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Pray for Canada

prayer invite

Today a terrorist took the life of a Canadian soldier who was guarding the War Memorial in Ottawa.  The gunman later ran to the Parliament complex and opened fire at innocent bystanders.  Over thirty shots were fired in the chaos.  Several people were rushed to the hospital with injuries.

Please pray for all the families, friends, and loved ones of those injured in this tragedy.

dv month

Silence regarding domestic violence only makes the problem worse.  Christianity should not be silent, nor should it struggle on how to address domestic violence. We cannot afford to be silent when sisters and brothers live under the threat of violence in their own homes and communities.

Christianity can serve as a valuable resource in a variety of ways to those suffering domestic violence.  The key is demonstrating the love of Christ. Here are some ways that Christians, churches, and ministry organizations can make a difference.

Understand the problem.  Violence, inside or outside the home, is never justified. Violence in any form—physical, sexual, psychological or verbal—is sinful; often it is also a crime.  Knowledge on the issue is important.  If we know what right relationships look like and how the love of Christ should operate in families, we can practice and teach these examples to our children.

Make safety your priority.  Allowing a person to find safety can be a matter of life or death.  Spiritual leaders should work with a team of community service providers to help the victim-survivor establish a safety plan, should the abuse continue or escalate.  If the home is no longer a safe place, then encourage the victim to leave or stay somewhere else. Groups and organizations may want to create safety kits for temporary assistance.  Safety kits should include: cash, gift cards, a change of clothing, toiletries, emergency phone numbers and places of shelter.  Once physical safety is established, then it is time for spiritual care. Offer to pray with the victim, share a relevant Bible verse, give support, and provide wise counsel during this traumatic time.

Wait on marriage counseling.  The timing must be right for this to succeed.  Too often church leaders rush the situation in order to “save the marriage” or “keep the family together” when these goals should be contingent on the offender’s willingness to undergo treatment.  These are certainly worthy goals, but only after the abusive behavior has stopped, should the focus shift to repairing the relationship.  Domestic violence is not a relationship issue that needs to be resolved.  It is mostly about a person’s conscious decision to violently control the will of another to maintain power and dominance.  There are times when couples’ or marriage counseling is inappropriate and risky.  If people push the envelope on immediate counseling it could lead to further abuse or even the death of the victimized.

Minister to the offender.  This may not be popular or pretty, but it is the right thing to do.  Pick the right person to mentor and coach the offender.  Bathe this mentor in prayer.  Redemption work is tough and dirty, so make sure that he or she receives the prayer support necessary for the task ahead.  When Christians focus on the offender, we are performing restoration work.  We are working on the root cause of the problem, not symptoms.  The abuse should be dealt with directly, however the root hurt or trauma should be sought after as well.  Encourage the one inflicting violence to also seek professional counseling during this process.

Teach mutual submission to couples.  The biblical topic of submission is not grounds for abuse or violence in the home. Christians must understand that submission is not a license to control and dominate another human being. Christians should also work to breakdown a deception that the Bible supports abusive behavior.  In Ephesians 5, Paul tells husbands and wives to yield to one another in mutual submission out of reverence and love for Christ – abusive behavior violates this Scripture and is not a God-given right.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to love one another.  May God grant us the patience, strength, and ability to combat domestic violence where ever it may exist.

 

 

A Prayer for 9-11

world-trade-center-9-11-cross

Heavenly Father, we seek you and your healing mercy.

As flags fly low and candles are lit, we remember the pain and suffering of a horrible day. We remember the loss of life, the destruction, and the chaos of that fateful morning. Sorrow remains. Grief returns. Heartache and despair weigh us down.

Almighty God comfort and calm our souls. Turn our hearts into an altar where healing can take place. Transform our spirits into a place of peace. Allow restoration and redemption in our lives. We are a people who need you and your presence.

As conflict begins anew and warriors move into harm’s way, protect them and guide their way. Comfort the families who are divided by war and give them the strength necessary for every day apart. Minister to their needs and surround them with your love.

Lord, hear our prayer. We are a nation and a people who need you. Allow us to feel your healing mercy through our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

ash tree

A Kansas summer can feel horrible.  It often has searing heat, strong wind, and humidity that makes us all crave air conditioning or an ice-cold lemonade.  Our conditions are harsh and demanding every year.  These challenging elements try us and yet there are old trees standing in every community.

The heat, wind, and drought like conditions allow certain trees to develop a strong root system.  One where they dig down into fertile soil and become an anchor when storms, tornadoes, and gales unleash their worst across Kansas.  The trials, torment, and tough times produce strong trees that can survive truly horrible conditions.

People are the same way.  No one desires a season of pain, anguish, or torment in life, but it often finds us.  This tough season of life is often seen in the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, a serious illness, financial difficulty, a broken relationship, terrorist attacks, war, and other traumatic events.  These are all examples of very challenging life experiences that hurt when they happen, but can produce stronger roots.

James writes to the Jerusalem church in verses 2-4 sharing:

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

While it does not feel good when it happens, trials can ultimately yield endurance and strength to our faith and our life. When life seems dark and difficult, be like David and pray to God for strength.  When you are scared, reach for your Bible and take comfort knowing that God will not forsake you.  When you grieve, know that Christ also wept with hurt and loss as He consoled a community of mourners. Endure.  Stay strong.  Keep your faith.  Maintain your trust in the Lord and you will find a new season of life through Christ.

Science and psychology has finally caught up with this lesson from James.  Study after study now document resilience and post traumatic growth for people who have weathered trauma and a hard season of life.

While trauma can impair people in many ways, it turns out that there is routinely a higher percentage of people who demonstrate the ability to bounce back and learn from a hard season of life.  And yes, they are often people of faith who rely on their religion, faith, or spiritual practice for healing and recovery.  Today, faith is often embraced as a central and beneficial means of coping with tragedy.

Consider how trees survive in England.  The climate is wet, damp, and dreary. Spend a week there and you will pray to see the sun.  The soil is often moist because of the frequent rain showers.  This climate prevents trees from establishing deep roots in the soil.  The root system instead stays near the topsoil, hardly ever going deep into the ground.  A strong wind storm will often topple multiple trees in England provoking a community clean up in villages across the country.  Trees that have not been tested with hardship do not produce deep roots.  They are instead the first to fall when the storms of life come their way.

While summer conditions feel bad now they make deep roots, bring hope for tomorrow, and deliver a new season of life.

 

 

Our Great Physician

photo 1

I think many people struggle with faith because of how they view God.  Some view God as a rule giver issuing edicts from on high.  Others view God as a divine Santa Claus bestowing gifts and answering prayers.  And many will fall in between the two.

Some resist seeing God as an authority figure altogether.  It may conjure harsh images from their past.  Others resist this view of God for the simple reason of maintaining control.

I believe that it is okay to view God as an authority figure.  There are plenty of times when I gladly submit to authority.  If my computer goes haywire, I call tech support and carefully follow the technician’s guidance.  Sometimes it is a slow, step-by-step process where I need assistance due to unfamiliar territory and a lack of knowledge.  Other times I call for a reminder, receive an update, or get a tune up on my machine and I am quickly back on track.

People also submit to authority when they want to master a difficult sport like golf, tennis, or rowing.  They hire a coach, pay for lessons, or join a club so that practice can yield a great swing, an ace shot, or a straight course on the water. Practice and instruction will yield better performance no matter what the sport.

People also visit the doctor when they are sick and in need of care.  Philip Yancey, the Christian author, shares that, “a doctor is probably the most helpful image for me to keep in mind while thinking about God and sin.”  His view of God speaks to our human condition.  The doctor wants to deliver physical health.  The doctor shares wisdom and expertise that I lack.  The doctor also knows what habits, issues, and conditions are likely to cause injury.   I often receive his opinion on things to avoid and a prescription that will improve my life.  We should seek out God’s advice and opinion for living just like we seek care from a doctor.

It is important how we view God.  Often we do not realize our view of God is skewed, but there is a plumb line to show us what is straight and true.  God has given us His Word as the clearest description of who He is.  In the Old Testament, God reveals His character – His love, righteousness, wrath, justice and promises. In the New Testament, God reveals Jesus – His character in flesh.

Take time to visit with our Great Physician who is always on call.  He knows what can heal, cure, restore, and redeem.

 

libertyBell

Proclaim liberty throughout all the Land unto all the inhabitants thereof” Leviticus 25:10

Each Fourth of July we celebrate the birth of America.  We celebrate freedom, independence, and the precious rights that guarantee the blessings of liberty.  But it is important to remember how religious liberty was the original goal for many who left England.

Christianity operated under very different rules from today.  There was no separation of church and state, so whatever the King or Parliament desired regarding religion became law.  It was also strictly enforced.  In 1670, Parliament renewed the Coventicle Act, and began cracking down on religious dissenters, mainly Quakers and Baptists, who were not in compliance with the Church of England.

This law is alien to us today, but it fined people who attended a religious assembly other than the Church of England.  It allowed magistrates and authorities to shutter the churches of these outlying religious groups.  Dissenter clergy could be fined for preaching, expressing their religious views, or sharing the gospel.  Even people who allowed a religious assembly in their own home could receive a huge fine if discovered.

Laws during this time had little to no religious freedom.  British law required citizens to attend worship services. Practicing your faith in a different manner or practicing a different faith, one not permitted by the government, could be grounds for your arrest, conviction, or execution.

As arrests grew, dissenter groups fled England seeking the promise of religious expression without persecution.  While many went to Europe for immediate refuge, they desired an enduring place where religious freedom could be secured for their families.

Lord Baltimore established the colony of Maryland as a haven for persecuted Roman Catholics.  William Penn noted this and went a step further.  He established the colony of Pennsylvania for Quakers, but created a Charter of Privileges where religious tolerance was guaranteed for all inhabitants.

Penn’s belief that “no people can be truly happy if abridged of the freedom of their consciences” attracted not only Quakers who had been persecuted in England, but religious groups from across the globe, all of whom had suffered because of restrictions on their religious beliefs.

Pennsylvania quickly became the American refuge of religious freedom.  English Methodists, French Huguenots, Spanish Jews, Irish Roman Catholics, Scottish Presbyterians, along with German Mennonites and Amish congregations filled the colony seeking peace from persecution, but mostly seeking the right to worship God.

William Penn’s holy experiment in religious liberty had succeeded.  To underscore this point, the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1751 ordered the casting of a 2,080-pound copper bell to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Penn’s Charter of Privileges.  Placed inside the tower atop Pennsylvania’s State House, now Independence Hall, the object would eventually be known as the Liberty Bell and serves as an enduring reminder of the religious freedom Americans enjoy today.

This Fourth of July, take time to celebrate the freedom and liberty you have to worship God and pray for the dissenters of our age who still seek religious liberty.

Grace Notes

grace notes

Philip Yancey has been writing for three decades.  That experience and understanding is apparent anytime you read his work.  He has a beautiful knack of viewing life and ordering it on paper.  Yancey’s insight, imagination, and gentle faith are refreshing to any reader.

He is transparent on being wounded by the church, sifting through faith issues, harboring doubts, and other struggles in his Christian journey.  Through it all, this earnest pilgrim finds his way back and strengthens his faith and reliance in God.  I appreciate his honest desire to seek the Lord.  The words of his journey and stumbles on the path now provide encouragement to other believers who need a solid footing in Jesus.

Grace Notes, Daily Readings with a Fellow Pilgrim is a compilation of Yancey’s total work.  The pages are drawn from his twenty plus books and numerous articles. They capture inspiring and provoking images for any believer.  This book is ideal for daily devotions or starting a new spiritual discipline.  The readings will correspond to particular days and themes on the calendar.  Some readings will follow the church calendar for Christmas, Easter, the Ascension, and Pentecost, but keep in mind that the days will vary from year to year.

Take time to discover the Grace Notes of Philip Yancey.  You will appreciate the experienced writing, spiritual depth, and brotherly encouragement that he provides.

 

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