another name for Jesus.  Immanuel is spelled with an I in Hebrew (old testament) and an E in Greek (new testament). In Hebrew the title expresses the wonder of the incarnation, that God became flesh and made His dwelling with man. (John 1:14)

Ward Cushman, in an article on To Every Nation, gives four reasons why Jesus’ title Immanuel is important to us.

  • Immanuel means the Father showed Himself to us.
  • Immanuel means Jesus identified Himself with us
  • Immanuel means Jesus gave Himself for us.
  • Immanuel means the Father, Son and Spirit have stayed with us. 

He promises to be with us Matthew 18:20. One way that is fulfilled is by the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives John 14:16-18. This means we can rely upon Him. Immanuel is a practical truth that can change your life.   The shepherds were given the glorious message of good news and told to go, see, examine, and investigate for themselves.

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ (Messiah) the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  Luke 2:10-11

Behold -have you examined this good news for yourself? Prophecy was and will be fulfilled because God keeps all of His promises.  The Messiah, our Savior was born as a baby in very humble circumstances and not in a palace so all people could draw near.  And because He was confined to time and space Jesus understands all of our problems. Remember this Christmas that God loves us so much He gave His only Son to be the ultimate sacrifice for sin.  The question remains, is there room in your busy life for him? He promises internal and eternal peace and joy despite our current difficulties. We don’t have to be afraid of the future because Immanuel has come.

***Come and behold Him, born the King of angels . Come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord. ***

Seasons of Refreshing

Seasons of Refreshing

The ladies at my church recently held a day retreat to come together and share some hard things as well as how God has worked throughout the past year and a half. Now that restrictions have been lifted here in Massachusetts it felt so good to be with sisters face to face. I am an extrovert and love to chat with people and I didn’t realize how much the “Covid rules” affected me until after our retreat. My soul needed this time of spiritual refreshment; the fun, food, laughter, prayer, singing and reconnecting with friends.

In 1 Kings chapter 18 and 19 we read about the prophet Elijah having showdown between God and the prophets of Baal. In a nutshell, God won and the false prophets were all killed. Now the wicked King Ahab and his evil wife Jezebel were furious. Elijah is burnt out and very afraid so he runs to the wilderness where God provides a nap and some food. Refreshment. God had another assignment for him but first he needed some physical and spiritual fortification.

The word refresh means “to give new strength or energy to; reinvigorate”. With technology we refresh our devices – we restore their settings and clean out clutter so they function better. We need to refresh and restore our souls so we function better. Everyone around me is looking forward to having vacation or family reunions but now that we are free to enjoy life “as we think it should be” how will you refresh your soul? We dare not jump back on the hamster wheel of life.

Here are ten of my favorite suggestions to refresh your soul I gathered from the internet.

  1. Get outside and enjoy some vitamin C – God’s feel good medicine.

2. Now that we can (with consideration of others feelings) give your family and best buddies a huge hug.

3. Cut out the background noise and the distractions including the phone.

4. Put some uplifting music on.

5. Take a walk and stretch your body.

6. Read a good book and get lost in the words.

7. Take time for your hobby or try something new. Being creative feels good.

8. Pamper yourself.

9. Check Your Attitude! Have you allowed negative or false thoughts to invade your soul? Ask God to forgive and cleanse your heart and mind.

10. Make a list of things you are grateful for.

For a season of spiritual refreshing get your soul into a place where you can receive God’s peace and renewal. Spend time reading scripture, calm your spirit and pray.

Be still, and know that I am God. Psalms 46:10 (ESV)

Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, Acts 3:19-20

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Psalms 51:10,12 (ESV)

…they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31 (ESV)

God’s promise to us,

Four Verses for Difficult Times

Four Verses for Difficult Times

I always bristle when I hear Scripture taken out of context, twisted around and made to fit the speakers’ agenda.  Recently one of our top politicians did just that to maybe make her words sound righteous: “Let us think on these things”. If we actually look at the whole passage we will find deep truth for everyday living.

No one would deny that we are living in very difficult times and that is exactly why the Bible is vital today. When the Apostle Paul was writing his letters, Caesar Augustus was conquering the world. Caesar and his armies took what they wanted, persecuted Christians and advanced his Empire all the way to Spain with much collateral damage left behind. Paul was no stranger to political upheaval, mob mentality, religious persecution, fear, poverty or health issues. In his letter to a beloved church, St. Paul gives us a key to living for Christ in a difficult world in Philippians chapter 4: 6-9.

Remember, the Lord is coming soon.6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

The opposite of worry is trust. Trusting our heavenly Father for every need means that when we pray we expect Him to answer. He is the Prince of Peace and promised to never leave us comfortless. Therefore we can rest our hearts and minds in His everlasting arms knowing He loves us and is in control of the situation.

8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

How we think determines how we will act and what we believe determines our values. Truth does not depend on experience or comprehension. Truth is an absolute and doesn’t change with our opinion or feelings. God’s Word is truth. However, we are still challenged to seek the whole truth and not settle for subtle lies and misinformation. We also need to do a self check on what we are fixing our thoughts on.

It is easy to pick out someone else’s faults but Jesus told us to take the “log” out of our own eyes first. We can change the atmosphere around us by looking for the good, the beautiful, the honorable.  Paul was so confident in his walk with the Lord he told us to follow his example. We can do that by reading God’s word, praying, trusting and practicing thankfulness.

Christians should be the calmest people on earth because we know the Lord is in control and He holds the future in His hands.

Christmas Catastrophe

As we look forward to celebrating Christmas and saying goodbye to 2020 it is okay to acknowledge that 2020 has been a disaster in many ways – the media has bombarded us with earthquakes, fire, floods, pandemic and political unrest. But remember the narrative of our Saviors’ birth happened under Roman occupation, forced to travel miles for a census and not being able to find a proper Inn, Mary gave birth in a stable. That seems pretty awful to me but it was part of God’s plan.

It seems an appropriate time to share one of our stories. It was early Christmas morning when my husband awoke to the smell of smoke.  The alarms hadn’t gone off yet. Thankfully it was not a fire but our furnace had “puffed back” and oily black soot was infiltrating the house. Paul shut off the heat, opened the bulkhead door and later at a decent hour called our oil company.

The children were up and opening their presents with great joy when “Dennis” arrived tool box in hand. They were wearing their footsie pajamas and had blackened little noses and toes but barely paid attention as the stranger entered the house. They didn’t notice the chill in the air or soot on their toys. I asked them to stop playing and wave good bye as we thanked him profusely and apologized for ruining his Christmas morning. While I was greatly dismayed thinking about the clean up that would come afterwards, the children were focused on their gifts. 

What takes away our attention from God’s gift? There was great joy at Jesus’ birth despite the difficult and humble beginning. If you remember, Joseph and Mary didn’t plan any of their circumstances! Maybe it will be good for us that our celebrations will be “different” this year. Missing family members, downsized celebrations and maybe a quieter day will give us time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.

 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
Luke 2:8-14

Christmas Day will come – whether there is a pandemic or your furnace has trouble. Most of our problems are temporary and can be cleaned, fixed or healed. Christmas is the day for remembering that God came down to earth to make His home with mankind and later to lay down His life for us. Knowing Jesus brings peace to our hearts, hope for the future and true joy. Make sure your focus is on His best gift today.

 For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16