Inoculation

Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.    1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

OK, you’re going to feel a little stick…

The world is holding its collective breath for a vaccine against COVID19.  At least that’s what the media and politicians are trumpeting.  COVID19 is the current bane of our existence and looks to remain so for the foreseeable future.

I’ve written about it before; the mortality rate is definitely higher than your average flu, but the elderly make up the decided majority of those deaths.  The lockdowns are overkill; the mortality rate amongst the general population is not as bad as the scary news articles paint.  The initial rates were about 5%, then the news stopped listing cases vs. deaths for a while.  I saw some figures a couple weeks ago; overall mortality is down to 3%.  That’s the cumulative number from day one, so the actual current morality is below that and even lower for the non-elderly.

Still, everyone is going nuts – see Wednesday’s article – instead of going to God.

It occurred to me this past week while writing a comment on a friend’s blog that prayer is like an inoculation against Godlessness, against ego!  Indeed, studying the Holy Scriptures is an inoculation against the evils that try to lure us back into sin and away from God!  Every time we take in God’s loving words to us, every time we absorb the lessons He inspired into Scripture, we increase our protection against that which seeks to destroy us.

Is sin still in us?  Unfortunately, yes, as St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Roman church; the good he wills he does not do and the evil he detests is what he does!  I think this is one of the most valuable lessons in God’s Word; if St. Paul, inspired author of a great deal of our New testament, is tempted and falls, if he struggled, we should take heart in our struggles!  If we do not struggle, our sinful selves have a very weak opponent in our new, redeemed selves!  Our struggle against sin shows we have been inoculated with God’s Word!

Our “sin antibodies” are fighting the fight against invading sin!

Prayer is the other side of that coin.  Prayer is where we answer God’s Word with our thanks, our praise, and the requests our Heavenly Father wants to hear from us!  God speaks to us through His word, and we reply to Him through prayer.  Prayer is also an inoculation against sin and evil, because we are asking God to draw and remain close.  We are keeping the relationship two-sided and alive!

Pray without ceasing!  God is always right next to you!  Does it make sense to ignore Him or talk to Him?  Say thank you for His protection during a near-miss.  Thank Him for the rain or simply feeling good today.  Ask Him to be with victims and responders when you so much as hear a siren.  When faced with the slightest difficulty, call on your Father for help.

Receive God’s Word into you!  Devour it!  Pray loud and long to God, asking Him to keep our desire for Him alive through the Holy Spirit!

What Should We Do?

“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”   James 1:27

What to do? That’s a whole lot more than the title of this post. It’s a real question I struggle with. Not whether or not to help but figuring out how. There is so much pain in the world that I sometimes just sit here, frozen by the enormity of it.

I do know that the first action is to pray. Prayer is our usual last resort. We’ve done everything we can. “All we can do now is pray.” As if this is – excuse me – some sort of Hail Mary pass with a barely 50/50 chance of succeeding. No, prayer is the first resort. It’s our dialing up the most powerful, resourceful Being in the universe.

I know; it doesn’t feel that way at all. We pray, sigh, and then go to McDonald’s for some breakfast. For all we know, nothing happened. But that is quite wrong.

Pray first. Include in that prayer for God’s guidance on what you can do to help. For the problems in the Middle East and Europe, what organizations can you get involved with? And I’m not thinking just about money. My church supports missionaries and causes. We send money to African churches to support their startup and continuing work. We recently sent boxes of stuffed animals to children in Haiti. Our members travel to Africa to physically help on projects and evaluate needs.

If you are involved in a church, check with your denomination to discover what international…or domestic…initiatives you can support and get involved with.

I have friends in Toledo who founded Friends of Russian Orphans (FORO). The mission statement is to spread the love of Christ through practical help and assistance. We have rewired an orphanage that was in danger of burning down, installed restrooms where there was only a hole in the floor, built a small gym, help dozens of families adopt orphans from Russia, sponsored training programs so kids can learn a trade, sponsored cooking competitions between groups of kids to teach them how to eat well economically, and, of course, let them and their caregivers know the Americans came all this way, because we are doing what Jesus wants us to do; help widows and orphans.

Here is their website: http://fororphans.org/

There are many people around the world who need help. You might say there is plenty to do here in the US, and you’re right. There was plenty to do in Jerusalem and neighboring towns in the 1st Century. Peter was called to attend the church in Jerusalem. Paul’s commission was to the Gentile; and that’s a real irony, by the way. He was a “Jew of the Jews,” a top-shelf religious authority, and gets to go to the Gentiles.

Some are called to work in their community. Some are called to the orphans of Russia. Some are called to the Middle East.

So…what to do? Always remember: PRAY FIRST! The open your eyes a bit wider. Look around to see what God sets in front of you to do. Your task today may be one person. It may be an introduction to an organization. Just always have your Good Works Radar on high to see those good deeds, which God has prepared in advance for you to do.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”   Ephesians 2:10

Prayer

Praying StruggleThen Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought.And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”    Luke 18:1-8

Portals of PrayerI pray.  Not as often or as regularly as I should, but I do.  In the early ‘80’s I started using a daily devotional called Portals of Prayer by Concordia Publishing.  I started keeping a list of people and issues to pray about.  I still use Portals of Prayer, and I still keep a prayer list.  There are people on that list I haven’t seen in years.  Terrence, for example.  I only met him once, but he had a huge impact on me, and I continue to pray for him.  I came to understand that God orchestrated our meeting through an Elaborate Plan; of that there is no doubt.  That was in 2015.  I still pray for Terrence.

I pray for America and our deliverance from the continuing slide away from God and our founding principles.  I pray for the faithful remnant of Christians that have not relinquished their faith, that they are protected and strengthened.  Meanwhile, the discrimination against us grows.

I pray for people who are sick and not likely to recover.  I hold out prayerful hope that the cancer will be vanquished, that damaged minds will be recovered, that a more merciful death be given since death must come at some point.  I don’t see that ground has been gained so far, but I keep praying.

Am I a fool?  No.  Clearly, we are to continue to “bother” God with our prayers.  Many cases exist of prayers answered, of cancers and diseases being healed in this age.  I’ve gone from extreme loss back to a good life, not too unlike Job.  Things do get better sometimes.  Other times the dark side wins.

Jesus healed hundreds if not thousands of people.  They’re all dead now, but His mercy shone as a glimpse of a greater mercy to come.

I pray for mercy in this life.  I pray for the healing and recovery of a number of people.  Some prayers are simply for continued well-being, for salvation, a softened heart to accept Jesus as Savoir, or whatever the need might be.  Prayers for some people have gone on for many years.  Some short term issues are added and dropped off as things change.

Do I sometimes get tired of saying the same prayers for the same people year after year?  Yes, there are some days when I look at my list and sigh.  But I gather myself, remembering the persistent widow of Jesus’ parable, and come to God yet again.

Sometimes I just name the people and picturing in my mind what I’m asking for them because I words feel inadequate.  Finally, when I reach the end of my list again, I wrap it all up with the Lord’s Prayer.  I say it as slowly as I can, stopping after each part and looking at the people’s names, praying that part for them.

Then I close my Bible with the list tucked safely in its pages and put it on the shelf for tomorrow for my next appointment with The Almighty.

“This, then, is how you should pray:

Jesus in Gethsemane

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.’

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 6:9-15

Prayer

And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”     Matthew 21:22

I just learned this morning that a friend’s mother had a stroke last night. Jane asked me to pray for her.

Now, I have no idea how bad it is, and that doesn’t matter. I just pray, believing that God will use the medial staff to care for her, and that all things work according to His good will.

I request your prayers also on this new day, this day the Lord has made. Please pray for Jane’s mother, that she recovers well from her stroke.  Please pray for the doctors and nurses who tend to her and the family.  Pray for Jane and her family, that they may rest and wait easily, confident in God’s love and mercy.

Pray for them all, all day. Pray now in faith.  Say “Amen,” believing God has heard.  Pray with thanks for His love and mercy and the answer He will give.  Pray again later as you go through your day, keeping Jane’s mother and her family in your mind and raised before God for His mercy.

And He said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.      Luke 11: 5-8

Persistence in prayer is taught. Please persist in your prayers today.  As I receive word on Jane’s mother, I will pass it along to you.

Tell God What You Need — Learning To Be Full Of Grace And Truth.

This is a great contemplation on a favorite passage of mine from the book of Daniel.

***********************************

Nothing can keep God from providing for you, and helping you. Psalm 57:3 says, “He will send help from heaven to rescue me, disgracing those who hound me… My God will send forth his unfailing love and faithfulness.” Isaiah 41:10 says, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am […]

via Tell God What You Need — Learning To Be Full Of Grace And Truth.

The Sixth Man

Psalm 54:2

Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth

I went to a Lutheran grade school, K-8. My eighth grade year was a high point for us guys.  The seventh and eighth grade boys basketball team was a powerhouse in our league.  We had Mark Lyon, Mark Bonnough, Chuckie, Dickie, & Eric in the starting lineup.  They were fast, read each other well, and could shoot.  Boy, could they shoot!  I remember the Friday night that we were scheduled to play for the league championship!

Friday night basketball was a huge deal at Trinity. There were several games starting with fifth and sixth grade boys, then girls.  Then the seventh and eighth girls, leading up to the seventh and eighth grade boys; a.k.a The Main Event.

We were nowhere near confident that we’d collect the coveted trophy. The team we had to beat that last night had pretty well gone to town on us earlier in the season.  We had no real expectation of doing any better.  We knew we didn’t have the talent or whatever else they had to beat them.

All of us spent the hours of the three games before ours in prayer. The school gym was on one end of that long building, the sanctuary on the other.  We went there as we felt moved to, praying in the dark, passing each other in that long hallway in between.  We prayed for strength and skill to win the trophy, because we knew these guys were poised grind us up on our own court.

We prayed off and on hour after hour. When it was finally time to hit the locker room and dress, we were determined to give it our very best shot and let God decide the outcome.

Somehow, some way, we tore them apart that night. Even I made it off the bench and scored a three point play.  The crowd went wild, as the saying goes.  At the final buzzer we were drunk with amazement at what had just happened.

Back in the locker room we were jumping and shouting, delirious with joy. We raised three cheers for God in acknowledgement of the miracle we had just been given.

That was too many decades ago, but I remember it clearly; the multiple pilgrimages to the dark, silent church, hours of repeating our simple earnest prayer for a victory, and the solemn nods in the hallway as we quietly commended each other for continuing the prayers. It was something that just happened.  No plans, no “I’ve got an idea,” nothing.  Just a bunch of kids who took God seriously and weren’t afraid to ask for a win in a small league, in a small gym, at a small school.

I know God gave us that win. And I don’t think the win was the point from where God sat that night.  Sure, He was our sixth man on the floor with us that night, but He had bigger things in mind.  It was a teaching moment.

I haven’t seen either Mark for at least 10-15 years. I saw Eric about ten years ago.  I don’t think I ever saw Dickie or Chuckie after we all graduated.  But the Marks, Eric, and I still hold that night in the same awe we had as kids.  It never should have happened, but it did.

We prayed innocently for a great desire. We prayed in unity.  We prayed persistently.  At the end, we learned the power of prayer.

Did God enjoy saying “Yes” that night? I know He did.  What Father doesn’t get a kick out of giving a child of His a nice surprise?  Did God teach us something that would last our lifetimes?  Certainly!

Life is more than a basketball trophy that is now lost somewhere, gathering dust if not broken. God is our Sixth Man in every part of our lives.  All He asks is that we pass Him the ball when He’s open and we’re covered.  That’s it.  Don’t pray once and call it a night.  Don’t pray against someone.  Pray in unity.  Accept His answers, and praise Him for taking the court with you.

After that…nothing but net!

Post-Election Ponderings

The Lord is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will exalt Him.    Exodus 15:2

 There are so many headlines after the election with so much dispiriting news that I can’t help but despair. In that sense, my feelings over the election results are not too different from Obama’s re-election four years ago.  It truly felt like the worst day of my life.

Was it because Obama was going to be our president for four more years? Yes.  Whas it about pigmentation?  No!  It was about financial policies that doomed our economy.  It was about his pro-abortion stance.  Having him in office four more years was a very disheartening prospect.

What made me feel the worst was that this country had turned into something that would elect someone whose platform was clearly designed to ruin the country, to punish hard work and reward laziness. His “spread the wealth” mantra, starting with his comments to Joe The Plumber made his goals all too plain.  This country had turned into something that would elect a man to the presidency who had voted for partial birth abortion as a senator, including a provision that allowed for the living fetus of an “unsuccessful” abortion to be put on the table, unattended until dead.

Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, Because of Your enemies, That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.    Psalm 8:2

Yes, Obama’s election four years ago was one of the worst days of my life, mostly for what it said about the country.

I am dismayed again this year. What sort of a place do we live in where the reaction to our candidate losing an election is to beat an old man senseless, because those hoodlums THOUGHT he voted for Trump?  What does it say about our morality when people start talking about killing and being killed to get their way if they don’t get satisfaction at the voting booth?  What does it say when Twitter “erupts with calls for the Donald to be killed after he wins the election?”

What would have happened if those tweets were tweeted four years ago about Obama?

I hear a voice in my mind – If you’re a fan of Gabriel Iglesias, aka “Fluffy” – you’ll hear it too.

“Mm-mm! You need Jesus right there is what you need!  LAAAWWWWD give me the strength!”

After this election that’s all I can think of. Uncle Sam needs JESUS right now is what he needs!  This country needs the strength of Jesus to be humble, the strength of Jesus to get on with each other, the strength of Jesus to trust to His providence that which we feel we were deprived of at the polls.

If this country hadn’t told God to take a hike, we’d have better candidates in the first place. If we hadn’t taught children to NOT pray, we’d have voters in better touch with God and His Will.  If we hadn’t murdered so many defenseless children under no other pretext than we can’t see them dying in there, we might not be under God’s judgment.

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.    Psalm 18:2

So here we are, Christians; strangers in a strange land. Can we finally open our mouths and tell people about Jesus?  Can we finally see our faith as something we are tasked with talking about, not just a personal thing between us and God?  This country needs Jesus, is what we need.

Lord, please give us the strength!

He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength.    Isaiah 40:29

Uncle Ellis

I’ve never had any relatives in my own generation. My dad was an orphan and my mom was an only child, whose dad died when she was 12.  All of my relatives were older than I. For me, aunts and uncles weren’t relatives of my parents’ generation.  They were old!

Uncle Ellis and Aunt Frances were my favorite aunt and uncle. They lived in a small town in Ohio.  It was an easy day trip, so we visited them several times a year.

Uncle Ellis was a big lump of a man with bulging eyes from a thyroid condition. He always wore overalls.  Although he had been something of a farmer once before my time, he had gone to college and got a degree.  He just preferred the earth and simpler things.

Every time we got in my parents’ station wagon to go home, he would walk slowly to the car with an “evil” smile. My sister and I would try to hide behind the other.  We knew what was coming; our favorite game.

“I’m gonna getcha!”

He’d reach into the back seat through a window and give one of us a “horse bite.” That strong hand would grab a thigh just above the knee and squeeze just enough.  Even now, I can’t decide whether it hurt or tickled or what.  We always knew it was coming.  We always loved the game.

And Uncle Ellis.

My best memory of him was whenever he prayed before a meal. It was always the same, and always a little different.  Aunt Frances would have a big farmer’s meal for us with nice plates, table cloth, and great home cooking.  We’d all sit, hands folded, as Uncle Ellis took his seat at the head of the table.  I remember his raspy voice somehow turn mellow as he gave thanks for the things of the day.  He always asked God to bless this food and this time to the nourishment of our bodies and souls.  Those are still the most beautiful prayers I can ever remember.

The day he died was the day I “became a man.” You see, with so many elderly relatives of older generations, I spent a lot of time at funeral homes and cemeteries.  I think we all get something in our heads that we decide will make us a grownup someday.  For me, I knew I’d be a man when I could finally be a pall bearer and carry one of my relatives to their rest.

That day came when Uncle Ellis needed someone to take him to the cemetery. It was the first time I carried a coffin.  It couldn’t have been a better man to make me a man.

To this day I pray his prayer. When we pray at our meals, I give thanks for the things of the day and pray God to bless this food and this time to the nourishment of our bodies and souls.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith…”   Hebrews 12:1-3

Hold Please…

“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us[a] with groanings which cannot be uttered.”    Romans 8:26

Earlier this week I was talking with a friend during one of my long trips. We often spend some phone time as we each cover our respective miles.  We talk about almost nothing but God and trying to live a pleasing life.

We got to the subject of prayer. We found we both have the same problem.  It’s a bit like the Pixar movie dog with the collar that allowed him to “talk” to people.  He’d be rattling on about something to his owner, and then suddenly –

“SQUIRREL!!!”

Yeah, we pray kinda like that. We’re going along, talking to God, and we get to something we want to tell Him and –

“SQUIRREL!!!”

The mind just goes off on a tangent, and we suddenly have this sinking feeling: “I just left GOD on hold!!!”

If that happens to you, my friends, just remember…

“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us[a] with groanings which cannot be uttered.”