Finding Strength

Sudan map, courtesy of BBC NewsDavid was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God. 1 Samuel 30:6

At this time in David’s reign—to put it mildly—he wasn’t well liked. We’ve all had those kinds of days. And to be fair, there are times that we haven’t liked people that much. Those who were against David wanted blood. Amidst all that anguish and strife, David could say that he found strength in the Lord his God. The correlation to our own lives is obvious but I think we need to step it up a notch.

As I’ve written in this space before, millions of Christians face situations similar to David’s. Many want the blood of Christians. We need to pray for our Brothers and Sisters that they will find strength in the Lord their God. Their very lives may depend on our prayers.

Pray for the nation of Sudan. Darfur gets most of the attention out of all the news coming out of Sudan, but Sudan is a very large country. After 20+ years of civil war, there is trouble once again. Pray for those in the towns of Wau, Bir Di, Bor, Rumbek, Waat, Akelo, and the capital of the South, Juba (to name a few).

Pray that they too will find strength in the Lord their God.

Voice of the Martyrs

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Sing for Joy

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Psalm 5:11

Here are two related questions. (1) How do you sing when no one is watching? It could be a song on the radio or a worship tape or a song that just pops into your head. (2) Now how do you sing when people are around, say, perhaps in a congregational setting? Are the two manners different? (sorry, that was 3 questions)

This evening the barbershop chorus I sing with went to a nursing home. We sang to two different audiences: the first was to “regular” residents as they were dining, and the second in the Memory Care Section (Alzheimer’s Unit). What a contrast. The regular residents were polite and cordial. Then we sang to the Memory Care residents. One woman in particular took it upon herself to join in with us to the tunes she knew. She was off key, shrill, and a half second ahead of us in our singing. No problem.

Then it happened. A quartet began a medley of three Gospel songs and I watched this woman in amazement. She sang (almost) in tune and in tempo with the quartet. The words came alive to her. She was halfway between tears and smiles. She wasn’t singing for our benefit, even though we were all standing in front of her. No, she was carefree and joyfully singing for the Audience of One.

And I suspect He was pleased with her worship.

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God of Comfort

I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mortal men, the sons of men, who are but grass. Isaiah 51:12

When God is our comfort, what do we have to fear? Nothing. And yet, we fear a lot.

  • We fear about not having enough money “to make ends meet.”
  • We fear about the type of society our children are growing up in.
  • We fear that the global economy will come crashing around us.
  • We fear old age.
  • We fear death.
  • We even fear that God doesn’t love us sometimes.

We could easily add to the list if we're honest with ourselves. The list is as real as our fears. However, the God who set the mountains and lakes in place, the God who threw out the stars in the heavens and sprinkled the sand on the beaches, the God who knows the number of water molecules in all of the oceans, yes, that same God will comfort us.

Sometimes we just need to ask. Often it’s the hardest thing to do.

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Everlasting to Everlasting

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. Psalm 90:1

Have you ever wondered if the God who created the universe is capable? I know, it sounds like a foolish question. I ask this because I think that we often treat Him as if He were a “if you can” God versus a “I know you can” God. We doubt God. We think that with a billion Christians praying at one time, what’s the likelihood that He even cares for us let alone will answer our prayers?

But as today’s Scripture states, He’s been around a long long time and He isn’t going away any time too soon. From the beginning of time until it is no more, God will be. He’s heard the prayers of the saints from of old and He’ll hear the prayers of His modern-day saints. Nothing is beyond His grasp. No one is unimportant. And no prayers go unheard (you may not like His answers but He does hear them).

So, today is a day to just think about His greatness. Think about the God who talked to Adam in the garden, Noah as he was building the ark, Moses in the burning bush, Paul on the road to Damascus, and any number of Biblical characters. Same God. Different eras. And after we perish from this Earth, He will be here for the saints who follow us.

Stability through the generations is what we need in this rapidly changing world.

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You Must Be Born Again

In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:5

A religious leader came to Jesus in the dark of night because he was fearful of what his other leaders would think of him if they found out. Nicodemus was a truth seeker. He was putting a lot on the line to meet with this radical named Jesus.

Then Jesus told him he had to be born again. After Jesus briefly explained the concept, Nicodemus was still puzzled. Jesus’ next words must have shook Nicodemus to the core: “You are Israel’s teacher and you don’t understand these things.” It probably upset him because as a teacher, he was certain to know a great deal about the Law and the Prophets. But he never came across anything about being “born again.” He would have remembered that!

But the rebirth Jesus was talking about was (and is) spiritual. It was all about dying to oneself, sacrifice, trusting in a God you couldn’t see, turning from your evil and wicked desires, acknowledging to that same God that you couldn’t do it on your own. And yet, it began with one simple step: surrendering your life to Christ.

Most reading this will have had that experience in one form or another, but I think it’s prudent to remember where we’ve been and what it was all about. Back then it was fresh in our minds and exciting. The message is still the same: you must be born again. It’s as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago when a troubled religious leader came to Jesus with deep questions.

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Let Nothing Move You

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

Those in the ministry know the joys and pains of helping people. It’s often a thankless, sleepless, and tireless job. People don’t always act the way they should or the way you want them to act. People can be downright stubborn and ornery!

But this verse gives us all hope. You see, if we were in the ministry for the money or the prestige or the fame, it wouldn’t last. But we’re in it for the people. Yeah, they’re stubborn, but we also know that God must love them and is getting ready to do something in their lives, because why else would you be ministering to them?

Take heart. You know your reward is a heavenly reward and the work you’re doing on behalf of other people isn’t in vain. It’s nice to be reminded of that when you’re in the thick of things.

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Nobody’s Perfect

Blessed are they who are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord.  Psalm 119:1

Nobody’s perfect.” If we’ve heard that phrase once, we’ve heard it several thousand times. Often it is spoken when a person has failed to meet someone else’s standard. And dare I say, often it is an excuse.

Of course we all make mistakes, and nobody is perfect. Trust me when I say that this phrase was coined when the person saw me coming! The Psalmist tells us, though, that we will be blessed if we are blameless as we walk according to the Law of the Lord. How do we connect the two? On the one hand, we are  all sinners and fail. On the other, God said we will be blessed if we walk according to His law.

I think it all in your attitude. If as a Christian you aren’t even trying to live a Godly life according to the principles set forth in the Word of God, it’s a problem. If you’ve resigned yourself to the fact that you fail and you’ll always fail and why should you try to succeed, that’s also a problem. However, if you genuinely seek to live according to God’s Word and still fail, you are on the right track. You have not let sin or the circumstances of the world harden your heart. You are, as the Scriptures say, a man after God’s own heart.

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Persecution for the Gospel

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Matthew 5:11

This is another one of those hard teachings of Jesus, especially to those of who have never undergone real persecution. In fact, when we were thinking about moving to a Muslim country, I was amazed at the looks people gave me when I tried to explain that our mail would be read and our telephone conversations would be monitored. Then the real shocker was when I told people to never ever refer to us as missionaries (because the term “missionary” does not have a positive meaning in many lands).

It’s true. It’s many lands, it’s a crime to be a missionary. If you lead someone to Christ, it is dangerous for the person and his/her family if the authorities find out about the conversion. Such is the case of many of our Brothers and Sisters in Muslim, Hindu, and Communist lands.

And yet, the church is often vibrant (and possibly secret and underground). Growth occurs and the authorities scratch their heads because they think they’re rooting out the problem.

Pray today for Christians in the Indian state of Orissa. As many as 10,000 Christians have had to flee their homes, and up to 500 people have died at the hands of the Hindus. There isn’t a lot of news coming out of Orissa so the reports are sketchy.

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Be Not Still

O God, do not keep silent; be not quiet, O God, be not still. Psalm 83:1

Have you ever wanted to grab God by the collar and shout to Him about the major problems that you see around you? I’m not talking about the fender bender you get in or the coffee you spill on your blouse. I’m referring to the major injustices you see around you: child abuse, rape, murder, abject poverty, general lawlessness. Of course we’ve seen it and wanted God to act NOW! It just doesn’t seem fair or right. If you’ve ever thought this, you’re correct. It isn’t right! It wasn’t God’s original intention for those things to happen. So why doesn’t God just step in and take out the evil-doers?

That’s the question that philosophers, theologians, and “normal” people have been asking for centuries. God certainly could do it that way, but He doesn’t. He is often silent, and we’re not always privy to the reasons. We seek and discover. We don’t always find the answer we want or the answers we’re searching for but there is value in asking the questions.

And yet, we know that one day those wrongs will be “righted,” those hurts will be perfectly healed, those injustices will be judged rightly. When His justice comes, it will be swift, fair, and perfect.

In other words, God may be silent at times, but He’s not blind.

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