(Photo credit: Herbsttag88)
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matt.5:4 NIV)
Last evening I received heart breaking news. My pastor’s son had passed away. He was only 36 and his passing was unexpected. I sat there for a few minutes trying to let the words sink in. I was shocked and today I’m saddened. Mostly, my heart hurts for my pastor and his wife and his entire family.
A few years ago, my pastor lost a granddaughter to cancer. She was only 5 years old at the time. Today, he is walking through the intense pain of losing his son. Yet, I don’t believe this loss is any easier for him. Someone he loves is in heaven. And there is nothing I or anyone else can do to take his pain away.
Our prayer focus is for those who are mourning. We can never take away the pain but we can ask God to comfort them. I know my pastor and his family have a long road of healing ahead. Only God knows the journey they will take. But I will pray for them. And I will ask God to make Himself known and comfort them. The pain is inevitable, but God will sustain them as they endure.
I pray for Pastor Joel and the entire Hunter family. Be with them Lord. Help them through the days to come. Comfort them in their grief and sustain them. I pray you would draw them close and wrap your arms of love around them.
Thank you Lord.
Parenting is an ever-changing affair. Along the way, I’ve felt frustrated. It seems as soon as I have something figured out, everything changes. There’s a new challenge, mood or behavior cropping up and I have no idea how to handle it. This doesn’t change with pre-teens.
Over the years, our family has taken devotional time together. When they were little, we would read and pray with them before bed. As they got bigger, we moved to family devotions around the breakfast table. Much to my dismay, that too has gone by the wayside. Life is busy and finding the time when we are all together is rare. And to be honest, we simply haven’t made it a priority.
During Christmas, I like to read Advent devotions with the kids. We sit down as a family and read these amazing books written by Arnold Ytreeide. There are three books in the series and we love them. When I first called everyone together for our Advent reading, my kids groaned and moaned. “Not this again,” they sighed. I admit, they feel like they are getting too old for this. But each night we sit and read our little story. After the first couple of readings, they started to enjoy the story.
Yes, against their will, I made them sit with their dad and I and we are reading the story together. Quickly, their attitudes have changed. It may not be their favorite thing to do each night, but I think there’s a little something that makes them happy to listen to their Mom read this story about the coming of Christ.
There is no magic formula to parenting. You can do all of the right things and be the best parent only to have a child go astray. But you can’t stop trying. Make time to spend with them even when they roll their eyes at your suggestion. (Those eye rolls really mean they are excited but are too cool to show it.) And whenever you have the opportunity to train them spiritually, go for it. You only have them for such a short period of time. Take advantage when you can.
If you would like to order the books I mentioned, you can find them at Christianbook.com.
Prayer (Photo credit: Chris Yarzab)
If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling! (Job 23:3 NIV)
The story of Job has never truly interested me. This time though, I find I want to keep reading. Job, who lost everything says, “If only I knew where to find him” speaking of God. He has lost his children and his worldly possessions. He is covered in boils and surrounded by men who insist he is to blame. His wife, in her grief can’t understand his devotion to God. Although he has people around him, Job is alone and God is silent. His only plea is for God’s presence.
This morning I spent a lot of time prayer. I prayed for Pastor Saeed who is imprisoned in Iran. He, like Job, refuses to denounce his God. He continues to hold tight to the promises of his Lord and Savior. There are those in the Philippines who continue to trust God even though they only have a tent for shelter and very little food. They are thankful for life. I prayed for the people of Ukraine protesting and for the Syrians fighting for freedom. Each and every person involved in each of these situations is facing extremely difficult circumstances. Some know God. Others do not. But still I pray for God to work.
Our focus today is for God to reveal Himself. Job longed for God. Pastor Saeed, the people of the Philippines, Ukraine and Syria all need the hand of God. His silence does not mean He is absent. During devastation, God is comfort. In times of trials, He is peace. When He calls His people to action, He is guidance. And when oppressed, He is deliverance. Regardless of the situation, God can and will reveal Himself.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One of my favorite shows of all time is Little House on the Prairie. The episodes were heartwarming and showed the struggles of living in such a time. One of my favorite episodes is a Christmas episode where Laura sells her horse in order to buy a much needed stove for her Mom. It’s a secret she has with the store owner who promises to deliver the stove on Christmas morning. Her love for her Mom prompted her to give up her most valued possession, her horse.
I thought of that episode as I was sitting and looking at my Christmas decorations this morning, specifically the manger scene. It’s just a little wooden barn holding some ceramic figurines, but it represents much more. It represents a loving God who was willing to surrender His most treasured possession in order to have a relationship with us.
The first Christmas was ever so simplistic. There was no fanfare, no celebrities, and no lights. People were not camping out for the best deals or paying ridiculous prices for the most popular toy. There was just a young girl, her soon to be husband and a room full of animals. The most precious gift for all mankind came wrapped in a baby. Simple.
Everyone has different feelings this time of year. Some are excited while others are overwhelmed. There are those grieving and others who are filled with joy. Whatever you are feeling, the message of Christmas is the same. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)
Blessings to you this Thanksgiving!!
Sharing Christ: Philemon 1:4-7 (Photo credit: Realistic Imaginations)
This morning, I sent my oldest son Nathan out to mow the lawn. I also asked him to clean the pool filter so I wouldn’t have to get wet. He did both with a joyful heart and no complaining. I came into my bedroom to look for something and I didn’t hear the mower. Instead, I heard Nathan talking to someone. Upon further inspection, I saw he was talking to a boy from the neighborhood. He told him that when he is in sixth grade, he can come to youth group with him.
I have to say I was surprised. This boy tends to be a trouble maker and I have reprimanded him on more than one occasion. He behaves himself because he knows he has to leave if he doesn’t. What I didn’t know was that Nathan has talked to him before about God. He has even given him a Bible. I had no idea.
This morning I was praying for our children. I asked God to open their eyes to those around them. I prayed they would be sensitive to opportunities to witness for Him. I asked God to make this a lifestyle for all of us. It’s something I’ve had in my heart for the longest time. I look for opportunities to love, and this morning I witnessed my son doing the same.
With the holidays approaching, we will be surrounded by family and friends who have no idea that God loves them. They celebrate the season for the parties and the presents without the joy of knowing the reason for the celebration. Our prayer focus this week is for opportunities to share God’s love. Sometimes that comes through a kind word. Other times it is the result of good deed. Whatever God lays on your heart, do it. Show your unbelieving family they are loved. Offer a stranger the gift of God. Pray God opens the doors to use you. He will.
“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15 NIV)
The Lord Answering Job Out of the Whirlwind (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
“At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship…” (Job 1:20 NIV)
These days I’m reading through Job. He was a wealthy, generous man hit by disaster. He lost all he worked for and everyone he loved. His life’s work was reduced to nothing leaving him alone with only a grieving wife by his side. He knew God had given and now God had taken away and still he worshipped.
When tragedy hits, we carry this monstrous burden to the foot of the cross. Tears are streaming and our hearts are filled with gut-wrenching pain, yet still we are thankful. The only comfort we have is knowing God is still in control and He loves us. I believe that’s exactly what Job was feeling. The slightest bit of relief he felt came from the belief that the Lord would never forsake him.
The cycle of tragedy hits us many times throughout our lives. The initial blow shocks us. Once we get used to the situation, we go through a time of grief. As we continue to walk through our situation, that grief begins to fade. The pain never really goes away, only becomes more manageable. What once seemed overwhelming is now a part of who we are. Something else happens too, we become stronger. As a man’s muscles are strengthened by carrying more weight, so the heart is strengthened from carrying a loss.
I don’t know where you find yourself this Thanksgiving. Some are picking up the pieces of a shattered life. Others are still struggling through the thick of it. Still some have come so far since last Thanksgiving. Looking back always gives us perspective and looking forward brings us hope. Through every stage, we see we were never alone. He remains close by. For this, we are thankful.